Marc Gourmelon, MD, November, 1st, 2020
"1 lie repeated 1000 times becomes the truth”.
This is one of the well-known principles of propaganda. (1)
It has been well studied in political field and more particularly in dictatorships. The sentence in the title is historically attributed to Joseph Goebbels, who headed the Ministry of People' s Education and Propaganda under the Nazi regime.
But propaganda is not a prerogative of totalitarian regimes, whether of the right or the left. As Noam Chomsky writes, "Propaganda is for democracies what violence is for dictatorships. "Propaganda is a concept designating a set of persuasion techniques, implemented to propagate with all available means, an idea, an opinion, an ideology or a doctrine and to stimulate the adoption of behaviors within a target public. These techniques are exercised on a population in order to influence it, even to indoctrinate it. " (2)
Clearly, the insistence on promoting breast cancer screening by mammography is propaganda. Indeed, there is an intention to "propagate a doctrine" according to which screening saves lives and this is in total contradiction with what independent scientific studies tell us.
The goal: "adoption of behaviors within a target audience", in this case, to perform a screening mammogram within the women target population. It is noteworthy that the desire to promote breast cancer screening by mammography has been a steady feature over the past 20 years, and has been accentuated with the adoption of the organized screening program in 2004, following the 2003 cancer plan. (3)
However, as early as 2015, following the consultation of French citizens on the topic, organized screening should have been stopped in France. However, this was not the case because conclusions of this consultation were "confiscated" to allow the continuation of this screening. (4)
All means are good to promote it. The Pink October campaigns that come back year after year are proof of this. All means are good to promote it.
But the propaganda goes farther.
The latest report of the IGAS-General Inspection of Social Affairs, an independent organization, recommends "encouraging the use of screening, regardless of the methods used". (5)
OPINION LEADERS AND MEDIA
But also, any "open mic", any offer to speak in the media, be it radio or television or the written press, allows many doctors to spread the propaganda for screening.
We recently heard Professor Axel KAHN, a medical expert and president of the Ligue contre le cancer (League against cancer), sounding the alarm on France Info radio channel, in favor of this screening (6).
Many techniques of propaganda are therefore found in this " call " (2)
- call to authority
- false statement: "Covid-19 is much less serious than cancer”
- “Media influence: radio, television, press, advertising, internet " is also present because this call is relayed by : the newspaper Sud Ouest (7), Yahoo actualité (8), Europe 1 (9) Top Santé (10) La Croix (11) France Soir (12), and this a non-exhaustive list.
Here, the COVID19 crisis, although far from being related to the problem of breast cancer, is used to promote screening. In a similar way, we read in an article in Le Monde on 26 October 2020 (13) the following comments:
"The figures are also worrying when it comes to screening, which has stopped for twelve weeks. The number of mammograms within the framework of organized breast cancer screening for 50 to 74 year olds has totally collapsed. On the Ile de France and Hauts¬ de France regions alone, their number went from about 14,000 and 9,000 respectively from mid-March to early May 2019 to zero during the lockdown, according to the French Society of Radiology."
This collapse of screening, which worries Prof. Axel Kahn so much, allows a national daily newspaper of large edition to affirm once again a lie: there is nothing to worry about if a screening which has not shown its benefit, is not carried out anymore.
It should be noted that many of doctors promoting screening have very strong ties of interest with it.
The French Society of Radiology finds it disturbing that the number of screening mammograms has totally collapsed. But is the health of women their concern? Or are there other, non-medical concerns that are preoccupying this learned society? (14)
We should not let ourselves be "blinded" by propaganda. We must remain lucid and recognize in these repetitions, carried by media more concerned by " buzz " than by a critical work, a propaganda effect, again and again.
Will this propaganda and disinformation ever stop? One can doubt it considering the last news. (5)
Yet the well-being and health of women are at stake.