Call it misinformation, disinformation, statistical fudging, or lies. Fake news is more common than most realize. The news story dubbed “Pizza-gate” created a media blitz, yet more insidious forms of misinformation put out in news stories by credible sources goes largely unquestioned by the masses. In contrast to a bizarre, but isolated shooting, fake news produced by governmental agencies has adversely affected the health and well being of millions. Attempts to expose misinformation is often met with anger or dismissive labeling as conspiracy theory.

I recently experienced this phenomenon during a recent luncheon.

Having arrived to the restaurant late, I sat at the one empty seat. Although I didn’t know it, I was seated between two professionals would perfectly illustrate the societal effect of misinformation in real time.

I had recently viewed the documentary “Vaxxed” in which the whistle blower, Dr. William Thompson, discloses that he and his colleagues at the CDC fudged their data in their landmark research study performed to assess the link between autism spectrum disorder and the MMR vaccine. I found the video deeply disturbing and worthy of conversation.

In the film, Dr. Thompson details how the CDC manipulated their data to get an industry favorable result. I described the film’s content in detail to my brunch neighbors.

The guest on my right was a medical research who, in an extraordinary twist of fate, had worked at the CDC during the time of the Autism/MMR study. I was awestruck by the synchronicity. The scientist made a statement that sent shivers up my spine.

”Everything in that movie is true.”

I believed it was true. Actually… I knew it was true.

The person to my left, an educator, seemed to become agitated and made the quick proclamation:

“There is no link between autism and vaccines. That was proven years ago.”

I had heard this phrase many times in the past. The words didn’t strike me as powerful, but the certitude and finality with which the statement was delivered caused me to recoil. What I didn’t know at the time was that this person unfortunately had a dear relative who was suffering from a severe form of autism.

Fudged data = phony results = fake news.

This ‘definitive study’ provided our doctors with fake news, i.e. the erroneous conclusion that there is no association between autism and the MMR vaccine. We parents and health care consumers had been taught by our misinformed health care professionals that the MMR vaccine is completely safe.

As most people have no fundamental understanding of how a vaccine actually works, opinions are usually generated to be in agreement with the media and doctors. It is easier to be a member of this team of social consciousness if your children have gone through the vaccination process unscathed. Others however have based their views on horrific personal experience.

Misinformation spread by our governmental agencies is nothing new. In recent months, it was uncovered that the EPA fudged their report regarding the risk to our freshwater supplies from fracking operations. At the nth hour, the report changed from:

“EPA Study Shows Potential Vulnerabilities to Drinking Water from Hydraulic Fracturing Process” to “Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources.”

Subtle difference? Not for those who have researched fracking and listened to numerous accounts of tainted ground water. The fracking industry held up this misleading, “fake” EPA conclusion to sell fracking as a safe extraction technique.

But, the EPA was caught. As a result, they reworked their assessment and yesterday came to the public announcing that hydraulic fracturing can and has contaminated drinking water.

Is this all really surprising? Our governmental agencies are filled with scientists and other professionals with ties to industry. It is truly a “revolving door”. It is not a stretch to think that researchers might manipulate study results to help further progress their eventual career in industry. As funding is often dependent on industry favored results, it is probably more common than any of us would like to believe, even if those results might be at the expense of the general population’s health.

How do you decide who and what to believe?