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Dynamic Chiropractic – July 10, 2000, Vol. 18, Issue 15

From Rumor to Freedom

By Louis Sportelli, DC
Rumors are particularly troublesome. They can be hard to target, difficult to pin down, and almost impossible to stop. Yet, they are so alluring that most people find it difficult not to be captivated by them.

Crisis Management Reporter, a public relations publication that specializes in "damage control," reported on a "press release from the Vatican" that circulated on the internet for well over a week in 1996. The supposed release, "MicrosoftTM Bids to Acquire the Catholic Church," stated: "In a joint press conference in St. Peter's Square this morning, MicrosoftTM Corporation and the Vatican announced that the Redmond, WA-based software giant will acquire the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for an unspecified number of shares of MicrosoftTM common stock. If the deal goes through, it will be the first time a corporation has acquired a major world religion."

The release suggested that Pope John Paul II would become president of the company's religious software division, It also "quoted" Bill Gates: "We expect a lot of growth in the religious market in the next 5 to 10 years. We will make the sacraments available on line for the first time."

The official-looking press release piled on more ludicrous claptrap, then ended with: "The above story is completely fictitious!" It seems odd that a disclaimer was necessary, but thousands of people were unable to discern that it was a joke. This is truly a sad commentary. Microsoft had to make an official denial that it was seeking to acquire the Roman Catholic Church. How easy it is to perpetuate a rumor in the world of internet communication.

One public relations guru said it well: "We can issue the rumor. It's up to the other guy to prove it is not so." How ruthless and frivolous we have become in dealing with reputations, integrity, values and truth.

A well-conceived scam can turn malicious by default or by design. Simply plant false but believable bad news about a company, profession or person, and some people will believe it and take delight in repeating it without questioning its veracity or seeking the truth.

"Spin doctors" very cleverly distort any issue or cause that can be misrepresented, misused or manipulated to the advantage of whichever side employs these fiends of fabrication.

Is chiropractic far from the mills that continue to propagate and savor with great delight the continual publication of rumors? The fabricators of gossip ensure that their products are printed and reprinted, intentionally designed to create cynicism, skepticism and pessimism in the mind of the reader, giving the impression that they are providing a valuable service. Sadly, these rumors take on a life. Large industries that have been subjected to these activities (corporate terrorism) often retain people to monitor and respond to fraudulent allegations. In chiropractic, however, dollars are sparse, human resources are spread thin; the net effect may be an inability to squelch false rumors.

As I look back, I recognize how the chiropractic profession had to deal with the propaganda machine of the AMA and its "Committee on Quackery" from the 60s, and the modern day "quack busting," die-hard vestiges of prejudice and bias of a few people. There are also a few creating division from within. This recalls a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "If the United States is ever destroyed, it will be from within." How appropriate for us to consider. If chiropractic is ever to be destroyed, it will be from within.

After more than 100 years, we are still in a bloody civil war in this profession. How long must we continue to fight the skirmishes of colleague against colleague, defending the hills of philosophy and the valleys of procedures, while the real enemy tightens its noose around our flanks?

Every 4th of July, the issue of freedom is brought to mind. What are the liberties we ask for our profession as Lincoln asked of our country? They are: freedom to grow, freedom to develop, and freedom to be unique. These allow us to expand our horizons beyond our own circles; to use the methods and research available; and to refrain from the isolation that was previously cloaked under the guise of maintaining "purity" for the profession.

We are constantly looking for acceptance for chiropractic - from such entities as the DOD and the VA. We depend upon the expansion of the Medicare initiative, increased research funding from NIH, and opportunities for DCs in positions as primary care providers.

Opportunities as government policymakers, members of integrated health care delivery systems, principal investigators in cooperative research programs, chief executives in health care organizations, or educators in university settings all result from freedom of the profession to grow, adapt, expand, develop and integrate.

We Cannot Have It Both Ways

We cannot seek total acceptance and yet feign no responsibility for some factions within the profession. We can no longer claim to be science-oriented and at the same time make excuses for the lack of scientific basis to support our claims, or denounce science as incompatible with our philosophy. Nor can we seek more dollars from the profession to secure broader legislative reforms, with much of this money used to quash internal divisiveness, rather than expanding external opportunities.

We cannot be patient-centered, while remaining silent as entrepreneurs exploit the profession and promote profits over patients. While seeking advancements and opportunities as primary care providers, we can't refuse to accept the responsibilities and accountabilities associated with these roles. If we attempt this, our message becomes garbled, our support quickly wanes, and our credibility is destroyed in the process, encouraging the proliferate of rumors that contain mixed messages and vacuous values.

I don't want to start rumors, but rumor has it that the majority in this profession are growing sick and tired of the destructive diatribe that continues to proliferate month after month. Many are now beginning to ask: "What's the payoff for the creators/perpetrators of the unfounded rumors, claiming the motive of altruistic service?" Many are demanding an answer, and fewer doctors are willing to give credence to the gossipmongers' gloom-and-doom forecasts and "stirring" speeches.

When that day comes, when we take an objective look at our common goals, there will be no need for all the fighting. Knowledge will replace rumor, a professional approach will replace the campaign of terror, and the camaraderie of colleagues will replace the conflict of competitors.

Louis Sportelli,DC
Palmerton, Pennsylvania

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