Richard Horton is destroying The Lancet with politics
The editor's latest piece is his most partisan yet
Richard Horton has been editor-in-chief of The Lancet for almost three decades. In that time, he has weathered his fair share of controversies. A common accusation is that Horton uses The Lancet — one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious scientific journals, founded in London two centuries ago — as a mouthpiece for his political views.
Horton’s public statements have not exactly helped to dispel this concern. “Publishing has a special responsibility to be political,” he proclaimed in a 2016 interview. And in 2020, he told publishers at a conference that the scientific journal “needs to be more activist in its engagement with the challenges of society”.
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Horton’s latest editorial may be his most partisan statement yet — though also his most cringeworthy. It begins: “Occasionally, someone says something so appalling, so shocking, and so disheartening that you just stop in disbelief.” To what was Horton referring? A deeply flawed claim made by a putative expert? An announcement of dramatic funding cuts to basic research?
No, he was referring to something Suella Braveman said about migrants crossing the English Channel, namely that they “possess values which are at odds with our country” and are associated with “heightened levels of criminality”.
Now, it’s entirely appropriate to ask the Home Secretary for the evidence behind these claims, as others have done. What’s less appropriate is scrutinising them in the pages of a medical journal. You don’t find denunciations of Labour’s housing policy in the Journal of Zoology. So why is The Lancet attacking the Government’s stance on immigration?
The editorial goes on to discuss Antonio Gramsci — the Marxist philosopher and one-time leader of the Italian Communist Party. “His great insight,” Horton notes, “was to recognise the way in which the dominant group uses culture to exert its controlling influence”. So which is the “dominant group” that threatens to take “controlling influence” today? According to Horton, it’s “populists”.
Gramsci had urged his fellow communists to fight the cultural hegemony of the ruling class through a “war of position”, which Horton says is a war “we must not be afraid to engage in”. The “we” naturally refers to “progressives” or those who wish to “advance a more hopeful, compassionate, and liberal vision of the future”. In short, Horton is exploiting his editorship to rally progressive culture warriors.
This is the sort of thing you’d expect to read on a flyer for some far-Left student group, not in the pages of a once-great medical journal. What’s more, it’s embarrassingly obtuse. The notion that “populists” have anything close to “controlling influence” in the broader culture is laughable.
Communists may have lost the Cold War, but progressives have stormed to victory in Gramsci’s “war of position”. Their triumph is now so complete that editors of prestigious medical journals can publish student Marxist-style manifestos in the comment section and still expect others to take them seriously.
An excellent post, Mr Carl, but I query one usage – referring to our current masters as “progressives”. It is just this sort of language which camouflages them. Let us never flinch from describing them as the communists they actually are, whose notions of “progress” are little more than a tissue of mystical sophistries designed to justify total control. Real progress, the process of improving today upon yesterday in hopes of more of the same tomorrow is the province of the free market and always has been.
Having said all that, I grieve that the western world has fallen under the baleful domination of this grisly and despicable sect. The questions which increasingly rack brains on these and other threads are, firstly, how on earth might we overthrow them? And secondly, how on earth are we to undo the extraordinary degrees of damage and corruption for which they are responsible?
When I think about the so called ‘Progressives’ like this one, who are in fact evil incarnate, I think of what the ‘Rumble’ (youtube alternate streaming service without the censoring) Blogger/ show Host ‘Salty Cracker’ calls them – ‘Kid F** king Lizard People’
He does that great thing – of hitting the nail square on the head.
Only through revolutionising our schools, for it is there that the leftist seeds are planted.
But how do you do it?
How could you select different teachers when universities mass produce woke idiots.
Why would I work in school if I can earn at least double in IT?
Indeed. One of the biggest problems sensible people have is that it is the loony radicals who name their cultish theories.
Who falsely named their destructive policies ‘progressive’ or gender dysphoric men ‘transwomen’ etc? They did, and by doing so they have control of the battlefield. We must not use their terms rather honest terms such as Maoism, or trans identifying man.
I do agree with you on two points. 1. Noah Carl’s post is excellent. 2. The burning question is indeed how to get read of these new masters, who can get away with murder by using science for geopolitical purpose. As a humble GP, I strongly believe that the nation needs to get back its sovereignty in terms of health care and stop to adulate medical progress and this new medical science which is led by money, genomic and geopolitics, but no longer by care, knowledge and ethics.
Richard Horton does not care for anyone and should have been sacked in May 2020, when the infamous article “Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of Covid 19” got published, despite gross errors of interpretation and may be scientific lies.
These guys are so dangerous!
(private GP and writer under the pen name Docteur Cybirdy)
So what are the rest of our “esteemed ” medical profession – the ones who read this stuff – going to do about it?
Nothing, i suppose; even those who vehemently disagree with his opinions on what the purpose of a medical journal.might be. Too afraid to speak out? Then they don’t deserve the respect they seem to demand for their professional status.
Any medical professionals reading this prepared to comment?
If a medical professional replies, I’d also be interest to know how many frontline medical professionals read The Lancet. Is it primarily a journal aimed at academics?
It’s a good point. Doctors have a duty to maintain their knowledge of the latest medical advances; in the UK, they’re assessed on doing precisely that. The Lancet is/was a primary source of the latest research in each field of medicine. If they’re not reading it, they’re failing their patients.
Having never read The Lancet but noting a number of articles about it in recent years, I could speculate that the ratio of political commentary to medical research is not as in favour of the latter as we’d hope or expect.
As a GP in Australia I have never subscribed to the Lancet as there are many other journals more targeted to the particular and practical needs of general practice. To be honest I’m not sure who their readership is meant to be, but evidently Dr Horton is playing to the right-on medical reporters of mainstream news media, who will reward him with praise for “bravery” for turning a necessarily conservative profession into a progressive activist choir
I’m not sure how long he’ll last though. In that photo he looks irredeemably white and male.
He should resign his privileged position and open it up to someone historically underrepresented, to quote his own ideology.
But they never do, these woke warriors.
They want us to be replaced by unqualified people or correct ethnicity.
But he doesn’t look that old.
So how come he has been editor for 30 years?
Who gave him a job of editing serious journal at young age?
Yup. I’m a doc in Canada fighting back. Check out free speech in medicine dot com, and come to our conference this fall! My wife Julie Curwin and I have been extremely outspoken. If you google my name and ‘justice centre for constitutional freedoms” you’ll see that I have spoken out before COVID, and during COVID again. I’ve paid the price in some ways but no way I’ll shut up.
The irony of the head of the world’s most prestigious medical journal (as bourgeoisie an institution as any) quoting an imprisoned, early 20th century, communist about how oppressed and marginalized revolutionaries can seize control of elite institutions is apparently lost on its editor.
Dr. Horton either doesn’t realize or doesn’t care that in Gramsci’s calculus, he would be one of the first put up against the wall.
“… he would deservedly be one of the first put up against the wall.”
A wee bit better.
To be fair not right away.
Commies would need useful idiots like him to consolidate power.
Only later he would be put on show trial as part of “doctors plot”.
Horton, unfortunately, has been captured by the woke cult. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the US equivalent of the Lancet, is not much better. Is it any wonder that our institutions have lost the trust of the public when they regularly spill garbage that appears to be written by some juvenile woke robot.
The NEJM may be worse. This recently: Racial Affinity Group Caucusing in Medical Education — A Key Supplement to Antiracism Curricula | NEJM
Nothing illustrates the politicization and fall of science more than the Lancet and Journal of Science.
Don’t forget Scientific American. It now reads more like a bible of the new woke religion than a science magazine.
So just how does this man Horton know that Braverman’s statement is wrong ? He asserts – in a scientific context – that it is definitely wrong. Yet, her statement appears to be a generalisation and opinion andnot something that can be definitively proved or disproved.
But what personal experience and research is there behind Horton’s assertion (or do I mean opinion) ? There appears to be none.
Richard Horton. Posing as a scientific/medical professional.
Guy read some Gramsci, now thinks he’s the shit.
Stick to medicine
It’s always amusing when people of Horton’s ilk talk or write about the ‘ruling class’ or dominant group’ as if it is someone other than them.
The more the Establishment rails against the Rwanda policy, the more popular it will become with the public. They must know this and not care. Presumably because staking out this position is about displaying their own Woke credentials to their fellow travellers than trying to persuade the general public.
As you say, they do not care. It is in the nature of the elect in all puritanical sects to dismiss contrarian views as those of the unenlightened, or those seduced by wrong think. Populists, therefore need guidance at the very least, but more likely punishment, to prevent them from leading humanity to ruin in their view.
What I think is historically unprecedented is the lack of self-awareness that Horton and those like him display. A more reflective personality might at least be willing to consider that his enthusiasm for globalist ideology stems at least in part from its alignment with the economic interests of his class. Instead he convinces himself that his enthusiasm for open borders arises purely from altruism.
It strikes me that people like Horton have self-appointed themselves into the societal role formerly held by priests.
It’s amazing how much Antonio Gramsci gets cited unsourced. There’s an industry of anti-woke intellectuals in the USA basing their careers on his alleged influence on the long march thorough the institutions. Sometimes, like in this article, they make vague generalisations. Some of them just make up the quotations: https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/laying-siege-to-the-institutions
PS. I’m anti-woke, and not a Gramsci fan.
The Lancet editorial literally quotes Gramsci. It concludes as follows: “Gramsci, using the military metaphors of his time, called this struggle a “war of position”. It is a war we must not be afraid to engage”. Nobody who attended university in the past 40 years or more could doubt the influence Gramsci has had on the academic left.
I attended university (a good one) some 44 years ago and read fairly widely; I have heard the name but have not the faintest idea who Gramsci was, what he said or what his political positioning might have been. My children have been to university within the last decade and haven’t heard of him at all (they are not so widely read, sadly!). So, sorry but your comment is fatally tainted by hyperbole and can thus be entirely discounted!
I think it was Gramsci who once remarked that, during the time of Mussolini, the fascists had split into two groups: the fascists and the anti-fascists.
Do you have a source for the ascription to Gramsci? I tried to track this idea down a few years ago, and as far as I could determine, “Il fascismo si divide in due parti: il fascismo propriamente detto e l’antifascismo” – was attributed (both by Ennio Flaiano and Indro Montanelli) to a remark made in conversation by Mino Maccari, but has since been variously wrongly attributed to Ennio Flaiano, Ignazio Silone and even (in English translation) Sir Winston Churchill. I didn’t come across any reference to Antonio Gramsci.
His diaries weren’t translated until the mid-seventies so unless you were a politics academic it wouldn’t be surprising you hadn’t heard of him.
Gramsci was a hot topic in the universities from the early 80s. It wasn’t just in Politics either. Gramsci spread through English, Film studies, Philosophy, Economics & Modern Languages like a rash. Gramsci was at the core of virtually everything written in Marxism Today (journal of the Eurocommunists) from the early to mid eighties until its demise. Gramscian thought influenced Blairism and when Blair expanded the universities they began churning out the graduates who now occupy the key positions in our institutions.
Millions read widely. I should imagine that most have the humility to understand that their not having read about a topic does not mean that the topic does not exist.
I completely agree, but Mr. Walsh says that if myself or children attended university we must know about him, and we don’t! I completely admit my ignorance, I’m just pointing out a nonsensical statement about universal knowledge of this chap.
Noted. I now understand your point better, and see that it is reasonable.
I attended university at around the same time as you and soon knew all about Gramsci. Perhaps you weren’t paying attention?
Don’t you mean somebody attending university in the last 40 years reading some soft literary/arts/sociology studies subject.
His prison diaries are massive, so no one bothers to read them, and instead just resort to random quotes.
We are often told that the famous “Long march…” quote should actually be attributed to 1960s German marxist Rudi Dutschke.
Correct. I challenge anyone to name the essay or notebook where Gramsci supposedly talked about the Long March. I have never seen it sourced to any essay he wrote, and I’m pretty sure it’s because he didn’t write it.
Gramasci was a Marxist academic. Partly because he was imprisoned by Msussolini (hence plenty of time to write) some people thought he was an OK guy. I’m sure Horton has never read his actual work.
It no longer matters who has actually read Gramsci. Nor does it matter whether he proclaimed this or that doctrine himself in this or that book that might or might not be quoted correctly. Ideologically effective doctrines quickly take on lives of their own. They’re out there now no matter who put them there originally. We need to challenge ideas in their current contexts, in short, not their authors in the contexts of earlier generations–not unless we happen to be biographers or historians.
Horton used to rail against the excessive influence of Big Pharma on medical research and publishing. Not a peep out of him now on this. Like most of those on the far left, he seems to have grown to love big corporations and switched to attacking the working class. Remarkable.
As for the ruling class, Horton would do much better by looking in the mirror
Could he be doing it on purpose? The Lancet has been used to peddle scientifically unsound papers openly paid for by sponsors – is Horton burning the house down because he feels it has become so rotten that it cannot be salvaged?
Horton has ranged quite widely over the years. Last autumn stuff on Covid emanating from a US lab – suspect quite alot of Unherd commentariat delighted to hear he gave that an airing. And well before that significant column inches on Iraqi fatalities resulting from Coalition actions.
So this foray not the first into more contentious waters. It’s link to issues of medicine seems opaque at best although I guess the point intended related to the potential impact on physical and mental health to both recipients and transmitters of such demonising statements?
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