A tale of two conspiracies from the Noakes hearings

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend half of one day of the reconvened HPCSA hearings regarding Prof. Tim Noakes and his alleged “professional misconduct”.

I missed what might have been the most interesting day, at least on a personal level, as apparently one of my tweets was read into evidence. This gave Prof. Noakes an opportunity to tell folks that I had a vendetta against him, that I “call myself” someone with philosophical expertise, and so forth.

Oh, and that I for some reason made things “personal” at some point. For the sake of the health of those who are Banting, we can only hope that the dietary advice is based on a more sound grasp on reality than this. Those who are actually interested in the facts of the matter already know them, so I won’t repeat any of that here.

Anyway – the first conspiracy is basically that I’m some minor character in a concerted effort – directed by “Big Food”, the dietitian-potato complex or somesuch – to bring down the Banters and their crusading maverick.

The second conspiracy is unfolding as we speak, after News24 rushed to publish an embarrassingly poorly-written press release regarding the hearings. And before even publishing the release, they tweeted “Breaking: Tim Noakes found guilty”.

The press release says “found guilty” – perhaps instead of “accused of” – and “guilty” never made sense, given that a ruling is expected only in April next year. All journalists covering this case should have known that, and used some common sense before uncritically sharing the press release, regardless of the oft-cited “pressure to publish” excuse.

But all of this has led to a froth among the Banters, some of whom think this evidence of a preordained outcome, while others think this is cause for a crimen injuria or defamation lawsuit.

As Hanlon’s Razor reminds us, though: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity” (or rather than stupidity, simply “human error”). Someone messed up. They’ve now apologised, and retracted the statement. End of story, surely?

Probably not.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.