The Emperor’s New (Teflon) Clothes

In pursuit of an alternate approach to exposing and overturning municipal water fluoridation practice, we may wish to consider and learn from the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” written by Hans Christian Andersen (circa 1837). In the end it all came down to a little child, whose innocent voice, focused by child-like candour and reason, brought forth the truth. That story goes as follows, with these Canadian fluoridation connotations inserted for humour as well as thought provocation. It is hoped you enjoy the read and receive the relevant and inspiring underlying message.

The Emperor’s New (Teflon) Clothes

Many, many years ago (now) lived an emperor (Health Canada), who thought so much of new clothes (fluoridation) that he spent all his money (taxpayer’s money) in order to obtain them; his only ambition was to be always well dressed (heralded as one of the 10 best…  in the 20th  century).  He did not care for his soldiers (people), and the theatre (hard science) did not amuse him; the only thing, in fact, he thought anything of was to drive out and show a new suit of clothes (push fluoride whilst donning a protective Teflon suit, also made from fluoride).   He had a coat (biased fluoride study of poor quality) for every hour of the day; and as one would say of a king “He is in his cabinet” (has title and office so must know what of he speaks), so one could say of him, “The emperor is in his dressing-room (sure must know his stuff about fluoride)”.

The great city (Health Canada Office) where he resided was very gay (politically worried); every day many strangers (for and against fluoridation) from all parts of the globe arrived.  One day two swindlers (fluoride industry promoters) came to this city; they made people believe that they were weavers (good scientists), and declared they could manufacture (spin from myth and environmental waste) the finest cloth (inorganic fluoride) to be imagined.  Their colours and patterns (hydrofluorosilicic acid, sodium fluorosilicate, and sodium fluoride), they said, were not only exceptionally beautiful (safe and effective), but the clothes made of their material (water-based smokestack emission scrubbings from phosphate fertilizer production) possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid (so politically obtuse as to admit causal harm, having used this cheapest toxic fluoride this long).

“That must be wonderful cloth,” thought the emperor (Health Canada). “If I were to be dressed in a suit made of this cloth (Teflon cloth made from fluoride) I should be able to find out which men in my empire were unfit for their places (spoke the truth about fluoride), and I could distinguish the clever (anti- fluoridationists) from the stupid (pro-fluoridationists). I must have this cloth woven for me without delay (without science).”   And he gave a large sum of money (more taxpayer’s money) to the swindlers (fluoride industry promoters), in advance (without toxicology research), that they should set to work without any loss of time (without bogging down in any substantive research).  They set up two looms (naïve medical officers1 and naïve dentists2), and pretended to be very hard at work (many speaking junkets without science properly reviewed or even properly cited), but they did nothing whatever (no substantive science) on the looms.  They asked for the finest silk and the most precious gold-cloth (even more taxpayer’s money); all they got they did away with (gave to offset the fluoride producing industry’s environmental disposal costs), and worked at the empty (non-science based) looms till late at night (until the educated science-citing anti-fluoride public became exhausted and anguished).

“I should very much like to know how they are getting on with the cloth (‘spinning’ things around),” thought the emperor (Health Canada).  But he felt rather uneasy when he remembered that he who was not fit for his office could not see it (not ‘spin’ as good as the rest of them).  Personally, he was of opinion (must believe) that he had nothing (no science) to fear, yet he thought it advisable to send somebody else first (the most arrogant and unknowing of the dental profession) to see how matters stood.   Everybody (pro-fluoridationists) in the town knew what a remarkable quality the stuff (hydrofluorosilicic acid) possessed (although few could even spell or pronounce hydrofluorosilicic acid despite all the ‘scientific reviews’ and ‘panel discussions’ claimed) and all were anxious to see how bad or  stupid  (intelligent)  their  neighbours  were  (anti-fluoridationists who  could  spell  and  pronounce hydrofluorosilicic acid because they had thoroughly reviewed the science).

“I shall send my honest old minister (Public Health) to the weavers,” thought the emperor.  “He can judge best how the stuff looks, for he is intelligent (bureaucratic and tows the political line), and nobody understands his office (the need for governmental spin without pointing to the science) better than he.”

The good old  minister (Public Health) went into the room where the swindlers (fluoride industry promoters) sat before the empty looms (empty science).   “Heaven preserve us!” he thought, and opened his eyes wide, “I cannot see anything at all (no fluoride ingestion safety research, no demonstrated benefit from ingesting fluoride),” but he did not say so (did not offend Health Canada and adhered to his ‘marching orders’).  Both swindlers (fluoride industry promoters) requested him to come near, and asked him if he did not admire the exquisite pattern (safety) and the beautiful colours (efficacy), pointing to the empty (inorganic fluoride) looms.  The poor old minister tried his very best (to save face and reputation), but he could see nothing (not surprising), for there was nothing (no good science) to be seen (hmmm?).  “Oh dear,” he thought, “can I be so stupid (yep!)?  I should never have thought so (taken this job), and nobody must know it (I must bury this huge liability)! Is it possible that I am not fit for my office (again…  yep!)?  No, no, I cannot say that I was unable to see the cloth (speak the truth now).”

“Now, have you got nothing to say?” said one of the swindlers (fluoride industry promoters), while he pretended to be busily weaving.  “Oh, it is very pretty, exceedingly beautiful (spin–spin–spin),” replied the old  minister (Public Health) looking through his  glasses (rose-coloured, bureaucratic, political blinders).  “What a beautiful pattern, what brilliant colours!  I shall tell the emperor that I like the cloth very much (will continue to do Health Canada’s bidding).”

We are pleased to hear that,” said the two weavers (fluoride industry lackeys), and described to him the colours and explained the curious pattern (H. Trendley Dean’s ‘curious’ naturally occurring fluoride research). The old minister listened attentively, that he might relate to the emperor what they said; and so he did.

Now the swindlers (fluoride industry promoters) asked for more money, silk and gold-cloth (further taxpayer’s hard earnings), which they required for weaving (promotional engagements and disposing of this  toxic  waste).    They  kept  everything  (profits  beyond  promotion  and/or  disposal  costs)  for themselves, and not a thread came near the loom (funded fluoridation’s scientific research), but they continued, as  hitherto, to  work at  the empty looms (in  the absence of  empirical, peer-reviewed, published, variable controlled, statistically significant, scientific evidence).

Soon afterwards the emperor (Health Canada) sent another honest courtier (willing but naïve dentist2) to the weavers to see how they were getting on, and if the cloth was nearly finished.   Like the old minister (Public Health), he looked and looked but could see nothing, as there was nothing to be seen (no evidence supporting causal reduction of dental caries due to drinking fluoridated water).

“Is it not a beautiful piece of cloth?” asked the two swindlers (fluoride industry promoters), showing and explaining the magnificent pattern (questionable science), which, however, did not exist (remained questionable).

“I am not stupid (I am a credentialed important person),” said the man (naïve dentist2).  “It is therefore my  good appointment for  which I  am not fit  (I  don’t know anything about systemic ingestion of hydrofluorosilicic acid).  It is very strange (why send me…  I’m a dentist…  I’m not trained in toxicology or tissues and organs beyond the mouth), but I must not let any one know it;” and he praised the cloth (drink-up everyone!), which he did not see (even understand), and expressed his joy at the beautiful colours and the fine pattern (promotion money that could be made if this stuff were proven safe and effective). “It is very excellent (keep fluoridating),” he said to the emperor (Health Canada).

Everybody in the whole town talked about the precious cloth (water fluoridation).  At last the emperor wished to see it himself (try, at least, to find some supportive study abstracts – but not heavily review unsupportive science), while it was still on the loom (still possible to bury this issue once more).  With a number of courtiers (more naïve dentists2), including those who had already been there, he went to the two clever swindlers (fluoride industry promoters), who now worked as hard as they could, but without using any thread (any gold-standard, empirical, peer-reviewed, published, variable controlled, statistically significant, scientific research).

“Is it not magnificent (look at all the claimed cavity reduction)?” said the two old statesmen who had been there before.  “Your Majesty must admire the colours (safety) and the pattern (effectiveness).” And then they pointed to the empty looms (dental libraries devoid of any “Fluoride” journal), for they imagined the others could see the cloth (just trust us, we don’t actually need to prove ourselves… we’re credentialed for F’n4 sake).

“What is this?” thought the emperor (Health Canada), “I do not see anything at all (holy cow…  they haven’t done any science either). That is terrible (we may be found out)! Am I stupid (yep!)? Am I unfit to be emperor (yep, yep!)?  That would indeed be the most dreadful thing that could happen to me (I could lose my F’n4 job!).”

“Really,” he (Health Canada) said, turning to the weavers, “your cloth has our most gracious approval (I’ve got your six-o’clock if you’ve got mine);” and nodding contentedly he looked at the empty loom (no hard science whatsoever), for he did not like to say that he saw nothing (not even supporting evidence for ingestion).  All his attendants, who were with him, looked and looked, and although they could not see anything more than the others, they said, like the emperor, “It is very beautiful (everybody here couldn’t really have goofed up so badly…   could they?).”   And all advised him to wear the new magnificent clothes (let’s go with it) at a great procession which was soon to take place (otherwise people could never sleep at night again, once they knew we goofed up so badly!).  “It is magnificent, beautiful, excellent,” one heard them say (look everybody, this has to be why cavities are on the decline); everybody seemed to be delighted, and the emperor (Health Canada) appointed the two swindlers “Imperial Court weavers (the best of the ‘spin-doctors’).”

The whole night previous to  the day on  which the procession was to  take place, the swindlers pretended to work (pretended to do meaningful ‘panel research’ and ‘scientific reviews’), and burned more than sixteen candles (spent even more of the people’s money). People should see that they were busy to finish the emperor’s new suit (doing an ‘earnest’ review). They pretended to take the cloth from the loom, and worked about in the air with big scissors (cutting away conflicting science), and sewed with needles without thread (without supportive science), and said at last:  “The emperor’s new suit is ready now (now we’ll say we need fluoridated water more than ever to fight cavities…  let’s rename cavities an ‘infectious disease’… not merely ‘dental decay’).”

The emperor (Health Canada) and all his barons (spin-team) then came to the hall (press conference); the swindlers held their arms up as if they held something (science-like) in their hands and said: “These are the trousers (dental health benefits)!”  “This is the coat (refutations of health harm)!” and “Here is the cloak (cloak of ignorance whilst hiding behind titles and name dropping)!” and so on. “They are all as light as a cobweb (ephemeral), and one must feel as if one had nothing at all upon the body (no risk of health harm); but that is just the beauty of them.”  “Indeed!” said all the courtiers (naïve dentist2); but they could not see anything, for there was nothing to be seen (these guys know…  we don’t really need to check for ourselves… right?).

“Does it please your Majesty now to graciously undress,” said the swindlers (fluoride industry promoters), “that we may assist your Majesty in putting on the new suit before the large looking-glass (a renewed and more sophisticated scientific public opinion)?” The emperor undressed (what choice does Health Canada have now), and the swindlers pretended to put the new suit upon him, one piece after another; and the emperor looked at himself in the glass from every side (saying look… no horns3).

“How well they look! How well they fit!” said all. “What a beautiful pattern! What fine colours! That is a magnificent suit of clothes!”

The master of the ceremonies announced that the bearers of the canopy, which was to be carried in the procession, were ready (let’s sell this water fluoridation as an ‘elixir’ of cavity prevention).

“I am ready,” said the emperor.  “Does not my suit fit me marvelously?”  Then he turned once more to the looking-glass, that people should think he admired his garments (yeah…  I can live with myself… the money’s good… not to mention my revered status).

The chamberlains (Municipalities, and Provincial Ministries of the Environment), who were to carry the train, stretched their hands to the ground as if they lifted up a train, and pretended to hold something in their hands; they did not like people to know that they could not see anything (Health Canada’s holding the bag on this one…  right?  It’s Ministries of the Environment?  Anybody check out the law here?… WHAT?… MUNICIPALITIES GET LEFT HOLDING THE BAG!).

The emperor (Health Canada) marched in the procession under the beautiful canopy, and all who saw him in the street and out of the windows exclaimed:  “Indeed, the emperor’s new suit is incomparable!

What a long train (list of fluoridation endorsements) he has!  How well it fits him!”  Nobody wished to let others know he saw nothing (no real benefit to water fluoridation), for then he would have been unfit for his office or too stupid (rebuked…  or worse…  never re-elected due to such an oversight!).  Never emperor’s clothes were more admired (what a F’n4 predicament).

“But he (Health Canada) has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last.  “Good heavens!  Listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all (no safety or efficacy research of any import),” cried at last the whole people.  That made a deep impression upon the emperor (Health Canada), for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.”   And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity (yet again lowering fluoride concentrations in municipal drinking water without ever addressing the real issues at hand), as if they carried the train which did not exist.

1         “Naïve medical officers” does not express or imply every medical officer nor all medical officers.
2         “Naïve dentist(s)” does not express or imply every dentist nor all dentists.
3         “No horns” is in reference to a comment made by Health Canada’s Chief Dental Officer of Health speaking in Dryden, Ontario on April 1st, 2008 whereby he stated; “When I walked down through the centre of Dryden, I didn’t see anyone growing horns, and you guys have been drinking fluoridated water for forty years. So please don’t feel it’s going to cause huge health problems to you because it isn’t.” On April 14th, 2008, 87% of Dryden’s voting public decided to turn off their water fluoridation.
4         “F’n” refers to fluoridation.

*** THE END ***

As one little girl who heard ‘the looms spinning’ more recently said:

“I don’t understand… if this stuff (hydrofluorosilicic acid) in our water doesn’t really fight cavities, and it only harms us, why are we putting it in our water?”

Young girl who stepped up to the podium during the Citizens for a Safe Environment open forum on water fluoridation, held in downtown Toronto on August 11th, 2008; in conjunction with the International Society for Fluoride Research Conference and the Fluoride Action Network Conference, all being covered by the media around the same time frame.

In the end it all came down to a little child, whose innocent voice, focused by child-like candour and reason, brought forth the truth.

Robert J. Fleming (Executive Director, WaterlooWatch)

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