Monday, July 20, 2020
The experts have no one to blame but themselves
The Week’s The Hill the “experts” are exasperated that people aren’t responding to their warnings about the virus with sufficient urgency. the state of the “American character,” citing an emergency physician’s wife he knows whose friends ignore her frantic pleas on Facebook to take COVID-19 more seriously.
Well, of course they aren’t, because so many experts, journalists, and politicians have, on this subject, proven themselves to be completely full of it.
Hypocrisy and lies
There are several illustrations of this, and everyone knows Exhibit A. After weeks of peddling panic about the supposedly grave dangers of mass gatherings, many of these experts, journalists, and politicians suddenly decided a few weeks ago that having thousands of left-wing protesters packed together in the streets, across the country and for days, was just fine.
This rather gave the game away – not because these experts, journalists, and politicians don’t care about the lives of left-wing protesters, but precisely because they do care. They hardly want hordes of fellow left-wingers dropping dead or confined to hospital beds, especially not when there is political hay to be made by having them riled up.
People aren’t completely stupid. They can draw the obvious conclusion – that the experts, journalists, and politicians who approved of the protests don’t really believe that people in the age range and with the health status of the typical protester are in serious danger from the virus.
Hypocrisy isn’t a good reason to reject an argument, but it is an excellent reason to reject testimony. If people offer advice about matters of safety that they don’t hold even their own friends to, you can be sure they don’t really believe it. The jig is up. Telling everyone now to get back inside again sounds at this point like
Meanwhile, the sainted Dr. Anthony Fauci tells us that he and other officials were lying when they initially said that face masks were unnecessary – and then in the next breath complains that many people don’t trust scientific authorities like himself!
Crack immunologist though he is, Dr. Fauci is evidently no expert on logic or even basic human psychology, so let me spell it out for him: When you frankly tell people that you will lie to them when you think doing so is for their own good, they are bound to wonder whether your next remark is also a lie. Not only is this a natural psychological response, it is a good way to avoid a fallacy of Appeal to Authority. For as logicians teach, expert testimony should be taken with a grain of salt when there are grounds to doubt an expert’s objectivity. And any expert who admits that he is a liar is, I submit, giving us such grounds.
It is now widely acknowledged that the virus poses a serious danger primarily to the elderly and those with serious preexisting medical conditions. Yes, occasionally there are people who fall outside those categories who also get seriously ill, but that’s true of other illnesses that we don’t respond to with lockdowns and other draconian measures.
So why the hell do people other than those at risk have, at this point, radically to disrupt their lives and livelihoods? Why not just quarantine those who are sick or especially vulnerable? Suspicion that there simply is no convincing answer to this question is only reinforced by the blatant dishonesty in much reporting about the virus. For example, the evidence shows that children are simply not in any significant danger of getting ill from the virus or of spreading it – with a group of pediatricians providing some vivid expert testimony to that effect. Yet the Hill article linked to above, despite essentially acknowledging this, still strains desperately to find a way to scare us into thinking that we just might end up killing the kiddies if we reopen schools. Which is true in the same sense that you just might kill the kiddies if you take them out on the freeway or let them go swimming.
Linker’s dishonesty is even more shameless. He writes:
I remember when trusted models were predicting a total of 100,000 deaths from the pandemic. Skeptics dismissed this as scaremongering. Then the estimates were lowered to 60,000 deaths and the skeptics scoffed: "We wrecked the economy for this? It's just the flu!" That was three months ago. On Wednesday of this week, we surpassed 140,000 dead.
Well, here’s what I remember: the notorious I doubt Linker has really forgotten that part, but certainly millions of other people have not. And that, of course, is another reason they are skeptical now. They would be insane not to be. Linker should worry less about the “American character” and more about the character of experts and politicians – and of journalists like himself, who apparently thinks that his readers are all Memento cases who will buy his ridiculous insinuation that the experts were lowballing the death rate four months ago. that we could see over 2 million deaths in the U.S., and similar doomsday scenarios from others.
Then there is the manifestly politicized nature of much of the coverage. The crisis has been far worse in “blue states” than in “red states,” and yet the press routinely demonizes Republican governors and lionizes Democratic governors. The most ridiculous example is the hagiographic treatment afforded New York governor Andrew Cuomo, whose administration’s policy of forcing infected elderly people back into nursing homes is responsible for thousands of deaths. Had Donald Trump done such a thing, we would now be subjected to yet another impeachment jihad. Last week, the stench of this BS finally got to be too much even for CNN’s Jake Tapper.
When journalists transparently act like people who want to push a narrative rather than disinterested pursuers of truth, they can hardly complain when people respond accordingly.
Lack of common sense
It so happens that the politicians and journalists most inclined to push for draconian policies for dealing with the virus also tend to be those most inclined to minimize or excuse the behavior of looters and rioters, to call for police to stand down rather than prevent such violence, to call even for defunding the police, and to endorse other similarly insane and depraved notions.
Well, here’s the thing. Suppose some authority makes it clear that he is not interested in doing what is necessary to keep your business from being looted or burnt down, or to keep your neighborhood safe. You will naturally conclude that he is lacking in good judgment and good will.
Hence, when he also advocates policies for dealing with the virus that threaten to destroy your livelihood, to prevent your children from being properly educated, etc., you are, if you are a rational person, going to doubt that he really has your best interests at heart or is capable of making sound policy decisions. You will not be confident that he can wisely handle a complex thing like a pandemic, when he has shown himself unreliable on a simple thing like the fundamental duty of government to protect life, liberty, and property.
Nor are the policies prima facie any better than the politicians peddling them. Indefinite lockdowns are as untried, untested, and contrary to common sense as defunding the police. The Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968-69 killed over 1 million people worldwide, and 100,000 in the United States alone. The virus was a danger primarily to older people. In short, the situation was not dissimilar to the current crisis. Yet there was no drama queen hysteria, no confinement of the whole country to house arrest, no massive infringement on the natural right of citizens to earn a livelihood. The idea of dealing with a pandemic by indefinitely locking down a whole state or a whole country – as opposed to merely quarantining those who are sick or at high risk – is an ivory tower construct that is only about fourteen years old.
Even in our degenerate age, many people retain enough common sense to see that they are being presented with a false alternative. They are capable of taking the virus seriously while balking at needlessly extreme measures for dealing with it. And their skepticism is bound only to increase when it is met, not with dispassionate arguments, but with shrill accusations of being “COVID deniers” or “anti-science,” from people many of whom can for independent reasons be judged to lack common sense.
Even if the most dire warnings currently being issued by experts, politicians, and journalists were well-founded – which, at this point, I personally don’t believe for a minute – the latter can only blame themselves if more people don’t heed them.