A few more things, and then I’ll shut up.
Jonathan Chait writing on the lab leak hypothesis for NY Mag’s Intelligencer:
Yesterday, the Biden administration promised to redouble its efforts to investigate the origin of COVID-19, which many leading scientists believe may well have leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China. Democrats in Congress are also proposing an investigation.
I don’t know if this hypothesis will ever be proven. I don’t care, and I’ve never cared. There’s no important policy question riding on the answer, nor would confirming the thesis in any way vindicate former president Trump’s horrific mismanagement of the pandemic.
What the episode does reveal is the vulnerabilities in the mainstream- and liberal-media ecosystem. Media coverage of the lab-leak hypothesis was a debacle, and a major source of that failure was groupthink cultivated on Twitter.
Watching this response unfold helps explain the mentality that produced the original failure. Progressive advocates will take strong positions on a factual question, such as whether COVID-19 originated inside or outside a laboratory, based entirely on how they believe political actors will use the answer.
The problem isn’t that they’re wrong; anybody can make an analytical error. It’s that they’re not even trying to be right.
Not only will they reject a factual possibility that might flatter their political opponents, but they will assume anybody who takes a different view must also hold political motivations. Since many advocates of lab-leak theory also endorse racist beliefs, anybody who believes it might be true shares in their guilt. What’s completely absent from their thinking is any notion that the truth of the question could be abstracted from motive.
Much like Chait, I don’t care where the virus came from. I can’t see how that would matter one way or the other, as I have no vested interest in “holding China to account” for literally anything, because lol. Similarly, I have no vested interest in “holding Fauci to account” for whether or not he funded the gain of function research, because again, lol. Power doesn’t get “held to account” and you’ll drive yourself crazy if you think that it does. It’s that quote from Marlo Stanfield in The Wire: “You want it to be one way, but it’s the other way.” The sooner you know this, the better.
Much like Chait, I am sincerely disturbed by how quickly party lines were drawn around every issue relating to the pandemic, and how quickly people went after me and others for expressing doubt about literally any aspect of the narrative. I had valid concerns about things like rate of transmission, survivability, unemployment, school closures, food supply chain disruption, mental health, people’s lack of access to cancer screenings, the fact that power does not give privileges back once it takes them away, the upward transfer of wealth, increased surveillance, etc. I had valid concerns about these things, and so did prominent epidemiologists and virologists, at least those dumb enough to be like me, to not see the way the tide was turning. But it didn’t matter. The internet left, in full histrionic sarcasm mode, excommunicated anyone who was seen expressing the same ideas as people they perceived as bad.
Sometimes you’re going to find yourself agreeing with unsavory people on things. What do you do if a racist believes universal health care is a good thing? Do you…what, change your opinion on universal health care? That’s ridiculous. Because, and I feel like most grade school kids can get this, you can agree with someone about one thing, regardless of what other, different opinions they might hold.
You can also hold the same opinion, but for different reasons. This was recently demonstrated perfectly in the Israel/Palestine Online Debate. In that conflict, many people on the left quite correctly do not side with the state of Israel, and quite correctly view Israel as an apartheid state, and quite correctly sympathize with the plight of Palestinians, and wish to see their country returned to them. There are also different, nastier people who support Palestine because they think Jews should be wiped off the face of the earth. These are two different motives. One is right and just, the other racist and genocidal.
So I hope my point is clear: I didn’t have questions about the covid narrative because I supported Trump, or white supremacy, or was some kind of contrarian troll. I had questions because from the moment I saw those videos of Chinese people “collapsing in the street” from covid I smelled bullshit. Then I saw how it was hitting Italy, and I ran some very quick numbers on my calculator, and saw that, though it was being presented as a catastrophic number of people dying/infected, it was instead on track to be on par with a really bad flu (when the numbers shook out, if you ignore allll the issues with those numbers, I was underestimating; in fact, the death toll for 2020 was “officially” about 2x that of 2018’s “Deaths from Influenza-Like Illnesses”; again, nowhere near the ridiculous predictions made by MSM and Imperial College, but still higher than I predicted). Then I read Ioannides’ work on the IFR, then I read about the inaccuracy of the PCR test, then I noticed how many people were recovering, and on and on and on. I began to notice how everything against the dominant narrative was shut down and deplatformed. And when you filter those instances into what I already know about the way that power works, the way that the media works, the way that economies work, the way that the human mind works, and the way that mobs work, I saw that we were careening towards an absolute clusterfuck, and I, like some fucking dumbass, thought my opinion mattered, that I could maybe help some people not descend into rabid mental illness, maybe in some small way be a small voice against an incoming tide of very, very bad things. Insert the biggest lol possible, here.
The big question that I’ve been turning over and over in my head is why did “liberals/the left” opt on the side of lockdowns, masks, vaccines, etc. and the “right” end up on the side of…well, none of those things? Does it have to do with how each side sees themselves? Liberals think of themselves as “caring,” Rightoids see themselves as “realistic.” Did it come down to Donald Trump?
Who fucking knows? And more importantly, at this point: who fucking cares? People believe what they believe. I think something deeper is going on, although I have to gather more of my thoughts around it.
It’s an idea that is so off the wall, and that will piss people off so much, that honestly I’ll have to work up the guts to even write about it. I’ve been advised by my psychic friends very specifically to not do that, but we’ll have to see how much I feel like further alienating my audience before I type it up. So for now, I’ll call this post my “Final Thoughts on the Pandemic,” and move on.
It’s a beautiful rainy morning. Time to get to work.