Politicians, public health authorities, and many journalists demand that Americans trust “the science,” but “the science” is often not science but dogma. Soon after taking office, Joe Biden said his administration would “lead with science and truth.” Should we have expected fantasy and lies? Vice President Kamala Harris said:
The science behind climate change is not a hoax. The science behind the virus is not partisan. The same laws apply, the same evidence holds true regardless of whether or not you accept them.
This is true, but people don’t agree about what the “same evidence” means. What those in power want is for us to accept the truth as defined by institutions such as pharmaceutical companies, the Centers for Disease Control, the White House, and the office of the Surgeon General. Most Americans are not going to read clinical studies; even fewer can understand them. Trusting these institutions is an act of faith, and faith must be earned, not required.
If people undermine this faith, they become a threat. That is why there is such a panic about “misinformation.” This month, President Biden accused Facebook of “killing people,” though he later explained he meant people who use Facebook. The Surgeon General says “misinformation” is an “imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health.” The White House and allied media including NPR, the New York Times, CNN, touted a report about the “Disinformation Dozen,” 12 people they blamed for spreading misinformation. The “Center for Countering Digital Hate” wrote the report, which shows the ever-expanding definition of “hate.” Naturally, some want the “dozen” deplatformed immediately. “Critical thinking, as we’re taught to do it, isn’t helping in the fight against misinformation,” explained one op-ed in the New York Times.
Generally, I’m not a vaccine skeptic. I think COVID-19 is dangerous. However, that’s not the point. Deplatforming would show that there really isn’t much difference between the state and social media. It’s even worse to claim that muzzling anti-vaxxers is fighting “hate.” The government and Big Tech getting together to decide who can and can’t speak worries me more than COVID-19. There will be bias. Black attorney Ben Crump, who is suing vaccine maker Johnson & Johnson over talcum powder, will not have to worry about being deplatformed. The White House will not say his claim — whatever the evidence — that a pharmaceutical company made a dangerous product is “hate.”
Censorship doesn’t look good when the Administration changes its advice. Two months ago, President Biden told vaccinated Americans they didn’t need to wear masks. Now, he must convince them to put them back on. The Centers for Disease Control are not publishing the data experts need to analyze the new policy. According to Pfizer, the immunity provided by the company’s vaccine declines by about 16 percent in six months. Scientistsdisagree about whether “booster” shots will be necessary. Those vaccinated may still be able to spread the disease, particularly as new variants develop. Whatever “the science” says today, it may say something else tomorrow.
Confusion about this is natural. COVID-19 is poorly understood. “The science”should change as knowledge increases. In a competent country, policymakers could say that there are no perfect solutions, but give us the best available information so we can make choices.
In America, ideology trumps science. We don’t even know where COVID-19 came from and may never know. Some scientists warn that “rhetoric around an alleged lab leak” could fuel “online bullying of scientists and anti-Asian harassment in the United States, as well as offending researchers and authorities in China whose cooperation is needed.” This sacrifices knowledge to politics.
What people call “science” is becoming closer to revealed truth. A recent studyof “antimaskers” found that it was “empirically false” to say they were “data-illiterate or not engaging with the data.” They read reports and reach their own conclusions. The study, partially funded by the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council, concluded that data are a “battleground” and suggested — astonishingly — that supplying more data might undermine “mainstream science.” In fairness, the study also said that experts should emphasize their own uncertainty. The failure to admit that they don’t have all the answers “has contributed to the erosion of public trust in science.”
We don’t have modest, self-aware government, corporations, and public health authorities. Instead, we get more dogmatism. Home Depot, Google, Facebook, and Netflix, require or will require vaccinations: Get the jab or lose your job. President Biden is reportedly mulling a vaccination requirement for federal workers. “Vaccine passports,” or proof of vaccination are already sometimes required before you can enter a business or travel abroad.
How much does the federal government really care about our health? Thousands of illegal immigrants are entering the country through the southern border, even though the border with Canada remains closed. Some illegals tested positive, but a Catholic “charity” sent them to local hotels and didn’t bother to notify local officials.
The Lancet reports that obesity (“another ongoing pandemic”) makes COVID-19 worse. Where’s the media campaign to reduce obesity, which increased over the last year? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene may haveoverstated the case when she said COVID-19 isn’t dangerous to anyone who’s not old or obese. However, FiveThirtyEight’s dismissal of “the right-wing troll culture’s long fixation on fat-shaming” ignores reality. If the government wants to protect people from COVID-19, exercise and diet should be part of that effort — but that would be “ableist.”
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on “How Science Lost the Public’s Trust,” concluding that “the politicization of science leads to a loss of confidence in science as an institution.” Ties with Communist China and the fear of being considered politically incorrect have warped priorities and kept researchers from investigating controversial topics. The article refers to a paper on glaciers that was criticized “because it wasn’t sufficiently feminist” — but there is a solution. “Glaciers, gender, and science: A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research,” published in Progress in Human Geography, will lead us to “more just and equitable science and human-ice relations.”
Several months ago, the Wall Street Journal also published “How a More Resilient America Beat a Midcentury Pandemic.” When the Asian flu struck in 1957, there were no lockdowns. Americans had a greater tolerance of risk and communities were stronger. Author Niall Ferguson:
Compare these stoical attitudes with the strange political bifurcation of reactions we saw last year, with Democrats embracing drastic restrictions on social and economic activity, while many Republicans acted as if the virus was a hoax. Perhaps a society with a stronger fabric of family life, community life and church life was better equipped to withstand the anguish of untimely deaths than a society that has, in so many ways, come apart.
A further contrast between 1957 and 2020 is that the competence of government would appear to have diminished even as its size has expanded. The number of government employees in the U.S., including those in federal, state and local governments, numbered 7.8 million in November 1957 and reached around 22 million in 2020—a nearly threefold increase, compared with a doubling of the population. Federal net outlays were 16.2% of GDP in 1957 versus 20.8% in 2019.
There are three reasons today’s America is unprepared for the pandemic. The first is that “the science” is not always science because institutions sometimes sacrifice the truth to ideology. The second is that, thanks to diversity, America is no longer a high-trust society. Many Americans don’t believe what their government, media outlets, and “experts” tell them. Finally, many people seem to think the disease is an excuse to censor people they don’t like, increase their own power, and accomplish unrelated political goals.
“You’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,” says President Biden of the unvaccinated. Would he say that if he knew whites are more likely to be vaccinated than blacks and Hispanics? Vaccination rate shows the same racial pattern we see almost everywhere.
Do liberals really want unvaccinated people’s lives to be “hard,” or is that reserved for whites?
White advocates aren’t shocked when elites refuse to face the truth. Charles Murray, not one of us, but an honest broker, recently wrote Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race in America to explain racial differences. Jared Taylorwondered in his review whether one man could break the taboo, but the taboo remains unbroken. Unlike with The Bell Curve, journalists haven’t given the book broad coverage. Instead, there has been silence, even among conservatives. It’s best to ignore what you can’t refute.
Tucker Carlson gave Dr. Murray a respectful interview, but there were many claims that this peddled “pseudoscience.” However, the data are clear. We can speak with far more confidence about race than we can about a virus that is mutating and spawning new variants.
Unfortunately, we can’t rationally discuss education, national security, crime, medicine, or any issue if policymakers refuse to accept the reality of race. Some intellectuals openly want to hide the truth.
- Howard Gardner — “I do not condone investigations of racial differences in intelligence, because I think the results are likely to be incendiary.”
- Noam Chomsky — “Surely people differ in their biologically determined qualities. But discovery of a correlation between some of these qualities is of no scientific interest and of no social significance except to racists, sexists, and the like.”
- Daniel Dennett of Tufts University on ideas he doesn’t like — “[I]f I encountered people conveying a message I thought was so dangerous that I could not risk giving it a fair hearing, I would be at least strongly tempted to misrepresent it, to caricature it for the public good. I’d want to make up some good epithets, such as genetic determinist or reductionist or Darwinian Fundamentalist, and then flail those straw men as hard as I could. As the saying goes, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.”
Professor Chomsky has valuable things to say about media power and its ability to “manufacture consent.” However, he clings to orthodoxy on race, thus ensuring that “racists, sexists, and the like” are the only people with anything meaningful to say about social problems.
This delusion prevents progress. It’s why things keep getting worse. Many Americans live their lives desperately trying to escape diversity’s consequences. Even those who don’t consciously know this still act like white advocates when they choose where to live or send their children to school.
Our rulers may not be wrong about COVID-19. They may not be wrong about vaccines or how to prevent the virus’s spread. However, these are the same people who are wrong about race. They may be motivated by malice, misguided idealism, or ignorance, but the consequences are still disastrous.
Plenty of smart Americans recognize reality except when it comes to race. However, it’s very difficult for powerless Americans to believe rulers who are either duplicitous or completely ignorant about race.
This leads to the environment that produced “QAnon,” where wild promises of salvation lead people to a dead end. Unlike President Biden, I don’t think vaccine skeptics are stupid. They deserve better leaders, and it’s not surprising they want answers. They may be in an echo chamber, but the censors have created the echo chamber they now blame for what they call conspiracy theories.
High-trust societies behave differently. Largely homogenous Iceland has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Largely homogenous Japan, which took an isolationist approach, has one of the lowest rates in the developed world. Diversity reduces social trust. In a crisis, diversity breaks it.
Medical questions are complicated, and every treatment or vaccine has some risk. Knowledge isn’t complete. People make mistakes. If the mainstream media won’t explore these questions, skeptics will. If the response is censorship, there will be even more skeptics. Vaccines, masking, and lockdowns are not simple issues. There are costs and benefits. In a diverse, low-trust society, our rulers don’t seem to trust us to discuss them.
A recent paper finds that political polarization between Republicans and Democrats is increased by racial sorting, namely, whites fleeing Democrats. It goes beyond race, because partisan identity is also driven by “a mental image of the opposition that is composed of disliked social groups.” White liberals, unique among all groups, have an animus for their own race. This is probably not “self-hatred,” but hatred of white conservatives, who are their true “other.” This is why it probably didn’t occur to President Biden that he was insulting his base when he said unvaccinated Americans were stupid. To him and countless other liberals, “unvaccinated” means “conservative.”
In a society with low social trust, people take a position because it offends the other side. What if Donald Trump had won the election and was pushing mandatory vaccination? We’d see a lot more liberal sympathy for anti-vaxxers, especially non-whites. Likewise, some of those refusing the vaccine might take it because they trust Donald Trump. Even in the current climate, we have politicians saying “racism” is a public health crisis. If we still had President Trump, op-eds would call his Administration “the real virus.”
The study of medicine, biology, and evolutionary history is interesting and exciting. In a rational society dedicated to human advancement rather than egalitarianism and dysgenics, would make enormous efforts to find new knowledge.
However, few people want to suffer the fate of James Watson. If “the science” is just consensus opinion we have no reason to accept it. Now, when we need real experts and nuanced communication, we get hysteria, moral shaming, and shifting guidelines.
We need a patriotic ruling class that wants to solve problems, scientists led by the data and not politics, trustworthy institutions, and honest journalists. Without them, we are in permanent crisis. A vital first step would be to recognize racial reality. Then, the long process of repairing trust between the rulers and ruled could begin.
Barring radical change, and without help from all of you, this won’t happen. Those in power will seek scapegoats to explain their failure. Now that vaccine skeptics are lumped in with “haters,” our masters will know whom to blame.