If the Wuhan lab-leak hypothesis is true, expect a political earthquake. By Thomas Frank, a Guardanista.
There was a time when the Covid pandemic seemed to confirm so many of our assumptions. It cast down the people we regarded as villains. It raised up those we thought were heroes. It prospered people who could shift easily to working from home even as it problematized the lives of those Trump voters living in the old economy.
Like all plagues, Covid often felt like the hand of God on earth, scourging the people for their sins against higher learning and visibly sorting the righteous from the unmasked wicked. “Respect science,” admonished our yard signs. And lo!, Covid came and forced us to do so, elevating our scientists to the highest seats of social authority, from where they banned assembly, commerce, and all the rest.
We cast blame so innocently in those days. We scolded at will. We knew who was right and we shook our heads to behold those in the wrong playing in their swimming pools and on the beach. It made perfect sense to us that Donald Trump, a politician we despised, could not grasp the situation, that he suggested people inject bleach, and that he was personally responsible for more than one super-spreading event. Reality itself punished leaders like him who refused to bow to expertise. The prestige news media even figured out a way to blame the worst death tolls on a system of organized ignorance they called “populism.” …
But sometimes reality must intrude. Now that Trump is out of the way:
Now the media is filled with disturbing stories suggesting that Covid might have come — not from “populism” at all, but from a laboratory screw-up in Wuhan, China. You can feel the moral convulsions beginning as the question sets in: What if science itself is in some way culpable for all this? …
If you’re dumb enough to still believe the mainstream media:
I am no expert on epidemics. Like everyone else I know, I spent the pandemic doing as I was told. A few months ago I even tried to talk a Fox News viewer out of believing in the lab-leak theory of Covid’s origins. The reason I did that is because the newspapers I read and the TV shows I watched had assured me on many occasions that the lab-leak theory wasn’t true, that it was a racist conspiracy theory, that only deluded Trumpists believed it, that it got infinite pants-on-fire ratings from the fact-checkers, and because (despite all my cynicism) I am the sort who has always trusted the mainstream news media.
My own complacency on the matter was dynamited by the lab-leak essay that ran in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists earlier this month; a few weeks later everyone from Doctor Fauci to President Biden is acknowledging that the lab-accident hypothesis might have some merit. We don’t know the real answer yet, and we probably will never know, but this is the moment to anticipate what such a finding might ultimately mean.
What if this crazy story turns out to be true?
The answer is that this is the kind of thing that could obliterate the faith of millions. …
Millions of those who still believe the media its leftist fantasies, perhaps.
Because if the hypothesis is right, it will soon start to dawn on people that our mistake was not insufficient reverence for scientists, or inadequate respect for expertise, or not enough censorship on Facebook. It was a failure to think critically about all of the above, to understand that there is no such thing as absolute expertise.
Think of all the disasters of recent years: economic neoliberalism, destructive trade policies, the Iraq War, the housing bubble, banks that are “too big to fail,” mortgage-backed securities, the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2016 — all of these disasters brought to you by the total, self-assured unanimity of the highly educated people who are supposed to know what they’re doing, plus the total complacency of the highly educated people who are supposed to be supervising them.
The left and media have changed the meaning of the word “science.” It used to mean a method of finding the truth where empirical evidence was the highest authority, higher than any Pope, king, religious book, or committee of poohbahs.
Nowadays “science” means the body of theories favored by the western bureaucracies, who fund nearly all of modern research (and have done since WWII). The funders only pay people who get the “right” results, and they get what they pay for. Modern “science” is run by bureaucrats to produce the answers they want for political reasons.
Btw, the exception that “proves the rule,” as it were, is electronics/computing. This area has never received significant government funding or tariff protection. Electronics has pretty much been a capitalist, market-driven free-for-all right from its inception. Not coincidentally, electronics also stands out as the area of the most dazzling progress in the last few decades, only recently rivaled by advances in genetics.
As we pointed out over a year ago, the lab-leak theory is almost certainly true. The latest revelations will red-pill another few percent of the population. Climate change, and the failure to warm by anything like the models say, will be the big one.