Broken record here:
Our information ecosystem is REALLY messed up right now. When sharp, reasonable, even-handed people are unable to figure out what’s true because of a justified suspicion of *all* outlets, the result will be collective epistemic collapse.
“I trust nothing”
— Alan Levinovitz (@AlanLevinovitz) June 11, 2020
At its core, the argument being leveled against public-health experts is that the reason for the protests shouldn’t matter. The coronavirus doesn’t care whether it’s attending an anti-lockdown protest or an anti-racism one. But these two kinds of protests are not equivalent from a public-health perspective. Some critics might argue that the anti-lockdown protests promoted economic activity, which can help stave off the health implications of poverty. (On this count, public-health experts were ahead of the curve: Many—including one of us—were advocating for a massive infusion of assistance to individual Americans as early as March.) But these protests were organized by pro-gun groups that believe the National Rifle Association is too compromising on gun safety. Egged on by the president to “save your great 2nd Amendment,” anti-lockdown protesters stormed government buildings with assault rifles and signs reading covid-19 is a lie. The anti-lockdown demonstrations were explicitly at odds with public health, and experts had a duty to oppose them. The current protests, in contrast, are a grassroots uprising against systemic racism, a pervasive and long-standing public-health crisis that leads to more than 80,000 excess deaths among black Americans every year.
One epidemiologist from Harvard, and one from Yale. Again, I stress, these are not “anti-science” fundamentalists telling us we can pray the virus away; it’s doctrinaire progressives indulging in sheer sophistry for the sake of political tribalism. “It’s okay when we do it, because our cause is righteous.”
Even if, just for the sake of argument, we grant the dubious assertion that “systemic racism” is a “public-health crisis” responsible for 80,000 deaths a year, it would still be ridiculous to compare a chronic crisis to an acute one, which is what the pandemic is. If I slice open my femoral artery with a saw, the chronic arthritic pain in my lower back becomes a lesser problem for the time being. Granted, I’m not trained in the new math of progressivism, but it appears inarguable that if one health crisis causes over 100,000 deaths in three months, and another supposedly causes 80,000 deaths per year, the former crisis is still more dangerous and a greater priority, however passionate you are about the latter. No matter how creative you get in playing with words and numbers to define “systemic racism,” I don’t think even these propagandist hacks are going to claim that “systemic racism” is in danger of deluging emergency rooms and intensive care units, which is the entire reason we were told that our individual assessment of risk was immaterial. You may be willing to risk your own life, but you will almost surely spread the virus to other, more vulnerable people who did not choose to take that risk, and furthermore, in doing so, you will contribute to overloading the limited resources of the hospitals. These dangers are unique to the acute crisis. Or so we were told until it became politically convenient to ignore it.
In truth, it’s probably the case that people were simply sick of being cooped up and would have seized on any pretext to leave their houses and assemble together again. Everyone loves to have a good excuse to do things they know they’re not supposed to do. If millions of people decide to engage in mass civil disobedience, there’s little any government can do to stop them. But telling the truth is always an option, and too many public health experts have chosen to be cowards and engage in flimsy rationalizations instead.
“Even so, people must remain open to the possibility that if a second wave of infections occurs, public-health officials may need to suggest stricter lockdown measures once again.” Yeah, good luck with that. And good luck with expecting anyone to listen to what “the science says” on vaccines and climate change ever again, now that you’ve openly sacrificed your professional integrity to political correctness. I swear, these idiots are too stupid to even realize what long-term damage they’ve done.