IDW has-beens? 8/18
Makes me feel better about being a never-was
Peter Clarke casts a jaundiced eye at the leading figures of the Intellectual Dark Web.
Bret and Eric Weinstein (sadly) are also examples of IDW members who lost respectability over the past few years. Bret, for endlessly misrepresenting Ivermectin as a COVID cure while recklessly fear-mongering about vaccines. Eric, for revealing his “theory of everything” only to act like a child in the face of valid criticism.
I think that Bret got a lot of things right about COVID early. For instance, he predicted that the virus would evolve to be less deadly but more contagious. I clearly remember hearing that from him very early—way before any of the “variants” emerged—and not hearing it from anyone else.
But where Bret is coming from is that he distrusts all things capitalist. He especially distrusts drug companies, and he has his reasons. But his feelings cloud his judgment. He dearly wants Ivermectin, a cheap generic drug, to be the solution to COVID, and he dearly wants the vaccines to be evilly overhyped. Cooler heads like Scott Alexander and Emily Oster say otherwise, on the former and the latter issue, respectively. Even so, I’ll say that when it comes to vaccinating children, I am at least as sympathetic to Bret as I am to Emily.
But in general, I have to agree with Clarke that a lot of the leading IDW figures have not worn well. It’s worth trying to figure out why, because I don’t want to go down the same path.
I wonder if acquiring a lot of followers in a short time span is what caused problems for the IDW stars. Maybe the pressure you put yourself under leads you to take a view of your mainstream adversaries that is overly dark and conspiratorial. Maybe you suffer from “audience capture,” and your audience rewards you for attacking the establishment.
A better approach, which I don’t consistently follow, is to give credit to the mainstream view on its own terms while spelling out what I see as the problem with it.
I get the sense that of my 2000 subscribers, a large share were following me before I was on Substack. They go back to askblog, or even further, to EconLog and/or TCS daily. If my writing does not produce the burst of excitement that gives one an enormous following, I hope that it ages well enough.
I think the core problem is some people see themselves as immune to the herd mentality of mainstream consensus but they are really just oppositional to it. This does not free you from the bias, it just takes it and multiplies it by -1.
I don't read Bret so I don't know exactly what his stance on the vaccines is, but I am pretty sure they have been wildly overhyped. Early promises of making you immune, just one or two shots then you are done, herd immunity, etc. have all proven quite false, and now the sketchy data practices and sharing is coming to light, the CDC is taking down previous claims that the internally manufactured spike proteins don't last in your system (on the quiet, no less), is actively ignoring adverse reaction data (which suggest extremely high risks by vaccine standards), and data coming out of Europe that suggest that the vaccines offer some protection when you get COVID but also make it more likely that you do get it multiple times... at this point I am more inclined to think that Emily Oster is being too sanguine about things, too blindly trusting of US official numbers perhaps, than to think other people are too skeptical. (Leaving open the possibility that Bret W. thinks the vaccines will turn you into a lizardman or something... I have seen too much crazy from others to assume he isn't without reading all of his work :) )