Keeping up with the FITs, 1/30
Matt Taibbi on censorship; John Cochrane on official lies; Emily Oster on living with COVID; Bari Weiss hosts a COVID journalist; Heather Heying on the Canadian trucker protest
Censors have a fantasy that if they get rid of all the Berensons and Mercolas and Malones, and rein in people like Joe Rogan, that all the holdouts will suddenly rush to get vaccinated. The opposite is true. If you wipe out critics, people will immediately default to higher levels of suspicion. They will now be sure there’s something wrong with the vaccine. If you want to convince audiences, you have to allow everyone to talk, even the ones you disagree with. You have to make a better case. The Substack people, thank God, still get this, but the censor’s disease of thinking there are shortcuts to trust is spreading.
Why do so many Americans believe crazy things? Maybe not "crazy," but beliefs that wildly get wrong factual costs and benefits, such as those of vaccines?
It does not help that they have been lied to, over and over again. Why should they believe anything now? Our elites, and in particular our public health bureaucrats, though invoking the holy name of "science," have been trying to massage public psychology via deliberate obfuscation for a few years now. There is little science of managing public psychology, and if there is, epidemiologists don't have it. There is some good ancient wisdom, as codified in the story of the boy who cried wolf. We do know that when lies are exposed, when elites are shown to be disparaging and trying to manipulate average people, trust erodes.
it’s reasonable to say that if you recently had Omicron, you have some notable additional protection against infection, at least in the next few months, even if you were already vaccinated. For people who were unvaccinated prior to infection, the gain in protection is considerable.
…This post-infection moment feels, to me, like a possible opportunity to start making the emotional transition to living with COVID that I think many of us need to do. Part of living with COVID means accepting the risk that you’ll get it; it’s not the same as welcoming it or ignoring it or being cavalier. But even if you’re careful, you may get COVID, just like the flu or other illnesses, and it is something we will ultimately need to accept and still be able to do the other things that bring us joy.
On the Bari Weiss substack, David Zweig writes,
America is an outlier regarding its vaccine policy for young people. Numerous other countries have taken a far more conservative approach. The UK allows a third dose only for 12 to 15-year-olds who have serious medical conditions that put them at high risk or who live with a vulnerable person. Finland has a similar policy for 12 to 17-year-olds. In Ireland no one under 16 can receive a booster. Denmark, Sweden, Japan, and Spain, are among the countries that have approved boosters for adults only. Some countries don’t recommend Covid vaccines for healthy children at all, or just one dose. Norway’s Institute of Public Health, for example, states: “12-15-year-olds already have high protection against a severe disease course after the first vaccine dose.”
Responding to the calls to impose censorship on Substack, its leaders respond
as we face growing pressure to censor content published on Substack that to some seems dubious or objectionable, our answer remains the same: we make decisions based on principles not PR, we will defend free expression, and we will stick to our hands-off approach to content moderation. While we have content guidelines that allow us to protect the platform at the extremes, we will always view censorship as a last resort, because we believe open discourse is better for writers and better for society.
This position has some uncomfortable consequences. It means we allow writers to publish what they want and readers to decide for themselves what to read, even when that content is wrong or offensive, and even when it means putting up with the presence of writers with whom we strongly disagree. But we believe this approach is a necessary precondition for building trust in the information ecosystem as a whole. The more that powerful institutions attempt to control what can and cannot be said in public, the more people there will be who are ready to create alternative narratives about what’s “true,” spurred by a belief that there’s a conspiracy to suppress important information. When you look at the data, it is clear that these effects are already in full force in society.
I wish we had one or two presidents of Ivy League universities who were as principled and articulate when facing demands from students who are offended.
People are rising up to protest nearly two years of increasingly authoritarian measures. And these measures are being invoked to protect us from an increasingly low-grade threat. In sum: as the risk from the virus declines, the loss of our freedoms marches on, unabated.
She highlights a protest by Canadian truck drivers against mandates, and the way that the protest has been ignored by the media and spurned by Canada’s PM, Justin Trudeau.
In the movie, Jack Nicholson will play one of the truck drivers and Louise Fletcher will play Trudeau (or perhaps Fauci).
In consideration of Cochrane's opinion I'll add that humans are both gullible and skeptical and sometimes this duality serves us well and sometimes it fails us. Furthermore, the things about which we are gullible and skeptical varies by individual and this creates a diversity of opinion and conflict between individuals and groups.
As a younger person I was more gullible of the things my tribe said and more skeptical of what those not in my tribe. When Colin Powell gave his 2003 testimony justifying military intervention against Iraq, I distinctly recall thinking the evidence was thin but I wanted to give Powell and the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt.
Now in my more seasoned age I have gone full George Carlin who declared: "I don't believe anything the government says." The more I see and hear the more I feel justified in this skepticism.
The American government response to Covid has been horrible. It has been defined by hyperbole, lies and deception, coercion and hostility. I think it a normal response for people to consider the government's behavior and be troubled by it, and become ever more skeptical of its claims.
My impression is the government officials who have acted badly and the "influencers" who support them are are blind to the duplicity. At each moment, they demand we ignore anything said and done previously. But we have memories and we have the internet.
A healthy government would prioritize the building of public trust. But this effort would require government officials to be dispassionate about political and corporate interests. Time and again we learn it is good luck to have a government that is for the people more than it is for itself. Most of the time we get the government we deserve.
Very good articles. Thank you.
"I wish we had one or two presidents of Ivy League universities who were as principled and articulate when facing demands from students who are offended." Amen, amen.