The Inevitable Coronavirus Censorship Crisis is Here

The Inevitable Coronavirus Censorship Crisis is Here, by Matt Taibbi.

In the Trump years the sector of society we used to describe as liberal America became a giant finger-wagging machine. The news media, academia, the Democratic Party, show-business celebrities and masses of blue-checked Twitter virtuosos became a kind of umbrella agreement society, united by loathing of Trump and fury toward anyone who dissented with their preoccupations.

Because this Conventional Wisdom viewed itself as being solely concerned with the Only Important Thing, i.e. removing Trump, there was no longer any legitimate excuse for disagreeing with its takes on Russia, Julian Assange, Jill Stein, Joe Rogan, the 25th amendment, Ukraine, the use of the word “treason,” the removal of Alex Jones, the movie Joker, or whatever else happened to be the #Resistance fixation of the day.

When the Covid-19 crisis struck, the scolding utopia was no longer abstraction. The dream was reality! Pure communism had arrived! Failure to take elite advice was no longer just a deplorable faux pas. Not heeding experts was now murder. It could not be tolerated. Media coverage quickly became a single, floridly-written tirade against “expertise-deniers.” For instance, the Atlantic headline on Kemp’s decision to end some shutdowns was, “Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice.”

At the outset of the crisis, America’s biggest internet platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, and Reddit – took an unprecedented step to combat “fraud and misinformation” by promising extensive cooperation in elevating “authoritative” news over less reputable sources. …

We have a lot of dumb people in this country. But the difference between the stupidities cherished by the Idiocracy set ingesting fish cleaner, and the ones pushed in places like the Atlantic, is that the jackasses among the “expert” class compound their wrongness by being so sure of themselves that they force others to go along. In other words, to combat “ignorance,” the scolders create a new and more virulent species of it: exclusive ignorance, forced ignorance, ignorance with staying power.

The people who want to add a censorship regime to a health crisis are more dangerous and more stupid by leaps and bounds than a president who tells people to inject disinfectant. It’s astonishing that they don’t see this.

How journalism works. Yep, this is why they got climate change so disastrously wrong, for instance:

Journalists are professional test-crammers. Our job is to get an assignment on Monday morning and by Tuesday evening act like we’re authorities on intellectual piracy, the civil war in Yemen, Iowa caucus procedure, the coronavirus, whatever. We actually know jack: we speed-read, make a few phone calls, and in a snap people are inviting us on television to tell millions of people what to think about the complex issues of the world.

When we come to a subject cold, the job is about consulting as many people who really know their stuff as quickly as possible and sussing out – often based on nothing more than hunches or impressions of the personalities involved – which set of explanations is most believable. …

There’s a reason why journalists should always keep their distance from priesthoods in any field. It’s particularly in the nature of insular communities of subject matter experts to coalesce around orthodoxies that blind the very people in the loop who should be the most knowledgeable. …

Our ruling class weren’t paying attention, and caused us great harm:

It does not take that much work to go back and find that a significant portion of the medical and epidemiological establishment called this disaster wrong when they were polled by reporters back in the beginning of the year. Right-wingers are having a blast collecting the headlines, and they should, given the chest-pounding at places like MSNBC about others who “minimized the risk.” …

Here’s my personal favorite, from Wired on January 29: We should de-escalate the war on coronavirus

There are dozens of these stories and they nearly all contain the same elements, including an inevitable quote or series of quotes from experts telling us to calm the hell down. …

This works both ways:

We’ve become incapable of talking calmly about possible solutions because we’ve lost the ability to decouple scientific or policy discussions, or simple issues of fact, from a political argument. Reporting on the Covid-19 crisis has become the latest in a line of moral manias with Donald Trump in the middle.

Instead of asking calmly if hydroxychloroquine works, or if the less restrictive Swedish crisis response has merit, or questioning why certain statistical assumptions about the seriousness of the crisis might have been off, we’re denouncing the questions themselves as infamous. Or we’re politicizing the framing of stories in a way that signals to readers what their take should be before they even digest the material.

via Tip of the Spear