Don’t misunderstand, I’m wrong A LOT. But when I’m right, it’s exhausting. Here’s why. I have lots of unpopular opinions and beliefs. I have spent a lot of time examining myself, my beliefs, and how I got where I am on various issues. So these beliefs, even if they are unpopular, are reasoned. People are welcome to come to other conclusions, but to just be dismissed as an idiot or a conspiracy theorist is hurtful. When it later turns out that I’m right, and there is no acknowledgement from the people who, sometimes literally, called me stupid for believing it, it weighs me down. It’s not the dismissiveness that drains me, it’s the lack of admission when I’m vindicated. I have thick skin, as an academic I have to. I can take the ridicule. But a quick nod after the tables turn would be welcome. Whether that happens or not I won’t hold any ill will. I will still love you all. Anyway, enough whining. No one cares, and they shouldn’t. I do want to provide an example, so that when I look back on this in a few years I’ll remember what I was going on about.
Do you remember when there was this conspiracy theory that Covid-19 was created in a lab, and was not naturally occurring? Do you remember when saying that was racist? Do you remember when even referring to it as coming from China, especially calling it the Chinese Virus, was racist? I’m waiting for the renaming of German Measles and West Nile, as well as the raft of other place-named ailments. (Yes we can evolve, and that’s great, but the outrage was a bit over the top. Not to mention the virus, in all likelihood, ORIGINATED IN CHINA.) Anyway, media outlets published articles about why this ‘lab conspiracy theory’ was a bunch of crap. The articles had the major purpose of making Trump look bad, and maybe some minor purposes of, I don’t know, supporting the Chinese state, or making conservatives seem stupid to liberals. The news flash portion of that is that conservatives always look stupid to liberals because liberals are told by Ariana Huffington (and everyone else in the movies, TV, press, and on the web that are liberal) that conservatives are stupid. You tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth, so to a certain portion of the country, conservatives are brain damaged. It’s very effective.
So, about this ‘conspiracy theory’. It was debunked by Vox. Tore it to shreds. Couldn’t be true, Vox said so. Politifact fact checked the claim that it came from a lab and debunked it as well. So did virtually every other media outlet. The Washington Post didn’t even try to debunk it, it just referred to the idea as ‘already being debunked’. But when has the Washington Post been known for doing its own work? Fauci said it couldn’t be, and also covered up that research of that type was happening in Wuhan.
But now the fix is in. Sites are scrambling to stealthily rewrite or take down those old articles. This exact thing is the reason we’re being pushed to digital books and news. You can’t edit a newspaper once it’s at my house. But you can change the front page of the New York Times online edition to say that Israel is shooting rockets at Gaza instead of the reverse with a few keystrokes, and it will be as if it had always said that. (As I write this that is a fictional example.)
Why the scramble? Well, there’s not much new data. Certainly nothing that couldn’t have been reasoned out a year or more ago. I came to the conclusion that it was likely the virus originated in the lab without half the information we have now. If you want to follow my reasoning process, for which I was roundly criticized, read the post about M&M’s elsewhere on this blog. When I came to this conclusion I did not say, and I do not say now, that the virus originated in that lab, or in any lab. I just said that it seems like the most likely thing to have happened. I still believe that. But today, unlike a week ago, this is not a conspiracy theory believed by some crazy academic who also probably thinks the Earth is flat and we didn’t go to the Moon. Today, it’s just common sense. And because it’s common sense all that conspiracy stuff has to be swept under the rug. It did its job anyway. Trump is gone. Liberals got to make fun of stupid conservatives and other rational people. Time to clean house. Time to forget they were so, so wrong, and so, so, mean to anyone who dared to disagree.
Maybe this time will be different. Maybe people are sitting at home writing letters of apology to Donald Trump, Tom Cotton, and me. Maybe Facebook and Twitter (and all the rest) will reinstate all the people who they banned and demonetized for spreading false information. Maybe someone will finally tell Raymond Donovan which office to go to to get his reputation back, but I doubt it.
Or maybe next time it will be different. Maybe when inflation hits, people will take a step back and comment kindly. Maybe when we return to judging people by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin (or whatever other intersectional stuff has become more important) those who believed it all along will be recognized as truth tellers, not hate mongers. Maybe the next time communism fails we’ll acknowledge that it has been tried and failed, unlike what we say about Russia, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, Poland, Croatia, Ethiopia, and most especially China. Oh, and Moldova. Moldova sucks. (This is only here for my wife, who loves the movie Red.)
In a personal victory for me, perhaps when we realize that colleges are not glorified trade schools and should be preparing students for life, not to be cogs in machines, I will get much more than an apology. Maybe I can get back 15 credit hours for my students to take Latin, Comparative Religion, Fencing, or even Basket Weaving 101. This is about as likely to happen as the items in the previous paragraph. And the wold is poorer for it.