Christian Drosten is Still Mad about the Great Barrington Declaration
Unfortunately, I spent most of yesterday on a train, and most of today in meetings, so I can only offer you some brief thoughts as I prepare my long (and long-promised) review of Viral.
I was amused to see Christian Drosten (@c_drosten) answer this tweet by Great Barrington Declaration co-author Jay Bhattacharya …
… with the complaint that Bhattacharya was lying:
Perhaps Drosten hoped that few would bother to translate his slanderous German, so I’ll do it for you:
This article [he’s linking a hyperbolic op-ed in the Guardian] calls Corona relativism—with its blind comparisons to influenza, its all-too-premature suggestion that we should “learn to live with the virus,” and the Great Barrington argument of “targeted protection of at-risk groups”—by its name: Sabotage.
Whether any fair-minded person will agree that Bhattacharya misrepresented Drosten here, is a side matter. More interesting is that Drosten answered at all. He has over a million Twitter followers, he’s tagged thousands of times a day, and as Twitter users go he’s relatively inactive.
No, the reason this is interesting, is that it underlines how much the Great Barrington Declaration continues to bother our not-so-brilliant regime virologist. Through the hours and hours of his vacuous podcast and associated media appearances, Drosten has rarely bothered to disagree with anybody. His primary achievement consisted in saying nothing much specific, while affirming Merkel-government policies wherever possible.
Yet in this, the Great Barrington Declaration was a big exception for Drosten. He has attacked its authors in thinly veiled ways several times now. Especially revealing is his enthusiastic agreement with the Guardian columnist that Bhattacharya, Kulldorff and Gupta are guilty of sabotage.
This is not a word anybody would apply to intellectual opponents, or to colleagues with merely different opinions about the proper cost-benefit analysis of a policy. The whole flap shows that Drosten is playing a very different kind of game. In the confidence that he knew what the science ought to be, Drosten decided to lie and present a false facade of certainty about what the science is. This explains his irrational anger at colleagues who refused to toe the line, because Drosten’s ultimate security is unanimity. Astrologers are frequently wrong, but that needn’t be a problem, as long as they’re no wronger than any other astrologers.
Now and then, I get letters from astrology enthusiasts complaining about my Corona astrologer joke. I don’t agree that celestial objects portend anything about human affairs, but I don’t have a problem with newspaper horoscopes. I’m trying to make a bigger argument: Since the time of Tiberius Caesar Augustus, court astrologers have been an enduring industry of pseudoscientific quackery catering to the demands of political power. Astrology is the only Science that powerful Science-Followers can ever follow, because it is the Science that continually refashions itself, to demand that powerful Science-Followers do what they already want to do.
Once you realise this, you can understand Drosten’s anger, and his slander that Bhattacharya is merely trying to “extend” his “reach.” As is the case with all the diviners, flatterers, and prostitutes who populate the court, Drosten’s greatest fear is being made to look ridiculous before the emperor. He has a high position, but anybody with an academic appointment and a Ph.D. benefits from the New Astrology. Why would Bhattacharya rock the boat? Surely only out of ambition and personal resentment. And this makes Drosten very, very angry.