Christian Drosten's virus truth panels and the tiresome midwits who think it's all OK
Last month, Christian Drosten appeared at the World Health Summit in Berlin to issue a list of demands for the next pandemic. He said we need scientific institutions to select “panels of experts” in order to “summarise the state of knowledge,” lest “political decision-making” be “influenced and contorted by disinformation and propaganda.” The hygiene dictatorship cannot function efficiently if the media grants time to just anyone with an opinion – however much lockdowns, mask mandates and mass vaccination affect, well, everybody. These decisions must be taken by a small group of carefully selected if relentlessly unelected court astrologers, like Drosten himself, and everyone else needs to shut up about it. How else can you impose house arrests and impose experimental medical interventions on millions?
What a hassle things like voters, free expression and those last remaining tatters of an unaligned press turn out to be.
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Alas, Drosten has his defenders. Among them is the journalist Martin Rücker, who some days ago published a lengthy and very revealing apologia in the Berliner Zeitung. I have a mild fondness for the BZ and its often original and independent reporting, and Rücker himself does not seem to be especially noxious. He is no fan of virus truth panels either, and he wrings his hands about such things as authoritarianism and “cancel culture.” His blinding faith in science and his nauseating naivete about politics, however, irritate me enormously. The thing is, that we face a very uncertain future – one in which the newly expanded and now vastly overfunded pandemicist ranks will seek to leverage the threat of random pathogens to shape our lives as never before. Their excesses since 2020 have also called into existence a vast opposition, but in the middle there are still untold numbers of Rückers, who may not have liked the Corona era very much, who found the media propaganda and the vaccine mania somewhat odd and unsettling, but who have yet to draw any firm conclusions about what went wrong, and who strive to uphold an unwavering, almost religious faith in The Science. This makes Rücker’s apologia worthy of our attention.
Rücker believes there are specific facts, like the spherical nature of the earth and anthropogenic global warming, which it is the province of scientists to communicate. This helps politicians make correct decisions. When people dispute these facts, scientists find themselves “close to despair.” This, he pleads, is at the root of Drosten’s frustration. Here is a man who perceives the Virus Truth more clearly than the rest of us, and it is all rather much to expect him, as the unique possessor of this Truth, to put up with the dissenting voices of the rabble.
Drosten went on the offensive with a rather unsuccessful proposal on combating misinformation. His line of argument went as follows: Firstly, political decisions are of central importance, especially at the beginning of a pandemic, in order to contain infections.
Secondly: “As soon as this political decision-making is influenced and distorted by disinformation and propaganda, we are doomed” … He makes no secret of the fact that, in his view, this harmful influence came about because the media gave space to disinformation and not every scientist who was granted media exposure enjoyed the status of a supposed expert.
Thirdly … Drosten fell into a trap with a remarkably clumsy formulation. “We shouldn’t have anybody who has some academic degree talking about the heart of the issue in the middle of the pandemic,” he said … Instead, “scientific institutions” should put together panels of researchers “who are really experts” and “…qualified to summarise the state of knowledge.”
After quoting all of this, Rücker briefly comes to his senses, admitting that “Drosten ignores the fact that there is neither an ultimate truth nor an ideal communication strategy…” This would seem to call the premises of his entire defence into question, but no matter. Rücker is not a man who thinks deeply or worries about things like coherence and consistency, or he would not be such a tiresome midwit. To save Drosten and recast him in the role of bumbling but well-meaning laboratory scientist, he suspects that his English was merely clumsy. Surely, in German, Drosten would’ve chosen less crazy words. However that may be, it is nevertheless “excessive” and “poisonous” and a “deliberate misunderstanding” to accuse Drosten of calling for anything like a “Ministry of Truth”:
Anyone who wanted to could see from his statements at the World Health Summit, despite all the clumsy formulations and helpless ideas, that he is by no means harbouring totalitarian fantasies.
At no point does he say that he wants to deprive anyone of their freedom of opinion or that scientific communication should be brought into line. … Scientific institutions should merely pool expertise better, and provide quality assurance as a “service to society” … One might object that he overlooks the fallibility of such institutions. And yet it remains an “offer,” and not an incitement to cancel culture.
Rücker concludes that we indeed need to “protect society from wrong decisions based on disinformation,” and muses that we need a “serious debate on how this might be achieved.”
We are just hopelessly doomed to endure unrelenting oppressive stupidities, one after the other, until idiots like Rücker can shed some of their blinding naiveté about how politics work, who people like Drosten really are, and what they are for.
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