Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Panicdemic Has Really Rewired Some Nervous Systems

nationalreview  |  The association of danger with permissiveness has warped the “expert class” that is supposed to inform the public. Throughout the pandemic, public-health officials have betrayed their view that they do not trust the public with good news; they seem to fear that an inch given will be a mile taken. And so, even during one of the most successful vaccine rollouts in the world, CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned of “impending doom” just a month ago. But no doom was in the offing.

And the expert class has also corrupted itself. The short circuit of the pandemic has led to a dramatic tightening of groupthink among public-health pundits. One would normally expect that a variety of experts would come up with a variety of recommendations, precisely because, like everyone else, they value the risks differently. But instead, public-health pontificators have tried to guard their authority with an ersatz sheen of unanimity.

When Dr. Martin Kulldorff expressed his view that the pause of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine would do more harm than good, the CDC threw him off its vaccine-safety advisory committee. Four days later, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was made available again, but the visible dissent was too much to abide. Kulldorff had pioneered many of the processes by which the CDC detects the safety of vaccines. But he had expressed his view that the urge to vaccinate everyone was as superstitious as being anti-vaccine. Twitter, preposterously, put a misinformation tag on this tweet, based on the superstition that there is only one valid “expert” answer — and no valid debates among experts. Kulldorff’s worst crime, apparently, was expressing his views in person in the presence of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.

I used to think that the COVID era would snap to a close once vaccines removed the danger from the most vulnerable — and that the human urge to connect would assert itself dramatically in a new roaring ’20s. Now I’m not so sure. A significant portion of the public and some of our leading institutions have internalized entirely new habits of thought and life. The circuit between truth, science, fear, and caution and virtue needs to be unwired — and reprogrammed.