Commentary on Media Veracity, “the best and brightest” and public health

Vinay Prasad:

Collins is not an epidemiologist, and he has no standing to decide what counts as a “fringe” view within that field. As NIH director, his job is to foster dialogue among scientists and acknowledge uncertainty. Instead, he attempted to suppress legitimate debate with petty, ad hominem attacks.The efforts to censor Malone and McCullough have massively backfired, with both men gaining prominence and publicity from the attempts to shut down their speech. More generally, I strongly disagree with efforts to censor scientists, even if they are incorrect, and no matter the implications of their words, as I believe the harms of censorship far exceed any short-term gains.

“The 21st Century Salonniere:

If our leaders communicated clearly and transparently throughout the pandemic, if they left politics aside, if they explained why their opinions and guidance have changed so often and provided the data to back it up, a guy like Malone couldn’t get much of an audience.

As for the media, they do little more than parrot the leaders. If the messages from leaders are garbled, constantly changing, and unclear, our media outlets are usually going to repeat those messages, not clarify them.

So our leaders have failed America. The media has failed America. But where are the scientists? Why aren’t the workhorses of this pandemic, the people who are quietly behind the scenes doing the best they can, people who are subject-matter experts and who don’t have an agenda, presenting clear information to the public and explaining the ways in which Robert Malone is full of shit?

I think the answer is twofold. First, the scientists have their hands full, fighting the pandemic and “doing science” in a very rapidly changing information landscape, and they are consumed with talking among themselves, not communicating with the public. It’s really not Joe Q. Scientist’s role (or forte) to communicate science information to the public.

But second, if I had to guess, to the community of honest, good-faith experts who are trying hard to fight this global disaster, Malone sounds so much not like a credible scientist that to them he’s self-evidently full of shit.

In other words, I think scientists don’t see a need to discuss it, just as you or I might not see a need to discuss whether a Magic 8 Ball can really tell the future or not.

So the arrogant mainstream sees Malone getting in the way of their messaging, and they ignore him. The actual scientists think the problem is obvious, and they impatiently wave it away. Neither group sees a need to offer explanations.

But there are a lot of people who are “smart, but not scientists.” They don’t necessarily have the background to evaluate Malone’s claims, or the time to read medical journal articles to keep up on the latest science, just as I don’t have the background to evaluate what an electrician says about my solar panels, or the time to read electricians’ textbooks to check up on what he says.