Stick it to the man and don’t trust anyone over thirty! This used to be the rallying cry of the American Left, a movement that prided itself on being anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian, and anti-war. In surveying the political landscape half a century later, it’s hard to find even a trace of this ideology remaining. The hippies have all grown up, grown old, and taught their children that the values they fought for in their youths are apparently no longer worth defending. Instead, the free thinkers of yesteryear have been replaced by a generation of conformists and sycophants. The word “skeptic”—once a favorite of left-leaning academics and pundits—is now reserved for mocking Christians, while turning a blind eye to the secular religion of Faucism. Rebellion has become obedience; individuality has become conformity; and skepticism towards authority has become blind, unquestioning faith.
Every day I see an onslaught of verbal abuse and mockery directed at anyone who dares question The Official Narrative™ being peddled by people who get paid to tell lies. We are told to trust people who have repeatedly demonstrated that they cannot be trusted. Dr. Fauci has been caught apparently lying to Congress. Rolling Stone recently ran a story that turned out to be completely false, without any effort at due journalistic diligence. The President has openly contradicted himself on vaccine mandates.
The media, the White House, and top level medical personnel have all bent the truth well past the breaking point, and yet we’re supposed to take these people seriously?
We used to understand the dishonesty of the elites to the point where the “politicians lie” premise became so cliché that comedians had to stop using it or risk looking like a talentless hack. There was hardly a more accepted truism than that those in power would say anything, however outlandish, to get elected or reelected. But now, those who express skepticism at the pronouncements of the president or his mercurial press secretary are regarded not only as mentally incompetent, but as dangerous.
To be clear, I’m not talking about conspiracy theorists here. Indeed, the flat Earth types have undoubtedly contributed to the demonization of dissenting opinions by taking wholly justified skepticism too far and making the rest of us look bad. But there is a difference between believing the measles vaccine causes autism, and flatly denying that there could ever be any possible side effects from a new vaccine that was rushed through the testing phase. Alas, this is a difference that professional fact checkers and Facebook staffers appear to be unable to discern. “The vaccine is totally safe” is the only message people are allowed to hear, despite the fact that it is untrue (in the sense that no medical intervention is completely without risk.)
But my point is not to debate the safety or efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines. Instead, I’m interested in the attitudes of those who have adopted a level of party loyalty comparable to that of a North Korean soldier. How can we explain the apparent naivety of those who are shocked by any implication of institutional dishonesty or corruption? To hear these people talk, one would think that our visibly feeble and confused president was God himself, so incapable is he of error or deceit. I use the term “party loyalty” advisedly here, because it’s important to note that this lockstep obedience to authority only exists when a Democrat is in power. The same people silencing questions about vaccine safety were the first to declare that they would never trust a vaccine released by the Trump administration. And while party loyalty cuts both ways, I don’t remember anyone on the political Right ascribing the same levels of infallibility to Trump when he was in office, apart from a few Q Anon simpletons whom I’d prefer not to mention or think about.
When Nicki Minaj rose to unexpected prominence with a tweet about a particularly unpleasant sounding vaccine side effect, she was instantly attacked by the press, with journalists even threatening to dox members of her family if they didn’t cooperate. When I made an offhand crack about the evaporation of “believe all women” or “elevate black voices” slogans, I was rudely informed that the government of Trinidad and Tobago contradicted Minaj’s story, so case closed, apparently. Now, I’m not here to make any claims about the trustworthiness of a rapper I had barely heard about until a week ago, but is the government of Trinidad and Tobago really your go-to source for unbiased truth?
The only conclusion that makes sense is that truth, even belief, is irrelevant to all of this. It’s not that the American Left has developed an unshakable trust in their leaders to always tell the truth and do the right thing, it’s that they no longer care about what the truth or the right thing is. They believe, just as the philosopher Plato posited in his vision of a totalitarian state, that the government has the right—nay, the duty!—to lie to the public, as long as it’s for the greater good. And what is the greater good? For some, it’s no doubt the eradication of a global pandemic that has had devastating health consequences, as improbable as that eradication may be. For others, however, it’s simply to exercise political power over those who they regard as ignorant, selfish, or inconvenient. “The vaccine is totally safe” is not meant to be a factually correct statement, it’s meant to be an incentive towards action. Whether it’s true or not is secondary to whether it accomplishes its goal of getting people to obey. The exhortation “trust the science” when the science keeps being demonstrably wrong is not a call to enlightenment, but rather a weapon to silence those who say unpopular things. It means “do what we say and stop asking questions,” which is precisely the opposite of what the scientific method demands.
We live in complicated times, when it is more important than ever to be able to read between the lines in order to find out what is really going on. Either a large portion of the American public has become unaccountably credulous, or it’s a behavioral tactic to achieve some ulterior goal. Maybe I’m cynical, or maybe I have too much faith in people’s intelligence, but I tend to think it’s the latter.