To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

If You Still Think COVID-19 Couldn't Have Come From a Lab Leak In Wuhan, Maybe You're Bats!

Opinion on the lab leak scenario, once seen as a fringe theory, has shifted dramatically, Politico reports, citing a new Harvard Poll which surveyed 1,009 adults from June 22-27. “Most Americans now believe that the coronavirus leaked from a laboratory in China,” the magazine explains, noting “a high level of public interest in investigating Covid-19’s origin, with almost two-thirds of Democrats and Republicans calling the issue “extremely” or “very” important.


According to Politico


U.S. adults were almost twice as likely to say the virus was the result of a lab leak in China than human contact with an infected animal, which many scientists believe is the most likely scenario. 


The poll's findings show what was once a fringe belief held mainly among some on the political right has become accepted by most Republicans, as well as most Democrats, amid heightened scrutiny of the lab leak theory.


In March 2020, a Pew Research Center poll found 29 percent of Americans believed the virus was made in a Chinese lab and released either accidentally or intentionally. 


The new survey shows 52 percent believe the virus came out of a lab, including 59 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats, while 28 percent said it was from an infected animal.


The absence of a large partisan gap on the issue is particularly striking, said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who designed the poll.


“Usually, our polls find a big split between Republicans and Democrats, so this is unique,” he said. “More conservative media have been carrying the ‘lab leak’ issue, and it’s been a Trump talking point from the beginning, so we expected people who lean Democratic would say either ‘It’s not true’ or ‘I don’t know.’ But the belief is bipartisan.”


Blendon said Democrats likely became more receptive to the idea after President Joe Biden’s recent order that intelligence agencies investigate the virus’ origin and comments from Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical officer, that it's worth digging into. 


Fauci and other scientists have cautioned the answer may never be known definitively.

“That the president thought there was enough evidence to ask intelligence agencies to put together a report sends a signal to Democrats that there might be something there,” Blendon said.


Democratic lawmakers have also faced pressure to look more closely at the lab leak scenario, though they worry Republicans will stoke uncertainty about the virus origin for political gain. Several congressional committees have launched inquiries, and the House Science Committee plans to hold its first hearing on the issue next week.


The POLITICO-Harvard poll, which will be released next week, also found there’s a high level of public interest in investigating Covid-19’s origin, with almost two-thirds of Democrats and Republicans calling the issue “extremely” or “very” important. The finding also surprised Blendon, who said the public isn’t typically invested in such a scientific inquiry.


The broad attention on the issue underscores the stakes for the Biden administration’s upcoming report on the virus origin, due in August. Even if the report concludes the virus came from nature, it could be hard to move public opinion, lawmakers and researchers like Blendon have noted.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Putting The Hitlerizers On The Couch: After Indulging Them For Years, WAPO Now Says No More 'Ignorant' Analogies


Tossing around Nazi’ and fascist’ as insults is reckless and historically illiterate, says former Congressman Mitch Daniels in yesterday's Washington Post

Inapt use of “Nazi” is not new but has proliferated in recent years, hurled by hands both left and right. It was thrown at Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The term has been used to criticize immigration enforcement by one side and pandemic lockdowns by the other. Even in the early Internet days, in 1990, writer Mike Godwin formulated the theorem that “As an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1.” 

Such reckless verbiage is, of course, not just grossly disproportionate and non-analogous to the real thing, it’s historically illiterate. The Anti-Defamation League has frequently had to issue reproaches such as, “Glib comparisons to Nazi Germany are offensive and a trivialization of the Holocaust.”  

The term “fascist” is, if anything, even more absurdly misused, also by both of today’s tribes. From one side, fascist has been applied to proponents of gun control, mask mandates and speech codes. From the other side, at almost anyone who deviates from their various orthodoxies: people dubious about cutting police budgets during a crime and homicide surge, committed feminists who balk at today’s more extreme demands on gender issues, college presidents supportive of free expression, and so on. A Christmas Day article on Salon attacked Hallmark movies as “fascist propaganda.” I’m not making that up. 

Here, too, ignorance reigns. The inventor of fascism a century ago, Benito Mussolini, also defined it: “Everything in the state, nothing against the state, nothing outside the state.” That sounds closer to one side of today’s arguments than the other, but let’s stipulate that neither really is advocating the complete eradication of voluntary, intermediating institutions or of all forms of personal freedom. At least not yet. 

The loosening of discipline around the terrible insults that “Nazi” and “fascist” represent has crept beyond the fevered denizens of Internet chat rooms and fringe “activists.” Thinkers I admire deeply, such as Michael Gerson and Jonah Goldberg, have launched the Other F-bomb — Gerson at the supporters of the previous president, Goldberg in his 2008 book “Liberal Fascism.” The New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg spat it at a U.S. senator for suggesting the use of federal troops in a public safety emergency. Good idea or not, it hardly merited the fascist slur, any more than it did in Little Rock 1958, Detroit 1967 or D.C. 2021. 

This is not an argument for either side of any of these issues. It isn’t a plea for “safe spaces” because of the hurtful character of such invective. They are, after all, only words. It’s just a suggestion that words packed with this much meaning not be thrown around so loosely, and ignorantly. 

Somebody once said — maybe it was George Carlin, gee I miss him — “What’s another good word for synonym?” Instead of “Nazi” or “fascist,” how about “tyrannical,” “autocratic,” “coercive,” “despotic” or “dictatorial,” just for starters? 

Because, God forbid, we may one day need to use those other words accurately again, and if so, it would be important that we not have cheapened them and erased their actual meaning from memory. There are real concentration camps in this world, but they’re not in El Paso or Portland, Ore. Innocent people are executed for their ethnic background or religious beliefs, but not in Seattle or Tuscaloosa, Ala. As a people, we are nowhere near the kind of polity that produces such atrocities, and we ought not talk to each other as though we are.