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Reblogged:The Latest 'McCarthyism?' 'COVID Denier'

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I'd barely opened a browser window this morning when a new, yet somehow familiar-sounding term met my eye: COVID denier (also spelled "COVIDenier" and, equally predictably, sometimes replaced by another catchy term: COVIDiot). Aside from a user attempting to build himself up by tearing others down, we should ask ourselves what such a term is supposed to accomplish. Predictably, revealingly, and somewhat amusingly, a top search result for the term led me to an article at the left-wing DeSmog Blog website, which also employs the sister term, climate science denier.

A related post, titled "The Reason COVID-19 and Climate Seem So Similar: Disinformation," is ostensibly out to set us straight about the latest political debate that is both disguised as a scientific one in some ways and dependent on science in others.

And it helps, for anyone who can read between the lines. I'll do some of this here -- after first noting that I have not found an actual definition for "COVID denier" anywhere. And we'll also consider what Ayn Rand wrote about a very similar term, McCarthyism, many years ago in her essay, "'Extremism,' or the Art of Smearing:"

couch.jpg
Where they want you, apparently forever, whether you agree or not. (Image by Logan Liu, via Unsplash, license.)
In the late 1940's, another newly coined term was shot into our cultural arteries: "McCarthyism." Again, it was a derogatory term, suggesting some insidious evil, and without any clear definition. Its alleged meaning was: "Unjust accusations, persecutions, and character assassinations of innocent victims." Its real meaning was: "Anti-communism."

Senator McCarthy was never proved guilty of those allegations, but the effect of that term was to intimidate and silence public discussions. Any uncompromising denunciation of communism or communists was -- and still is -- smeared as "McCarthyism." As a consequence, opposition to and exposés of communist penetration have all but vanished from our intellectual scene. (I must mention that I am not an admirer of Senator McCarthy, but not for the reasons implied in that smear.)
You can almost do a plug-and-play here: The alleged meaning of "X (science) denier" is "ignorant or dismissive of science," and its real meaning is "opposed to central planning." This is why "green" anti-capitalist activists lump together everyone from sloppy thinkers like Donald Trump (who means well, but can't muster anything better than "hoax" as a counterargument) to revolutionary thinkers, like Alex Epstein, as "climate deniers."

Is it any wonder that fans of such oppressive measures as indefinite, universal isolation would do the same?

And now, just for a few notes of dissent on the piece, whose host deserves to be nicknamed "Deh Smaug Blog." (It's not just that these evil entities have similar names: I also picture the beast sitting at home on a pile of loot, refusing to work, forever. It's fantasy, either way.)

I'll offer my take after quoting from each of its three numbered sections.

From Point 1 (He who controls the language controls the narrative.):
In the COVID-19 context, we've seen this too. It's gone from a "flu" to "a really bad flu" to "a pandemic" in a relatively condensed amount of time. But you'll see those trading in disinformation continue to refer to it as "just a bad flu" or point out how many people the flu kills every year.
First, the author draws a bad parallel between the terminology of the climate crusade which has been dictated by thought leaders of that movement from the beginning and the current pandemic of a new disease we are still learning about.

And, while I agree that anyone who equates this with the flu is wrong, that does not mean that we can't learn from past experience dealing with flu pandemics, which have relevant similarities. As far as the changes happening quickly, they are in two directions at once: Deprecation of "flu" and adoption of "pandemic." These both reflect natural changes due to rapidly evolving knowledge and, unfortunately, the rapid spread of the virus. It is disingenuous to liken shopping around for a term that will cause a political stampede with the natural evolution of terms used in a changing situation.

I'd even go so far as to say that the appropriateness of calling this a "really bad flu" depends on context. For example: by comparison to, say, Black Death, the coronavirus epidemic is much more like a flu in terms of the precautions individuals and governments ought to take. Pointing this out is not the same thing as poo-pooing the disease.

From Point 2 (Leverage science illiteracy to create doubt.):
Of course models, like science in general, have a bit of uncertainty baked in; they represent both the most extreme outcomes and the most likely scenarios, they encapsulate multiple variables. And if you know enough about them, it's quite easy to cherry pick data and flaws and argue, as Fumento does, that modeling in general is bunk that ought to be thrown out.
I have already stated my disagreement with Michael Fumento about the absurd idea of throwing out models. That doesn't mean, though, that commenting on the unreliability of the models of this pandemic so far is off-limits. You needn't trust me on this point: Nate Silver -- not a man of the right -- and his group didn't even try to model the epidemic for lack of data. Indeed, statistician-epidemiologist John Ioannidis has called this epidemic a "once in a century evidence fiasco."

Yes, it's wrong to call models (in general) bunk. But it's ridiculous to imply that questioning models is to prey on scientific illiteracy, especially regarding this pandemic. The models are being used to justify some heavy-handed policies with major consequences. Assuming a worst-case forecast is as ridiculous as not trying to make a forecast at all.

From Part 3 (Astroturfing):
Someone on Reddit figured out all the "re-open the economy" websites were made by one guy in Florida. [link omitted]
And:
Astroturfing is fake activism meant to give the illusion of grassroots opposition to policy. My favorite example is the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, a petrochemical and plastic manufacturers-backed group that protests bag bans and bag taxes.
Aside from my relief that Florida Man seems to have found a hobby that is not illegal or physically dangerous, I find it supremely ironic that this author seems convinced of the following: That it took him and some nefarious cabal to cause so many people to get sick of being confined to their homes and wondering how they'd make ends meet without any definite end point.

Oh, and speaking again of scientific illiteracy, the author seems unaware of (or in denial about) the science behind why several locales rolled back their plastic bag bans.

Back on the subject of livelihoods and corporations, it is worth noting that many "green" activists are threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in the business of providing cheap, plentiful, and reliable energy to people who need it. I don't blame them for fighting back in any way they can, and the merit of a position is not up for popular vote, anyway. Ditto for anyone fighting for their livelihoods in this new, very similar confrontation with the Leviathan state and its leftist lackeys.

But, yes, the policy preferences and tactics of the left are remarkably the same regarding the pandemic and fossil fuels. And everything else.

We already know what they want, so let's re-cap how they intend to fight for it: Smear opponents as manipulative, anti-science, and (most revealingly of all) unpopular.

-- CAV

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