An enjoyable monologue on a slow news day, even if it does veer too closely at times to faulting scientists for simply changing their minds and sometimes changing them again as they get new and better data. A fast-evolving novel virus is destined to produce lots of maddening revisions to the conventional scientific wisdom over the course of two years, even if everyone involved is operating in perfect good faith.
Maher’s not really faulting them for changing their minds, though. He’s faulting them for their lack of humility in clamoring to marginalize skeptics of whatever the conventional wisdom happens to be at a given moment despite knowing that it’s likely to change. And he’s faulting them for not always operating in good faith, like when Fauci lied about the value of masking early in the pandemic or when proponents of the lab-leak theory were attacked by the likes of Peter Daszak.
Another example of that would be progressives and “safety first” liberals insisting on indefinite school mask mandates essentially for reasons of virtue-signaling, to signal that they care the mostest about COVID irrespective of the burden that places on kids. If you missed this piece by Danish COVID advisor Michael Bang Petersen when I linked it a few days ago, read it now. He understands keenly how pandemic-era tribalism will make it difficult for western cultures to reach a consensus on when and how to exit the era of restrictions:
The key ingredients of an effective pandemic response — communication, trust and a shared sense of threat — are slowly dwindling. This can lead to social strife and will make it harder for leaders to steer their populations out of the crisis.
For two years people have debated the value of masks, vaccine passports and more, to the point that they are no longer opinions but identities. And when opinions become identities, they warp our understanding and make it harder to change one’s mind as the situation changes. The truth is that we are all biased. For example, research shows that in the United States, Republicans tend to overrate the risks of getting vaccinated, and Democrats tend to overrate the risks from the disease…
For people who have been highly vigilant about Covid-19, the end of the pandemic could end up feeling like defeat. At some point, it will be time to lift restrictions and lower the guards. The people they’ve been debating about masks or whether the crisis is improving will then be right. It won’t be because this position was always correct, but because the circumstances have changed.
As a case in point, watch “safety first” liberal Sunny Hostin draw the wrong lesson from yesterday’s Stacey Abrams mega-blunder:
— Mediaite (@Mediaite) February 7, 2022
Abrams’s blunder wasn’t that she failed to model the correct behavior at this stage of the pandemic, it’s that she insisted that the children around her model the incorrect behavior for people in their risk group by masking up. But Hostin and other Democrats won’t easily be talked out of their position on masking, having invested two years in trying to counterprogram Republican “back to normal ASAP” rhetoric. Conservatives have underplayed the threat from COVID so lefties have chosen to overplay it. Despite the evidence about COVID’s tiny risk to kids, despite the fact that European schools haven’t required children to mask, they’re not going to give the GOP the satisfaction of seeing them admit “defeat” by admitting that it’s time to unmask kids. They’d rather lose at the polls in November, I suspect, than concede the moral high ground they think they hold by allowing that the complexion of the pandemic has shifted towards easing restrictions.
Although I’d be curious to see whether a strong messaging offensive against restrictions led by Joe Biden might work to change Democratic hearts and minds. Petersen makes that point too: “As the need for restrictions lessens, it’s up to public health and political leaders to explain why restrictions are being lifted, just as they had to explain why they were being imposed in the first place.” How about it, Joe?