That strange popping sound you’ve been hearing overnight? Media-elite heads exploding, perhaps, or maybe just eardrums adjusting to the new narrative pressure provided by Jon Stewart. Appearing on CBS’ Late Night with Stephen Colbert, Stewart paid tribute to science by telling his former Daily Show partner that science almost certainly caused the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is not a conspiracy!” Stewart insists when Colbert pushes back by asking, “How long have you worked for Senator Ron Johnson?” It gets rolling at the three-minute mark:
Asked how he’s feeling about the state of the scientific response to COVID-19, Stewart added, “So, I will say this—and I honestly mean this—I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to science. Science has, in many ways, helped ease the suffering of this pandemic, which was more than likely caused by science.”
Taken aback, Colbert asked his friend, “Do you mean perhaps there’s a chance that this was created in a lab?” referring to the ongoing investigation into the so-called “lab leak” theory that started as a right-wing conspiracy.
“A chance?” Stewart asked. “Oh my god, there’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China, what do we do? Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab. The disease is the same name as the lab. That’s just a little too weird!”
Then, when they asked the scientists who worked in that lab how the pandemic might have started, he joked that their response was, “Uhh, a pangolin kissed a turtle?” or “Maybe a bat flew into the cloaca of a turkey and then it sneezed into my chili and now we all have coronavirus?”
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s stipulate up front that the lab-leak possibility isn’t a conspiracy theory, in large part because it doesn’t qualify yet as a theory at all. In science, a theory has substantial support in evidence. The lab-leak idea is a hypothesis, as is every other potential origin explanation for COVID-19, as there isn’t any substantial evidence for any of the hypotheses thus far. That’s not because of the scientists, but because of China’s totalitarian government and their complete refusal to cooperate in any independent investigation (scientific or otherwise). That in itself is circumstantial evidence that the zoonotic transfer hypothesis may not be the best explanation, but that’s all it is.
Stewart makes the same mistake here that the media made in shutting down discussion of the lab-leak hypothesis — jumping to a conclusion. We don’t know that scientists created this in a lab yet; we don’t have any direct evidence of that or zoonotic transfer. We should have been open to that possibility all along, however, and our media elites shouldn’t have tried to squelch that discussion and debate.
Twitchy reports that lefties on social media are aghast at Stewart for pushing this hypothesis. If so, it’s because Stewart has shoved the Overton window by a significant amount in embracing the lab-leak hypothesis. Over the last few weeks, media outlets have grudgingly reported on it with some fairness after more than a year of denigrating both the hypothesis and anyone discussing it as benighted lunacy. Stewart brings a sense of hipness to the idea, which makes it a lot tougher to pigeonhole anyone else as a kook for demanding an investigation into the origin of COVID-19. Even Ron Johnson.