About two decades ago, ex-Vice President Al Gore famously proclaimed that on climate change, the “debate is over” (“in the scientific community,” he added). It wasn’t that many years later that former head of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit Phil Jones confessed, in the Climategate scandal’s wake, that the debate among scientists is not over. But something else isn’t only not over, but is now all over the place: a Gore-esque, pseudo-elite tendency to claim an issue is beyond debate — and then take your ball and, well, flee to MSNBC.
This is witnessed perhaps most prominently with the dispute over Covid “vaccines.” On Sunday, for example, Stanford University School of Medicine Professor Dr. Thomas Lew stated in a USA Today headline, “Joe Rogan, RFK Jr. don’t get it: Vaccine science isn’t up for debate.” Lew was responding to an offer Rogan, the famous podcaster, made in which he offered to donate $100,000 to vaccine proponent Dr. Peter Hotez’ favorite charity if the virologist would debate vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on his show.
Now, as journalist John Stossel put it in 2007, “If you must declare a debate over, then maybe it’s not.” Quite true, except that when these pseudo-elites say it’s “over,” they don’t mean they’ve proved their case. They mean that, as with an ayatollah declaring a dogma, they don’t have to.
Or so they think.
For the “game has changed,” averred podcaster Brady Leonard on Sunday. The mainstream media are no longer like the sentient programs in The Matrix: They don’t still guard all the gates and hold all the keys.
Leonard mentions that not only did Hotez shrink from the debate battlefield; he also retreated to the very, very small but very friendly MSNBC fiefdom to explain why he wouldn’t deign to engage an RFK. But his real motivation is very different. In reality, “Hotez wants to avoid discussing the efficacy of the COVID-19 shots in front of the world’s largest audience since the tyrannical handling of the pandemic is a major electoral weak spot for Democrats,” writes Leonard.
Dr. Lew, who defends Hotez as a “renowned scientist,” tacitly admitted this. “I am honestly surprised that we are still skeptical of the merits of vaccines, especially the COVID-19 vaccines,” he wrote. The indefensible is not discussable.
In fact, he’s just part of a phalanx of leftist fakers united in the goal of portraying their pusillanimity as principle. Leonard presents another, writing, “Leftist journalist Aaron Rupar, and I use the word journalist in the loosest of terms, tweeted, ‘”Debate me” has become a bad faith propaganda tool for the right, designed to legitimize lies & target critics for harassment. It’s ripped from the right’s “free speech” playbook, which demands bad actors get access to all platforms & audiences — or else.’”
As for Lew, his excuse for balking at debate is more sophisticated. “What RFK Jr. does have is the power of the word,” the doc writes. “He is a skilled politician and orator who knows how to make an argument. Trained as a lawyer, debate is his bread and butter.” Translation: “We’re right on the issue (of course!), but can’t contend with a slick snake oil salesman’s sophistry!”
Of course, this doesn’t explain why Hotez or Lew (or an articulate representative of their choosing) won’t debate Covid “vaccines” with a fellow “expert,” someone not “trained as a lawyer,” such as Dr. Peter McCullough or Dr. Robert Malone.
Moreover and ironically, Lew leans hard himself into what appears to be sophistry. “The premise that scientific data needs to win over the masses to be true is flawed,” he states, elaborating on the refusal to debate. “Science is science, and objective data that can be reliably reproduced is true whether people believe it or not.”
This signals that Lew either isn’t as smart as he thinks he is or as honest as he wants you to think he is (or both). His assertion goes without saying. Of course Truth doesn’t become Truth via majority vote (if only the Lew crew understood this regarding morality)!
The reason you debate is that, first, if you want your data translated into policy, you have to, under functioning representative government, convince the people the data are correct.
Second, this is also necessary if you want Americans to voluntarily follow your prescriptions and desire that the medical establishment have credibility in their eyes.
Lew’s side has claimed to care deeply about these two priorities, too, in public health’s name. So why not debate?
The real reason isn’t that they lack the style (“trained lawyer” bit), but the substance — the facts. And while all leftists rationalize and most won’t admit this to themselves, they do know how they feel.
To wit, they don’t like debating for the same reason an average hacker may not want to golf before spectators in a professional tournament: It’s an unpleasant, humiliating experience that brings mockery. Add to this that leftists often are narcissistic — i.e., people most sensitive to loss of face — and it’s a non-starter.
Consequently, these pseudo-elites seek to avoid losses by simply avoiding the game. But, avers, Leonard, because the “game has changed,” these pseudo-elites “have already lost.”
His point is that, unlike decades past when the mainstream media controlled information flow with only minimal competition from, for example, talk radio, their monopoly is no more. Leonard mentions that Rogan’s podcast boasts an astounding 20 million listeners, whereas CNN’s highest-rated show this year has only 3.3 million (despite featuring Donald Trump); and that cable subscriptions have dropped from 100 million in 2016 to 72 million today.
Furthermore, younger Americans trust the new media far more than the old and, also, no doubt, don’t find the latter cool.
Of course, the establishment is well aware of this competition for money and minds; hence its full-bore censorship efforts. (Also note that you don’t have to trouble over changing the people’s minds when you can just illegally change their votes.) Joseph Stalin, Mao, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and Pol Pot didn’t have to worry about debating, and our pseudo-elites desire the same power-born luxury.
Who will win? The good news is that more and more Americans are concluding that someone who finds high-profile opponents not worth debating is not worth listening to.