Conspiracy theory

Matt Taibbi has an excellent column on “The Lab Leak ‘Conspiracy Theory.'” Students of ancient history may recall the chorus of condemnation that greeted Senator Tom Cotton when he raised the possibility that the Covid-19 virus might have emanated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the city where the virus was first detected. It seems like a shorter leap from the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the outbreak in Wuhan than the supposed leap from bat to man, but we were instructed otherwise.

We still don’t know, but common sense has its uses. We can reasonably assume that the the Chinese Communist Party knows the answer and that there is a reason it has prevented transparent inquiry. Taibbi puts it this way:

[T]he notion that Covid-19 did not originate in a lab became a mandatory talking point. This might have made sense, if epidemiologists had definitively identified the source of the disease. But they hadn’t, making the intensity of the press reaction both comical and suspicious.

A common explanation for the propaganda is that once Donald Trump suggested the disease might have had a laboratory origin, it became mandatory to denounce the idea for political reasons. The Trump-said-it-so-it-must-be-wrong angle was also ubiquitous, as Orfalea shows [in this video in Taibbi’s post].

In the main mashup , in a series of revealing montages, press figures are also shown wasting no time embracing the word-for-word conclusion of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) that the disease was “not manmade or genetically modified.” The sections involving denunciations of Senator Tom Cotton are particularly interesting because Cotton was accused of “fanning the embers of a coronavirus conspiracy theory” just for including lab origin among the possible causes, even as he said natural origin was “most likely.” This showed that even considering a lab-origin hypothesis was, to press critics, now the same as advancing or embracing an idea they considered “debunked.”

Taibbi has enlisted his colleague Matt Orfalea to compile the video below mashing up the mainstream media “conspiracy theory” chorus over nine minutes. Taibbi characterizes it as “hilariously disturbing.” I find it more disturbing than funny. Without delving into the print and online chorus, it documents a phenomenon that warrants extended consideration. Taibbi frames it this way:

Orfalea does a great job here using everything from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to Fahrenheit 451 to show the dangerously moronic certainty of modern propaganda. The origins of Covid-19 remain a mystery, but another Whodunit is why curiosity and the spirit of free inquiry have been made taboo in a business where those qualities were once prerequisites.

With Fahrenheit 451 and “propaganda” we are beginning to get somewhere.

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