The New Republic discusses why “Believe Science” is a bad response to denialism. Liberals’ glorification of expertise amid the coronavirus and climate crises reveals their own distrust of democracy.
Scientists saw it coming well in advance: a crisis that, left unaddressed, could kill hundreds of thousands of people. The White House ignored it, telling the public the problem was already contained. Maybe, senior officials speculated, it wasn’t a problem at all but another hoax cooked up by the president’s enemies in Congress, or by the Chinese government. Once the crisis grew and could no longer be ignored, the right changed its tune, insisting that a full-throated response to the problem could be worse than the problem itself and send the country unnecessarily into economic ruin; if tens of thousands of lives had to be sacrificed at the altar of the S&P 500, so be it. Quacks boasting about their shaky subject expertise claimed to know what the bona fide experts didn’t, questioning official models with their own contrived ones. Contrarians called the people implementing established authorities’ recommendations hysterical alarmists trying to press their socialist agenda onto an unwitting public. Then came the protests: overwhelmingly white, seemingly homegrown expressions of outrage, which—it turns out—had gotten a helping hand from a Koch brother and the Mercer family, as well as fawning coverage from Fox News.