When I posted an interview on the lab-leak hypothesis with Alina Chan I knew I was going to get crap. I’m controversial myself, so I didn’t really care. I was more worried about Alina. But it was OK.
The reason I wanted to “give her a platform” is that the discussion privately among many scientists had diverged wildly from the views being relayed by the media. Basically, the media was perpetuating a lie, whether it knew it or not. The downside risks were that people would accuse me of being racist against Chinese and a fellow traveler with Alex Jones or something. My thought was, “who cares, is this middle school?” But of course, it is always middle school.
I got accused of being Sinophobic, natch. Some of it was from tenured faculty who stood behind the accusation with their names. I kind of respected that. But some of it was from sockpuppet accounts created by scientists to attack people. That was pretty pathetic.
But now things have changed. Though Nick Wade’s Medium piece had a catalytic effect, I think the main reason behind the change is that big names in academic science have now admitted that you aren’t Alex Jones if you entertain the lab-leak hypothesis. One can’t denigrate a lot of the authors on this opinion submitted to Science, Investigate the origins of COVID-19. I knew some of these authors had these opinions by the summer of 2020. Because academic science is all a “power-level” game, the insults and dismissals have faded, and now people are moving on to other talking points (“if it was lab-leak, and I don’t think it was, it doesn’t matter/who cares”).
But what about the media? They have pivoted on a dime and turned all the way around. There are now a bunch of pieces about the previous group-think about the lab-leak hypothesis. But this itself is group-think. The rapidity of the shift might highlight two separate dynamics. It is quite possible that many journalists always knew that views were privately more mixed and equivocal, and so their earlier writing was pretty straightforward preference falsification. They knew what their editors and the powers that be wanted, and they provided that copy. Secondarily, a lot of these journalists don’t care about what the truth is, they just want to be part of the “in-crowd.” Before that means that the lab leak was a racist conspiracy. Now, that means that the lab leak has to be investigated.
Either way, it’s not a good comment on the state of journalism.