The Year that Expertise Collapsed – Jeffrey A. Tucker 12/31/23


Getting sick and getting well is part of the human experience at all times in all places. As with other phenomena of human existence, that suggests there is a great deal of embedded knowledge on the topic woven into the fabric of our lives. We aren’t born knowing but we come to know: from our moms and dads, experience of siblings and others, from our own experience, and from medical professionals who deal with the problem daily.

In a healthy and functioning society, the path toward maintaining personal and public health becomes embedded in the cultural firmament, just like manners, belief systems, and value preferences. It’s not necessary that we think about it constantly; instead it becomes a habit, with much of the knowledge tacit; that is, deployed daily but rarely with full cognizance.

We could know for certain that there had been a change in the matrix in March 2020 because, seemingly out of nowhere, all of this knowledge was deemed wrong. A new gaggle of experts was in charge, one day to the next. Suddenly, they were everywhere. They were on TV, quoted by all the newspapers, amplified on social media, and on the phone constantly with local officials instructing them on how they must shut down the schools, businesses, playgrounds, churches, and civic gatherings.

The message was always the same. This time is completely different from anything in our experience or in any previous experience. This time we must adopt a totally new and completely untested paradigm. It comes from models that high-level scientists have deemed correct. It comes from labs. It comes from “germ games” of which none of us are part. If we dare to reject the new teachings for the old, we are doing it wrong. We are the malicious ones. We deserve ridicule, cancellation, silencing, exclusion, and worse.

It felt like a coup d’etat of sorts. It certainly was an intellectual coup. All wisdom of the past, even that known by public health only months earlier, was deleted from public spaces. Dissent was silenced. Corporate media was absolutely united in celebrating the greatness of people like Fauci, who spoke in strangely circuitous ways that contradicted everything we thought we knew.

It was exceedingly strange because the people we thought might have stood up to the flash imposition of tyranny somehow vanished. We could hardly meet with others at all, if only to share intuitions that something was wrong. “Social distancing” was more than a method to “slow the spread;” it amounted to comprehensive control of the public mind too.

The experts instructing us spoke with astonishing certainty about precisely how society should be managed in a pandemic. There were scientific papers, tens of thousands of them, and the storm of credentials was everywhere and out of control. Unless you had a university or lab affiliation and unless you had multiple high-level degrees attached to your name, you could not get a hearing. Folk wisdom was out of the question, even basic things like “sun and outdoors are good for respiratory infections.” Even popular understanding of natural immunity came in for hard ridicule.

Later it turned out that even top credentialed experts would not be taken seriously if they had the wrong views. This is when the racket became incredibly obvious. It was never really about genuine knowledge. It was about compliance and echoing the approved line. It’s astonishing how many people went along, even with the stupidest of the mandates, such as the distancing stickers everywhere, the ubiquity of Plexiglas, and the dirty masks on every face which were somehow believed to keep people healthy.

Once the contrary studies started coming out, we would share them and get shouted down. The comment sections of the studies started to be raided by partisan experts who would hone in on small issues and problems and demand and obtain takedowns. Then the contrarian expert would get doxxed, his dean notified, and the faculty turned against the person, lest the department risk funding from Big Pharma or Fauci in the future.

All the while, we kept thinking that there must be some rationale behind all this madness. It never emerged. It was all intimidation and belligerence and nothing more – arbitrary diktat by big shots who were pretending the entire time.

The lockdowners and shot mandators were never intellectually serious people. They never much thought about the implications or ramifications of what they were doing. They were just wrecking things mostly for pecuniary gain, job protection, and career advancement, plus it was fun to be in charge. It’s not much more complicated than that.

In other words, we’ve gradually come to realize that our worst fears were true. All these experts were and are fakes. There have been some hints along the way, such as when North Carolina Health Director Mandy Cohen (now head of the CDC) reported that she and her colleagues were burning up the phone lines to decide whether people should be allowed to participate in sports.

“She was like, are you gonna let them have professional football?” she said. “And I was like, no. And she’s like, OK neither are we.”

Another candid moment came five months ago, only recently unearthed by X, when NIH head Francis Collins admitted that he and his colleagues attached “zero value” to whether and to what extent they were disrupting lives, wrecking the economy, and destroying education for kids. He actually said this.

As it turns out, these experts who ruled our lives, and still do to a great extent, were never what they claimed to be, and never actually possessed knowledge that was superior to what existed within the cultural firmament of society. Instead, all they really had was power and a grand opportunity to play dictator.

It’s astonishing, truly, and worthy of deep study, when you consider the extent to which and for how long this class of people were able to maintain the illusion of consensus within their ranks. They bamboozled the media all over the world. They tricked vast swaths of the population. They bent all social media algorithms to reflect their views and priorities.

One explanation comes down to the money trail. That’s a powerful explanation. But it is not the whole of it. Behind the illusion was a terrifying intellectual isolation in which all these people found themselves. They never really encountered people who disagreed. Indeed, part of the way these people had come to conceive of their jobs was to master the art of knowing what to think and when and how. It’s part of the job training to enter the class of experts: mastering the skill of echoing the opinions of others. …

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