A World Gone Mad? The Rise of Antiscience Across the Right Wing.


What does it mean when your political philosophy depends on self-serving opinion at odds with fact? 

An article in Scientific American warns of the rise of "antiscience" birthed among America's radical right and now going global, a movement that's already claiming thousands of lives. 

Antiscience is the rejection of mainstream scientific views and methods or their replacement with unproven or deliberately misleading theories, often for nefarious and political gains. It targets prominent scientists and attempts to discredit them.

Now antiscience is causing mass deaths once again in this COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in the spring of 2020, the Trump White House launched a coordinated disinformation campaign that dismissed the severity of the epidemic in the United States, attributed COVID deaths to other causes, claimed hospital admissions were due to a catch-up in elective surgeries, and asserted that ultimately that the epidemic would spontaneously evaporate. It also promoted hydroxychloroquine as a spectacular cure, while downplaying the importance of masks. Other authoritarian or populist regimes in Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines and Tanzania adopted some or all of these elements.

...During the summer of 2020, COVID-19 accelerated in states of the South as governors prematurely lifted restrictions to create a second and unnecessary wave of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Then following a large motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.Dak., a third surge unfolded in the fall in the Upper Midwest. A hallmark of both waves were thousands of individuals who tied their identity and political allegiance on the right to defying masks and social distancing. A nadir was a highly publicized ICU nurse who wept as she recounted the dying words of one of her patients who insisted COVID-19 was a hoax.

Now, a new test of defiance and simultaneous allegiance to the Republican Party has emerged in the form of resisting COVID-19 vaccines. At least three surveys from the Kaiser Family Foundation, our study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, and the PBS News Hour/NPR/Marist poll each point to Republicans or white Republicans as a top vaccine-resistant group in America.


...The full antiscience agenda of the Republican Party has now gone beyond our national borders. In the summer of 2020, the language of the antiscience political right in America was front and center at antimask and antivaccine rallies in Berlin, London and Paris. In the Berlin rally, news outlets reported ties to QAnon and extremist groups. Adding to this toxic mix are emerging reports from U.S. and British intelligence that the Putin-led Russian government is working to destabilize democracies through elaborate programs of COVID-19 antivaccine and antiscience disinformation. Public refusal of COVID-19 vaccines now extends to India, Brazil, South Africa and many low- and middle-income countries.

...Facilitating the spread of COVID-19 is an expanded and globalizing antiscience movement that began modestly under a health freedom banner adopted by the Republican Tea Party in Texas. Thousands of deaths have so far resulted from antiscience, and this may only be the beginning as we are now seeing the impact on vaccine refusal across the U.S., Europe and the low- and middle-income countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Meanwhile the Fresh Prince of Mar-a-Lardo came out swinging today at Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx for their claims that he bungled America's Covid 19 response causing thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Trump falsely claims he was responsible for the rapid development of Covid vaccines (that resulted from mRNA research that was undertaken years before the pandemic) and that he succeeded (in what, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans?) by rejecting bad advice from Fauci and Birx. The point isn't that Trump lies. That's his prime directive. The point is that so many Americans are willing to believe people like Trump and the groundless conspiracies they promote.

This madness is driving even some experts to despair including the current director of the US Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Rochelle Walensky. Going "off script," Walensky spoke of a recurring feeling she has of "impending doom."  Despite the considerable efforts and success the Biden administration has had in getting vaccines into the arms of Americans, the numbers of new infections and hospital admissions are rising across the country.

Experts in Ontario are echoing Dr. Walensky's worst fears, warning that the Covid-19 pandemic in that province is "completely out of control."

A new briefing note from a panel of science experts advising the Ontario government on COVID-19 shows a province at a tipping point.

Variants that are more deadly are circulating widely, new daily infections have reached the same number at the height of the second wave, and the number of people hospitalized is now more than 20 per cent higher than at the start of the last provincewide lockdown, states an analysis from Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table published on Monday night.

"Right now in Ontario, the pandemic is completely out of control," Dr. Peter Juni, the table's scientific director and a professor of medicine and epidemiology with the University of Toronto, said in an interview prior to the briefing note's publication.

Ontario needs to go on a war footing.

Juni said for Ontario, there is now "no way out" of the dire scenario that's set to unfold over the next few weeks without a widespread lockdown as well — coupled with other measures, including the province providing paid sick leave to essential workers, encouraging Ontarians to avoid movement between regions, and ensuring residents have access to lower-risk outdoor activities.

"There is no such thing as winning this race with just vaccinations," Juni stressed. "That's impossible."

As the sane among us queue up for vaccines the People's Vaccine Alliance claims that these 1st generation vaccines won't be a "one and done" solution. Instead we will need new vaccines, perhaps as soon as next year, to defend against coronavirus mutations or "variants." This was predicted several months ago by University of Alberta professor and 2020 Nobel laureate, Michael Houghton. Dr. Houghton was awarded the Nobel for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus in 1989. He also co-discovered the Hepatitis D genome in 1986. When it comes to viruses, Houghton and his colleagues are the 'pros from Dover.'




Comments

  1. Anti science is alive and well worldwide particularly within the predominant western financial monopoly.

    Many people re going to die rich and content without due consideration to our offspring.

    Take care; selfish may soon disappear form our dictionaries.

    TB

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    Replies
    1. I am becoming ever more deeply puzzled by what lies ahead, Trailblazer. When I coined the term "Gullibillies" I had no sense of how widespread that social spectrum would or could become. Nihilism seems to be as transmissible as the coronavirus. There are so many inclined to believe the wildest fantasies, requiring no proof despite the most blatant contradictions. We are losing our resilience at all levels and accept mediocrity in our leadership. It feels as though we have set the bar so low the A-List talent shuns the whole business.

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  2. The leading edge of current "christian" thinking was when creationism started making a real comeback three or more decades ago, it seems to me. There were always flat-earthers even after satellites were put into orbit, and magic thinking about how the "world" came to be was buttressed by literal interpretation of the Bible in the West. If you believe all that, then you can hate other religions and their countries and populations and queer people, and listen in rapture to Pat Robertson and others of his ilk. The American elite desire to rule the world after WW2 to coin filthy lucre without limit while setting up all manner of "international" organizations that they effectively ran, the almighty dollar, stepping in and invading countries that dared to question US business practices, it all mounts up. Fomenting hate of foreigners, and using podunks clutching patriotic flags to go and kill them if they objected to being exploited now has its analogue in societal divisions at home.

    On the bioscience side, unfortunately, once the green revolution happened and people could eat, world population burgeoned with predictable results on resources generally. Then weed and insect killers, GMO seed and all the rest of it was "science's" contribution to the mess as companies had to earn ever-increasing profits. Big pharma went crazy with DNA, and in the USA, home of monopolistic profit, regular drugs like insulin and epi-pens have been turned into rip-off-the-public items. No wonder people feel assailed on all sides, no matter whether of progressive or conservative ilk.

    So who you gonna believe when pharma comes up with "miracle" covid vaccines in two months? I refuse to believe people in general are stupid, but I do believe they can be easily confused, and easily led down a garden path. It is elitist to argue from a "progressive" viewpoint that only the other side are gullibillies, when fundamental sociopathic capitalist greed seems to really be the basis for all our problems. If you want to just argue that "science" is always right, you miss the social implications that have been brewing for a long time as well, such as agribusiness and the denigration of the small farmer as inefficient. So to me, hectoring a large mass of the population that you're right and they're dumb is not a winning strategy for societal reunification, and strangely unempathetic. If the "left" is claiming only they have logic and reason on their side and the other side is but trash there can never be a melding of the minds to conquer what ails us all. Meanwhile, the counting houses rule, jobs are exported, cheap foreign labour is imported in IT and engineering work. That's the real nihilism to me -- the "screw you, I'm all right Jack" beggar-thy-neighbour outlook of sociopaths since time immemorial.

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    Replies
    1. There is much to unpack in your commentary, Bill. I find myself agreeing with much of your thinking but I must come to the defence of science.

      No scientist worth the name will claim that science is always right. That notion is rejected by the scientific method where theories are never accepted as conclusive and always open to challenge. Hypothesis, experimentation, observation and analysis.

      You can assemble an extensive list of the contagions that science has enabled us to overcome, usually via vaccinations.

      Science is science. It is not the preserve of the "left" as you suggest. In America the right was once a full-throated supporter of medical science. That was then, this is now.

      We don't need a melding of minds. We just need science to be accepted for what it is and foolishness to be relegated to its rightful place. That's not a left or right proposition.

      Many of the other ills you list are not equally shared by the left and the right. The hypercapitalist imperative you reference is, until recently at least, primarily the preserve of the right. And who is confusing the people and leading them down the garden path? I'm guessing that would be the side they're now voting for usually against their own interests.

      Societal reunification? I think that horse has left the barn.

      BTW - pharma didn't come up with miracle vaccines in two months, Bill. The science behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, mRNA, was developed years ago by two doctors, one an émigré from, I believe, Hungary. mRNA was just waiting for something like this and is expected to work on future viruses as well. In other words, Bill, this isn't some scheme by Big Pharma to foist a hastily conjured vaccine on the public. The heavy lifting was already done before anyone heard of this virus.

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  3. Bill is correct that 'they' have always been among us.
    Mound's point (I think) is that they have become weaponized by the r.w. and the challenge is way beyond 'respect the other side'.
    Gone are the Eisenhowers & the Mulrooney's while the Trumps & Bojos use new media to leverage (and then expand) the anti-knowledge* crowd. (*ie worse than just anti-science).

    The current r.w. USA monologue about disenfranchising half the US population is related but even more alarming, atm.

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  4. Two defining moments of our time.
    #1 The acceptance of 'Intelligent design within the conversation.
    #2 Michael Moore's 911 movie which took conspiracy theory to new levels.

    Both remove us from reality.

    TB

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