Avoiding the 'Expertise' Problem; Reflecting on the CPAC 'Government Is Dangerous to Your Health' Panel

Avoiding the 'Expertise' Problem; Reflecting on the CPAC 'Government Is Dangerous to Your Health' Panel
RedState/Jim Thompson

For two years, not only America, but the world has endured the imposition of “health” policy by medical and administrative “experts” – with the latter making up the majority, often without any relevant training in the field. In the US, we see them not only in top government positions, such as Anthony Fauci and Rochelle Walensky, but also in many self-appointed experts claiming privileged medical knowledge about a brand-new phenomenon.

All this occurs, of course, amidst a situation where any medical or scientific professional worth that label has freely stated the one actual truth we can know – that is, that we know precious little. Yet the experts we have been subjected to for years now claimed, and continue to claim, some superior, almost gnostic, level of knowledge – often despite straying far beyond their expertise, training or specialization. These same people supported, guided, and instituted policy that made the phrase ‘we actually don’t know’ anathema to their own vocabulary. Power, praise, and increased prestige were the goals of the day – not adherence to objective truth, adapting to changing situations, and perhaps most especially, updating our approach with emerging data.

During CPAC’s panel “The Government is Dangerous to Your Health” on Saturday, February 27th, moderated by Jason Rantz, I found myself wondering if the conservative movement might also be picking up its own experts on the topic — not by their actual accomplishments or trustworthiness, but because we agree with what they’re saying, all driven by a desperate need to have our preconceptions confirmed by people with that MD behind their names. Was our bias, I wondered, coloring whom we trust, whom we prop up on our biggest platforms? How much has this already hurt not only our movement, but the truth behind the ideals we stand for in science and in medicine, such as individualized care, autonomy, and informed consent?

I come into any politically motivated event or panel on science and medicine with some skepticism, whether it is hosted by the left, the right, or indeed any other politically aligned organization. I give just as much scrutiny to the talking-head MDs one finds at CNN as I do those who show up at Fox or OANN. The more a medical professional has to gain from attending and promoting political events or becoming a media consultant, the more critical I am bound to be. With those on stage at CPAC either seeking office, such as Dr. Oz, or basking in new-found popularity after decades of obscurity such as Dr. Robert Malone, I came to this panel expecting things to go far worse than they did.

To my surprise, I found both Dr. Oz and Dr. Brooke Miller quite level-headed, with both slightly willing to say the ‘unpopular’ things, such as Dr. Oz admitting he had been vaccinated – which garnered a room-wide negative response. I certainly didn’t agree with everything they said: Dr. Miller seemed far too harsh on the Big Pharma trope (when the reality of pharmaceutical companies and the research they do – the leading research in the world, mind you – is far more nuanced than a monolithic ‘this good, that bad’ perception). Dr. Oz made a good case for medical values that are aligned with conservative values, and which have been thrown to the wayside during the pandemic – such as individualized care, the doctor’s ability to do what they think is best for their patient, and freedom to try – with the consent of the patient – experimental treatments when up against something new and unknown like a global pandemic.

More so, I was impressed with Dr. Miller’s admission of that singular phrase that has been so neglected these past two years: “I don’t know.” We must be open-minded, objectively assess new data, and realize that none of this is set in stone – as evidenced by the examples he gave of times when previous medical knowledge, of even a few decades ago, had been rendered obsolete by new findings. Both men, despite the advantage I know they get from being on that CPAC stage, showed some level of humility, and willingness to engage the interviewer. It was the part of the panel in which Dr. Malone responded to various questions that grew concerning to me.

Twice, Dr. Malone was asked specifically about the mechanisms of mRNA vaccines and how the vaccine works. Twice, he deflected. Instead, he gave many vague platitudes, never disputed the title he claims for himself as the “inventor of mRNA technology,” and seemed far more interested in giving the audience what they wanted to hear – and twice, to a standing ovation.

This, particularly, raised my concern that at least some of the MDs and other medical or scientific professionals we promote as conservatives are actually doing more harm than good. It is becoming imperative for conservatives to be more discerning towards whom they support in these fields. It’s necessary to vet these ‘experts’ — just as we would vet those we see on CNN or in the White House. To do so, we need to do two things: first, include, and find, more quiet professionals in these fields to fact-check any of the more media- and attention-oriented professionals we promote, and, second, be willing to understand that some of the information released by opposing political sources on these experts is actually true.

On this second point, we have too often fallen into the trap of believing that if MSNBC, NYT, CNN, or any other more center to far-left publication has printed something, it must be false. We see liberals trapped in this fallacy all the time, and it will harm us just as much as it harms them.

The prime example of this is, of course, Dr. Robert Malone, and the articles that cast a critical glance on his claim to be the father of mRNA technology. Some of these articles have been written in direct opposition to Malone’s claim of being the ‘inventor of mRNA technology’. They are correct in their timelines – Dr. Malone did not, all by himself, invent this technology. At a base level, hundreds of scientists have impacted and influenced the development of this technology, Dr. Malone among them. His contribution to this field numbers a grand total of two papers, from nearly 30 years ago. In fact, it’s not hard to see the line of thinking between many of Malone’s interviews on the mRNA technology if you read his papers and then consider he is deriving his conclusions more from the state mRNA technology was in those days, without taking into account any of the subsequent research.

Furthermore, it’s important to realize that there are many others who, if they so wished, could lay a stronger claim to the title of ‘inventor of mRNA technology, or ‘inventor of the mRNA vaccine’. This includes scientists such as Katalin Karikó. In fact, I am confident in the statement that far more people within the conservative movement have heard of Dr. Malone than have heard of Dr. Karikó, even though her contribution is objectively undeniably more significant to the coronavirus vaccines.

This is a problem. It leaves us vulnerable to people who are misidentifying their work, their knowledge, and imbuing themselves with that same gnostic aura that we so often see someone like Anthony Fauci rely upon. This, in turn, weakens what would be very strong and logical arguments on our part, because those who disagree with us but might be open to discussion are immediately put out by what and who they might fully understand as someone who can’t be trusted to be truthful.

This is a problem we cannot afford, and therefore, an area where we must do better. Better vetting should rely on other scientists and doctors – preferably ones who do not seek any form of political or promotional benefit – who can analyze the work and words of those whom we do decide to give the greatest platforms we have. We also need to be very honest with ourselves: are we promoting and applauding someone because, and only because, they seem to have some expertise and happen to agree with us? Because they say the flashy, easy words that can get the most optimal emotional response? Or are we doing it because we respect and trust them, even, and perhaps especially, when we can disagree with them?

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