Up In Arms and In Our Faces

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I did a piece yesterday in The Dispatch trying to frame and contextualize the six TPM Reader emails I posted (see below) with different perspectives on the origins of COVID and the so-called “Lab Leak Theory.” I was struck again by the basic fact: It is all but impossible to discuss the issue as a question of scientific investigation as opposed to a contest amongst — or between? with? — all the stresses and beliefs and collective wounds of the COVID pandemic era. Perhaps, put differently, the public conversation has almost no relation to the actual scientific inquiry. That meta discussion is itself fascinating in a way but only if you can step way, way back from it and see it as an artifact of a society in turmoil. I at least am unable to do that. We’re simply too close, too in the midst of that turmoil. The purveyors of lies and aggrieved special pleading are still too up in arms and demanding. TPM Reader JS captured something at the heart of the matter when he told us that lab leak discourse “is some kind of shibboleth for people who want to feel vindicated that something they didn’t agree with from someone official about COVID, whether it was masks or the vaccine — they want [to] have this sort of liquid position of not actually believing it but thinking that countervailing opinions aren’t being given enough oxygen.”

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