On Covid, Left and Right Believe the Same Things — Only at Different Times

Shoppers are handed face masks to wear inside Saks Fifth Avenue department store in New York City, December 13, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

An observation: The difference between many conservatives and progressives on Covid-19 comes down not to what they believe but when they believe it.

Jim Geraghty pointed out yesterday that there’s a pattern where conservative or other media notice something — say, that cloth masks aren’t very effective — “and that observation or contention is denounced by the left and mainstream media outlets as wrong, inaccurate, even a malevolent lie. And then, a few months or a year later, the mainstream media catches up and realizes, ‘oh, wait, that contention was right all along.’”

This pattern stretches beyond the pandemic, but it’s particularly observable with the pandemic.

A batch of stories in left-leaning media recently warned about the harm caused by school closures. This followed mainstream acknowledgements that the Covid lab-leak theory — once the stuff of hysterical conspiracists, we were told — had a lot going for it. One U.S. agency even endorses it, though several others do not. Rich Lowry writes today about how the public today is more worried about kids falling behind in school than the spread of Covid, and generally wants to figure out a way to learn to live with this virus. Partisan divides remain, but the gap appears to be closing.

This essay in Tablet also points out how views once advanced by one ideological side have been adopted more broadly:

Many cities that implemented mask mandates and vaccine passports are seeing some of their highest case counts of the pandemic. As a result, the original justifications for COVID restrictions are now being openly contradicted by the same people who once argued for them—but without acknowledging the pivot. . . .

While COVID testing may be clinically valuable for people with symptoms, testing millions of asymptomatic people can lead to large-scale, unnecessary quarantines and disruptions (as Fauci has now admitted). Nevertheless, state and city governments used “rising cases” to rationalize shutdowns, school closures, and mask mandates. Public health officials and the media portrayed these raw case numbers as a meaningful metric and presented testing as an infallible tool.

In the past month, this approach has abruptly changed. . . .

It would be one thing if the change in messaging tracked a dramatic change in available evidence, or even if the messengers candidly acknowledged an “evolution” in their thinking. But neither is the case; the change is simply taking place with no recognition or apology—“Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.” Having spent two years vilifying anyone who made similar arguments and observations based on the same evidence, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets are starting to openly discuss the harms and tradeoffs of COVID policies.

The essay notes how these shifts include new mainstream skepticism about testing protocols, about how we count cases, about school closures, and about quarantine recommendations.

The patterns should — they won’t, but they should — give pause to those champing at the digital bit to decry and/or censor contrary views as “misinformation,” a definition that only seems to apply in one direction. Misinformation can be dangerous, and there certainly is a lot of it out there on the vaccines. But the above examples are a reminder that, in many areas, today’s “misinformation” is tomorrow’s consensus.


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