‘Trust the experts’ is the battle cry of America’s elitists. After President Trump’s shock election in 2016 showed that Americans are sick of hearing from politicians, the politicized classes adopted experts as their proxy for power. Climate change ‘experts’ justify AOC’s radical Green New Deal with prophecies of planetary extinction. Foreign policy ‘experts’ claim America will destabilize the Middle East if, as Trump wants, we withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Medical ‘experts’ are wheeled out to justify increasing control over the lives of everyday Americans through draconian lockdowns, mask mandates and stringent travel restrictions.
Dr Scott Atlas, one of the newer members of the White House’s COVID-19 task force, is not an ‘expert’, according to the ever-changing standards of the establishment. He has only 25 years of high-level experience, including serving as the Chief of Neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and crafting healthcare policy for over a decade. However, as his Wikipedia page condescendingly reminds us multiple times, Atlas is ‘a radiologist, not a specialist in public health or infectious diseases’, and thus his advice must be ignored. CDC director Robert Redfield was busted on a private phone call alleging that ‘everything he says is false’. Dr Anthony Fauci said on television he is ‘concerned’ about Atlas, the ‘outlier’ of the task force, spreading misinformation. Fox News’s Chris Wallace, who is also not an epidemiologist, mocked Atlas for predicting Trump would make a ‘full recovery’ after contracting COVID-19.
Twitter has joined the group of banshees trying to silence Atlas. The social media company blocked a post from him this week that said ‘Masks work? NO’, saying that it violated their policy on misinformation. Atlas says his tweet was intended to question public mask mandates, noting that they’re only useful when people are unable to social-distance.
There are plenty of other non-epidemiologists on the White House task force, such as labor secretary Eugene Scalia and secretary of agriculture Sonny Perdue. Pennsylvania’s health secretary Rachel Levine, who sent coronavirus patients back to nursing homes, has a medical background in pediatrics. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who signed an executive order doing the same, has no medical background at all. None of those people has been attacked by the public-facing health officials.
Atlas is a unique threat because he publicly and vocally opposes a second lockdown, instead advocating for reopening much of the country and implementing targeted measures to protect high-risk individuals. Critics attack his background, Atlas alleges, as an ‘excuse’ to discount his position. ‘I am a healthcare policy expert. I’ve been doing healthcare policy for 15 years,’ Atlas said. ‘I’m not here to be an epidemiologist. I’m here to be a healthcare policy person who understands, and can look at, with a critical eye, the science, as well as interpret the science into a healthcare policy position.’
Atlas may be having an ‘I told you so’ moment. The Great Barrington Declaration, spearheaded by epidemiologists from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford, recognizes the ‘devastating effects’ of lockdowns, particularly on the working class, and argues that the ‘cure’ has likely been worse than the disease. A top WHO official also flipped the organization’s position on lockdowns in an interview with Spectator TV, warning that they should be used as a ‘last resort’ and that their effects on the world economy should not be underestimated.
‘All of the things that I have said — that were all based on the data and my ongoing conversations with epidemiologists for months, almost on a day-to-day basis — have been finally openly agreed upon by many of the top scientists and epidemiologists from all over the world,’ Atlas says. ‘This policy is the science…and it’s common sense and logic.’
The experts and their enablers believe that Americans are incapable of using common sense. They are furious when citizens observe the absurdity of masking regulations. They descend into frenzy when presented with deaths of despair caused by lockdowns. New cancer diagnoses dropped by nearly 50 percent at the height of the lockdown. In June, the CDC found that a quarter of young people aged 18-24 had considered suicide.
The ‘public faces of health’, Atlas believes, ‘have killed people… They have destroyed people because they instilled fear and they instilled the impetus for the wrong policy… This is going to go down as one of the epic tragedies in the history of public policy.’
The elites feel comfortable pushing greater restrictions because they are only inconvenienced, not devastated. They do not have to worry about the businesses they sank their life savings into going bankrupt, or figure out how to keep the kids at home for remote learning while their jobs require them to be somewhere else, or fear being laid off and losing their health insurance in the middle of a pandemic. The pajama class didn’t mind when ‘15 days to slow the spread’ turned into ‘indefinite period of time until everyone is vaccinated’. They complain about their ‘sacrifices’, and sneer at people who break social distancing or travel restrictions to retain a semblance of a normal life, or to put food on the table.
The experts, Atlas suggests, have perverse incentives. They can never admit they were wrong because they must ‘maintain their own stature in the public eye’. To sustain the grift, they distort science and data to fit pre-conceived policy prescriptions. Science that doesn’t fit their worldview is trashed entirely, dismissed as biased or inconclusive. Though children have been found to be at incredibly low risk of serious infection or transmitting the virus to others, schools apparently must stay closed.
‘These are the Flat Earthers of today, these people that refuse to believe the evidence and insist on something opposite, contrary to the science,’ Atlas says.
But the elites have miscalculated. Trust in public health officials is falling as the pandemic and the lockdown linger. As Michael Gove famously said ahead of the Brexit vote, ‘I think the people of this country have had enough of experts with organizations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong.’ The experts, like the politicians and the media before them, will lose the respect of the American public.
This article is in The Spectator’s November 2020 US edition.