Jason Killmeyer, Back in March, I wrote that the Wuhan lab leak theory was the most likely COVID origin, probably from an accidental leak.
That was in the wake of the release of the latest WHO report, wherein I suggested to you all that the only thing the report made clear is that China “prevented a legitimate and timely investigation into a scourge that may also been one of the worst industrial accidents in modern history. Just to be clear, if it came from the lab, that’s what this was: a failure of safety protocols at a place of work. U.S. scientists and bureaucrats who visited the lab observed the lack of safety protocols.”
No great powers of deduction we’re required here, just ‘Occam’s Razor’ suggesting the lab leak theory was at least as plausible as the bat-to-mystery animal-to-human theory. I’m not writing this to pat myself on the back, but instead to suggest that in the past 24 hours of outrage following recent revelations on the plausibility of the lab leak, we’re again missing the bigger picture.
Newsflash: the mainstream media is hopelessly biased. We already know this. We’ve reentered an era of yellow journalism and many once proud media organizations are now explicitly partisan actors. All the outrage and finger pointing and Twitter threads showing the hypocrisy of the MediaLeft change their calculations exactly zero percent. They aren’t going to change; they won’t be embarrassed into better reporting.
If this was a manmade mistake that killed 3.5 million people – and currently wreaking havoc in India and Japan – there are more serious things to think about besides dunking on the media. Other commentators, like here, have some good thoughts as to the implications for virology protocols and international responses. I have three other major conclusions to draw, each equally as serious as those. What are those takeaways?
1. The problem isn’t that it may have come from a lab, the problem is that – thanks to China – we’re still guessing. It’s important to figure out how the virus started so we’re better able to protect against the next one. It’s even more important that we live in a world in which an event that killed millions around the world elicits transparency from the nation of origin. China did not cooperate fully, and their leadership deserves condemnation for that. But are you really surprised that a rising Communist dictatorship failed to be transparent? They obscured the truth because they thought they could get away with it. And, so far, based on the U.S. response and the response of the rest of the world, they’re right.
2. Media groupthink is now so bad that it’s a strategic gap. Again, let others revel in the hypocrisy and let the Republicans senators besmirched by the media take their victory laps. Let us focus instead on the embarrassing reality that as a country we for so long ignored the plausibility of a theory because it didn’t fit specific partisan narratives. That’s dangerous. It’s another painful demonstration of how far down the rabbit hole we are. As history speeds up and great power conflict looms, our arsenal of democracy is absent an important weapon just when we might need it most: accurate reporting and responsible journalism. When big decisions loom, facts matter.
3. Social media censorship is now actively harming the general American discourse. Facebook’s mass banning and flagging of content – using the WHO as the main source of legitimacy – was in hindsight clearly detrimental to a healthy debate around the virus. This, again, is dangerous and will not serve us well in the future.
Groupthink and incompetence cohabit frequently, and both worked together to prevent earlier investigation of this theory.
But more importantly, the failure is ours. Together, as a country, we failed to investigate the origins of a virus sufficiently. Together, under both Presidents Trump and Biden, we failed and fail to this day to pressure China for sufficient transparency on the most destabilizing event in a generation. That we’re unprepared to do so, that we’re incapable of marshalling ourselves for this task, means there are bigger problems we’ll soon face. As it relates to the COVID origin, when all is said and done, we’re still guessing. And that’s the problem.