Three-fer: On the lab-leak theory, predatory men, and 1619.
Conservative writer Jim Geraghty has a piece (paywalled) and related long Twitter thread (free) gathering up some of the circumstantial evidence in support of the lab theory of Covid-19’s origins, which is worth a read.
Now, the lab theory remains no more proven than the natural-mutation theory. However, the Wuhan Institute of Virology was known for its emphasis on coronavirus research dating back years, as even Dr. Fauci confirmed. Yet, the liberal media dismissed the theory out of hand. Why?
The answer, of course, was that the first major proponent of the lab theory was the arch-conservative, more-MAGA-than-Trump Sen. Tom Cotton. The headlines are damning, as found by another conservative Twitter personality, David Burge.
The theory is “fringe” and “debunked” in early 2020, long before anyone could possibly back such an assertion with science, only if you assume every word out of Tom Cotton and Donald Trump’s mouths is a lie. And to be sure, after the last five years, it’s easy to see why someone would think this. Seriously. My opinion on the New Right is fairly clear if you look at some prior entries around here.
Yet, to assume everything these guys say is wrong or a malicious prevarication is making the same categorical error as MAGAstans who assume every last thing they say is God’s truth. There are no tribes of pure liars or pure truth-tellers, mental exercises aside. Of course we should debunk the various insane conspiracy theories these guys do push, such as the Big Lie about a stolen election— but that requires to first actually using logic, reason, and science to debunk them.
As one small example, physicians in liberal New York last year did not suddenly stop using hydroxychloroquine against covid just because of Trump’s endorsement. HCQ was one among many things we were throwing against the wall, seeing what would stick; to abandon it just because the orange guy liked it would have been as irrational as the nuts who believed it must be heavenly manna. We did eventually discard it, but only after the evidence pushed us to better medicines like remdesivir and, in certain cases, corticosteroids.
Similarly, this time last year I refused to dismiss the lab-leak theory no matter how I felt about the people pushing it (similar to how I can’t say aliens aren’t visiting us, no matter how crazy the UFO obsessives may be). Having worked NYC covid floors last spring made this issue… a bit personal to me. But since at the time, there was almost no evidence in support or against Cotton’s theory, I just let it go. Which was the correct move.
MAGA conservatives are well-known for their “whatever this stupid liberal is for, I’m against” tantrums. Sadly, liberals and their media organs are not immune to the reverse. It speaks to the insanity of our age that a matter of objective science like “where did the covid virus originate” could be a matter of partisan politics, but here we are.
Novelist Joyce Maynard recently had a harrowing piece at Vanity Fair on her soul-destroying relationship with J.D. Salinger when he was 53 and she was just 18, comparing it to Woody Allen’s various depredations. I had no idea that an author of required reading of pretty much every American high schooler had the same barely-legal sexual obsession as Allen, but Salinger’s oeuvre suddenly does make sense.
Allen, of course, went beyond just featuring teenagers in his movies, starring himself as a virile conquerer of lusty young women, most notoriously in Manhattan. (Who can forget the Greek chorus of Mighty Aphrodite singing the praises of Allen’s erotic prowess with a nubile Mira Sorvino?)
There’s a lot of this with male celebrities. Jerry Seinfeld, for instance, seems to look for dates at area high schools. There’s Mary-Kate Olsen and her creepshots with what looks like her French dad. I’m not just talking about the standard Hollywood tradition of trading in first wives (and, increasingly, first husbands) for the newer model. I mean the guys who look admiringly at Matt Gaetz’s dating strategies.
My pet theory: all of these rich and successful guys stuck on barely-legal mode were disastrously unsuccessful at getting laid in their teens and early twenties. (For a guy looking like Woody Allen, that’s something we can take for granted.) But then, having achieved wealth and fame, they could not really progress beyond their stunted adolescent sexual development — and, more specifically, adolescent girls’ rejection of the same. I really think this is why Woody wanted to bang Muriel Hemingway the second she turned 18. Not because he was unattractive to her then. But because he would have been unattractive to her at her age.
Adam Serwer of The Atlantic gives way too much credit to the conservative enemies of Nikole Hannah-Jones and her 1619 Project.
For those unaware, the 1619 Project from a couple years ago was designed to give a hard look at multiple angles at how the history of slaves and African-Americans underpined the history of America. To be fair, there were some inaccuracies and stumbles — insisting that the United States was *literally* founded in 1619 was a bit of an overreach — but overall, Hannah-Jones’ magnum opus served as a useful corrective to typical U.S. history courses that only give slavery a look in the run-up to the Civil War unit.
Two years later, Hannah-Jones was denied tenure at UNC, not for any deficiencies in her credentials, but purely because the Republican-appointed board of trustees had a problem with her 1619 Project, a subject on which Trump could not stop railing about. Here’s how Serwer interprets this:
If only this were a debate about something as substantial as racial and economic inequalities! This wasn’t even about her views or politics. For Republicans, it’s about who she is: the Other.
See, the New Right does not make distinctions among its enemies. They are all the same to them. There is absolutely no difference for the base between Hannah-Jones, Serwer, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, AOC, Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Jill Filipovic, Roxane Gay, Matt Yglesias, Jude Doyle, or even Joe Biden. They are clumped together as an amorphous “THEM” who must be annihilated at all costs.
So when a Trump-loving university official saw Hannah-Jones’ recommendation for tenure, they saw not a chance to make a statement about the 1619 Project and disagree with its conclusions. They did not see a chance to make a conservative statement on racial and economic inequalities.
They saw a chance to own a lib.
It is that simple.
More thoughtful people such as Serwer have a hard time grappling with this bitter truth of the New Right, but there’s really nothing more there under the surface than the hatred of the Other and the worship of the tribal Leader.
It is often noted how this crowd uses the word “socialist” as a generic “this is something I don’t like” term, and there is now a list of synonyms: liberal (usually spat out as “lib” or “libtard”), BLM, critical race theory, antifa, woke. Arguably, the very name “1619 Project” has joined this list of signifiers of the despised Others; words that refer not to any idea but to the loathed people, the tribesmen over the hill who we’re sure want to kill us all, and which is why we have to kill them first.
I doubt all or even most of UNC’s board of trustees have bothered to read Hannah-Jones’ project. But in their mind, they don’t need to. They already know what they need to know.
That she’s one of THEM.