An old friend of mine, who’s a smart guy, sent me a link to an osteopathic doctor’s essay on why masks are worthless. It cited one study, then continued on with the writer’s opinion.
I responded with several articles with scientific studies, and even studies on how the understanding of the efficacy of masks is evolving.
I then looked up his “expert.” He takes positions that seem reasonable, then carries them to an extreme. His views on vaccines are dangerous. He is suspicious of things that I wonder about, too, like the long-term impact of eating microwaved food, then he continues down the road to a conspiracy theory and I have to wave goodbye and watch him go.
Everyone is suddenly an expert. People who have never cracked a medical textbook know all about medicine. People whose only knowledge of economic theory spout what they’ve heard from politicians who also know nothing about economic theory, and do it with confidence. But they’ll all fight for their point of view as though it is incontrovertible fact.
A trade advisor says one of the country’s foremost experts in infectious diseases doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to the coronavirus.
The occupant of the White House knows more than anyone else about any topic. Just ask him. He’ll tell you.
When I was a young journalist, I had it drilled into me that my opinion was of zero value in the stories I wrote. My job was to find the best minds, the smartest people on a topic, and share their conclusions. I still try to do that. It’s my training.
But we live in a post-fact world now, the kind of world that nurtured the Salem witch trials. Science is suspect, education is elite in the worst possible sense of the word, and facts are a matter of opinion.
I used to be open to such conversations, but I’m hoping this one goes no further. My friend is someone I value, and I don’t want the insanity of the current day to mar a decades-old relationship. We’ve disagreed since we were kids – we disagree about music (I will never agree that Carole King is greater than Elton John, though she’s wonderful, too), about economic theory, about government’s role in society.
I don’t need to convince him. And he’s not going to convince me. I just hope he questions his medical guru’s conclusions, and decides to wear a mask “just in case.” Or even because he has no choice.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.