Let’s begin with the important point that dangerous misinformation and conspiracy theories are, in fact, real problems that seem to be gaining momentum in American politics. The Left flatters itself by pretending this phenomenon is, more or less, the sole or overwhelming province of the Right, all while indulging or embracing their own falsehoods. But these things do exist, on both sides, and they really do threaten to warp our collective sense of reality by injecting poisonous forms of paranoia into our discourse and polity. But here’s what also erodes trust in institutions, and degrades the importance of truth, within American society: Partisans and ideologues, posing as neutral arbiters, arrogantly declaring ideas or allegations with which they disagree to be “misinformation” and “conspiracy theories” — not just debatable or controversial, mind you, but factually wrong, and dangerously so. This goes beyond dishonesty; it’s irresponsible.
When the official Narrative shapers have aggressively attempted to disqualify something as crazy and beyond the pale, and then reality intervenes and disproves their spin, people are much less likely to believe them next time they fire up their warning sirens. Some toxic claims truly need to be debunked and discarded, but when would-be gatekeepers’ credibility has sustained one self-inflicted blow after another, the ability for truth to win out over perilous and inaccurate nonsense is diminished. Let’s walk through just a handful of examples that have come to light within the last few days. First, one “conspiracy theory,” for which some on the Right were roundly denounced and ridiculed by the bien pensant ‘Consensus’ crowd, was the idea that COVID-19 escaped from a Chinese laboratory. At some point, this possibility morphed from unspeakable, to potentially viable, to perhaps probable, including among some of the very people who’d lectured anyone who’d whispered about it even months earlier. Over the weekend, we saw this report, as the reality trajectory continues to bend toward erstwhile right-wing “misinformation:”
The U.S. Energy Department has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress. The shift by the Energy Department, which previously was undecided on how the virus emerged, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office…The Energy Department now joins the Federal Bureau of Investigation in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory. Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided. The Energy Department’s conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of U.S. national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research…The FBI previously came to the conclusion that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab leak in 2021 with “moderate confidence” and still holds to this view.