Leading article Australia

Following the science

5 June 2021

9:00 AM

5 June 2021

9:00 AM

A key theme that recurs in this magazine, courtesy of many different great writers, is that the accepted consensus of the academic and scientific ‘expert’ classes are frequently wrong. And not just wrong by a matter of a few degrees or nuances, but spectacularly, wholly and unforgivably false. Why this is so is a matter for much deeper analysis, but on the surface it is clear that for at least a decade or so a confluence of forces has both denigrated (and politicised) the quality of academic research at the same time as the ‘long march through the institutions’ has culminated in an explosion of hitherto laughable neo-Marxist orthodoxies that are a scientific black hole.

Chief among these are global warming, gender fluidity, critical race theory and all the other ‘woke’ mutant strains of identity politics, including, alarmingly, certain aspects of the corona virus pandemic.

One of the most dangerous words in the lexicon of popular opinion right now is ‘consensus’. A healthy democratic society reaches a political consensus on a range of issues every few years via the electoral process, however flawed that may be. Over time, any given consensus can gradually evolve, improve, or fall out of fashion in keeping with the broader public assessment of events and experiences. A key part of this evolution is, of course, an equally healthy and vibrant media, whose job it is to challenge inconsistencies, to unearth corruption or discrepancies, and to introduce bold and brave new ideas to the public for individuals to mull over. Thus the concept, nowadays much maligned and misused, of a ‘national conversation’ that takes place on such-and-such an issue. (These days a ‘national conversation’, often courtesy of the ABC, applies solely to denigrating conservative values.)

However, when the majority of the mainstream media, including the taxpayer-funded public broadcasters, along with the vast majority of taxpayer-funded bodies, line up to slavishly support one prevailing political ideology, ‘consensus’ simply becomes a synonym of ‘propaganda’ and democracy withers on the vine, drained of its nutrition and its sweet juices of free speech and academic freedom. This is the sad reality we live in now.

Indeed, the only print outlet that is regularly prepared to go against the ‘consensus’ on many of the above-mentioned issues is this magazine. Increasingly, no other media outlet dares to repeatedly challenge the prevailing orthodoxy or to expose the flaws, hypocrisies and inconsistencies that typify so many political, ‘scientific’ and academic issues. Although we take pride in frequently crawling out on a slightly shaky limb, ultimately it gives us no real pleasure: the alternative is to bow to cancel culture tyranny.

Since the corona virus appeared, our writers, chief among them Rebecca Weisser, David Flint and Ramesh Thakur, but others too, have repeatedly and forensically gone where no other writers would go: we were among the very first to reveal the successful Covid treatments involving both hydroxychloroquine (who can forget Ms Weisser’s brilliant Asterix-the-Gaul-inspired pieces?) and Australia’s own ivermectin formulation, as well as David Flint repeatedly suggesting the virus came from a Wuhan biotech lab, postulating that it had been deliberately weaponised by the Chinese and that the bat soup story was, well, baloney.

We have tackled all aspects of the story, including healthy doses of Covid-scepticism, with the same zeal we approach climate scepticism, Biden-scepticism, lockdown-scepticism, mask-scepticism, gender-scepticism, trans-scepticism and racism-scepticism. Our writers take their jobs extremely seriously and apply themselves diligently to pursuing the truth, relying on research, experience, instinct and common sense. And scepticism. There can be no more important role for a publication to play.

So it was with a weary sigh and a shake of the head that this past week we watched the media both here and overseas, including the increasingly dodgy Facebook, backflip over their insistence that claims the virus came from a Wuhan lab were not only ‘conspiracy theories’ but were so dangerously false they had to be expunged.

Will the ‘expert’ class and our political elites learn the lesson of this telling episode? Alas, as Scott Morrison wanders around the South Pacific preaching net zero emissions; as former finance minister Mathias Corman blathers the same in the corridors of the OECD; as the remotest areas of Victoria are forced to don masks in open paddocks and watch the destruction of their local economies and communities over a virus that has never been anywhere near them; as universities pump out meaningless gender and climate degrees; and as the ABC insists ours is a ‘racist’ nation,  it appears that we will have our work cut out for us for many years to come.

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