Accountability, not vengeance
The COVID pundits who got it wrong
At this point, though we don’t have the final answer to all questions, we do for many, and it is clear that a huge number of Covid19 pundits got it wrong. Here are a few topics where many failed:
School closure. It was always an error to close schools. Supporting school closure was forgivable from March 2020- June 2020; but clearly an error by Sept 2020-July 2021. Setting impossible standards to reopen is being complicit with the error. It was clear that with minimal mitigation, schools could open with net societal benefit by the fall of 2020. Western Europe did just this, but the US lagged, backed a band of fear-mongers. These people were wrong, and a generation has been destroyed.
Stifling dialog/ censorship, particularly lab leak. It appears lab leak is a theory alive and well. Read this stellar essay in Vanity Fair. Facebook was absolutely wrong when it censored this topic, and proves that censorship is a fool’s errand. The many commenters who created a climate intolerant to this discussion, accusing any consideration of lab leak to be a racist, were wrong.
J&J vaccine. Many people argued that VITT was not a serious concern, and less severe than DVTs from oral contraceptives. They were spectacularly wrong.
Myocarditis is not a real or not an important vaccine safety signal. Turns out it was, and has relevance to doses, timing, and boosters in young men.
Zero-covid is attainable. No it never was. This poisonous idea did, and still does, massive damage.
Cloth masks save lives. They did not even slow infections in the cluster RCT in Bangladesh.
We can’t do an RCT of…. kids masking, distancing. etc. etc. Totally wrong, and left us mired in ignorance for another generation.
So many more errors concerning the general risk-benefit balance to kids (they face far greater risks than COVID), wearing an n95 after vaccination for average risk people (delays the inevitable w downside), the booster dialog, lockdowns, vaccine mandates and passports. A series of errors.
At times like this it is tempting to want to punish the people who got it wrong, but I disagree with that. First, the truth is the vast majority of people who were wrong will revise their memory in light of the new consensus. They will misremember how much they supported school closures, and we should allow them their revision. This is how people heal. A few people with strong paper trails will face cognitive dissonance and be unwilling to the see the truth: like the doctor who still thinks a failed medical practice works with better “patient selection.” These people should be given a graceful path to redemption.
Vengeance is not and cannot be the goal of revisiting Covid-19 policy, but accountability should be. What that means is that people who held actual leadership roles, making actual decisions, and who were spectacularly wrong— Collins, Fauci, Walensky, Murthy, Marks, etc.—- should not hold further leadership roles. The White House officials who pressured Gruber and Krause, leading to their resignation should not serve again, and be dismissed now.
People who were twitter commenters who were wrong, should be forgiven. They should be silently unfollowed, and perhaps no longer relied upon, but despite their error, they did not make actually policy decisions, and should be given a path to redemption. A re-follow if they start to say useful things in the future is fair.
Big tech, and the companies that profited from keeping us at home, should be fiercely regulated. They are poor stewards of the public square. They censor foolishly and capriciously, and they are not smart enough to control their own power. These companies should be brought to their knees.
Journalists should investigate who wrote the CDC’s school opening guidelines, and if this is true, there should be accountability.CDC downplayed collab. But new report from House committee describes this level of coordination between AFT and CDC as “uncommon.” The CDC does not typically share draft guidance outside the agency for any reason, even with other federal partners.
Journalists should investigate other aspects of decisions made by government officials.
My key principle to separate accountability from vengeance is to focus on the people who made actual decisions, and not those who merely talked. Preclude those in power from making decisions again, but without anger or malice. Big tech— the corporations— must be regulated. The folks who were wrong on social media should be forgiven. They were not in a good state of mind, and they were not trained in health policy, and that is why they erred. We should not be harsh or cruel to them, but we don’t have to listen to them, not now, and not ever again.