In 2020, if you thought it was possible COVID-19 came from a lab in China you were labeled a conspiracy theorist, a peddler of misinformation, “bonkers,” and a racist.
So according to the standard set in 2020, the Department of Energy just came out as a racist purveyor of misinformation this week.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that, according to a classified intelligence report provided to the White House and Congress, the Department of Energy concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic likely came from a lab leak.
“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 Wall Street Journal report said.
Most Americans with common sense surmised two years ago that there was a pretty decent chance that a strange, new virus with unusual properties coming from Wuhan, China, may have had some connection to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Ah, but according to the venerated defenders of free speech in the press, thinking that a ruthlessly authoritarian regime could possibly have a virus leak from a lab and cover it up was just crazy talk. Only a racist would think that. All right thinking, not racist people, were better off assuming the virus came from someone in China eating a bat or a pangolin.
“Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not today,” wrote New York Times COVID-19 reporter Apoorva Mandavilli on Twitter in 2021.
Now, the Department of Energy didn’t confirm that COVID-19 came from a lab. There is still a great deal we don’t know, and the Chinese Communist Party has made it difficult to ascertain what really happened. In fact, we may never know what happened.
That a virus may have leaked from a lab and killed millions of people is a huge story with potentially massive geopolitical implications. But it’s still not my biggest takeaway from the Wall Street Journal report.
The big story is that when the pandemic began, when governments began instituting lockdowns and mandates, when our economy was shut down and our society sent into convulsions, the idea that the virus leaked from a lab was treated as a “conspiracy theory.” Powerful actors and interests in the United States—in the media, the government, and in Big Tech, thought it was better to suppress and denounce the story rather than seek the truth and let the American people decide what to do.
“Sen. Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins,” read a headline in The New York Times.
“Scientists have dismissed suggestions that the Chinese government was behind the outbreak, but it’s the kind of tale that gains traction among those who see China as a threat,” a subheading on the article read.
Good work, “scientists.”
National Public Radio, you know, the outlet that continues to get millions in taxpayer dollars, was particularly aggressive in denouncing any idea that a lab leak was possible.
“Scientists Debunk Lab Accident Theory of Pandemic Emergence,” read one headline. NPR had another piece on “bonkers” conspiracy theories, which included an inset about “misinformation” like “COVID-19 was created in a lab in China.”
Even more, and this really gets to the heart of the problem, most corporate media was quicker to denounce the lab leak idea as fundamentally illegitimate than to press our government and Chinese authorities to find out if the idea was true. It was more important to “debunk” former President Donald Trump and the right-wing bad guys than to pursue truth. That was the impulse.
Don’t take it from me. MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan admitted this after the Wall Street Journal report broke.
“The simple reason why so many people weren’t keen to discuss the ‘lab leak’ *theory* is because it was originally conflated by the right with ‘Chinese bio weapon’ conspiracies and continues to be conflated by the right with anti-Fauci conspiracies,” Hasan wrote on Twitter. “Blame the conspiracy theorists.”
It’s your fault they had to censor the truth! They just couldn’t let the bad guys win. Hasan followed up, writing, “It’s hard to have a good faith disagreement about a major issue if the issue itself has been hijacked by bad faith folks.”
That’s actually true. It is hard to have a “good faith” disagreement when bad faith people in our media and institutions are willing to circle the wagons for a narrative and silence those who disagree.
“Multiple major liberal media figures are now publicly admitting their side couldn’t fathom a real discussion about lab leak theory because of Trump,” New York Post reporter Jon Levine tweeted. “In 5 years these people will look you in the eye with a straight face and say there was never any effort to shut down speculation about the covid lab leak theory and that people only think that because of right wing misinformation.”
How many times have we seen this sequence of events play out in the last few years?
Remember this in the future when you are force-fed stories about how the “experts” say this and the “scientists” say that. Left-wing institutional gatekeepers think it’s more important to give the public a bogus story or to hide from the truth because they think the most important thing in this world is to “own” the conservatives and promote their own ideology.
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