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A handy list of people who should never be listened to again in matters of life or death

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

In the early days of the virus (which really should have been the later days, had we moved in a timely fashion) there was a push from conservatives, borne from wishful thinking and a distrust of expertise (well-honed from years spent dismissing the effects of climate change), to downplay the risks of this virus.

Dr. Drew Pinsky: “It will spread and it will be very mild in the vast majority. Stop the panic. Respond systematically as we know how to do.”

NYU Law Proessor Richard Epstein wrote three widely-circulated pieces with airtight-sounding debunkings of the pandemic’s risks, which were later debunked by reality and other actual experts.


And then there was Aaron Ginn, a Silicon Valley product manager, whose Medium blog post cherry picked CDC and Johns Hopkins data to condemn the media for overstating the risk. The image below shows how Ginn’s post was amplified and reverberated throughout the conservative media echo chamber. Medium eventually took it down after it was thoroughly debunked by people with actual expertise.


None of these people knew what they were talking about and they shouldn’t be listened to ever again in matters of life or death.

But they’re not the real problem, because the particular people in positions of public trust, presently, would have found something else to give them the cover they sought to deny, ignore, and delay the risk. The problem is with the conservative ecosystem that rewards the assailing of actual expertise.

More simply, there’s easier money to be made in telling people what they want to hear as opposed to what they need to hear. And now we’re reaping the whirlwind of that ecosystem having swept a genuine imbecile with no critical thinking abilities whatsoever into the White House at the precise time we need the opposite — a scientifically-minded, ethical, self-uninterested person willing to honestly answer for his or her judgment.

The success of that ecosystem is also partly all our faults because we reward it with views, likes, and dollars. We also want to be told what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear. We like sugar but we need medicine (quite literally now). I’m hoping the silver lining is a grand correction where we all become more critical thinkers and nurture a distrust and skepticism of public officials who dismiss scientific consensus in favor of magic bullets.

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