Expertopia: The Debate Is Over

Expertopia: The Debate Is Over

You may lead a horse to water,
But you cannot make him drink.
You may stuff a man with knowledge,
But you cannot make him think.

–Joseph A. Altsheler

(Thanks to C-Marie, one of our regulars, for the poem reference.)

Log onto Twitter with a mobile phone and the app at the top will (at times) suggest to you which approved sites you can go to for COVID-19 information. Google does the same thing when searching for coronavirus related topics. Doubtless other platforms are doing the same. (If you know, leave a comment.)

How do they know which information is best?

A better question is, how do they know which information is worst? Because many platforms are hard at whacking material they don’t approve of.

Susan Wojcicki, the chief of YouTube, was on CNN announcing which videos would be purged. Anything that is “problematic” would be “removed.” Anything “unsubstantiated” would be classed as a “violation of our terms of service” and would be removed. “Anything that would go against World Health Organizations would be a violation of our policy” and would be removed.

Which WHO? The WHO changed the narrative more than once. On 14 January, they tweeted “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China”. They later changed their minds.

Wojcicki was true to her word, though. Many videos were purged which questioned the official narrative, even as that narrative shifted.

The most spectacular case was of doctors Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi. They held a press conference on KERO News 23, a local TV show in Bakersfield, California, a video that was picked up on YouTube across several channels.

The doctors’ rather dry message was that, given data from official Californian sources, and backed up by what they were seeing in their own practice, that Californians had “a 0.03 chance of dying from COVID”. They asked whether that low rate necessitated sheltering in place and the locking down of businesses. Good question.

YouTube answered by purging the video. It cropped up several times on the platform, and was whack-a-moled each time. As the saying goes, nothing can die on the Internet, and so the video still shows up in my places, including the original news site. In a humorous twist, surely not foreseen by the officious Wojcicki, the purging itself made the news, and provided the doctors with more publicity than they ever would have had without the meddling.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg went on ABC news explaining why his company attempted to memory hole an event page for a protest against government overreach in Michigan. Zuckerberg said that kind of thing was “harmful misrepresentation” and he would have none of it.

His move backfired for Facebook, too. Not that the exposure of their censorship caused them to rethink their position. According to Michigan Live, a flack at Facebook justified the purge saying “events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook.”

Does that mean Facebook will be purging all events pages for protests against executive orders and other actions taken by the Trump administration?

Of course it does not. It is stupid question. It is stupid because everybody knows the answer. Facebook, along with most other Big Tech platforms, will do all they can to support progressive government intrusion. Nobody expects otherwise.

This is not a satisfying answer, though. Saying Big Tech is on the left, even though obviously true, doesn’t explain why, and it doesn’t explain why they went into extra-special hyper-overreaction with coronavirus.

Big Tech is peopled with experts. Smart people on the whole. The days of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Susan Wojcicki working out of garages is over, however (the first office of Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin was Wojcicki’s garage). These days the vast majority of software engineers and tech business leaders have their expertise credentialed by institutions of higher learning. Obviously, professors, researchers, and bureaucrats at places like the WHO are themselves likewise credentialed.

There is nothing wrong with these credentials, per se. They really do, for the most part, certify advanced knowledge in a field. An increasingly narrow field for the majority, however.

Now Wojcicki is herself an elitist, very knowledgeable about the workings of on-line video streaming services. She spent so much time becoming a specialist in her field, that it’s likely she doesn’t know much outside her area in any depth. If she’s like most non-medical elites, she wouldn’t know the important epidemiological differences between a coronavirus and a rhinovirus (both cause colds). Most people don’t know because most don’t care. Before this year it wasn’t an interesting question, except to medical elites.

Yet YouTube decided to become an arbiter on just these kinds of questions. It doesn’t seem likely that the company had a team of virologists, pulmonologists, and epidemiologists on staff to help them consider which videos should be purged and which might be kept and given a boost. So Wojcicki had to appeal to outside sources to make these decisions for YouTube. Which?

Why not “the best”? The “best” would be that group with the highest credential. That’s the WHO.

This is not necessarily a bad idea. The WHO is staffed, as we agreed, with credentialed experts of the very kind Wojcicki was seeking. Why not put the burden on them to identify good from bad information? If the WHO turns out to be wrong, YouTube has a great excuse. If they turn out to be right, and they should because of all of those credentials, then YouTube will have made the right decision.

That’s not quite right, however, because it wasn’t that YouTube just promoted pro-WHO videos. It’s that they purged videos they thought went against the WHO’s narrative of the day. They went beyond promotion into active censorship. Just like Facebook, they decided that only pro-elite content was allowable, and anti-elite content must be axed.

This can only happen if the elites at YouTube decided the WHO could not be wrong, not in any important way, because the WHO was staffed with fellow credentialed experts. That the WHO was wrong, blatantly wrong, on earlier questions was judged to be inconsequential. They were an authority, and that’s all that mattered. Not just an authority. But an organization staffed with intellectual brothers and sisters.

We see this behavior among a good fraction of our elites. Narrow specialization has forced the well credentialed to club together. This is why the realm of science and technology is rapidly becoming like the art world.

Some big name “creates” a new “work”. Perhaps a brick smeared with the feces of an animal on the endangered list, or whatever (if you don’t like this, substitute any major-award winning similar work from the last twenty years). Now this is asinine and childish and it is no way art. But the artist is a big name.

People with too much money, smart people, will look at the work and be afraid they do not understand the point being made. They will assume all the critics praising the new work, all smart people, know something they don’t. They will begin to praise, too. If the new work becomes a “thing”, none will ever dare question it. Large sums will change hands to own it, so as to brag about it, so that the owner might feel he really is part of the club.

Which he is! His purchase found purchase in the realm of art elites. The more time our man spends in this club, the more he will find himself liking the art which at one time he knew he didn’t understand. Especially if he spends a lot of money, he will discover that he has himself become an expert. This is not meant condescendingly. He will be a genuine expert in the art world. He will be able to speak intelligibly about the subtleties of the complex interplay of the natural spirits of mixtures of clay, sand, and lime baked under the life-giving sun and elided with the endeavors of some noble animal that has been stressed to the point of extinction.

And he will react in horror when an outsider says “You’re holding a brick smeared with shit.” If he was an executive at Facebook, he’d have this philistine banned.

This is only an analogy, but it’s a good one. Well credentialed experts are uncomfortable questioning other credentialed elites about their areas of expertise. They worry they might be wrong if they point out what they think is a flaw. Often times they are wrong. It’s easier, and far less embarrassing, to keep your mouth shut and defer to authority.

This deference is usually okay, too, because experts usually are right. Trouble starts when an expert presents a befouled brick and tries to pass it off as science or good policy. Then, because questioning the veracity of the work of fellow club members is considered rude, error calcifies. It’s made worse because expertise has become narrower, making it harder to question in principle, and more difficult to spot or question mistakes.

A second expert in different fields will defer to the first, assuming the first expert’s results are true. A third expert uses the second’s derived results. And so on. A web of results across a multitude of fields is built. It all fits nicely together. This happens all the time, and at increasingly faster rates.

Yet pull one thread the whole thing collapses. This is why when an outsider comes along and picks at a strand, the web-builders club together and scream “Denier!” at the outsider. The braying is especially abusive if the outsider is himself uncredentialed or without position, and when the web is inhabited at the center by spiders from the highest levels. The outsider is a real threat. That’s why he’s not argued with. Instead, there will be calls for the outside’s ouster (outster?). His videos will be banned. His work will be labeled “dangerous”. Which it is, to those who have found a home in the web.

This is what happened to Erickson and Massihi. They had credentials, but not the right credentials. They weren’t club members. All the best people were deferring to elites in the government, which was deemed unquestionable. That deference by definition made what the government said true and what these doctors said false.

These doctors had to be stopped before they polluted the minds of the great uncredentialed masses. You never know what these poor benighted people will believe! Fake cures, bad statistics, even conspiracy theories! Like how elites get together to decide which content to purge? Well, not all conspiracies are theories.

The uncredentialed too often question their betters. They actually protest! They are too easily influenced. They certainly can’t decide what is best for them about their own health. They’re not doctors, after all. It would be best if they were looked after and protected from the harms of free speech. The best way to do that, say our elites, is to remove speech that might confuse them.

This works, to a certain extent. Many who don’t know much suddenly think they know a lot. Many think they are as expert as the experts because they have adopted the experts’ viewpoints. They all knew, as I said earlier, the right amount of ventilators to have on hand in every hospital in the land. Uncertainty is discouraged. The people become self-monitoring; they help police their neighbors, even to the extent of snitching on them. Many in the coronavirus crisis became the worst kind of scolds. Just one example: experts said 6 feet—not 5, not 7—was the distance to remain to adhere to social distancing. Many behaved just like YouTube with the WHO and treated this as gospel.

This is exactly the behavior our elites want to see. People like Zuckerberg and Wojcicki, and a great number of politicians, want to create an Expertopia. This is where the best people get to decide the right and true and final answers to all our questions. We won’t need all that other confusing information, which will be duly purged. We’ll be given what we need to know. We’ll be able to root out deniers. Then life will be good.

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  1. Credentialism is both a tactic and a goal. Just as education has replaced knowledge, credentials have replaced skills.

    Don’t tell me about your qualifications, show me what you can do.

  2. Tmatsci

    Experts (or PhDs) – persons who have spent a lot of time learning more and more about less and less until finally they know everything about nothing!

    Exaggerated and unkind but very true

  3. Michael Dowd

    The beta test of coronavirus use as a mechanism of population control is now concluded. It was a smashing success. If Trump is defeated the rollout of the socialist New World Order can begin in earnest. If not, we should expect Virus II to get his impeached for failure to follow WHO.

  4. Sheri

    So that would make us just like North Korea, Cuba, etc. Run by experts who know what is best and must enforce the social order.

    YouTube and Twitter, etc, will continue to behave as they do because people elect jerks to Congress who will not reclassify these media as PUBLISHERS, which is exactly what they are. So, until someone actually takes such action, tough. Fools worshipped YouTube, Twitter, Facebook as gods and now the gods are smashing them. I have zero sympathy. It’s actually funny when people like Michael Moore get swatted, and I expect Dr. Birx will be tossed now that she disagreed with the CDC. Look, people wanted gods to run their lives and that is exactly what they got. They are slaves to electronic SOMA and they WANT it that way. If they did not want it that way, they’d smash that iPhone and drop all paid forms of entertainment such as AppleTV, Netflix, etc. Social media would dry up overnight. You’ll never see that. Slavery to stupidity is the natural state of mankind. Zuckerberg KNEW that and boy did it work out so well. The fools just lined up to live a braindead life.

    This really is no different than in the past, say when some fool Native American was foolish enough to think he could contradict the Medicine Man/Spiritual Leader of the tribe. The justice was quick and permanent, no repeat offenders. Humans have always lied and punished others for daring to question the gods of the day. Now Islam does it (I love cowardly universities that lick the boots of Islam out of fear of death if they dare cross the “religion of peace” which routinely destroys property and makes death threats if disagreed with). Honestly, I am surprised Americans haven’t embraced Islam, the caliphate and sharia law. No thought required and very, very sure of itself. Probably only a matter of time. Whiney children need a strong leader, you know.

  5. Sherman Broder

    I read the article below and wondered: How do you get to be a “Disaster Expert?”

    Are all Disaster Experts General Practitioners, or are there specialists in the field? For instance, could one earn a PhD in Disasters period? Or must Disaster Experts specialize in particular types of disasters (tornado disasters, economic disasters, nuclear war disasters, runaway asteroid disasters, first date disasters, etc. etc.)?

  6. Fredo

    One thing is for certain the ‘experts’ failed miserably in preparing for
    much less preventing any of this from happening. There were ‘intelligence
    agency’ reports early in November about an unusual respiratory illness
    spreading in Wuhan that for all practical purposes were ignored. Despite
    hundreds of billions of dollars spent on ‘experts’ it’s hard to imagine a worse
    outcome than what we are currently experiencing. The most basic tenants
    of preparation were criminally absent in the lack of the most basic equipment
    needed on hand to protect the public engendering even greater levels of
    panic and an ill advised lock down. I can’t accept that any of this was accidental and what is emerging as a primary target of this event is an almost complete breakdown in food supply chains worldwide with the potential of killing
    hundreds of millions if not billions of people. You can just forget that cheese
    burger you’ve been dreaming about, the food supply is the last redoubt
    of tyrants.

  7. C-Marie

    You may lead a horse to water,
    But you cannot make him drink.
    You may stuff a man with knowledge,
    But you cannot make him think.

    –Joseph A. Altsheler

    That little poem says it all!!! The book is not pc as it was written in 1911.

    God bless, C-Marie

  8. Kalif

    From your link:
    “…There is no scientific evidence they are effective in reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission…”

    “There is no evidence” mantra is used as a substitute for “we haven’t done any research and we have no clue whether this works”, these days.

    Is there any evidence to the contrary? Could you point us to a well-designed study that shows the ineffectiveness of the masks?

    Didn’t think so.

  9. Kalif,

    Of course you’re right! That’s the point! So why is it being made LEGALLY MANDATORY? Just in case? How about we make gloves mandatory too then?

  10. Honestly I’m sitting here a little slack-jawed that you actually tried to put the burden of proof on the people who don’t want to walk around with masks all the time.

  11. C-Marie

    Socialism, socialism, trying to get its ugly self in the driver’s seat of our government.

    l am one who has yet to wear a mask in public…no, not yet mandatory where I live…but now I see that the wearing of one could well make other people more comfortable when I am six feet away from them.

    I did have a woman remark quietly, “Lady, you don’t have a mask on.” And I knew that was true. And I also knew that I was exercising my right to not wear one, but then I thought about how wearing one could be a kindness towards those who have fear in all of this.

    So, we bought masks, my hubby and I, and we will wear them for that reason. God sees and knows the whats, whys, and wherefores. Also, we are praying and asking Him to wholly get rid of this virus and to heal all who are infected.

    There is God’s commandment to Love thy neighbor as thyself and there are the legal requirements.

    God bless, C-Marie

  12. Grima Squeakersen

    @Kalif re: mask effectiveness

    First, @Michael *did* furnish a link to a NIOSH study of masks in general that demonstrates their very limited effectiveness. Regarding surgical masks and the improvised cloth items that the State has decided satisfy their requirements (since the objective is gaining full control of citizens, not viruses; the edict can be accurately summarized as: “just hang some random piece of cloth in front of your nose and mouth”), there was a small, but compelling, study sponsored by the R&D Fund Project for Infectious Disease Research (GFID), Republic of Korea, performed over a month ago by researchers at the Ulsan University College of Medicine, using volunteer patients with active COVID-19 infections, as reported in the April 6 Annals of Internal Medicine, but largely ignored by the complicit media except for a mention by Newsweek on the following day.
    **Effectiveness of Surgical and Cotton Masks in Blocking SARS–CoV-2: A Controlled Comparison in 4 Patients**
    **Surgical and Cotton Face Masks Ineffective at Blocking SARS-CoV-2 Particles When COVID-19 Patients Cough, Study Finds**
    “In conclusion, both surgical and cotton masks seem to be ineffective in preventing the dissemination of SARS–CoV-2 from the coughs of patients with COVID-19 to the environment and external mask surface.”

    I’d remark that you seem to exude an arrogant conceit about your status as a gullible and moronic subject of the Kleptocracy, but I currently find myself in no mood to pay compliments …

  13. Michael Tivana

    Thank you for the well written piece. Even had a punchline – “a brick smeared with feces!”
    I love the stream of thought guiding the plot of the news put to story. Very alluring and we get it. What is the psychology of manipulating change? How does it work? and can this psychology be used for good? Then define who is good or bad and why.
    its a celtic knot for sure. Good work, love it

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