“I trust the science,” is a venerable Democratic Party slogan that has been repeated for many years by smug, virtue-signaling liberal sophisticates. “Trusting the science” is shorthand for holding an uncritical belief in all the stances of the left that carry a veneer of expert approval, including catastrophic climate change, insidious white privilege, and materialistic atheism.
Thanks to COVID-19, one no longer has to wait for such inane slogans to cross the lips of the “science trusters” before they identify themselves. In blue states across the country, you now can spot them on sight: they’re the ones whose faces are still wrapped in cloth masks, indoors and out. These trusting citizens still don the traditional accessory of a bandit, weeks after local and state mask mandates have expired. They’re still faithful to their face-diapers long after it’s been generally known that they are ineffective at preventing the spread of the virus. For this knowledge, we can thank no less a scientific authority than Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Many Americans have been hanging on Fauci’s every word for the last 18 months and have treated his utterances with something like religious reverence. Some truly embarrassing, adulatory tributes to this career bureaucrat, in the form of songs and poems, have been circulating in liberal circles on social media. These were composed even after the first exposure of Fauci’s lies, in June 2020, when he admitted to having purposely deceived the public about the efficacy of masks.
Even more damaging lies have been revealed in a batch of Fauci’s emails released to the media in June 2021 under the Freedom of Information Act. These emails disclosed that Fauci withheld information from the public or lied about what he knew about COVID-19 prevention and treatment. They also contained disturbing revelations of his knowledge of and involvement in funding “gain of function” research to enhance the deadliness of viruses like COVID-19, which he lied about in testimony before Congress. The emails also suggest Fauci knew the virus is likely to have been engineered by U.S.-funded Chinese scientists in a laboratory in Wuhan.
And yet the science trusters and the corporate media have done their best to downplay, excuse, or outright ignore Fauci’s culpability and misbehavior. Emboldened by the complacency of the establishment corporate press, Fauci has been unchastened by these disclosures. He had the nerve to go on a round of public speaking engagements, in which he said that the criticisms of his conduct were an “attack on science,” and that an “anti-science bias” is held by certain segments of the American people. “They just don’t believe science, and they don’t believe authority,” Fauci complained to a colleague during a podcast produced by by the Department of Health and Human Services.
He’s right that “they” are skeptical of his authority, but not that this attitude reveals an “anti-science” bias. In May, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released a study entitled “How Coronavirus Skeptics Use Orthodox Data Practices to Promote Unorthodox Science Online.” Although the purpose of the study is to criticize skeptics, the researchers grudgingly admit that “anti-maskers often reveal themselves to be more sophisticated in their understanding of how scientific knowledge is socially constructed than their ideological adversaries, who espouse naive realism about the ‘objective’ truth of public health data.” These “anti-maskers” are more willing to dive into public health statistics themselves, and more skeptical of the media and government officials, the MIT researchers found.
It’s no mystery which skeptical, anti-masker segment of the American populace both Fauci and the MIT researchers are talking about here: conservatives. A glance at a national map of American voting patterns by county is enough to see in which parts of the country these people live: in the seas of red, Republican-voting rural counties which surround the heavily populated, geographically small islands of blue Democratic cities, where the “science trusters” live.
The theme of this number of Chronicles, released on the 245th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America, is our increasingly divided nation. That this division in beliefs, between science-trusters and skeptics, appears to be roughly breaking down between the interests of urban and rural citizens is not new. It’s a division at least as old as the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, and is well-established in the political tradition of the Anglosphere. The American flavor of this timeless city-town divide is inherited from the English political tradition of the Tories and the Whigs. “Tories generally stood for the rural interest, as opposed to commercial and industrial interests,” Russell Kirk wrote in The Roots of American Order.
This divide in English society is the theme of Charles Dickens’ picaresque novel of life in England during the late Georgian era, The Pickwick Papers. Dickens’ first novel follows the adventures of a naive but noble-hearted gentleman, Samuel Pickwick, Esq., as he encounters villainy in the city of London in the form of various holders of authority: two corrupt lawyers, Dodson and Fogg, who use marriage laws to entrap and extort bachelors; a sleazy medical student, Benjamin Allen, eager to sell unnecessary and possibly harmful cures to enrich himself; and an imposter nobleman, Alfred Jingle, in reality a shiftless actor who apes a high status in order to con widows out of their money. The rural Englishmen in Pickwick are represented by the citizens of the town of Muggleton, who lead simple lives bound by tradition, family, and kinship, while the denizens of the city of London are bound by money relationships and legal contracts.
“John Henry Newman, in the nineteenth century, would call Toryism ‘loyalty to persons,’” Kirk wrote of the period. “He meant that Tories of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries thought of society as network of personal attachments—rather than as a concern stuck together by what Thomas Carlyle called ‘the nexus of cash payment.’”
Each villain in Pickwick preys upon the trust their victims have for the institutions of the law, of medicine, and of rank—each exploits the trust their fellow Englishmen have in noblesse oblige, the idea that people with authority have a responsibility to use their social powers to help society. Though Samuel Pickwick, Esq., is comically deceived by these villains at every turn in the novel, by the end their deceptions are brought to light and exposed for condemnation by society. The reader gets the sense that the basic relationship of human trust between urban and rural, left and right, Tory and Whig, which had been abused, has been finally restored.
Of course, Dickens was writing of a society that still had enough moral sense to condemn villainy when it was exposed. Over the last five years, American conservatives have endured a number of blatant falsehoods that were exposed and yet go unpunished: Russiagate, the allegations against Justice Kavanaugh, the Mueller probe, and the stolen 2020 election. Add Fauci’s lies to the list.