pirate wires #98 // vice magazine still exists; rogan v. "the science" (but really a jealous media); reflecting back on covid authoritarianism, and onto the next pandemic
This was meant to be the lead story of tomorrow’s Morning Report, but there’s a lot to say on the topic, and once I started I couldn’t stop. So, a bonus piece this week for all the real ones. Ah, and one more important thing: check out our new podcast! Godspeed.
Debate me, bro. Friday, the world discovered VICE magazine somehow still exists after Anna Merlan published a hit piece on Joe Rogan following his conversation with Presidential candidate RFK Jr. (forbidden). VICE charged both men, and Spotify, with the crime of spreading vaccine “misinformation,” which inadvertently sparked a sprawling, deafening, still ongoing information war. At the center of it all — improbably, obnoxiously, but definitely somewhat hilariously — stands a rather dwarfish little “expert” rule enforcer by the name of Peter Hotez, in a bow tie and a charming Hobbit hat, who earnestly believes “antivaxxers” are worse than terrorists.
It began like this: Hotez, who previously guested on Rogan, shared Anna’s dumb article, and accused Rogan of spreading dangerous misinformation. Rogan responded with an invitation for Hotez to debate the “misinformation” claim with RFK on his show in exchange for a charitable donation of $100,000, RFK co-signed, and Elon amplified the conversation. As Hotez is a high priest of the vaccination church, and Elon gets a lot of attention online, this gesture was interpreted as an act of harassment by the “disinformation” industrial complex. David Frum, some sort of writer people apparently used to care about, insanely characterized Rogan’s invitation to debate as literally antisemitic. Tom Nichols went rarely viral after suggesting a medical ‘expert’ should never accept an invitation to debate with a non-expert on a podcast, and from there the drama quickly broke along predictable tribal lines. On one side, it was “debate me, bro, what are you afraid of?” On the other, it was “believe science, peasant.” An embarrassing display from everyone, which is just another way of saying we were all on Twitter. But the underlying tension here is, actually, important.
First of all, Hotez wasn’t “harassed.” Hotez has testified before Congress multiple times. He has appeared consistently on MSNBC, CNN, and the most popular podcasts in the country — including, again, Rogan. On matters of public health, this “expert” has influence, he exerts this influence in the hope of shaping public health policy, and he appears to be succeeding. In other words, Hotez has power, and in America power is not above critique. Now, with that out of the way, okay yeah… debates really are a stupid waste of time, and the “debate me bro” challenge especially breaks down when leveled at a person who claims to be a man of science.