Anti-intellectualism next epidemic

Kris Long, Sports Editor

I got vaccinated against COVID-19 on April 9. I have absolutely no idea what amalgamated chemicals contributed to the liquid substance they injected into my arm, nor any understanding of how they work. I got it anyway. 

As an amateur journalist and son of a college professor and teacher, I have spent my life being encouraged to ask questions, and I’d like to think I’ve done that. When I read something on the news I fact-check it; when a politician makes a claim I consider its reliability. I approach the world somewhat skeptically. But there’s a limit to my credentials as someone without even a high school diploma to claim and less than two decades of life under my belt. 

That is why experts exist. A long time ago, some smart fellow in Mesopotamia invented agriculture so he could spend less time running around chasing wildebeest. And then tools and other stuff came along and agriculture was more productive and people stopped dying of starvation quite as much and society was like: “hey, we got these extra people, whadayya wanna do with them?” And so we got specialization. People planted food and sold them to people in return for tools, clothes, shiny objects they didn’t need, et cetera. This created a circle. More specialization meant better technology created by the specialists, which made things more efficient and require fewer people, which meant extra people, which meant specialization, which meant better technology. 

We trust experts because we can’t all dedicate ourselves to everything. They are specialized, they have time and talent in a field, so we trust their advice in a specific area. We’ve done pretty well for ourselves with smartphones and moon landings and modern medicine and whatnot. Seems like a pretty good system. 

But we’re seeing an alarming increase in anti-intellectualism — that is, distrust of science and experts — amidst the confusion of the pandemic and populist political ideologies. People question the accuracy and intentions of scientists and statisticians left and right.

I’ll make a concession here. Experts aren’t always right. They never have been. They were wrong about masks at the beginning of COVID-19, they were wrong about polling in the 2016 election. But we trust them because their experience means they have a higher probability of being correct than you or I do. In the same way you wouldn’t ask a stranger on the street their opinion on the global implications of increasing urbanization and take it as gospel, you shouldn’t trust your own views on issues that require a great deal of background knowledge and experience.

Currently, there is a political divide in trust of experts. This isn’t new. The Nazis conducted mass extermination of Polish Intelligentsia in what’s known as The Intelligenzaktion and sent them to concentration camps. Communists like Pol Pot and Stalin imprisoned professors, political theorists, and *gulp* writers. It’s because power lies in information, and experts have the information, and that scares people in power. So fear mongering conspiracy theories of vaccines microchipping people so the deep state can track them is a trope as old as time, one we need to wise-up to. 

So, if you want to avoid manipulation, do what experts tell you. While questioning everything everyone says may seem like a smart move to stick it to the system, it actually feeds into it. Because you likely aren’t equipped to make decisions experts are, which leaves you vulnerable to misinformation. 

I have no idea what they put in my arm last Friday, but I am currently not dead and will be going back for my second jab on the 30th.  Experts recommend getting the vaccine because it can save lives — my own and others. And I put my full trust in them. Because I don’t have a medical degree. But 1 in 4 Americans don’t want a vaccine. And their refusal to trust those who have knowledge they do not could put herd immunity in jeopardy. Their distrust is America’s next epidemic, and there is no vaccine.