Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
Casting our eyes back, how ironic Michael Gove’s declaration that the British public have “had enough of experts” seems. Stepping outside on Thursday evenings at eight o’clock to hear the applause for the UK’s sacred cow, the NHS, makes this clear. It is high time to break it to Gove and his fellow Brexiteers that despite their claims; it is the experts working around the clock to keep the country breathing, who are the recipients of the nation’s applause.
This widespread admiration of health-care professionals goes beyond symbolic communal clapping. Earlier today, my daily Facebook scroll yielded an NHS worker’s hero’s welcome to Lidl Chris Witty, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, is now a household name. Arguably, so too, is Li Wenliang, the now-deceased whistleblowing doctor from Wuhan, credited with identifying gravity of the crisis. Political strategy and popular opinion has converged around the advice and recommendations of the world’s medical leaders, based on that of epidemiologists and other scientists. The bulk of which is being deferred to without question.
Of course, doctors have always been respected the sceptic will say. Yet consider the popular acceptance of unproven “alternative” medicines. There are large groups of people who swear by this pseudoscience to combat Coronavirus, despite a lack of evidence. This affinity for ‘anti-fact’ has infected some in the public spotlight. This was recently demonstrated by Amanda Holden’s support for an anti-5G petition blaming the technology for using “all the oxygen in the atmosphere causing respiratory problems for humans” and being a main driver of the Covid-crisis. Of course, this is nonsense and the petition has since been deleted. But my conviction is that the recent spike in support for informed opinion may eradicate the frequency of such delinquency, in the medical as well as political arena.
Supporting this, the recent exploits of the global fact-shaming brigade should illuminate their idiocies. For example, Trump’s claim that the US would be back up and running by April, has been rapidly shown to be exactly what it was: meaningless, empty rhetoric. Closer to home, Boris Johnson and his colleagues’ decision to proudly ignore the government’s two-metre social-distancing rule, on public appearances, has been shown to be an acute error in judgement, given that as I write this, the Prime Minister has been admitted to Intensive Care.
‘The truth is relative’ proclaim the Nietzchian-perspectivists, buoyed by Trump calls to “Make America Great Again”. “Where was your post-Brexit economic crisis?” the #Moggmentum chorus sing unfettered. It is difficult to ignore the recent tide of anti-experts. Yet, I am hopeful that this “fake it ‘till you make it” illusion is losing its appeal. Eventually, facts and figures will hold out and that it is the stony reality of infectious disease that supplies this clarity. Resultingly, our future will value the common sense of experts, not the beguiling words of rhetoriticians.
Have the days of snubbing the expert come to an end? Only time will tell. In the meantime, we should reflect upon the origin of the advice to which we turned during this crisis. Conceivably, this awareness may invite the waves of informed opinion back into the mainstream tide and expunge the corrosion caused by political snake-oil in the recent past.