The suggestion that the sovereign citizens of a democratic republic becoming informed on the issues of the day the better to instruct their employees (their elected representatives) as to their wishes has become a dangerous vector in spreading "misinformation."
"Do your own research," is doing great damage to the US pandemic response says Brian Stelter, who himself has been known to do great damage to CNN's ratings with the four equally damaging words,"Hi, I'm Brian Stelter."
Four little words — "do your own research" — are hurting the US pandemic response, CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter said on "Reliable Sources" Sunday. And it is having real consequences as personalities from Nicki Minaj to Sean Hannity continue to promote the idea.
What are the "real consequences" of promoting the notion that people should think for themselves?
People start thinking for themselves.
Minaj helped raise doubts about Covid-19 vaccines on Twitter last week, claiming she would only get the shots once she'd "done enough research." It may seem like a reasonable, even positive, attitude, and it is a favored talking point echoed by many in the right-wing media.
It may seem like a "reasonable, even positive, attitude," but only if you're a right-wing nut and not a sophisticated progressive who understands that everyone who is not them is an idiot.
The problem is that most people simply don't know how to do their own research, especially when it comes to understanding the complexities of medical science.
How does one convince the populace that they are idiots and need to stop thinking for themselves?
First, associate it with conspiracy mongering.
The concept has lately become associated with Covid-19 and QAnon,...
And then, dig up some arcane historical reference associated with something similarly scary.
...but the phrase "do your own research" dates back to the 1890s when it was associated with skepticism surrounding the smallpox vaccine, Renee DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, said on "Reliable Sources."
The problem with "skepticism" is that it would require officials be completely forthcoming and honest with the American people.
Few things are potentially more damaging to elitist rule than the possibility of self-appointed rulers being held accountable for their actions.
I mean, few things could be more damaging to democracy and liberty. Or something.
In any case, DiResta does concede that skepticism among the populace can be "healthy."
The notion of doing your own research is not a bad idea in itself, DiResta said, as it's important to maintain a healthy level of skepticism about information being fed to you.
Unfortunately, you're an idiot.
But in today's media environment fueled by clicks and engagement, it's all too easy to come across misleading data that confirms biases.
Yael Eisenstat weighs in with his own view which he apparently hasn't updated since 1995.
"Nobody's going to the library and looking up authoritative sources to do their own research," Yael Eisenstat, a Future of Democracy fellow at the Berggruen Institute, said.
No. No they are not. They are definitely not "going to the library."
Who can save us from this outbreak of people insisting on doing their own research and thinking for themselves according to this media story?
Eisenstat said that to help combat this phenomenon, the media needs to be more transparent in its reporting, especially when it comes to Covid.
That's because many of the subtle differences between understanding scientific research that is still theoretical versus that which has been tested and widely agreed upon are not well communicated to the public. As new information and new research comes out, the media needs to take that extra step to explain the changing landscape.
"Science is a consensus building process," DiResta said. "Not something where we know the facts immediately, the moment that someone wants to be Googling for them."
Actually, science is a process by which hypotheses are tested against available data to establish their credibility but okay, whatever.
None of this is new. Forbes was alarmed enough last July at the prospect of the rulees questioning their rulers that it flat told you not to do it.
I hate to spoil the punchline, but, yeah, you're an idiot.
It's absolutely foolish to think that you, a non-expert who lacks the very scientific expertise necessary to evaluate the claims of experts, are going to do a better job than the actual, bona fide experts of separating truth from fiction or fraud.
So what does this lead to, exactly, this slavish, credulous acceptance of the utterances of self-proclaimed experts whom you are not permitted to question?
An expertocracy, or rule by experts, endowed by their creator, science, with absolute power, not unlike the monarchies of old who were similarly endowed by God with similar powers.
The problem with "believing in science," is that you aren't, you are believing in scientists. They are not deities any more than the kings of old, and sometimes, many times, they are wrong, dramatically so.
And sometimes, well, sometimes they just lie!
This does not mean we should reject the advice and counsel of experts. I hire experts to take care of my health, to take care of my taxes, and to take care of my plumbing.
But there is a difference between listening to experts, weighing their advice, taking into account their opinions, and slavishly following their edicts without question.
That's why people get second opinions and interview more than one person for big home improvement projects. In those cases, it is ultimately up to the individual to consider the options and make a choice. This is no different, or shouldn't be.
We are supposed to be a nation of people who are ruled by "the consent of the governed."
We do not, should not, ever, relinquish the right to demand that consent be sought and ratified before we submit to a policy that affects us. That is both our right and our responsibility as citizens, and not subjects.
(Thanks to @ezrareimer and @theonerd97 for the tip!)
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