DANIEL VAUGHAN: Pandemic cosplayers are trying to shape public policy

In the world of geeky and nerdy, there’s a practice called cosplaying. The term is the portmanteau between “costume” and “play,” meaning it’s people dressing up and playing characters from various movies, video games, or books.

I bring up that word because that’s what our top public health elites are doing. They’re cosplaying elected policymakers when they’re nothing more than armchair politicians or psychologists with an unrelated degree.

In cosplaying, the person picks a character, dresses up as that part, and then acts it out. There are entire conventions where people interact with other people’s characters.

In the coronavirus context, instead of cosplay conventions, we have cable television and Twitter. That’s where people with medical degrees, or sometimes just an undergraduate degree in biology, go to pontificate on public health and what political policy should be.

There’s no science here, only political analysis by people pretending their degree gives them the clearance — a costume — to have opinions that people should give more weight to on matters regarding the coronavirus.

Some may think: “Why don’t we listen to these people? They have expertise and degrees.”

The problem is this: If we were asking them how to treat a sick person or handle an individual diagnosis, we’d want their expertise. But when the question is how do we roll out a massive vaccination program and get people to have a political buy-in, the expert we need changes. These often well-meaning public health opinion-makers have far less weight, and little to no expertise in that area. Few of them have ever had the responsibility of rolling out a massive new public policy.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that unelected people with degrees often don’t understand politics enough to make a political decision. And second is that the most elite of these degree holders, even if they have that knowledge, have shown consistently throughout this pandemic that they don’t trust the public, they’re actively panicking, and as a result, are willing to lie to manipulate the masses.

Let’s start on the first point. Economist Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution pointed his audience to a recent interview given by Dr. Anthony Fauci. In that interview, Fauci defended the FDA’s slow-moving vaccine approval process:

Fauci told Fox News that the FDA “really scrutinizes the data very carefully to guarantee to the American public that this is a safe and efficacious vaccine. I think if we did any less, we would add to the already existing hesitancy on the part of many people because … they’re concerned that we went too quickly.”

In other words, the slowness isn’t because the science needs to be approved; it’s because they believe that a slow approval process will reassure the public. This mindset isn’t science; it’s politics. The Wall Street Journal noted the same, saying, “This regulatory rigmarole is essentially a placebo to reassure the public it will be safe to get inoculated. There’s no evidence that a three-week review is needed.”

It’s the job of scientists and researchers to roll out a solution as quickly as possible. It’s the job of politicians and policymakers to get the public on board. Right now, we have technocrats playing politics with public health because they believe they know better — not on the science — but on the politics. We shouldn’t be slowing this process down at all. The politicians already decided via Operation Warp Speed that we should be doing the exact opposite.

The Moderna vaccine was designed in a lab in two days. The Pfizer vaccine was created in one day. Both solutions were found back in January and February. We’ve spent all the time since then working to clear regulatory and political red-tape hurdles. And now people with medical degrees cosplaying as political thinkers are slowing things down, again.

That brings me to the second point. The reason for the slowdown is simple: elite panic. Professor James Meigs wrote one of the defining essays of the pandemic on this topic. He noted:

Disaster researchers call this phenomenon “elite panic.” When authorities believe their own citizens will become dangerous, they begin to focus on controlling the public, rather than on addressing the disaster itself. They clamp down on information, restrict freedom of movement, and devote unnecessary energy to enforcing laws they assume are about to be broken. These strategies don’t just waste resources, one study notes; they also “undermine the public’s capacity for resilient behaviors.” In other words, nervous officials can actively impede the ordinary people trying to help themselves and their neighbors.

And that’s exactly what’s happening in this situation over vaccines. We’ve seen the same thing happen with masks, PPE, shutdown policies, and now, vaccines. At every step of the way, the elites have panicked, and they’ve surged onto television and social media, cosplaying serious thinkers trying to manipulate the public, when in reality, they’re clueless on public health decision-making. 

In fact, instead of building trust, Fauci and his technocratic class have done the opposite: they’ve destroyed trust in a vaccine, they’ve been caught lying at various stages, and more. The elites are cosplaying as experts because they fundamentally do not trust the American public.

That kind of elite panic is likely why we got a vaccine after the election. And it’s why the elites continue to cling to their red tape instead of trying to address the pandemic itself.

People are dying from a disease where we have a solution. Get the cosplayers out of the way. If there’s blowback on this rollout’s speed, the public can address their anger where it’s appropriate: politicians.

Let’s ditch the public-health cosplayers and get to a solution. Elite technocrats aren’t smart enough to lead this task, and they’ve proven that for the entirety of the pandemic.