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The Great Debating Debate
Our Ruling Class No Longer Wishes to Speak to Us
“What is true and what is right are naturally stronger than their opposites, and so in cases where the proper judgement is not reached, the defeat of truth and justice is necessarily due to the speaker himself, which is reprehensible.” - Aristotle [Art of Rhetoric, 1355a20-23]
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Dr. Peter Hotez, a leading covid lunatic media darling, has been challenged to a debate with Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr, to be hosted on Joe Rogan’s podcast, with the bonus that a large sum would be donated to his favorite charity. By all accounts, RFK Jr is kind of a crank, so one wouldn’t imagine it would be hard for a leading vaccine scientist who makes frequent media appearances to explain why RFK is incorrect. One would be wrong. Instead, Hotez is refusing the debate, despite having previously appeared on Rogan’s podcast. On his Twitter feed, Hotez has shared a stream of articles from shitty establishment publications arguing that it is better for science to not debate. The main reason boils down to that he would lose and a “consensus” doesn’t need defending in the public square. Bear in mind that Hotez has scheduled as many fawning television interviews as possible for the last few years and is a media figure, this is not some guy pulled out of a lab and into the limelight: he should be able to explain and defend his position to an audience. It would be one thing if they were happy to leave people who don’t want to get vaccinated alone, but that is not the case. Meanwhile, to the NPCs who hold absolutely no values but loyalty to institutional authority, it appears self-evident that Hotez should not have to defend vaccines to recalcitrant plebeians. Though on a surface level it would seem that their devotion is to credentialism, it isn’t even that because they only believe the exact “experts” they are told to and disregard any dissent no matter how formally qualified the dissenter.
What the media ignores in all of this discussion about “listening to experts” is that Hotez and all the rest are on the record being incredibly wrong about covid and the vaccines from start to finish. Still, to them always being wrong is no reason to lose faith in the elites who run our society. The elites should no longer even have to explain themselves to anyone who would question them: we should just stop thinking. At the time of the Canadian trucker protests Matt Taibbi made one of the most incisive comments I have seen about our leadership class:
“In the Bush years, thanks to people like Rove, the sensible or at least intellectually defensible concept, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” morphed into the much broader idea that it’s no longer necessary to understand the thinking of any adversary or oppositional group. It’s where the now-hegemonic idea that talking is weakness and not talking is strength was born.”
Instead of trying to counter concerns about vaccines with scientific information, the message has become “shut up and do as you’re told.” Science even published a piece calling the vaccine skeptics “gaslighters,” as if media messaging has not been designed to make us feel isolated and crazy. It is incredible the extent to which our society has broken down between optimates and populares, where more so than left-right partisanship the divide is now simply if you believe the “authority” class. Despite having faced catastrophic narrative collapse and now lacking the public trust necessary to give medical guidance, they no longer believe in engaging with those who might talk back.
Before I move on, there are a couple of things to cover. For those of you not familiar with Peter Hotez, here is a mashup of some of his covid claims as he has pushed ever more vaccines:
Hotez provides as good of an example of anyone about how easy it is to see that these people have been wrong over and over again but it is still demanded that we unskeptically follow their advice.
Secondly, my purpose in this article is not to argue for or against the covid vaccine, though personally I am a skeptic for a variety of reasons. What is undeniable is that there is a widespread public perception that the vaccines are dangerous. There is no way for them to counter that perception if they believe they are too good to have a debate with skeptics. Our ruling class cannot maintain their positions while having numbers like these of people who think the covid vaccine was harmful:
Our current story begins with the revelation that Vice is apparently still operating, and publishing an author very angry that Rogan had RFK Jr on as a guest. Peter Hotez shared the story on Twitter, which is what got him into this whole mess. It was at this point which Rogan challenged him to go on the show and debate RFK:
Note the irony that these people consider Vice to be a credible source of discourse.
This all went about as anyone who uses the internet would expect it to go: a bunch of people offered to donate more money, until the pot was much larger, while all of the worst establishment shills in society came to Hotez’s defense as a great champion of The Science™. Someone showed up at his house, which is apparently unacceptable despite that they loved it when Taylor Lorenz “doxxed” Chaya Raichik and went around bothering her relatives. It is the same teams as ever, with the only difference being that the stance of the “experts” has evolved into proclaiming virtue in refusing the debate at all. They say that the format of debate favors misinformation, which is both absurd as well as chilling given all of their efforts to remove any idea they dislike from society.
The fact that their argument is that Hotez should not have to debate with anyone who disagrees, while simultaneously he has been all over the media for years, shows that he has not faced challenges on the talk shows. One doesn’t need to make zany claims about vaccines to ask key questions like “Why did people keep getting ‘breakthrough’ infections” or “why do so many people report that the vaccine made them more sick than getting covid.” But like a coward, Hotez fled behind the coattails of the media which loves him so much. Here are some key headlines he shared:
Washington Post: “Joe Rogan Wants a ‘debate’ on vaccines. That’s just the problem.”
The New Republic: “Don’t Debate Robert F. Kennedy Jr”
Science: “Scientists shouldn’t debate gaslighters”
Of these I have to give Time some credit, both for not putting “debate” in quotations [you see, they’re even denying it would be a debate] and for thoroughly arguing against the substance of RFK’s claims. However, they still make the same core argument against debate:
“Hotez is right not to take the bait. Rogan is unqualified to moderate such a debate, and has himself peddled disinformation about vaccines. Debating anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists like RFK Jr. is a fool’s errand, which always backfires, as history has demonstrated repeatedly. These debates give the false impression that there are “two equivalent sides,” and therefore can cause real public health damage.”
The line, “Has himself peddled disinformation,” is notable, given the amount of outright lies our media has promoted over the years. Any Presidential debate inevitably has a host who has engaged in peddling ridiculous conspiracy theories, and they never seem to think that disqualifies them from moderating such contests:
[I would like to note I remain skeptical of the “lab leak” compared to covid having been a mundane seasonal virus they chose to launch a kamikaze attack against, but regardless, the media has changed its tune in such a way that at one point or another they were inevitably spreading disinformation.]
Of these articles, the ones which most require discussion are from LA Times, The New Republic, and Science. This LA Times piece in particular is one of the more incredible things I have ever read. Hiltzik writes,
“There are many reasons why serious scientists should reject these invitations. One is that it gives liars and deceivers legitimacy. “You should never equate, morally or practically, true science and pseudoscience or quackery,” says John P. Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College. “By just appearing with these people, you give them a stature that implies they’re equivalent, and they’re not.”…It was just a waste of time, because you were never going to persuade the hard core to change their position.”
Firstly, Kennedy is not some “anon” on the internet: he is a Presidential candidate from one of America’s most prominent families who has been an environmental lawyer dealing with toxicity- including in vaccines- for decades. The idea that Hotez has more stature than him is simply a result of Hotez having been a darling of left wing media which spent the last years giving him softball interviews and never pushing back at his rapidly changing claims. Further, the pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest advertisers in America, so you can be sure no one becomes a darling of the corporate media by challenging them. Still, it’s true that a debate won’t cause the “hardcore” to change their positions, but that is true of debate on anything. Joe Rogan’s episode average 11 million listeners- this debate would get many more- and there is no way none of those people are persuadable, especially if Hotez has the truth on his side as they claim to believe. Beyond all of this, the example Moore uses is combating AIDS misinformation in South Africa. Specifically, the belief that AIDS was not caused by the HIV virus which was promoted by a molecular biologist named Peter Duesberg. Hiltzik doesn’t mention this, but Rogan has had Duesberg on his show before, and a friend told me that Duesberg was unable to competently defend his position and that he came to the conclusion that Duesberg’s hypothesis is not true from watching his Rogan interview. Of course, this kind of critical thinking is exactly what they don’t trust us to do.
“In many cases the debate is settled. The safety and efficacy of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are well established after hundreds of millions of doses administered in the U.S. and billions worldwide.
Although rare side effects have occurred, they’re typically mild compared with the risks from contracting the disease itself — contrary to the fabricated and unethical claims of anti-vaccine propagandists such as Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo.”
Note that Joseph Lapado is, by definition, one of those “public health officials” they have been demanding we listen to for years, but as with everything else, there is no consistency besides that we should do what they say. As soon as a qualified person goes against financial interests he becomes a “propagandist” instead of a “dedicated public servant.” Further, we all know people who reported that the vaccine made them more sick than when they had covid while unvaccinated [this is particularly curious, given that a prior infection should make your reaction more mild.] Elon Musk is just one example:
As has been pointed out by many, for a variety of reasons it is a mistake to conflate the covid “vaccines” with vaccines generally, given the rush and public hype. Further, the covid shots are entirely different types of technology from each other, with some being traditional vaccines and others being an “MRNA vaccine.” It is inherently true that safety and efficacy would be different, despite that they want us to believe they are all the same. Most other vaccines are for very different diseases than a respiratory virus; diseases which are deadlier to the general public, spread differently, and mutate much less rapidly. This is like everything else in our society, where vaccines are a complex matter and thus all have a different cost/benefit analysis. Despite this, people who question if one covid vaccine has a better safety profile, or if a person should still take the pertussis vaccine given that they acknowledge the bacteria has mutated and the vaccine has lost efficacy, are lumped in with people who believe the covid vaccine will turn you into a crocodile [Bolsanaro was, of course, joking.] We are all “anti-vaxxers” to them. It needs to be added that until 2019 everyone knew you couldn’t cure the cold, but that is another matter.
Hiltzik then proceeds to say that the “cranks” get “mileage” from scientists refusing to debate, by being able to portray the scientists as scared. The poor, oppressed scientists! Seemingly no matter what the do they simply cannot get ahead. After some bloviating about the training of scientists and praising them for their ability to ignore information which counters their beliefs [“We are trained as professionals to tune out the occasional outrider that is the product of incompetent or twisted science”] he proceeds to tell this story, about professional hack Neil DeGrasse Tyson:
“Even people skilled at communicating scientific principles to nonexperts have been lured into the debate trap. One is Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the most renowned science communicator in the world today. In April, Tyson allowed himself to be enticed into a webcast debate with anti-vaccine crusader Del Bigtree. He must have thought that his command of the art of public speaking would allow him to hold up his end.
He was wrong. Tyson’s first mistake was to agree to appear on Bigtree’s webcast, rather than in some neutral setting. But his main problem was that, as an astrophysicist, he simply did not have the knowledge to counter Bigtree’s torrent of anti-vaccination propaganda. The result was a train wreck for legitimate science in which the anti-vax position prevailed, or such was the impression that was left.”
In short, Tyson went into the debate unprepared and thus could not face a prepared opponent. This is the overarching theme here: they should not try because they are sure to lose. Yet, somehow, it is Tyson’s opponent who we are meant to believe did not know what he is talking about.
However, the most ridiculous part of the LA Times article is at the end:
“But the consequences of their campaigns can be measured in sickness and death. The anti-vaccine movement is complicit in the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. alone by discouraging people from getting the shot.
That may be the best reason for responsible scientists to reject invitations to debate. “The spread of vaccine disinformation has hurt a very, very large number of people in a very horrible way,” Moore says.
“That’s the moral dimension,” he says. “You cannot forget what these people have done. I could no more sit down with RFK Jr. than I could sit down with a white supremacist and discuss eugenics. You should not give them the moral equivalence.”
Ah, yes, there we go, implicitly comparing vaccine skeptics to Nazis. It’s very much going on the offensive since some people believe the vaccines are a form of eugenics. This is one of their main implications: “anti-vaxxers are evil.” Forget the fact that a lot of “anti-vaxxers” are otherwise normal people who had a child or other loved one die shortly after taking a vaccine. It is especially strange for them to apply this degree of responsibility onto people who speak against vaccines, when as I explained recently, Fauci et al.’s defense of lockdowns has been “It’s not my fault if people followed my advice.” This is, of course, the exact sort of double standard we are used to: they can use the government to coerce people into doing anything and have no accountability, but your ideas you simply discuss make you a murderer Nazi.
Moving onto The New Republic piece I first need to note that is is sorted under, “The Ticker, Breaking News From Washington and Beyond.” It is meant to be a straight news piece and not an editorial. In the first paragraph it says, “Podcaster and conspiracy theorist Joe Rogan and profoundly unfunny Twitter CEO Elon Musk spent the weekend trying to bully him into debating Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the efficacy of vaccines.” With some small changes to language it would be fair enough to say that Rogan regularly interviews conspiracy theorists, though I don’t know that he’s come up with any original conspiracy theories. What is more noteworthy is that he would start by calling Elon Musk “profoundly unfunny” in what is supposed to be a news piece. Say what you will about Musk’s weird, immature, billionaire, dad humor, but quite a lot of people [myself included] generally find his antics amusing. That should have been phrased in a way that at least keeps the appearance of neutrality, such as “who has been frequently criticized for his ‘immature’ sense of humor.” Better, they could have not said anything, as it contributes nothing to the argument. Instead, The New Republic informs readers from the first paragraph that the “news” story will be written without professionalism, and that, at least, they deliver on.
There are two passages in this article I want to highlight. The first is this:
“But appearing with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. would likely only legitimize those views. Kennedy has spent more than a decade spouting conspiracy theories with no basis in fact about vaccines. As Hotez noted to MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan, “Anti-vaccine disinformation … is now a lethal force in the United States. I offered to go on Joe Rogan but not to turn it into the Jerry Springer show with having RFK Jr. on.”
RFK may be kind of a weirdo, but he is a patrician who is a veteran attorney. Say what you will about him, but he has decorum. This is not like asking Hotez to debate Alex Jones where he would be hopped up on horse testosterone and tear off his shirt while screaming. Joe Rogan is calm and respectful, but he is a standup comedian from a lower class background. It is quite obviously an unfair smear on RFK to say speaking to him would be Jerry Springer whereas Rogan would not; the only possible issue is fear of debating RFK.
The next passage is the same sort of thing we have heard plenty:
“The goal of the “debate” Rogan is trying to host is not to hash out the truth or to finally decide if vaccines are safe and effective or not. Vaccines are safe and effective: This is settled science. The goal is to sow doubt and confusion over both settled science and the value of expertise, both in medicine and in the wider world. Hotez is right to avoid it.”
If it is “settled science” why did their tune change so many times, as in the video of Hotez I posted at the beginning? This is also “gaslighting” of the worst order, being as these “experts” are frequently wrong. But now, apparently it is actually the vaccine skeptics who are “gaslighters,” as per the Science article.
As you probably know, “gaslight” is a term that has become prominent over the last few years. The top definition for “gaslight” on Dictionary.com is as follows, “the use of psychological manipulation to undermine a person’s faith in their own judgment, memory, or sanity.” It comes from an old film called “Gaslight” where a man tells a woman she is crazy for believing that the houses lights have dimmed even though her observation is accurate. What they are doing us with their constant lines like “no one said the vaccine would stop you from getting covid” is a clear example of “gaslighting.” Believing vaccines are dangerous is no such thing, even if it is incorrect or a charlatan is scamming people. RFK is not trying to convince people they are crazy.
A notable passage from the Science shared by Hotez reads as follows:
“Hucksters like RFK Jr are skilled at flooding the zone with garbage. Kennedy recently told Rogan that Wi-Fi could open the blood-brain barrier and cause cancer. Absurd statements like this are a trap for scientists. A scientist wants to explain how conservation of energy works and why Kennedy’s assertion violates just about every principle there is in chemistry and physics. This approach sets up two huge problems. First, it gives RFK’s garbage equal footing with principles that have been established by centuries of science. The second is that to a lay listener, the scientist just comes off as fitting the stereotype of a nitpicking nerd and RFK looks like a powerful communicator. Hotez debating RFK about vaccines would produce the same result.”
There are two things going on here. The first, is yet again, “Hotez would lose because he is bad at debating.” The anti-debaters have clearly identified a mistake which can be made in debates but the answer is just don’t make that mistake. Having the self-control to not say, “That’s nonsense” about weird claims regarding Wi-Fi and the blood-brain barrier and then moving on should be easy enough for anyone with the discipline necessary to be a credible scientist. The second thing is, “to a lay listener.” That is the real problem here: you are too stupid to hear directly from a scientist, despite that they sent them all over the media and demanded we listen. He then pontificates about how science needs more “skilled communicators” but the thing is RFK is not particularly compelling. Despite this, the author says, “There are few figures who are rhetorical matches for merchants of doubt like RFK Jr.” I don’t know if you’ve seen RFK speak, but that is not how it is. Their real problem is the public has experience with both covid and the vaccine, and these “experts” have been full of shit. Any debate on this subject requires overcoming the personal experience of the general public, or, at least the sort of people who listen to Rogan.
For years we have been told we are not smart enough to debate these topics and to “follow the science” even if it is just stuff they made up with no real scientific backing. For example, as I covered recently, the lockdowns simply did not work yet we get no credit for being right:
Deciding debate is itself bad is a new innovation in our society. Of course, in antiquity oratory was considered an important skill which any man would be ashamed to lack. No one should reach the sort of educational attainment of being a leading scientist without being able to sufficiently explain the importance and validity of his work in an adversarial format as long as he is allowed time to respond [and this debate would have no time limits.] One cannot get a PhD without going through an extensive “defense” of your dissertation where one must answer all sorts of questions for hours. Hotez chose to go all over TV as part of a public relations campaign, but apparently it is not him who should have to face criticisms of his message. It’s strange because it should not be that hard for them to understand our concerns and use that to reach out to us. In the The Art of Rhetoric Aristotle writes the following,
“Truth and the semblance of truth are apprehended by the same faculty, and, moreover, people have a natural capacity for the truth and usually manage to attain it. That is why the ability to figure out commonly held opinions on a particular subject is characteristic of one who can also figure out the truth.” [1355a13-17]
This class of men which Hotez represents cannot understand the commonly held opinions on any subject, which is why they know they cannot persuade the common man. The lack of trust on this topic is simple: covid wasn’t dangerous to the general public, there is a widespread perception that vaccines were, and every prediction they made was drastically wrong. A friend commented that his brother-in-law got covid the most right of anyone he knows from the beginning because he’s a right wing conspiracy theorist. Similarly, my wife Alexis was right about everything because she is paranoid and conspiratorial. The plebs did much better on this one:
A common line in these arguments are things like what was seen in the the LA Times article, “insisting public debates are the only thing necessary to establish the truth.” The enthymeme [unstated premise] is that the arguments of skeptics are disingenuous and the “hucksters” believe the format favors lies. It’s true that a single debate might not go well for truth, but overall public discourse has always been considered the best way to arrive at the truth. One wonders how else it is these scientists arrived at the beloved “consensus” they keep talking about. The reality is they just hate debate and think we should listen to them even if they will not answer our questions. One example which is brought up repeatedly, is of a 1902 debate in Minnesota regarding the smallpox vaccination, which is referenced in the Time article as well as a Twitter thread by some sort of vaccination historian. The most notable part, is as with these articles in defense of Hotez they accuse the opponent of “cherry picking” data.
The purpose of debate is to establish which facts are relevant and in what context they should be understood. Both participants are picking data which they feel makes their point. Assuming what Wehrman presents here is true, this is an incredible demonstration of the efficacy of the smallpox vaccine, and there is no excuse for Ohage, the pro-vaccine debater, whom Wehrman refers to as a “giant in medicine,” to not have known of this instance in Germany- his native country- a mere 30 years before. The problem is actually that this scientist who Wehrman reveres was not a competent professional capable of justifying the benefits of compulsory vaccination. Wehrman goes on to make claims he in no way backs up:
He does not prove his implication that the debate was counter-productive nor the cause of the skeptic’s fame, and further does not prove this relates to the law having been repealed. In the second tweet the news story actually only shows a small number of annual deaths and doesn’t prove that they were among the unvaccinated or that those people would have followed a compulsory vaccination law. [He later links to a somewhat more compelling explanation of the 1924 outbreak.] Further, as was extensively discussed in my recent article about lockdowns, medical scientists specialize in whether or not a treatment works, not whether or not a mandate is the best way to get the public to do things. The LA Times article tells a similar story about the “futility” of debate: their “expert” Moore speaks against debating the “denialists” because he subjectively views refusal as having frustrated them, but provides no evidence debating is counter-productive. Given that South Africa’s policies are said to have contributed to 330,000 unnecessary deaths, one questions the virtue of this immunologist if he thinks it is the wrong decision to face personal frustration and wasting some time for a chance to save 330,000 human lives.
This elitist faction believes the public is not able to sort any of this out, and further lack the human right of dying from their own stupidity. It’s notable that they have already given people like five covid vaccines and seem to still be concerned about an inability to get them to take more in the future. Our society has broken apart into followers and skeptics. I remember at an anti-lockdown protest in April 2020 someone had left a van parked with a sign that said “Bad dogs, go home.” It is indicative of how this faction views society in that we should behave like well-trained dogs who unquestionably accept orders from those better than us; they are proud to live unthinking lives in the name of “science.” How many times such supposed “experts” have been wrong is of no relevance.
We are moving towards a chilling Orwellian society with no debate, which is why censorship is going off the charts. For all we know there won’t even be debates with the major candidates this primary season in America. Matt Taibbi just gave a speech about censorship in London, because what they discovered about “old Twitter” was beyond anyone’s imagination:
I don’t think that anything will make Hotez debate Robert Kennedy, and he will continue to be lauded as a hero for his refusal. However, these are actually large issues we need to work out as a society. As Tucker Carlson said in a recent episode on this topic, young people in our society are awash in health problems, including autism, and we have been provided no credible cause and are expected to accept it and not notice. The health industry will not get public trust unless they can explain why we’ve seen an explosion in things like autism, allergies, and eczema. We are supposed to stay quiet as the young suffer. I’m not an RFK supporter, but Tucker is correct that he is a rare politician who has noticed these problems and cares. It should be a national concern to find out what is causing all of this and the drastic increase in vaccines is one of the larger changes to what goes in children’s bodies in the last several decades. Across society, the “experts” continue to make incompetent, harmful decisions while demanding we trust them. They’ve brainwashed an enormous segment of the population into mindless sycophants who think we are crazy and morally bad for having the ability to think. Don’t let them convince you that free discourse favors lies, as has been their justification for censorship. You are an adult in what is meant to be free country: the public square remains the place to decide major questions. I don’t know what we will ever do with these men who are too broken by propaganda to accept their own freedom, who worship nothing but institutional authority, and who will believe things as absurd as that men can give birth so long as they are told to believe it. What I do know is that fighting the idea that debate itself is a bad thing is an important debate of our time. This useless, over-educated class of “experts” has horribly mismanaged our society, and only we can bring it back to sanity.
Thank you for reading! The Wayward Rabbler is written by Brad Pearce. If you enjoyed this content please subscribe and share. My main articles will always be free but paid subscriptions help me a huge amount [will also debate anyone for a large sum of money.] I have a tip jar at Ko-Fi where generous patrons can donate in $5 increments. Join my Telegram channel The Wayward Rabbler. My Facebook page is The Wayward Rabbler. You can see my shitposting and serious commentary on Twitter @WaywardRabbler.