You're no expert - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Generations of people have staked their futures on the words of experts in one field or another. For hundreds of years people have looked to those smarter than them for advice, help and guidance. Where have those days gone and why are so many of us ready to abandon those smarter than us?
Just the other day, I was reading a parenting book and I reached the ever-controversial topic of vaccines. The author detailed medical statistics and facts, but then noted that some “high-profile” celebrities had joined the anti-vaccination train citing debunked and reckless research as their proof. The author simply stated that parents should consider the medical qualifications of these people before staking the lives of their children on their opinions.
A simple statement, yet one that provokes plenty of division in today’s world – listen to those who know more than you and make decisions based on facts from those who know.
Maybe celebrity endorsements started this whole trend. You can throw facts and numbers at people until you’re blue in the face, but in the end, if Beyonce says one can of pop is better than another, who am I to argue?
This pandemic has really drawn out the worst in some people. Here at The Citizen, we’ve received correspondence from readers who have assured us there is no pandemic or that we need to move forward with herd immunity. Every letter we’ve received on this has been accompanied by the smug suggestion that, if we did our research, we’d know this.
This is where research hits a fork in the road. Journalists like myself and most other folks think of research and go to what I described above: seeking out an expert opinion and making decisions based on facts, regardless of convenience. Now, however, in the era of the internet and experts-for-hire, some hit the reset button when they find inconvenient facts and seek out those who agree with them, validating their own thoughts in an “echo chamber” that refuses to tell you you’re wrong.
At a time when we have an overwhelming majority of medical experts, public health officials and epidemiologists telling us one thing, those tired of being told to wear a mask and the government’s public health measures are now seeking facts that fit their narrative, trusting their lives – and, more importantly, the lives of their friends and neighbours – to crackpot quasi-professionals and debunked science. But, because it tells them what they want to hear or it aligns with their absurd religious beliefs, they believe this nonsense and then tell people like me to do my research.
Just the other day, Mark Donnelly spoke to thousands on the “tyranny” of government restrictions. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of Donnelly, the office he holds or the university where he conducts his research, it’s because he sings the national anthem for the Vancouver Canucks (well, he used to). Wholly unqualified to speak on matters of medicine or infectious diseases, Donnelly is another person who’s being held up by the anti-mask crowd as a hero, not for his smarts, but for standing up to “The Man”.
That’s how an idiot with a barbecue stand can become a hero during a pandemic and how the people who stock shelves and pump gas feel qualified to hand out medical advice.
In journalism school, we were taught that we didn’t need to be experts, we just needed to find experts for stories. Many in Canada and right here in our communities would be well served to heed that advice, looking to qualified individuals instead of bending the narrative and trying to find that person in the mirror.