A brilliant thread by Venkatesh Rao on how the coronavirus has turned the most anti-experts and anti-establishment populist supporters into believers in epidemiology credentials.


First published in February 2020.

Kinda fascinating that a virus is the biggest story in 2020 for me personally, way ahead of Sanders vs Democratic Party, or SpaceX, or forest fires, or anything else.

Something is different about this bug compared to the last few, and it isn’t just the online memetic immune response.

I think it’s a live referendum on the importance of institutional and expert responses in an age that has convinced itself both are irrelevant and have lost all trust and credibility.

People who I thought were the radical BTFSTTG* types are suddenly turning into CDC stans** and believers in epidemiology credentials.

Nobody is suggesting popular referendums like Brexit to shape responses. There’s a limit to faith in crowds and distrust of authorities after all.

The thing is, even if the institutions and experts are responding poorly, there’s no “populist” alternative on the table.

Almost anyone can be President it seems, but very few can do things like analyze viruses or synthesize vaccines.

Populist options will be limited to cures worse than disease in the short term. In the long-term biohackers might generate local responses from hacker spaces with crispr or whatever.

Right now, the vilified experts are the only available line of defense.

Most of you, I’ll bet, if you get the symptoms you’ll go see a doctor and accept their protocol. You won’t be calling your friendly neighborhood anti-authority conspiracy theorist for advice.


Tweets posted on 24 February 2020 by @vgr.


*BTFSTTG: ‘Burn The Fucking State To The Ground’.
**CDC stans: Very zealous fans of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.






[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 24 February 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Pixabay.)