Picture by Qianli
For some time, the US has been making a big fuss about the origin of the novel coronavirus and has produced ridiculous lies about it - one of the most absurd was the lab leak theory that came out of nowhere. Those behind such conspiracy embrace the presumption of guilt, and trust me, they are good at finding evidence with a predesigned conclusion in hand. However, doing so is not making any sense at all, nor is it consistent with facts. It undermines the global fight against COVID-19, and is detrimental to the public.
Anti-intellectualism in the US is inconceivable
In the early days of the outbreak, The Lancet, the world’s top medical journal, published a statement signed by 27 prominent public health scientists across the globe, pointing out that “conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against this virus”.
The open letter has, unfortunately, brought trouble to Stanley Perlman, the famous American virologist from the University of Iowa. The Washington Post reported that in early June, he received a letter of threat that accused him of being “Dr. Frankenstein” – yes, the Frankenstein who made monsters.
This reminded me of a book I read – Anti-intellectualism in American Life. According to Richard Hofstadter, the distinguished historian and author of the book, anti-intellectualism is “a resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it; and a disposition constantly to minimize the value of that life”. To put it simply, anti-intellectualism shows a lack of rationality. It refers to people who turn a blind eye to facts that contradict their views, and those who only believe in things they think are right.
Inconceivable cases of anti-intellectualism in America keep popping up – many Republicans believe that global warming is merely a hoax sponsored by the liberals and some foreign governments, so they refuse to even talk about it. To make matters worse, some in the US believe the coronavirus is simply “another flu strain”, so people can still gather, there is no need for masks, and no need to take the jab.
The truth is, there are widely shared conclusions among scientists on the origin of the virus that are against the so-called lab leak theory.
Massimo Galli, head of the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Luigi Sacco Hospital in Milan, Italy said that the coronavirus “is an unknown virus with no signs of genome engineering inside”, and that “the ‘lab leak theory’ has no scientific basis”.
Also, a team consisting of researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US recently published a report after analyzing 24,000 blood samples, which found that some Americans got infected with the coronavirus as early as mid-December, 2019.
Despite all these findings, one has to admit that, as a scientific matter, origin tracing is not something that can be completed within a short period of time. The lab leak theory obviously fits well with anti-intellectual imaginations. There are people buying the theory, and some are hyping it up out of their ulterior political agendas. As a result, the “lab leak” theory became rampant in the US for a while.
“The ‘lab leak’ theories for COVID-19 range from accidental to deliberate and even state-sponsored. These are easy claims to make, comprehensible to everyone, part of popular culture and catering to political discourse”, said Dominic Dwyer, Australian immunologist and epidemiologist, and a member of the WHO team tasked with origin-tracing of the novel coronavirus.
In fact, anti-intellectualism not only underlines the absence of scientific spirit, it also signals the collapse of American political morality at a time when its social stratification becomes more rigid, domestic politics more polarized and the Cold War mindset is coming back. Externally, anti-intellectualism is manifested by compensation claims against China and the “lab leak” theory; internally, it’s evidenced by the fact that no political solutions are found for the Black Lives Matter campaign, racial discrimination against Asians and the rampant gun violence.
American scholar Francis Fukuyama wrote that in as early as 2014, he had lamented the deep-rooted corruption of American politics and the fact that the country’s governance bodies were becoming less effective. The situation only got worse after Trump entered the White House. It has since been deteriorating at an alarming speed and eventually reached a staggering level, and that’s why the chaos like protesters raiding the Capitol could happen in January.
Let’s play track & field instead of wresting
I’ve noticed how much controversy there is recently in the US surrounding the “lab leak” theory–it shows how divided the American society is.
Christopher Ford, former Assistant Secretary of State, recently published a lengthy open letter to prove his innocence, but the letter can be summarized in one simple line – “I didn’t collude with the Communist Party of China”.
According to Ford, during his tenure the US was engaged in a “full-government” competition against the security challenges China brought to the US and its allies. He also said that he went to the UK to press the British government to “immediately give up on Huawai’s technologies”.
But why would such a diplomatic elite be labeled by some in the US as a “CCP spy”?
Now in retrospect, American media believe it’s because some senior officials in the US State Department refuted the “lab leak” theory in the early days of the pandemic. It is widely perceived in the US that these officials sided with China, and that Ford is one of them.
Though filled with false accusations against China, Ford’s open letter demonstrated how the US State Department created the “lab leak” theory and scapegoated China. To put it simply, someone is trying to stick the “lab leak” label onto China despite the fact there’s no scientific evidence for it.
It ironically attests to the fact that when some in the US say they are tracing the origin, they are actually fabricating the origin of the virus.
Peter Daszak, zoologist, member of the WHO team tasked with origin-tracing and President of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, dismissed the US intelligence reports as “political, not scientific”.
Then why some people in the US work so hard to hype up the scandal?
For the majority of the incumbent political leaders in the United States, their careers started in the Cold War era. The 78-year-old Biden, for example, entered politics in 1970, at a time when Americans liked to “seek enemies” for their global strategy. The political mindset of these people is clearly lagging behind as “rules of the jungle”, the “Cold War mentality”, and the “zero-sum game” still dominate their thinking. The insecurity that American hegemony may one day be replaced or threatened is forever lingering on their mind.
Under such outdated mindset, the US even eavesdropped on its European allies, nor to mention China, a country with a different ideology but is quickly catching up with its growing strength. Steven Bannon, once Trump’s “strategist”, said that America only had a time window of five years to contain China. Anxiety has intensified since Biden took office when it became clear that the US could not completely contain the development of China.
This change in mentality is also perceived by people outside the country. Prof. Kishore Mahbubaniof the National University of Singapore said bluntly that the US had an “indescribable fear of China” after spending three months in the United States.
The World Health Organization has called for scientists to carry out their researches based on reliable evidence, because otherwise the world may not get an answer from the origin tracing effort. Polluting the working environment of origin tracing will clearly not help mankind understand how and where the virus started. Very unfortunately, some in the US are only into hyping the issue up and bundling it with Xinjiang and Taiwan, in the hope that China would bear the brunt of international pressure, China’s image would be tainted and that the US could shift its domestic pressure elsewhere.
Helga Zepp-LaRouche, President of the Schiller Institute, a US think tank, said recently that “to accuse China of making the novel coronavirus is a malicious effort and an old trick by the West to smear China”.
But we live in a different time today, this global pandemic has taught us that the world is interconnected and mankind share the same destiny. Win-win cooperation should be the theme of this new era, and if there has to be competition, countries had better play the “track and field” type of game where one catches up with another and all countries progress together; instead of the wrestling game where countries attack one another.
By observing the performance of the Wuhan Institute of Virology that stands at the very center of this hoax, one will find a different type of philosophy:
According to The Daily Telegraph, when Peter Daszak, the zoologist I mentioned earlier, was on that trip to Wuhan, he was told by the institute that nobody even cared about the “lab leak” theory there, because they didn’t want to “fuel” such groundless conspiracy theory. When asked about the theory in her interviews with foreign press, Shi Zhengli, a researcher with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said that she was only concerned about the characteristics of the novel coronavirus and its latest strains.
As I write now, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US have exceeded 30 million, and the death toll has exceeded 600,000. These are not numbers, but human lives. This is by no means how the world’s leading power should look like.
I sincerely hope that instead of hyping up the “lab leak” theory, the US can show political courage, get rid of the fetters of old thinking, shoulder up the responsibility for its own people and work on improving its competitiveness.
Now it seems that the Chinese slogan of “handle our own business well” not only works for China itself, but also for the United States.
Contributed by Longyuan from Official WeChat account of Poquanle