Dr. Scott Atlas, President Donald Trump’s latest handpicked adviser to the Coronavirus Task Force, likely knew what he was signing up for when he accepted the position. For the last four years, the mainstream media have taken off the gloves, retrofitted them with spikes, and swung wildly at the reviled president and his associates while abandoning any pretense of objectivity. So when Atlas was excoriated by the left, it surely came as no surprise – to him or anyone else. He said:
“It’s pretty obvious that objective journalism is dead in the country. These are intentional attempts to delegitimize me. I think everybody knows that as soon as you get a White House badge there are forces out to try to destroy you.”
Although he steeled himself for the media’s attacks, he couldn’t help but be defensive about some of the more spurious claims. He stated, without equivocation, that The New York Times printed what he called an “overt lie” when it claimed he advocated for a herd immunity policy:
“I have never said that to the president. I have never said it to the vice president. It’s not an exaggeration, it’s not a distortion, it’s just, frankly, a lie to say that I’ve done that. What they’re trying to say is that I’m advocating throwing the barn doors open – just let everyone get infected, and whoever dies, dies. This is a preposterous lie.”
With perhaps a slight naivete, Atlas appeared genuinely astonished to be undermined by Wikipedia. This free online encyclopedia is increasingly known to serve a biased, leftist agenda in the guise of an open-source “collaboration” among internet users. Atlas genuinely wanted to know how to get hold of editors at Wikipedia as “they keep distorting” what he says. If only it were that easy.
Trial by Media
Atlas’ trial by Fourth Estate fire comes at a moment of escalating tensions in America. There is an election to be won, by any means necessary it seems, and Atlas has weighed in on one of the two most significant issues facing the country, and with which the left hopes to harangue, hobble, and harm the incumbent: the COVID-19 pandemic.
To set the record straight, Atlas made clear that his policies mirror those of the president. The doctor and the administration strongly prioritize protecting the most vulnerable, including the elderly, infirm, immuno-compromised, and those with pre-existing conditions. He has argued passionately for the reopening of schools as children “have virtually zero risk of dying and a very, very low risk of any serious illness from this disease.” This message has been borne out by science and has been consistently delivered by Trump, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and the doctors of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Atlas detailed the direct harm being done to children by learning remotely in lockdowns and by preventing them from going back to school proper. He referenced a study that alleges a 30% drop in reading skills from remote learning and a staggering 50% drop in math skills. He also emphasized the critical need for socialization among children of all ages – something that has been in suspended animation since March of this year.
Folded into this grim metric, said Atlas, are other unsettling CDC data, including that 25.5% of 18-24-year-olds report suicidal ideation during lockdowns and 40.9% of American adults have admitted to struggling with substance abuse or mental health during the pandemic. Atlas sees these data as urgent reminders that we’ve got to get ourselves out of quarantines and back to our way of life, safely and responsibly.
Even if major publications cast a jaundiced eye his way regarding his lack of a background in virology or epidemiology, Atlas is more than qualified for the position. He is credited with 100 peer-reviewed papers, authorship of the industry-standard book on MRIs, as well as “a long history at the highest levels in academic medicine at the best institutions” and “a unique combination of expertise in medical science and data.” These are professional highlights he is forced to mention in his defense to blunt the attacks against him.
Atlas knows that his delegitimization, courtesy of the left, is part and parcel of the job. His greater concern appears to be the mistakes being made based on an outsized, amplified fear that is not commensurate with the challenges we face from the pandemic. He characterizes fear as a “very potent weapon” and is not only amazed that the government had the power to confine us in our homes, shutter businesses, and close down schools but also that we allowed it. “Whoever thought people would say OK to that?” he wondered rhetorically.
Only a month into his new job, and Dr. Scott Atlas may already be asking the right questions.
Read more from Pennel Bird.