The Meaning of Dr. Fauci

National Review has just published the best report on the COVID pandemic I’ve read in months. It’s called “The Fall of St. Anthony Fauci”; its author, the always-excellent Michael Brendan Dougherty, shows what a naked operator Dr. Fauci really is:

When confronted by hostile questions about his changing statements, Fauci says—like any good scientist—that he is just responding to new data as they come in.  “I haven’t been wrong, period,” he has insisted.  But when talking to friendly media, he admits he tries to manipulate the public with lies rather than level with them.  In April 2021, he told the New York Times, “When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent.  Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.”  Manipulation and deceit like this are impossible to square with America’s ethic of self-governance.

MBD’s done a great job, and you should read the whole article. But I’d like to throw in my two cents.

Dear reader, you’ve read the Democrats’ fatwas demanding that we “believe Science.” And you’ve no doubt realized that “Science” isn’t something you believe (or not). It’s something you know (or don’t). It might even be something you act on (or not). But knowledge is very different from belief.

At least, it’s not supposed to be.

The idea of Science, as we use the term now, is supposed to transcend belief. The whole reason we moderns prefer science to religion is because science is objectively true. It’s falsifiable. It’s concrete. And so it altogether abolishes the need for mere belief. It takes mankind out of the realm of the speculative; it plants him firmly in the rational, the empirical.

Or so we say.

Perhaps more than any other event in human history, COVID refutes the central thesis of Scientism. Whatever the merits of our new prophylactic patricians, they haven’t cured us of our need for belief.

Their consensus, however fickle, required an almost supernatural trust on the part of the American people to create a coherent response to the COVID pandemic. Of course, most Americans have long since been cured of such medieval superstitions. So, within a matter of weeks of the virus landing on our shores, the propagandists of Scientism (The New York Times, et al.) abandoned the language of reason and data.

These propagandists put the fear of God back into the American people. They taught us to believe again, and then convinced us to put that newfound faith in Dr. Fauci.

So, we did. Our countrymen’s devotion to this ageing beaker-jockey was beyond satire. It absurd. It was shameful. And if Dr. Fauci wasn’t corrupt when it all began, there’s no possible way that such endless (and baseless) adulation wouldn’t turn him into a raving narcissist.

Really, how could Dr. Fauci resist embracing his role as epidemiologist cum prophet cum sex symbol? The American people have chosen Scientism over Christianity—and, being the nation’s chief scientist, that made him a (quite literally) godlike figure in so many of our countrymen’s eyes. They put him on socks, doughnuts, even devotional candles.

Dr. Fauci must have realized that, the more he scared his followers, the more desperately they would cling to him. The more dangerous he made the virus appear, the more they would depend on his lovingkindess and his fatherly care.

That’s why some commentators on the Trumpy Right have referred to the COVID alarmists as a cult. Which, hey, they kind of are. But that’s only half the story.

The fact is that man is a culty animal. We need prophets, teachers, and heroes. I happen to agree with C.S. Lewis:

The Christian says, Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.  A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food.  A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.  Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

I think man’s longing for prophets, teachers, and heroes means there are such things as prophets, teachers, and heroes in the universe. I believe our longing for God proves there’s such a thing as God. It might not be the most convincing truth, but it suits me.

Of course, you may disagree. You don’t have to believe that all man’s desires will find their satisfaction, if only in the Hereafter. But you can’t deny the existence of those desires. And yet that’s exactly what Scientism has done all along.

So, yes: Dr. Fauci is the object of our desire—but not only as the silver fox of some Gen-Z coed’s strange fantasy. He stands in a long line of messianic figures that have arisen since the decline of American religion began in earnest in the early 2000s. He belongs to the American pantheon alongside Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and… er, Greta Thunberg. These people let us believe in something greater than ourselves: the power of science, the power of hope, the power of America, the power of youth.

Now, there’s something to be said for hero-worship, if only that it’s better than villain-worship. The trouble is that these people aren’t heroes. They’re activists, statesmen, and high-ranking bureaucrats. In one way or another, America’s heroes are political messiahs.

Where are the priests and the poets? Where are the musicians, the educators, the soldiers, the peacemakers?

Believe me, I’m no libertarian. (I’m more of anarcho-monarchist.) Still, the fact that our imaginations are totally captured by political figures should make any right-minded individual nervous.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that all the most admirable people just happen to be going into politics. That’s still not very comforting. It means our most ambitious, visionary citizens see the State as the primary (perhaps the only) means of bringing about some meaningful change in the world. That doesn’t bode well for our “ethic of self-governance,” either.

MBD might be right. Dr. Fauci may be poised to fall from grace. His lies and manipulation may bring about his downfall, and soon. But as soon as one false prophet falls, ten more appear in his place. We’ll seize upon at any old charlatan who promises to comfort our ignorance. Anything to buttress our faith in this lonely race of mankind, lest we should go running back to Christ.

As T.S. Eliot said, “If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God) you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin”—or Dr. Fauci.

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