As CNN brings Greta back to talk about Covid-19, giving the climate activist a chance to dabble in virology, is it too much to expect our national broadcaster in Ireland will interview experts who happen to disagree with the government and WHO on the matter?
If you only read the newspapers and watch major television networks, you might think that the science is settled on how best to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, and that locking down all and sundry was the most prudent way to manage a virus that could have killed millions.
The lack of probing questions and investigation by journalists has meant that state-appointed health experts have been transformed into demi-gods we offer thanks and praise to, with much of the watching public reflexively defending their gross negligence using “hindsight is great” comments.
I’m thinking in particular of nursing homes when I mention negligence, and it’s not just in Ireland, but at this point the several hundred nursing home deaths here are firmly in the past, a mere footnote in a most unusual chapter of life, where Irish politicians and civil servants led us all through the valley of darkness to safe pastures.
It’s a great narrative if you’re one of the political leaders who was unpopular up until recently, and so far one that the state broadcaster, which relies on license fees facilitated by politicians, has ably amplified to the nation.
RTÉ has offered little to no evidence or informed opinion that would suggest anything is amiss in our blissful national paralysis. It’s not that such evidence is lacking, it’s that most media outlets are content to relay what their peers are broadcasting abroad, and also delighted that government ad-spending seems to be at all-time high, with never-ending reminders about expanded welfare payments and health warnings on radio, print, TV and online.
Why, for instance, has Japan with a population of 126.5 million only suffered 678 deaths compared with Ireland’s 1,506 among a population of 5 million? Will there be exasperated cries of incompetence from journalists now that our elderly have been so badly let down compared to other countries?
There are of course very good reasons to believe the lockdown has been counterproductive, but don’t listen to me, a mere scribe, talk of a field I know little about.
Expertise is the key ingredient we must look for when it comes to distinguishing fact from fiction in the world of immunology, so it’s unfortunate that those presented as experts on TV panels and in interviews are invariably from other departments and areas of medicine which cannot claim authority in understanding virology and immune responses.
The recent interview of Professor Dolores Cahill by Dave Cullen has given many of us pause for thought about why a highly qualified woman with vast experience in immunology and developing vaccines would not have been given any platform by RTÉ to offer her thoughts on the matter. By all means she should be challenged by competing experts, but lets at least have a debate.
Is it only a carefully chosen few that the public must hear from, or has it ever occurred to our overlords on Kildare Street and down the N11 that group-think is a dangerous thing when gambling with the social and economic fortunes of the country? One senses an air of desperation in their attempts to present a consistent narrative, lest anyone find an elitist empire getting it mostly wrong.
Cahill’s presentation and grasp of the problem would certainly ruffle feathers among those who have put Ireland’s eggs in the WHO’s basket, but, if she is right, it might also serve the deeper purpose of making sure the right people are held to account when the dust settles.