Libertarian economist Donald Boudreaux began a recent blog post with a quote about the dangers of government censorship, and then offered up this comment: “Rogan deserves applause for airing ideas about Covid and vaccines that challenge the official “Science.””
Government censorship is dangerous, but this doesn’t mean Rogan should be applauded for credulously (or deliberately) passing on misinformation to his large audience.
Most people decide what to believe about subjects like politics and health not through direct experience or personal review of the evidence, but by listening to people they trust. This means that responsible gatekeeping by opinion leaders and media organizations is essential. Airing different points of view uncritically is at best naively irresponsible. At worst it’s a cynical effort to profit at the expense of people who are unsophisticated about science and too trusting of people like Rogan. And make no mistake, people are needlessly dying because people like Rogan are “airing ideas” that challenge vaccines.
Criticizing Rogan may backfire if it inadvertently draws attention to him, although I think there is a reasonable chance he will be more cautious in the future. But there is no justification for encouraging him to publicize ideas that challenge vaccines, without making any effort to separate the wheat from the chaff. And clearly there is no threat to democracy from criticizing him, there is no analogy to censorship. In a democracy we all have an obligation to vet information before passing it on, especially those of us with the training, time, and resources to do so. When we fail to live up to this obligation, we open ourselves up to legitimate criticism. This is all perfectly obvious and I doubt that Boudreaux would deny any of it – how could he? But yet here we are. Instead of using his training as an economist to help people understand the evidence, Boudreaux applauds Rogan for recklessly spreading anti-vax propaganda and encourages populist disdain for “official “Science””.