“ My previous naivete, I think, was due to my confidence in information flows from my study of history. Every despotism of the past was marked by lack of access to truth. For example, how is it that the world believed that Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler were men of peace and could be skillfully managed via diplomatic relations? Why did people believe the reports emanating from theNew York Times that there was no famine in Ukraine, that Mussolini had cracked the code to efficient economic planning, and that Hitler was over-the-top but essentially harmless?
My previous view has been that we did not know better because we did not have access to accurate reports. The same could be said about other egregious incidences of despotism from history. Humanity wallowed in darkness. The Internet fixes that, or so we (I) believed.
That turned out to be wrong. The speed and abundance of information actually amplified error. At the height of the pandemic response, anyone could have looked up the demographics of risk, the failings of PCR and masks, the history and significance of natural immunity, the absurdities of plexiglass and capacity restrictions, the utter futility of travel limits and curfews, the pointless brutality of school closures. It was all there, not just on random blogs but also in the scholarly literature.
But the existence of correct information was nowhere near enough. It turns out (and this is perhaps obvious now) that it is not the information availability as such that matters but people’s capacity to make sound judgments about that information. That is what was lacking all along.”