The Independent on Fauci vs. Rubio

I’ve stopped and started several times with the Consuming Journalism feature. It’s aimed at media literacy and critical thinking, but I’ve never really dialed in on the objective or been convinced it was worth doing. People don’t seem particularly interested in questioning what they read and hear. I know that’s an unscientific observation, and I’d be happy to be convinced otherwise.

I also wasn’t sure Substack was the right fit for it. I have a main site, and I’m not sure posting on multiple platforms makes sense.

But I think media literacy is critically important. We probably shouldn’t hand over the responsibility for determining the veracity or quality of information to tech firms and government agencies. We’re more than capable of doing that ourselves.

In previous posts my increasing cynicism came through in sarcasm. I’m not interested in going that route. There’s enough negativity out there. I’m starting with the assumption that most people are working hard to present well-researched, factual information. These posts are aimed at discussing the presentation of that information.

The Independent’s Harriet Alexander has an interesting article discussing Senator Rubio’s recent criticism of Dr. Fauci. Here’s the headline:

Marco Rubio accuses Fauci of having ‘lied’ about face masks and ‘distorting’ facts

The Florida senator attacked Dr Fauci for changing his guidance on Covid-19, which the public health expert said was due to evolving understanding of the virus

The article is based largely on a Rubio tweet.

The article does a good job explaining the issue. Dr. Fauci has acknowledged that he has changed his guidance on masks and on the percentages of people vaccinated necessary for herd immunity. He has repeatedly explained that COVID-19 is a new virus, and we are constantly learning more about it. However, he also said this recently to the New York Times:

In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.

Hard as it may be to hear, he said, he believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt — almost as much as is needed to stop a measles outbreak.

So far so good I think in terms of reporting. The article covers the basics, and the reader is in a good position to assess the merits of the Fauci/Rubio arguments and wording. For example, do you the reader agree with Rubio that Fauci has been lying and distorting?

My main complaint with the article is towards the end. Here’s the wording (emphasis mine):

Mr Rubio's questioning of the vaccine came just eight days after he himself was vaccinated, along with other Congressmen and women.

At the time, Mr Rubio spoke in glowing terms about the vaccine's safety and effectiveness.

"I am so confident that the #Covid19 vaccine is safe & effective that I decided to take it myself," he tweeted at the time.

I don’t see anywhere in the referenced Rubio tweet or the rest of the article any wording or statements from Rubio questioning the vaccine. He’s questioning Fauci’s changing statements about the number of people who will have to receive the vaccine to reach herd immunity.

I don’t think Fauci has been lying and distorting. I was disappointed by my sense that he has not leveled with us with respect to his thoughts on the percentages required. We’re adults, give us the straight shot. It’s similar (not in scale) to my disappointment with the revelation that Trump intentionally downplayed the seriousness of the virus to avoid a panic. Bad news doesn’t improve with age. As for masks, I think a good lesson for the next novel virus is, in the face of uncertainty, to avoid definitive statements about what works and what doesn’t work. For example, this may have worked better: We’re not sure about the effectiveness of masks. But we know our frontline workers are experiencing shortages. Please leave the medical grade masks for them.

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