Coronavirus / Government Watch

The Experts Are Killing Expertise

AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott


A new poll out this month from the Kaiser Family Foundation has shed more light on just how much the COVID-19 pandemic shattered Americans’ faith in the country’s public health system. But healthcare officials aren’t alone in facing a crisis of public confidence; survey data suggests that nearly every part of the country’s “expert class” is facing a reckoning.

According to the KFF’s national survey, Americans’ confidence in the CDC as a source of accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines has fallen from 73% in December of 2020 to 64% today. 62% of respondents said they trusted the FDA, compared to 70% who said the same in December of 2020, while public trust in Dr. Anthony Fauci has fallen from 68% to 53%.

These numbers were particularly pronounced among Republicans. Just 41%, 43%, and 25% of self-identified Republicans said they trusted the CDC, FDA, and Dr. Fauci, respectively, while 57%, 62%, and 47% said the same in December of 2020.

Other polls over the past year have found even more striking results.

A Pew Research Center survey last February found that just 29% of adults said they had a “great deal of confidence” in medical scientists to “act in the best interest of the public.” 40% said the same in November 2020. An NBC news poll from January 2022 found that trust in the CDC had fallen from 69% prior to the pandemic to just 44%. According to a Morning Consult poll from January of this year, only 55% of U.S. adults say they trust the country’s public health institutions to handle a future pandemic.

All of these numbers have likely only gotten worse in light of new revelations about Fauci’s attempts to discredit the lab leak theory early on and findings from the Department of Energy that further support the likelihood that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.

Gallup’s annual poll on Americans’ trust in institutions shows that public confidence in a litany of other so-called “experts” is also in freefall.

Just 25% of Americans said in 2022 that they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the Supreme Court, down from 40% in 2020 and a high of 56% in 1988. Only 16% said they have a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in newspapers, down from 24% in 2020 and a high of 51% in 1979.

While confidence numbers for Congress have always been dismal, the percentage of Americans saying they have a “great deal” of confidence in the country’s most powerful lawmaking body reached an all-time low of 2% last year. The number of respondents who said they have a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in TV news also reached a new low of 11% in 2022.

Across the board, public trust in every institution surveyed by Gallup – including non-governmental ones like big business and even organized religion – has declined by at least 10% since polling began in the 1970s. In some cases, trust has been cut in half over the span of just a few years.

Liberals have frantically sounded the alarm about the declining trust in institutions and experts – even as they completely fail to recognize the root cause of the phenomenon.

Their obliviousness is perhaps best summed up by a 2017 book from political pundit Tom Nichols entitled The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters. In it, Nichols argues, “Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue.” He asserts that Americans are choosing to be ignorant, and the solution is for common people to become “modestly informed.”

Essentially, Nichols (and so many liberals who have embraced his basic premise) is arguing that it is not the “expert” class which occupies institutional positions of power that has failed the people by being wrong over and over again and using their power and resources for personal advancement, but rather the people who have failed the expert class by not accepting every word uttered by an “expert” as gospel truth.

This pathology was on full display in a 60 Minutes appearance in January from infamous environmental doomsayer Paul Ehrlich. The 90-year-old is famous for wrongly predicting 4 billion humans would die of starvation by 1989 in his notoriously incorrect 1968 book Population Bomb.

“If I’m always wrong, so is science since my work is always peer-reviewed,” Ehrlich defiantly claimed. “I’ve gotten virtually every scientific honor. Sure, I’ve made some mistakes, but no basic ones.”

Here Ehrlich inadvertently lays bare the game played by the “expert” class: if you question me, he says, you question science itself.

Dr. Fauci invoked a similar line of reasoning during the pandemic with his constant refrain of “trust the science,” even going so far as to say, “I represent science.”

Ehrlich and Fauci both view themselves as indistinguishable from the institutions they are a part of. Their credibility and legitimacy rests on recognition and celebration by other “experts,” rather than any actual accountability or expectations that any of their predictions are proven correct.

Across the spectrum, “the experts” have asserted that to question them is to question the institutions they represent, and even to question expertise itself. And increasingly, that is just what Americans are doing.

Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.

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Sean Rickman
2 months ago

The chinese infused members of the illegitament members of the people in charge of ruining our AMERICA are the ones to blame for almost all of AMERICAS problems.

2 months ago

The issue is they’re corrupt and it doesn’t bother any of them to be pathological liars. It’s all about the money and power over the “common” people as they consider us. If the deep state isn’t eradicated, our country is lost.

2 months ago

Expert does not mean infallible-we all need the direction from someone who knows a good deal about the area we are interested in but lack the rudimentary foundation to move forward. Sometimes the information we get is not founded and mistakes are made but that doesn’t impugn any further attempt to improve our understanding via experts. Questioning is a vital part of understanding but if it is done punitively and without purpose distrust can alter a positive outcome. It helps a great deal if the professionals admit and discuss their errors.

2 months ago
Reply to  CJP

I agree, expert does not equal infallible. I personally respect someone who is able to see their mistakes and try to better themselves through their mistakes.

2 months ago

As an ex-expert in my field in my local arena I can testify to what happens a lot — more often than it should. At first it goes well, but you find yourself dealing mostly with easy questions, too easy, as they make you complacent. I saw it in myself and in others — and yes I recognize the symptoms in Fauci. Being so far ahead is like the hare in the tortoise and the hare tale — you back off, you take it easy, you stop striving so hard to make it to the top, as you’ve already made it. I stopped putting in the effort to stay on top of the technology I was involved with. Worse, I stopped thinking hard about problems and started giving pat answers. As you start to falter, for whatever reason, it seems impossible to go back to what you had been before and put in the effort again. I guess in part because to do that feels like your going backwards. Instead of working on improving knowledge you work to hide your growing incompetence. Fortunately for me that last phase was relatively short as I grew to hate the job (and sick of what I’d become) and walked away from the field entirely. I haven’t regretted it.

For me it happened relatively quickly as the field I was in is very dynamic and changes a good bit every year. For a field like medicine where the basic tenets don’t change, you could coast for decades.

Please understand, this wasn’t intentional, Starting out, when something new came along (as it regularly did) I dug into it hard and I read all I could and kept an eye on it as it was adopted (or not). I had always been the guy that was the first to admit when he didn’t know something, first to admit a mistake and I actively invited critique and alternate viewpoints. I hated pretenders — and then, to my everlasting shame, over time I found myself one.

So yeah, being an expert is hard, it’s not for the lazy or power-trippers or face-savers and for even those who aren’t any of those it is fraught with danger. Genuine experts have to put in a LOT of work to maintain their expertise, more work than an administrator/functionary/politician can afford the time to do. Therein lies the problem. We appoint experts to those positions because of their expertise but fulfilling that duty means they are already starting to fall behind (hence the has-been drips under pressure). More than anywhere else this is where we need term limits. Past laurels are worthless, experts need to be periodically challenged to prove they’re still on top. Credentials need to expire if they aren’t regularly renewed with the same degree of rigor as when first granted. Above all, we need strong, non-political, competition for those spots.(non-political or otherwise you wind up with people who are more expert politician than otherwise).

As an aside, I’ve always described myself as anti-Big, anti-big gov’t, big business, big religion, big education, big media, big pharma, big tech, big agriculture, etc. I’ve seen the inside of big organizations and they’re a mess, they’re inefficient and have people carving out their own little kingdoms inside. It’s just human nature, it happens, *every time*. Now, when such organizations face competition, there are some checks on that behavior and it can be reduced (never eliminated). Which is why of all of those things I’m most anti big gov’t — they simply have no competition (except for Federalism which encourages competition between the States which is why I’m very pro Federalism). Oh, and gov’t is the only one with the authority to take everything you have, including your life.

2 months ago

I question whether Trump won Idaho in 2020 because in a group of people I met all voted for Biden.

Donald King
1 month ago
Reply to  chzsj

All 150% of them?

Rob citizenship
2 months ago

The public health establishment needs to be restructured and it should start with the principles of the ethical practice of public health. Respect for the citizens of the United States of America has been disregarded with the coronavirus strategy starting in 2020. A policy of education ,not coercion, would have been far better in dealing with the coronavirus. Truth has been left out of policy concerning public health, and that is not honorable at all. These statements are not complaints, they are observations
In 2001 a group called the Public Health Leadership Society published the Principles of the Ethical Practice of Public Heath . There are twelve principles and they are respectful of the rights of American citizens. In 2019 there was a similar publication that was published in connection with the very liberal left American Public Heath Association that lacked the spirit of the 2001 Public Heath Leadership Society principles. I do believe that most Conservatives would agree with the 2001 Public Heath Leadership Society principles of ethical practice, primarily because of the respect for the public that is obvious . The 2019 publication mentioned above reflects a very liberal left mindset . So, there it is , the whole matter can be fixed by making some common sense adjustments and getting public health doing things responsibly at least in part by taking something from the past and applying it to the present circumstances . This is a very important article Mr. Abbott , In the spirit of Truth, Well Done !

Steven Coughlin
2 months ago

This is Woodrow Wilson’s dream come true. It’s also a reminder of how the so-called “experts” and Democrat politicians cause problems, yet come riding to “rescue” to supposedly fix the very things they caused .

Douglas Proudfoot
2 months ago

Real experts are willing to admit what they don’t know. Today’s experts claim to know everything. Harry Truman famously wanted to hire a one handed economist. (OTOH) Experts today don’t hedge like Truman’s economists. They claim infallibility, and try to censor anyone who disagrees. By doing so, they undermine their own credibility.

Nancy Hildebrandt
2 months ago

Science has no shortage of grifters. Government (who control the majority of grant funds), universities (who profit greatly from government grants), and mediacrats (who keep readership engaged by the narrative) encourage and reward them. And, as a narrative such as “climate change is an existential crisis” becomes popular among the elites, peer reviewers won’t accept scientific papers that don’t confirm it. And never mind the grifters, science is way more complicated than the public understands. Its never a matter of “trust the science.” What has moved us toward reflexively NOT trusting the science is the group of scientists who insists that we must trust them.

Rob citizenship
2 months ago

There is a great deal of truth in what you wrote Nancy, And good sense too. It sure takes much patience to contend with some ( better to say most ) of the stuff put forth by the grifters . So, I reckon qualities such as honor, honesty, integrity, courage and loyalty provide much strength needed. Many approaches to just plain doing things right and ethically are to be considered when it is obvious that trust isn’t in the picture in certain circumstances. Thinking about the meaning of the will of God, having a clean sense of humor, being diligent in the defense of truth, and having the intelligence to recognize ally from enemy, friend from foe , having a sense of purpose , living by a code of conduct as well , all combine to proceed on the right course in life. I have worked on things that require knowledge of mathematics , trigonometry , plain and spherical , since the 1970’s , design of and making tools, including tools for navigation instruments, weather instruments and microscopes. Mathematics is a form of reasoning , a way to make sense of , to understand something complex by simplifying it . The grifters will take something simple and make it complex if there is profit in doing so. Who needs them ? Nobody needs them is the answer to that question. There is great joy in having respect for truth, What you wrote is appreciated and important . Well Done !

Rob citizenship
2 months ago

Error near middle of comment/reply , reference to trigonometry , the word plain should be plane . In the spirit of attention to detail in mathematics, so ” trigonometry, plane and spherical ” sets things right.

Nancy Hildebrandt
2 months ago

Thank you for that reply. The two qualities I’ve come to value most are humility and an open mind, but the other qualities you mentioned seem important to the size of the mark you leave on the world.

Leland John Eagleson
2 months ago

Always remember the vintage definition of ‘expert’: a has been drip under pressure. President Trump put Fauci front and center and proved that adage.

Stephen Russell
2 months ago

The elite class is killing the world

2 months ago

Those are elitists, self-described as elite though the adjective is about membership in a club, not qualifications.

2 months ago

I have not trusted Fauci since day ONE. He changed his mind every day about masks, etc. And in reality, thousands of people died from the ‘flu’ years ago and I really don’t think this covid thing was anything more than the flu but it was a way to CONTROL. I am 83 , no vaccines, caught covid and was no worse than the flu yet my friend who had her vaccine caught it and was really sick in bed for over a week. So much BS. A lot of the ones that died in hospitals was because they were treated with the wrong meds, etc.

2 months ago

Science is the constant questioning and testing of everything in order to find the truth and knowledge of how things occur and work. It is NOT political dogma or personal egos trying to suppress the hunt for that truth and knowledge. The latter of which is what Fauci, Ehrlich and others within the federal government (Birx) and the international community (WHO and the CCP) were intent on doing to the detriment of the world. What you had in Fauci and likely to a smaller degree Ehrlich were two individuals seeking, through the elevated positions they held in government, to hide their complicity in banned viral research that they farmed out to China by using their positions in the federal government. That doesn’t make all “experts” bad. That simply means a number of corrupt individuals misused their positions of power to mislead and world, which resulted in 7 million dead.

Obviously the so-called “experts” should be held accountable, but we all know that is never going to happen. The lesson the American public and hopefully the rest of the world takes away from all this is you should question everything yourself. Apply your own critical thinking skills to looking deeper into a subject when a so-called “expert”, especially one that is a long-time government employee, makes some sweeping claim. Research everything on the subject and talk with others in the same field as the subject to filter out the valid from the invalid garbage that proliferates on the Internet. Yes, it is time consuming, but it is better to work off of known and verifiable true data, than waste your time on known disprovable data.

In the case of Covid-19, there was quite a bit of information available initially from several Chinese scientists working in the field of virology in China that pointed at concerns about lax safety oversight at the Wuhan site, that had a history of “lab accidents”. Having personnel working on level 4 viruses with only level 2 personal protective gear. Then when many of those same Chinese scientists suddenly died or just disappeared, along with their records, that in and of itself was an indication of an official government clean-up operation. At the same time here in the United States, Dr. Fauci stepped up his poo-pooing of any potential for a Wuhan lab leak as the origin point for the virus. We all now know why that was. He was busy trying to cover up his own involvement.

anna huberb
2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

I’d like to think there is a difference between science and dogma That science would allow questioning where dogma demands unquestionable believe Fauci is a demagogue not a doctor

2 months ago
Reply to  anna huberb

There is a world of difference between science and dogma. Science is based on inquiry, experimentation, testing, validation of the underlying theory or discrediting of the underlying theory. Constant questioning of everything until it can either be proven independently, repeatedly by virtually any other scientist or individual following the exact same methodology or the theory is proved false. That is what peer reviewed and validated or discredited literally means in the scientific world.

Dogma on the other hand is simply the stating of something by someone in a position of authority that is expected to be blindly accepted as fact, because an individual or authority says so. Essentially it is a blind belief in something being spoken by an authority figure with no means to validate any of the underlying so-called “facts” being put forth. Questioning is usually not allowed when dogma is involved, because such questioning would likely highlight the holes or inaccuracies in the dogma being pushed.

2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

I question whether Trump actually won Idaho in the 2020 election because I think he cheated because he cheats at everything. Is that how it is supposed to work?

2 months ago

Its “The Biden Kakistocracy” at work,plain and simple

David Millikan
2 months ago

Excellent article.
The CDC has done nothing but lie and play politics.
I don’t trust or believe anything the CDC says.

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