No other event in recent memory exposed the hypocrisy, stupidity, and danger of the leftist elites like the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly everything that was said and done concerning Covid was utter misinformation: lockdowns, ventilators, masks, “vaccines,” social distancing, the origins of the virus. And yet, these things were pushed hard for the next few years (Biden only ended his Covid national emergency last month) while dissenters were routinely marginalized and silenced.
But when it comes to reflecting on the virus, the left continues to deny, denounce, and disinform. Such was the case when Dr. Scott Atlas recently delivered a commencement speech at New College of Florida. After recounting the vitriol and character attacks he endured as an adviser to President Trump, Atlas lamented the damage done by political leaders and scientific authorities:
Under two administrations — Trump and Biden — the United States’ management of the pandemic was a failure, in deaths per million among the worst compared to all our peer nations — a straight line of increase in deaths per day, from March 1, 2020, through April 2022 — two full years, no change in the slope of that line even after the vaccine becoming available on Dec. 16, 2020.
Such brutal honesty drew loud boos from the crowd. Toward the end of the speech, students eventually drowned out Atlas, shouting, “Wrap it up!” Ironically, this happened as Atlas encouraged his audience to save their country by committing themselves to the truth:
We desperately need leadership that unites, not divides; leaders with a moral compass, who know right from wrong, who believe in strong family values; leaders who are not afraid to defend our precious freedoms — America’s hard-earned freedoms that uniquely provide opportunity sought by millions the world over; leaders with integrity — or this country, as an ethical society, as a virtuous society, as a free and diverse society, is in serious trouble.
Considering that nothing in Atlas’ speech was false or overtly partisan, it’s difficult to know what exactly the hecklers were upset about. Freedom? Responsible leaders? Ethics? Unity? Could it really be all these things? Unfortunately, for a large portion of today’s graduates, it really is all these things.
While the coddling of today’s youths has been many years in the making, Covid policies made this problem so much worse. High schoolers and college students were subjected to constant media gaslighting that convinced them they and their family members would die if they didn’t keep away from other people and wear masks. They were told that learning remotely from their bedroom was entirely normal and that they should always trust the experts. Even when a few brave people like Atlas told the truth, they saw those people get canceled for spreading supposed falsehoods and putting lives at risk.
More importantly, this messaging hit young people in their most formative years. They didn’t just witness a propaganda campaign come and go. Instead, day after day, they absorbed and internalized it because it was everywhere all the time. Consequently, even when the lockdowns and mask bans were lifted and Covid jabs were made optional, many of them clung to the habits that developed in the previous years. Even if it’s absolutely necessary now for them to know the truth about the pandemic, it feels absolutely awful. Not only was everything told to them not true, but those stolen years have turned so many of them into helpless introverts who lack the capacity to cope with basic reality.
It’s quite telling that an alternate commencement ceremony took place at the same time as the one where Atlas spoke. The speaker of the ceremony was Maya Wiley, “president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights,” who assured her audience of proud LGBT students, “You’re speaking up to the dozens of states that are now copy-catting the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.” Doubtless, this was much more affirming and nice to hear than being told to fight for truth and freedom.
Nevertheless, even though this is what they want to hear, this isn’t what they need to hear. The path of blissful ignorance and divisive identity politics is not sustainable at this point, much less reasonable. As it happens, few individuals understand this better than Atlas himself. Like Robin Williams’ therapist in “Good Will Hunting” repeating to Matt Damon’s Will Hunting, “It’s not your fault,” Atlas does effectively the same thing in his commencement speech. And just like Will pushing back against these words before breaking down into sobs, Atlas’s audience rejected his words, holding back some heavy feelings. Before they can move forward, they need to acknowledge that it wasn’t their fault that everything went so wrong and so many people suffered.
But they also need to recognize that it will become their fault if they refuse to learn from the mistakes made. Since it’s unlikely that any leaders who botched the Covid response will apologize or admit failure, as Atlas calls for, it falls to upcoming graduates to “learn the facts, use critical thinking, and then form the opinion,” and finally move past the deception and obfuscations. In all fairness, it’s a heavy burden, but one that grows lighter and more pleasant with practice and maturity.