The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
When Nicholson Baker wrote a cover story for New York laying out the evidence that COVID-19 may have originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, the hypothesis was still highly controversial. In the months that have followed, and especially over the last week, it's gained more and more credibility. A week ago, 18 prominent scientists signed a letter published in Science calling for an open investigation into the virus's origins. This weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. intelligence believes three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 to require hospitalization, lending even more credence to the possibility of a lab leak.
The hypothesis is far from proven. But this account of the virus's origins is highly plausible, and at least as well-grounded as the original story of an infection that naturally leapt from a bat to a person.
This development would come as a shock to anybody who had been following this question in the news, especially its more left-leaning precincts. Many mainstream journalists, though not all, dismissed the lab-leak hypothesis out of hand as a conspiracy theory. In part, they were deceived by some especially voluble public-health experts. In part, they simply took Donald Trump's bait, answering the former president's dissembling with false certainty of their own….
And the closing:
It is true that most of these outlets were more faithful to the truth than Trump, whose gusher of lies vastly exceeded whatever false claims trickled out of the liberal media. But Trump is not the right standard for journalists. And those who chose to follow the ethos of moral clarity, at the expense of objectivity, misled their audiences.
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