How Anthony Fauci fights Rand Paul
a case study in moral narratives
Last week saw another clash between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Senator (Dr.) Rand Paul, we’re going to focus on the end.
This following exchange comes after Senator Paul points out that despite Dr. Fauci’s best guidance, there have been more deaths under President Biden in 2021 than there were under President Trump in 2020.
As the lead architect to the government response, Dr. Fauci has been the public face in charge. As he so eloquently puts it, he represents “Science” to the American people. Giving the recommendations of such authorities as the CDC, WHO, and FDA.
Fauci: You personally attack me, and absolutely without a shred of evidence to anything you say. So I would like to make something clear to the committee is he’s doing this for political reasons what you need to do is . . . he’s said in front of this committee
Rand: You think your take down of 3 prominent epidemiologists was not political? that was my question.
. . . CHAIR ALLOWS FAUCI TO RESPOND
Fauci: The last time we had a committee or the time before he was accusing me of being responsible for the death of 4-5 million people. Which is really irresponsible and I say why is he doing that? There are two reasons why that’s really bad. The first is it distracts from what we’re all trying to do here today, get our arms around the epidemic and the pandemic that we’re dealing with not something imaginary.
Here’s the part of the exchange to focus on.
Fauci: Number two, what happens when he gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue. Is that all of the sudden that kindles the crazies out there. . . and I have threats upon my life, harassments of my family, and my children with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me. Now I guess you can say that’s the way it goes I can take the hit. Well, it makes a difference because as some of you may know just about 3-4 weeks ago on December 21 a person was arrested who was on their way from Sacramento to Washington D.C. at a speed stop in Iowa. And the police asked him where he was going and he was going to Washington D.C. to kill Dr. Fauci and they found in his car and an AR-15 and multiple magazines of ammunition. Because he thinks that maybe I’m killing people. And I ask myself why would [the] Senator want to do this? So go to Rand Paul website and you see Fire Dr. Fauci with a little box that says contribute here. You can do $5, $10, $20, $100. So you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain.
Rand: You have politically attacked your colleagues, and in a politically reprehensible way you’ve attacked their reputation. You won’t defend it.
….. CHAIR DOESN’T GRANT MORE TIME
Why it happened
Much of the response in support of Senator (Dr.) Paul’s position has pointed out that while Fauci is referring to threats against his life, Rand Paul has been shot at, assaulted, mobbed, and I’m sure cajoled numerous times during his tenure as Kentucky’s junior Senator. Caught up in the blood-sport of political theatre, emotional condemnations of Fauci missed a very important element of the story.
To understand this deeper layer you must understand 3 things
There is a symbolic element to all political rhetoric
Dr. Fauci’s response was prepared in advance
Dr. Fauci’s response had the intended effect
If we take that being a victim has achieved a high moral status, and taking offense at minor slights is encouraged, we can infer that playing the victim (whether accurate or not) can give one status. Being a victim therefore, has a currency in certain social circles the way going to Harvard or being a Free Mason might.
By playing the victim in this hearing, Fauci gives us an insight into the psychology at play. Rather than address Senator Paul’s line of questioning directly, he deploys the tactic of playing a victim to to the committee (and by extension the American people)
It follows a simple formula
Appeal to an authority figure for intervention
Conflate a rhetorical opponent to a “real” danger that could cause you (or someone close to you) harm
Share an anecdote personalizing the narrative
Condemn opponent for benefiting from something that could cause you (or someone close to you) harm
There are variations, but if you pay attention to the structure of the response you’ll notice it deployed in all kinds of media spats and social interactions.
Growing up, my parents called it “tattling” today it represents a legitimate means of discrediting your opponent to millions.
What it means
It’s important to understand that for the supporters of Dr. Fauci, the exchange was considered a win for Fauci. This is because in politics the moral edge goes to the person you already agree with. It’s also important to understand there are victims in the world, and we naturally want to help them. The victim morality is not virtuous. To borrow a phrase from Gad Saad, victim morality it is an “idea pathogen.” It takes a virtuous impulse and warps it to serve it’s own political end.
In MSNBC coverage, the headline reads
Rand Paul usually tries to put Anthony Fauci on the defensive. At their latest encounter, the infectious disease expert tried turning the table
The entire piece is designed to discredit Sen Paul and build up Dr. Fauci. As the piece says, “Instead of waiting for the senator to push new nonsense, Fauci seemed to go on the offensive yesterday.”
You might say an opinion piece on MSNBC is going to be slanted in favor of Fauci. NBC reporting by contrast is supposed to be neutral, and yet the NBC headline is far more brazen if you think about it.
In a separate tense exchange, Fauci was heard on a hot mic calling a GOP senator a "moron."
This is a clear example of Michael Malice’s formulation about how the corporate press is often accurate without being truthful. as the “unbiased reporting” states
In July, Paul implied that Fauci had previously lied to Congress and was aware of what the lab in Wuhan, China, was doing with grant money that came from the NIH.
That last sentence is a real bit of mental gymnastics when you keep reading it.
It admits that the NIH funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology, that Dr. Fauci was in charge of giving out the money, but that it would be ridiculous to assume Dr Fauci would have any idea about the work they were doing there.
It’s easy to get lost in the argument for your side. It might “seem crazy” that someone could still support Dr. Fauci after all this time, but people do. I enjoy these exchanges between Rand Paul and Anthony Fauci as much as the next political commentator, but I try not to get caught up in a political moment filled with charged rhetoric. This is political theatre, and I’m there to enjoy the show. You can too if you stop watching the show and start seeing the production. That’s what we do here at BeenAwake.com
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