Townhall

by Bob Barr

In a world of facts and reason, Rebekah Jones is an outlier. As National Review’s Charles Cooke elaborately detailed last month about the Florida Department of Health’s former COVID-19 data analyst, Jones is many things – fabulist, grifter, disgraced former professor, and subject of numerous criminal charges from felony robbery to cyber-stalking. But courageous “truth teller” she certainly is not. Then again, in today’s world that depends on one’s politics.

The case against Jones’ credibility is as clear-cut as it gets among today’s flurry of media disinformation, but the Left has nevertheless embraced her as a Joan of Arc figure of the COVID-19 crisis; largely, if not exclusively, because her allegations that Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis manipulated COVID-19 health stats for political gain fits the narrative they yearn to believe. And, as the saying goes, that is their story and they are sticking to it – facts, or Jones’ deranged behavior, to the contrary.

There is little more to add in discrediting Jones’ wild claims against DeSantis that Cooke has not already addressed over the last month, but Jones’ ability to hoodwink liberals simply because her story confirms their personal and political biases, is worth exploring further. It reflects a disturbing trend, particularly among the mainstream media and Democrat politicians, in which “truth-seeking” is more about confirming a narrative, than actually seeking the truth.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to accept information more readily as true if it reflects currently held beliefs, as well as to more quickly reject information that challenges these. To some degree, confirmation bias is a part of human nature. However, when it comes to institutions such as the media, the creep of confirmation bias into the news-gathering process by agenda-driven journalists produces results that range from embarrassing to outright threats to national security.

Fortunately, in the case of Jones, it has been mostly the former. For all the sanctimonious finger-wagging at the Right for its associations with the QAnon phenomenon, the Left’s obsession with Jones simply because she is attacking one of the GOP’s best and brightest rising stars, is laughably hypocritical. Even 60 Minutes’ hit-piece on DeSantis came-off as so nakedly partisan, it barely qualified as offensive.

The situation is much different, however, when the stakes are raised with national security on the line. Take, for instance, the mainstream media’s intentional scuttling of any hint that COVID-19 may have originated from a research facility in Wuhan because such a theory conflicted with the Left’s browbeating of Trump and other Republicans about “anti-Asian” rhetoric. Where might we be today in holding China responsible for its malfeasance had the media last year invested the same vigor into following fact-based and plausible theories about the virus’ origin, rather than blindly taking as gospel assertions from one man, the now discredited Dr. Anthony Fauci, that a lab leak was virtually impossible.

The list of the Left’s “Emperors with no Clothes” is indeed lengthening.

As I wrote last week, the Left’s perpetual blind spot for the threat posed by China to U.S. interests is made even worse by a confirmation bias that steels American media and politicians from any counter information that might have a shot at breaking this spell. How can elected officials in charge of making national policy, or the media outlets that help inform these elected officials, be effective if they only see reality through such hyper-partisan tunnel vision?

Jones may be taking the Left for a ride, raking in donations from gullible supporters while making fools of journalists who fall for her scam, but it is what she, and Fauci (now cashing in on his own lucrative book deal), represents that should be a wake-up call for the Left and Right alike. Our ability to absorb and objectively process new information is a critical survival mechanism. Dulling this ability by simply assuming we are being told the truth by those who share common beliefs makes us more prone to believing false narratives from bad actors, especially those disguised as friends.

“Trust, but verify,” was a phrase often used by President Ronald during negotiations with the Soviet Union over nuclear disarmament. Today, however, we do far too much of the former, and far too little of the latter. It is an environment of fake news and propaganda, that without immediate correction, will surely bring ruin to our great nation.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.