Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Fauci: The Commercial

It has all the stirring music, flattering lighting, and cherry-picked soundbites from strawman critics you would find in the sort of promotional videos they show during political party conventions. That prompts the question: what office is Dr. Fauci running for? Whatever it is, clearly filmmakers John Hoffman & Janet Tobias are eager to vote for him, based on their hagiographic treatment throughout Fauci, which hits Disney+ tomorrow.

Fauci has had an impressive career at the National Institutes of Health, serving since 1968. The film mainly focuses on his work combating AIDS and COVID, but also briefly touches on his efforts during the Ebola scare. However, in light of the current pandemic, it would have been interesting to hear more about his responses to SARS, Swine Flu, and MERS, because they are more closely related to COVID. Rather clumsily, the film tries to draw parallels between AIDS in the 1980s and COVID today, but whereas Fauci made a concerted efforts to de-stigmatize patients of the latter, his admirers seem to be doing their best to de-humanize the latter, at least if they are unvaccinated.

Frankly, the best segments of the film chronicle his involvement in Pres. George W. Bush’s landmark emergency AIDS relief for Africa (PEPFAR), which literally saved millions of lives. In contrast, the coverage of COVID is considerably problematic. Hoffman & Tobias allot zero time to his critics, aside from a few snippets from blowhards on talk radio, transparently selected to discredit anyone who would dare criticize their subject. Two words that are also conspicuously absent would be “gain” and “function.”

The truth is we can admire Fauci and still be critical of some of his decisions. We feel the same way about the late Sec. Donald Rumsfeld. Now imagine a Rummy doc that allowed his critics no say, only presented his finest career moments, and released in theaters days after the revelations of the Abu Ghraib abuses. Perhaps “film twitter” might have a problem with such a theoretical, but
Fauci is not appreciably different.

Fauci really should have been postponed once it was outstripped by the Intercept’s gain-of-function document dump. It is just incomplete, out of date, and insufficiently probing. Just about all sane viewers will agree working with Trump must have been a trying experience, but we still have a right to know how involved Fauci was in the gain-of-function grants for research carried out in Wuhan.

Perversely, Hoffman & Tobias also obscure attempts to concretely identify the virus’s origins in China, but if we do not want to endure another pandemic, it behooves us to fully understand how this one started. That should not be a controversial notion. Regardless, there is too much hero-worship and not nearly enough intellectual rigor in
Fauci. It is all rather disappointing, because Hoffman’s No Place on Earth was quite strong. Not recommended, it hits Disney+ tomorrow (10/6).