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Germany's top epidemiologist Christian Drosten
Germany's top epidemiologist Christian Drosten
Michaela Kozminova

Whether or not they were looking for it, the COVID-19 crisis has given epidemiologists bonafide public power. "At this point, if Drosten says it is too early, that carries as much weight as Merkel saying it," quipped German economist Marcel Fratzscher about his country's top epidemiologist Christian Drosten and top politician Angela Merkel.


There is no doubt that the pandemic, epidemiologists, virologists and medical professionals worldwide have stepped into the muddy terrain of national politics. Though the public may not understand every technical detail epidemiologists offer on TV or at press conferences, there's a certain comfort in listening to the scientists who have spent their lives studying the kinds of epidemics that now occupy our minds, if not lives.


Still, as Kenyan economist David Ndii pointed out on Twitter, the current rise of the "epistocracy" – the aristocracy of the wise — should be watched with caution. Although doctors may be adept at curing our bodies and understanding the dynamics of pathogens, they have far less experience managing people and guiding societies.


One example, where the political and the scientific have successfully been embodied in one man, is Taiwanese Vice President Chen Chien-jen, who also happens to be a Johns Hopkins-trained epidemiologist and an expert in viruses. Praised for balancing his dual role of politician and scientist, he has nonetheless kept his scientist hat on through just about everything he's said during the crisis.


But is it ultimately possible, or even desirable, to keep politics out of the conversation? Wouldn't it be naive to think that expert task forces can prevent crisis-related decisions from getting political? Indian policy analyst Sanjaya Baru wrote in The Wire that every policy decision pertaining to crisis management is ultimately about power, and there is no reason the coronavirus crisis should be any different. Let's just hope that more power than not is in the hands of the wise.

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Ideas

García Márquez And Truth: How Journalism Fed The Novelist's Fantasy

In his early journalistic writings, the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez showed he had an eye for factual details, in which he found the absurdity and 'magic' that would in time be the stuff and style of his fiction.

Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez reads his book

J. D. Torres Duarte

BOGOTÁ — In short stories written in the 1940s and early 50s and later compiled in Eyes of a Blue Dog, the late Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia's Nobel Prize-winning novelist, shows he is as yet a young writer, with a style and subjects that can be atypical.

Stylistically, García Márquez came into his own in the celebrated One Hundred Years of Solitude. Until then both his style and substance took an erratic course: touching the brevity of film scripts in Nobody Writes to the Colonel, technical experimentation in Leaf Storm, the anecdotal short novel in In Evil Hour or exploring politics in Big Mama's Funeral. Throughout, the skills he displayed were rather of a precocious juggler.

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