‘Fauci’, the creatively titled new National Geographic documentary airing on Disney+, sets out under a decidedly deceptive guise of impartiality to tell the truth about America’s favorite foremost scientist, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Over the last year and a half, as the coronavirus has ravaged the US and marched across the globe, Dr. Fauci, whom the film describes as “a world-renowned infectious disease specialist and longest-serving public health leader in Washington, DC,” has become a beatified cultural icon to some and a lightning rod of controversy to others.
I consider myself agnostic on Dr. Fauci, but admit that I’ve never understood the media and public veneration of him. I don’t loathe the guy, but he just always struck me as a blowhard bureaucrat with an ego inversely proportional to his intellect. But what the hell do I know?
Now, if you worship at the altar of St. Fauci – Patron Saint of ‘The Science’ – then Fauci will certainly satiate your Fauci fetish. But if you even mildly question the actions or intentions of the Brooklyn-born scientist/sage, then this documentary is definitely not for you.
The film seems like a slick, one-hour-forty-five-minute campaign commercial meant to solidify the base rather than reach the indecisive. It boasts a plethora of personal interest anecdotes, as well as montages of family time and even shots of a sexy Fauci in the family pool in a Speedo (no, I’m not kidding). Then there’s the requisite conjured tears to indicate Fauci’s heartfelt humanity, and moments of him cursing to reveal how down-to-earth he is, plus a healthy serving of pious-filled Fauci faux humility. Oh, and there’s also the cavalcade of establishment endorsements from the likes of Bill Gates, George W. Bush, and Bono.
But if you were hoping for an actual investigation into Dr. Fauci, you’ve come to the wrong documentary, as filmmakers John Hoffman and Janet Tobias seem deathly allergic to actual journalism.
Looking for questions regarding gain of function research, or a feet-to-the-fire moment over the venerated Fauci’s falsities and flip-flops regarding Covid and masks? Or answers to questions like… if the disease is so deadly, why is the southern border still so porous, potentially allowing in infected illegal immigrants? Or if the lockdown was instituted in order to avoid overwhelming ICU units and hospitals, why weren’t more ICU units built and hospital capabilities expanded over the last year and a half? Or if the vaccine doesn’t stop transmission of the disease but only reduces the severity of the illness, then why should anyone care about the unvaccinated, since they are only putting themselves at risk?
You’ll have to look elsewhere, because ‘Fauci’ doesn’t just not have answers to those questions, it never even considers asking them.
The whole documentary feels like a bad job interview, where the interviewer asks, “What are your biggest weaknesses?” and the candidate replies, “I work too hard, care too much, and am too dedicated to helping people.”
Of course, this is a sentimental, softball cinematic venture, so there’s no pushback amongst the prodigious amount of pattycake.
Even when the film does go through the motions of pretending to be impartial, it lets its bias overwhelm it.
For instance, Fauci’s arrogant bungling of the AIDS crisis in the 80s is transformed into the narrative of a noble public health worker bridging divides, bringing people together, and bravely standing up against homophobia.
Fauci’s mishandling of the AIDS epidemic in Africa is also shown in a similar light, but instead of Fauci fighting homophobia, he’s fighting racism.
The filmmakers’ use of Fauci’s alleged fight against homophobia and racism in these cases is meant to suffocate any liberal questions over Fauci’s record and solidify support among the movie’s ideological base.
They also use Trump as a convenient foil, once again to signal their and Fauci’s liberal bona fides. A red-faced Trump comes in for some very heavy criticism in the documentary – for example, when asked what his first impressions of Trump were, Fauci derisively responds, “Yikes!”
Fauci paints himself as a paragon of truth and Trump as an arrogant buffoon, but the good doctor’s own, sometimes fatal flaws never make a blip on the radar screen of ‘Fauci’.
For example, from the very beginning of his career all those decades ago, Fauci’s narcissism is readily apparent. He clearly adores being in front of cameras and at the center of attention. This narcissism directly feeds his blind spot – arrogance, most notably in regards to the AIDS crisis and his failure to tell the truth regarding Covid to the American people. This arrogance has cost countless lives.
It’s Fauci’s lack of humility and inability to admit mistakes that has done so much damage to the credibility of the medical establishment in the US.
If Fauci were consistent and truthful about what he’s done and hasn’t done, and where he’s been wrong, it would go a long way towards healing what ails the medical establishment, but self-reflection isn’t Dr. Fauci’s strong suit – self-promotion is, and ‘Fauci’ is proof of that.
Ultimately, ‘Fauci’ is a painfully pandering paean to its subject, and an unintentional ode to the relentless narcissism that drives him. If, like Fauci, you love Fauci, then you’ll love ‘Fauci’. If you loathe him or are ambivalent, this piece of shameless and brazen agitprop isn’t going to convince you otherwise.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
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