In July 2002, The New York Times Magazine published Gary Taubes' article "What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?," which made the case for carbs, not dietary fat, as the cause of heart disease and obesity. Taubes was swiftly excoriated by the health and nutrition industry and made fun of by other food reporers. Nearly 15 years later, Taubes is no longer a heretic, and the idea that many kinds of fat are healthy is promoted by the orthodoxy, who act as if they knew it all along.
In his piece for The Vindicated, Taubes writes about how the press and the health and nutrition industries came over to his side without admitting they'd ever been wrong.
Here are three issues I have with the concept of vindication, at least of the variety for which I am, regrettably, a candidate.
1. You have to establish the conditions for vindication to be necessary, which means you first have to be publicly shamed or ridiculed, an experience I personally could have lived without.
2. Vindication is not a binary phenomenon; it’s not a yes or no, black or white thing. The people who had publicly insisted you were an idiot are very likely to continue to do so, rather than admit or, perhaps more important, acknowledge to themselves that they might have been wrong. That’s human nature. The best you’ll ever get is some degree of vindication. Never the whole thing.
3. The orthodoxy can always protect itself by accepting your once-heretical ideas as valid, but conveniently forgetting or ignoring the heretic’s role — i.e., yours — in forcing the issue. This is the “we knew it all along” scenario. It wouldn’t be a cliché, if it weren’t so likely to play out. Any heretic should find such an outcome sufficient, but it’s only natural to want credit for one’s contributions, particularly so if they’ve been accompanied by public shaming and credibility is required for you to make a living.