At the end of what will go down as one of the dumbest years in history, the American people were treated to one of the dumbest arguments in history – whether or not soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden should use her title of doctor. Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Joseph Epstein in which he mocked doctorate holders and requested that Dr. Jill Biden stop using the “doctor” as a title, as she is not a medical doctor.
Naturally, this led to a sharp divide in the political ecosystem. Conservatives ran to the defense of Epstein, many going so far as to say that PhDs (or as in Dr. Biden’s case, EdDs) are not enough of an accomplishment to deserve the title of “doctor,” and it detracts from the accomplishment of MDs and DOs. Liberals rushed to condemn the article, even going so far as to call it sexist (because of course they did). Aside from sexism, the condemnation of the piece centered around the idea that doctorate holders work hard on their degree, and once granted, should be allowed to use it. And although this should, in theory, apply to men and women, it seems like much of the online pushback is focused on women with advanced degrees, despite the original article attacking both men and women for using the title of “doctor” after earning a PhD.
I’m not here to take sides, because as I said before, this is a silly discussion that really doesn’t matter at all in the grand scheme of anything. It is important to note, however, that ever since nurse practitioners have been required to achieve doctoral-level degrees in order to practice, there has been a discussion in the medical community as to whether or not DNPs or NPs with a PhD can refer to themselves as “doctor.” This is done so that patients won’t get confused and think that a nurse practitioner with a doctorate is the same as a medical doctor. Dr. Biden herself has been confused for a medical doctor fairly recently, when in March, The View co-host and all-around smart person Whoopi Goldberg made a pitch unironically for Dr. Biden to take on the position of Surgeon General, claiming that she’s “a [heck] of a doctor.” If Mensa-level geniuses like Whoopi Goldberg can get confused, then what chances do the rest of us mere mortals have?
Putting all that aside, the reason to discuss this is to analyze the ways the remedies for issues are being posed from both sides, and what they say about how remedies to social issues are generally handled these days. Let’s begin with where this whole debate started: Epstein’s article. Epstein makes the plea directly to Dr. Biden. He addresses the article to her, and askes her to stop using the title of “doctor.” He does not appeal to an authority like the American Medical Association to fight for legislation on the matter, nor does he make a request from a federal agency to enact a law barring non-medical degree holders from using the title. He just makes the request to Dr. Biden (and by extension, all doctorate holders) that she drop the title.
On the other hand, when arguing against the article, many have demanded a retraction – not from the author of the article, but from the publisher, the Wall Street Journal. And this isn’t just a few unimportant people on the internet being loud. In fact, Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for Jill Biden (who on his own Twitter handle does not call her “Dr. Jill Biden”), tweeted directly at The Wall Street Journal and its editor:
“@jamestaranto, you and the @WSJ should be embarrassed to print the disgusting and sexist attack on @DrBiden running on the @WSJopinion page. If you had any respect for women at all you would remove this repugnant display of chauvinism from your paper and apologize to her.”
If you’ll notice, the one person missing from this tweet is the author of the article, Joseph Epstein. There is no call for personal responsibility. As soon as liberals see something they don’t like, they immediately appeal to authority in order to get it removed.
This is an all-too-common theme for the Left. Rarely do we see an attack on an issue that appeals to the alleged perpetrator anymore. All we see are appeals to authorities. You don’t like something said by a talk show host? Go after the advertisers. You think a certain community is not achieving as high a status as another? Enact a law or a policy that makes standards lower for that community than it is for any other. An individual said something taboo on social media? Find out who that person works for, and appeal to the company to get him or her fired.
It’s like personal responsibility is such a foreign language to the Left that they automatically run to the highest authority possible in order to undercut the original statement before even thinking to go directly to the perceived perpetrator. This is how the editor of The New York Times op-ed page was fired for the immeasurable crime of printing a piece from a sitting United States senator that dared disagree with others at the paper.
To put this bluntly, if it were a liberal calling for the first lady of a Republican president to stop using her title of doctor, the call wouldn’t be directed at the individual; the piece would have been written making the claim that it should be illegal for anyone outside the medical field to use the title of “doctor,” especially during a pandemic, so as not to confuse people into thinking she’s an actual doctor. After all, we can’t have non-medical doctors having false opinions on medicine. What if the brilliant Whoopi Goldberg makes a mistake and listens to the opinion on the assumption that the idea came from a medical doctor? We must make this illegal to save Whoopi’s life!
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.