Flat White

The strange emergence of the anti-vaxxer bogeyman

18 January 2022

2:00 PM

18 January 2022

2:00 PM

To Sir (!) Tony Blair, they are selfish idiots. To Bob Carr, they are simpletons. To the Archbishop of Canterbury (and, no doubt, the Pope), they are immoral. To Justin Trudeau, they are misogynist racists.

Emmanuel Macron wants to ‘p**s them off’. Jacinda Ardern smirks at the suggestion that punishing them ushers in a two-tiered society. Daniel Andrews wants them excluded from the economy. Scott Morrison wants one in particular excluded from Australia and from an iconic tennis tournament.

The LA Times journalist Michael Hiltzik suggests that mocking their deaths from Covid is ‘necessary’. They have been described as a ‘global underclass’. Two academics of very different political hues reckon they should be punished via the tax system, since they are ‘free riders’. They are taking up all the ICU beds. Ergo, killing people. Even Covid ‘Liberals’ like Dominic Perrottet want them excluded from certain classes of public service, including teaching, seemingly unaware that children are close to being at nil risk of catching Covid.

To all of the above, they are a tiny minority (which is actually not true), and so able to be gaslit.

Of course, I speak of the fate of the so-called anti-vaxxer. In the words of British media scholar Michael Wayne, the current vilification of the unjabbed amounts to ‘moral condemnation’. It is condemnation of an enemy by those engaged in a propaganda war worthy of a Dantean circle of hell, (probably).

Defaming anti-vaxxers has become quite the sport, to go along with their exclusion from non-deplorable society and the evisceration of their rights by the Covid State and its allies. The unjabbed are at the coal face of the papers-please society.

Invariably and conveniently, they are conflated with conspiracy theorists, anti-lockdown protesters, and Covid deniers. There would be many opponents of Covid vaccine mandates who are none of these. Some are even world-renowned, highly published medical scientists. Characterising the anti-vaxxers as stupid might be a bit of an own goal. Presumably Bob, Sir Tony and the rest are unaware of the recent study by Carnegie Mellon University that found the highest represented educational cohort of vaccine opponents are those with a PhD.

That journalists who join in, indeed, in some cases lead, the brutal and shallow attempt at mass denigration is perplexing. They are meant to be truth-seekers.

The corporate media’s well-documented financial dependence upon Big Pharma advertising dollars propels most news outlets towards reflexively pro-vax propaganda. Then there are the university institutes, especially those whose medical research or pandemic modelling is well-funded by Bill Gates or Beijing, or both. Mostly, in character, they advise governments to mass-vaccinate or perish.

Following the money has never been a sounder instinct than when trying to unpack cause and effect in the age of Covid. The scholar and filmmaker Julian Vigo recently noted two things that should perturb us all. First, she suggested that ‘journalism has all but disappeared’. Second, she argued that ‘the messages we are receiving from media are wiped clean of facts, often wiped clean of science…’ All in the name of the orthodoxy of the day.

Covid has thrown up many anti-heroes, almost too many to count. The anti-vaxxer, endlessly and conveniently ill-defined, and often with assumed, even made-up, characteristics, seems a very odd Covid era type to pick on, you might think. Why is it happening?

There are several explanations for the no-holding-back attacks on the unjabbed.

Pride. Man’s great, continuing sin. Once you (as a politician or any Covid acolyte) have bought into the vaccines-as-Covid-silver-bullet solution to the virus, it is a mighty back-down to admit defeat against those who (correctly) say over and over again, the vaccines don’t work as intended. Better to ignore them, to silence them, to censor them, to isolate them, to demean them.

Fear of being shown up as stupid. Another (related) explanation is that, if the anti-vaxxers are shown to be correct in their various claims, then the pro-vaccine lobby are the ones who are the simpletons here. The increasingly shrill attacks on the unjabbed are a feint to distract attention from the fact that mass vaccinations do not stop the spread of Covid, or illness from Covid, or deaths from Covid. Even if you don’t keep up with latest studies from Israel, Iceland, Gibraltar, India, or just about anywhere else. Or listen in to the pronouncements of no less than the CEO of Pfizer who admitted that two jabs aren’t sufficient to stop you getting Covid, or the UK’s Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, who suggests that we simply cannot keep taking boosters every few months for the rest of our lives.

Disdain. The anti-vaxxers are, well, deplorables. Trump supporters, more than likely. Prone to planting Aussie flags in their front yards. Easy targets.

Bought off. Many who are gaslighting the unjabbed are undoubtedly simply in the pay of the Covid State, in particular of the vaccine manufacturers, one way or another. They are bound to belittle those not playing ball. They are merely acting in their economic interests.

Intellectual laziness. Why bother to find out one; why the unjabbed remain so; two, whether they are all alike; and three, whether their arguments have merit and whether, therefore, it is they who turn out to be on the right side of history, when you can simply dismiss them as intellectual and moral club-foots?

Nudging. Shame them into getting the jab, so as to propel the vaccination rates even higher. Alas, if true, this is utterly misguided. I suspect that those still not vaccinated are anything but hesitant, and in no way susceptible to cheap, unalloyed propaganda.

Intellectual barrenness. Ad hominem attacks and constructing straw man arguments are now the best that even journalists and politicians can come up with, in these second-rate times. Any assertion and insult will do, especially when the best argument you can summon is, ‘my vaccine will only work if you have yours’.

The late American economist Anthony Downs once argued that low-information voters were ‘rationally ignorant’. In other words, they seldom bother to inform themselves about sometimes complex policy issues because the rewards for doing so aren’t worth the effort required. So they don’t. But when basic freedoms are crushed, rights removed, previously unthinkable state intrusions into our private lives and our medical information tolerated, indeed, welcomed, jobs and careers taken away, all in the cause of a dodgy medical experiment, you would think that more of us would consider it worthwhile to make the effort.

Certainly, you would like to think our so-called thought leaders to give it a shot, and not simply to fall back on blunt instruments of power and the vicious abuse of what is, essentially a straw man. The vaccine hesitant is, apparently, a much-needed bogeyman, especially now that the earlier-touted efficacy of the magic vaccine is shown to have been a blunder at best, and a lie at worst.

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