Confession: the Winnipeg Free provided me with that snappy title.
Today is December 20,2020 so you can expect crazy things. Besides the serial 20s, this is my birthday. Yikes.
Today, I read a fascinating article by Joel Keilman in the Winnipeg Free Press that reflected on exactly the issues I have been blogging about of late. The issues are truth, lies, and ethics. The article commented on some of the myths surrounding the vaccines that have now been developed and appeared in Manitoba this week. It’s time for people who have lost confidence in science to come out. And they have come out.
The lies and falsehoods are spreading out and a credulous public is lapping them up like thirsty dogs. Keilman reported on a TikTok video like this,
“As a melodramatic song plays, Rousseau, young, blonde and elaborately mascaraed, silently portrays a woman beaten to death for refusing to take a vaccine that contains a microchip carrying the mark of the beast. At the end, she enters a heavenly skyscape emblazoned with the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.
The video has been seen more than 680,000 times, garnered 47,000 likes and, despite thousands of mocking comments (“Ma’am, this is a CVS”), earned plenty of positive reviews.
“This is so incredibly powerful,” one viewer wrote.”
Unsurprisingly, in our polarized world, thousands of people have been inspired by this video to praise the Lord and thousands have been inspired to mock the gullible. In this case at least, I think it is clear which side got it right.
Here are some of the myths (that is really too kind a word) people are spreading on line:
- The vaccine contains a microchip
Apparently this one has been around for years, but has been amplified recently. People fear that microchips have been secretly implanted in vaccines so that the government can keep track of you. People worry about this rather than the device everyone carries that can actually be used to do this—smart phones. This conspiracy theory has been spread by many, including in particular Alex Jones and InfoWars, the conspiracy theorist Trump loved so much. Supposedly Bill Gates is also involved as is 5G technology.
Other myths include these:
- The vaccine will alter your DNA
- The vaccine will give you COVID-19
- Our immune systems are better than vaccines
There are others but you get the idea.
The anti-vax movement has been strong and I suspect is growing stronger in recent years. According to Keilman’s article a recent poll showed that only 47% of Americas intend to take the vaccines. The percentages of Canadians are probably not that far behind. I know people who say they won’t take a vaccine. They are suspicious of it. There are some reasons to be wary, primarily related to the surprising speed of the development and approval of the vaccines and particularly to fear that the current American president may have had his foot on the accelerator.
The problem is that society needs people to trust the vaccines. Particularly because the vaccine’s have such a high efficacy rate, wide- spread use of them could bring about herd immunity soon and that would be a tremendous benefit for millions of people and our health care systems and workers. The vaccines’ high efficacy rate, much higher than that of flu shots, could swiftly bring about herd immunity that would prevent people from encountering the virus at all. But if people are afraid to take the vaccines because of the lies they are fed on the internet all of us will suffer. Even those who take the vaccines because we all pay for our health care system and many of us won’t get the proper treatment because of unnecessary Covid cases in hospitals.
And this brings me to the point I have been trying to make. These credulous people are not innocent. They are dangerous! They are dangerous to public health. In times of a public health crisis we need to trust science, we need to respect the truth and the truth gathering process. We need to be suspicious of crazy stuff we find online. The misinformation being spread on the internet is dangerous. Fomenting distrust in public institutions as so many are now doing, including political leaders, is a dangerous and costly to us all. That is why irrational beliefs are not innocent. We should not tolerate them. We should voice that intolerance quietly and respectfully without scapegoating, but we should not keep quiet.
Beliefs have consequences. Therefore they are not all ethical.