One of the darkly amusing phenomena of the pandemic has been watching Thinky Thought Leaders who’ve made a career out of knowing Econ101 and Stats101 and then broadcasting their HAWT TAEKS flounder around because they lack domain expertise and domain experience (these aren’t the exactly the same thing). Unfortunately, since they are listened to, at least by The Discourse, their ignorance has consequences (and their biases too*).
Now that it’s finally starting to dawn on some of them that anti-vaccinationism is a real problem, they are suffering from ahistoricity. Listening to them, one would think anti-vaccination beliefs arose in 2020. But what has happened is that a thirty year-old anti-vaccination movement that has slowly gained prominence, largely because the only people fighting it are some doctors, scientists, and journalists, has attached itself to and joined by a conservative movement that has embraced anti-vaccinationism (or at least is willing to cynically tolerate it).
While I often will decry conservatives, until around 2015 (guess who?), anti-vaccinationism was largely a bipartisan affair, though there was a slight conservative bias (media reports to the contrary). It’s the linkage that’s new.
This ahistoricity matters because all of the arguments are the same and their proponents have spent a long time refining them–the same arguments are made against flu vaccines (and MMR, and…). The COVID-19 vaccine, in a sense, was the opportunity they had been waiting for, and it was something they could latch onto. There is a lot of fertile ground for this (e.g., “talk to your doctor” doesn’t really work if you see a doctor once per year for ten minutes), but there is a long-standing anti-vaccination campaign that capitalized on these societal dysfunctions.
Any reporting or punditry that ignores the professional anti-vaccinationists is as irresponsible as any reporting that ignores professional global warming deniers.
*Certain pundits for the NYT appear to know a couple of people who have overreacted to COVID-19 (though that’s not really harmful to anyone) and let that influence their HAWT TAEKS. It’s the new Hippie Punching I guess.