Some of Us Knew Anti-Vaxx Was Going to Be a Problem…

And nobody listened. A while ago, some asshole with a blog noted:

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).

With that as prelude, Orac, in an introduction to a good post about yet another anti-vaccinationism fallacy, notes the following (boldface mine):

As the pandemic has progressed since the introduction of safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 nearly a year ago, we’ve seen antivaxxers resurrect old tactics and trope over and over again. Public health officials, scientists, doctors, and the media seemed rather surprised at these ideas and have struggled to deal with them, not so much because they are that hard to refute but because they had never seen them before. After all, before the pandemic, most scientists and doctors were “shruggies” about medical pseudoscience and antivaccine conspiracy theories, not really thinking or caring much about quackery and the harm it caused. Some were even openly dismissive and contemptuous, thinking such misinformation too obviously wrong to be worth their spending any intellectual firepower addressing. So, although skeptics were not surprised at how rapidly antivaxxers weaponized the VAERS database to portray COVID-19 vaccines as deadly (a tactic that even doctors who should know better have fallen for), claimed they are full or toxins or “permanently alter you DNA,” or render women infertile, all while donning the mantle of “health freedom” and claiming that “natural herd immunity” is the way to end the pandemic, the rest of the world sure did seem surprised and unprepared.

I would add that the belief in the deficit model–if you rectify people’s knowledge deficits, they won’t embrace propaganda–also had been discussed and debunked thoroughly among a subset of scientists, mainly those that realized this was a movement, not just a couple of cranks who could be dismissed. But nobody else listened, and here we are.

Instead, we see the same arguments and discussions some of us were having fifteen years ago, except with more ignorance. It’s not just frustrating, it’s deadly.

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1 Response to Some of Us Knew Anti-Vaxx Was Going to Be a Problem…

  1. Denise A Vincent says:

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve posted Maria Konnikova’s 2014 article in the New Yorker, “I don’t want to be right.” Why would you want to read this article? Here’s a bit, though she covers antifax specifically too: “It’s the realization that persistently false beliefs stem from issues closely tied to our conception of self that prompted Nyhan and his colleagues to look at less traditional methods of rectifying misinformation. Rather than correcting or augmenting facts, they decided to target people’s beliefs about themselves. In a series of studies that they’ve just submitted for publication, the Dartmouth team approached false-belief correction from a self-affirmation angle, an approach that had previously been used for fighting prejudice and low self-esteem. The theory, pioneered by Claude Steele, suggests that, when people feel their sense of self threatened by the outside world, they are strongly motivated to correct the misperception, be it by reasoning away the inconsistency or by modifying their behavior.”

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