Simply dismissing, like idiots, those who reject what our government and its scientific advisers have told us about Covid 19, does not help.
While debates over Covid may be among friends and colleagues, I fear that when they involve people ‘closer to home’, the likely long-term effects of Covid, may harm families for even longer.
More than cleavages caused by differences on political or religious convictions, most often played in good-humored jokes, the seismic cracks caused by the conspiracy debate of the Covid could take a long time to be absorbed by the surrounding landscape.
It all started when a flippant comment about the need for all of us to follow new government measures to defeat Covid sparked such a torrent of now-familiar Covid conspiracy rhetoric, from a family member, and I was shocked. While we had always hoped that our children’s education would instill some healthy skepticism, I never expected this.
But the worst was to come. After researching a series of authoritative documents that I think demystified all the Covid conspiracy stuff enough, and emailed it, an even more violent rebuttal came back, along with a few more ‘house truths’ for good measure.
Since then, now many months later, a freezing ozone hole has opened up in our family and clear signs of catastrophic climate change seem undeniable.
So I thought I would do some more research and try to find out what made so many people be convinced by information so radically opposed to what the vast majority accepted.
Writing in the Guardian, Mike Bartlett says the justification argument doesn’t work with anti-vaccines because it only reinforces in them the idea that “I am a brainwashed servant of a conspiracy involving the government, big drug companies, and the mainstream media.”
And while there are those on the right who are all too ready to exploit people who believe the world is not as it appears, Bartlett says that the time he spent researching her article convinced him that the “antis” are neither fallacious nor fair. wing nut case.
So what was it that produced such hostile dissent in such numbers?
What Bartlett noted whenever he produced a verifiable fact, the anti-vaccine argument would immediately shift to a different belief system, full of “corulent levels of excruciating and absurd detail uncovered from (selective) online searches.
What is needed is a long-term focus on “critical literacy”.
And it certainly matches my experience. For example, Covid conspiracy theorists seem to have no appreciation for the astronomical organizational demands, involving nations literally at war with each other, for such a plan to ever work.
“Corn,” said Bartlett, “It’s a form of fundamentalism where what you believe isn’t as important as what you don’t believe. What happens does not happen. Whatever the reality, they oppose it. Which makes the movement particularly dangerous.
They breathe, “A feeling of just zeal that makes them feel that they are at war, and therefore justified in the most extreme actions. They can harass, they can abuse, they can spread half-truths in the name of their holy mission. They believe they are doing this for the rest of us, fighting an injustice that no one else can see. ”
Trying to figure out where it all suddenly came from, Bartlett said; “With that dedication to a cause comes great emotional investment, their noble mission – whether it’s anti-vaccine or anti-containment measures – it’s an essential part of their identity.
And Bartlett blames education, or the lack of it, for the problem. What is needed, he says, is a long-term focus in our education system on “critical literacy”. People who can read the media, with all their prejudices and omissions, will be less vulnerable to eccentrics. And he calls for a greater focus on basic civic education, a simple understanding of how the system works.
Legitimized ignorance of Trump’s election campaign
To me, this somewhat echoes the famous quote from nuclear physicist Neil deGrass Tyson; “The great challenge of life: – To know enough to think that you are right, but not enough to know that you are wrong.
Bartlett attributes much of this to Trump’s 2016 election campaign, which he says empowered conspiracy theorists by legitimizing their ignorance. “Suddenly knowing that nothing was imbued with some type of purity or genius” he says.
And he concludes by stating that a conversation on this topic should not be a battle for a winner and a loser, but for a chance to find common ground, on which relationships can still be maintained.
And that does make sense, except in my experience when parties divided by this issue come together and have to decide first what the masking and social distancing protocols are – that’s when the argument begins.