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anti-vaxxers bad science covid reactionary bullshit the wayward press

A New York Times article says the anti-vaxxers are getting stronger; an article in the Washington Post says they’re weakening. Both articles are right.

Schrodinger’s Maru: Inside the box but also outside it

The two most influential newspapers in the US put out a set of dueling vaccine op-eds today, with the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake delivering up evidence of what his article’s headline called the “slow and steady decline of the vaccine skeptics.” Over in the New York Times, meanwhile, science writer Tara Haelle argued that “[t]he Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Getting Stronger.”

It’s kind of a political version of Schrodinger’s Cat, with two observers looking at the same thing and coming up with radically different conclusions.

And the weird thing is that they’re both kind of right.

Blake bases his argument on some recent polls that show a decline in the numbers of those who say they won’t get vaccinated.

The Axios/Ipsos poll shows 20 percent of Americans now say they are either “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to get the vaccine, and 14 percent have effectively ruled it out. Both represent the lowest numbers recorded.

The numbers aren’t hugely different from where they have been in recent weeks, but overall the trend line is moving steadily downward. …

The findings mirror those of other recent polls conducted before the FDA announcement that show a decline in vaccine hesitancy, though not a huge one. An NBC News poll last week showed the number of people saying they won’t get vaccinated or will do so only if required at 16 percent. The number was at 27 percent in October and 19 percent in April.

Blake acknowledges that more extremist anti-vaxers don’t seem to be going anywhere right now, pointing to a

Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll last month showed more resilience in the most dug-in vaccine skeptics, with 17 percent saying they either won’t get vaccinated or will only do so if required. That’s similar to where that number has been throughout 2021.

It’s hard to argue with numbers like this; while the change has not beeen dramatic it seems to be a real trend.

So how does Tara Haelle, a science journalist writing in the New York Times, look at the same phenomenon and conclude that the anti-vax army is growing stronger and bolder by the day?

In part this is because she’s not looking at overall public opinion but is, rather, focusing on more extreme anti-vax activists — who, as Blake himself recognizes, aren’t softening their stands in the slightest. She also looks out further than the past several months, noting that

Over the last six years, anti-vaccine groups and leaders have begun to organize politically at a level like never before. They’ve founded state political action committees, formed coalitions with other constituencies, and built a vast network that is now the foundation of vaccination opposition by conservative groups and legislators across the country. They have taken common-sense concepts — that parents should be able to raise their children as they see fit, and that medical decisions should be autonomous and private — and warped them in ways that have set back decades of public health advances.

While she acknowledges that “[v]accine hesitancy has existed in some form since the development of the first vaccine over 200 years ago,” Haelle points out that vaccines “had not been a partisan issue in the United States” until an outbreak of measles at Disneyland in 2014-15 pushed the issue into the political sphere in a big way, leading right-wing politicians like Chris Christie and Rand Paul to defend the “choice” of parents who refused to get their kids vaccinated.

The new rhetorical focus on “free choice” resonated with vaccine skeptics — and they

used the measles outbreak and others to claim public officials would force “harmful” vaccines on people.

When COVID — and then the COVID vaccines — came along a few years later, the anti-vaxxers were ready for them, spewing out misinformation about vaccines on Facebook and even in some cases taking to the streets.

With vaccine refusal reframed as “parent choice,” Republicans could no longer risk appearing to oppose “freedom of choice” on any issue. More state anti-vaccine PACs and nonprofit groups formed, and social media allowed greater collaboration. The “freedom” messaging united anti-vaccine groups … and withstood social media platforms’ growing attempts to stanch false claims.

She concludes that

The Covid vaccine hesitancy running through the Republican Party threatens to do more than prolong this pandemic. It also threatens America’s ability to fight other diseases, of the past and the future.

It’s hard to argue with that.

Despite the radically different conclusions reached by these two artices, they in many ways complement one another. Blake shows that some of the more moderate vaccine skeptics may be willing to step back and embrace science. That’s heartening, especially if some of these people actually go and get themselves and their children shots.

But as Haelle makes clear, anti-vaxxers don’t have to have the whole world on their side in order to succeed in shaking up politics and spreading misinformation — just as the minority status of the GOP today doesn’t prevent right-wing politicians and their fans from causing a lot of trouble. The wider “vaccine skeptical” public may be losing some of its conviction, but the anti-vax activists are going to keep making a lot of noise as the rest of the pandemic, which they have clearly worsened, plays out.

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Seth S
Seth S
22 days ago

This is only somewhat related, but if they think medical treatments should be “free choice”, autonomous and private, I can’t help but wonder if there’s any way to bring these people on-side to fight for transgender people’s ability to get our medical treatment more freely and fairly? Since it is, after all, literally nobody else’s business what medical choices we make for our bodies?

You know, sort of as one of those… “taking life’s lemons and make lemonade” things. Or maybe in this case it’s more like grabbing a shot of tequila and some salt to have with each lemon wedge and waking up sh*tfaced on the bathroom floor half a bottle later, I don’t know….

Last edited 22 days ago by Seth S
Mog
Mog
22 days ago

@Seth S. A free, autonomous and private decision… like abortions? I wouldn’t expect any moral consistency from these people, and especially not from the Republican politicians they are courting.

Lukas Xavier
Lukas Xavier
22 days ago

@Seth
I don’t think you should expect much sympathy. The people who crow most about freedom also usually don’t give a crap about anyone but themselves. It’s about their freedom, not yours.

Seth S
Seth S
22 days ago

Ah, of course.
Sh*tfaced on the bathroom floor it is, then.

Kat, ambassador, feminist revolution (in exile)
Kat, ambassador, feminist revolution (in exile)
22 days ago

Maru, the noble Internet kitty, is looking gorgeous while standing in a box and swishing his tail. It appears uncomfortable to me — but he is an Internet sensation and I am not. Perhaps at times one must sacrifice comfort for the sake of one’s fans.

Allandrel
Allandrel
22 days ago

@Seth S

I’m going to have to agree with Lukas Xavier. The “deeply help principles” that conservatives claim with arguments like this can and will change at a moment’s notice, often within the same conversation, depending on the issue in question.

I some time ago came to the conclusion that every “deeply held principle” claimed by conservatives is a lie, a post-hoc justification for positions that are consistent with only one principle: “Us Good, Them Bad.”

Battering Lamb
Battering Lamb
22 days ago

Thirded. Much like how the argument that proper sex education is more effective at preventing teenage pregnancy doesn’t convince abstinence types. They don’t care about the effectiveness, they want teenagers to not have sex.

‘Reactionary’ is generally the most accurate description as they don’t care about the deeper ideals or anything like that. They are just reacting to whatever they do not like, and will build whatever construct of arguments and opinions that will support that one thing.

Scildfreja Unnyðnes
Scildfreja Unnyðnes
22 days ago

If anything, they’re consistent. It’s the exact same pattern as Trump support in general. As the reactionary core grows more extreme, people who have less tolerance for denying reality quietly spall away. The movement becomes more and more aligned to the needs of Dear Leader, hardening and sharpening. Everyone leaving the group is waste metal for the blade they’re hammering at; they’re happy to shed them. Dead weight.

It’s just the same fascist group-building as we’ve seen over the past decade. Deny reality, accept the truth you’re given. The dead and suffering from this pandemic are a positive thing for them. An excellent loyalty test.

I’m glad their numbers are as low as is reported, though. That’s reassuring.

Alan Robertshaw
22 days ago

@ scildfreja

It’s just the same fascist group-building as we’ve seen over the past decade. Deny reality, accept the truth you’re given….An excellent loyalty test.

Much as I’m not a fan of 1984 quotes in political discourse, sometimes you just have to.

comment image

.45
.45
22 days ago

Deeply held principles coming out of a Conservative’s mouth are just virtue signaling. They have no intention of actually following through with any of them.

Covid showed that. Anyone who goes on about duty, honor, sacrifice, patriotism, etc, etc, claiming to love their country beyond all else, their fellow countrymen, etc, would obviously be first in line to mask up and get a vaccine.

But that’s not what happened. As soon as they were going to be so much as inconvenienced in something as minor as dining out, suddenly all those alleged values were piled in the corner, draped with the US flag, and pissed on. Suddenly, fucking their fellow citizens and their beloved country was “patriotic”.

Sorry, I’m going to cool down now before I get really worked up.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
22 days ago

I guess we can kiss goodbye for now any future attempts to eradicate diseases…

Tabby Lavalamp
Tabby Lavalamp
21 days ago

Republicans could no longer risk appearing to oppose “freedom of choice” on any issue.

Stares in confusion at Texas.

Dalillama
21 days ago

@Seth S

This is only somewhat related, but if they think medical treatments should be “free choice”, autonomous and private, I can’t help but wonder if there’s any way to bring these people on-side to fight for transgender people’s ability to get our medical treatment more freely and fairly?

No. Never make the mistake of thinking that any of their arguments are sincere or internally consistent.

Battering Lamb
Battering Lamb
21 days ago

Stares in confusion at Texas.

As Dalilama said in the comment below yours: Never make the mistake of thinking their arguments sincere or internally consistent. They don’t care bout freedom of choice, only when it applies to their biases and beliefs. The recent law in Texas is a disgrace, but their arguments always serve their goals, not the other way around. Whatever will let them vilify abortion, sex education and LGBTQ-rights, or let’s them justify gutting the healthcare system or lower taxes on the wealthy and deny systemic racism or anything systemic. It doesn’t matter how contradictory it is, as long as it achieves these goals.

They have beliefs, but those are beyond reproach (in their opinion) so will not be swayed by argument. Sure, there may be moderates, but those are unlikely to have any real power (or backbone). And those are also unlikely to do other than toe the party line.

Dormousing_it
Dormousing_it
21 days ago

Has anyone here checked out the subreddit r/hermancainaward? It’s dedicated to those who publicly, usually on social media, opposed the COVID vaccine, refusing to get it, then succumbed to COVID. I feel guilty, enjoying it as much as I do.

Unrelated: My 5 month old kitten, Jane, spent almost 2 days stuck 50+ feet up in a tree. I finally got an arborist to come to my house & rescue her. $200, but what else is there to do? She’s too young to know how to back down from a tree. The local fire dept, which is volunteer, won’t rescue pets anymore.

Allandrel
Allandrel
21 days ago

Somewhat related, given how much of a boost the anti-vaccine movement has gotten from anti-autistic hate groups:

When I first learned of Applied Behavioral Analysis, it sounded to me like gay conversion therapy, but for autistic kids. Basically torturing kids who are different until they convincingly pretend to be “normal” so that they stop making the “normal” people (i.e., the people who matter) uncomfortable.

Turns out I was more right than I knew. While doing some reading to marshal some resources, today I learned that both forms of “therapy” were pioneered by the same person, Ivar Lovaas. Apparently abusing one group of disadvantaged children was not enough for him.

A lovely quote from the “father” of ABA, who is held in such great esteem by people claiming to be experts in helping autistic kids:

“You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense – they have hair, a nose, and a mouth – but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but you have to build the person.”

(emphasis added)

And Lovaas, and those following in his footsteps, decided that the best way to “help” autistic kids was to, for example, submit them to electric shocks until they stopped stimming. Because it’s not like they were doing it to people.

Last edited 21 days ago by Allandrel
Seth S
Seth S
21 days ago

I guess if I’m being sarcastic, I should be more specific about it. Thought the “tequila shots til we’re on the floor” thing would have tipped it off.

My own parents are right wing zombies who don’t want me transitioning but are fully against mandatory vaccination/masks and in favor of the new TX abortion laws, so yes, I am aware of what we’re dealing with. I’m not that naive.

Snowberry
Snowberry
21 days ago

On the inconsistency aspect: “Facts don’t care about your feelings” is deeply ironic, given that, for the type of conservative who is likely to say this, facts exist only to validate their feelings. Thus they can freely pull things out of their rear and call them “facts”, or casually toss aside widely accepted information as false or meaningless. Most of them also don’t keep track of their own arguments, or pay attention to how their arguments sometimes contradict each other. Their feelings don’t care about facts, beyond the immediate validation aspect.

I’ve spoken to enough of them in-person that it seems like their deepest, most closely held belief is that the world is, or should be, fully intuitive. They shouldn’t need to think, just know. And that it’s impossible for anyone else to see the same things and “just know” something different – unless that person is defective, or tricked by Satan, or something. More likely they’re “just lying” for nefarious purposes. That’s not how it works, of course. Everyone’s intuition is a different, one’s own intuition is not always correct, and there are occasional aspects of reality which aren’t intuitive to anyone.

GSS ex-noob
GSS ex-noob
21 days ago

Thank you for offsetting this with the fabulous Maru.

Who probably has all his shots, along with the strongest tail muscles ever.

Eris
Eris
21 days ago

“With vaccine refusal reframed as “parent choice,” Republicans could no longer risk appearing to oppose “freedom of choice” on any issue.”

I can think of one….

Surplus to Requirements
Surplus to Requirements
21 days ago

@Snowberry:

Intuition can also be “not even wrong”: non-falsifiable, or just plain relative. I suspect a lot of the intersectional evils stem partly from this.

Consider a cishet white male conservative. Since he’s het, he doesn’t find other men hot and likely finds the notion of having sex with one of them repulsive. Since he’s a conservative, he assumes this to be universal, i.e. that it is axiomatically true that “sex with men is repulsive”; also that “sex with (attractive enough) women is wonderful”. From this, it follows that straight women don’t have sex with men for its own sake, so, they’re doing something revolting but which the man wants as one half of some transaction. Out pops the conclusion “all women are gold-diggers”. As for gay men, well, they just get lumped into the “defective” column. And to a conservative, both “gold-digger” and “defective” justify maltreatment of the people in question.

Snowberry
Snowberry
21 days ago

@Surplus to Requirements:

And then their maltreatment causes a lot of women to find sex with them difficult or uncomfortable, which looks a whole lot like “repulsive” on the surface. And then the type of woman who willingly gets involved with them usually does approach a relationship with some degree of transactiveness, because they can’t expect anything better. Thus their views create their personal experiences, which then reinforces their views.

Meanwhile, in sex-positive communities, people have completely different experiences to the point where it’s easy to recognize that things don’t have to be that way, and wonder why anyone would even want to go through life with such a profoundly unpleasant approach.

Brony, Social Justice Cenobite

I have started using “facts are things I can see for myself”.

Battering Lamb
Battering Lamb
21 days ago

@Seth: Sorry. I’m really bad at reading sarcasm in text in general.

@Brony: Understandable outlook, but optical illusions generally demonstrate the flaw in that approach. What we experience as sight is about 5-10% of the information our brains actually receive, in which interpretations and estimates already happen. Apologies if I took a sardonic comment seriously there.

Full Metal Ox
20 days ago

@Allandrel:

When I first learned of Applied Behavioral Analysis, it sounded to me like gay conversion therapy, but for autistic kids. Basically torturing kids who are different until they convincingly pretend to be “normal” so that they stop making the “normal” people (i.e., the people who matter) uncomfortable.

Turns out I was more right than I knew. While doing some reading to marshal some resources, today I learned that both forms of “therapy” were pioneered by the same person, Ivar Lovaas. Apparently abusing one group of disadvantaged children was not enough for him.

The ordeals of homophobia, ableism, and Native American genocide aren’t exactly interchangeable (recognizing, of course, that some people fall into more than one of the affected categories)—but the phrase “kill the Indian to save the man” nonetheless comes to mind:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Henry_Pratt

Last edited 20 days ago by Full Metal Ox
Scildfreja Unnyðnes
Scildfreja Unnyðnes
20 days ago

@Snowberry,

it seems like their deepest, most closely held belief is that the world is, or should be, fully intuitive. They shouldn’t need to think, just know.

This is a brilliant line. So sharp a set of syllables! Thank you for sharing them.

Alan Robertshaw
20 days ago

@ snowberry & scildfreja

They shouldn’t need to think, just know

Ooh, you’re really making me break my ‘No 1984!!!‘ rule on this thread.

Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all.

This aim was frankly admitted in the Newspeak word duckspeak, meaning “to quack like a duck”.

Last edited 20 days ago by Alan Robertshaw
Brony, Social Justice Cenobite

@Battering Lamb
Their “facts” are illusory too. Belief disguised as knowledge they are interestingly resistant to sharing since their feelings are so strong. And I look for all of the ways to show this in public confrontations.

Gerald Fnord
Gerald Fnord
20 days ago

Alan Robertshaw:
…and once you’ve denied reality the sunk costs start to mount.

Snowberry:
Don’t forget the ever-popular ‘because you’ve been paid’ hypothesis. I’ve more than once held a sign for a liberal cause only to be berated by a Republican (presumably) demanding to know how much I was paid to do it—obviously nobody could really believe what I claim to believe.

I’d explain more about this form of false consciousness except today’s check from that nice Mr. Soros just arrived and I have to go out to cash it now so I can buy more heroin and abortions.

<img href=’https://bit.ly/3kS0bN9′></img>

Last edited 20 days ago by Gerald Fnord