Always grateful for people who say the quiet part out loud. https://t.co/LxM7lxnFa0
— Maryn McKenna (@marynmck) April 22, 2020
Purity of essence! — Dr. Strangelove would be proud. Professional conspiracy-watcher Anna Merlan, for Vice:
… “I eat the right food,” one demonstrator told Global News. “I take vitamins, I drink the right water, vitamin D, vitamin C, it’s been proven already. So we have everything that we need—we don’t need a vaccine.”
The president has been vocally encouraging of these protests, and of unproven cures like hydroxychloroquine, and it’s not hard to understand why. Part of it is doubtless ideological: Dating back to the 1960s, the right has simply not believed in the value of public or collective action. More of it, though, is a political sleight of hand, meant to turn the total failure of the Trump administration to meaningfully address a public health emergency killing thousands of people every day into a solvable problem. The work of manufacturing and distributing masks and tests and setting up a regime of contact tracing is difficult and risks failure. Denying that doing so is even necessary, and that the crisis can be easily solved by Vitamin C and individual initiative, though, makes government action unnecessary. That we can go back to work as soon as we decide we want to without any meaningful consequence is a grotesque lie—but it’s a lie Trump and his hopes for a second term will benefit from.
The belief that it’s in everyone’s best interest to stay home for now relies on a fundamental acceptance of the concept of public health, the simple premise that one person’s choices can impact whether another person gets sick, and that community responses to disease are necessary. The coronavirus truthers, quite simply, dismiss the idea that their choices impact your life. As one social-distancing critic put it in a widely-shared Facebook post: “If you want to stay home, stay home. If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you want to avoid large crowds, avoid large crowds. I am not required to descend into poverty for you. I am not required to abstain from human contact for you. I am not required to shop alone, without my kids, for you.”
That sentiment is not particularly surprising. Many of the people leaping on the COVID-19 skepticism bandwagon are longtime anti-vaccine personalities and advocates for “medical freedom,” two groups so closely aligned that their Venn Diagram looks more like a circle.
“For the usual suspects who show up or assist with the typical ‘medical freedom’ protests we saw last year, they were often headlined by anti-vax celebrities like Del Bigtree, Andrew Wakefield, or Robert F. Kennedy Jr.,” Tara C. Smith told VICE. She’s a professor at Kent State University, as well as an epidemiologist, and an expert on zoonotic infectious diseases. “While ‘medical freedom’ may be the rallying cry, the root of their protests are against vaccination.” …
“We don’t need a vaccine,” proclaimed Dr. Judy Mikovits, a controversial former chronic fatigue researcher who now frequently makes anti-vaccine claims, in an April 15 YouTube video with more than 80,000 views. “All you have to do is have a healthy immune system.” (Mikovits has also been involved in the “Fire Fauci” campaign, claiming he sabotaged her research into a purported mouse virus that she says is the true cause of cancer.)
These campaigners frequently reject the idea that there’s anything society can do, collectively, to slow the spread of any disease. In the same video, Mikovits rejected the notion of wearing a mask, since, she claimed, the coronavirus is actually secretly caused by a bad strain of flu shot that was circulating between 2013 and 2015. Masks will help “activate” the virus and reinfect a mask-wearer over and over, she claimed…
In the end, the focus on Vitamin C, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, healthy eating and virtuous living seems to be less of a health decision and more of a political one, inevitably joined as it is by the cries that the economy must reopen and businesses can’t be made to suffer any more than they already have. The ultra-conservative site the Daily Wire, for instance, ran a long piece recently touting the views of a “veteran scholar of epidemiology” named Dr. Knut Wittkowski, who’s argued that social distancing won’t allow society to build herd immunity. “It’s very important to keep the schools open and kids mingling to spread the virus to get herd immunity as fast as possible,” Wittkowski is quoted as saying. “And then the elderly people, who should be separated, and the nursing homes should be closed during that time, can come back and meet their children and grandchildren after about 4 weeks when the virus has been exterminated.” (Rockefeller University, where Wittkowski was previously employed as a biostatistician, released a statement saying that his views “ do not represent the views of The Rockefeller University, its leadership, or its faculty.”)
In the meantime, the clamorous caravan of anti-vaxxers, right-wingers, and all-purpose health opportunists continues on. Anti-lockdown protests are planned in more states, serving as an unholy blend between a rejection of public health and a campaign rally to reelect the president.This government’s interests are being served by those who reject the idea of government—which is doubtless why Trump is encouraging protests, and why his allies outside government have been organizing them. Among the consequences are probably that some people will learn firsthand exactly why it doesn’t matter whether or not you belief in the concept of public health…
I know I should have, but as this mess was ramping up I didn’t predict the “It’s my constitutional right to spread a killer disease” faction emerging. pic.twitter.com/YDPAfjdqhq
— Schooley (@Rschooley) April 23, 2020
Oh, look, convicted felon and GOP star Dinesh D’Souza has found his new grift!
Gonna have an entire industry of covid19 truthers on the right for the next 30 years. https://t.co/EN1GPLbofO
— AdotSad (@AdotSad) April 21, 2020