A Pandemic in the Family

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Simply dismissing, as idiots, those who reject what our government and its science advisors have instructed us about Covid 19, doesn’t help.

While debates over Covid can be between friends and colleagues, I’m concerned that when they involve those ‘closer to home,’ the likely long term effects of Covid, risk damaging families for even longer.

More than splits caused by differences over political or religious convictions, most often parlayed in good humoured banter, the seismic cracks caused by the Covid conspiracy debate could take a long time to be absorbed by the surrounding landscape.

It all started when a casual comment about the need for us to all follow the new government measures to beat Covid brought forth such a torrent of the now familiar Covid conspiracy rhetoric, from a family member, and I was shocked. While we’d always hoped that our kids’ upbringing would instil a certain healthy scepticism, I didn’t expect this.

But worse was to come. After researching a raft of authoritative material which I thought fairly debunked all the Covid conspiracy stuff, and I emailed it off, back came an even more violent rebuttal, with some additional “home truths” thrown in for good measure.  

Since then, now many months on, an ozone hole of iciness has opened over our family and the clear signs of a catastrophic climate change seem undeniable.

So I thought I’d do some more research and try and find out what has induced so many to be convinced by information so radically opposed to that accepted by the vast majority.

Writing in the Guardian Mike Bartlett says rationale argument doesn’t work with anti-vaxxers because it just reinforces in them the idea that “I’m a brainwashed servant of a conspiracy involving, the government, big pharma and the mainstream media.” 

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And while there are those on the right who are only too ready to exploit people willing to believe the world is not as it appears, Bartlett says the time he spent researching his article, convinced him that the “antis” are neither disingenuous nor right-wing nut cases.

So what is it that has produced such hostile dissent in such numbers?

What Bartlett noted whenever he produced a verifiable fact, the anti-vaxxer’s argument would immediately shift to a different belief system, full of “coruscating levels of excruciating, nonsensical detail unearthed from (selective) online research.”

What’s needed is a long-term focus on “critical literacy”.

And that certainly tallies with my experience. For instance Covid conspiracy theorists seem to lack even the slightest appreciation of the astronomical organisational requirements, involving nations literally at war with one another, for such a scheme to ever work. 

“But,” says Bartlett, “theirs is a form of fundamentalism where what you believe isn’t as important as what you don’t believe. Whatever is happening isn’t happening. Whatever reality is, they’re opposed to it. Which makes the movement uniquely dangerous.”

They exude, “A sense of righteous zeal that makes them feel that are at war, and so 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 nobody else can see.” 

In trying to fathom where all that suddenly came from Bartlett says; “This devotion to a cause brings with it a great deal of emotional investment, Their noble mission – whether it’s being anti-vaccine or anti-lockdown measures – it’s a core part of their identity.”

And Bartlett blames education, or a lack of it, for the problem. What’s needed, he says, is a long-term focus, in our education system, on “critical literacy”. People who know how to read the media, with all its biases and omissions, will be less vulnerable to cranks. And he argues for a greater focus on basic civics, a simple understanding of how the system works. 

Trump Election Campaign Legitimised Ignorance  

To me that echoes a little of nuclear physicist Neil deGrass Tyson’s famous quote; “The great challenge of life: – Knowing enough to think you’re right, but not enough to know you’re wrong.”

Bartlett blames much of it on the 2016 Trump election campaign which he says, empowered conspiracy theorists by legitimising their ignorance. “Suddenly knowing nothing was imbued with a certain kind of purity or genius,” he says. 

And he concludes by advising that a conversation on this subject shouldn’t be a battle for a winner and a loser, but for a chance to find some common ground, on which relationships can be still maintained. 

And that makes sense, except that, in my experience, when sides divided by this issue meet, and first have to decide what the mask and social distancing protocols are – that’s when the argument starts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

37 COMMENTS

  1. Am double vaxed.

    It would be a lot easier to debate the conspiracy theories if one basic human right (to have open knowledge of what is contained in the vaccine) was not so blatantly obstructed.

    Just the fact that this information is going to take 55 years to be published is reason alone the conspiracy theories are festering.

    Why cant we have open and transparent information on what is in the vaccine?

    https://www.abc10.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/vaccine/fda-pfizer-vaccine-foia-55-years/507-a4a9b0b3-b184-4da9-a1fd-d3ec0a2d6616

    “The FDA said in its part of the court filing that there are more than 329,000 pages that may be part of the FOIA request. ”

    So why not release all 325 pages the MAY constitute the licensure. Note the word MAY. Are there fewer pages? Are there more?

    Why the smoke and mirrors?

    Honesty, transparency, accountability are all missing and no wonder conspiracy theories are flourishing.

    Another example is the outbreak in NSW. No numbers available of which variant is loose and most prevalent. No numbers on hospitilisations for Covid versus admissions for other reason and covid is found by chance.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/explained/127440590/covid19-the-nsw-omicron-outbreak-is-not-what-you-think

    “There are also no official statistics on how many people are in hospital ‘with Covid’ or ‘because of Covid’.
    Earlier this week, The Daily Telegraph quoted NSW Minister Brad Hazzard saying: “Interestingly though, in the early sampling of figures, a reasonable proportion of cases being classified as Covid hospitalisations are actually people with other reasons for admission.””

    Through this fog of information no wonder people are skeptical.

  2. What we are seeing is a schism of the sort that caused the Reformation and Counter Reformation, but of a secular kind, although the fundamentals are the same ie differing belief systems. We don’t identify it as such in countries like New Zealand because we haven’t lived through a schism before. This is why logical and even illogical arguments achieve nothing and are essentially meaningless.

    About half the people I know are anti-vax. They include evangelical Christians, family members, a lot of artists (not surprisingly), some musicians, authors and intellectuals, homeopaths, healthy eating proponents, people who don’t believe in getting vaccination for anything, and even some who don’t actually know why they don’t want to get vaccinated. Most of them would be considered well-educated and quite intelligent by most standards.

    • yup hippies can be idiots too, stupidity is no respecter of colour, class, education or wealth..it’s the only field in which class doesn’t matter…we all have the ‘freedumb to stupid’

      • Would this anti-vaccine sentiment extend into those people not getting pets vaccinated for parvo and that cat pox whose name escapes me? These are both preventable ailments with jabs. I would have thought vaccination would have been prerequisites to good ownership but cases are increasing.

      • And are the hippies stupid in this case? Or is that just the default setting for those who are provax and Labour supporters who wish to defend themselves and their tribal political party??

  3. Happy New Year to all!
    It’s a shame we probably all have some level of this family dilemma. I believe we all have the right to believe whatever we like, as long as it is not hurting anyone else. So many different religious beliefs, flat earthers, astrologers and all alternative views are relevant to the person who holds those views and they have the right to believe them. How many times over the last 50 years have we heard the latest “nutrition science” gloriously expounded and then retracted often decades later. One example; “only eat one egg a week” and eggs are the least dangerous, most natural and most nutritious little things. Now we are “allowed” to eat at least one a day. Coffee good/coffee bad, etc. etc. This is why there is deep media mistrust embedded in all of us.
    I think a lot of resistance comes from people not liking being told what to do as we have had so much in ways of being told “Do this,” or “Don’t do that!”
    I learned to respect my dear Mother-in-law many years ago when I realised that no amount of rationalising of some issues would get through. It wasn’t worth the bad taste left in both of our mouths. I decided that it made no difference to anyone else in the world and the battle was really one of ego so just listened. You get more brownie points for listening.
    So my advice is to acknowledge your family members’ points of view. You don’t even need to say you disagree as they will already know that. Hopefully that will avoid an angry response. Then if they are wanting to visit you will need to say what your requirements are that need to be met. They can then choose whether to visit or not. Importantly you have not banned them.
    P.S. I’m fully vaxxed.

    • Pretty much, I’m not even jabbed for the first time cos I’m just too lazy. And I aint got no covid. Matter of fact due to old school mortality numbers against common flu versus covid?… I aint convinced. The numbers just dont add up. If it was as deadly as Spanish Flu?- Id be convinced. It aint. So here we go again:

      OMC – How Bizarre
      https://youtu.be/C2cMG33mWVY?t=2

  4. “There’s nowt so queer as folk except me and thee…. and I’m not so sure of thee.”
    I suppose the soon to be carcass of humanity has to start rotting somewhere so it might as well begin in the sane mind.
    I blame capitalism. In fact, I boldly accuse capitalism.
    We’re being ‘individualised’ by a sociopathic system of exploitation and we don’t know what to do with it or how to interact with it so we almost mindlessly turn on each other because surely? It can’t be finance and banking with its armoury of weaponised mind control mechanisms to turn a profit from our precious time on Earth that’s churning out mad people?

    • Aye lad. It is because you are looking at it from a grounds eye view and not from a birds eye or ‘Gods eye view’ tis all. But your ocular vision is not at fault. Tis more the mirage set up to fool yer and tuthers, is all.

  5. “People who know how to read the media, with all its biases and omissions, will be less vulnerable to cranks.”

    In my observation, it is the identitarian faux-left who are more guilty of reading today’s emotion and opinion-driven “news” with a blindly uncritical eye, absorbing the almost religious cult-level “social justice” narratives now commonplace in Stuffed/Spinoff/Guardian etc, and parroting them as the absolute pinnacle of incontrovertible and objective fact. Being blindly tribal and prone to dis/misinformation is unarguably a two-way street. Nuanced debate has all but died – again in part due to the sanctimonious dogmatism of the “progressive” pseudo-left.

    • you are right on the subject of snowflake SJWs but that doesn’t explain why right-wing SJWs as such fragile little blooms as well….it’s not really about politics it’s the fruition of ‘mee meeee meee’ ‘my feel feels’ ‘my opinion is equally valid’
      ……………….etc etc et bloody cetera.

  6. Mike Bartlett is onto it for sure. I also see elements of ego, yeah hah laziness and competitiveness in it all.
    There are now quite a few that regard themselves as virologists (having studied at the Facebook Medical School and who think they’ve done their ‘research’). Too lazy or even unable to engage in study that’s subject to proper peer review, and cynical of the ‘State’ for legitimate reasons.
    Once again, no amount of PR bullshit and spin is going to change that.
    The really sad thing it that “State” has gone done it to their selves (in this space, going forward).
    JUST AS there’s now another major fuckup:
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/300490811/former-afghan-vice-president-given-safe-haven-in-new-zealand
    WTF has happened to Labour I continue to ask myself. If aspiring to the least worst option is all we have to aspire to, we might be doomed but we’ll need to let it all play out. And in terms this administration might understand, I don’t have the emotional capital to feel sorry for the inevitable outcome – there are better things to spend it on. Fukem with a feather duster

    • OWT Great rant. And you say so for many of us I am sure, I hope you go on youtube and select Jonathan Pie – his rants are select! But what has happened to Labour?

      The sons of physical workers got educated, and noticed there was more money in having tertiary study and being a manager and getting on! Then with your enhanced skills you accumulate money and possessions, or get out and about satisfying your desires. Could be sailing around the world, jumping off cliffs with artificial wings, designing things, doing something you can get good money for or that brings you into a milieu where you feel relaxed or satisfied. That’s what Labour has done, moved up and gone for what is seen as the ‘smart’ thing, not down with the workers who make the props for life’s artistic production.

      Labour has sold their soul to the devil. So many folk tales are applicable today, good analogies. We know the one about the Emperor’s New Clothes. There is also the story of Rumplestiltskin, who showed a wretched woman how to make gold thread from straw and wanted her precious first-born in payment. There is also the one where a neglectful cowherd let a round cheese he was in charge of, roll down a hill and then sent a second one after it, supposed to bring it back. Careless fool; bring any events and people to mind? The saying that it’s madness to expect change and improvement, while continuing doing the same things, comes to mind. It seems that class preoccupations will always rule the day, mostly wishing to rise to what seems the higher. That’s what Labour has done, and electronics represents higher, and physical and simple the lower.

      • 🙂
        Your second paragraph rings true @Grey. I won’t go into the details of why I agree, except to say that a decade or so ago, I ‘bought’ myself an Hons degree in Media and Sociology and did a bit of tutoring after that. That after 3 decades in IT.
        I’d have been better off just sitting my electrician exams.

        But as for Labour, they’ll eventually see through the bullshit. Either that or they’ll become irrelevant. The sooner the better because I’m running out of life.

  7. People are people regardless of what side of any issue they may be on, meaning the same behavior is inherent in all of us, and not just the side we may disagree with. Please people, don’t ever fall into the trap of believing that ‘a’ equals ‘b’ and ‘d’ will never equal ‘b’. This is at best, simplistic thinking that we can all do without and at worst, this just fuels the divide. And who best benefits from division, well, it has never been us – the common folk. Be wary of those who look to divide us rather than unite us…..especially in this age of ever-increasing corporate/ruling class political control.

  8. “But,” says Bartlett, “theirs is a form of fundamentalism where what you believe isn’t as important as what you don’t believe. Whatever is happening isn’t happening. Whatever reality is, they’re opposed to it. Which makes the movement uniquely dangerous.”

    They exude, “A sense of righteous zeal that makes them feel that are at war, and so 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 nobody else can see.”
    These are important thoughts so I I rshow them again. They seem as if they are right and offer a pretty good hypothesis for behaviour that has puzzled me and lots of others.

    And I have been puzzled too when reading a graphic introduction to Slavoj Zizek’s ideas and the source of them. Generally I like the way he goes at the various behaviours we adopt but have been brought up sharp by his asserting that everything we believe is a fiction and he seems to be saying to me, that it makes us futile. He is considering life as a philosopher, and they seem to spend their lives being objective, and picking society apart to see if there is actually such a thing (influencing the over or under-educated philosophically like Margaret Thatcher).

    The thoughts of Descartes of 16th century and Lacan early 1900s have been drawn on by Zizek to look at our present, but at a time of stress and uncertainty, that can spark debilitating disbelief in the system and anger that human advancement hasn’t led to a life system that is reliable, good.and trustworthy and so can lead to rejection of everything.

    In the book I am reading under The Fiction of Language Zizek writes about the subject perceiving their own fictional status’. [It] involves both a recognition that their own subjectivity is entirely fictional and void – based in nothing – and that this void is perpetually filled in by the fiction of language. The tone is negative, which is depressing, when if this is a true recount of our basic situation it could just as easily, in this fictional plane, have cited examples of our triumphal use of intelligence to create wonders in the world, interactions amongst people, and wonderful use of ideas (as in this blog). It could echo the I fear satirical poem of Shakespeare starting ‘What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason’ or similar. Zizek may do this eventually when I read further, but if people get stuck in this fictional rut, they could feel swamped. Reasoned argument can then be viewed as a fiction, and countered by other preferred fictions! http://www.allenandunwin.co.nz/browse/books/academic-professional/philosophy/Introducing-Slavoj-Zizek-Christopher-Kul-Want-9781848312937

    One of Zizek’s interesting thoughts: Are we all not, when we sit in the cinema, in the position of humans in The Matrix, tied to chairs, immersed in the spectacle run by a machine? However, a more appropriate allegory is that of the viewer himself: beneath the illusion that we “just look” at the perceived objects from a safe distance, freely sliding along them, there is the reality of the innumerable ties that bind us to what we perceive.
    Slavoj Žižek
    More – https://www.azquotes.com/author/20579-Slavoj_i_ek/tag/reality

  9. Bully Beef seems to be saying that the people with all their ‘biases and omissions’ are very vulnerable to cranks and soak up anything in the media may be soaked up by their biases. But if we were all taught about everyone having different viewpoints, and how to look at the media’s presentation of its overriding viewpoint, and recognise and measure the viewpoints against an agreed policy for our society, then we would have a yardstick to judge by when looking at the media or some idea propounded fiercely by someone. We should have lessons in how to be sceptical, even of oneself at times; that is what would be most beneficial I think. I think therefore I am (Descartes); perhaps should be – I am what shall I and others around me think? Look up Simpson’s Paradox – something to think about when doing so about Covid.

    • puts me in mind of a line I try to live by from Magazine one of my fave bands back in the day

      ‘my mind it ain’t so open, that ANYTHING can just crawl right in’

  10. “Writing in the Guardian Mike Bartlett says rationale argument doesn’t work with anti-vaxxers because …..”

    Whatever reasons that follow the above, anti-vaxxer resistance to rational reasoning by definition marks them as idiots – or close to being idiots, in my opinion.

    • I don’t count myself as an “anti-vaxxer” but I have many concerns about the CV19 jabs. For this reason I have chosen not be an early adopter.
      I have many valid scientific and rational reasons for my decisions.

      I fully support people with their personal choices, as they find fit

    • There are anti-rationalists, and so anti-democrats, here. Are we meant to treat them as of equal substance as us? Why truth talking from the Left is so important, yet they won’t do it. ‘Focus fucken groups’. Scared of their own shadow since pol sci Helen Clark and her folding to the 2000 ‘Winter of Discontent’ rich pricks who ruled since 84.

      Admittedly this pandemic has grown their muscles. But it helps to have it at your heart like Big Norm. Willingness to lead.

      Unless successor Robertson, snuffling mole, has a voice disguised by his lack of eyes.

    • It’s a cognitive deficit, some people are simply not capable of reasoning out rational or moral questions instead relying upon their social circle or kneejerk emotions.

  11. I feel your pain Malcolm.

    I’ve also been wondering what causes people to disappear down the conspiracy rabbit hole. My theory is that its a combination of isolation, powerlessness, fear, a newfound sense of community combined with a dose of narcissism. I also think that the awareness of hidden “knowledge” (that the majority does not) brings out the closet narcissist particularly if they aren’t overly high on life’s pecking order. For people who find themselves travelling down the rabbit hole, the self selecting and self reinforcing algorithms of social media makes it easy for these people to flock together creating that sense of community that was previously lacking in their life. Now they feel “safe” and they’ve found their “tribe”. Conversely it’s very sticky once they get there – wonderland is a vibrant beautiful place and people realise that the price of admission is “to believe” and to reject their beliefs is to betray the tribe and results in a fairly rapid ejection. Sadly it appears it takes a real big dose of reality to puncture the bubble and for the anti-vaxxers the cost of reality can be very severe and sudden indeed.

    What do I think is the answer? The social media giants need to be brought to heel and be universally regulated. Critical thinking needs to be significantly higher up the education agenda. Families need to be more involved with each other, it’s far harder to pull people out of the rabbit hole than it is to address some of the issues that made them fall down it in the first place.

    • Interesting, the word bubble brought to mind something I hadn’t recalled before – the bubble in The Truman Show. Everything laid out well in the protagonist’s life externally and the personal being managed by a script, just like a reality show. Jim Carrey the actor, doesn’t know he is the standout leading man and everyone else is pretending., except one person who sees the pathos of it all. I wonder if that is an element of what the protesters are noticing now – they feel manipulated by watching puppet-masters?

      I’m reading Slavoj Zizek’s ideas, derived from Lacan who I heard about from him; and their view that we are all living a fiction and otherwise life is a void. Maybe, so what, I think. Then we are to be congratulated for devising such an interesting fiction and going along with our concept reasonably well. Perhaps if everyone could realise this situation that we do create our own society and all determine on how they are going to improve it, the antivaxxers etc would get a firm and satisfying purpose in life in which they had agreement, a definite standing and good outcomes.

      Zizek goes on to discuss immoral ethics, and I think of how much unproductive time is spent on theory and not enough on turning insights into action that has been asked for and can produce favourable results; reducing crime, happier children and parents etc. If we all understood the ways of influencing society and could get action, things could improve, but perhaps there is good money for some in having a turbid chaos always bubbling so instead we end up torpid. Unlovely words. Something however, has happened locally – a lower speed limit of mostly 80 kms on the state highway has dramatically brought down serious accidents and apparently no deaths according to the graph. If right, that is amazing and a forward and positive change for the better in our rules and behaviour. More, more, I call banging my spoon on my dinner bowl with the enthusiasm of a toddler.

      • 1 My boarder tested positive. He’s a nurse (fuck you, not kicking him out). We in Brisbane AU.

        2 we do everything correct. Triple vax, social distance. Keep to our side of the house and so on.

        3 I come out of self isolation in two days, Sunday.

        4 testing and vaccines are only available through public and private hospitals.

        5 the lines are so long that sick, old ECT have to wait out in the open for hours, hours!

        6 with hundreds and thousands testing positive each day, meaning that at least one person in each testing line is 100% positive, making everyone in those lines close contacts and according to Queensland health should self isolate if interacting with a positive patient so they are sending all the patients home, and creating even more close contacts.

        7 testing kits are all sold out, available only from hospitals (the hospital skewer one only) waiting times on vaccines are blowing out to weeks and it’s taken a year for Queensland to achieve 95% one vax. Perhaps it will take another to be 95% double vax.

        8 All official public health phone lines are jammed including GPs, chemists ect.

        9 all of this hasn’t been enough to trigger lock down so Australia is open for business.

        10 The policy to open up antigen testing for sale collapsed almost immediately when they flew off the shelf so everyone has no choice but to isolate for seven days even though the officials refuse to trigger lockdown.

        10 so there are very good reasons why worsening jobs data is pushing inflation upwards, around the world.

        One reasons is, because as of yet, no one has stepped up to this global challenge like how we remember Genghis Khan, or Sun Tzu.

        And fuck you all. Shut your fucken mouths and listen.

        • Sam Keep in touch – we may be your lifeline to sanity. UI’s very hard to read the conditions you face, harder still to live them in Queensland. In Oz generally also where it’s all up to the individual to be responsible I think Morrison said.

    • Agree entirely, particularly the 2 points of your conclusion, but would add a people’s govt fighting for us against the freemarket powerful. Which seems the most difficult thing, so ‘maybe’ the main matter. Labour is still scared (and there are many other descriptions of their actions, and them).

  12. a big factor I feel and THIS IS the fault of the left is the promotion of post-modernism from a literary theory to an ideology, in order to claim historical figures for fashionable causes (shakespeare was a vegan cyclist pink haired sociology graduate, because I feel he was) if all ‘readings’ are equally valid then the PRO-COVID mob are not wrong…but as all readings are demonstrably not equal…..

    • I never knew that about Shakespeare. Who’d have thought, and did he use to get around in those funny puffed out pants?

  13. Thanks, Malcolm. Posted to Facebook, with your same dubiousness about talking to these people (unless they approach you). Forceful demo-cracy is the way. Bartlett is rather innocent on this point but otherwise he is the complete description of these folk lost in the woods of the words of plutocrats with no scruples, or worse, understanding.

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