From the Archives: How the Weakest Minded Got the Loudest Voices in the Vaccine Debate

vaccine

Published on March 11, 2019 on sarasmanyhats.ca.

There is a shortage of moderates blogging and commenting online. A shortage of the tolerant, the kind, and the educated. This is because these types of people aren’t affected by hype. But the result is rampant unchecked negative, knee-jerk spreading of fear or stupidity.

The antivax movement is this exact scenario. The movement is powerful, seemingly dominating on social media over those with pro-vaccination or even moderate views.

Tbh, I think the educated just didn’t think the antivax movement would stick. They were slower, less knee-jerk to respond. Doctors and public health are now playing catch up, appearing slow to combat the misinformation. The scary part is, they likely will not catch up. Antivax misinformation will continue to spread.

And here is why: fear. Fear is an extremely successful propellant of messaging. I see two big fears motivating much of the antivax movement online.

  1. It is impossible today to think that you are not as smart as someone else. It is unheard of to publicly proclaim intellectual submission. It is scary to be told to trust authority. Not only is it unpopular to suggest that we trust our government health care program and the medical community, it is a scary thing. It is scary to think that you are not intelligent enough to digest the complex scientific truths surrounding vaccines and must give over your faith to another authority – a community of science that is NOT divided no matter what social media suggests and how many times the fear-mongering articles are shared. The scientific community is still overwhelmingly in favour of vaccination. But the individual instead is encouraged to wade through medical jargon and studies they can’t possibly comprehend.
  2. Poking children with needles makes them sad. Vaccine reactions do happen, though they are extremely rare. Things that hurt our children are scary. When someone talks about a baby they know who experienced a supposed vaccine reaction and suffers, you shut up.

The only messaging that will overcome these two fears and sway people back toward trusting the medical community and science is when tetanus, meningitis, blindness, sterility, leg amputations and more do return and return close enough to home to begin to scare us again into choosing to protect ourselves and the ones we love.

There is a third fear I’d like to discuss here and it is my own. My own vaccine-related fear is not one I experience in relation to my role as a mother of small children, because I do believe my kids are relatively safe having been vaccinated at this point in history. My own biggest vaccine-related fear is what I must now watch as a communicator, observing how maddeningly futile the messaging of logic has become, how the individual feels empowered enough to choose their own logic over the medical community, and how much worse I firmly believe things will become before we see the antivax movement end.

I’m not a sociologist, nor a scientist of any kind. I am a communicator. I do not want to go toe-to-toe with scientists or activists. There’s no point in employing moral reason, because it’s all relative. There’s no point in imploring toward science because of the ingrained messaging of individualism. The viewpoint of greater minds–a true majority–that forms a large body of scientific work overwhelmingly supporting one argument, is thrown out in favour of supporting every varying scientific or LAYPERSON’s opinion as deserving equal measure and airtime… or social media platform. Social media, the great equalizer, where everyone is self-published and each post or comment can appear to be credible…

Where are the educated online? Why can’t reason achieve the same foothold and propagation as fear?

I ask, I BEG others who are qualified in an area of expertise, to engage and speak up and pound the pavement on social media – about vaccination, abortion, immigration -until there is a stronger voice of reason in the arenas where there are actual lives at stake.

I’ve been on about this subject before. I wrote about this same topic in a blog I wrote called The Great Disconnect describing the great disconnect between intelligence and the internet. So, um, spend some more time on the wonderful internet and go back and read the article here:

https://sarasmanyhats.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/the-great-disconnect/

BTW Tetanus is already back and it’s devastating. Read here:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/09/cdc-treatment-cost-tetanus-unvaccinated-oregon-boy


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