Peter Tatchell’s recent Queer Majority cover story celebrating past progress on gay rights and looking forward to a future where labels matter less sparked a firestorm from activists. I argue that his critics have got it all wrong in “Misunderstanding Peter Tatchell.” Check it out.
Like the Angel of Death’s spoiled nephew, COVID-19 has stalked through society on a brisk wind, claiming lives, scything economies, and chewing brains like bubble gum. For over two years it has gorged itself on human sanity as its victims, deranged by fear, uncertainty, and hatred, bend the knee and willingly circumcise their skulls for its dining pleasure. In the wake of this gluttony, a two-headed cult of the lobotomized has emerged. Convinced that they are each other’s arch nemesis, and that all dissent is borderline criminal, they are, in fact, two sides of the same imbecilic coin.
On the one side are the pandemic puritans, the self-deputized hall monitors of moral virtue, convinced that COVID-19 is an extinction-level event, racked with apocalyptic fear and quick to denounce anyone insufficiently scared or obeisant to their theatrical dictates. Opposite them are the anti-vaxxers, a paranoid rabble of conspiracy mongers and wannabe freethinkers, categorically distrustful of all authority and expertise, but with an unshakable faith in their own mind’s ability to accurately hallucinate facts into existence. The battle lines were drawn early on, and once established, COVID politics became completely tribal and dogmatic, with each extreme pushing further off their respective deep ends.
Over the months and years, these schmucks have lurched from one position to another, but like a broken digital clock, they’re never right even accidentally. They started out by alleging that the virus itself was a hoax, and predicted that after the 2020 election, the fabrication would collapse. As denying COVID’s very existence became a bridge too far even for them, anti-vaxxers pivoted to the view that the pandemic was foisted on us intentionally, either by the Chinese Communist Party, Big Pharma, Bill Gates, and/or a cadre of nefarious global elites — but only those elites who happen to be left-of-center politically, wouldn’t you know it. Why? Profiteering, tyranny, world domination, human enslavement. You know, the usual.
But while the pandemic was purposely unleashed on humanity, our intrepid heroes are also convinced that the virus was never all that dangerous, no more so than the common cold or perhaps a bout of flu. This is why they have always opposed every effort to prevent its transmission — masks, testing, lockdowns, social distancing, and of course, the vaccine. These measures, according to their doctrine, are designed to prime human beings to accept totalitarianism, which they assure us is imminent. But, at the same time, anti-vaxxers are huge believers in COVID therapeutics, whether proven or unproven. So let’s take stock here: the virus is a nothingburger designed to condition you for enslavement, but when you catch it, you need to attack it with everything but the kitchen sink, including veterinary deworming paste if you can get your hands on it. And the vaccine is made by evil Big Pharma, but the therapeutics you take once infected, made by the same pharmaceutical companies, are somehow perfectly kosher, because reasons. Sadly, there’s no vaccine for stupidity. But if there were, they wouldn’t take it.
To inhabit the anti-vax mindset, short of diving headfirst into an empty pool, the first thing to understand is that they simply don’t give a fuck. They believe a certain set of propositions. They believe them without evidence, and despite disconfirming evidence. They have no coherent epistemology — they couldn’t spell epistemology if their lives were at stake, which, come to think of it, explains the unvaccinated death rates. Anti-vaxxers believe in Schrödinger’s evidence — that all information sits in a superposition where it’s simultaneously true and false, and if it accords with the anti-vax dogma, it then becomes true, and if it doesn’t, it becomes false. Pretty neat deal, huh?
Anti-vaxxers say they think our institutions are entirely rotten and cannot be trusted at all — but that’s only when they disseminate information inconvenient to their cause. The New York Times and the Centers for Disease Control are corrupt organs of the establishment when they say the vaccine is safe and effective. But when they report on the side effects experienced by a tiny percentage of people, as happens with every drug ever made, that information is credible to be paraded around without context or perspective. Funny how that works. We have a name for this — it’s called being full of shit.
Any claim that can be used to cast the vaccine as ineffective or dangerous is accepted at face value, whether it comes from a Facebook screenshot, a chain email, or some random website that just sprung up overnight. Anti-vaxxer “research” consists of trolling through social media for random people saying the vaccine doesn’t work, or listening to podcasts where people with no expertise in relevant fields offer outlandish and unsubstantiated claims. Meanwhile, actual scientific evidence to the contrary is subjected to a level of skeptical scrutiny that no branch of human knowledge could ever satisfy. It’s a double standard that could only be measured in light years.
As such, there is literally no claim that anti-vaxxers won’t believe if it aligns with the general thrust of their views. COVID patients are crisis actors? Could be. The vaccine contains a 5G tracking system or microchips? Sure, why not. Drinking your own urine can treat COVID? I’m listening. The vaccine contains human fetal tissue? Makes perfect sense. The vaccine is killing more people than the virus? Hey, you can’t prove it’s not true. No you can’t! And my personal favorite: the vaccine alters your DNA. As the writer and physician Ali A. Rizvi quipped: “If you believe the COVID vaccine will change your DNA, you could probably benefit from a change in your DNA.”
The Pandemic Puritans
The pandemic puritans are no match for the anti-vaxxers in terms of sheer lunacy, but their delicate blend of moralizing, alarmist performance art is not without its own repulsive charm. While the anti-vaxxer denies the severity of COVID-19 practically up to the point that the ventilator tube patriotically slides down their throat, a pandemic puritan is paralyzed by dread and consistently exaggerates the threat. Asked how dangerous COVID was, Democrats, from whom virtually all pandemic puritans derive, responded with absurd figures many times higher than the actual data, saying that half or more of those infected require hospitalization, when the actual figure was one to five percent, and that was pre-Omicron. Asked to match colored wooden objects to their corresponding holes, anti-vaxxers similarly came up short. In
all more seriousness, only 10 percent of Dems gave the correct answer — outscored on both counts by Republicans.
Their innumerate unfamiliarity with the data spreads to many other areas. This is why they’re obsessed with lockdowns and restrictions, even among low-risk groups. They want children masked, or schools shut down, or draconian social distancing policies put in place among populations with 99 percent vaccination rates, despite very little evidence that it would do any good. And if anyone objects to any of this overkill COVID theater, well, they must be anti-science. Oz has spoken!
These are the people you see walking down the street, outside, with a mask on, or driving their cars with masks. They spend their days mostly sealed inside their comfortable homes, alternately quaking in terror as they mainline an uninterrupted flow of pandemic fear porn, and raging into their phones and computers about the evil heathens not taking the virus seriously enough. This includes not merely anti-vaxxers, but anyone whose undies aren’t similarly soaked with piss. You can be triple-vaccinated and in compliance with all local protocols, but if you don’t make enough of a show about how scared you are, expect denunciations from these preachy poltroons, because you’re now an honorary anti-vaxxer.
The pandemic puritans tie everything surrounding COVID-19 to one’s moral worth as a human being. Getting the vaccine, assiduously attending to every facet of COVID etiquette to the nth degree, and saying all the right things in public are good deeds. Failing to meet this threshold in any way is a sin, and sinners must be punished. When anti-vaxxers liken themselves to Holocaust victims, they are displaying their ignorance, insensitivity, and crybaby victim complex. But it is true that the puritans despise the unvaccinated on a personal level, and seek vindictive actions to punish them for their transgressions, such as advocating denying them medical care if infected, or cheering when they lose their jobs. Meanwhile, a two-tiered system of haves and have-nots plays itself out, where the puritans longue in their plush home offices, drinking wine in their pajamas and Zooming all day for their white collar jobs, while an underclass of masked peasants scurries to do their bidding, delivering their packages and food in a punishing pandemic economy.
The End Is Near
A year ago, my righteous friends, I was with you. Over the summer and into the fall of 2021, it seemed like we were doomed to face one variant after the next indefinitely. But Omicron changed everything. Many times more infectious yet correspondingly less deadly, Omicron has shifted the dynamics of the pandemic. We are shattering all infection records, as omicron spreads to the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, but the death numbers are much lower compared to this time last year, not just per capita, but in absolute terms as well. Combine that with the fact that about 75 percent of Americans are at least partially vaccinated, with more doses and boosters administered every day, and a path to herd immunity is finally visible.
But you almost get the sense sometimes, as we approach what seems to be the light at the end of the tunnel, that the puritans don’t truly want the pandemic to end. In what appears to be some kind of Munchausen by society, our neurotic Brahmin class clings to their fear-mongering, sanctimonious moralizing like it was their “guns and religion.” People are still dying of COVID-19. The pandemic isn’t over just yet. But it’s okay to want to return to normal. It’s okay to say as much in public. And it’s okay to do as much. In times of tumultuous uncertainty, people grasp for ways to make sense of things, for any semblance of control — but if you’re not careful, it’ll turn your brain into liquid shit. We will all catch omicron whether we like it or not. Accept what you cannot control, and move on with your life.
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See also: “The Strange Case of the Anti-Anti-Anti-Vaxxers”
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