Not Just Wrong: AntiVaxxer Edition

I spent about ten minutes successfully counter-protesting an anti-vaxxer, and then spent an hour talking to someone else who walked up. Here’s some things that were new to me – and how they’re wrong. Please note; this is not an exhaustive list – these are just things I’d not heard before.

“This study by the UK version of the CDC showed…” Okay, let me stop you right there. While the COVID vaccinations all work off the same principle as each other, they are not the same. Trying to compare Oxford/AstraZenica to Pfizer to Moderna to Johnson & Johnson is like saying all high blood pressure meds are the same, or that all antidepressants are the same. Using efficacy data from one to judge the others is like comparing the fuel efficiency of my parent’s SUV to to the Mitsubishi I own now.

“The side effects of the vaccination are…” There’s two problems with this one. Again, the vaccinations are not the same. If you have concerns with the J&J one, that’s fine – go find someplace to get a different version with different or fewer side effects.

Second, it’s a bad comparison. You should not be comparing the side effect of the vaccination to your “normal”, you should compare it to the effect of the thing you are being vaccinated against. You’re comparing a day or three of feeling under the weather versus the risk of death, hospitalization, long-term mental health effects, long term reduced respiratory capacity, and even possible fertility problems in men from contracting COVID-19. Even if you think “it’s just like a flu”, the side effects of the vaccination are most commonly a day or so of feeling flu-like and tired as your immune system kicks into high gear… so it should be no big deal.

“What about my body, my choice?” I really, really dislike this argument; it’s so freaking hypocritical. Typically, the left (and I, to an extent) argue that life does not begin at pregnancy, which implies that abortion does not impact anyone other than the woman, making it a consistent position. The right-wing position, however, is typically that life does begin at conception (or with the misnamed “heartbeat”), and therefore abortion should be illegal because it does not just effect the person making the choice.

But if you’re going to hold that position, then to be consistent, you must hold that infecting someone else also impacts other people, and therefore, you should be pro-mask and pro-vaxx. Therefore, the whole argument is just an exercise in twisting language, nothing more, and that’s a bad faith argument in my book.

“My employer only gave me a week’s notice…” This is confusing principles with methodology. I will agree with the guy who said this – his employer gave him a raw deal, especially if they knew ahead of time they were going to require their workers to take action. They should have had time to reflect, do research, and gather the information needed to provide an exemption. [1] Which has absolutely nothing to do with whether the employer could or should mandate a vaccination. We can agree that employer’s methods sucked and were unreasonable. That has NOTHING to do with the principle of the employer requiring employees to get vaccinated. They are two separate issues.

This last bit is important; a common tactic [2] among scammers and MLM folks – and political pundits – is to shotgun a bunch of statements quickly, some of which you cannot refute, and some of which you would obviously agree with. Make several statements the target is likely to agree with – particularly if they’re phrased as a semi-rhetorical question, and then they’re more likely to agree with the next statement you make. Especially if you’re in an environment controlled by the person using this tactic, it can be difficult to resist, even when you’re aware of it.

Finally, let Bugs Bunny be your guide. I happened to have just purchased some whiteboard and markers to tweak my Halloween costume, so I made my signs in thirty seconds. I decided that instead of explicitly being “against” the Death Eater’s [3] propaganda, I’d just… clarify what it was that he was advocating. So my signs read “Pro-COVID since 2019” and “Pro Dead Kids”, and I stood right next to the Death Eater.

It is fair to say that he was not pleased.

He also walked off after about five minutes, complaining about my counter-protesting next to him.

Which, y’know, is ironic for a guy shouting “FREEDOM” at cars just moments before I walked up. [4] So much for the freedom of his convictions. It helped that I’ve been debating online since before the invention of web browsers, have taught research design and methodology, and have been working in the medical field since the 1990’s, so I’m well suited to be able to counter the bad faith arguments he rolled out.

Did I make a difference with my little counter-protest? I don’t know; there isn’t a way to know. I was impressed with Mr. W____’s (the bystander) commitment to actually having a civil conversation, and totally unimpressed with the Death Eater’s whining. I don’t know that I would recommend that others do it either; I’m fully vaxxed, was masked, and, um, I’m a big white middle aged white guy (now with short hair), so I also had a crapload of societal privilege protecting me.

But it did expose me to a number of bad-faith Death Eater “arguments” I’d not heard before, so I’m writing them up for you so that you can immunize yourself against them.

Get your vaccinations – all of them – stay healthy, and let’s finally get this damn disease under control.

Featured Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

[1] Yeah, I kinda think he should have seen it coming, but I think the employer has an obligation to provide sufficient time for people to comply with new rules.
[2] I do not think Mr. W____ (the bystander) was doing this intentionally, to be clear.
[3] Yes, that’s what I call people who campaign against vaccinations.