Carl Golden: Virus can be beaten, but what about conspiracy theories?
Published 12:00 am Monday, July 19, 2021
About 34 million people have fallen ill with COVID-19 in the U.S. and nearly 610,000 have died. Protection is readily at hand, but is going to waste in storage and, in some cases, while millions refuse to avail themselves of it.
Americans, usually among the most responsive people on the globe when confronted by a widespread and out of control contagion, have resisted accepting a highly-effective vaccine out of doubts about its safety. Some believe the pandemic is a false narrative, while other think government-sponsored inoculation is a violation of their constitutional right to privacy.
It is small wonder that Anthony Fauci, director of the U. S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will likely appear in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most consecutive days of mind-bending frustration.
Fauci, who also serves as chief medical advisor to the president, has been the most outspoken for the COVID-19 vaccine, appearing almost daily on network and cable talk and interview shows expressing his bewilderment and shock that fewer than 60 percent of the nation has received the vaccine while large swaths of the country continue to ignore a proven, lifesaving, rapid and painless procedure.
He’s become a flash point for harsh criticism and relentless assaults from some elements of the media who’ve accused him of peddling false information about the disease’s severity and the vaccine’s efficacy. His pleas for greater vaccine acceptance have been dismissed by those who see government’s involvement as a conspiracy to exert greater and insidious control of the private lives of Americans.
Fauci and the Biden Administration have been castigated for efforts to send emissaries into neighborhoods where vaccination rates are the lowest to knock on doors and urge the unvaccinated to agree to the protection.
Rather than recognize the door-to-door effort as a worthy attempt to stop the spread of the most serious public health crisis in a century, critics demeaned and derided it.
U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-North Carolina, for instance, told the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas the effort was a plot by government to confiscate guns and Bibles from people’s private homes, a dangerous quasi paranoid notion.
At the same conference, his like-mind conspiracy promoters Reps. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, belittled those participating in the outreach effort as “needle Nazis” and “medical brown shirts.” The audience cheered.
How effective their attacks will be is unclear, but the mere fact that wild theories and personal insults have gained a foothold – however tenuous – in Congress is stunning.
How does Fauci refute what, to most, is sheer lunacy? Denying a government plot to confiscate guns and Bibles merely serves to give it additional attention.
How do public health personnel respond to accusations they are today’s equivalent of Hitler’s storm troopers?
Distrust in government runs deep and the anti-vaccine movement is illustrative of the point. At the current level of mistrust, people are open to the kinds of suggestions offered by Cawthorn and others, even though logic and commonsense would reject them as absurd.
In the early stages of the pandemic, President Donald Trump reacted slowly, for which he deserves criticism. It was Trump’s administration, though, who launched Operation Warp Speed, which developed a vaccine in record time.
To be sure, accepting or declining a vaccination is a personal decision. It should not be forced upon anyone and government should not use its coercive powers to achieve compliance.
The person who answers a knock on the door to find someone attempting to persuade them to accept a vaccination always has the option to shut the door just as they would on a door-to-door solar panel salesman.
At the same time, they must accept the consequences of refusal; becoming a statistic like the 64 million infected and 610,000 dead.
If they are not moved by the clear correlation between high vaccination rates and low infection levels, it’s unlikely they’ll be impressed by other compelling data or public health arguments.
As for Fauci, he likely goes to bed wondering what he can do or say next to convince reluctant Americans to look objectively without bias or outside influence at all the evidence in the hope it will be sufficiently persuasive.
The U. S. is not alone. Nearly 190 million people worldwide have been sickened, and a staggering four million have died.
But America leads the globe in deaths — Why?
Carl Golden is a senior analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org