The antivax, a real sect
The behavior of followers of conspiracy theories around COVID-19 vaccines resembles that of cult members.
When I was president of the Office des professions du Québec, we carried out an analysis of different approaches to personal development as part of a large study on alternative medicine.
One of the people consulted was an expert on the issue of sects. He had described some constant elements in their approaches to recruit new members:
- Instill a feeling of uncertainty and doubt about everything in their life.
- Make believe that they are going to share secrets that others cannot understand but which will help them.
- Convince recruits that they can’t even trust their families.
Above all, he warned us that anyone vulnerable could fall into this. It was not a question of education or intelligence.
- Listen to Thomas Mulcair and Jean-François Lisée at the microphone of Richard Martineau on QUB radio:
Deny the obvious obviousness
This study came back to my mind this week when I wrote a column for the website of an English-speaking TV network where I collaborate, and which dealt with antivax.
Reading the answers I received made me think of this description of the behavior of sects towards their flock.
Faced with information – objective and unavoidable – that the unvaccinated occupy a disproportionate number of beds in hospitals, devoted to the cult of antivax have a ready-made answer. They question the official figures and they invent their own. (They “did their research”.)
They ask me how much I was paid by “Big Pharma” (the big pharmaceutical companies). They talk about Nuremberg …
It is a veritable kaleidoscope of alternate truths, supported by nothing, but delivered with a convinced and alarmist tone. They know. Everyone else (of course, me included) are fooled and part of a vast government and industry conspiracy.
A colleague I work with on the English side experienced exactly the same thing this week when she wrote an analysis on the irresponsibility of the unvaccinated. The antivax didn’t mean to laugh and she was treated to threatening emails.
Mr. Legault said two very clear things this week. There is no question of restricting access to care for the unvaccinated. And no one with a medical reason not to be vaccinated will be penalized.
You had to read the “experts” comment on Legault’s idea of charging the unvaccinated. We were jostling to say that the Quebec proposal limited access to hospitals, while Legault had said exactly the opposite. Fake news is not the preserve of conspirators!
Legault enjoys the support of the public, and the antivax know it. They also know that their sect is losing tens of thousands of worshipers who are now lining up for their first dose.
If Mr. Legault wants to throw off some critics, he should do two things.
First, change your “penalty” to a “bonus”. Instead of taxing or fining the unvaccinated, it should give a tax credit to the vaccinated.
Second, make a major effort to reach out to communities and neighborhoods with the lowest vaccination rates. Make an active offer, reach out to people and improve ease of access.