The scapegoating of ‘anti-vaxers’ reaches new heights.
OPINION: What is an anti-vaxer? The media and government would have you believe they are unhinged nutcases. Are they?
Firstly, it’s important to clarify that most people slapped with this label are not actually anti-vaccine, but rather have reservations or criticisms of the covid jab, or may have had an adverse reaction and spoken out. Even scientists who have done research into the safety of vaccine adjuvants are labelled ‘anti-vax’. Then there are those who have always been sceptical about the safety of traditional vaccines but they aren’t really ‘anti-vaxers’ either. Vaccine risk aware is a more suitable description. It’s simply a position about healthcare preferences, but the reasons are nuanced, complex and varied.
Conceptions of health
Many people don’t find the orthodox medical paradigm very satisfactory and take a more holistic view. Vaccines don’t always fit into that. We shouldn’t all be expected to simply adopt a materialist view of medicine just because it is dominant. For many people it’s also tied up with their spirituality and often people see their bodies as a part of the natural world, and therefore sacred. Then there are those who have the nutty notion that health can’t be separated from lifestyle, that the body has an incredible inbuilt capacity for fending off disease and healing, given the right inputs like organic food, clean air, regular sunshine, exercise, good sleep, laughter and contact with friends and family and the natural world. Others have children or family members who are vaccine injured, and they are fully aware the ‘safe and effective’ mantra is nothing more than a marketing tag line. These are just some of the reasons people choose not to vaccinate. Craaaaaazy stuff I tell ya.
So, why is this such a problem?
The anti-vax boogeyman
The Government certainly wants to make them a problem in the eyes of the public, especially after protesters became a thorn in their side earlier this year when they gathered to demand an end to brutal mandates. Security agencies are warning that ‘anti-vaxers’ are the next big threat. No, not suicide bombers and the like, but those who opt for natural health modalities, or who have lost their incomes or their health or their relationships due to Government policy. These natural health nuts are being ‘radicalised’ online, rather than coming to their own conclusions based on their direct experience, we’re told.
I write this now because between the recent comments of an expert from Auckland University, and Stuff’s ‘Fire & Fury’ film, a lot of really good people are in the cross-hairs of the state. They say they are only targeting select groups who pose a threat, but the way the term is broadly deployed in public discourse, in reality makes a sweeping judgement on all those independently minded enough to choose not to take vaccines – as is their right. And the disparate groups they say pose a threat have not been honestly represented in the media to date.
It’s worth noting that as with accusations of misinformation, we are never told what the misinformation is, it is never defined or articulated, simply alleged. With anti-vax stuff, it’s the same. They are called nutty, crazy, whacko, even dangerous, but why is never articulated. The anti-vax boogeyman is merely a construct that is repeatedly projected onto people who decline certain medical procedures.
Here is a frightening example.
Security analyst Paul Buchanan, speaking to RNZ in late July, after bomb threats were made to a number of schools, said “The New Zealand intelligence community has issued repeated warnings that the most likely origin of an act of violent extremism will come from the anti-vax movement …
“Whether it’s from the centre of that movement or whether its from the fringes, whether it’s a lone wolf or a small group, the intelligence community have said that is the more likely possibility. And they rate it as a real possibility … And it seems to me even though I don’t have perfect proof of this that the more likely origins of these threats are coming out of that anti-vax movement.”
The idea that people who have protested authoritarian policies because of their inhumanity now have a motive to terrify school children is frankly very far fetched. But that doesn’t matter, the spell has been cast.
You know the old saying, if you say something often enough, it becomes true. Proof be damned.
Derangement syndrome in the media
Freedom is another term that has been weaponised. The media literally has us casting aspersions on people who uphold the very normal, very human value of liberty, spitting in the face of heroes like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Tohu and Te Whiti.
In the Fire & Fury documentary, it was insinuated that the use of the term in the name of the group Voices For Freedom was an intentional obfuscation to hide their ‘anti-vax’ nature, rather than simply what they stand for. They have been very clear that they are pro-choice by the way.
But freedom is now a red flag for for people with ‘dangerous ideas’, ‘conspiracy theorists’, spreaders of ‘mis-and-dis-information’, ‘anti-vax nutters’ and don’t forget it might make you look like Trump supporter. This is derangement syndrome taken to the next level.
This mindset – embraced by New Zealand’s government and legacy media – in itself is fascinating. It has been used as an excuse to do away with basic principles of journalism – including the ‘right of reply’, which targets of the Fire & Fury film were not afforded.
Journalist Paula Penfold said they were following new international norms adopted by the media in the Trump era. To the observer, these ‘norms’ have included unwarranted alarmism, lying and burying corruption. See this extraordinary clip of Sam Harris, who just this week said in an interview that left wing media covering up the Hunter Biden laptop story was a ‘liberal conspiracy’, and an acceptable one, to stop Trump getting into office. Ok, so we can lie and undermine democracy if we think the threat is serious enough. We can defame and refuse right of reply. This is the new left’s mindset, and there is nothing ‘liberal’ about it.
It’s the same logic used when censoring science showing vaccine harm, or supressing stories of vaccine injury – because they might lead to ‘vaccine hesitancy’. A sane person might have thought if a vaccine could cause harm, hesitancy might be a good idea. Derangement syndrome.
Targeting ‘anti-vaxers’ as dangerous extremists is not new, it is simply ramping up. I recorded the first instances of this in the New Zealand context back in December last year here.
A steady drumbeat of angst directed towards vaccine sceptics has been slowly building for years, undoubtedly driven by the pockets of big pharma. The term anti-vax, a PR masterpiece, entered the lexicon sometime in the last decade and increased to the point of being an everyday slur. However, the pivot from tolerated pest to dangerous extremist can be traced back to a briefing from the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence in March last year, which ominously signaled it was shifting its focus from foreign threats to domestic ones.
In the briefing, ‘domestic violent extremists’ were described as people who were motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanised by recent political and societal events in the US, and were considered to pose a threat to homeland security.
What is worrying is that the description is broad and could be applied arbitrarily to mean any grassroots movement in opposition to government. Anti-vaxers. Anti-lockdowners. People who stand up for freedom. This is nothing more than the pathologising and criminalising of dissent. It’s simply not cool to stand up to authoritarians any more.
In August, the US Department of Homeland Security issued another bulletin in much the same vein, which highlighted domestic threats that included concerns about people interested in “conspiracy theories concerning the origins of Covid-19 and effectiveness of vaccines”. It provides no evidence for this. It is simply stated and expected to be carried by the weight of the office that issued it.
In New Zealand the Combined Threat Assessment Group has been issuing warnings that anti-government sentiment resulting from covid restrictions could turn violent. But like any state body, intelligence agencies ought not to escape the scrutiny of journalists, they should not automatically be believed. They also have agendas – but instead, media acts as an auxiliary arm, amplifying their talking points uncritically. It is rarely discussed that this sentiment has arisen in response to authoritarian and rights-limiting policy that has severely impacted the emotional and economic well-being of Kiwis, nor is it ever conceded that they might have a point.
So, if a violent attack were to occur in New Zealand in the future, it seems highly likely it would be pinned on an ‘anti-vaxer’. The public have been primed to accept this unquestioningly. My bet, is that if this were to eventuate (let’s all hope fervently that it does not), it is far more likely to originate with agent provocateurs. It would then very likely be used to crack down hard on any online content, including hard data and scientific publishing, that was critical or sceptical of vaccines and their safety. The chilling effect would be enormous and the possibilities for increased authoritarianism – off the charts.