Nothing to fear but fear itself – that, and the pandemic - The Orca

Nothing to fear but fear itself – that, and the pandemic

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Jody Vance: Anti-mask protesters need to be recognized for what they are – dangerous, and driven by fear. They need help.

If you are regular reader of this column, you are already abundantly aware of my limited patience for anti-vaccination rhetoric. On the efficacy of vaccines, there is no middle; the proof is found in millions and millions of lives saved.

These days, the anti-science vocal mini-minority are joined by the anti-masker – or as the hashtag goes, anti-maxxer. Fear-mongering marchers travelling from far away towns to gather in our major city centres in spaces where public protests often take place.

These anti-maxxer gatherings must not be normalized. Even more importantly, the misinformation disseminated requires swift and complete debunking in real time. These are not harmless conspiracy theorists, but dangerous science and fact deniers. Let’s call them what they are.

My Middle is about how these protests are covered. Remember Oprah allowing Jenny McCarthy on her couch to spew misinformation as though it were science? The consequence was that too many moms stopped vaccinating their kids. We are in grave danger of making the same mistake here.

Constant fact-checking should accompany any appearances of those spitting mad, wild-eyed, ranting screamers; something like “pop up video” bubbles, or bullet points. When they attempt to lay blame at the feet of Bill Gates or the “shadow government,” there needs to be a real-time explanation that these are catchphrases fed to them in online forums.

Marching in the name of denying the pandemic actually exists, that it’s a conspiracy from the Illuminati or the Rothschilds or the New World Order, should be recognized for what it is: a massive red flag for mental instability. Even worse, it’s wilful ignorance that puts fellow citizens at risk.

With a now-official second wave in BC, we can’t afford any dancing around the realities.

Pussy-footing around or poking fun at conspiracy theorists seeking attention should be saved for the harmless set, like Flat Earthers. That particular brand of crazy doesn’t lead to innocents getting sick or dying. Anti-masker rhetoric does.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: there is no middle ground on the efficacy of vaccines. There is no middle ground on the need for people to keep their droplets to themselves in this COVID-19 pandemic.

Stoking fear, and drawing the vulnerable with outlandish narratives is, quite simply, morally wrong. If we don’t call it out, it can and will cost lives in this pandemic.

If you are an anti-masker reading this with red-hot fury – thank you for getting this far. I invite you to consider that I’m not saying you have to wear a mask. I am saying you are being played.

You’re being played by idiots and chaos makers who’ve stirred your fear so much, you’re ignoring observable facts — all so someone else can make bank selling your clicks, page views and books.

We can all agree on this: people are scared. I’m scared. We all want it to end.

But joining a “hugs not masks” rally is not going to help us return to any semblance of normalcy. Protesting against what scientists know works will only prolong this.

Flat-earth your guts out, stroll in the name of eating only red smarties, walk in the name of…whatever. Just don’t be so selfish as to put your neighbours in peril..

It’s a scientific fact that staying up to date on vaccinations could save your life. Here’s another one: when physical distance isn’t possible, wearing a mask is the single easiest act of kindness one can do.

There’s science and there are conspiracy theorists — the two often intersect within friend groups and families. Do what you can to help nudge along the “anti” folks in your world, always remembering it’s likely coming from a place of fear.

That fear is pushing them toward the fringe in search of semblance of control – speaking to someone like you will help bring them back.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.