Anti-Vaxxers, Anti-Maskers and the Trucker 'Freedom' Convoy
Yesterday, I wrote on Facebook about anti-vaxx and free speech. Today I want to say something about the anti-vaxx movement and the recent ‘trucker freedom convoy’. Let me begin first by stating what should be obvious to any person capable of reason and reflection: by anti-vaxxers I do not mean those who for valid medical reasons cannot or should not be vaccinated. Neither do I mean those who question the muddled and often incoherent way some governments have responded to the pandemic over the course of the past two years.
Finally, I am not a huge fan of government paternalism, of vaccine passports and mandates. I don’t really like the idea of government tracking and surveilling me any more than I like it when corporations or social media does this. However, I have yet to hear any compelling social or ethical argument that persuades me that there is never a time when individual privacy concerns should absolutely prevail over public good. I think a lethal pandemic qualifies here for very obvious reasons.
The choice to remain unvaccinated poses a real risk of harm to others unless those who refuse vaccinations are willing to self-quarantine—which most refuse to do. It turns out that the majority of those who remain unvaccinated also resist social distancing and mask-wearing. As I have said before, if this pandemic has taught us anything it is that we are all a fact of each other’s reality, and we, therefore, share some responsibility towards one another.
All that said, the anti-vaxx ‘arguments’ put forward by many are simply incoherent. I will chart these pseudo-arguments out more specifically in a future post. For the time being, I will just say that they are on a par with those that deny the science of climate warming, or more imaginatively those who would claim that doctors need not wash their hands or wear gloves before operating since the whole bacteria thing is just a ruse cooked up by latex glove manufacturers who want to sell their product; or, again, that one should not take antibiotics when they have a raging infection since you cannot trust any product pushed by paternalistic governments or the pharmaceutical industry because the latter are wholly driven by profit and don’t care about human health.
If I am going to raise my voice against the pharmaceutical industry it will not be because they are manufacturing a vaccine that has saved lives. It will be because they refuse to share their vaccine recipe with nations that have the facilities to make it for themselves. If I am going to raise my voice against free speech it won’t be in support of a bunch of yahoo truckers, but against governments in America, the UK, and Australia for imprisoning people like Julian Assange because they spoke the truth about the government incompetence and criminality.
As of today, I have read in excess of 100 peer-reviewed journal articles by virologists, immunologists, and medical doctors—some with differing opinions, but the vast majority agreeing that the mRNA vaccinations and boosters work and that masks and vaccine mandates when properly implemented mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. They are not perfect—nothing is. And vaccinations are not by any means the only preventive measure that governments and individuals can take.
But vaccinations save lives and they ease suffering. The research I have done was more than enough to persuade me that I should put my faith in the latter scientists and medical doctors not people like Joe Rogan, George Galloway or Jordan Peterson—an intellectual hack if ever there was one. The simple truth is that anyone who prefers to believe Joe Rogan or anyone else who denies the efficacy of vaccines or mandates is not just misguided or unwise. They have their heads up their libertarian asses.
Finally, this is not about you or me or the freedom of people to choose and be respected for their choice. In cases where the health and well-being of others are at stake, choices made by any particular individual do not exist in some libertarian, moral or social vacuum. If they do not have underlying conditions that would be compromised by vaccination, then their so-called ‘free choice’ not to be vaccinated should NOT be respected, it should NOT be honoured, it should NOT be in any way praised. It should be condemned both morally, and socially. It should be seen as ignorant, narcissistic, selfish and self-aggrandizing.
As for Joe Rogan, I enjoy his show even though I may often disagree with him. But let’s be clear: this guy does whatever he thinks will raise his audience and viewership. This very typically means saying what is controversial, inviting provocative guests on his show, and generally going against the grain of a present orthodoxy or status quo perspective—whether from the left or right of the political spectrum. That is great and God bless him for that.
However, there are and MUST BE standards and limits to speech that preserve a more common good by censoring those who broadcast untruths about the efficacy of vaccinations and other social measures in the midst of a raging pandemic. Upholding the common good precisely means that there will be times when individual freedom must be subject to certain conditions in the interest of all those who might be affected. There is not much of a moral difference between the latter case and those cases where individuals (or sitting Presidents) use the public airwaves to incite others to violence against others.
I sometimes think the left and the right are so caught up in their hatred of liberal wokeism they have lost the ability to reflect on things that actually matter, and tend to collapse everything in a single argumentative meme. That is truly unfortunate. There is so much real work we need to do to turn things around, restore social and economic justice, end war, homelessness and poverty, protect our blue-green world and do everything possible to mitigate unnecessary suffering and death.
What then of the ‘convoy’ of vile, destructive, threatening, hateful, swastika-waving truckers? They and those who support them (and fund their hatred) are not as Erin O’Toole describes them ‘our neighbours, our family and most importantly, our fellow Canadians.’ The 10% of unvaccinated truck drivers and wanna-be Trump supporters are something we should be ashamed for, since they themselves have no shame. Yes, the government's vaccination mandate for truckers was ill-conceived, inadequately communicated, and poorly implemented. Indeed, the incompetence and failure of governments both provincial and federal to adequately protect Canadians from the spread of COVID is something that should be brought into relief, critically engaged, and protested against. But that is not what these truckers were about.
There were no ‘arguments’ against vaccinations or vaccination mandates here. This was not civil disobedience. This was not an exercise in either freedom or democracy. This was, instead, an ominous and frightening picture of how fascism begins