As scholars at leading British universities over recent decades, we witnessed the replacement of critical thinking and debate by narrative: facts are discrimination and scientific method is imperialism; truth, instead, is derived from ‘progressive’ values. This educational trend may be a major contributory factor to the ease in which society has been inculcated to the Covid ‘new normal’ of masking, testing, and repeated doses of vaccines for a disease of similar risk to severe influenza.
One doesn’t need much critical reasoning to observe the flawed logic of some vaccination enthusiasts, such as people who respond to experiencing any side effects, however debilitating, by saying “at least I know it’s working”, or, after contracting the disease despite their promised inoculation (over 90% effective, according to initial drug company claims), “I’d have been worse off without the jab.” Perhaps these attitudes have some justifiability. But, especially in light of the fact that none of the purported Covid vaccines is greater than approximately 1% effective at preventing an individual from contracting Covid in terms of absolute risk reduction, it would make more sense to take the opposite view, that the vaccine is not working as well as it should.
This week the Manchester Evening News (November 9th 2021) reported the tragic story of Neil Astle, a 59 year-old solicitor, who died from a blood clot in the brain soon after his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The coroner, attributing death to the injection, asserted that this was an “extremely rare” consequence, and praised the family for promoting vaccination despite their loss. His brother remarked: “I think everybody in this country should have the vaccine. I had the vaccine even after Neil died.” The wife of the deceased, whose first sign of something wrong was her husband’s severe headache, remarked that “the vaccine never even entered our minds because it was nine days after”. This appears to be a case arising from microcoagulation, whereby small clots in peripheral blood vessels gradually grow like a snowball, eventually blocking a critical artery.
Comments criticising the coroner’s and relatives’ comments, and the newspaper’s coverage, were swiftly removed. This is not the only case of a family urging others to take the vaccine that has evidently taken the life of their loved one, or after a vaccinated loved one died from Covid despite the presumed protection.
Also used for the vaccination drive are cases of unvaccinated people succumbing to COVID-19. Fifteen year-old Jorja Halliday, a healthy teenager, died on the day she was due to be vaccinated; her grieving mother urged people to get the jab as soon as possible. In a similar vein, unvaccinated Megan Blankenbiller saw the error of her ways from her death bed, convinced that the vaccine would have saved her. It is reminiscent of what Hamish Fraser, one of Britain’s most famous Catholic converts from Communism, reported in his biography Fatal Star. Fraser served as a political officer with the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and oversaw the execution by firing squad of suspected traitors who, in order to prove their loyalty to the cause, were heard shouting Communist slogans as the order to fire was called. Dedication to the cause must be demonstrated whatever the terrible consequences.
As we have observed online and in hecklers at freedom rallies, the zeal for Covid vaccines sometimes distorts into misanthropic missives against those yet to roll their sleeves up (one of us is jabbed, the other not). Some people get very angry very quickly on hearing any opposition to the universal vaccination programme. Education and professional standing are no brake on the outpouring of vitriol.
Canadian Cardiologist Sohrab Lutchmeial died in his sleep after his third injection of the vaccine. Aged 52, this sprightly hockey coach had frequently attacked ‘anti-vaxxers’ on Twitter, saying “I want to punch these people in the face” and tweeting: “For those who won’t get the shot for selfish means – whatever – I won’t cry at their funeral.” Such comments made by a vaccine sceptic would surely breach Twitter’s ‘community standards’, while any doctor wishing ill of the vaccinated would be in trouble with the professional regulator.
This social schism is unprecedented and may have been partly manufactured. According to Laura Dodsworth, whose book A State of Fear investigated how the British public was subjected to a form of psychological warfare by the Government, the Nudge Unit, formed under David Cameron’s administration, became a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A respiratory infection, elevated to the status of pandemic, was exploited to induce something akin to mass hysteria.
Fear displaces rational thought. Firing of the primitive mid-brain blocks out the perception and considered response of the cerebral grey matter. The authorities knew that a mortal threat would terrify people, reducing them to putty in the hands of modellers. Meanwhile, a divisive strategy was used to vilify the sizeable minority of dissidents as selfish and dangerous extremists. The term ‘anti-vaxxer’, rarely heard two years ago, was weaponised for abuse.
Millions have been brought round to unquestioning faith in heroic medicine and herald vaccines as ‘miracles of science’, with slavish adherence to rules and restrictions. Indeed, in their blind obedience to the cause, many appear to have been ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’, a reference to the notorious cult led by Jim Jones. We are not suggesting that vaccine enthusiasts are at the same level of delusion as those of doomsday cults, but some parallels may be drawn. If we consider Jim Jones’s community in the Guyanan jungle as a Platonic pure form of cult behaviour, we can use such an extreme manifestation for comparative purpose.
An idealistic, charismatic figure, Jones was a civil rights activist in the 1960s. He gave his son the middle name of Ghandhi. Decrying social injustice, he recruited hundreds of black Americans, as well as numerous graduates versed in radical ideology. On November 18th 1978 the cult culminated in the murder-suicide of 918 followers, most having drunk cyanide-laced Kool-Aid on Jones’s order. How was such a massacre possible?
Theodore Millon, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, described a personality disorder featuring puritanical compulsion, whereby the world is divided into good and evil with no middle ground. With fanatical zeal, the self-declared good cannot bear to be in the company of the bad, which is why extreme cults take refuge outside normal society. Common to cults is a belief that humanity is in grave danger, and we can see this thinking in the more devout believers in climate change and Covid crises.
Research shows that contrary evidence strengthens rather than undermines the beliefs of cult followers. The more compelling the facts, the shriller the reaction to the messenger. Cultists struggle to relax, which partly explains why they depend on meditative practices. Indeed, Covid culture has shown a difference in outlooks like that between progressives and conservatives. Converts to the conservative cause from the Left, such as educationalist Katharine Birbalsingh, were initially surprised to find that their erstwhile political opponents were not the ogres that they were portrayed to be. Tammy Bruce, a gay feminist broadcaster in the USA, remarked: “Something had to explain why my left elite allies were generally miserable, angry and paranoid, while the enemy was secure, comfortable, generally happy people.” Bruce came to realise the difference between idealistic engineering and conservative realism.
Covid vaccine absolutism allows no exemptions. Refuseniks will get no sympathy, and it is troubling to see the lack of lines drawn by punitive zealots. If the Government ordered vaccination of newborn babies, if unvaccinated relatives and neighbours were sent into quarantine camps, if hospital treatment were denied to the unvaccinated, would supporters of the regime call for caution? Unlikely, because that is not how cultists behave.
We wonder whether, if and when the Covid emergency ends, the most faithful followers of Covid orthodoxy will take themselves off to a redoubt, and it will be we sceptics who will try to coax them back.
Both Professor Roger Watson and Dr. Niall McCrae are Registered Nurses.