Being on the spectrum, one has to contend with many problems that neurotypicals can’t begin to imagine and one of the consistent foes of my people becomes a glaring threat to humanity in times of pandemic. Being on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, it is yet more awkward. I speak, of course, of anti-vaxxers. The people who have, for decades, screamed that they’re afraid their child might become like me if they save them from a preventable disease. It is weird to talk to them about it with them having to tell me to my face that they want to ethnically cleanse my people out of existence through not vaccinating. Not only is it anti-vaxxers, pretty much holistic medical people everywhere use my people as the boogieman that their magic potions protect against.
However, I am a social scientist and my foremost purpose is not to judge them for being very crazy but to understand the craziness to cure it. Entering the pandemic, we have seen massive resistance to the public health measures to the point where a number of murders have been the result. The Anti-Vaxxers are mostly blamed on total bad-boy hunk, steaming DILF, Andrew Wakefield but he is just the Lifetime movie doctor who capitalized on a populist fear of the mainstream that had been festering for years. The pandemic we need to cure is that as much as the actual pandemic because one suspects there will be massive resistance to the vaccine and the other drugs when they come out.
One imagines there are troll farms in Moscow, right now, with memes about the deep state trying to make kids autistic and other crap. Now, on the most macro level the causes of populism are the psychological alienation induced by globalism and contemporary liberalism and the economic dispossession caused by things like automation. Yet, it is unlikely we will be able to address those so it is our charge to create means to counter the sociological virus that is the best friend of the biological virus. That’s not going to be easy and it isn’t going to be clean. Nothing about contemporary politics is clean. Yet, there are ways the other side can be reached.
If we learned anything from the political science of Trump it is that the populists of his base see the world as a competition and weakness as the cardinal sin. They are concerned with money, might, and fear. Even the Paltrow-esque left-leaning anti-science people who don’t totally think like that, tend to have a paranoid, misapplied, Marxism reeking of Foucault that would lend them toward the belief in competition but of classes and not peoples. In any event, rather than appealing to their humanity and their love as an immediate step (that messaging should definitely occur but, right now, it should be secondary), we should portray the countermeasures to combat the virus more in terms of making our country economically and geopolitically stronger than China or India.
We can’t screw this up. Eric Holder said, when they go low, we kick them. I dislike the sentiment but if we’re going to fight dirty, we have to fight dirty. In addition to making fighting the Coronavirus a geopolitical contest, we can also do things to people like Jones and Paltrow that would actually hurt their credibility. His fans don’t care that Alex Jones is a corrupt shill with borderline ethics and borderline sanity. He’s a shock-jock who makes them feel safe about their personal lives by telling them scary stories the same way True Crime makes some women feel like it actually gives helpful information on how to defend against rape and attack. True Crime shows are less than useless in helping women be safe and are psychologically unhealthy to watch for a plethora of reasons but they give a false sense of protection and fear makes people irrational.
We shouldn’t use acute fears since that is among the worst tactics but using more abstract ones like geopolitics and economics is sophisticated enough that it avoids baiting their lowest demons. But, moreover, we go after the traits that lure people into the false sense of protection they get from people like Alex Jones. Making him feel less like a strongman. Doing oppo-research that finds signs of what would be perceived as weakness by his base. That works. That would siphon away the feeling of safety and thus the credibility of people like Alex Jones as pundits. For the left-leaning ones like Paltrow, tying them to corporate labels would be the avenue. Paltrow, herself, is a A-list celebrity and undoubtedly has corporate ties and anyone like her probably does, too.
In the end, the creatures who will come to the bold and gallant defense of the smallest among us, the virus, will not be defeated through typical tactics of science and humanity. There is no logos or ethos, only pathos in this game. At least, in the short-term plays. We have to realize that the other side is literally armed and does not respond to reason. They do respond to something, though. We cannot rely on the goodness of people to end this virus, we have to accept their badness and work with it until we can address the badness later. Being on the spectrum, I have dealt with pseudoscience for a long time and pseudoscience is mostly populist fear. In the long-term, populist fear needs to be countered with science and love but in the short-term it need be countered with counter-fears of weakness and competition.