Covid Deniers Need to Take a Breath

Anti-vaxxers swept up by false beliefs prolong the pandemic

I thought this pandemic would be over by now. Well, not really. It could have been.

We have a vaccine that stops the spread, and it’s free and safe and available at drive-throughs. Vaccines have saved millions of lives over the last century, with very few downsides. So the news these days about this pandemic of the unvaccinated is tough to wrap your head around.

My first article about this phenomenon overviews the shame and ignorance around Covid

  • Hospitals in the South brace for overflow that could lead to “failure.” Ventilators hum. Covid long-haulers deal with brain fog. The unvaccinated make up more than 90 percent of those hospitalized, many of whom see their savings wiped out. Covid deniers are literally struggling to take a breath.
  • Anti-vaxxers foolishly say the vaccine has nanotech to track you, that it changes your DNA and damages fertility, that it’s unproven and untested. Fistfights break out at vaccine rallys, sometimes even stabbings.
  • Anti-vaxxers around the country carry signs like “Covid hoax” and “The blood of Christ is my vaccine.”
  • People are being hospitalized after rumors online and on TV convinced them Ivermectin, a drug mainly used for horse-deworming, might treat Covid-19. When some doctors wouldn’t prescribe the drug for covid, people started buying it at feed stores, and in some animal shops it’s in short supply. “You are not a horse,” tweeted the FDA.

What is happening here? Why has half the country gone crazy? Why is all this anti-vax blindness prolonging the pandemic? Why do we still feel the shame, guilt and hate I first wrote about near the beginning of the pandemic?

In my view, these folks have collapsed the two polarities of a healthy worldview: beliefs and facts. Beliefs are like your god, they guide you in your big picture. Facts are your map: they ground you in reality and keep you from falling into open sewers. Balancing opposites is one mark of a top-notch mind.

Fact is, the disease doesn’t care about beliefs. It spreads and kills according to laws of physics and biology. Few things better capture the absurdity of our times than this headline: “3rd conservative radio host who condemned vaccines dies of Covid.” (The dead radio host, Marc Bernier, said the vaccine-pushing government was “acting like Nazi’s.” That the government is pushing medicines that save you, not kill you, seems a distinction Bernier missed.)

It would be one thing if the deniers were just hurting themselves. But their miasmic pettifogging clouds all our lives. Our kids have to wear masks to schools. Lines at the emergency room are dangerously long. Parties are canceled or scaled back. Companies are popping up out of nowhere to test thousands of concert goers. This should have been our fall of triumph. Instead we’re still stuck in the icky season of coughs and collapses.

SPIRITUAL COVID DENIAL

One of the most galling parts of this anti-vax ridiculousness is the depth of covid denial in the spiritual/alternative medicine community I hold near and dear to my heart (and my investment strategies).

I believe a strong spiritual belief system can be psychologically healthy, and can protect you from the crashing waves of everyday life. But to be truly healthy, spirituality and alternative medicines have to stay tied to real facts in real life affecting real bodies.

And yet alternative medicine and spirituality has become an alternative reality of conspirituality. The wild stories pile up. Hemp stores have blocked those wearing masks from entering. Researcher Jules Evans says one psychedelic therapist won’t work with vaccinated clients. One Tantric teacher, Evans writes, says she was ‘honoured to be visited by Queen Corona’, and now offers workshops on how to integrate it.

As much as I revere spirituality, scientists know spiritual practices can trick us into overestimating our own intellectual power. We believe that because we’re contacting God and becoming enlightened, our opinions about the flesh and blood world are more correct. White Evangelicals are the religious group most likely to resist the vaccine. Researchers dub this kind of self-centered self-aggrandizement “Spiritual Narcissism.” “Self-enhancement through spiritual practices can fool some of us into thinking we’re evolving and growing when all we’re growing is our ego,” writes Scientific American. So folks report “God told me not to take the vaccine” or “Nature will protect me.”

Pray the rosary, chant kirtan, sure. But god does not teach physiology. You can’t meditate your way into becoming an infectious disease doctor. Trust the experts to fly your planes, do your surgery, and recommend your medical treatments.

David Shor, Chairman of World Back to Work, a RampRate portfolio company said, “This wide array of disbelievers shows that the dysfunction is more than political division. We are likely to be stuck with pandemic policies for the next several years until even these deniers realize there is a safe vaccination option. Until then, they’ll have to take COVID tests and answer daily health surveys at work. Not fun.”

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And then there’s arguably the real culprit, bigger than spiritual narcissism: these misinformation machines we carry in our pockets that chime at us with posts nobody, literally nobody, has taken a moment to fact-check. Why would they? Lies spread about six times faster than truth on social networks. Clicks on lies pull in as many ad dollars as clicks on truths.

So social media amplifies the worst of us. While tens of thousands of health pros spread the word about the safety of vaccines, there’s a “Disinformation Dozen,” 12 scoundrels and opportunists who are responsible for more than half of the anti-vaccine content on social media. The algorithm selects their nonsense content and spreads it like lightning.

In this swirl of bullspittle, the unvaxxed get captured by mob psychology verging on mob psychosis. A fever has gripped them; they have digital worms in their brains. As the lies are repeated, the consensual support amongst the mob fuels a collective denial of reality, and this anti-vax worldview is like a tribe, a cult. Tribes give life meaning. But when you live only in the realm of belief and tribe, the more you believe the stories spread by your cult—whether or not they’re tied to facts. To disbelieve is to risk expulsion. In fact, the more your cult’s stories seem unbelievable, the more these fibs seem like hidden truths desperate to see the light of day, and hunched-over “truth warriors” wear out their thumbs re-tweeting verifiable insanity.

I dare you to re-watch “The Social Dilemma” and not shiver when one former Facebook executive predicts the real-life outcome of these online skirmishes:

“In the shortest time horizon, I’m most worried about civil war.”

SMALL TRUTHS GET WASHED OUT

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To keep the civilization going, the truth needs warriors, too. Facts need cheerleaders.

One of the many bizarre things about this pandemic is the depth of education covid deniers have about misinformation and conspiracy theories, yet they’ll only go a few inches deep in learning the actual science of this coronavirus, or keeping up with the fascinating new ways we can mitigate its damage.

For instance, about vaccines: a small sovereign medical clinic in Las Vegas owned by the Crow Nation is exploring, with great success, an alternative method of vaccination outside the patient’s body, a “Dendritic Cell Vaccine.“ Blood is drawn. The covid-19 spike protein is introduced to the blood, which develops native antibodies over the next week. Physicians inject the antigens into the lymphatic system. Findings are showing 99 percent of patients develop very high levels of natural antibodies, and therefore strong immunity from the coronavirus.

Another for instance, about DNA: while millions of these deniers can cite chapter and verse on why the vaccine embeds itself in your DNA, almost none have read the robust data on how your DNA sequence can actually predict your individual reaction to respiratory infections, including coronaviruses.

One of the cooler sites for this kind of information is at SelfDecode.com, where you upload your 23andMe data and access dozens of articles on the topic. “Genetics has a role in how you react to pretty much every disease,” says Joe Cohen, SelfDecode CEO. “Your genetics can make you more susceptible to getting covid, or more susceptible to getting severe covid or dying or getting hospitalized.”

This is nifty info, the kind of stuff Internet-trawling, covid-denying thrill-seekers might want in their back pockets. But Cohen says his company isn’t promoting the covid-prediction service, and doesn’t recommend spending a lot of resources finding how susceptible you might be to coronaviruses. Why? “Whatever your genetics are, the vaccine is going to be the best way to turn covid into something like the flu,” says Cohen.

And, so, in a world torn in half over overheated beliefs, the best advice from a man with sophisticated artificial intelligence and genetics sequencing is not to “do your research” or “dive in deep to the science,” the advice is to go ahead and get one of the oldest, most trustworthy health-saving procedures in the whole medical arsenal, the vaccine.

Keep your beliefs—but seek out truth. Even if it’s hard to tell truth from belief. Here, though, the truth is simple: the vaccine will save us from MOST of this muck.

Tony is an investor and friend to dozens of cool companies, insultant, impact creator and advisor to groundbreaking entities, the founder of Syzygy Impact, RampRate, the top sourcing advisor for fixing billions in IT decisions, and now directs his energies toward fostering projects with transformative potential, including blockchain technologies that democratize access to investment and reduce the potential for corruption. And he’s fun. Really fun. (If I  do say so myself, as I claim this) He lives  between Kauai, Aspen and Santa Monica for the last few years. tony@tonygreenberg.com.
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Tony Greenberg Ramprate Bio

Tony Greenberg

I speed through life building relationships, businesses and finding extraordinary people and contemplating the curious decisions they make. The premise of this space is to expose the bridges and chasms of trust, truth and bias that I encounter daily.

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