“Are you drunk? You’re mentally ill.”
“You look like an old lady trying to be a model, past your use-by date.”
“You’re responsible for 1000 children who went missing!”
“Child abuser! I feel sorry for your son”
You should be executed!
You’ll be hanged for your crimes.
Hang yourself b****.”
These are not lines from The Handmaids Tale and this is not Gilead. Every one of these comments is real. Some are still sitting in my inbox. None of them are backed up by any evidence and all are from anti-vaxxers.
The cult have found a Witch and they want to see her burn.
Women were often accused of being Witches as a way to explain things science had not yet discovered, for example, the spread of mass disease. Women were innocent scapegoats in times of fear and hysteria.
Although legal prosecution of Witchcraft ended a long time ago, the pattern of behavior which was the foundation for Witch-hunts is still apparent today. More so in the time of Covid and social media.
It’s an every day occurrence now, to see a succession of nasty comments directed at Siouxsie Wiles or Jacinda Ardern. Comments about hair colour and physical appearance mostly, but also violent threats and calls for a Witch to hang at the gallows.
I recently sat through a video attack on another woman I admire, Helen Petousis-Harris. I felt physically ill after watching a vulturous anti-vaxxer pick her apart, not based on her well informed opinion, but on her weight. Surely the Witch is not knowledgeable! She must be lying! She’s a “muRdEreR!”
I myself, have been the subject of anti-vax fantasy videos. A few from Billy TK before his self inflicted undoing, but also from a strange woman in her 70s who spent a whole hour picking through my photos, making nasty comments about my appearance and assumptions about my life, my past work and my ability to parent my son. All while the social media equivalent of Salem, dribbling with excitement, raise their pitchforks from the shadows. She spoke of a Satanic Elite and a New World Order, of which I’d gladly take part in if it meant I’m not like her. I took some comfort from that. I’m not like her.
It is common to see the cult of anti-vax grotesquely comparing public health measures to Nazism. Ironically, post war Witch hunts in West Germany were common as recently as the 1950s. They had been “stirred up by unresolved grievances, fears of exposure, and suppressed hostilities related to the Nazi era and to denazification.”
Similar to recent politics, magical thinking and witchcraft “are more likely to surface in moments of instability, insecurity, and malaise.” It has been an unnerving time for all of us in different ways. The human psyche has a propensity for irrational explanations and conspiracy minded simplification. Vaccines are seen as poisonous and the cause of illness, when in fact the opposite is true.
In West Germany, maybe they blamed Witchcraft to ease the guilt of past actions. And today, maybe anti-vax cult members who aren’t ready to feel the shame of being fooled, or the pain of admitting wrongdoing are finding ways to process that, by vilifying innocent others. And hey, when I say innocent, I don’t mean me. I’ve been known to lose my temper and call them idiots. I’ve never claimed perfection. Nonetheless, I have boundaries. I bring evidence to my argument and I’m not going to pick on you about your weight, your hair colour or how much processed food you eat. I’m not perfect but I at least try to stay within the lines of morality.
Morality which was not apparent in Trump’s America where these mystical Q stories originated. How will they recover from those atrocities? How did Germany recover? It’s possible that Germans used magical stories as an escape valve to depressurise a community and provide a sort of healing for things that nobody wanted to talk about.
Fear and hysteria in post war Germany increased with an influx of refugees from different cultures, and religious practices. Folklore was big in Germany so these strange new customs created suspicion.
In a contemporary neoliberalist society with a blend of culture and a widening gap between rich and poor, research shows that the majority of conspiritualists and anti-vaxxers are from more affluent areas, mostly women, and white. There appears to be a level of ego and individualism according to research, because they see themselves as more intelligent. They defy conventional authority to ‘self educate’.
I can imagine it makes them feel superior to us mere ‘sheeple’. It is too hard for them, psychologically, to accept any reality in which they are the fools. The interesting thing here, is that although the anti vax movement has been around for hundreds of years, they’ve never actually been right, ever. That’s a zero on the track record. Why in a modern world do they grasp so desperately to their beliefs? Even when they’ve never been correct?
From a skeptics perspective, ‘vaccine injuries are the demonic possession of our time’.
Mass hysteria about vaccines becomes a ‘collective delusion transmitted through a population as a result of rumor and fear’. People are convinced that vaccines are harming their children to the point that they link any ailment to a vaccine.
Very much like a community in Salem in 1693, so convinced their children were being harmed by demonic possession they hanged nineteen ‘Witches’, who were ordinary people, like me.