Why You Can’t Argue With Covid Conspiracy Theorists

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

By Kimberly Poovey

The last few months have been profoundly disheartening as I’ve watched family and friends refuse masks and vaccinations in the name of “freedom” and “doing their own research.” After an early summer that felt almost hopeful, Covid-19 numbers have skyrocketed all over the country, completely overwhelming our healthcare system. Now, school has just started in my part of the United States with countless children (including my own) under twelve who are unable to be vaccinated.

Frankly, I’m terrified.

People who I thought were sensible and intelligent are recommending the use of anti-parasitic medicine for animals instead of safe, FDA approved preventative measures. I listen to members of my own community speak in front of our city council saying things like “masks don’t work and neither do PCR tests”, “this is like Nazi Germany,” “if Covid is dangerous, where are all the dead bodies?” and “masking and social distancing are a satanic ritual” (Yeah. Really.)

Someone smarter than me said “You cannot reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.”

I’ve observed that many of the anti-vaxxers/anti-maskers I know personally have a few things in common:

  1. Strong religious beliefs.
  2. An emphasis on personal liberty over social safety nets.
  3. Some level of distrust in doctors & pharmaceuticals.
  4. Conservative political leanings.

This combination of factors seems lead to a perfect storm:

  • Belief that they are divinely “set apart,” while also expecting and even reveling in persecution.
  • Belief that “mainstream” knowledge and information is flawed and ultimately trying to keep people from the truth.
  • Belief that the individual is privy to more accurate information than a consensus of experts.

Growing up in an evangelical Christian faith, I was taught that I absolutely would be persecuted for my beliefs.

It wasn’t a matter of “if”, but “when.”

I was also taught to take great joy in persecution, knowing that God was pleased with me.

I was taught to be “in the world but not of the world,” set apart from the masses. I was homeschooled, sheltered, and in church every time the doors were open.

We were taught to distrust science and secular educational sources that were trying to push “the theory of evolution” and “the big bang” on us as opposed to Biblical Young Earth Creationism.

We were taught that “the world” was ruled by satan, who is “the great deceiver.” I was taught to always be on my guard against the lies of the devil, and that his lies were everywhere.

How can you rationally argue against all of that? When we consider this dangerous combination of factors, it makes sense when we see deeply religious, deeply conservative people jumping on the anti-vax/anti-mask train and refusing to disembark, even as that train barrels toward the edge of a cliff.

What is most disturbing to me now is the absolute glee people are taking in the spreading of misinformation. A chiropractor speaking as though he is a medical doctor makes sure to emphasize on every criminally inaccurate social media post that “this will certainly get me flagged/shadow-banned!” There is a joy there that I find baffling. This is the moment they’ve been training for: the persecution is finally here.

They are raging against the machine, and that machine happens to be accurate scientific consensus.

This is why trying to win social media arguments is an almost impossible task. These beliefs are rooted in faith, emotion, and passion, which makes them incredibly difficult to uproot. The only hope for change, I believe, is to continue to share accurate information from credible sources in a consistent and kind manner.

Everyone, everyone has the right to learn new information without condescension. Compassion is our friend. As the brilliant women at Pantsuit Politics recently shared, “receiving misinformation is not a character flaw.”

Here are a few of my absolute favorite social media sources for sound scientific information during this pandemic:

*Laurel Bristow MSc

*Jessica Malaty Rivera, MS

*Dr. Kat, Epidemiologist

Stay safe. Stay kind. And cover your face.

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