This is the latest edition of our column that unearths the origins of the factually dubious comments made by public figures. We explain what their claims relate to, the evidence (or lack of it) behind them, and where they originally came from.
Who says what …
A few weeks ago Breitbart News – the right-wing, non-partisan news site formerly run by Steve Bannon – Truly published one Galaxy brain Pillar. Editor-at-Large John Nolte argued that Democrats are promoting the COVID-19 vaccine not to save lives, but to get Republican voters to not get the push. Nolte’s theory concluded that this, in turn, would cause unvaccinated Republicans to contract COVID-19 and die, which would ultimately help Democrats in the election.
Nolte claimed that in an ominous application of reverse psychology, liberals knew that aggressive spread of the vaccine would lead the right to resistputting them at greater risk of serious infection or death. “In a country where elections are decided with wafer-thin margins, isn’t it good for one side if their opponents simply drop dead?” Nolte wrote. He then said the real way to stick it with the Liberals is to adopt the “Trump vaccine” for the life-saving modern wonder that it is.
Sometimes faulty logic can still lead you to the correct conclusion.
Some backgrounds …
Nolte’s opinion arose out of the toxic politicization of the pandemic in the United States. Comparing the rate of fully vaccinated people in counties who voted for Trump in 2020 with those in counties that voted for Biden, blue counties had a vaccination rate 12.9 percentage points higher based on data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Similarly a Consult survey in the morning showed that Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say they aren’t sure they’ll get the vaccine. According to the same poll, Republicans are also more likely to say they don’t plan on getting vaccinated. And it’s true that more right-wing areas in the country are also seeing more deaths from COVID-19: a recent analysis by the New York Times showed that states with some of the highest percentages of votes for Trump in 2020 also have the highest death rates.
These differences in vaccination rates and COVID-19 death rates can be attributed to a number of factors, including misinformation on the internet and the erosion of trust in institutions such as the medical system and the media in recent years. It can also be partially attributed to it the rhetoric of the Republican leaders and Figures on the right, especially when you consider that similar partisan loopholes have not been seen in other countries.
There is no evidence that those who encouraged Americans to vaccinate secretly hoped they would do the opposite.
Where the comment came from …
While the argumentation of the Brietbart column may get out of hand, Nolte is actually resorting to a number of right-wing tropes. Conspiracy thinking has become a habit with the right – think the Big Lie, or QAnon – so it may not be an abomination for many of Nolte’s readers to propose a conspiracy to explain Republicans’ low vaccination rates. Similarly, allegations of Democrats or leftists conducting false flag operations – where the party responsible for an event makes it appear that another party was actually behind the act – are widespread among right-wing extremists. For example, many have claimed that the rioters who broke into the U.S. Capitol on January 6th were in fact Members of the Antifa in disguise what Trump supporters look like to make the right look bad.
The idea that politicians may be using reverse psychology when referring to the vaccine is familiar to many on the right, albeit the other way around from Nolte’s presentation. Those who oppose the vaccine – especially those who mistakenly believe it is harmful – were surprised that former President Donald Trump was promoting it, and reverse psychology was a useful explanation for its apparent departure from their worldview. These theories claim that Trump’s encouragement to vaccinate would make the vaccine fewer appeal to anti-Trump voters while arguing that those who support Trump are wise enough to “do their own research” and avoid doing so despite his recommendation.
“As far as he advertises it is my thought [he is using] reverse psychology for the sheep with [Trump Derangement Syndrome] [who] will automatically do exactly the opposite of what it says, ”wrote a Telegram user in a QAnon chat group. “What if Trump promotes the vaccine to get the ‘Never’ Trumpers to reconsider their decision,” wrote another in the same chat. “Everything he sponsors will do the opposite. He needs to know that those of us who are aware of the real and obvious dangers will NOT understand them even with his support. “
Nolte also targeted another American tension: while the partisan covenant persists, some on the left have moved from encouraging the right to get vaccinated, becoming frustrated and angry that they still haven’t. This has manifested itself in sometimes frivolous, sometimes cruel reactions to the high rates of infection and death among unvaccinated Americans. Nolte highlighted Howard Stern, who recently proposed on his radio show that unvaccinated people who fall ill should be denied medical care. Stern also said it was “funny” that some conservative radio hosts spoke out against the vaccine later died of COVID-19. There are also the r / HermanCainAward subreddit, named for the Republican politician who died in 2020 of COVID-19, a group of 343,000 members whose sole purpose is to mock people who spoke out against the vaccine and who later died of COVID-19.
Of course, if Nolte’s column convinces some vaccine-resistant people to get the injection, one Power argue that the ends justify the means. But the response to the right column has not been positive so far. On Breitbarts Facebook post Many commentators who shared the column dismissed the argument, noting that their personal motivations for not getting vaccinated had nothing to do with what the Democrats were saying, pointing out that some unvaccinated Americans are on the left side. “That’s a stupid attitude. You have clearly bought your way into the democratic discussion that only Republicans will not be vaccinated when the reality is that people across the board will not be vaccinated, ”commented a Facebook user. Similar views were shared on Telegram and the pro-Trump forum patriots.win. “The fact that I don’t get the Vax has absolutely nothing to do with what the left is saying!” One user wrote on a QAnon Telegram group. Another user in the same group commented, “But didn’t Trump get his Vax? It’s not about Trump, it’s about our personal health. ”
Using conspiracy theories to bring conspiracy theorists back to reality may not be the most effective tactic. As one Telegram user put it, “Sounds like they are trying to use reverse psychology by saying they are already using reverse psychology.”