Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Manufactured Taboo around Covid Protections

A twitter thread by spheniscus demersus (African penguin) explains the political/public health comms fiasco and our collective denialism so nicely that I want to save it here. (It's tidied up a bit for readability):

"The whole 'people's eyes glaze over when you mention covid' isn't confirmation bias by the way. I grew up in an abusive home, and I know what unspoken tension feels like. I know how people react to uncomfortable topics. I can't read social cues well because of AuDHD, but I can definitely tell when I've said or done something that is considered conventionally inappropriate, and wearing a mask, mentioning masks, mentioning covid, etc. trigger that kind of social response. The 'uncomfortable silence' and avoidance of the topic when I bring up covid is the same kind of response I get when I have an argument with someone abusive, and they KNOW they're wrong but can't admit it. Their mental models of the world cannot allow for them to acknowledge it. 

Here's my theory/explanation: When someone's perception of reality is challenged, they have to at least think about their whole reality and how this challenge affects that. This requires a lot of cognitive processing. If it shifts their reality, it's even more intense. Most people aren't prepared to think about their perception of reality, much less to shift it. During the stay-home executive orders in 2020, the consciousness of liberal thought/rhetoric was, 'We're going to die if we don't protect each other,' and 'Lockdowns are sacrifices,' Once the propaganda started encouraging liberals to stop staying home and to stop masking--with a LOT of misinformation about vaccines being magical preventions and omicron being mild--it fell into place with the 'not eating out and partying constantly is a tremendous sacrifice.' We thought covid would likely kill us with one infection. No one warned us about long covid; when they did, someone else told us it was rare or mild or that it wouldn't affect us for some other reason. We were told vaccines prevent everything bad. We were told masks and staying at home were great big sacrifices that mean so much and are so terrible. They told us a million lies about covid. 

To say or imply that covid is a direct threat to their health and life NOW, that they are endangering themselves and others NOW, is to directly challenge an entire reality. It is to challenge thousands of media stories, political speeches, etc. You can prove that covid is airborne, but that won't change their mind about covid today. You can prove covid affects every part of the body. You can prove vaccines and infections don't give long-term immunity. You can prove long covid is common and likely inevitable. But you can't convince them, with just one of those things, to start protecting themselves and others from covid. Even if you convince them of all of those things, they still have to synthesize it together and completely, radically, fundamentally change their REALITY. Most humans aren't prepared to do that. So their eyes will glaze over. They'll get uncomfortable. They'll nod along and quickly forget about it. They'll admit you're right but not act on it. They'll get mad at you; they'll get upset consciously or subconsciously.

Someone commented on this thread with the word 'taboo.' I think that's perfect. Things that are taboo are things that aren't just "bad"; it is bad to mention it, to think about it. It is like touching a cactus: it pricks you. It is physically uncomfortable to bring it up. Murder is bad, but we don't react when we hear people talk about murder. If we talk about pedophilia, though, most of us will probably react. Have you ever heard someone mention menstruating around cishet men? The PHYSICAL REACTION is like you just stuck crap under their nose. 

It's not just that propaganda convinced people that covid isn't a threat; it convinced people that protecting ourselves and each other from covid is a threat. They convinced us that protecting ourselves from covid is terrible. They caused trauma that shouldn't have existed. They made us perceive stay at home orders as worse than they were, and they misrepresented the threat. So when they lied and said the threat went away, people were so ecstatic to ditch protections. Propaganda didn't just convince us covid isn't a threat; it made covid TABOO. 'If covid was still a threat, why aren't we all dying?' It was never going to kill every single person with the first infection, though. They made us think that, but it wasn't true. 'Why aren't hospitals being overwhelmed?' They very clearly ARE overwhelmed; you just don't see it. 'Why don't I know anyone with long covid?' How many people are you close enough with to know every time they have a health issue? Less than 100? Even with 100 close friends/family, long covid will get between 10 and 30 of them per infection. Ten people you're close with and spend lots of time with? One to three people per infection. The younger you are, whiter you are, higher income you are--the lower that number is gonna go. When I say 'close,' I mean, "They feel a little bit weird, and they tell me about it.' 

Everyone has been so hammered by news about covid not being a threat and 'lockdowns' causing damage and 'allergies' causing damage and 'colds' causing severe damage that most people with long covid probably don't even think they have it!!!!! It's not just that they're not looking for the patterns; propaganda has completely shifted their perception of reality that there is no pattern for them to see. To clarify about misrepresenting the threat: they made it seem like a one-and-done deal. You get covid once, and you have a high risk of dying, but after that, you're good. But the threat was always the long-term compounding risk and cumulative damage of a literal SARS virus. SO many people thought the threat was short-term and universal. Studies show that liberals in 2020 thought there was over 30% chance of them dying from an infection. It was only ever estimated as high as 5%, and now it's like...0.5% or something I think? So when propaganda said covid is 'mild' now, and not everyone died, liberals thought it was true that covid is mild now. But it still kills a MINIMUM of 1000 people PER WEEK just in the US. It gives long-term health issues to tens of thousands more. 

What's that term? Bait-and-switch? 

Also just to clarify: I'm not saying people who ignore covid are abusive. I'm saying that abusers' response to being called out or having their pretend-world challenged is similar to what cognitive dissonance looks like." 

 I've seen people discussing the fires in Alberta and smoke affecting neighbouring provinces. One mom wrote about neighbouring kids being outside without masks despite the fact that they can see particulates in the air! Masks have become so taboo that some parents won't even allow them when their children are downwind from a forest fire. That lung damage is courtesy of our current political system.

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