• Alastair Cavendish

The Elusive Anti-Vaxxers

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to give a novel I had written to a distinguished literary critic for review. When I asked her, some weeks later, what she had thought of it, she was equivocal, then dismissive, pointing out numerous flaws in plot, character, phrase-making, and similarly vital areas. This book, she told me, was destined to win neither wealth nor glory for its author, and was best consigned to the dustbin of history.

Well, you can imagine my response. Who was she, I asked, to dismiss the novel as a form? Was she saying that Proust and Tolstoy need not have bothered, that George Eliot and Thomas Mann had wasted their talents? If her point was that no books should ever have been written since the beginning of time, and that the great authors of the world would have been far better employed in playing computer games or doing some shopping, then I was forced to disagree.

You have probably guessed by now that the two paragraphs above contain about as much truth as a government scientific briefing. Unlike the briefing, however, they have a point which does not involve terrifying the weak-minded. There is a logical flaw in the response to criticism here outlined which is so blindingly obvious that even Priti Patel might spot it if you gave her plenty of time and a couple of hints. To criticise one book is not to dismiss all books. Similarly, to refuse one particularly garish cocktail is not to announce that one never drinks liquid of any kind, and to loathe Neil Ferguson is not to say that one feels the same about all carbon-based life forms, or even those among them who rely heavily on guesswork.

The government, however, has decreed that in a single area of life, this logic does not apply. You may have taken vaccines all your life without thinking much about it. You may have hailed the development of vaccines as one of the greatest scientific advances known to humanity. You may have named your first-born child “Jabby MacVaxface”. All this enthusiasm, however, counts for nothing if you dare to question the efficacy or safety of one of the 672 coronavirus vaccines that were developed in the last five minutes. Such temerity makes you an Anti-vaxxer, so far outside the Overton Window that you struggle even to discern the outlines of Overton’s house somewhere on the distant horizon.

“Anti-vaxxer” is, of course, a term that has been around for many years, and it has a clear meaning, referring to a person who is against vaccines as a matter of principle. They are a small minority, and I do not believe a single one of them has been interviewed in the mainstream media about the coronavirus vaccines. What after all, would they have to say? “I am against vaccines, therefore, clearly, I must be against this vaccine.” On the other hand, all the people who questioned either the vaccines or the policies surrounding them have been smeared with this label.

It is not a trivial matter that the government of a country should attempt to bully the entire population into accepting an experimental medical treatment by using a childish slur for which there is no possible logical defense. They have, for the moment, been relatively successful in outsourcing much of their bullying to the stupidest elements in the public, and all of the mainstream media. This has already begun to backfire. There has been some resistance among medical professionals, who know more than the rest of us about vaccines, but far more among the Black and Asian communities, who are experts on the untrustworthy nature of the government. This argument has never been about vaccines per se. It is about the shrill, deceitful propaganda of a political class which has not said a true word or performed a helpful action since the pandemic began.

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