The childish narcissism and prideful ignorance of the American right — as personified in its idol, former President Donald Trump — have transformed "conservatism" into a public health menace. Republicans in office and their media echoes are the principal obstacles to vaccinating enough Americans to achieve herd immunity from COVID-19, which would be awful even if their gullible audiences were the only potential victims.
But the rapid spread of the highly contagious and harmful delta variant is a warning that large pools of unvaccinated human hosts create the perfect environment for further mutations that may overcome vaccines and kill more efficiently. This means, in short, that the Republicans resisting vaccination and encouraging others to resist are a danger to all. After whining bitterly for the past year about masks and shutdowns, these same complainers may now make a safe reopening impossible.
The campaign to thwart vaccination grows more intense on the right as the Biden administration seeks desperately to prevent a viral catastrophe. It is a campaign of fear and lies, seemingly designed to ensure that the maximum number of Americans will succumb to the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 99 percent of those Americans now dying from coronavirus infection are unvaccinated. The Republicans urging their constituents to reject the vaccine appear determined to massacre them in a terrible parody of the Darwinian theory of natural selection.
What's so strange about this strategy is that its only possible result will be to cull the gullible who make such easy marks for every "conservative" crusade, con and scam. Perhaps the point is to block President Joe Biden's vaccination campaign from ultimate success, even if such partisan recalcitrance mostly kills their own.
Equally sinister is the fact that many of the loudest voices hindering universal inoculation belong to hucksters who are already vaccinated themselves. Consider the Fox News Network, where hysterical anti-vaccine messages are broadcast every day and night, most prominently by Tucker Carlson — who refuses to disclose whether he (and his family) have been vaccinated.
Sean Hannity at first refused to say whether he got the shot, but then admitted that he had. With his usual intellectual consistency, Hannity continued to discourage vaccination anyway. Jesse Watters, Brit Hume, Harris Faulkner, the hosts of "The Five" and "Fox & Friends," and nearly every other on-air personality are all inoculated. We can be confident that the studio personnel, camera crews and all the office staff who work for the network are vaccinated too.
We know for certain, too, that Rupert Murdoch is not only vaccinated but went to London last December so he could jump the line for a jab. The marauding billionaire Fox News boss clearly knows how to keep himself safe but doesn't care if hundreds of thousands of his network's viewers are imperiled. The profits from stoking stupidity have always been irresistible to him.
Why Republicans have decided to pursue this destructive obsession to the point where it specifically threatens their voters and donors is difficult to comprehend. After all, they spent months insisting that the Trump administration deserved all the credit for the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, a gross exaggeration of a scientific process that occurred over many years and outside the framework of Operation Warp Speed. Trump got the shot and has declared vaccines to be "safe and effective" and "a miracle."
Yet almost every day, Trump's lackeys ratchet up the anti-vaccine melodrama to new and highly fictionalized extremes. Crazed members of Congress declare that the nation faces a "Marxist" conspiracy to force everyone to get a shot. Their foam-flecked rhetoric threatens the safety of health care workers who will soon be visiting households to inform the unvaccinated about the shot and where to get one. For trying to save lives, those workers will encounter scorn and perhaps violence.
The Republican loudmouths must be unaware that mandatory vaccinations have been a reality in this country for decades — and of course have saved millions of lives. Today, according to the CDC, every single state, red or blue, mandates various vaccinations for staff and students in public schools. Thousands of businesses, large and small — and probably not operated by Marxists — are requiring employee vaccination now.
Does freedom require us to allow stupid people to endanger everyone else and the future of society? Or should we be seeking to free ourselves from the ravages of a disease that has killed 600,000 of our people and millions around the world?
It isn't a hard question. Get vaccinated.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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