Anti-vax content is nothing new on right wing media. The COVID-19 vaccine is a virtue signaling topic for conservatives. It’s a way to spread their cataclysmic views on freedom of speech or small government or anything, really. Questioning the vaccine proves you’re hip to the game. It cements your anti-government, anti-science bonafides. The more reasonable you can make your objections sound, the better. But we’ve reached the point where unreasonable objections work just fine too.
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) July 12, 2021
In a segment aptly titled “long-term vaccine effects,” Newsmax anchor Rob Schmitt went off. He began a question to Dr. Peter McCullough by saying that vaccines make him “think about nature” and “the way everything works.” Maybe some diseases, Schmitt suggests, are just meant to kill a certain amount of people. “Maybe there’s just an ebb and flow to life … maybe that’s just how evolution goes. Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that.”
Nihilism like that is something you might hear in a television drama or therapist’s office. But you don’t have to listen closely to hear echoes of the original conservative COVID-19 hot takes. Republican politicians weren’t shy about saying they were willing to risk thousands of lives to keep the economy moving. Many fought to keep their states “open” for precisely that reason. Across the country, people held mind-bendingly dumb “re-open the country” protests less than a month after the pandemic was in full swing. Schmitt’s argument is a more fleshed out version of those demonstrations, clearly explaining the societal death wish underneath it. He’s basically a libertarian logic nerd on cable television.
There’s no need to think about Schmitt’s words that hard, though. That deep, nihilistic loyalty to capitalism and societal hierarchies is definitely there, but his surface-level stupidity is more than enough to go on. He’s making the core argument every anti-vaxxer makes after spending 10 minutes on a free thinker message board. Peppering in vague statements like “ebb and flow of life” or “how everything works” just hammers his general ignorance home. It’s almost intentionally ineloquent.
Scmitt also disregards any kind of advancement modern medicine has made to prevent deaths from curable maladies, and not just with vaccines. His argument falls apart when you apply it to any disease that requires a vaccine, from polio to the seasonal flu. But where does he draw the line? Human beings used to regularly die from diarrhea. Does Schmitt believe that Pepto-Bismol and Immodium are playing nature by stopping people from shitting themselves to death?
McCullough, for his part, doesn’t really feed into the nonsense. He repeats the now age-old line that vaccines are most effective for people with the highest risks. If you’re young, he says, there’s no need to worry about it. Schmitt ups the ante on that, saying he can’t comprehend why anyone who doesn’t have COVID-19 risks would get the shot. Again, he’s taking an easy opportunity to question not just the efficacy of the vaccine but the intelligence of the people getting it.
The physical long term effects of the COVID-19 will pale in comparison to its effects on the discourse. Arguments like Schmitt’s will only become more common. People have less and less of a problem admitting they’re perfectly okay with human suffering and death. They’ll never reveal they don’t want it for themselves, but that’s the entire point. And thankfully we have puds like Rob Schmitt to hammer that home.