The COVID-19 Vaccine Protest Movement Is Far Ahead of the Vaccine Itself

October 7, 2020


“Today Berlin is again the front against totalitarianism,” Robert F. Kennedy crowed on a warm and surreal August day in Berlin. The longtime environmental activist turned vaccine critic regarded a crowd of around 38,000 —which he’d previously claimed would number a million or more—and regaled them with dubious claims. Governments “love” pandemics, he assured the crowd, because they’re used to impose tools of global control “that the populace would otherwise never accept.” The COVID-19 pandemic, he claimed, was being used as a cover to get the populace to accept both 5G technology, which Kennedy regards as a tool of the nefarious global surveillance state, and digital currency, “which is the beginning of slavery.”

None of that is provably true or falls anywhere other than on the distant fringes of the kingdom of reality. But as Kennedy spoke before a crowd of tens of thousands of Berliners, they were on the front lines of something both new and disturbing...

“Certain arguments are more plausible to some audiences than others,” says David Broniatowski, a researcher and associate professor at George Washington University, and a lead author on a new study published on October 1 in the  American Journal of Public Health. The researchers found that Facebook groups discussing vaccines as a civil liberties violation have ballooned massively in the past few years, especially after a 2015 measles outbreak at Disneyland, the release of the influential anti-vaccine film Vaxxed in 2016, and a global measles outbreak in 2019. After each event, the researchers saw anti-vaccine discourse coalescing more and more around the idea that refusing to vaccinate is a civil right.

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