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Inside the psyche of the Cult Covidian
Christmas was cancelled
This Christmas, I gained some insight into the psyche of the Cult Covidian.
You see, I know a Vaccinator. Specifically, this person was promoted to lead a Covid vaccination taskforce, until recently being deployed to team Monkeypox (not joking). I will use the pronoun ‘they’, not because ‘they’ are non-binary, but rather to protect their identity somewhat.
Several days before Christmas I shared my latest work in a Whatsapp group that this person is in - the Umbrella News piece I did on vaccine injury in the wake of Dr Kerryn Phelps’s own bombshell injury revelation.
For context, over the past two years there has been a respectful kind of nodding acknowledgement of each other’s work and stakes in the game. Early in the vaccination program I asked The Vaccinator, “what’s the difference between the various brands of vaccines?” They couldn’t tell me. I probed further - what’s in them though? What are the active ingredients? “I don’t know,” they shrugged, “I’m just glad for the promotion.”
Shortly after their own Covid vaccination, The Vaccinator exhibited what is now a well-documented side effect of the vaccines, but at the time was still officially denied by all sources due to ‘absence of evidence’ (which is so often conflated with evidence of absence). The Vaccinator went to many doctor’s appointments to deal with this issue and complained bitterly about the symptoms, totally baffled by them. To the best of my knowledge, neither The Vaccinator nor the doctor ever joined the dots that they were dealing with a very common Covid vaccine side effect (if they did, it would have been many months later, after numerous appointments). Remember, this person was responsible for giving informed consent to hundreds, thousands of people before jabbing them with Covid vaccines.
So when I dropped this article into the group chat, I knew it might cause a bit of a fizz.
It was more of an eruption.
Personal attacks. Demands that I cease and desist my line of work. And then, a complete boycott of a Christmas event that we were both due to attend.
Because I make The Vaccinator ‘feel bad about themselves.’ (And doesn’t modern pop psychology say that you should only hang out with people who make you feel good?)
So Christmas was cancelled, and the relationship is, for now, in the deep freeze.
A rather severe reaction to an article, and yet we see these kinds of reactions on social media every day. I just hadn’t experienced one at such close range.
Over Christmas (which was rescheduled to encompass several satellite events to ensure that The Vaccinator and I were never in the same room) I had the opportunity to reflect on what the flurry of activity that had unfolded in the group chat revealed about the psyche of the Cult Covidian.
1. They perceive talk of vaccine injury as a direct attack upon their identity.
This is a very tribal response and is apparent in the extremes of all cults/tribes, not just Cult Covidians. However, in this specific Cult, appeals to witness and support the injured are taken as an existential threat. This is completely baffling to non-Cult members, who can see merit in the delivery of healthcare (which includes vaccination to those who want it under conditions of informed consent), whilst also acknowledging that all medications come with side effects, which must be mitigated and managed.
2. They cannot face the idea that they may have caused harm, so instead they try to force you not to point it out.
“You make me feel bad about myself” is likely the appropriate response to realising that you may have mindlessly and unquestioningly jabbed several, tens, or even hundreds of people into a state of injury. This could form a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth. Or you could just double down and cut off anyone who is pointing to uncomfortable realities, in order to avoid addressing the dissonance.
3. They make it all about themselves (a common human foible).
Social justice goes out the window when Cult Covidians are confronted with vaccine injury. Suddenly, the oppressed (coerced and gaslit) minority is unimportant. The only thing that matters is their own feelings and that sweet promotion. As with point 2, all people are prone to this, but this particular blind spot around vaccine injury seems to be unique to the Cult Covidian.
4. They have completely succumbed to the black and white conditioning of our government and media - you are either pro-vax (good) or anti-vax (bad).
There is no room for anyone to be pro-vax and pro-injured, or pro-vax but also pro-choice, or pro-choice and pro-injured. You’re with us or you’re against us. Drawing attention to the collateral damage of the vaccination program is ‘against us’.
On this occasion I was a bit blindsided by the intensity of the reaction that my article provoked, and so our exchange was chaotic and combative. I don’t regret sharing the article, as I think all health practitioners ought to be exposed to the impacts of their work, good and bad. An ignorant practitioner can be deadly to a patient. However, if I'd paused a longer beat I would rather have responded with questions like:
Why don't you want me to talk about it?
Why does it make you feel bad?
Does it bother you that the injured are getting acknowledged? Why is that?
What do you think about Dr Kerryn Phelps going public with her injury? She said that AHPRA has censored medical professionals. Have you ever experienced this yourself?
I’m inclined to think that arguing logically is not the way to reach people who are so deeply embedded in the Cult. It’s an identity, not just a set of ideas. I wrote a whole thesis on Listening Culture in which I spent chapters explaining that listening and demonstrating understanding of the other’s position is the precondition to changing their minds. It’s really hard to do in practice! Especially when they explode and cut you off. But on reflection, I think they best way to go about it is gentle questioning.
Sarcasm and irony can also work, especially with a grin. A friend describes his brother’s favourite quip: "You see so and so was fully vaxxed and then died from Covid. Gee, lucky he was fully vaxxed or .... (pause) he’d be DOUBLE DEAD."
If anyone else has walked into a situation like this, I'd like to hear how you handled it.
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