COVID anti-vax as a form of loyalty signaling

COVID anti-vax is unlike the anti-vaccine movements that came before it.

Traditional anti-vax is about fear of side effects. Moreover, traditional anti-vaxxers oppose vaccines for diseases that are under control. The average person is unlikely to see a case of polio or diphtheria so they imagine that if they haven’t seen a disease, it can’t possibly be a threat.

How better to abase oneself than to kill yourself in the process?

That’s not the case for COVID.

Americans have witnessed the virus kill hundreds of thousands of their countrymen and sicken many more.

Why would millions of people refuse a life-saving vaccine against a disease that they can see poses a clear and present threat?

To humiliate, abase themselves and grovel before their leader.

COVID anti-vax is a form of loyalty signaling.

As Paul Krugman explains:

Signaling is a concept originally drawn from economics; it says that people sometimes engage in costly, seemingly pointless behavior as a way to prove that they have attributes others value.

The more costly and humiliating the display, the greater the loyalty you hope to communicate.

If the claims are obvious nonsense and destructive in their effects, if making those claims humiliates the person who makes them, these are features, not bugs. I mean, how does the Leader know if you’re truly loyal unless you’re willing to demonstrate your loyalty by inflicting harm both on others and on your own reputation?

It the midst of a deadly pandemic it is difficult to imagine anything more nonsensical and destructive than refusing to take a life saving vaccine. COVID vaccine refusal is a particularly deadly manner of self-abasement. Simply put, COVID anti-vax is a form of groveling.

Not everyone is groveling to the same degree. Anti-vax Republican politicians and pundits are willing to humiliate themselves by blathering nonsense about COVID, masks and vaccines. But they’re not stupid enough to risk their own lives; almost all of them have been vaccinated, many among the first to receive the vaccine.

In the case of rank and file Republicans, in contrast, the groveling is literally deadly.

Consider the Texas man who died of COVID after 17 days on a ventilator:

A 54-year-old Texas man who thought COVID-19 vaccines were “poison” died from the virus last month, and was buried by his wife and three sons on Father’s Day.

Where did he get the idea that the vaccine is “poison”? From Republican politicians and pundits, of course. They were signaling their loyalty to Donald Trump who has disparaged the vaccine despite promoting the effort to discover it and despite taking the vaccine himself.

Yet the average Republican thinks they are signaling their loyalty by refusing to take the very vaccine that he took. How better to abase oneself before him than to kill yourself in the process?

Krugman asks:

How did lifesaving vaccines become politicized? …[T]oday’s Republicans are always looking for ways to show that they’re more committed to the cause than their colleagues are — and given how far down the rabbit hole the party has already gone, the only way to do that is “nonsense and nihilism,” advocating crazy and destructive policies, like opposing vaccines.

It’s hard to imagine anything crazier or more destructive for Republican politicians than encouraging their own voters to die of COVID but that’s where we are.

My Facebook page is filled with comments from Republicans who come to preen about their supposed cleverness in refusing the vaccine. They’re not clever; they’re bootlickers.

I pity them.