A Depraved Indifference To Human Life

The right's performative anti-vax demagoguery

Anti-vaccine rally protesters hold signs outside of Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, on June 26, 2021. (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

I admit that I’m struggling to come up with an analogy that would shed some light on the sheer insanity of this moment.

Try to imagine, for example, a campaign to mock attempts to improve airline safety in the wake of a crash that killed hundreds. Or try to envision a political class that would ridicule and undermine engineers who were trying to shore up the foundations of condominiums in Florida in the days after a horrific building collapse there.

None of that, however, even comes close to the genuine depravity of the current burst of performative anti-vax demagoguery we are seeing right now.

Four million people worldwide have died from COVID-19. That includes more than 600,000 Americans.

The delta variant is exploding and the infection rates are rising — and nearly all of the new hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated.

In Missouri, where vaccination rates have lagged, “the Springfield area has been hit so hard that one hospital had to borrow ventilators over the Fourth of July weekend and begged on social media for help from respiratory therapists.”

Missouri not only leads the nation in new cases relative to the population, it is also averaging 1,000 cases per day — about the same number as the entire Northeast, including the big cities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

The problem in Missouri, as health experts see it: Just 45 percent of the state's residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with 55 percent of the U.S. population. Some rural counties near Springfield have vaccination rates in the teens and 20s.

New research emphasizes the urgency of the threat. The Washington Post reports:

The bottom line is that, in a time when the delta variant is rapidly gaining traction — it now accounts for a majority of new infections in the United States, according to the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — full vaccination offers a much better firewall against infection than partial vaccination.

Faced with all of this, much of the right’s reaction has ranged from the puerile to the criminally reckless.

TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk compared vaccination requirements to apartheid and launched an anti-vax campaign on college campuses.

Meanwhile, my old friend senator Ron Johnson, continues to spread disinformation about the vaccines, and much of the MAGAverse has mobilized to demonize efforts to increase vaccination rates.

After President Biden suggested that health care workers go door to door to encourage life-saving vaccinations, we were subjected to a pandemic of dumbfuckery. The mephitic Marjorie Taylor Greene warned that the government was sending “medical brown shirts” who would show up, “ordering vaccinations.” Trump-acolyte Jim Jordan tweeted: "The Biden Administration wants to knock on your door to see if you’re vaccinated. What’s next? Knocking on your door to see if you own a gun?"

Rep. Lauren Boebert invoked both Nazis and Communist China.

Texas Congressman Chip Roy thought this was a great occasion for trolling:

His fellow Texan, Dan Crenshaw, who occasionally poses as a Very Serious Person, also joined in the faux outrage.

Let’s just pause here for a moment, shall we? Crenshaw knows that the door-door approach does not take away anyone’s right to choose. He knows that there is no coercion and, at some level, he knows that the blowback is all just owning-the-libs theater.

But he has to show that he fights, right? And thereby hangs a tale.

Back in February, you might remember, Crenshaw wrote a column headlined “What It Really Means To ‘Fight’” — published in the lib-owning Daily Wire — making the case for a politics of reason and persuasion.

“The dirty little secret,” he wrote back then, is that “some of the influencers or pundits” who “scream the loudest about ‘getting out and fighting’” are not, in fact, interested in “real solutions.” Rather, “their dedication to the cause is based on monetary return” by continually feeding the beast, “and the beast is especially hungry when it is angry.”

The piece won Crenshaw kudos from Serious People.

But it was all bullshit, because five months later, Crenshaw is back to full-time shit-posting for clicks — at the expense of public health and human lives.

Crenshaw and the others are taking their cue from Fox News, which has become a vector of fear-mongering and disinformation about the vaccines.

As usual, Tucker Carlson is setting the tone:

Following a segment in which he claimed the pandemic had been “overhyped” because most deaths occurred in the elderly… Carlson warned anyone who might come knocking to promote the vaccine to “stay the hell out of my house, for real.” Carlson then claimed that a door-to-door vaccine promotion campaign was a “much bigger” scandal than even the Iraq War.

Laura Ingraham is right behind him, praising Americans for “wising up” by refusing the vaccines.

Going door-to-door? This is creepy stuff. You know, someone comes up to your door, outside wearing a mask, showing up at your house, claiming to work for the government, asking you personal medical questions. What could possibly go wrong there?

**

All of this is having an effect. As NPR reports, “There's A Stark Red-Blue Divide When It Comes To States' Vaccination Rates.”

Some of the least vaccinated states are the most pro-Trump. Trump won 17 of the 18 states with the lowest adult vaccination rates. Many of these states have high proportions of whites without college degrees.

The irony is that many of those who now deride the vaccines also objected to lockdowns, social distancing, and the wearing of masks. In a rational world, they would see the vaccines as a ticket back to normal life.

Instead, at this moment, they have chosen to go full anti-vax. Even with hundreds of thousands of dead, and hospitals again filling up, the lies continue; media types tell them to get clicks and likes; pols spread the lies to raise their profile and bring in cash.

And their recklessness will kill people. This is not hyperbole.

The toll of the lies —the tweets, cable hits, and performative demagoguery — can be measured in human lives. The right’s burst of dishonesty means that more fathers, mothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, even children will die.

How to describe the enormity of the malignancy here? Words like “irrational” and “insane,” don’t cover it.

In the law, however, there is category known as “depraved indifference to human life,” which “reflects a wicked, evil or inhuman state of mind, as manifested by brutal, heinous and despicable acts. It is evinced by conduct that is wanton, deficient in a moral sense of concern, and devoid of regard for the life or lives of others.”

It fits.


Back on the Bad Take Sauce

Henry Olsen thinks that “elites” are breaking bad on J.D. Vance, because they are scared of his eloquent and principled populism.

Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance is being attacked by critics on the left and right for his populist economics and his changed views on former president Donald Trump. That’s a good sign that Vance’s message is getting through and that he can win.

Um, no. Vance is being ripped because he is an absurd flip-flopper, whose cosplay is more ridiculous than frightening.


A warning to the Dems

Must read from Ruy Teixeira: “Why Current Democratic Strategy Probably Won’t Work.”

…[Democrats’]successes in the economic and health areas, as recounted above, will likely not be enough to tilt the playing field decisively in their favor. To do that, they will need to overcome suspicions of the party that have to do with other, more culturally-inflected concerns. This, in turn, will require the party to take some stances that the ascendant left in the party will likely oppose for ideological reasons.  

Nowhere is this clearer than on the issue of crime. Eric Adams’ victory in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary, where he built a multiracial working class coalition by pledging a militant commitment to public safety and ostentatiously rejecting the idea of defunding the police, is a sign that voters, even in very blue areas, are very worried indeed about crime and want a tough approach.

How worried? According to recent data from the Democratic-oriented Navigator Research, more Americans overall, including among independents and Hispanics, now believe violent crime is a “major crisis” than believe that about the coronavirus pandemic or any other area of concern. Moreover, majorities of even Democrats now believe violent crime is a major crisis and concerns are sky-high among black voters (70 percent say it’s a major crisis).

This is, as Biden might put it, a big f____ deal.


I had some thoughts:


Quick Hits

1. Here Comes the Taliban

Brian Karem writes in today’s Bulwark:

Let it be said plainly: President Joe Biden is willing to accept Taliban leadership in Afghanistan.

Biden may not like it. He may not want it. And as he told us Thursday afternoon, he definitely doesn’t trust the Taliban. But with the last American troops pulling out of Afghanistan, and the president effectively ending our twenty-year military commitment there—on August 31, he now says; a dozen days earlier than his self-imposed deadline—he made clear that he knows the Taliban is going to be a major force in the country.


2. It’s Time to Stand Up for Documented Dreamers, Too

Sam Peak, in this morning’s Bulwark:

For most Americans, turning 21 might mean the freedom to rent a car, buy alcohol or cigarettes, or get into clubs and casinos. But for Pareen Mhatre, turning 21 meant filling out a stack of forms to convince a giant bureaucracy not to kick her out of the only country she knows.


3. Chaos and Questions for the De-Fanged NCAA

Dan McGraw in the Bulwark:

Beyond endorsement deals, will college athletes now earn salaries? Some have suggested that fair compensation for college football players would be room, board, and education, plus about $50,000 a year in salary. Would schools find it advantageous—for team cohesion, or more pecuniary reasons—to offer salaries in exchange for a prohibition on their student-athlete-employees signing independent endorsement deals?

And what of recruiting? In the old days of pretending the players played just for the love of the game, the big-time schools tended to be located away from major cities. A star football player from Chicago might dream of playing in Tuscaloosa; a basketball player from Los Angeles might ply his craft in Lawrence, Kansas;, a top softball player from Pittsburgh might relocate to Norman, Oklahoma.

Will big schools in small cities be outbid for star players when smaller schools in big cities can offer bigger endorsement deals because of their larger regional populations? Who would you keep private businesses and agents out of the recruitment process, and how?

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