2021 is quickly shaping up to be more polarizing than 2020, if that’s even possible. But what’s truly concerning is how critical thinking is quickly dissipating from our dialogue on the crucial issues of our time, and how we’re treating those we deem misguided or even dangerous.
Anwar Hadid, brother of the more well-known Bella and Gigi Hadid, is also a model, and he has graced the covers of mega magazines like Vogue and walked for brands like Moschino and Valentino. He made his runway debut at age 16 and currently dates British pop star Dua Lipa. But, what does Anwar Hadid have to do with the COVID vaccine?
The model and influencer publicly stated that he “absolutely” would not be getting the COVID vaccine, and, as we probably all could have predicted, the backlash was swift. Fans and commenters were quick to brand Hadid as anti-vax or even anti-science, despite his explanations behind his decision.
The Backlash Represents Something More
Spoiler alert — Hadid is not anti-vax. He was quick to clarify his stance, saying, “I think everyone has to be careful with each vaccine individually looking at positive and possible negative side effects.”
Hadid, like his mother Yolanda and sister Bella, suffers from Lyme disease and went on to explain that his choice not to receive the jab stemmed from his concerns over his compromised immune system. A fair and authentic concern, to be sure, especially when his concerns over his own body and physiological conditions take precedence over an internet maelstrom of criticism.
Hadid was accused of being anti-science, and even of being selfish and inconsiderate of others.
That explanation didn’t stop the criticism, however. Hadid was accused of being anti-science, and even of being selfish and inconsiderate of others. Hadid assured fans he never meant to offend anyone, and said he trusts his own body to naturally provide him with antibodies should he contract the virus. “Our bodies are made by the creator to do way more than we think.”
Conversations on vaccines aside, for once it’s nice to see a public figure stick to their convictions, even when they go against the grain.
It doesn’t seem like the criticism was really about the vaccine though, given the intensity and vitriol with which Hadid and others with similar ideas are treated. And it’s not. As many things are these days, it’s about questioning a narrative and being punished when you step out of line.
We Can’t Ask Questions Now?
The COVID vaccine is still in its infancy. Its distribution is just now beginning, and vaccination isn’t mandated by public health officials, employers, or to travel (at least, not yet anyway). So why are so-called dissenters so quick to be attacked?
Healthy skeptics of the COVID vaccine have the unfortunate disadvantage of being grouped in with the anti-vax movement, one which found footing in the late 20th century and has been gaining traction since British doctor Andrew Wakefield’s first report was published in 1998, supposedly linking MMR vaccines for rubella and mumps to cases of autism in children.
Since then, the anti-vax individual has become culturally synonymous with the Jenny McCarthys of the world — Karen-type mom-fluencers with large followings who question the efficacy of many aspects of a widely-held, scientifically renowned practice, but who often use pseudoscience to bolster their claims.
Those with genuine concerns about the COVID jab are automatically relegated to the ranks of the anti-vax movement.
The issue isn’t whether or not the COVID vaccine has become the new beacon of the anti-vax movement. The issue is that now, probably for the sake of convenience rather than anything else, those with genuine concerns about the COVID jab are automatically relegated to the ranks of the anti-science/anti-vaccine movement.
Americans do have questions and concerns about the vaccine, and although this goes contrary to the media’s portrayal, not everyone is eager to hop on board. And for that, they’re criticized, patronized, and considered misguided, dangerous affronts to a society desperately trying to recover from the effects of the virus.
The Dissolution of Rational Argument
It’s hard to go against the grain when you face pushback at every turn, especially from the media and public figures. Pope Francis, for example, recently said he plans to get the vaccine, which was all that needed to be said on the matter — until he called those who don’t plan to get it in “suicidal denial.”
A recent report from LA County found that 40% of frontline workers — including health care workers — were not going to get the vaccine. That 40% felt that, for whatever reason, they either didn’t need the vaccine or that their safety couldn’t be guaranteed if they did get it. It’s one thing for celebrities to be criticized like Hadid — but healthcare workers who question the vaccine are full-on lambasted for not falling into line, and the media has made sure those keeping score are well aware of that.
This shouldn’t be the case. We shouldn’t have to preface our personal concerns or decision on whether or not to get the vaccine with “I’m not anti-vax, but.” In a culture where critical thinking and argument riddled with fallacy dominate the conversation, this is the type of script we’re now having to stick to, and even then it won’t be without punishment.
Now is the time to ask questions and to have a healthy sense of curiosity and inquiry.
It should be understood that having concerns over a vaccine that was quickly produced is natural and healthy. Questions are natural and healthy, and so is discussion; it’s helpful even. What isn’t helpful, though, is patronization and condescension, which seem to be the default reaction of those who are eager to get the vaccine or already have.
If anything, these discussions are to be encouraged. What isn’t necessary or helpful to those who are skeptical is claiming there are no side effects or issues whatsoever, and only disclosing those effects after the fact.
Now is the time to ask questions and to have a healthy sense of curiosity and inquiry. So why are those who are expressing concern being punished for it?
Anwar Hadid is just one example of a public figure experiencing backlash for questioning the vaccine. Who knows how many others have been criticized for expressing the same sentiments?
We all want an end to this, that much is clear. We all want healthy, thriving communities, open businesses, lockdowns and restrictions lifted, schools back in-person. But if we sacrifice decency in the process, we’ll lose much more than we thought originally.
There’s one thing that remains clear. At this point in time, the vaccine is still a choice, and taking the jab or not remains a personal decision that should only be influenced by healthy scientific discussion, research, and investigation, not judgment and criticism. When we attach an ideology, and an increasingly polarizing one at that, to this kind of conversation, we become more concerned with keeping score and winning arguments, not recovering and healing from one of the most tragic and disastrous events in our history.
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