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Covid-19 Vaccine Conspiracy Theories: How To Engage Anti-Vaxxers

Outspoken vaccine critic Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. | Daniel Schwen (CC BY-SA 4.0)

“Lack of evidence of a conspiracy, or positive proof against its existence, is taken by believers as evidence of the craftiness of those behind the plot, and their ability to dupe the public.”

ALSO: “Anthony Fauci Owns ‘Half the Patent’ for Moderna’s COVID Vaccine,” And More Utter Nonsense

August 4, 2020

The Conversation – With prospects of a Covid-19 vaccine looking up, attention is also turning to the problem of anti-vax ideas.

According to recent surveys, one in six Britons [and one in three Americans] would refuse a Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

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Although vaccine hesitancy is a complex problem with multiple causes, the number of conspiracy theories circulating about the coronavirus do not help.

The fight against Covid-19-related conspiracy theories will be fought on multiple fronts. It requires a broad public health campaign and for social media companies to control the spread of disinformation.

But all of us can play a part in this effort. Most people will know someone who has succumbed to conspiracy theories about the current crisis.

I have been researching conspiracy theories for over two decades and have spoken to many believers.

Here are the six rules I use for talking to conspiracy theorists in the effort to change their mind.

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1. Acknowledge scale of the task

Talking to people who endorse conspiracy theories is inherently difficult. Simply laying out evidence or pointing out logical contradictions in the conspiracist argument is seldom enough. Conspiracy theories are, by definition, irrefutable.

Lack of evidence of a conspiracy, or positive proof against its existence, is taken by believers as evidence of the craftiness of those behind the plot, and their ability to dupe the public. So arm yourself with patience, and be prepared to fail.

2. Recognize the emotional dimension

Conspiracy theories seduce not so much through the power of argument, but through the intensity of the passions that they stir.

Underpinning conspiracy theories are feelings of resentment, indignation and disenchantment about the world. They are stories about good and evil, as much as about what is true.

This gives conspiracy theories a strong emotional dimension. Tempers can flare and conversations turn into a shouting match. It is important to prevent this from happening. Be prepared to de-escalate the situation and keep the dialogue going, without necessarily giving ground.

3. Find out what they actually believe

Before trying to persuade someone, find out the nature and content of his beliefs. When it comes to conspiracy theories, the world is not divided into “believers” and “skeptics” — there’s a lot in between … Read more. 

“Anthony Fauci Owns ‘Half the Patent’ for Moderna’s COVID Vaccine,” And More Utter Nonsense

“There is no evidence to support claims that Fauci has a financial stake in Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.”

August 7, 2020

The Dispatch – Robert Kennedy Jr. recently claimed that Dr. Anthony Fauci holds a patent for one of the drugs in vaccine trials for coronavirus.

“The problem is Anthony Fauci put $500 million of our dollars into that vaccine [being produced by Moderna]. He owns half the patent,” said Kennedy in a recent debate with Alan Dershowitz. “He and these five guys who are working for him were entitled to collect royalties from that.”

The claim was then repeated by outlets and media figures like Rush Limbaugh, InfoWars, and Gateway Pundit.

Kennedy made the same claim during an interview with the Gateway Pundit podcast in April and similarly claimed that the National Institutes of Health—which houses the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of which Fauci is director—“Owns Half of Moderna Vaccine” in early July in an article he wrote for Children’s Health Defense, an anti-vaccination advocacy group that Kennedy founded and for which he now serves as president and chairman.

The vaccine that Kennedy was referring to is one being created by biotech company Moderna, but similar claims have been made before.

Claims that Fauci had a financial stake in drug Remdesivir were debunked, as was a claim that Fauci and Bill Gates invested in an unnamed coronavirus vaccine.

One conspiracy theory posited that Fauci was the first CEO of Moderna and attempted to connect the company with Gates, George Soros, and Jeffrey Epstein. (No such connection exists.)

Moderna’s vaccine is a part of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, a project that “aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021, as part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics (collectively known as countermeasures).”

As a part of Operation Warp Speed, the federal government has committed “up to $483 million” to accelerate production of Moderna’s vaccine … Read more. 

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