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Opinion

What the Devil won't tell you

Treat it like a brick: The vaccine is unaware that it is elitist

I'm going to try to tackle vaccine hesitancy because I kind of get it.

It's an issue of trust. People from on high are telling you to do something and you don't want to do it. We at TucsonSentinel.com are running a package from the Boston Globe and our own reporters aimed directly at you.

That's good. On the other hand, a major East Coast media outlet chock full of reporters from elite schools tsk-tsking you about getting the vaccine may not be the best way to go about it. 

So here I am. C-student. State school. 

Dr. Teresa Cullen, director of the Pima County Health Department, wrote a fine piece about the science. I want to write more about the attitude.

There are two types of hesitant. We have those folks who are suspicious, and then more than a few of you are just putting it off because ... ooh, something shiny.

Let me dispense with my fellow procrastinators. We are misunderstood and don't receive enough love. If it wasn’t for us, there might not be deadlines. If it wasn’t for us, people who do shit right away wouldn’t be able to feel all superior. Ever notice how the world will absolutely accept the work you do, in lieu of what you are putting off?

Yeah but we’re judged and mocked and eyerolled and receive final notices. Where would the "final notice" business be without us?

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So I know exactly how to convince you to get your coronavirus vaccine. It’s simple and it’s the advice YOU would give other procrastinators.

Do it now. No, seriously. Right now. No! Don’t click the little red square in the corner and don’t you dare click one of the 184 other tabs you have open because you have been putting off closing out the whole window.

Take your hands off the keyboard. Find your keys — this could take a while — but don’t get distracted by the remote control or a notification. Pretend all notifications are that one you get from Apple telling you to update your computer. Just click the “remind me tomorrow” button on all things that aren’t getting vaccinated and do not stop moving forward until you are at the Walgreen's pharmacy.

It’s Walgreen's. It’s Tucson. There’s one right next to the Mattress Firm. Down on the corner, on the right.

The rest of this column is for the skeptical.

Gotcha. You just don’t know. You are hearing all this conflicting information. You are seeing it online.

Physicians like Dr. Cullen say the vaccine is safe. Meme writers and Internet influencers say it's not. Who do you believe?

Some of you might belong to a group of people who … I don’t know … have been here before: The African-American syphilis experiments of the 1950s. Others may have heard stories about general horrific medical treatment — including small pox blankets — of ancestors.

The woman behind the Moderna vaccine is named Kizzemekia Corbett. She doesn't look like a Karen. 

The husband-and-wife team who invented the Pfizer vaccine are from Germany, but Dr. Uguar Sahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci are part of the much-maligned Turkish immigrant community there.

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White men were background players in developing this vaccine.

It's easy to be suspicious of the biomedical community because they all act so smart and sure of themselves. You can decide for yourself what goes in your body. Except, you totally trust them. You do every day.

In a complex economy full of specialization, we each possess some sort of expertise society relies on to function. It’s just that dissing all of those experts feels more empowering than listening to others. Don't let that joy kill you.

Life and death in a high-fructose world

Ever drink a Coca Cola? Tell me right now what’s in it. Don’t Google. Tell me what knowledge you had about the ingredients in Coke the last time you drank one.

Can you define “high-fructose corn syrup.” What’s high about it? Is there low-fructose corn syrup? What’s fructose? How do you turn corn into syrup?

I just grabbed a box of Graham crackers off the shelf and read their ingredients. It’s pretty straight-forward until it gets to “artificial flavor.” What the hell is artificial flavor and where does it exist on the periodic table?

What’s in Tylenol? How does it work?

Why haven’t you cared until now? It’s not a rhetorical question. There’s an answer. If these ingredients were obviously deadly, it wouldn’t be legal to put them in food. Someone somewhere at some point in some building has determined it to be safe. That’s why most of us just put stuff in our bodies every day without knowing what’s in it.

Congress passed and Teddy Roosevelt signed the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. So began the the Food and Drug Administration's march toward regulating what could go on our grocers shelves and then inside us. 

The FDA is there to make sure Proctor and Gamble isn’t using formaldehyde as a preservative. They give a yes to aspirin but a no to heroin when both were once sold together by Bayer. You are already trusting the same FDA to protect your Pringles and make sure ibuprofen doesn't put you in the hospital. 

And if coronavirus puts you in the hospital, everything you get will have been approved by the same FDA that makes you hesitant. I guarantee you if your heart stops your doctor won't hesitate to start slamming things into you meant to save your life. All of it will have been approved by the FDA.

You go into a hospital knowing this can but you also know that smart people have said the medications and procedures are safe.

The information game

Information has no intrinsic value. Society assigns the value. On paper, there’s no more value in the steps required to perform a heart and lung transplant than determining the area of a circle (even if there are a few more of them).

Society assigns the value either through market mechanisms or controlling access to the information. Some information is just easier to monetize, therefore the market determines it more valuable than, say, knowing how to Google search or let YouTube's algorithm serve up yet more videos of Sunglasses Steve behind the wheel of his parked F-950 yelling about the globalists or Ordinary Mary's wine-fueled babble about how the vaccine is a 5G implant.

It’s that second part that is screwing us now.

Harvard University has built a mighty legacy on informing the global wisdom and concealing it. Harvard reserves its wisdom for a small, select few who pay for it.

In fact, Harvard is better able to monetize its information by refusing access to it on an enormous scale. That’s how they maintain elite status. And it’s the elites we are at war against right now.

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So they seem to be limiting their instruction of the unwashed masses to when it’s time to be bossy.

Who likes that?

It’s a dose of self-reliance to give those people the bird or say “not so fast.” They’re elites. We don’t like elites. Elites seem to spend a lot of time not liking us as they live their lives exclusive of us.

Brick by brick

Experts in the trades have information, too. We don’t seem to treat trades with the same disdain.

Imagine for a second, you are a bricklayer. A customer drives out to a homesite towing a trailer full of “special bricks” and insists these bricks be used and none others. He found them on donnieknowseverything.com.

So you pick up one of the bricks and immediately can tell it hasn’t been fired properly. It’s going to fall apart. Then the client hands a bag of mortar that’s just as bad. The client tells you “this has to work. I saw it in white lettering over a square pink background.” There was a video corroborating the information on donnieknowseverything.com

You run your finger through the mortar mix and realize at once there’s a problem. “This is flour.” But the client insists and in your bricklayer code you must build with what the client gives you.

So you do. You comply because that's your job.

A couple nights later at 3:21 a.m., your phone rings. The client is hopping mad and yelling at you because something is wrong with the house. You put on your clothes, hop in your truck and drive to the site. There you find the house collapsed. Per your contract, you must immediately start rebuilding the house while the client yells at you about how the house did not, in fact, collapse. The problem wasn’t the bricks. The problem is that you are involved in a conspiracy to make the Dallas Cowboys miss the playoffs.

What you are being accused of is not only false, it makes no linear sense.

How many times does this have to happen before you start feeling violent rages? Can you imagine how ICU nurses feel right about now?

A week later, your neighbor comes over to ask your opinion on donnie’s (the lower-case being part of the trademark) bag of bricks and the accompanying mortar. Step by step you walk them through what just happened to you and the neighbor listens politely but then says. “I’m still thinking about it.”

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What are they thinking about? You are a bricklayer. He is not. You know what you are talking about. He does not. You aren’t calling him stupid. You aren’t saying he doesn’t have the ability to think for himself. It’s just that your specialization in the economy is different than his. But he is treating the brick issue as if all information of equal value is equally legitimate.

Investigating with equal vigor the claims of the expert mason and the guy from the Internet selling bricks that keep causing houses to collapse is not a worthwhile deliberation proving intellect.

Doesn’t mean some bricklayers haven’t conned customers or done lousy work. That doesn’t turn flour into mortar just because someone made a meme out of it.

What don't you know?

The scenario I just outlined is absolute hyperbole because we don’t tend to treat “non-elite” information with the same skepticism that we treat the wisdom of the elites.

The Internet makes us all quasi-experts.

Here's a question to start with when you are starting to research a new topic. What do you need to know that you don't know? And where do you go to get the information you need to know. And always, always, always consider the source. Google the name of the author panning the virus. What are their credentials and what is their agenda? Is it public health? Or are they just opportunists seizing on suspicion to reorder the country to their liking?

Is it possible that the vaccine detractors have an agenda other than your health, your family's health or your community's health? Or maybe, they just made it up. Just because people can type the words, doesn't mean they are true.

The Internet is a great opportunity to learn new things but it's also a chance to get hoodwinked. In this case, if you are wrong you may get lucky and just pay with your life. You may pay with the life of someone you care about.

Some of our vaccine hesitancy flows from that classic myth of self-reliance as if we were still living in Bronze Age yurts. We don’t fell our own food, tan our own hides or fashion our own weapons.

Our society, our economy and civilization itself requires we trust expertise of the bricklayer and the virologist.

Watch the experiment

Medical science is a process and not an outcome. When circumstances change the outcome changes. Evolutionary wisdom is always vulnerable to the attack “yeah but you said something else yesterday.”

Progress is a strength of science, not a weakness. So most of you are no longer using bricks and flip phones. 

You, the vaccine hesitant, have been able to conduct your own experiment of sorts. The serums in those needles got approved awfully fast. Gotcha. Some say it's dangerous. Some say it's not. 

Which side is winning: The people who just refuse to get vaccinated and are filling emergency rooms or those who took the shot and aren't?

Seems like the results are in. Teams Pfizer and Moderna are the clear winners and Teams Tucker and QAnon are filling coffins.

Bottom secret

Finally, just a word about secrets. The government is telling us to get the vaccine. The government has secrets. No. You don’t get to know the launch codes. You don’t get to know whom our secret agents are. You don’t get to know the cutting-edge tech the military is working on. Aliens? Any species capable of interstellar travel can talk to us whenever they want without our government’s permission.

Know who else keeps secrets? Your mom. Your grandfather. Your spouse. Your best friend. Your employer. That doesn’t mean they are always full of crap.

If you distrust elites in general, then just ignore their status and pay attention to their information. Maybe give information the same weight you would give a bricklayer's discussing masonry.

Maybe err on the side of the expert when they are trying to save your life, and not on the side of person pretending to be an expert who just wants clicks.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


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Coronavirus infections in Pima County are spreading at a rate of 145 cases per 100,000. Maybe it's time we treat experts like they know what they are talking about.

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