How can they be so certain? - Keith Roulston editorial
When I look at the pandemic deniers, the anti-vaxxers, the flat-earthers or the people who still believe that Donald Trump won the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, I don’t know whether to despair, or admire these people for their misplaced self-confidence.
Those thoughts came to me as I read Ben Cohen’s account in the Toronto Star of his experience getting his second shot of vaccine at the huge Scotiabank Arena clinic, June 27, that ended up setting a new record for vaccinations in a single day: 26,771. While Cohen praises the organizers for a huge event that ran so smoothly, he also writes about the anti-vaxxers outside who pretended to be volunteers and told those lined up to enter that the wait would take many hours and suggested they reconsider.
Further down the block, Cohen encountered a man in a black T-shirt with the words “Just Say No”, who used a blowhorn to harangue those seeking to be vaccinated: “They have you lined up like sheep,” he said. “The only difference between you and sheep is that you have masks.” Cohen chuckled when a man in line replied with a mocking, “Baa.”
Elsewhere Cohen passed what he described as the anti-vax headquarters – a desk with the words “Information Centre” crudely scrawled on it. “You’re going to be in line for hours, endlessly circling,” said another bullhorn operator at the desk. “Might as well visit the ‘Information Centre.’ ”
Cohen, a Jew, was particularly irked when a man beside the blowhorn operator added: “You’re going to be in another line in a few weeks when they turn on the gas.”
Now, I know that these people denying the need for, and value of, vaccinations had the support of each other as they sought to convert the multitude who could hardly wait to get vaccinated, but still I have to be amazed at the self-confidence (some would term it arrogance) that allows them to think they are right while the thousands passing them are wrong.
But then we’ve seen plenty of that lately. Scientists and medical professionals by the thousands can lay out the evidence of the COVID-19’s deadly results but pandemic deniers will take the word of a handful of people with dubious credentials who claim it’s all made up or part of a conspiracy for governments (or Bill Gates) to control your life. Those numbers about people who have died (nearly four million worldwide, over 26,000 in Canada and more than 600,000 in the U.S.) are all faked as part of the conspiracy, these deniers say.
Despite the election officials who certified the U.S. Presidential election was free and fair, despite the judges who have turned away complaints by former President Donald Trump that there was widespread election fraud, despite audits of election results (Georgia has had three audits), 53 per cent of Republicans still believe the election was stolen from Trump. Pile the evidence of voter fraud versus that of a fair election in one of those old-fashioned balances, and the side weighing evidence of election integrity would hit the floor. But Trump continues to say he really won the election and that’s good enough for millions of believers.
Then there are the Trump supporters who are busy trying to make us doubt what we saw with our own eyes when rebellious Trump supporters attacked the Capitol building in Washington on Jan. 6 in an attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as the legally-elected President. They were really patriots, or they were far-left rioters disguised in Trump’s “Make America Great Again” garb, or they were hired by the FBI as part of a “deep state” plot against Trump, or they were just people visiting the Capitol like other peaceful tourists. If you’re a Trump supporter – take your pick.
It reminds me of an expression my mother used to use whenever I or one of my siblings would try to get a whopper of a lie past her: “I believe you, when thousands wouldn’t.”
These believers that black is white and down is up are not new. I remember reading an article a couple of years ago about the growing number of people who believe the earth is flat. There’s an annual Flat Earth International Conference that has drawn up to 600 attendees from around the world. Online communities have hundreds of thousands of followers and YouTube is inundated with flat Earth content creators, whose productions reach millions. Those space station views that show the earth is round? All fake, as are the videos from the moon landings.
As someone who constantly doubts his beliefs and re-examines them to make sure they stand up to the best evidence, I just don’t have the confidence to shout that I know more than the experts and the vast majority of my friends, acquaintances and neighbours. On that, and that alone, I can have a grudging appreciation for all those people who believe “alternative” truths.