As a result of anti-lockdown protests, some major media outlets, like The Daily Beast, attempt to smear opponents of COVID-19 lockdowns as extremists linking them to anti-vaccine groups. While anti-vaccine opponents may be among their ranks, it is no reason to assume opponents of lockdowns are anti-science, anti-government extremists, or people willing to intentionally ignore warnings about the coronavirus. In reality, this is really a demonstration that the media has lost the narrative and has resorted to going negative due to overextending their reach.
Anti-Vaxxers and Lockdown Protesters Form an Unholy Alliance
The rallies in state capitals are featuring lots of the same language and some of the same people involved in the movement to scare the public against vaccinations.
Will Sommer & Jackie Kucinich – The Daily Beast
Protests against social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines in states across the country have become fertile ground for anti-vaccine activists, foreshadowing future showdowns over government-led efforts to help bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic.
Del Bigtree, a notorious anti-vaccination activist before the emergence of COVID-19, attended a reopening rally in Austin last weekend to find out why the protesters were showing up. Bigtree told The Daily Beast that he saw a lot of overlap between anti-vaccine activists who distrust vaccines and the rally-goers, who were complaining that the public health policies put in place by state governments are unconstitutional and draconian relative to the health crisis at hand.
“I think the science is falling apart,” Bigtree said, citing models he called “a disaster.”
On April 17, Bigtree featured Wendy Darling, founder of anti-stay-at-home-order group “Michigan United for Liberty” and an attendee of one of the Michigan protests, on his online show The High Wire, which usually dedicates programming to questioning health professionals and settled science. Asked by Bigtree whether the demonstrations showed that at least some Michiganders “are not afraid of dying from the coronavirus,” Darling said: “In our group, in particular, we’ve got thousands of people in Michigan United for Liberty and the consensus there is, you know, we are not. We’re more afraid of the government than we are of the virus at this point.”
Bigtree isn’t the only drawing connections between the anti-vaccine movement—which advocates for the fallacious notion that vaccines cause autism or other ailments—and the movements against the stay-at-home orders. Anti-vaccine activists have pushed a hashtag calling for President Donald Trump to fire the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci—a message that evolved into a “Fire Fauci” chant at the Texas rally Bigtree attended. Some participants in the reopening rallies have also adopted “I Do Not Consent” as their go-to sign formulation, which is the same language that’s become a popular phrase for anti-vaccination activists.
“That’s one of their biggest slogans,” said Amy Pisani, the executive director of pro-vaccine group Vaccinate Your Family.
The predominantly right-wing activists calling for states to reopen businesses amid the pandemic have also criticized vaccines in their online communities. On “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine,” a Facebook group with more than 350,000 members that has become a hotbed for anti-social distancing protests in the state, thousands of members said they wouldn’t take any future vaccine. Some posters pushed conspiracy theories that the vaccine would be the “mark of the Beast” or a tracking device used by billionaire Bill Gates.
A user in “Reopen Missouri,” another Facebook group devoted to rapidly reopening businesses, made a popular post that included a vow to never take any future coronavirus vaccine.
“I refuse to receive said vaccine to make others feel more safe,” it read. “I won’t set myself—or my children—on fire to keep you warm.”