April 6, 2021

The Purity Cult

Tags: covid19

Even before the official introduction of “vaccine passports” in this country, we’re already seeing signs of people creating their own private (or sometimes public) versions of these passports. I know of family groups and exercise classes that exclude the unvaccinated, and our state government has imposed rules that are more restrictive for the unvaccinated.

These are all examples of what the Britsh scholar Edward Hadas calls the “purity cult” in his essay, The war against Covid-19. As with religious cults, this cult does not use logic to divide the clean from the unclean, the pure from the impure. But unlike religious cults, this one uses the veneer of science, or more accurately, scientism, to explain and vindicate itself. Let’s look at this cult’s anti-logic more closely.

First, the purity cult works to segregate the clean from the unclean. This means that the unclean must somehow be a threat to the clean. In other words, those who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 are seen as a danger to those who have been vaccinated.

But if this were the case, then the vaccines must not provide protection against infection or transmission of the virus. This actually corresponds with what the CDC and the vaccine makers claim, namely that the vaccines only reduce the severity of symptoms, and do not necessarily reduce infection or transmission.

This implies several things. First, it means that the clean actually can pose a threat both to themselves and to the unclean, because they can pass the virus to others. This is especially problematic if a member of the clean cult develops a sniffle or a cough, but because he has been vaccinated, he deludes himself into thinking that he isn’t infected by the virus from which the vaccine has supposedly protected him. But because he is symptomatic, he is very likely to pass the virus to others close to him.

Secondly, it means that that there is no need to segregate the unclean from the clean, because all members of both castes pose an infectious threat to each other.

Now let’s give the cultists the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the claim that the vaccines provide partial protection from infection or transmission is true. This barely changes the situation at all. It may reduce the chance of a clean person being infected or transmitting the virus. But it does not eliminate that chance, meaning that the clean can still be infected by – or pass the virus to – other people.

We have other evidence that either of these two scenarios is likely to be true: the fact that governmental authorities are telling us that even the vaccinated must continue to use anti-social distancing and mask wearing, and endure more lockdowns (does anybody remember “two weeks to flatten the curve”?). If the vaccines were truly effective, these measures would not be necessary.

Now let’s give the cultists an even bigger benefit of the doubt: that the vaccines provide perfect protection against transmission or infection. If this were true, then the unclean would no longer be a threat to the clean, and segregation of the two castes would be unnecessary.

If you present these arguments to cult members, they will parrot the official propaganda about how “variants” and “asymptomatic transmission” require us to be ever more vigilant and to submit regularly to new vaccines. Let’s examine these excuses separately.

The “variants” excuse implies that the current vaccines do not protect against newly emerging virus variants. Now suppose that this were true (which is very unlikely, since the variants have only about a .3% genetic difference from the original virus). Then the clean are as likely to transmit or be infected by the virus variants as the unclean. This brings us back to the original situation, meaning that the caste segregation is unnecessary.

The “asymptomatic transmission” excuse is not supported by science. Even the WHO has admitted that asymptomatic transmission, if it were to occur at all, is a couple of orders of magnitude less likely than symptomatic transmission. This means that the pre-Covid practices of pandemic response (stay home if you’re sick, keep the elderly and ill away from infectious people) were the sensible approach. Unfortunately, this approach was abandoned with Covid-19, for reasons explored in detail by the Edward Hadas article linked to above.

The lack of logic behind the purity cult does not seem to be a hindrance to its near universal acceptance. Thus it is likely that the situation is only going to get much worse before it gets better (if ever).