Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, October 7, 2021 4:49 pm

Dead anti-vaxxer schadenfreude

The Washington Post has an article up asking whether the schadenfreude many people feel as the result of the death by COVID of an anti-vaxxer is somehow making us less empathetic. Lord, I hope so.

The article quotes Macalester College researcher Piercarlo Valdesolo, who looks at moral judgment, as saying three things can cause people to feel schadenfreude: In-group/out-group psychology (because vaccination, or its willful refusal, can be a political identity; for the sufferer to have had the ability to avoid his fate, and this:

“… it needs to feel like the sufferer has done something harmful and that they deserve it,” Valdesolo says. “People who are vaccinated interpret the vaccine as something you do not only for yourself but to protect others, and not taking it actively harms other people. And when you’ve got an out-group member who is harming other people, perhaps people in your own group, now you’re prone to think, ‘Okay, this person deserves it.’ ”

And that’s the thing that the article, objective to a fault, doesn’t dwell on. The sufferer HAS done something shameful. They DO deserve it. Vaccination IS something you do not only for yourself but to protect others. Not taking it DOES actively harm others, whether directly via transmission or indirectly by providing a place for the virus to mutate and become potentially even more transmissible and/or harmful. The piece didn’t give those facts enough attention.

Moreover, the antivaxxers are literally the reason why none of us can have nice things. We can’t go out and mingle in public places without a mask. We can’t enjoy entertainment or nightlife without a mask, or sometimes at all. Traveling, especially by air, is more of a hassle. We can’t visit family and friends. And all of that is because earlier this year, a nontrivial percentage of Americans boneheadedly decided that real Americans don’t get vaccinated. Some antivaxxers even are campaigning against vaccinations against smallpox and polio. These people do not deserve empathy, for they certainly have none for us.

Anti-vaxxers deserve nothing but contempt, and society needs to make their selfish, even cruel behavior as inconvenient and expensive as possible. There is some good news, though: From airlines to medical centers, we’re seeing that vaccine mandates work. United Airlines, which mandated vaccinations for its employees, reports having received 20,000 applications for 2,000 flight-attendant positions — a higher ratio than before the pandemic. Turns out people want to work where vaccination is mandated.

So let’s have many more of them. Let’s have a federal vaccine mandate. That’s how we get back to where we were pre-Covid. And getting back to where we were pre-COVID is one thing we all can agree on.

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