Tuesday, August 24, 2021


A few years ago, reporters were flocking to Rust Belt diners to ask Donald Trump voters whether they really liked Donald Trump. (They did.) In 2021, the new diner safaris are vaccine safaris. Here's a CNN reporter at the recent Trump rally in Alabama confirming the obvious: that COVID vaccine refusers really, really don't intend to get vaccinated, and don't intend to do anhything else to slow the spread of the virus, because doing so makes you a "sheep":

It's an attitude that can lead to the ICU, as we can see in this much-watched New York Times documentary set in an Arkansas community with a very low vaccination rate and full hospitals.

In the Times video, producer Alexander Stockton says:
I heard this over and over: freedom, choice.... Misinformation certainly exists here, but a powerful force behind the hesitancy is this fundamental idea of personal freedom.
This made me think about Frank Wilhoit's famous definition of conservatism:
Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:

There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.
But in a pandemic, that either/or choice doesn't apply. Everyone needs to be bound so that everyone can be protected. I wear a mask to protect you and you wear a mask to protect me. Vaccines may not prevent the spread of all variants, but if I'm vaccinated, I'm won't be in the hospital bed when you need it, and vice versa.

But conservatives angrily reject this premise. So here's a corollary to Wilhoit's Law:
If conservatives can't be protected without being bound, they'd rather not be protected at all.
We already know this from gun politics in America. Of the dozen states with the highest firearm mortality rates in America, eleven are red states. The eight states with the lowest rates are all blue. Conservatives die at a higher rate from firearms, but they don't want to do anything about that. Not if it means restricting their freedoms.

And here's something I've quoted a few times, from a review of Arlie Russell Hochschild's 2016 book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (emphasis added).
The paradox that most baffles Hochschild is the question of environmental pollution.... southwestern Louisiana combines some of the nation’s most fervently antiregulatory voters with its most toxic environmental conditions....

Hochschild discovers a walking personification of these ironies in a Cajun oil rig engineer named Mike Schaff. In August 2012, Schaff was entering his home in Bayou Corne, about seventy miles west of New Orleans, when he was jolted by a tremor....

More than a mile beneath the bayou, a Houston-based drilling company named Texas Brine had drilled into a vast salt dome, ignoring warnings from its own engineer.... Texas Brine drilled too closely to an oil deposit and the structure ruptured, sucking down forest and causing seismic damage to the homes of 350 nearby residents. Officials began referring to Schaff’s neighborhood as the “sacrifice zone.”

Texas Brine refused to take responsibility for the accident.... Four years later the sinkhole is 750 feet deep at its center and has grown to thirty-five acres. Methane and other gases bubble up periodically. Residents who defied evacuation orders avoided lighting matches.

... [Schaff] marched on the statehouse, wrote fifty letters to state and federal officials, granted dozens of interviews to local, national, and foreign press. When state officials claimed they had detected no oil in the bayou, he demanded that the EPA check their work.

But Schaff continued to vote Tea Party down the line. He voted for the very politicians who had abetted Texas Brine at every turn, who opposed environmental regulation of any kind. He voted to “abolish” the EPA, believing that it “was grabbing authority and tax money to take on a fictive mission ... lessening the impact of global warming.” The violent destruction of everything he held dear was not enough to change his mind.
Protect me and don't bind me -- but if I think there's binding going on, I'd rather be unprotected than bound.

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