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No room for coronavirus rebels

"Wear masks!" "Social distance!" "Wash hands!" "Do not gather!" "Don't be a danger!" "Quarantine!"

"Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!" "Follow the science!" "Listen; do not speak!" "Stay in your lane!"

"No room for rebels!"

That was the narrative in the beginning. It was void and without form.

But the narrative grew – and quickly. While it still had little form and virtually no substance, somewhere in its early growth, the narrative developed its own self-perpetuating energy supply called "agenda."

Later, adherents to the narrative supplemented "agenda," and the narrative thrived and took on a life of its own. From then on, the relationship became symbiotic, cyclical and incestuous, i.e., as it attracted more adherents, the more it was fed and the more it was fed, the more powerful and influential the narrative became.

Now, close to maturity, the narrative has certain characteristics that can be described.

The narrative has a voice. It is recorded on a tape loop and delivered in drum beat fashion. It is the voice of the "Nanny State," of "Big Brother," of authoritarian bureaucracy.

The acoustic quality of the voice is shrill, strident, penetrating, grating and harsh. The voice is employed to shout the narrative's mantras; e.g., Mask! Vaccinate! Follow the science!

The narrative uses different tones to issue its bromides.

Sometimes the tone is suave and oily, as in, "Protect yourself; protect others." Sometimes it is saccharine, as in, "Together we can do this." Sometimes vindictive and punitive, as in, "I'm sick and tired of you people..." Sometimes puzzling, as in, "Do it for the love of your children."

And, sometimes absurd, as in, "Mandates work!"

The narrative shares certain characteristics with its cousin, propaganda.

A not-so-humorous version of, "We're from the government and we're here to help," serves as an example. "Stand aside; we know best," it orders, "It's for your own good." Repetition of the mantra and shaded references to punishment for non-compliance are constants. There is no room for rebels.

The narrative is adaptable – but only within its own parameters. It sways and shifts and wriggles, but is quite averse to real change. It is not tolerant or acceptant of new ideas.

Emerging information, new research findings and opposing viewpoints are regarded as wrong, bad, dangerous. The people who forward such are branded as idiots, Neanderthals, Luddites and Fascists.

Any new information must fit the narrative or it is summarily rejected. The narrative is the classic insufferable, unbearable college sophomore, who in two short years has learned all the answers.

The narrative has a schizophrenic personality.

It can be eerily benevolent, patting adherents on the head, while patting itself on the back. It purrs like the proverbial kitten while it basks in the adulation of the print and electronic media.

Conversely, woe to you who defy its mantras. If you cannot be shamed into compliance, you may be dismissed, released, fired, arrested, fined, isolated and quarantined. Inspectors will visit your workplace, and Department of Justice personnel may appear at your school board meetings.

There is no room for rebels.

The narrative has no values. Nor does it respect traditional values. Individual responsibility, freedom of expression, the right to make one's own decisions, privacy of personal medical information, non-discrimination, due process – all out the window. The narrative is not interested in freedom of the individual; it is interested only in control of the group.

In spite of its numerous unattractive features, the narrative has become quite popular. It has been embraced and adopted by many people, state and federal bureaucracies, businesses, corporations, school boards, and electronic and some print media outlets.

Small segments of each of the above defy the narrative, but the narrative has a firm grip on the majorities and the dissenting voices are often difficult to hear. There is no microphone for rebels.

The narrative's chief mantra is, "Follow the science."

The problem is the narrative does not understand science. It does not understand the scientific method or experimental research. It does not understand chance or probability of error.

It treats pilot study findings and preliminary research project results as absolutes. It uses terms like "proof" and "truth," unaware that real science deals with neither. It elevates the pronouncements of Dr. Anthony Fauci and cancels the expertise of Dr. Peter McCullough, when the positions, credentials and publications of the latter eclipse those of the former. (But what do rebels know?)

Nevertheless, the narrative has chosen science as its god. "Trust in the science," it intones. "Believe in the science," it chants. "The science will guide us," it murmurs worshipfully.

The narrative is not unlike a cult, complete with preachers, apostles and an adoring throng of acolytes.

The narrative is now a runaway train. The engineers and conductors continue to enjoy their ride as the train, fueled by an endless supply of agenda, races down a shiny track toward an indefinite end.

The rebel railway express is rolling, as well. Fueled by openness to new research findings, objectivity, transparency and spirited debate, it is pulling hard on an uphill grade racing toward the finish line. Which train will win?

The answer is clear: whichever one we feed.

– David Haugen, PhD. is an Eastern Washington University Emeritus Professor of Communication Disorders.


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