Science scepticism is boring ‘cos it only goes halfway

The Skinny | No 97 – Freedom Fetishists, Unite!

‘My body, my choice’... a pro choice slogan appropriated by the anti-vax community during an impromptu protest held on 24 July, 2021
‘My body, my choice’... a pro choice slogan appropriated by the anti-vax community during an impromptu protest held on 24 July, 2021

What are we skinning? Malta’s variant of the ‘World Wide Rally for Freedom’, organised last Saturday in Valletta in line with similar initiatives across the globe.

Why are we skinning it? It’s essentially a hodge-podge of vaccine and covid-sceptics of all stripes coming together to lament alleged breaches of freedom of speech and behaviour by various authority figures in the wake of the global pandemic that has ripped through our lives since early 2020.

Ah nice, a homegrown collective of aspiring variant-producers. Potentially, yes.

Inspiring. Yep, an organic farm of locally-fomented alternatives to covid.

The pandemic has pushed a lot of us to innovate. Certainly, and Malta’s economic product is ripe for export.

‘Valletta Variant’ certainly has a nice ring to it. A viral infection fit for a Knight of the Order.

But what are our knights fighting for, exactly? Freedom of speech and freedom of health seem to be the big ones. The pre-marketing of the event was slyly coy about its covid-related nature, but the true nature of their grievances was quickly made apparent on the ground zero of the protest itself.

They do have both freedom of speech and freedom of health, though… They will argue that being barred from sharing scientific misinformation amounts to a gag order, and that the benefits proffered to vaccinated individuals right now amount to discrimination.    

Well, everyone is entitled to an opinion. The rally - essentially a mass gathering during pandemic times - was allowed to go on, so that’s one less thing for them to complain about, I guess.

But is making fun of this group really the way forward? Tempting as it is yes, I must admit that it may be counter-productive. A global pandemic is a lot to take in, and given that we live in what will likely be defined as a Disinformation Age in future generations - provided additional pandemics and/or ravages of climate change allow them to blossom forth - there’s quite a bit to unpack in all of this.

Thing is, you either believe the science, or you don’t… That’s the tricky part. Google lets everyone think that ‘research’ simply means scrolling to find the nearest piece of ‘scientific’ research that confirms your biases. And the ‘anti-establishment’ faction of these protesters will then scoff at any suggestion to consult more deeply considered, peer-reviewed studies from established sources…

Not all scepticisms are equal. As the reign of Trump has shown us, ‘anti-establishment’ can take on many interesting hues.

Do say: “While it’s certainly healthy to see people rallying to a common cause and questioning the authorities, it’s a bit dispiriting to see all of this happening as a backlash to scientifically proven efforts to combat a deadly virus. A little learning is a dangerous thing, indeed.”

Don’t say: “Science scepticism is boring ‘cos it only goes halfway. Bring back full on witchcraft or just stay home.”