Antivaccines and their ‘freedom’ to infect us – 10/18/2021 – Latinoamérica21

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Jair Bolsonaro, like Donald Trump, sought to benefit politically, denying science and promoting the disease’s advancement.

But in Austria, antivaccine has gone further. In the Alpine country, Covid skeptics already have their party and have recently won seats in the regional parliament, in an unprecedented feat that is part of a broader phenomenon, the extreme politicization of the disease.

As with Bolsonaro in Brazil, but in an even more unique way, the central focus of this new party is opposition to the Austrian government’s vaccination campaign and rejection of new restrictions that require proof of inoculation to enter restaurants and other enclosed spaces.

Globally, the anti-vaccination movement is made up of a very eclectic group of people attracted to fear.

From parents who see themselves as progressive and consider that with their children they live healthy lives and will not get sick and therefore do not need to incorporate foreign elements in their bodies that can cause negative effects, to far-right groups whose paranoia leads them to fantasize about conspiracies by governments, tycoons and the pharmaceutical industry, who are supposedly hiding the truth.

In the face of these fears, antivacines prefer the disease or the potential risk to the disease.

The first anti-vaccination party

The Austrian anti-vaccination party adopted as its name a trinity, “People, Freedom, Rights”.

At the moment it is a minority party, and the freedoms and rights that it claims are the same as those of the anti-vaccinations at a global level, which are the freedom and the right to be infected and, therefore, to infect us.

As the Financial Times points out, this smaller effect may have greater repercussions in the future.

Austria is also the country that first gave us Adolf Hitler, and then, at the end of the last century, Jörg Haider, one of the first right-wing populists to come to power in a coalition government, in the year 2000.

In those years, when proximity to fascism was something toxic, Austria was much criticized in the European Community and became something of an international pariah.

Today, the context is very different.

Leaders like Donald Trump and his disciple Jair Bolsonaro are clearly pro-Covid, in the sense that their policies and lies benefited the spread of the pandemic, first in their countries and then globally.

While Bolsonaro is clearly anti-vaccine, Trump is ambivalent and tends to support his voters’ deep rejection of vaccines. One of his fantasies associates the MMR vaccine –which protects against measles, mumps and rubella– with the diagnosis of autism in children.

This unfounded fear of vaccines was successfully spread through his Twitter messages, which did not stop him from receiving his anti-Covid vaccine when he left the White House.

Both Bolsonaro and Trump do politics with Covid, but they also have other anti-democratic priorities on their agenda, such as denying election results, fomenting xenophobia, militarizing politics, repressing and victimizing minorities, immigrants and journalists, planning past and future self-coups, and above all try to stay out of prison because of the suspicions of wrongdoing and corruption that haunt them.

The post-fascist candidate for the presidency of France, Marine Le Pen, and her party presented “the black book on the coronavirus”, dedicated to all victims of the virus. The paradox is that, while denouncing the French government’s “lies” and health measures, they present freedom as the right to ignore the science about the disease.

In that sense, they are all to Haider’s right and closer to Hitler. For the fascists, words are at the service of simple and outright lies, which in reality are greater lies.

The big lie about Covid, like the big lie about the election and the failed coup, defines the history of trumpism in the same way that the anti-Semitic lies defined Nazism. But it is necessary to remember that the Nazis used the disease as a metaphor, and sometimes also as a reality against their enemies.

In his book “My Struggle”, Hitler stated that those who wanted the freedom of the “German blood” needed to “liberate” it from the “foreign virus”, represented by the “Jewish problem”.

As Branko Marcetic points out in a text published in Jacobin magazine, contrary to the supposed fascist precedents of the antivaccination mandates and the far right in Europe, the United States and Latin America, the Nazis actually relaxed vaccination for the Germans and restricted it totally for people considered inferior.

The Nazis stopped vaccinating for the purpose of fomenting disease and death among others, not their own.

In this, their heirs differ, promoting misinformation among their followers about vaccination and lies about sanitary measures and forms of contagion, which led to a higher incidence of death among their own followers.

Hitler defined that his policy sought to build the first steps for his nation to “ascend to the temple of freedom”, the same “freedom” referred to by Austria’s pro-Covid party, whose motto is “don’t believe everything you’re told ”.

Of all the lessons the pandemic has left, the disease metaphors and the ignorance of science are the most worrisome.

And those who speak of freedom as a license to infect the rest of society are, in reality, its greatest enemies.

Text originally published in Clarín (Argentina)

Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima

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