How to Argue and How This Ends

You cannot discuss heavily propagandised matters, such as Corona, in the same way you discuss other, more ordinary things. Months and months of pervasive media messaging have polluted everybody’s thoughts and opinions. If you eavesdrop on ordinary people discussing propaganda topics like Corona, you’ll realise that their conversations involve little more than the exchange of pre-digested axioms they have absorbed from the press mythology. They do not have thoughts or ideas so much as a bland and vacuous collection of talking points, which work primarily at the level of emotion. Right now, these talking points go something like this: Corona is extremely dangerous and if you contract it you will likely die; vaccines are absurdly safe and they are the only thing that can save you.

When dealing with adherents of this propaganda, it is generally a mistake to make forthright arguments, with clear theses and thorough citations. Perhaps if you’re speaking to someone who trusts you and your judgement absolutely, this can work, but otherwise it is precisely the wrong thing to do. This is not because your views are not right or can’t be defended. Rather, it’s because the press has not only fed people their fill of lies and omissions and sophistries; it has also told them many stories about the sad, ignorant, dangerous thought criminals and dissidents lurking around every corner. These villainous Corona-deniers are almost as dangerous as the virus itself. Indeed, through their ignorance, they facilitate its spread. Any time credulous people sense they are speaking to one of these types, an iron gate will fall in their minds and they will discount everything you say, however well-reasoned, as the ravings of a dangerous virus criminal. They will think: This is one of those horrible anti-vaxxing Covid-denying conspiracy lunatics I’ve heard about. Whatever he says is a lie, and it is scary how convincing he sounds. What a horrible person.

These mental defences are formidable, and they make most reasonable discussion impossible. There are, however, various strategies you can deploy against them.

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