A pandemic of fallacious thinking and civic irresponsibility: Part two – A psychological analysis

The Virus is a big deal, Period! It’s one of the worst calamities to strike in modern times.

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This is a blog that I wish wasn’t necessary. But given the continuing ravages of the Pandemic, and the refusal of far too many to get vaccinated for it, it’s even more so.

In a previous blog[i], I analyzed the validity of the “arguments”—such as they are–that have been bandied about in favor of not getting vaccinated for Covid19. I not only examined them in terms of their underlying “logic,” such as it is, but I responded primarily in terms of their faulty reasoning. As imperative as this is, it, unfortunately, does not get to the real root of the problem, the underlying states of mind on which each of the arguments/claims are based. Whether a deeper analysis helps or not, it’s vital if we are to understand the full nature of that with which we are dealing.

To reiterate, the following are the major arguments/claims for not getting vaccinated:

1.     “By virtue of my age, health, lifestyle, and special circumstance, I’m totally immune to the Virus.”

2.     “My body, my choice! The government has no right to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body. It’s an infringement on my Basic Freedoms and Liberties! It’s nothing less than Tyranny. Besides, I and I alone know best when it comes to my own body.”

3.     “The Bible tells us that we are made in the Image of God. Wearing masks is nothing less than a desecration of His Image. It’s a Sin of the Gravest Order!”

4.     “The vaccine is responsible for causing the Virus.”

5.     “The authorities have reversed themselves so many times that they’re not to be trusted.”

6.     “The Virus is not a big deal.”

7.     “The wearing of masks is foolish.”

8.     “We cannot allow science and scientists to rule our lives. Who gave Anthony Fauci the power to make decisions over us?”

9.     “It’s time to stop worrying about others.”

10.  “The Virus is part of Nature. Thus, in harmony with all things, it’s morally and universally appropriate to let Nature run its course.”

11.  “The vaccines are an insidious plot to put microchips in us not just to track our whereabouts, but even worse, to read and thereby control our minds.”

The first claim is that by virtue of a person’s special circumstances, and/or basic characteristics, he or she is totally exempt from the disease, therefore requiring no intervention or treatment whatsoever. To put it mildly, it’s a classic case of Omnipotent Thinking, if not out-and-out Grandiosity. It’s compensation for the fact that the Virus has instilled a deep sense of powerlessness in many of us. Unfortunately, they are not only a direct threat to the health and well-being of one’s self, but to others.

The second is not only a complete misunderstanding of Freedom, but is a classic example of Narcissistic Thinking. Freedom does not mean that one has the absolute right to do whatever he or she pleases without the full consideration of others. Without it, society is not possible.

Even more basic, one is not always the best judge when it comes to one’s body. It’s impossible for anyone to possess all of the relevant knowledge that experts have acquired though years of arduous and specialized training. It’s but a further expression of Grandiosity, i.e., an inflated sense of oneself.

The third claim suffers from the same as well.

The claim that the vaccine is responsible for the Virus is not only completely bogus, but a total misunderstanding and complete reversal of the correct order of things. The “correct sequence” is that the Virus is responsible for the vaccines and the protection they offer from the disease, not the reverse. To think otherwise is nothing less than a primary example of a major Thought Disorder.

The fifth claim is an expression of an obsessive need for constancy. It’s true that authorities such as CDC and Dr Fauci have reversed themselves. But they have not done so arbitrarily. Rather, they have changed their recommendations as the underlying conditions themselves have changed. Indeed, one of the prime features of science is that it’s self-correcting. Unfortunately, change itself constitutes a major threat to many.

The Virus is a big deal, Period! It’s one of the worst calamities to strike in modern times. It’s responsible for over 4.5 million deaths worldwide. Reducing its magnitude is the only way in which many can cope with a disaster that once again one feels powerless to control. It’s as pure a case of Denial as one could ever find.

So is the attitude that wearing masks is foolish.

Demeaning Dr. Fauci is but another form of asserting one’s significance, and thereby an inflated sense of one’s self-worth.

Lack of concern about others is once again a case of Primary Narcissism. Aren’t we all in this together? Do we really want no one to be concerned about anyone other than him or herself? Society itself cannot exist without concern for others.

The Virus is not the result of “Nature acting alone” for there is no such thing anymore. It’s the case of humans not taking appropriate precautions to prevent animals from all-too-readily transmitting a deadly disease from one species to another. In today’s world, there’s little humans do that does not affect all of Nature. To believe otherwise is another case of Denial.

The last would be laughable if it were not a primary example of Paranoia.

To reiterate a key from the previous blog, the individual arguments/claims are bad enough in and of themselves, but they’re made even worse by the fact that they group together in distinct clusters thereby reinforcing one another.

First and foremost is the Hoax Cluster, namely that Virus is not real, and as a result, not deserving of any, let alone serious, attention. It’s supported by the false assertion that the numbers of people affected are too small for us to worry about. It’s reinforced by the Conspiracy/Paranoia Cluster. Namely, the Virus has been fomented by the Government so that not only can it track our whereabouts and thoughts at all times, but control them and thereby take away our God-given freedoms and rights. The I Know Best Cluster is more of the same. Another is the Invulnerability Cluster, namely that “If in the highly improbable case that the Virus is real, I’m immune to it.” The Product Defect Cluster is the unfounded claim that the Vaccine, not the Virus, is the true danger since it’s responsible for causing the Virus in the first place. In addition, the vaccine has not been tested enough to ensure its absolute safety.

In the end, all of the above and more are testimony to the fact that far more than we’d like to believe, we are under the direct influence of deep Psychological forces which seriously impede our abilities to reason critically. It’s not a matter of hurling quick and easy labels regarding each of the so-called arguments, but of identifying the pernicious forces that keep us from treating the momentous issues facing us with the seriousness they require.

In sum, as a society, we are suffering from deep Psychological issues. Who but our national leaders are available to treat what ails us? But to do so, it requires someone with the stature to bring such issues to their attention.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management.

He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley.

                 He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC.

                  Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley.

He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management.

He has published 40 books and hundreds of scholarly articles and op-eds.

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