Anti-Vaxer Wins the Battle

You Are Now Enlisted in Helping Science Win the War

In a recent online event, a graphic was posted to introduce the speakers of a COVID19 vaccine panel.

In the first 30 seconds a remotely-controlled cursor festooned the graphic with swastikas and grade-school-quality penis line art. The audio belched forth misogynist filth and racial epithets. The screen was commandeered with a pornographic video. A thought bubble over one the seminar’s presenters was stating, “I hate n — — rs.”

Red ink is mine. Leaving the words is just so much more visceral, but I can’t do it

Be disgusted. Understand the climate of thoughtful pandemic science communication in the Zoom Era.

The presentation was arranged by Dr. Miriam Fein from the Science Advocacy of Long Island (SALI). I was one of the speakers. All of us volunteered our time in the interest in promoting better public health, and pushing back against copious disinformation around SARS-CoV2 and its impending vaccinations.

The audience was good, over 50 at the start. Dr. Fein moved quickly and attempted to somehow mute the invading channel, but we had a strange glitch where nobody was the host, suggesting that the disruptive idiot somehow had control of the meeting.

Eventually she announced to check the SALI website for more information of where we would reconvene there. Five minutes later we were back online with a secure channel.

But with only 20-some participants.

The audience for free webinar about the current health crisis shrunk by more than half because of an invasion so vile that those interested in the science did not want to risk returning. Some attendees were clearly younger, perhaps in high school. I could understand a parent’s trepidation with the threat of gutter opposition to science communication.

The event was originally advertised far and wide through social media and we fully anticipated that there would likely be disruption. Questions for the panel submitted ahead of time also suggested a conspiratorial, non-scientific sentiment would be present.

That’s fine. I’ll take them on any day. Science ju-jitsu uses the opponent’s momentum against them, and I’m wearing a science black belt. We change hearts and minds best when dissenting opinions are engaged with grace.

That is why the disruption was so offensive. It was not about providing thoughtful opposition. It was about ensuring the event did not happen, that conscientious viewers would not enjoy access to the best scientific information.

It was about separating ideas from those that wanted them. Silencing science.

It was not about thoughtful debate, it was about deliberate disruption to interrupt information flow. Welcome to another reminder of our lives in the current hot climate.

How to fix it? We can lose a battle and win the war. Take this opportunity to forge your disgust into a new commitment to translate the science of the pandemic. Engage. Share information. Help others talk to family, friends, and other dissenters.

I apologize to all of those that had to endure that painful minute.

Don’t think of those moments as a way that a disruptive anti-vax hate monger defeated a science communication event — think of them as a corrupt movement waving a white flag. They are so defeated with logic, reason and evidence that their only tactic is to stop logic, reason and evidence from being disseminated.

Go share science.

The information above is the personal view of Dr. Kevin Folta as a private citizen and does not represent the University of Florida, its faculty, staff, or students. Please direct complaints to him directly and not to the university.

Land-grant scientist exploring ways to make better food with less input, and how to communicate science. All funding at kevinfolta.com/transparency