Fighting Misinformation One Meme At a Time
April 16, 2021 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Some members of my extended family keep posting anti-COVID vaccination shit on their Facebook pages. What are some good pro-COVID vaccination memes, articles, arguments etc., that I could post on my own page that might help them reconsider, or at least make me feel like I tried to help them see the light? The material I am looking for needs to be accessible for people with a high school education or (functionally speaking) less, so technical articles from medical journals won't work for my purposes.
posted by orange swan to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I hope this isn’t too far outside what you’re looking for, but I’ve seen a bunch of reporting that suggests refuting misinformation, whether humorously or with journal articles, doesn’t persuade skeptics. It’s likely to put them on the defensive and make them dig their heels in. You’d probably be better off learning some Motivational Interviewing skills (there are a bunch of YouTube tutorials) and asking lots of questions about, e.g., what kinds of sources they trust, what fears they have about the vaccine, whether they’re open to considering the vaccine if that’s what will allow them to see their grandkids, etc.
posted by theotherdurassister at 7:21 PM on April 16, 2021 [8 favorites] website
posted by kschang at 9:02 PM on April 16, 2021

pro-COVID vaccination memes [. . .] at least make me feel like I tried to help them see the light?

If you're willing to work under the assumption that theotherdurassister is probably right and you're not really going to convince these people via FB replies & posts, but you mostly want push back for the sake of your own peace of mind & maybe encourage third parties that your anti--COVID relatives are full of shit, maybe take a poke around reddit for sources and ideas - off the top of my head r/WhitePeopleTwitter and r/LeopardsAteMyFace.

WhitePeopleTwitter collects various Twitter posts, mostly snarkily dunking on conservatives, so while at the moment there's a lot about mass shootings and POC shootings and income inequality, there's been lots of stuff about COVID deniers & anti-vaxxers. And Leopards is based on finding stuff from various people who support conservative ideas but change their tune real quick when it affects them personally, so there's lots of posts on mask-refusers & COVID-deniers and anti-vaxxers publicly regretting their previous claims after they've caught it.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:24 AM on April 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

That's what the unfollow feature is for. The only way to win that game is not to play.
posted by COD at 5:26 AM on April 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Sometimes the usefulness is not in convincing the original poster, but in inocculating the bystanders against misinformation. In my experience (not backed up by actual statistically valid studies or data), a kind and gentle approach seems to work best for this. The goal being to register objections, provide correct information, but not get sucked into a contentious argument (my own success at that last part varies). The general approach outlined in the guide to talking with Trumpist family over the holidays that the SPLC published a few years ago should also be relevant in this use case? But for links to the actual correct scientific details, what kschang posted should be good. I've seen some similar sites that are resources for people trying to provide scientifically valid facts - I'll see if I can dig up some of the links I've seen and post them below. (It might be nice to have a general Metafilter resource page that collects such links?)
posted by eviemath at 7:19 AM on April 17, 2021

It’s social media. They do it to rile YOU up, and get YOUR goat. Their motto is “own the libs,” and this is what it means. By replying with earnest pushback, whether in kind or angry words or memes, you will playing right into their disingenuous, conflict-hungry hands, giving them what they want, which is your evident discomfort and sincere efforts to counter their insincerity. Remember, their hero president got the vaccine in private while never encouraging his followers to get it. That’s what this is. Dollars to donuts some of your “anti-vaccine” friends and relatives have actually been vaccinated. The truth doesn’t matter at all, only making you mad that it doesn’t matter matters.

As said above, the only way to win is not to play.
posted by spitbull at 11:28 AM on April 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

If you want to do a bit of work: you could post a picture of this graph of Israel's case numbers, or this one of confirmed deaths, and mark the percentage of adults vaccinated at various points (numbers up to early February available here - I don't have time right now to look for more recent numbers).

It's a dramatic image, in my opinion. If you really want to stick the knife in, you could mark the dates of recent major holidays like Passover, which people got to spend with their families without case numbers going up.

(The earlier times the numbers drop in the graphs are after multiple weeks of lockdown each time.)
posted by trig at 1:59 PM on April 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Here's a good resource site (linked by March for Science): Dear Pandemic
posted by eviemath at 8:37 PM on April 17, 2021

You could DIY and the method I've found working with at least some of the more out there stuff from my family is identifying a belief they have that is relatively harmless (or correct) that is in conflict with the person/group they are following with little critique. Often it is gently poking at the "oh no 5g/toxins/pharma/antivax" crowd by pointing out that person smokes (my mother loathes it) or believes in bleaching everything (she is a big fan of dirt antibodies theory) or has a bajillion devices on display (logic) or also is vegan (she is fairly anti-vegan). If I can work in something about things she is connected to (certain industries and hobbies) it helps too. It might not immediately have an effect but it often plants that moment of critique.

(My best deployment of this is during the Adam Goodes controversy where he was racially abused by the crowd, and snapped back then did a war dance involving a spear throwing gesture at a crowd:

Them: "what a fuckin sook, she just called him names, harden up"
Me: "yeah that not nearly as damaging as imaginary spears"
Them: ...)
posted by geek anachronism at 9:26 PM on April 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all.

So far I've been tailoring my posts to respond whatever others are posting. A relative posted one of those "empty hospital emergency room" photos on their page, and I posted select pull quotes from and a link to a National Post article that explains why such pictures don't prove anything. When the same person posted a meme about how "you may think you've done your research but if you're getting the COVID19 vaccination shot, you *are* the research", I posted a link to a Twitter thread by a doctor that explains how vaccination shots are developed and tested and how safe they are.

I don't specifically reference the other person's post, I don't tag them, I don't respond on their page -- I just post a logical and factual refutation of whatever argument they're making on my own page and hope that they see it. There is one person in particular who posts most of the COVID19 conspiracy crap that I am seeing, and she often responds to things I post on my page, so I think the odds are good that she will see the material I am posting, and maybe she'll learn a little something from it. Other people in my family who have such reactionary tendencies have been "liking" the things I post, so I think that, as someone pointed out above, I'm helping to inoculate bystanders against misinformation. And it makes me feel better to know that I've done what I can.
posted by orange swan at 5:55 PM on April 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I posted this on my FB page today, and can't help but feel a little proud of its pithiness:

COVID19 deniers: "A 1% death rate is nothing to worry about. Everybody's overreacting."

Also COVID19 deniers: "There's a 0.0001% chance of developing blood clots from one of the COVID19 vaccines, and that means all the COVID19 vaccines are unacceptably unsafe!"

#COVID19 #gettheshotifyoucan #doyourparttosavelives

posted by orange swan at 12:09 PM on May 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: In August, a second cousin of mine posted anti-vax photo meme on her Facebook page. I grabbed a copy of the photo meme, drew a red X over it, wrote a critical analysis of it in which I laid out all the reasons it was no proof of nor argument for anything, then posted both the altered photo and the analysis to my own Facebook page, and later to my blog and also to Twitter. As per my usual practice, I didn't refer to my cousin or her post in any way, but she deleted me off her friends list the next day. I rolled my eyes and did my best "Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men" impression, but I can't say I've missed seeing her dumb anti-vax bullshit and duckface selfies in my newsfeed, and I would do what I did again.
posted by orange swan at 9:08 AM on October 22, 2021 [1 favorite] is where a lot of skeptical docs like Gorski, as well as provax activists like Dorit Reiss, posts. They are about all sorts of bogosities not just antivax, but it contains relatively long and very well documented (full of links to actual studies and such) articles and posts about antivax misinformation from a medical skeptic's standpoint.

I've said it on Twitter and I may have said it here: antivaxxers have a general fear of medicine from whatever causes, and that has lead to them believing in multiple adjacent crank beliefs that roughly aligned with their distrust (homeopathy, et al). Antivax is just one of those crank beliefs, and you can't change them without changing their core belief.

Human mind is a marvelous thing, and it can compartmentalize itself so conflicting beliefs can co-exist. That's why a person can be vaccinated against everything else, yet draws a line against COVID vaccination. Some military antivaxxers are caught with this contradiction (they were also vaccinated against a bunch of other things, either at induction or deployment, a minimum of 9, and up to 17 depending on specialty and deployment zone), and their only response was they are making a stand for their freedom or something inane like that.

I don't believe posting memes will ever change an antivaxxers.

But I do believe that posting meme, and countering bogus antivaxxer arguments with facts and studies, will influence people AROUND the antivaxxers are not not ardent antivax, but what are sometimes called "vaccine hesitant". They probably grew up in antivax households or run in same circles, and they know antivax makes no sense, but feel powerless to combat those beliefs. Rebutting lies with facts and studies would help them solidify the doubter's thoughts, so they don't end up an antivaxxer.

So definitely point out the incongruity, cognitive dissonance, and all the mental biases the antivaxxers are using, and maybe tune down the sass.
posted by kschang at 6:42 AM on October 23, 2021

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