The problem with extremists is that they’re ... um extreme

Ideas

The problem with extremists is that they’re ... um extreme

Persuading anti-vaxxers isn’t as simple as posting a Facebook legend. Their distrust needs to be channeled subtly

Columnist

This week, as millions of Facebook users updated their profile pictures to be encircled by the legend “I have a healthy distrust of authority and I’m vaccinated”, it was hard not to wonder if some Banksy-esque hacker had turned the site into a satirical artwork about people who celebrate their status as freethinkers on a platform designed to turn its users into battery chickens.

Still, echoes of Monty Python notwithstanding (“We are all individuals!”), I understand the basic idea behind the new feature, and concede that its cold, dead heart is probably in the right place.

Many of the people delaying, resisting or rejecting the Covid-19 vaccine seem to share a deep distrust of any information that comes from power centres they’ve decided are disdainful of them, and the new whatsit on Facebook is clearly an attempt to sing them a lullaby in their own mother tongue; to tell the nervous swimmer that yes, the sea can be dangerous and should always be treated with caution, but look how lovely it is to go wading in the shallows...

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