Citing their skepticism of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, protesters throughout the nation have demanded an end to government-mandated closures. By ignoring social distancing guidelines, their outlook is clear: They do not believe health experts.
Despite large crowds, polls suggest few citizens share their view. A recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 61% of Americans support government efforts to contain the coronavirus. Another 26% said they believe restrictions should be sterner. Only 12% argued against the measures.
So what inspires this vocal minority to reject science? The answer is complicated. Generally speaking, nobody enjoys restrictions. During an era where instant gratification is expected, the coronavirus pandemic is especially difficult to bear.
In an article published by The New Yorker, Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard University professor, addressed the subject of scientific rejection. According to her theory of implicatory denial, anti-shut down protesters do not reject science as a discipline. Rather, they “reject scientific findings” because [they] don’t like their implications.”
The argument for implicatory denial is compelling. Think about it; most people seek medical treatment from health professionals. Their reliance on doctors indicates a trust in science. But when undesirable facts surface, defiant thoughts emerge.
Quite often, defiance is rooted in fear which manifests into anger. And with millions of Americans unemployed, the sense of dread is palpable.
Protesters accused government officials of tyrannically infringing on their rights. This claim is propagated on social media where conspiracy theories abound. Because government efforts to mitigate the coronavirus are based on science, the medical community is vilified.
“You come up with excuses not to accept the thing that you don’t want to accept,” Oreskas said.
Dare I say alternative facts?
Regardless of one’s motivation, the right to protest is a tenet of our democracy even with anti-shutdown sentiments. However, protesters do not have a right to spread infectious diseases through irresponsible behavior.
Nevertheless, we cannot lose sight of reality. When paranoia trumps logic, decision-making is impaired. During a public health crisis, logic is our strongest ally.