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A Shroud Is a Kind of Wrap
A brief note on account of loss
My stepfather passed away a couple of days ago, and his funeral is tomorrow. So this is going to be a briefer-than-usual summary of my week.
My column at The Week this week was about how to handle the burgeoning anti-vaccine movement. My answer: ignore it. Mandate vaccines in situations where there is an operation-specific reason to do so (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, schools, the military). Continue outreach efforts to reduce barriers for those who might get the vaccine if, for example, someone came to their door and offered it to them. But otherwise . . . let people make their own mistakes, and make it clear that that is in fact their right. There’s very little the Biden Administration can do to earn the trust of those inclined to distrust them, particularly when their opponents are determined to stoke that distrust. The people who can do real persuasion are folks like the local pastor, your family physician, your sister, etc. Shaming people is counterproductive and efforts at mass persuasion have reached their limits.
I encourage you to read Michael Brendan Dougherty’s piece in National Review about how to convince the skeptics. But it should be clear that what he’s really talking about is how people who plausibly could earn trust could reach skeptics. For some populations, that may well include Biden administration officials, but for folks in rural Missouri, it probably doesn’t. All the Federal government can offer them is the respect of saying: you are free to refuse. Meanwhile, the challenge for pro-vax conservative voices is that they cannot actually attack the anti-vax opinion leaders without discrediting themselves with the very audience they aim to reach.
I don’t actually think there’s a solution to this problem. Which is why I don’t propose a solution to it.
My one piece on the Substack this week was about conspiracy theories, story logic and whether the shark in Jaws was framed. I had fun writing it. I hope you had fun reading it. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out; maybe it’ll be fun.
The World Elsewhere
Ross Douthat penned a complex and detailed response to my piece about aliens and how they would affect us. In the hopes of contributing to the old blogosphere vibe that I miss so much, I will endeavor to answer him in turn, and in detail, some time after the end of shiva, and after I’ve finished this piece about Hamlet and the Book of Ecclesiastes that I’m behind on. I hope what I write is as generous and thoughtful a response to him as his piece was to me.
Julius Krein, editor of American Affairs, meanwhile, has an essay in The New York Times about unleashing the power of America’s regions that forms a useful companion to my earlier piece in the same series about breaking up the largest states. If we can get David Faris and the folks at Front Porch Republic on board a similar train, I think we can officially say we’re onto something.
May God comfort all those who mourn.