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Vacuums can create ‘conspiracies’

A recent letter from reader Roger Boulter expressed, among other things, an intense dislike of the term “anti-vax”.

I, too, am no fan of this term. While I don’t believe it’s “hate speech” as Boulter does, it is invariably deployed in a derogatory manner – and often so inaccurately as to be defamatory.

I know a few people who chose not to get the covid-19 “jab” and the majority of them are not anti-vaccination per se. They’d just weighed up the apparent risk-reward profile of this particular medical intervention and decided that, given the public health promise of protection against infection and transmission had completely failed to pan out, they’d take their chances with the virus, thanks.

By my lights, that appeared to be a reasonably rational decision that should’ve been no one else’s business, and certainly not one that put their jobs at risk or marked them as “anti-science”, “selfish”, or “alt-right”.

That said, a few of the refuseniks I know would qualify as what’s referred to as “conspiracy theorists”, insomuch as they saw the pandemic response as the tip of the spear of a shadowy agenda of centralised global control.

Personally, I don’t find this idea especially likely, given the level of coordinated competence it would require [I mean, have you met people?] but my distaste for the term “conspiracy theory” is on a par with “anti-vax”, on the basis that it’s an imprecise description thrown around to shut down discussion about a range of topics.

And the problem with that is it creates an information vacuum plenty of people with a variety of motives [some benign even if misguided, others not so much] are only too eager to fill.

It actually creates the environment in which the misinformation we’re constantly being told we’re supposed to be terrified of can flourish [as Star Wars’ Princess Leia once observed in a slightly different context, “The more you tighten your grip … the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”]

There’s currently something of a smorgasbord of subjects the presumptive powers-that-be routinely refuse to discuss in any meaningful way, thus stoking suspicion.

The idea there’s a not-so-secret “co-governance” agenda is a case in point.

For far too long, Labour refused to engage with questions about why it insisted its reform of New Zealand’s ageing infrastructure requires a greater role for iwi in the way water services are run, with the strong implication that to even query this was racist.

Coming about the same time as government agencies suddenly adopted te reo names and state broadcaster TVNZ began cramming Māori phrases into already breakneck-paced weather bulletins, it’s unfortunate but perhaps understandable that some people would leap to the conclusion this was the thin edge of the wedge of a more profound, unheralded change.

The irony [in my view, anyway] is that these communication cockups have helped create an antagonistic national mood that will encourage many citizens to support the new censorship system proposed by the Department of Internal Affairs that, if adopted, will increase exploitable information gaps, cause more division, and round and round the metaphorical drain we’ll go in increasingly divisive circles …

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