How to argue with COVID-19 fanatics over Christmas
It’s Christmas time. A time where families across the country gather to argue with each other over cooked food.
If you are lucky enough to be still able to share Christmas with your relatives (or you’re lucky enough to be of another background to ignore it completely), here are a few tips.
I’m going to share the four “angles” that people take when pushing their COVID-19 arguments. Be prepared for them. Smashed their logic. Like mashed potato. Leave them in tears. Victorious.
I tend to tune out when I hear COVID-19 theories. I totally understand the obsession of those wanting to ‘bring down’ the authorities. And to show that they are right and others are wrong, wrong, wrong about COVID-19.
You know they have loads of science showing why they are correct and why the science is correct. I just tune out. You know why? You want to know what I actually do hear?
Let me share this secret with you…
When I was younger I read a great article from Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich. In this article, Reich provided an interesting insight into the ‘the four narratives’ of the American electorate. These 4 dominant narratives are:
1. Rot at the Top
2. The Hordes at the Gate
3. The Rugged Individualist
4. The Benevolent Community
Let me explain these to you with a brief summary (after I’ll explain how they relate to COVID-19 ‘noise’).
I’m going to explain this through Donald Trump’s campaign. (Please, before anyone writes, ‘I don’t like Trump’ etc - I am using this for educational purposes - as it is easy to understand this technique in action. It’s not a statement either way on Trump).
So let’s explain briefly.
1. The Rot at the Top.
This is the idea that people ‘at the top’ - politicians, bankers, big Pharma - who ever is at the top - is corrupt. This would include anyone at the top of any organisation. School principals, your basketball coach, or the tax office. I’ve found many ‘poor’ people - i.e. people with less money than everyone else with no money - hold this view. It is essentially jealousy. It usually manifests in whining about the rich, about government decisions, or scientists. For instance, Donald Trump's ‘Drain the Swamp’ is classic Rot at the Top. The idea is that Washington/the elites are corrupt, and need to be replaced.
2. The Hordes at the Gate.
Next, is the narrative of Hordes at the Gate. This is the classic ‘in-group’ and ‘out-group’ dynamic. The ‘in group’ pumps up a negative and often ridiculous view of the out-group. The Hordes at the Gate is a classic fear-based perspective. This could be terrorists, different cultures, unvaxxed - a scapegoat, in other words. For instance, Donald Trump used ‘the hordes at the gate’ declaring Mexicans as ‘rapists’ (i.e they are coming to get you).
3. The Rugged Individualist.
This romantic narrative is the one against the many. It is often revealed in the ‘American Dream’. Where one who gets ahead does so with individual effort and hard work. Australia has a similar view. If you don’t whinge, and just get on with it, then you are doing okay. For instance, Donald Trump would talk about his individual achievements and successes - classic rugged individualist.
4. The Benevolent Community
The final narrative is the idea that there is a benevolent community that looks after everyone. Most social movements are based on the ideal of the ‘benevolent community’. This is where people are all kind and hippy and lovey-dovey. They are part of a community with shared beliefs and values (even if they aren’t really, they can pretend). For Trump, this is ‘MAGA country’ and the ‘patriots’. So when we look at COVID-19 debates, conspiracies, scientific arguments etc, in most cases, these can be traced to one of these 4 narratives.
How people describes COVID-19 usually reveals a larger thinking about the world: - Do they see corruption everywhere (rot at the top)?
- Do they see COVID-19 spread by anti-vaxxers (hordes at the gate)?
- Do they see COVID-19 as an attack on individual rights and choices (the rugged individualist)?
- Do they see their side (vaxxers or anti-vaxxers) as the ‘good guys’ and having truth on their side (benevolent community)?
Listen as people speak. You’ll see how fascinating it is, and how very little most people know about themselves.
Always learning and listening - happy cakes to you today.