Friday, May 14, 2021

How Movements Gain Traction

Today's post is the usual article dump.  (Links at the bottom of this post!)

One thing I'd like to emphasize, though, is that these two articles were pretty difficult to write.

One is about the history of Star Wars Day (aka, "May the Fourth Be With You"), a fan holiday that exploded in popularity and led to an actual, official holiday in the span of only a few decades, and the other is about a new cryptocurrency.  Now, I'm not a big fan of Star Wars (I've only seen the six "main" movies and none of the shows or new movies), and I'm also not very polished on what crypto is or how it works.

But that's not why it was hard to write these articles.  I did my research.  In fact, I put a lot of effort into these articles because of my lack of knowledge and interest for the subjects.  The result was, in my opinion, a couple of solid pieces about recently popular movements that have pretty fascinating backstories.

The reason it was hard for me to sit down and get it done was because one of my closest friends got radicalized into a totally unrecognizable person, and it's put me into a very bleak mood.  The last few weeks have had a gloomy shadow of depression over them that's made nearly every part of my life into a chore, even the parts I usually enjoy, like writing.

I'll make a long story short:

The friend in question (whose name I won't give on my blog) has been one of my best friends for about ten years and was in my wedding party.  She is like family and I love her.

I've been posting lots of pro-vaccination memes to my Facebook page, mostly because I just got my second shot and I'm excited about it.  (As of this post, I am pfully vaccinated.  That's a little vaccine pun for you.)

Anyways, out of nowhere, (or perhaps in response to all of my Facebook memes), my friend sent me and my husband an e-mail with a link to a full-length film called "Pushback: The Day The World Stood Together" with the note "All I ask is that you view it to get the other side [sic] view."

You can pretty much skip to any part of the film and find something to be offended by.  It's chock-full of anti-vaxx rhetoric founded on bad-faith arguments, misrepresentation, science denial, fear-mongering, and outright lies. The central thesis seems to be that "the government is trying to control us."  But it's also full of contradictions.  It's what I call a "scattershot" conspiracy, the kind where you can pick and choose what parts you like: maybe the pandemic is manufactured or was planned, or maybe it doesn't exist at all; maybe the vaccine was rushed or doesn't work or does work but with "side effects."  It's inconsistent fear-mongering designed to rope in the largest number of people possible.  Like a horoscope, it uses vague language to appeal to a large demographic who, if they are already inclined to believe it, can find a part to latch on to (and ignore the rest).

Adding insult to injury, both me and my partner are microbiologists, whereas our friend is in the entertainment industry, meaning she's potentially a super-spreader.

After she sent me this, I waited a few hours, then sent her back a very short and blunt e-mail telling her that it was dangerous propaganda, that it was harmful to vulnerable populations, that I personally was horrified by what I saw, and that I didn't think it was "another side" or a "difference of opinion" because it was outright science denial. I told her that, to me, science denial, like racism, is absolutely indefensible. It's a "hard limit." I can't abide it.

Her response was to delete me from her social media entirely and then e-mailed my partner (not me) that it had been nice knowing us

My partner e-mailed her back saying that, whatever I said that upset her, we're two separate people, so he would like if she didn't treat us as a single entity. Furthermore, he doesn't understand why she's severing such a close friendship without even picking up the phone to see if it can be salvaged. She replied back saying "Toni's mind is made up."

Fun fact about her using the feminized version of my name: it isn't even my birth name.  About a month ago I posted on Facebook that I'm a big enough person to admit that seeing my name misspelled as the feminine version is one of my absolute biggest pet peeves (and, frankly, insecurities), and that I take it very personally, especially on social media, where you can see how my name is spelled.

This was not a typo. She did it on purpose to be petty and hurtful.

She has never, ever been cruel to me.

My partner asked her several times if she would be willing to meet him in the park for coffee or something to try to talk things over, especially regarding this documentary.

Her response was, "On May 15th I'm going to a Pushback rally in Denver."

Not sure what she's pushing back again since, at the time I'm writing this, Los Angeles has opened back up and mask restrictions are being lifted in response to everyone getting vaccinated because it's the ethically correct thing to do.

She did eventually send me an e-mail stating her concerns over FDA approval and the idea that the vaccine is still being "tested."  I asked where she gets her news and she avoided answering, so I think her conspiracy-minded thinking goes deeper than she's willing to admit.  

"People have died from the vaccine," she stated.  Which is technically the truth, in the same way that people die from shark attacks and hang-gliding accidents, but she's one of those "I refuse to live my life in fear" folks and I feel like she should recognize that obviously, Covid has a MUCH higher death toll and long-term side effect issues than the vaccine does.

But it's not really about the vaccine.  It's about some personal sense of control and obstinate self-interest.  After all, if it were only about medical concerns, she could be convinced by talking to her two microbiologist friends.  If it were only about "side effects" she never would have made it personal.

I was hurt by her passive-aggressive remark and it's not for the reason she thinks.  It's not because I'm that upset that she misspelled my name.  It's that she did it out of anger, to hurt me.  That has nothing to do with the vaccine.

Anyway, I'm trying to keep my chin up and focus on the things in my life within my control.  

And so, to that end, here are two articles I wrote recently:

 The History of Star Wars Day

Chain Cryptocurrency: Integrating Crypto with Gaming

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