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Analysis: Ben Shapiro’s Inexcusable Vaccine Hypocrisy

Right-wing provocateur and podcaster Ben Shapiro has been an outspoken opponent of COVID-19 vaccine passports, arguing within the last week that businesses that require people to show proof of inoculations are creating a dystopian system of “social credit” and that vaccine passports are the equivalent to the Nazis asking Jews to show them their papers.

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

“I think this is a predicate to what comes next which is the sort of social credit system where businesses are going to start, basically, carding you for a wide variety of social sins. This is just the beginning,” Shapiro said on The Ben Shapiro Show on August 6th.

Then, on August 10th, Shapiro falsely claimed that “the police are just walking up and down the street and they’re literally just checking people’s papers. I mean, I find that disquieting, don’t you? That doesn’t seem great. Especially because, again, in a free country people should not be checking your papers to determine whether or not you’ve gotten a shot in your arm. This is madness at this point.”

But Shapiro was not always so gung-ho about the theoretical relationship between individual liberty and vaccine mandates, and his 180-degree shift is a testament to the modern conservative movement’s unnecessary and dangerous politicization of programs designed to protect public health.

In 2015, Shapiro penned an editorial in Townhall entitled Anti-Vaccine Fanatics Kill in which he railed against parents who refused to vaccinate their kids against diseases such as Measles, Mumps, rubella, polio, and whooping cough.

Townhall is a right-wing publication.

At the time, Shapiro lauded the successes of mandatory vaccinations to prevent devastating illnesses:

Young people don’t remember a time when such diseases claimed lives. They don’t remember a time when the vast majority of Americans weren’t vaccinated. Older people do. Many of them lost loved ones to polio and measles and mumps and rubella. In 1952, over 3,000 Americans died of polio and well over 21,000 were left with mild or severe paralysis. Thanks to Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine, there have been zero cases of natural polio in the United States since 1979.

The same is true of measles. According to Dr. Mark Papania of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 90 percent of Americans suffered from Measles by age 15 before widespread vaccination beginning in 1962. From 1956 to 1960, he reports, ‘an average of 542,000 cases were reported annually.’ That included 450 deaths per year, as well as 150,000 cases of respiratory complications and 4,000 cases of consequent encephalitis per year, many of which resulted in later death. Then mandatory vaccination kicked in. Until a major upswing in 2014, we averaged less than 100 cases of measles per year in the United States since 2000.

In fact, he was a proponent of getting shots into the arms of as many people as possible:

The point of mandatory vaccinations is not merely to protect those who are vaccinated. When it comes to measles, mumps, and rubella, for example, children cannot be vaccinated until 1 year of age. The only way to prevent them from getting diseases is to ensure that those who surround them do not have those diseases. The same is true for children with diseases like leukemia, as well as pregnant women. Herd immunity is designed to protect third parties.

But Americans have short memories and enormous confidence in junk science. Parents will ignore vaccinations but ensure that their kids are stocked up with the latest homeopathic remedies, Kabbalah bracelets and crystals. St. John’s wort, red string and crystals all existed before 1962. They didn’t stop the measles. Vaccination did.

That doesn’t mean that all vaccinations should be compulsory, of course. There are certain diseases that can only be transmitted by behavior, like HPV. There are others that are too varied for effective herd vaccination, like the flu shot. But when it comes to measles and mumps and rubella and polio, your right to be free of vaccination — and your right to be a dope with the health of your child because you believe Jenny McCarthy’s idiocy — ends where my child’s right to live begins.

So, what happened? What changed?

Right-wingers willingly nosedived into a dizzying downward spiral of paranoia, pseudoscience, and destructively sanctimonious grandstanding when Joe Biden – a Democrat – was elected to the presidency in 2020, defeating Donald Trump in a landslide that triggered a plague of COVID-19 conspiracy theories, election fraud lies, and unsubstantiated allegations that the various coronavirus vaccines are riddled with risks.

And that was before the hyper-virulent Delta variant began its unstoppable blitz through the population.

The “your body your choice” messaging that Shapiro and his Republican brethren are constantly promulgating is prolonging the pandemic, stifling the recovery of the American economy, and costing lives. Moreover, given the GOP’s militant opposition to women’s bodily autonomy, same-sex marriage, and the inevitable legalization of marijuana and other medicinal psychedelics, it is transparently hypocritical.

Americans treasure their individual freedoms – and rightly so – however, they are accompanied by an unwritten social contract of personal accountability and respect for other people. There is simply no excuse for the United States to still be the world’s worst COVID hotspot, and it is entirely the fault of Shapiro and his like-minded flock.



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