George Orwell once said, “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” His point has been proven for him a hundred times over, not least in the past few weeks, as Dr. Joseph Meaney shows his July 30 article “The Rhetoric of ‘Vaccine Hesitancy”. Dr. Meaney, who serves as president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), explains how the ideologically charged language already being used against ordinary people who haven’t accepted a COVID-19 vaccine. Such language serves as a means to corrupt public feeling towards these persons, with a view to segregating and dehumanizing them.
By now we’ve all heard the phrases “vaccine hesitancy” and “vaccine hesitant” a hundred times. The notion of hesitancy, Meaney says, indicates that the unvaccinated are undecided as to their course of action, and are “in need of persuasion or even coercion from authorities who know better.” It implies that people who haven’t taken a vaccine haven’t thought the issue through and made a personal decision in light of all known factors. Instead it portrays them as “trapped by irrational fears” in a state of inaction or ignorantly opposed to science. It’s strongly suggested that such backward and weak-minded persons are worthy of contempt, especially compared with the enlightened, confident people who signed up for the vaccine immediately.
Now, suppose you disagreed strongly with Dr. Meaney’s piece. Would you go out of your way to make his case for him—o demonstrate that such emotionally charged language actually is intended to stoke popular feeling against people who aren’t vaccinated?