On “An Epidemic of Hostility”
To the Editor:
When my September 2021 issue arrived in the mail, “An Epidemic of Hostility” by James Grossman immediately caught my eye. I presumed that Grossman would make historically objective observations about the current abrasive social climate in the United States, fueled by political divisiveness, not least of which is whether to accept or forgo the COVID-19 vaccines currently on the market. Instead, to the already mammoth mountain of hostility, he added some of his own.
First, I don’t believe that historians, when communicating as historians, ought to express their opinion. While I agree with Grossman, for instance, that QAnon’s claims are indeed “absurdities,” I would never say that out loud when teaching a class, any more than I would say that Hitler, Stalin, and Vlad the Impaler were bad people. They were, but it’s not my place to say as a history professor, and I would not so opine as an AHA official if I were in that role.
Second, regarding vaccinations, it seems that Grossman hasn’t exercised enough care in drawing some conclusions. He presumes that vaccine hesitancy is solely a consequence of antielitism and ignores renowned immunologists, pharmacologists, and virologists who are skeptical. There are ample testimonies of experts who have made their vaccine hesitancy public. In related concerns, some health experts have discouraged societal lockdowns and contend that most masks are not effective at preventing the spread of COVID.
Moreover, a study of vaccine hesitancy between January and May conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh using self-reported data collected through Facebook revealed that, when classifying respondents by education level, the most hesitant group (or second-most, depending on the version of the data) is PhDs, which is no surprise: after all, they’ve devoted their professional lives to not rushing to judgment until they’ve exhausted the empirical evidence.
There is a great deal more to vaccine skepticism than rash, reflexive, antielitist mistrust of authority. The conspiracy theorists to whom Grossman refers are not a figment of his imagination. But many, if not most, vaccine skeptics agree with much information relayed by “the elites” too.
Constantinos E. Scaros
Tarpon Springs, Florida
Tags: Letters to the Editor
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