The forever masking cult is spreading disinformation about monkeypox. They are putting gay men at risk.
How a hyperpartisan online subculture exploits a disease outbreak to further its bizarre ideological agenda and what it tells us about the state of our culture
#MonkeypoxisAirborne and #MonkeypoxisAirborneToo were trending on Twitter for a few days this August, possibly as a result of a desperate attempt by self-appointed pandemic pundits to stoke up fear of yet another dangerous disease to prolong their waning relevance. But unfortunately, these shameless prophets of doom are not interested at all in the facts surrounding the current monkeypox outbreak and are ready to bend the facts to fit their agenda, which is to keep people taking precautions such as wearing masks and maintaining "social distancing" possibly forever and most importantly keep listening to them.
Let us get something straight first. These statements have zero credibility. The hysterics have not presented a shred of evidence for their claim that airborne transmission is a significant factor in the current global monkeypox outbreak. No established health bureaucracy has made such a claim. The CDC does not list airborne transmission on its website. One does not need a PhD in infectious disease epidemiology to safely conclude that if 99% of patients who contracted a virus are of the same gender, airborne transmission may not be impossible but certainly, cannot be a significant factor driving the outbreak. According to the California Department of Public Health, as of August the 2nd, 2022, only 5 out of 1135 known monkeypox patients were female, although women constitute roughly half of the population of that state. Data published by the UK Health Security Agency suggests the same. As of July 1st, there were 1180 males and only five females amongst confirmed monkeypox patients. How can this disparity be explained if airborne transmission is a significant factor behind the outbreak? It seems clear that it cannot, and the only possible conclusion is that while airborne transmission may not be impossible, it certainly is not a significant factor behind the current outbreak. In this instance, Twitter does not appear to be in any rush to label these misleading tweets as false information, let alone take them down, as was the case with certain Covid-related opinions that have since turned out to be true.
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Another claim often repeated online is that it is somehow homophobic or queerphobic (whatever that means) to state the well-known fact that the overwhelming majority of known monkeypox cases occurred in men who have sex with men (MSM). While some homophobic claims, such as unsubstantiated suggestions that exposed children were molested by gay men, were indeed made, knowing the facts about which demographics are at higher risk is necessary to protect these people from the disease. Wherever a vaccination campaign against monkeypox has started, health authorities focus almost exclusively on gay men, and they are right to do so, given the current shortage in vaccines. By creating panic among the general population, these prophets of doom are putting the health of gay men at risk by spreading deliberate misinformation about monkeypox and by encouraging people at low risk to wastefully inject themselves with a vaccine in short supply that sexually active gay men desperately need. As a promiscuous gay man living in Berlin, the epicentre of Germany´s monkeypox outbreak, I must be aware of the fact that my lifestyle puts me at higher risk in order to make an informed choice about whether to go to the bathhouse this weekend as well as about getting vaccinated or not. What I find upsetting is not the public statement of obvious facts but seeing an online cult exploiting the suffering of my friends and lovers. What really offends me, however, is seeing German health minister Karl Lauterbach pushing for 4th doses of a covid vaccine that I do not need as well as renewed discrimination based on vaccination status while the monkeypox vaccines that my community actually needs are often impossible to access. People at risk of any infectious disease who want to get vaccinated should be able to do so, but nobody under any circumstances should be compelled to undergo a medical procedure they do not want or be discriminated against for refusing.
These statistics, as well as opinions of public health authorities who were elevated into the status of a new clergy during the Covid-19 pandemic by the same subculture, are available to the people who are in a hysterical frenzy about the supposed airborne transmission of monkeypox. As with many other falsehoods, some people are keen to believe in it even if, on some level, they know it to be untrue. I do not believe that the problem is a lack of intelligence or access to information. It is an unwillingness rather than an inability to think, a sort of intellectual laziness. The evidence does not matter or the real harm these falsehoods can cause to real people. All that matters is their ideological and moral purity and its most important current symbol, the face mask of secular piety. If you want a picture of the future they want, imagine a KN95 respirator attached to a human face— forever.
It is curious to see a somewhat counterintuitive tendency amongst the authors of some of the most hysterical statements concerning the monkeypox outbreak. A significant percentage of them display Ukrainian flags, rainbow flags, and trans flags in their names, and most list their preferred pronouns in their Twitter bios. Looking through all of them makes me wonder what one's opinion on the war in Ukraine or on trans issues has to do with how monkeypox is transmitted. Why is it that being convinced, contrary to existing evidence, that airborne transmission is driving the Monkeypox outbreak is a strong predictor of being an enthusiastic supporter of trans rights, the Ukrainian war effort or the DNC? Monkeypox is either airborne or not, and in an ideal world where we all inhabit the same objective reality irrespective of our ideological orientation, we would all independently come to one conclusion or another. Instead, there is a tendency to accept algorithmically generated bundles of opinions, leading to the constitution of mutually exclusive virtual worlds inhabited by increasingly homogenised partisan tribes.
Some also appeal to "believing in science", an oxymoron since science progresses by continuously challenging previously established beliefs and thus, it is something entirely antithetical to "believing". As they collectively shout into the digital void, they act as if a hashtag was some magic formula that makes a statement true if tweeted enough times. Their attitude echoes the intellectual cynicism of postmodern philosopher Michel Foucault according to whom "Truth is undoubtedly the sort of error that cannot be refuted because it was hardened into an unalterable form in the long baking process of history."
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