For the past several months, jokes about the Corona vaccines have been flooding the social media. All of them have the same common denominator – feeding on fear. Up until the last few days, fear of the new vaccines was laced with healthy humor, some of it appearing in short videos that brought smiles to viewers' faces, at least until we got heartily sick of the same jokes repeated over and over.
This week, however, almost every digital media source decided to switch the light humor for the threatening music of horror movies. When the results of the Pfizer trials were published, for example, these digital savants sent ominous pushes announcing that two of those taking part in the trials died after being vaccinated.
Up until now, the half-joking, half-seriously expressed fears of the vaccine concentrated on the possible growth (tails?) and possible loss of body parts, but then those sites sent us to the no-go zone of extreme existential panic – the fear of death, no less.
They carefully hid, deep inside their articles and posts, the fact that four participants who were given the placebo also died after being vaccinated, although they had received no vaccine and were not in danger from its effects. And another most important detail that they forgot is that we are talking about 6 deaths out of 43,000 people in the trial group. In other words, the death of participants, some of whom had serious diseases beforehand that they may have died from, are not Corona-related.
Millions of the world's citizens who, since last March, have found themselves diving into existential depths – financial, psychological and of course, health-related, – had just begun to glimpse the morning star of Moderna and Pfizer rising and glowing ever more visibly in the heavens, but then along came those people who always insist on only seeing eclipses of the sun.
The fear of a needle entering our bodies with a vaccine created using a new method may be understandable, but nevertheless, getting vaccinated is unavoidable. With all due respect to lockdowns and regulations, all because some Chinaman succeeded in paralyzing an entire world and causing the death of masses of people, it is quite clear that return to the life we once knew will only be made possible the day the Pfizer and other vaccine needles provide us with immunity.
As usual in the digital universe, most media audiences read only the superficial headlines before panic has them running amok to hear the prophets of doom. Most of them probably did not bother continuing to read the posts to their balanced and rational second parts. Website editors knew to expect that. The hysteria they worked hard to awaken soon joined that of the professional Corona-deniers, who have been occupied for months driving the frightened, vulnerable public away from doing anything that might alleviate the pandemic.
This hysteria may cost us immeasurably more lives than the statistically negligible probability of being harmed by the vaccines. But so what, the main thing is that website owners have a large number of clicks entering their sites to read the hysterical doomsayer headlines.
In another half year, it will pose no problem for these sites to post an item about the irresponsible citizens who did not get vaccinated – and rake in profits from another large number of clicks.
Media responsibility? Selecting articles on a rational basis for the good of the public? Not on our watch.
And don't bother trying to arouse their consciences, when they have carefully seen to it that the true data are there, just like the small print in those long, draconic and dangerous contracts we are often forced to sign.
Orly Goldlang is Deputy Editor of "Makor Rishon" weekly Hebrew newspaper. She also serves as the editor of the “Dyokan” (Portrait) magazine section, and served as deputy editor of the political section.
Translated with permission from Friday, Dec 11th's Makor Rishon, by Rochel Sylvetsky.