A recent Herald editorial reflects what is off with our mainstream mindset (“A plea for watchful calm this time regarding covid,” The Herald, Sept. 19). A 2021 MIT/Wellesley College study presents a much different perspective on corona skeptics: “Viral Visualizations: How Coronavirus Skeptics Use Orthodox Data Practices to Promote Unorthodox Science Online.”
The study determined that far from ignoring scientific evidence to argue for individual freedom, corona skeptics mastered critical thinking to engage with publicly available data and make evidence-based counter-arguments. They tended not to rely on expert opinions or claims by authorities, instead utilized conventional methods to make unconventional arguments that challenged mainstream narratives. Corona skeptics mastered taking dry, statistical data and turning it into easy-to-understand data visualizations or visual representations as graphs, charts, animations, etc.
Corona skeptics based their opposition to mask mandates, social distancing and lockdowns on peer-reviewed literature, critical thinking, and state and federal public health data (like the 2020 CDC study on masking) not from engaging in disinformation or conspiracy theories. These skeptical viewpoints came from sophisticated practices of data literacy; including seeing old data anew. In an odd twist, the MIT researchers accused the corona skeptics of weaponizing critical thinking!
Another research finding showed that the level of education of those people who did not get the corona vaccines were people with a high school degree or less, and people with doctorates.
Editor’s note: The journal that posted the “coronavirus skeptics” study notes that the research had not been peer-reviewed and “should not be relied upon without context to guide clinical practice or health-related behavior and should not be reported in news media as established information without consulting multiple experts in the field.” As well, the second study cited in the letter referenced nonpharamaceutical measures, such as masks, for influenza prevention and does not address covid.