Why The Expert Class Is Incapable Of Persuading People To Get Vaccinated

Why The Expert Class Is Incapable Of Persuading People To Get Vaccinated

Nicki Minaj is not a doctor. She is not a scientist. It’s probably safe to say her cousin’s infamously impotent friend is not a medical expert either.

So when, as Minaj tweeted, her cousin said his friend became impotent after taking a COVID vaccine, the burden rests on medical experts to prove and explain to him the vaccine’s safety. Average civilians do not have the expert knowledge to evaluate the safety of everything that goes into our body, from food to medicine, which is why we task trusted experts under the authority of elected officials with guiding us. Most of us have no choice but to rely on them as a filter.

So what happens when the trust is gone? Minaj’s cousin’s friend is an extreme example, but an instructive one. Her skeptical cousin needs to trust someone with expertise to explain why his friend’s condition was not caused by the vaccine and to explain why the vaccine is safe.

The medical and scientific community has met that burden for most American adults, but is still failing with around 25 percent of them. Inevitably, some percentage of conspiracy theorists will always remain impervious to reason and expert opinion on such matters. There’s no convincing everyone. Experts are also allowed to make mistakes, which can be mitigated by transparency and improvement.

But our expert class has a responsibility to be credible and persuasive because they are who non-expert civilians rely on for trustworthy information. It may be true that we’re all more prone to disinformation and conspiracies right now in this age of institutional distrust (take a look at how many Democrats believed Russiagate!), but that does not relieve the expert class of their burden. It makes their work harder, sure. But it also makes it more important.

It should go without saying that force and condescension are not persuasive. They are, however, methods of deflection for a hubristic establishment that believes it’s being failed by the public and not the other way around. They do not appreciate how consequential their flip-flop on masks was or their flip-flop on slowing the spread or their personal hypocrisy or their mixed messages on vaccines. It’s incontrovertible that if our experts and authorities had conducted themselves more capably over the last 18 months, Minaj’s tweet would risk scaring fewer people.

I’m vaccinated and I hope my loved ones are too, but when the people we have to trust to give us good information seem to be hiding things, changing their minds, and politicizing facts, it’s not unreasonable for non-experts, especially healthy ones, to decide the cost-benefit analysis suggests it’s best for them to just wait. The key to changing their minds is not condescension, derision, and coercion. Having failed to persuade as many people as they’d like, that’s what the expert class is resorting to.

This is not healthy. It’s reflective of an elite that is woefully unqualified to lead the public over which it exerts increasingly more control. What’s worse, the current policies and rhetoric indicate this problem of incompetence and obstinance is only going to continue deteriorating.

Emily Jashinsky is culture editor at The Federalist. You can follow her on Twitter @emilyjashinsky .
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