Bill Gates and the Vaccine Frame Game

Bill Gates and the Vaccine Frame Game. By Thomas Harrington.

A few weeks back, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Bill Gates said … that the Covid vaccines do not block infection and that the duration of whatever protection they bring to the table is extremely short.

He later talked … of the absurdity of implementing any … measure to segregate the vaccinated from the unvaccinated — when the injections have shown no ability to do the least that one should expect from a vaccine: prevent infection and transmission. …

Why the sudden change in messaging? They are reframing after a defeat. They were wrong.

He was speaking to the fellow true believers and providing them with a rhetorical model for handling the loss of faith some among their ranks are having in the face of the vaccines’ abject failure.

The key to understanding the frame game here is the clause Gates uttered right before the “but” with which he introduced his truthful words about the “vaccines” pitiful infection-blocking capabilities and short duration of effectiveness: “The vaccines have saved millions of lives.”

Those familiar with the work of cognitive linguist George Lakoff, or the activities of pollster and so-called political wordsmith Frank Luntz will know what I’m talking about.

What these two men have in common — despite their divergent political allegiances — is their belief in the extraordinary power of rhetorical framing; that is, the tendency of the human brain to subordinate the careful analysis of empirically proven details to the embrace of an overarching cognitive metaphor that appeals to their deeper, if often unstated, cultural and emotional values.

It’s the difference between, for example: “The US invaded Iraq on false pretenses and destroyed it, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people.” and “In its efforts to bring democracy to Iraq, the US made a number of tragic mistakes.”

The first states a bald empirical truth. The second obfuscates that crude reality and subordinates it to the noble vision, so cherished by Americans when contemplating their role in the world, of a country that is constantly helping people around the world to better their lives.

And with widespread imposition of mental frames like this through the media, “poof!” go all the gory, on-the-ground details, and with them more importantly, the need to actually interrogate what we did and how we might seek to repair the lives we broke.

Going back to Davos, Bill was effectively saying to his minions, “You are on a great moral crusade. We’ve had some small problems along the way, but don’t give up, because the world needs us to continue to be heroic and save more lives.”

And with that cognitive frame in place, any creeping doubts those in the audience might have about what they have done, and their future mission, disappear just like that. …

US administration:

We see the same gambit used when the US government inevitably links the apparent waning of the pandemic to the use of vaccines. Here, for example, is what the CDC said to CNN shortly after lifting requirement that US citizens be tested before returning home from foreign travels:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has now shifted to a new phase, due to the widespread uptake of highly effective Covid-19 vaccines, the availability of effective therapeutics, and the accrual of high rates of vaccine-and infection-induced immunity at the population level in the United States. Each of these measures has contributed to lower risk of severe disease and death across the United States.”

It’s no accident that the first factor adduced to explain the onset of happier days, the one that sets the frame for all that follows, is the “widespread uptake of highly effective Covid-19 vaccines.”

The goal here — as it was in the case of Gates at Davos — is to preserve, in the face of abundant empirical evidence to the contrary, the frame that presents the forced administration of vaccines as the great slayer of the pandemic and gifter of our vanquished freedoms, and to turn that suggestion into an established fact through constant repetition. …

Their new falsehoods:

But, of course, neither Gates’s claim about the vaccines saving “millions of lives” nor the CDCs’ assertion that “widespread vaccine uptake” was the key reason for ending the pandemic are established facts. Far from it. Indeed, there are no scientific studies that l know of capable of authenticating either claim. But that’s just the point. …

Overton window:

Unfortunately, most citizens are still not clued in to how it operates in their lives. Verbal details such as the ones cited above matter because they play an enormous role in establishing and maintaining what the now sadly tarnished Chomsky once brilliantly called the field of “thinkable thought” in our public discussions.

The big convenient claims, confidently proclaimed with the full weight of media and government authority. Probably rubbish, like the previous claims.

I wish they’d just admitted it by sticking to the old formula when found to be wrong: “mistakes were made.”