Reddit’s Herman Cain Covid ‘award’ is a depressing sign of our times

The more and more in style r/HermanCainAward subreddit on is a distressingly predictable signal of America’s conflict-filled occasions. The subreddit, which now has upwards of 340,000 followers, “celebrates” these “who’ve made public declaration of their anti-mask, anti-vax, or Covid-hoax views,” solely to die from Covid-19 or Covid-related problems. (It’s named for Herman Cain, the previous GOP presidential candidate and businessman who died from Covid-19 problems in 2020 after attending a Trump marketing campaign rally in Oklahoma.)

Consideration has not surprisingly centered on the minority of People who’ve, for numerous causes, refused to be vaccinated.

With many areas in america nonetheless struggling to regulate this plague, consideration has not surprisingly centered on the minority of People who’ve, for numerous causes, refused to get vaccinated. A darkish and sardonic nook of the web, the r/HermanCainAward subreddit captures the fashion and outrage of presumably vaccinated, mask-wearing people, lots of whom have both been contaminated with Covid-19 prior to now or have watched family and friends grow to be sick — and even die.

This push to enjoy schadenfreude, and to assign collective blame, is comprehensible and greater than a bit anticipated, particularly on the web. However this so-called award additionally captures the collective lack of empathy that colours so lots of our political and private conversations proper now. Like troopers who’ve been skilled to see their enemies as lower than human, we’ve forgotten that those that disagree with us are, regardless of every thing, nonetheless individuals.

I personally perceive the fashion. I’ve watched good buddies, colleagues and household — vaccinated, cautious and common masks wearers — grow to be severely sick with breakthrough Covid infections. It’s infuriating to assume that every one the steps you are taking to remain secure might be rendered meaningless as a result of some inconsiderate, misinformed or deliberately hurtful particular person has refused to take their very own precautions.

Psychology has a reputation for the phenomenon that happens after we see any single particular person or group of individuals as all good or all unhealthy. It’s known as splitting, and it’s typically an try and make ourselves really feel much less weak. “If I’m good, and also you’re unhealthy,” the pondering goes, “then I’m the one who’s in the proper, and I’ll be nice.” However splitting doesn’t bear in mind the truth that all of us have each good and unhealthy qualities; that all of us harm and are harm by each other. {Couples}, as an example, typically use splitting to guard themselves throughout battle. “He did this” and “she all the time does that” is code for “I’m good and he/she’s unhealthy.” One of many first issues {couples}’ therapists typically attempt to do is to assist every accomplice verbalize their very own ache, whereas concurrently recognizing their counterpart’s ache as nicely.

So if the purpose of those commenters is to specific fury or get revenge, they appear to be succeeding — not less than if the subreddit’s recognition is any indication. But when the purpose is to alter habits, we have to do some extra pondering. A number of the anti-vaxxers are, after all, merely misinformed, frightened or each. A lot worse, nonetheless, are those who’re old style bullies.

So if the purpose of those Reddit feedback are to specific fury or get revenge, then they appear to be succeeding — not less than if the subreddit’s recognition is any indication.

As Signe Whitson, who wrote “8 Keys to Finish Bullying: Methods for Dad and mom and Faculties,” writes in her Psychology Right now weblog: “Bullies function by making their victims really feel alone and powerless. Youngsters reclaim their energy after they make and preserve connections with devoted buddies and supportive adults.” The Herman Cain Award is a manner of connecting with a bigger group, and offering a way of well-being and energy within the face of animosity.

However Whitson and different specialists on bullying agree with Chrissy Scivicque, the founding father of, who says, “The trick is to stay well mannered {and professional} whereas nonetheless setting your limits firmly. Do not let the bully get underneath your pores and skin — that is what he needs.”

Certainly, one large drawback with responses just like the Herman Cain Award is that they really reinforce the splitting phenomenon. Now we’re both the indignant, imply, and ugly ones, or we’re the perpetual victims. There must be a greater approach to stand as much as anti-vaxxers.

Perhaps a simpler response can be to create a website that introduced the tales of people that have died as a result of they didn’t get vaccinated or put on masks alongside the tales of people that took precautions however grew to become severely sick (or died) anyway. Such a website, which may additionally promote acceptable measures for survival and care, wouldn’t get as a lot visitors. However pondering optimistically, it’d assist change the minds of those that really don’t imply to trigger struggling to others, and who usually are not maliciously motivated. And it will even be a manner of expressing a number of elements of a tough, complicated, and harmful state of affairs.

For these whose intentions are extra hate-filled, authorities intervention and laws may, after all, make a distinction. Vaccine mandates appear to be working to this point. However barring that, many native communities are taking a stand. These of us who proceed to put on masks, even when ridiculed, are additionally quietly preventing bullies. It’s not as dramatic a technique because the Herman Cain Award, however I’ve a sense that it’s extra profitable at selling change.

In the end, the Herman Cain Award fulfills a primal want to say, “I informed you so.” And it’s a foreseeable web response to feeling powerless within the face of a harmful, vocal minority. However dehumanizing each other won’t heal the cut up between anti-vaxxers and mask-wearers, or between the political proper and left. Lots of the tales on Reddit describe the unhappiness, confusion and ache of people who realized they have been dying. Turning them into demons who “received what they deserved” may reinforce the hatred that’s already dividing households, communities and actually our whole nation. And that divide may in the end flip us all into troopers, preventing a struggle that we’ll all lose.

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