Lose Friends And Alienate People With This $623 Anti-COVID-Vax Bootcamp!
As rampant as disinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the vaccines to prevent it are, one would think it wouldn't require much effort to be one of those going around spreading such disinformation if one were so inclined. You could even just make it up yourself, which of course many do.
But if you really want to be the most wrongly informed smug person in your local PTA Facebook group, and you have $623 to spare, there's another option.
For the past few years, Sherri Tenpenny, who is an anti-vaccination activist and osteopath and not a fictional person named in a Tori Amos song like you might think, has been offering a "Mastering Vaccine Info Boot Camp," an intensive eight-week course in which Tenpenny trains the worst people you know in the art of yelling about how vaccines cause autism on Facebook. Now, because she is apparently just very deeply devoted to making people annoying/deadly, she is offering a six-week course in how to say incredibly ill-informed things about the COVID vaccine. Fun!
Recently, some CBC Marketplace journalists decided to take this course in order to find out what the deal was.
The purpose of the course, Tenpenny revealed, is to "sow seeds" for the creation of an army of anti-vaxxers to screw with our chances of achieving herd immunity.
"You're in our choir," Tenpenny told the class. It's those who are on the fence who need to hear the message, she said.
"My job is to teach the 400 of you in the class … so each one of you go out and teach 1,000," she said, encouraging students to "practise in front of a mirror."
"My job and your job and everybody else who does this, their job is to sow seeds," she said in a separate YouTube video promoting the boot camp.
"We're going to build an entire army to stand up and say not only, 'No,' but 'Hell, no.'"
Not only did the course feature Tenpenny sharing her theories on how the only things you need to cure COVID are vitamins and homeopathy, it also featured her partner, Matthew Hunt, sharing his hot tips on how to manipulate people into believing this bullshit.
"Understanding the subjective human experience and how each individual stores their VERSION of information is key to unlocking their mind and building trust … and successfully affecting change with them," his course material reads.
His lessons also encourage students to recognize what type of persuasion tactic is most effective for the individual based on the way the person talks. He slots them into four categories and presents different persuasion strategies for each.
What Hunt is doing is using a theory in the pseudoscience of neuro-linguistic programming called "primary representational systems." This theory posits that one way to build rapport with people is by identifying the sense through which they most frequently process emotions and information. So, like "visual learners" vs. "auditory learners" but more self-help woo.
This is evident in the worksheet cited by the CBC article, in which "Bob and Mary" have a conversation in which Bob fails to convince Mary by trying to show her charts when her "primary representational system" is auditory and thus needs to be told how vaccines are dangerous to her rather than shown. Because, surely, that is the real problem with trying to convince someone of something this stupid.
It may be a fine idea to pay attention to how people learn things if you are trying to impart actual information, but if you're peddling conspiracy theories, it may not work so well. In that scenario, it is more likely that people will not believe you because you are full of shit than because they are auditory learners and you tried to show them a chart.
That doesn't mean this "bootcamp" is harmless — far from it. Because there are, unfortunately, a lot of easy to manipulate people out there, which is exactly why vaccine bullshit and nonsense like neuro-linguistic programming flourish in our society.
In addition to peddling this nonsense, Hunt also claimed in bootcamp that he knows some "hacker-crackers" who are planning to make fake vaccine passports for unvaccinated people, in order to allow them to better endanger people's lives.
In one of the boot camp seminars, Hunt discussed conversations he has had with computer hackers who he says are sympathetic to the cause promoted in the boot camp and want to figure out how to hack digital vaccine passports that some countries might use so that unvaccinated people could circumvent vaccination requirements. [...]
"In the background, these are what the hacker-cracker folks that are really pissed about this are working on," Hunt said during one of the seminars, noting that he hopes they will succeed.
Hunt told CBC in a statement that he is not involved in any hacking or subversion of any systems himself, nor would he support it. However, he said he "can certainly understand why such groups would focus attention in that direction and why they discussed such workarounds."
While it seems unlikely that Hunt is personally in cahoots with any non-imaginary hackers, fake vaccination cards and negative test results are already being sold on the dark web, and faking vaccine passports could mean a lot of money for anyone who figures out how to swing that.
Curiously, while Tenpenny is both anti-mask and anti-vax, she does think that COVID-19 is "deadly" and "a bioweapon." She just thinks it's a deadly bioweapon that can be easily cured with vitamins and magic water. Or just knows that claiming this can earn her a whole lot of money from very gullible people.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse