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Slashdot reader DevNull127 shares a transcript from a recent segment on CNN:

CNN: Here’s a moral question peculiar to these days: Is it wrong to mock people who publicly crusade against the Covid vaccine, and then die of the disease?

Or does it drive home the message about saving lives?

There are entire web sites that are devoted to such mockery. Sorry Antivaxxer.com gleefully tales stories and photos of anti-vaccine advocates who end up in the ICU, intubated, or dead from the disease.

One recent case of this kind of tasteless taunting spurred two dueling opinion pieces in the Los Angeles Times. Orange County Republican Kelly Ernby, a former assistant D.A. and state assembly candidate who had lobbied publicly against the Covid vaccines, passed away earlier this month at age 46 from Covid complications. She was unvaccinated. Ernby’s death unleashed a torrent of reaction on the internet. On her own Facebook page under a Christmas collage that she had posted, there are now more than 4,600 comments. Some are sympathy notes; many other are not.

In response to the piling on, Los Angeles Times columnist Nicholas Goldberg wrote, “I don’t understand how crowing over the death of others furthers useful debate — or increases vaccination rates.” But a few days later, Goldberg’s colleague Michael Hiltzik published a column expressing the exact opposite. “Mocking anti-vaxxers’ Covid deaths is ghoulish, yes — but may be necessary.” Michael Hiltzik joins me now, he’s the L.A. Times’ business columnist. He’s also a Pulitzer Prize winner. Michael let’s make clear at the outset: you are not talking about the everyday people who don’t get vaxxed, sadly contract Covid, and die. You’re talking about people with a platform, right?

Michael Hiltzik: That’s correct… In my column, I pointed out that the unvaccinated really fall into three categories. There are those who can’t get vaccinated for legitimate reasons — small children, people with genuine medical contra-indications of vaccination. Then there’s a fairly large group of people who I think have been duped into resisting the vaccine, duped by misinformation and disinformation about the vaccines, and sort of nonsense about preserving our freedoms in the face of this pandemic.

The real targets who are important here are those who spent the last few months or years of their lives crusading against sensible, safe policies such as vaccination and social distancing and what have you — and ended up paying the ultimate price for their own — basically, their own folly.

[CNN puts a pargraph on the screen, highlighting Hiltzik’s comment that “Mockery is not necessarily the wrong reaction to those who publicly mocked anti-Covid measures and encouraged others to follow suit, before they perished of the disease the dangers of which they belittled.”]

Michael Hiltzik: You know, we have sort of a cultural habit of not speaking ill of the dead, of treating the good deceased — looking at the good that they’ve done during their lives. I’m not sure that in this case that’s entirely appropriate, because so many of them actually have promoted reckless, dangerous policies.

And as I wrote there, they took innocent people along with them.

So is mockery the only response? Well, I don’t know — but as I wrote, every one of these deaths is a teachable moment. And unfortunately we haven’t been learning from the lesson that we should be hearing from them.

In his column, Hiltzik had argued that “[P]leas for ‘civility’ are a fraud.

“Their goal is to blunt and enfeeble criticism and distract from its truthfulness. Typically, they’re the work of hypocrites.”


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