Manipulated perceptions of support for vaccine mandates
How the Canadian trucker convoy may recalibrate perceptions of people around the world on vaccine mandates and the opposition to them
It may seem a trivial detail to fixate on which side in divided issue is more popular — after all, the truth often resides in the minority. However, on matters of virtue and principle, where there is no clear objective truth about which side is right, the perception of which side is more popular can have massive implications for those undecided or in the middle.
This concept of competing factions influenced by the perception of which perspective is more popular, on matters of policy affecting the community as a whole, is called Collective Choice, and is the life’s work of economist Timur Kuran. I would advise anyone interested in this topic to read Kuran’s seminal work on this topic1, but I will highlight here his finding relevant to this topic:
In layman’s terms, what Kuran is saying here is that people will align on an issue based on their perceptions of how other people are aligned on the issue. If you are skeptical that such a whimsical phenomenon of conformity truly exists, then I advise you to watch this clip on the Asch conformity experiment to see just how impressionable people’s beliefs are:
We are social creatures, and our brains are wired to prioritize maintaining our safe position within a society over being correct. Most of us will happily deceive ourselves and others for the sake of fitting in. What does this have to do with the trucker convoy in Ottawa, though?
There is a war going on over the perception of support for the convoy. Justin Trudeau famously said, when the convoy first began, that the group represented a “fringe minority”. It is important to acknowledge that this is not some flippant comment, but rather a carefully crafted message to purvey the impression that most people do not support the trucker convoy.
The purpose this rhetoric serves is to sway the undecided. Depending on the issue, and the amount of time since an issue emerged into the public consciousness, often the vast majority of the population is undecided. The most effective way of persuading the undecided to side with you is not to convince them with data and logic, it is to convince them that they would be ostracized for not siding with you. Most people are not comfortable existing within a “fringe minority” as it is socially isolating and incredibly costly, evolutionarily speaking. We are hardwired to avoid the fringe minority as much as possible. And thus explains the Liberal Party’s quest to persuade the undecided with conformity and manipulation.
If you pay attention to the rhetoric in the mainstream media surrounding the trucker convoy, you will notice this persuasion tactic everywhere. Take this headline from Newsweek as one example, which conflates one’s position on vaccine mandates with one’s personal vaccine status, attempting to shape the perception that 90% of truckers oppose the convoy cause:
And while it has been difficult to gauge a true sense of what percentage of Canadians support the trucker convoy, a new poll from Canada’s largest newspaper, The Toronto Star, may hold some insight. This poll, which has been live for a little under a day now, asks one simple question: “Was Ottawa right in declaring a state of emergency due to the protests?” The results speak for themselves:
After 93,220 votes have been cast, 92% of respondents support the trucker convoy in Ottawa.
The reason this is so important to spread is to remind people that they are not in the minority if they oppose vaccine mandates. And while this one poll is not a conclusive barometer of what percentage of Canadians oppose the mandates, it is an important reminder that there are psychological games being played with our perception of where majority opinion lies.
All you can do now is ask yourself: should people really be required by their government to take an experimental pharmaceutical product that does not protect the people around them in any tangible way, but may instead cause irreversible and even terminal harm to the person receiving it?
Ignore the social pressure behind this question and ask yourself in earnest which side of this issue you want to be on.
Kuran, T. (1987). Preference falsification, policy continuity and collective conservatism. The Economic Journal, 97(387), 642-665.