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The Ugly Face of Hatred with Dr. Josh Guetzkow (Part I)

How would you feel about someone not vaccinated against COVID-19 marrying a member of your family?

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May 23, 2022

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The Ugly Face of Hatred with Dr. Josh Guetzkow (Part I)

Last week, America’s Frontline News correspondent Yudi Sherman sat down with sociology and criminal justice expert Dr. Josh Guetzkow to discuss a study from Denmark showing that the unvaccinated are among the most universally hated groups in the world.  

The study sought to determine the level of prejudice against people who did not get the COVID-19 shot, which it measured with one simple benchmark: How would you feel about someone not vaccinated against COVID-19 marrying a member of your family?   

The results showed that among 10,740 respondents across 21 countries, people who are vaccinated would not want an unvaccinated person marrying a close relative, which the study classifies as “antipathy”. In fact, respondents had 2.5 times more antipathy towards the unvaccinated than towards Middle Eastern migrants, “a group battling high levels of discrimination globally.”   

Notably, the unvaccinated were found to have no antipathy towards the vaccinated.  

While this antipathy reflects stereotypes the vaccinated harbor, such as the unvaccinated being “unintelligent” and “untrustworthy”, the study found that the main driver was fear of being infected.   

While fear of COVID-19 infection would not naturally cause such fear in humans, Dr. Guetzkow says that the media amplified fear of COVID-19 enough to cause senseless hatred. 

“There's been this full-on, non-stop fear campaign about COVID,” said the Princeton alum. “The media has been spreading so much fear about this.” 

Dr. Guetzkow noted that according to polls, people are likely to over-exaggerate the potential harm of COVID-19. 

“They’re massively overestimating the danger of COVID to themselves, and the only place that they got that idea was the mainstream media. Talk about spreaders of misinformation.” 

The sociologist also noted that in many places in the world, fear of COVID has been split down party lines. 

“Sociologically, one of the things that I have observed is that in most countries the discourse is highly partisan. So, in the US, anybody raising doubts or concerns about lockdowns, about masks, about vaccines is often on the right of the political spectrum, but even if they're not, they're depicted – it's depicted as an opinion of the right wing.” 

Because of the media’s depiction, discussions about COVID-19 are no longer about a disease, but about their political identities. 

But at least there is a divide. 

In Israel, the population is relatively homogeneous in its fear of COVID-19 and support of restrictions. 

“It's interesting because there you don't have that political divide. The left and the right are united in favor of the vaccines, in favor of the lockdowns, etc.,” he shared. “It's just kind of like this ‘lunatic fringe’ that doesn't have a political identity. The anti-vaxxers are completely demonized but they're not associated with like a political figure or political spectrum.” 

What was most surprising to Dr. Guetzkow, however, was how the Israeli government and Israeli people marched in lockstep to demonize the unvaccinated, even after it became known that the vaccinated are just as contagious. 

This is ironic, says Dr. Guetzkow, because of how Jewish people were treated during the Holocaust. 

“If you look at the history of what was the basis for the ghetto in Warsaw – the big ghetto in Warsaw was to stem a typhoid epidemic. And who were the spreaders of typhoid? Who were the main spreaders of typhoid? The Jews. That was what was believed or what people were told, and so all of that dehumanization of the Jews, one of the major pillars of that was that these ‘unclean people are disease spreaders and we need to do something about it’ and the doctors all fell in line. ‘And yeah, we gotta do something about it for the greater good. You know it's for the good of the people.’” 

“It's just been really shocking to me to see how easily that same rhetoric – that basically exact same rhetoric is used to create fear and hatred against people who were unvaccinated against COVID-19.” 

This is Part I of a two-part series on The Ugly Face of Hatred with Dr. Josh Guetzkow.

Josh Guetzkow is a senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research has focused on a range of topics related to criminal justice policy, politics, culture, inequality and more recently, the suppression of scientific dissent.

He did his MA and PhD in sociology at Princeton University, where he received advanced training in research design and statistics. He also completed a post-doc in health policy at Harvard University with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars in Health Policy Program.

Dr. Guetzkow lives in Tel Aviv with his wife and two sons.

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