Culture War Battlefronts Part 5: Vax Edition

Hey beautiful people,

Daniel Kazandjian and I presented at the “Becoming a Live Player” course from Rebel Wisdom on Tuesday. The workshop was on mental models and how to effectively use them. It can be watched here …

As mentioned in the video, Daniel and I are embarking on a super-secret project, where we will finally be releasing a lot of the hyper-practical tech that we have been experimenting with over the last 6 years of us masterminding together.

I cannot reveal anymore now, but you can show your interest in the project here:


June 25, 2021

Okay, fine. I will journal about vaccines.

I listened to Bret Weinstein’s recent appearance on Joe Rogan the other day, and they mostly discussed an alternative treatment to vaccines (Ivermectin), but also touched on the COVID lab leak hypothesis and adverse effects to vaccines. Given he was on Rogan’s podcast, one of the most popular podcasts around, this is indeed a culture war issue that is now hard to ignore. 

I’d say that this issue is situated on the “institutional knowledge versus stigmatized knowledgeculture war battlefront. Institutional knowledge is truth-claims coming from institutions that the public (traditionally) relies upon for truth validation, and stigmatized knowledge is truth-claims that come from outside of institutions. Doing some sensemaking into this battlefront, here are nine argumentative dispositions that I see existing on the vax issue …

Vax Evangelist

Vax Advocate

Vax Compliant

Vax Aporetic

Vax Hesitant

Vax Apathetic

Vax Recusant 

Vax Critic

Vax Conspiracist

I would say that not all of these positions are presenting—philosophically speaking—sound arguments, which is to say that they are not presenting arguments with all true premises.  Most of them do have arguments though, with various degrees of persuasive power. I will briefly define each position below …

Vax Evangelist: Those who advocate the vaccines, in a zealous way, oftentimes via shaming tactics.

Vax Advocate: Those who advocate the vaccines, with reason, done in a good faith or bad faith way.

Vax Compliant: Those who take the vaccine for reasons other than first-principle thinking, e.g. peer pressure, nudging, wanting things to open up, etc.

Vax Hesitant: Those who are temperamentally hesitant in taking the vaccine, and might have a “via negativa” argument, which is an argument for being hesitant to take it because they have a lack of an argument for taking it, perhaps due to lack of awareness, trust, or understanding.

Vax Aporetic: Those who have an openness to most positions, but who are currently facing “aporia” about what to do.

Vax Apathetic: People who reject the vaccine due to a general sense of being apathetic to most issues of public concern, similar to those who are apathetic about voting. 

Vax Recusant: People who reject the vaccine due to knee-jerk rebellion against authority. This usually comes from young men.

Vax Critic: Those who critique the vaccines, with reason, done in a good faith or bad faith way.

Vax Conspiracist: Those who critique the vaccine, and consider it a part of a wider conspiracy aimed towards creating a centralized top-down control structure.

Presenting these positions side-by-side is not an act of “allsidesing” (the metamodern version of “bothsidesing”), where all sides are presented as equally true. They are not equally true, but if my sensemaking is correct, these are all active memetic agents in the noosphere.

Now, if you are just watching legacy media on only one side of the political spectrum, or following a few podcasts situated in only one memetic tribal constellation, then you're probably plugged into only one of these positions, or viewing narratives through a binary. 

An interesting aside here, I am seeing this battlefront interact with the woke and anti-woke battlefront of the culture war. At least in Canada, vax hesitancy is prominent amongst Black Canadians for example, hence I am noticing a cooling down of shame-tactics coming from the vax evangelists types, who are often white and very woke friendly.

Overall, I see many people becoming tribal around this issue, which is predictable, especially given the existential threat that a pandemic can bring through its first, second, and third-order effects. The science is way above most people’s paygrade, so most people are outsourcing their sensemaking to others, and from what I see, many people do not have a well-reasoned outsourcing methodology.

They either knee-jerk agree with taking vaccines, or knee-jerk disagree with taking them, then find whatever voice that supports the direction that their knee is jerking towards. This is a mix of motivated and emotional reasoning of course. So, this begs the question, what does a Stoic do?

Well, this might be wild to say, but I recommend not being myopic here, and view this pandemic—which is just one facet of the meta-crisis—as a forcing-function to get sensemaking and choicemaking right for the long-haul.

So how do we get this stuff right?  I do not know. That is why I am here, trying to figure it out. But here is the direction I am taking: private sensemaking squads that have all three epistemics in the game.

I have a local squad here in Toronto that helps me sensemake this issue, and many other issues, in a way that includes methodologies in first-person epistemics (intrasubjective), second-person epistemics (intersubjective), and third-person epistemics (objective). This is helping me make considered choices in the spirit of festina lente.

This is at the edge of my thinking now: I wonder if I can help create an open-sourced psychotechnology for “sensemaking squads,” so anyone who is called to sensemake well with others can adopt the psychotechnology. 

This psychotechnology will include intrasubjective modalities so that people do not get amygdala hijacked “out of their bodies,” aka become disembodied, when dealing with difficult topics. This will also need to include intersubjective modalities, so that all active positions can be understood in a good-faith way, and perhaps also to facilitate strategically communicating complex issues in a public way, if need be.

Epistemic modalities will be needed as well of course, like techniques taken from Street Epistemology, and rationality modalities, like the toolbox of psychotechnology that the fine-folks the Center for Applied Rationality have to offer.

Sensemaking in the clearnet is becoming a dangerous game, getting your ass cancelled and accidentally releasing info hazards are failure modes here; not to mention all the disinfo, incentive structures and memetic coercion happening in the open. It is not the ideal place to figure out what the fuck is up and what the fuck to do about it.

I sense wisely sensemaking and choicemaking in a dark forest is the way for us to rediscover how to virtuously navigate reality.


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