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Hi and welcome back! Yesterday, we checked out Patrice Lewis, one of many Christian COVID denialists screeching about vaccine mandates nowadays. She definitely has a lot of claims to make about COVID — though unfortunately not a single one appears to be true. Alas, she’s a wingnut who’s fixated on pandemic conspiracy theories. And like all wingnuts, she has lost the ability (if she ever had it) to discern objective truths from ear-tickling lies. Today, let’s see how wingnuts like Patrice Lewis assess truth claims in the first place. They do it a lot differently from reality-based people, and I think it’s important to lay that information out before we dive into her specific claims.

(Russell Moore. This is not OUR Russell Moore. It’s someone else with the same name.) Credit: Russell Moore / Unsplash

(Previous posts about Christian COVID denialists: QAnon Lies and People Die; A Taste of Accountability for Jim Bakker; Donald Trump’s COVID Denialism; COVID Denialists Are Dying of COVID Now; Why COVID Denialists Are Humanity’s Griefers; Control: How COVID Denialists See the Pandemic; The Three Stages of COVID Denialists’ Prayers. Previous posts about wingnuttery: The Problem of Wingnuts; Why Wingnut Beliefs Only Multiply; That Oogly-Boogly Feeling. Also, I don’t like using scare quotes. Any quotes you see in my work come from actual quoted material, unless otherwise noted.)

The Important Thing to Know About Christian COVID Denialists: They’re Wingnuts.

As we discussed yesterday, Christian COVID denialists are simply toxic Christian wingnuts who’ve fixated on the pandemic as one of their causes.

Wingnut Christianity is filled with people like this, but they don’t all fixate on the pandemic. Think of it like a hand in Uno, with each card in their hands representing one particular conspiracy theory. Other cards represent conspiracy theories about the United Nations (UN), public education, the Rapture and Endtimes, preparing, or “prepping,” for the end of the world, liberalism, women’s rights, LGBT bigotry, antisemitism, Satanic Panic concerns, and many more. Wingnuts have simply added a card to their deck to represent pandemic-based conspiracy theories. (Yes, they do overlap a lot.)

And just as we see in the real game of Uno, there is always room for more cards in a player’s hand.

It’s even a meme now, so it’s real.

Except wingnut Christians aren’t actually trying to get down to just one card in their hand. It’s perfectly okay to hold a hand of dozens of cards.

And as wingnuts, these Christians absolutely cannot use real-world methods to ascertain the truth of a claim they encounter. They can’t. Their authoritarian Dear Leaders know what would happen if the flocks ever did that. The flocks’ faith would likely collapse almost instantly!

So in lieu of these real-world methods, wingnuts’ leaders have taught them blahblah like other ways of knowing — and these ways, by wild coincidence, fully support the wingnuts’ claims when all those meaniepie naysayers reject them!

Antiprocess Keeps Wingnuts’ Faith Pools Full.

A while ago, we talked about antiprocess. Antiprocess is the set of mental defenses people deploy to keep themselves from engaging meaningfully with information that challenges them. When antiprocess shields are fully operational around a person’s mind, that person literally might not even be able to understand what the challenge even is. They just react in a kneejerk way.

Sometimes you might talk to someone who disagrees with you and come away thinking that person didn’t even really understand your point, or they talked right over you, or they invented a strawman version of your challenge to attack, or simply ended the conversation with a thought stopper, or whatever else. Chances are you encountered someone using antiprocess.

And it can happen to just about anybody. All that’s required is that the challenge happens around a claim the person feels strongly about, one way or another.

Some people react like that to literally any challenge. Others only react like that to challenges to very particular beliefs.

It’s important to remember that once antiprocess shields kick in, that person is now fighting defense. People who are reacting defensively can’t actually engage meaningfully anymore. Their mental resources have become completely focused on winning that challenge.

So by deploying antiprocess, most wingnuts won’t even get as far as needing to reach for their more overt attacks on contradictions to their claims.

How Wingnuts Assess Claims.

Once they enter the fray, wingnuts have a lot of ways of neutralizing any contradictory information that floats into their field of view. Wingnuts’ leaders indoctrinate the flocks to distrust and despise real-world methods of verification and discernment specifically for this purpose.

Wingnuts will attack the source of contradiction first (or the contradicting party’s sources), then attack the imagined motivations of this contradiction to their beliefs, then use emotional manipulation and logical fallacies on anything left over. (Many Christians call that last defense apologetics, interestingly enough.)

So in order for wingnuts to accept any claim as objective truth, it must:

  • Come from a source the wingnuts like and think supports them, or at least be endorsed by one
  • Flow from a place of friendliness to the wingnut’s tribe
  • Support their goals
  • Flatter their self-image
  • Improve the wingnuts’ grip on power over others
  • Most importantly: Not contradict or criticize existing wingnut beliefs in any way, only expand the claim outward a bit further

This is why wingnuts rely increasingly on extremist right-wing news sites — and QAnon of all people — for their information requirements.

ron watkins, qanon creator
Reminder: this guy invented Q to troll people — and probably never in a million years expected it to go 1/100th as far as it has.

Nothing else fits their stringent requirements or is willing to fit into their Happy Pretendy Fun Time Game. Luckily, plenty of disreputable sources are willing to do both.

So anything else gets rejected.

Why a Wingnut Rejects Valid Information.

Legit information sources are just too liberal for these snowflakes, which means those sources aren’t subservient to the wingnuts nor parroting only that which supports wingnut beliefs. The rest of us, thus, become super-big meaniepies for insisting those sources are valid.

But wingnuts won’t even see that information unless it’s shoved in front of them. Left to their own devices, wingnuts seek out only information sources that already completely support their false claims, which use sketchy anecdotes or fabrications to further build up their audience’s faith in that claim.

No matter how poor a source of support something might be for their claim, and no matter how sparse that support might be amid an ocean of claim-shattering information, they’ll grab onto it with both hands.

(We saw that happen when Jim Bakker began promoting false cures/preventives for COVID-19. His sources were shockingly poor support for his claims, but his flocks ate it up. He only stopped promoting snake-oil cures publicly when the Feds ordered him to.)

So wingnuts accept information and trust it because it confirms their beliefs, and it confirms their beliefs because that’s the only way it gets trusted and thus accepted.

Wingnut beliefs are self-reinforcing.

The Self-Reinforcing World of Wingnuts.

It all kinda comes down to circular reasoning, eventually. But wingnuts’ leaders are quick to tell the flocks, for example, that circular reasoning is A-OK as a means of establishing the validity of claims. And that’s when the leader even understands what “circular reasoning” means in the first place. Many don’t.

Other wingnuts insist that everyone assesses ALL claims the exact same way they do. Perhaps in the moment, they even believe this is so. It wouldn’t shock me. We’ve seen wingnuts assert much the same thing about everyone being secretly religious just like they are. It’s the Law of Conservation of Worship all over again.

In short, it is completely impossible to change a wingnut’s mind with objective evidence. Their faith pool, so to speak, is full to overflowing and bursting from all the sources they mistakenly think support their claims about the belief.

Draining the Faith Pool.

Until wingnuts realize independently that those sources aren’t actually valid support for the claim, they can’t turn those pipes off and start draining the faith pool.

And until that pool starts to drain, the belief can’t topple. Once the pool drains, the belief can’t help but topple. But a wingnut will only rarely get to that point.

I should know. I was one of ’em, once. And I wasn’t stupid. I was indoctrinated, and that made a big difference. As I learned better about what made for valid claims, my faith pool emptied by itself.

NEXT UP: Now, let us turn our attention to Patrice Lewis’ particular claims. Where possible, I’ll be naming the source of the claims and why she accepts that source as valid. See you then!

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...