As a quick recap, the Trump administration and its allies responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by downplaying it, ignoring it, and calling it a hoax. After Trump’s defeat, the right persisted in treating the pandemic as a political game, attempting to score points with their base. While Trump got vaccinated early on, many on the right have embraced a virulent and flamboyant anti-vax position.
At the 2021 CPAC, Alex Berenson accused Dr. Fauci and others of using coercion to try to get Americans vaccinated. Berenson said, “They were hoping, the federal government was hoping, they could sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated.” The crowd loved this, wildly applauding the extensive resistance to vaccination during an ongoing pandemic.
As one would expect, numerous false claims were advanced at CPAC. Scare tactics and appeals to anger were also quite popular. Madison Cawthorn presented an excellent example of using a slippery slope fallacy (claiming that one thing will follow from another without providing evidence for the connection) and scare tactics (using the creation of fear as a substitute for evidence). He asserted, without evidence, that Biden’s plan for community outreach for vaccination could lead to a scenario in which the government “could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could then go door-to-door to take your Bibles.”
While some on the right might feel that this is true because it matches their fevered nightmares of a world that will never be, there is no evidence that the mechanisms used for vaccine outreach could be used for this purpose in any meaningful sense. One could, of course, draw a connection. But one could also argue that having public addresses could be used in the process of seizing guns and bibles. One could even make the claim that the existence of doors allows for this possibility. After all, if we had no doors, then the government could not go door to door to take our guns, bibles, and bible guns.
While one could lay out a legal path for the state going door-to-door seizing guns, this would require that the existing political and legal system be changed in ways that would make it all but unrecognizable. This would require vast political will, the failure of the massive opposition to such changes, and perhaps even a constitutional amendment. While not an impossibility, it is extremely unlikely to happen even over the course of decades. As such, going from vaccine outreach to state seizure of guns is just scare tactics in the form of a slippery slope fallacy.
The claims about bible seizing are so absurd that I should not even need to refute this nonsense. But I will because that is what I do. Bible seizing would face all the challenges of gun seizing, multiplied many times over. After all, this would run afoul of many basic rights and would be vehemently opposed by almost every American—including most atheists. I would say that no one would support this, but as CPAC shows, there are always people who support the stupidest things. Fortunately, almost no one would support seizing bibles.
There is also the fact that about 70% of Americans identify as Christians and leadership positions are dominated by people who at least profess to be Christians. While Republicans clearly do not believe in majority rule, they presumably understand that this fact provides a bulwark against any proposed bible seizing. Who would propose such seizing? Who would vote for the necessary laws? Who would go along with it? The 70% who identify as Christians would not. Hardly anyone among the 30% of Americans who do not identify as Christians also would not. But perhaps Cawthorn is thinking of the power of the 1% (or less) to shape the laws to their will against the wishes of the vast majority. But, of course, he is just engaged in scare tactics. Unless he is utterly ignorant, he knows that America will only see door-to-door bible seizing in an alternate reality.
As always, I do not know if the people cheering at CPAC, and their fellows believe the lies and embrace the fallacies. They might be accomplices rather than victims: evil, rather than merely ignorant.