Shaming unvaccinated people has to stop. We’ve turned into an angry mob and it’s getting ugly.
Unvaccinated mother, 27, dies with coronavirus as her father calls for fines for people who refuse jab.
This is the kind of headline you may have seen over the past year, an example highlighting public shaming of unvaccinated people who die of COVID-19.
One news outlet compiled a list of “notable anti-vaxxers who have died from COVID-19”.
COVID-19 vaccinations save lives and reduce the need for hospitalisation. This is all important public health information.
Telling relatable stories and using emotive language about vaccination sends a message: getting vaccinated is good.
But the problem with the examples above is their tone and the way unvaccinated people are singled out. There’s also a murkier reason behind this shaming.
Why do we shame people?
Public shaming is not new. It is entrenched in human history and psychology. From an evolutionary perspective, shame is a way of keeping individuals accountable to the other members of their community for their perceived anti-social behaviours.
Philosophers Guy Aitchison and Saladin Meckled-Garcia say online public shaming is a way of collectively punishing a person “for having a certain kind of moral character”. This punishment (or “reputational cost”) can be a way of enforcing norms in society.