It’s a bright Saturday morning from your childhood. You’re once again a seraph-faced fledging, sitting down for your weekly date with the spastically violent and high-culture homaging Looney Tunes. Enough sugar to wipe out scads of Sahelanthropus courses through your bloodstream, courtesy of a gaudy box of diabetes-inducing, factory-milled cereal. The screen fizzles on. There’s a thump, followed by a painful shout. The scene clears. A diminutive man in chinos and a Banana Republic button down is lying prostrate, stars dance above his head. Bugs Bunny leans nonchalantly against an upturned mallet, holding a carrot but uncharacteristically not nibbling on it. Then comes the punchline: “Eh… what’s up, Doc? Not you!” The prone figure raises his hand before muttering, “Just two years to flatten the curve…” Bugs tosses the carrot aside and gives the downed figure another THWACK. “And that’s for the signatories of the Barrington Declaration!”
So maybe that particular cartoon isn’t from the days when animated anthropomorphic animals could blast each other’s heads off with 12-gauges without a Karen calling 911 on the FCC. But it’s a scene that has verboten meme virality written all over it because of one prop: the daucus carota our scampy wabbit snacks on.
If pink pudenda pillboxes symbolized Trump resistance, then the familiar orange root vegetable is the unspoken token of vaccine skepticism. And it’s not because carrots share a similar shade with Donald Trump’s epidermis.
The BBC anxiously reports that stupid, superstitious, disinformation-gorging, anti-vaxxer Faceboobs are getting around the multi-billion-dollar platform’s censors by using the carrot emoji as a place marker for “vaccine.” That way, these mischievous miscreants can undermine medical authorities, typing malicious things such as “don’t 🥕 me, man!” or “a 🥕 a day keeps Big Pharma paid” or, in channeling their best Michael Richard impression, “these 🥕 are making me thirsty!”
I know what you’re thinking. This is not the work of irreverent internet imps raising innocent hob. These postings are a threat to public health! They’re a disease within our corpus sanitas. No leniency must be given, no trolls will be trolls. Forget Zero-COVID, we need a vigorous, no-quarter policy of Zero-Vax-Misinformation. Call Mark Zuckerberg! Call Merrick Garland! Call the HHS head who has no actual medicinal experience! Call up those insolent heads at Warner Bros. and have them arrested along with their science-defacing creation, Bugs (baptismal name “Happy”) Bunny! And for Pfizer’s sake, splash some cold water in Doc Fauci’s face and get him back
in front of CNN’s cameras to work!
For those of us not suffering from long-term COVID psychosis, you may just chalk the whole emoji-code roguery to a big shrug. So what if shot dodgers are telling each other to refrain from bolstering their immunity against a now-endemic virus? It’s only their funeral if they’re horrendously obese or suffer other comorbities. Otherwise it’s their flu-neral.
The rationale for policing anti-vax rhetoric dropped out as soon it was apparent the mRNA vaccine did little to stem transmission of COVID viri. The shot is purely defensive. SARS-CoV-2 still triggers breakthrough infections, regardless of how many boosters you’ve subjected your deltoids to. Hence, all the vaccine drives and Hollywood preachment and Twitter shaming in the world won’t stuff Wuhan’s little lagniappe back in the box. Like the QVC non-refundable juicer your in-laws got you for Christmas, COVID is here to stay.
So why is Auntie B clenching her doilies over a few Facebook scalawags using veggie-encryption who pose no harm to anyone but themselves? Well, the Brits’s lack of a First Amendment has led to the Orwellian jailing for wrongthink. Internet trolling of protected classes—read: gender and racial minorities—earns you a trip to the gaol. Healthism is an offshoot of the collective identitarianism obsession—an intense, irrefutable focus on the self. The logical outcome is that both are rigorously overseen by unofficial social media hall monitors. Don’t you dare misgender anyone, and don’t you dare type “myocarditis” in the “Seniors of Boca Grande” Facebook group—science brooks no dissent!
That the BBC, the largest news broadcaster in the world, devoted time to the utterly benign carrot-talk of fringe Facebookers is both remarkable and a hopeful lesson. Despite the crackdowns, the squelching of dissent, the muting, the non-servium ultimatums, and overall banishment from the digital public square, the tech overlords still can’t snuff the flicker of dissent. When words were banned, symbols were adopted. When the carrot emoji is eventually nixxed, another vegetable, or fruit, possibly animal, will take its place. The very human need to prick holes in overarching authority will keep asserting itself.
“Shower on him every blessing, drown him in a sea of happiness, give him economic prosperity such that he should have nothing else to do but sleep, eat cakes, and busy himself with the continuation of the species, and even then, out of sheer ingratitude, sheer spite, man would play you some nasty trick,” wrote Dostoevsky.
Two modern leviathans—Big Pharma and Big Gov—worked in quick concert to produce a medical miracle to ward off a deadly disease. Many, including this author, donned the antigen armature. A small minority refused, invoking the ancient right of free conscience. They were unfairly demonized, and continue to be pushed to the fringes, some to the point of losing their livelihoods. Yet they continue to hold out against the most powerful institution in society: the tech-gov-med complex. Like underground Bible studies in communist Czechoslovakia, or the graffiti taggers in North Korea, vaccine skeptics wage war against private tyranny through their own semiotic samizdat.
To them, I raise a 🥕 in solidarity. Theirs is a bigger and more necessary fight than T cells reenacting the Battle of the Black Gate with COVID’s spike proteins. As usual, your mother was right: carrots do help your eyesight, helping you see what’s truly important in a free society.