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Let me start by saying I am no tremendous fan of the Kaiser Chiefs – I have no skin in this game. But I might now give them a closer listen.
The indie-rock band, who have been amusingly rebranded “The Pfizer Chiefs”, have managed to upset and anger a subset of people who (quite frankly) deserve to be upset: the anti-vaxxers. And all because they asked people watching them at the Isle of Wight festival this weekend if they’d “washed their hands”. “Let’s see your hands!” frontman Ricky Wilson bellowed, raising his own aloft. “Are they all clean hands?”
While the latter was woefully unlikely to be true – has anyone ever been clean at a festival? – the crowd played along. To the question, “Are you washing them?” there were loud cheers, and then the real fun started.
“Let me hear it if you’ve had the Pfizer jab!” Wilson crowed, to riotous response. “Let’s hear it for Moderna!” A beat, then: “AstraZeneca?” And, finally: “Let’s hear it for the anti-vaxxers!” – loud boos soared through the crowd. “We’ll be spraying you with gel at the end,” Wilson added, as a thousand fragile egos shattered.
Such disappointment was evident on Twitter, where anti-vaxxers watching at home began doing what anti-vaxxers do best: posting furiously online, sharing footage of the moment, denouncing frontman Ricky Wilson and his band of merry jabbed men as “a cult” (ever predictable, Laurence Fox), shouting in high-pitched voices into the echo chamber of science sceptics.
Some were suitably frothy-mouthed, lambasting the band for “stoking hatred and division”; forgetting, perhaps, the division caused by their own refusal to wear face masks and keep their grannies safe and to actively renounce a life-saving vaccine. Others denounced the band as “evil in plain sight” – if they were a death metal quintet, they’d be delighted.
One particularly spicy tweet compared the moment to the rise of Nazi Germany, which shows us all just how coherent the anti-vax arguments are. Another spat: “I was a fan of yours until this very moment.” I’m sure the Kaiser Chiefs are devastated. And one (presumably former) fan decried them as “an embarrassment to the human race”. Ah, another soothing day at twitter dot com.
— Sara (@Sa32689038) September 19, 2021
There is one disturbing element to all of this, and that’s that the anti-vax brigade really can’t take criticism, can they? They can’t take being challenged on the precarious position of, “you don’t know what’s in it” when they talk about the vaccine; as if they stand and ask the pharmacist for a rundown of ingredients every single time they buy something for hayfever, or a stuffy nose. I dearly hope I never have to stand in the queue at Boots and wait for one of them to personally tick off every single one of the medications listed on the back of a packet of Wind-eze, because they’ve “done research” (here’s looking at you, Nicki Minaj).
There’s also a slightly deeper element that becomes obvious about anti-vaxxers at times like this, though, and it’s got a lot to do with psychology: in getting angry or upset about being publicly shamed for their views, they reveal themselves; they give away one crucial element – and that’s that they feel ashamed of those views. At some level, they know they’re being ridiculous, or scared, or naive. If they didn’t, nothing anyone said (including the Kaiser Chiefs) could affect them.
Such tenuous, precious loyalty – imagine being so unsure of your own stance that you can’t bear to be publicly associated with it; can’t even face listening to the strains of I Predict A Riot any more, even though it was once your favourite song.
I don’t know much of the Kaiser Chiefs’ back catalogue. But one track seems very apt right now, and that’s The Angry Mob: “We are the angry mob/ We read the papers every day/ We like who we like, we hate who we hate/ But we’re also easily swayed.”
Might give them another listen, after all.