In the U.S., you used to be able to say about liberals and leftists that they defended civil liberties. That’s no longer true in the U.S., but it’s still apparently true in Great Britain. From Glenn Greenwald at greenwald.substack.com:
The term “anti-vax” has expanded so widely that even vaccine advocates, such as Corbyn and trade unions, are now included by virtue of defending bodily autonomy.
The shorthand label “anti-vax” once had a clear and concise meaning: namely, those who reject the prevailing western scientific orthodoxy that vaccines are a safe and effective means of protecting humans against infectious diseases by training the immune system to combat a pathogen in advance. As vaccines become more prevalent against an increasingly wide range of diseases — measles, mumps, polio, chickenpox — a dissenting political and scientific movement has emerged which rejects the scientific premises of vaccines and attempts to persuade others not to vaccinate themselves or their children on the ground that they are ineffective, dangerous and/or motivated by corporate profit rather than legitimate concerns about public health.
But exactly as we have seen with so many other political labels — terrorist, racist, fascist, white nationalist, anti-Semite — this once-descriptive, precise and useful phrase has metamorphized far beyond its original meaning into something barely recognizable or cogent. That transformation has been deliberate, with a clear motive: to weaponize the term into a potent political insult designed to compel submission to decrees from institutions of authority and stigmatize dissenters, threatening them with reputation destruction. The rapid expansion of the term “anti-vax” into a coercive political weapon has been years in the making, but the COVID pandemic was the steroid it needed to blossom into one of the most reputation-crippling labels one can affix to a political target.
Just as is true of accusing people of being terrorists, white nationalists, fascists or anti-Semites not because one espouses views traditionally designated by those terms but as punishment for any sort of dissent, the destructive power of the COVID iteration of “anti-vax” resides precisely in its vagueness, its lack of precise contours, its emptiness and meaninglessness. A term that means nothing can, by definition and by design, encompass anyone and everyone depending solely on the needs of the moment.