Europe’s failure to produce a Twitter or Snapchat endears the continent to me. I don’t think I have ever made an Instagram or Facebook post. I found the last of these companies unctuous and megalomaniacal when it was still linked to Barack Obama’s rise, not Donald Trump’s. The value of such outlets to the world’s brutally governed stops me — just — wishing them gone. It is with no tenderness, then, that I wince to hear a US president claim they are “killing people”. Taste matters: half the point of Joe Biden, who used the phrase twice, is to drain public life of its vitriol.
Truth matters even more. The idea that social media is the source of vaccine avoidance evokes the bots-caused-Brexit hype of yesteryear. It is not just hard to stand up. It suggests a political class in gleeful possession of a villain for all seasons. No doubt, great torrents of cant and quackery wash through Facebook. But so do facts about vaccine efficacy and dispenser locations that might otherwise elude millions of users. To a degree that is almost unique on a public policy issue, the site takes an unambiguously pro-vaccine line. The premise that the bad and the good here nets out in favour of the bad is quite the leap. A less esteemed personage than the president might have been invited to make good on the claim.
“that take-up rates might be worse without social media as a source of reassurance among the liberal-minded.”