Move over Lil Nas X, it seems the neuvo-Satanic panic has expanded beyond the artist's controversial "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" music video, maneuvering its way into the public health sector?
In yet another instance of far-right conspiracy theorists continually failing to understand the basic tenets of science and public health best practices amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Georgia representative and notable QAnon fan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, has taken to social media to speak out against the concept of vaccine passport, using *checks notes* the Devil and “corporate communism” as a few rationales for her crusade.
“They want you to be required to have something called a covid passport,” Greene said during an 18-minute live stream published to Facebook. “This would mandate your ability to be able to travel, your ability to be able to go to events and your ability to buy and sell, and I asked the question earlier today ‘Is this something like Biden’s mark of the beast? Because that is really disturbing and not good.’” She continued. “It’s still fascism, or communism, whatever you want to call it, but it’s coming from private companies,” Greene said. “So, I have a term for that. I call it ‘corporate communism." … Okay then.
However Greene's baseless tirade didn't stop there – the politician doubled down on her sentiments shortly after, taking to Twitter further decrying the idea. “NO VACCINE “PASSPORTS'!” Greene wrote, alongside an article detailing Flordia Governor and doppelganger to every 80's movie bully, Ron DeSantis's recent announcement of his plan to ban vaccine passports. "We need this in Georgia"
With immunization efforts underway across the nation in an attempt to bring back some semblance of pre-pandemic life, the concept of a “vaccine passport” has been tossed about as a potential solution. A post-pandemic-version of vaccination cards, “Vaccine passports are essentially a verified way of showing that people have received immunizations,” The University of California, San Francisco's infectious disease expert, Peter Chin-Hong explained to Smithsonian magazine last week. Although the concept has already existed for some time, with travelers adhering to a similar protocol proving that they were vaccinated against diseases such as cholera or yellow fever when visiting certain regions, some experts say a vaccine passport for Covid-19 may help bring back “normal” life.
Although several countries including China, Greece and most recently, Japan, have embraced the concept in various ways, the logistics of how vaccine passports would work in the U.S. are still up for debate. There are several challenges to navigate in implementing such a system (for instance, who would design and implement this program), especially considering the Biden administration recently said they're leaving this one to the private sector and the companies navigating these programs earning the trust of Americans, who are “scarred from years of headlines about data scandals” of their credibility, according to CNN. Even so, many experts say these documents could play an integral role in ending the pandemic, according to Insider. "Vaccine passports, if done right and done equitably, can be way to help us get back to normal more quickly. It can make all the things we love to do safer: travel, going to a sporting event, getting back to work," explained Lawrence Gostin, director of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center. "What we've seen in this pandemic is that anything can be politicized, whether it's a mask or vaccine, whatever it might be. But the truth is that vaccines are not only our best way out of this pandemic, they're our only way out of this pandemic — because it's clear that we can't change our behavior."
Now, reader, I know what you're probably wondering – how, exactly, does the Devil and “the mark of the beast” play into this whole debacle? The short answer is that it doesn't. The debate surrounding vaccine passports aside, this is far from the first time bar codes have been nonsensically equated with “the mark of the beast.” For decades, a baseless urban legend has existed around the invention of the Universal Product Code (the numbers you see underneath the lines that make up what a ‘bar code’ actually is): these include allegations that the three thick lines appearing in the front, back, and middle of the code represent sixes, the fact that George Joseph Laurer's first middle and last names each have six letters, and basically grasping at straws to find meaning in numbers and symbols where there is none.
“Revelation is the final book of the Bible’s New Testament, and among other things, it foretells an apocalypse in which a beast will rise from the earth, rain fire from the heavens, and lay his mark on all of humankind — a mark used to buy and sell," read a 2012 Wired article on the subject, as accessed through the digital archive, Wayback Machine. “When the first UPC scanners arrived in the early 1970s, according to various IBMers who worked on the project, there were protests at grocery stores — even though the codes appeared on Coke cans and jars of applesauce, not right hands and foreheads. And in the years that followed, an urban legend arose, warning gullible types that the number 666 was hidden in each bar code. George Laurer — who designed the bar code as we know it today, expanding on Woodland’s original idea — once received a letter via registered mail from someone who claimed to be Satan and asked Laurer how it felt to have carried out his orders,”
However, it seems the inventor was not too happy with this nonsense. "All of this is pure bunk,” Lauer once said, “and is no more important than the fact that my first, middle, and last name all have 6 letters.”
So as the debate surrounding how best to implement vaccine passports continues remember – bar codes are not satanic, vaccines and masks are crucial in ending the pandemic, and far-right conspiracy theorists touting outdated 70's hoaxes are not credible sources for medical advice (who would've thought?). The modern Satanic panic, folks!