Herman Cain Award Reddit Mocks Unvaccinated People Who Die of COVID-19

Herman Cain Award Reddit Mocks Unvaccinated People Who Die of COVID-19

  • The Herman Cain Award subreddit is dedicated to chronicling social media posts from the vaccine-hesitant.
  • Over 300,000 people have joined the subreddit in the last two months.
  • “We just can’t stop watching people suffering the consequences of their actions,” A moderator confirmed the statement. 

On Reddit, users on the “Herman Cain” Award subreddit are openly mocking unvaccinated people who have died of COVID-19.

“Laura didn’t want to hear it from ‘Vaccinated Specimens’ after her daughter elected to get vaccinated without telling her first,” a user wrote in the title of a post that was upvoted over 1,800 times on Tuesday. “She should have listened. Now she’s dead. This is not a rebuke.” 

The Reddit forum, which now has over 330,000 members, describes itself as a place where “nominees have made public declaration of their anti-mask, anti-vax, or Covid-hoax views, followed by admission to hospital for Covid. The Award is granted upon the nominee’s release from their Earthly shackles.”

55% of the US population is vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Mayo Clinic, and 12% of Americans still say they won’t be vaccinated, according to an NPR and PBS poll

According to the CDC, the vaccine is effective against death and hospitalization. 

Reddit hasn’t taken immediate action, but ethicists told Insider the practice is “cruel” and “not ethically acceptable.”

A Reddit spokesperson told Insider in a statement on Monday that it was “closely reviewing the COVID-related communities on our platforms for violations of our policies, including r/HermanCainAward.” 

The subreddit was created in October and grew after most of the country was vaccinated

The subreddit, created in October 2020, started receiving an uptick in users this August, according to the data collection site SubRedditStats. The forum now focuses on stories about unvaccinated people, but it was originally intended to be about those who didn’t believe the deadly disease was dangerous.

Early posts created by founder and moderator FBAHobo were about politicians like Nashville Metro Council member Tony Tenpenny and Arkansas GOP county chair Steven Farmer, who both died from COVID complications. 

The forum’s name stems from Herman Cain, the politician who lost the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 to Mitt Romney and died of COVID-19 at 74 years old in July 2020 weeks after attending a Trump rally without a mask. Cain was not vaccinated as it was not available until December 2020, according to the FDA.

The subreddit is facing criticism for making fun of the dead

Many of the forum’s top posts feature screenshots of Facebook posts from people who say they have contracted the virus, along with a snarky title like, “Antivax guy takes up ICU bed for 7 weeks before earning his award,” and, “It’s all fun and games, until dad gets sick.” 

The social media posts usually contain anti-vaccine or anti-mask claims from a Facebook account with its full name blurred out — Reddit prohibits the publication of private information without consent — along with a post about contracting the virus. Posts receive “nominated” flairs when those mentioned catch the disease and end up developing symptoms, in the hospital, or in the ICU

This subreddit is not just for schadenfreude. Some users claim to have received the vaccine after changing their minds thanks to the subreddit. Those people earn an “Immunized to Prevent Award,” or “IPA.” 

 

Still, the forum is facing criticism.

Lili Loofbourow wrote for Slate that the site is “a place where deaths are celebrated” and that “it’s more horrible than satisfying because the horror isn’t going to stop.” Medical reporters Damian McNamara and Kelly Wairimu Davis wrote on WebMD that the subreddit “turned death notices from public announcements into a cudgel for public shaming of sorts.” 

Director of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at Columbia, Lydia Dugdale, said that while it’s “not surprising that people would delight on the misfortune of others,” the practice goes against medical ethics. 

“We just can’t stop watching people suffering the consequences of their actions, publicly, especially when these deaths are so preventable,” Dugdale claimed. “Delighting in the suffering of others lies contrary to everything medical ethics espouses and certainly it’s cruel that regular people would do this.” 

A moderator for the subreddit said it’s ‘documenting a pandemic of the unvaccinated’

Many followers of the subreddit say the deaths documented there were preventable, with one commenter writing, “despite what some people think, a lot of people would be happy if there was no more fodder for this subreddit.” In an interview with Insider, one moderator of the subreddit, who goes by Rocky Moose online and agreed to speak to Insider on the condition of anonymity due to privacy concerns, echoed that commenter’s point. 

“If you don’t want to see yourself or your family in the Herman Cain Awards, it’s easy,” Rocky Moose agreed. “Go get vaccinated.”

The moderator said that the forum was an expression of frustration over COVID-19 as well as vaccine misinformation. In July, President Joe Biden said that social media sites were “killing people” by hosting medical misinformation related to the virus. 

The forum is “an emotional outlet born out of frustration,” Rocky Moose told Insider. “Emotions aren’t always black or white, good or bad.”

The moderator said the page only includes “the loudest and most public COVID denial or anti-vax sentiments” and maintains that the site exists to show the repercussions of false COVID-19 narratives. 

“COVID misinformation kills. We’re documenting a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Rocky Moose agreed. 

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