How Orwellian Changes to Language in the COVID Era Have Manipulated the Public

(AP Photo, File)

The COVID era has undeniably changed our country. Gross abuses of power in the name of “public health” have occurred with a shockingly low level of resistance. People living in fear have given up their rights at the mere thought of catching a disease with a 99.99% recovery rate for most healthy people. We were forced to stay away from friends and family, and businesses couldn’t open. In addition to the fascistic deterioration of our rights and freedom, we also witnessed Orwellian changes in language. Some changes are more innocent than others; nevertheless, together they contribute to a disturbing picture of just how willing those with power are to manipulate the public.

Below, I’ve compiled the top five examples of recent redefinitions of words/phrases in the COVID era.


Most of us understand that an “anti-vaxxer” is a person who opposes vaccination, often because he or she believes vaccines to be harmful. Not according to Merriam-Webster, which defines an “anti-vaxxer” as “a person who opposes vaccination or laws that mandate vaccination.”

So while I support vaccinations, have been vaccinated, and had my child vaccinated, I am, according to Merriam-Webster, an “anti-vaxxer”?

I’m cheating a little on this one because while some have suggested that this definition is a recent change, it appears that Merriam-Webster, which has a history of revising definitions to be more woke, has always defined anti-vaxxer this way. I’ve included it in this list because it reflects the chilling way the gatekeepers of language try to change how we think.

Merriam-Webster seems to stand alone in this case, as Oxford,, and MacMillian don’t include opposing vaccine mandates in their definitions.

Social Distancing

Last year, the message for keeping safe during the pandemic was clear: stay home if you can, social distance in public, avoid crowds, etc. etc. People were terrified. According to government recommendations, visiting with or being near people who didn’t live in your house could put you at risk. Various social distancing guidelines barred people from even gathering in large groups outside.

Little did we know that people participating in racial justice riots were somehow immune to COVID and exempt from these restrictions. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was panned for violating his own social distancing requirement by participating in a Black Lives Matter protest and a rally celebrating Trump’s apparent defeat in the 2020 election. While the general public was told not to hold backyard barbecues, visit playgrounds, attend outdoor church services, or even hold funerals, if you wanted to protest the death of George Floyd, social distancing requirements were irrelevant. You had a free pass. Public health experts even issued guidelines in support of this.

Close Contact

Speaking of social distancing, we all remember that being socially distant meant keeping six feet away from people not in your household. Similarly, the CDC said that if you were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 you would need to quarantine and get tested. “Close contact” was, for a time, defined as spending 15 straight minutes within six feet of a COVID-positive individual. But the CDC eventually revised that definition to mean fifteen cumulative minutes over a 24-hour period.

According to the Associated Press, the change was made in response to a report of a 20-year-old Vermont correctional officer who tested positive for COVID despite wearing a mask after having “multiple brief encounters with six transferred prisoners before test results showed they were positive.”

Related: Here’s What Women Need to Know Before They Give ‘Informed’ Consent for the COVID Vaccine


The most recent redefinition happened in the past couple of weeks when the CDC watered down the definitions of “vaccine” and “vaccination” to suggest that vaccines no longer produce immunity to disease, but merely “protection” from a disease. While some argue that the new definitions are more accurate, the timing suggests the change was politically motivated. While the public generally understands that vaccines aren’t 100% effective, and some even require boosters to maintain protection, the federal government is not only trying to sell COVID booster shots to the public, but is also creating a panic over breakthrough infections—despite the fact they are extremely rare.

Herd Immunity

This might just be the most disturbing one of them all. The World Health Organization once defined “herd immunity” to mean “the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.”

But in late 2020, the World Health Organization redefined “herd immunity” as “a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.” The WHO emphasized this revision by adding that “herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.”

The change clearly indicated that the WHO no longer considered immunity from infection to contribute to herd immunity, even though there is evidence that natural immunity is better protection from disease than vaccination.

For what it’s worth, the definition has changed again. Part of the original definition has been restored, but this has been added: “WHO supports achieving ‘herd immunity’ through vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population, as this would result in unnecessary cases and deaths.”


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