What Nicki Minaj Is Doing Isn’t Funny, It’s Dangerous

Nicki Minaj is going to get someone killed — even if only indirectly. In much the same way a straight line can be drawn between Donald Trump’s COVID-19 skepticism and racist invective against Asian people and the real-world harm they caused, Nicki Minaj’s anti-vaccine rhetoric is very likely having a devastating, if not immediately visible impact. As was pointed out by numerous sources in Trinidad & Tobago including the Minister Of Health and one sassy news anchor, Nicki’s platform is far too large and her influence is far too powerful for her to keep propagating the sort of dangerous messages that have already resulted in so many deaths, both in the US and worldwide.

While television hosts like Tucker Carlson and Stephen Colbert made light of Nicki Minaj’s tweets — mainly because the comedic potential in her chain letter-esque, Snopes-worthy narrative was too great to ignore — their fellow host Jake Tapper probably had the better handle on how truly dangerous it is that she keeps going. And yes, she’s still going. Now, she’s trying to defend herself, likely out of a sense of embarrassment at the pile-on of ridicule of her silly, poorly-sourced anecdote, but as she does, she only further entrenches herself — and those who agree with her or are otherwise timid about receiving their shots — in their delusion of anti-scientific fear.

If it seems like I’m being harsh, that’s probably because I lost patience for COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers right around the time my uncle Cecil died of COVID complications last year, before a vaccine could be made available that could have saved his life. It’s because my dad, whose immune system has been compromised by chemotherapy and reduced lung capacity since I was in eighth grade, wasn’t able to safely leave his home in over a year. It’s because my stories are more than just second or thirdhand anecdotes from the Facebook family gossip chain. It’s because my younger brother had to have his graduation via Zoom, and so many of those nearest and dearest to me are suffering after losing loved ones to a virus our country had the capacity to stop in its tracks but didn’t.

So yeah, I understand the reticence of Nicki Minaj and others who say they don’t understand how the vaccine works. I also call “bullshit” on that bad faith line of reasoning. You don’t know how your smartphone works either, or half of your household appliances. Your planes, your trains, and your automobiles are beyond your ability or knowledge to explain too. You don’t know what’s in McDonald’s’ Secret Sauce, and you don’t even know what’s in your record contract. But you still use your phone, microwave your leftover Big Macs, and sign your contract, because there is some benefit in it for you, whether it’s entertainment, or nourishment, or that big, fat advance the label waved in front of you in exchange for 90% of your publishing rights.

There’s a benefit to getting vaccinated, too: Protecting yourself, those you love, the people who help you pay your bills, and strangers you’ll never meet but won’t infect via the long, sinuous game of telephone that defines how epidemics and pandemics like this one spread. You say you’re doing research, but the research is already done. You can find it in any number of trustworthy, source-citing articles from the Associated Press, from the Center For Disease Control — outlets where experts, whose jobs involve checking and double-checking facts and observations backed by decades of scientific discoveries share their knowledge for the sole purpose of keeping people from dying from this preventable disease.

Facebook is not a source. Anonymous anecdotes on Reddit are not “research.” It feels more like what Nicki and those other skeptics are looking for are horror stories that validate their fears, because they are more afraid of the medicine than the disease. And I get it; no one likes getting shots. But you did it when you were a kid in order to enroll in most schools. You do it when you’re planning that overseas trip. You can do it now, to save lives, to help someone other than yourself. You can even buy yourself a lollipop after with the millions of dollars you’ve made from being an entertainer — and can get back to making when there’s no longer a life-threatening pandemic shutting down the venues where you ply your trade.

And if you’re not going to get the shot, despite the millions of people who have gotten it without side effects (many more than the negligible number who have experienced adverse reactions), despite the growing number of cases, despite the virus’ potential to mutate and become even more deadly and drug-resistant the longer it circulates, then at the very least, stop tweeting about it. Because, Nicki, you could get someone killed.