The populists' slipperiest lie

"A lot of people are asking"

Donald Trump.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

Around the time of the election, when COVID-19 vaccines were on the cusp of federal approval for public distribution and political anxieties were extraordinarily high, a mini-trend swept through TikTok. In pantomimed videos overlayed with a melodramatic song called "Train wreck," TikTok influencers imagined themselves being beaten to death by U.S. government agents for refusing to be vaccinated. The videos — soon parodied — cast the faked executions as a sort of martyrdom, ending with a welcome into heaven and a declaration of divine approval.

A report at The Washington Post this week tracked down Taylor Rousseau, a 21-year-old makeup influencer whose contribution to the trend went viral. It was all imaginary, Rousseau told the Post. "Everybody missed the point," she said. "The video was 100% a POV [point of view] to portray what life would be like in the End Times." She's not saying these vaccines definitely have antichrist microchips in them, see, just some unspecified vaccines could be blasphemy potions. But also, if "someone doesn't get the [COVID-19] vaccine 'cause of me," Rousseau told the Post, "I don't really feel that is harming them."

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Bonnie Kristian

Bonnie Kristian was a deputy editor and acting editor-in-chief of She is a columnist at Christianity Today and author of Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (forthcoming 2022) and A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (2018). Her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.