"I Have No Fear": COVID Skeptics in Search of Agency and Truth





COVID skeptics, media distrust, belief system, conspiracy theories, narrative of decline , stigmatized knowledge, agency panic, self-made agency


The paper examines the formation of a skeptic view of the COVID pandemic. The author analyses semi-structured interviews with COVID skeptics (N = 21) and shows that, equally distrusting the media, they give different answers to the question "Who needs to exaggerate the danger of coronavirus and why?". "Moderate" skeptics see a struggle of private economic interests behind the media reports about the pandemic, while "radical" skeptics point to a world conspiracy that threatens the life and freedom of people. Apart from that, COVID skeptics perceive restrictive measures from different angles: although the «radicals» are less tolerant of these measures, only a few of them express open resistance. The paper shows that the «radical» view of the pandemic is associated, on the one hand, with the experience of agency panic (T. Melley), and on the other, with a pessimistic perception of the future. The pre-pandemic experience of being fascinated by the ideas and practices of alternative medicine plays an important role in assessing restrictive measures. The reluctance to pass the state the self-made agency (S. Harding, K. Stewart) acquired as a result of this experience pushes some «radical» skeptics towards active resistance to restrictive measures.

Acknowledgements. The paper was prepared within the framework of a grant provided by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation (Grant Agreement No. 075-15-2020-908).

The author expresses his gratitude to Alexei Titkov (Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences) for his helpful comments to the draft of the paper.

Author Biography

Anna A. Kirziuk, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration

  • Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow, Russia
    • Cand. Sci. (Philos.), researcher at the Centre for Theoretical Folklore Studies





Media and Communications in the Times of COVID-19 Pandemic