Public obituaries amid the pandemic have turned into a "war of words," notes WebMD. Families of loved ones who died of COVID frequently vent their rage at the unvaccinated or make pleas for others to get their shots. On Reddit, however, a related phenomenon has reached a whole new level—and a much darker one—in the form of the Herman Cain Award. In this subreddit, anti-vaxxers who spoke out publicly against vaccines or otherwise downplayed the virus are "nominated" for the award when they get sick, and "awarded" the HCA when they die.
The concept is "simple and ugly," writes Lili Loofbourow in a lengthy piece at Slate. It's named after former presidential contender Herman Cain, who died of COVID last year (before vaccines were out) and whose Twitter account downplayed the danger of the virus even after his death. "It is cruel, a site for heartless and unrepentant schadenfreude," writes Loofbourow. "This is a place where deaths are celebrated." She began reading the site to understand how it's possible that advocates for life-saving vaccines have reached the point where they "are literally celebrating deaths."
Loofbourow admits she struck out on that front, but she was surprised to discover something else. The site has given her the best sense of what it's like to actually die from COVID, because it reposts the comments (usually from Facebook) of patients as they discuss their diagnosis and the progression of the disease, often optimistically asserting that it won't get them. "It’s relentless reading," she writes. "And it keeps ending up the same way. Only health care workers have seen this many people decline and die."
Gita Jackson at Vice also describes the "sad" pattern of entries at r/HermanCainAward. "The first few posts are mean-spirited memes about the libs, and then there is the announcement of a COVID diagnosis, then, often, photos from the hospital and posts about how awful their case of COVID is, and finally a screenshot from a friend or family member saying that the original poster has died." A moderator of the forum who goes by MighyCaseyStruckOut defended the site in a public post this week. "This subreddit exists to make an attempt to get people to see the error of their ways and get the jab," it reads. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)