By Dan Olmsted
On July 3, 1940, Winston Churchill ordered the British fleet to sink French ships clustered off the coast of Algeria, lest they fall into the hands of the Nazis.
"An hour and a half later, the British Fleet attacked," according to Historian on the Warpath. "In less than ten minutes, 1,297 French soldiers were dead and three battleships were sunk. One battleship and five destroyers managed to escape."
This is the utilitarian principle pure and simple -- "the belief that the value of a thing or an action is determined by its utility," as the Free Dictionary puts it. Killing 1,297 of your allies to avoid hardware from falling into the enemies' hands, in hopes of winning a world war against pure evil, was justified in the circumstances, Churchill believed. History hasn't argued with him.
But few concepts are more vulnerable to corruption than utilitarianism, especially when it comes to human beings. If you're going to argue that some lives are more important than others, you'd better have a pretty convincing case. And you'd better make the tradeoff clear so people can decide if they are in favor of it.
That kind of corruption underlies vaccine injury denialism -- the hell with your child's death or disability from vaccine injury, the denialists implicitly argue, disease prevention is a greater good worth your sacrifice. But rather than acknowledge this -- that some lives matter more than others in this calculation, and they aren't yours -- they simply deny the injury. No one -- no real live child, teenager, or adult, and certainly not tens, hundreds, or hundreds of thousands of them -- must be allowed on the public record to have suffered from a demonstrable vaccine injury. Someone somewhere theoretically maybe, but not here and now, not on a comment thread, not in the form of a mom telling in anguished detail how her child died immediately following a vaccination. Not ever.
You could call this the Vioxx defense. While it is a given to objective observers that the painkiller was vastly overprescribed and Merck recklessly killed tens of thousands, and suppressed data that should have warned it and everyone else, the company chose to fight every individual claim in court. That led to enough mixed verdicts that plaintiffs eventually agreed to a $5 billion settlement, a blip on Merck's revenue radar. The creator of that strategy was promoted to head of Merck, where he remains, (Also a board member at Penn State, he was briefly put in charge of investigating the Sandusky scandal, until wiser heads saw that was a clear conflict of interest, something that never happens in Vaccine World).
Merck to victims: OK, maybe Vioxx killed tens of thousands, but it didn't kill YOU! Sue us!
Now another Merck vaccine, Gardasil, is getting the Vioxx defense. Shrieking trolls like the aptly named "lilady" (I pronounce it lie-lady) and law professors who've never passed the bar exam clutter up Katie Couric's website to dispute every parental account of damage from the vaccine, including the deaths of children.
What really underlies their argument, once again, is the utilitarian principle -- that death and injury from the vaccine are trumped by the public policy objective of reducing the supposed deaths that would occur from not using Garasil. But that principle can't withstand scrutiny. Not when it comes to a dubious vaccine produced by a corrupt manufacturer with an appalling track record of insufficient safety testing, and strong evidence of damage to real people in the real world. This of course is the whole corrupt meme that's slowly being dismembered, as vaccine injury from the bloated CDC schedule becomes widespread and affects older children and adults whose experience can be documented and recounted. In particular, the vaccine "court" coverup of the link with autism -- the link being that the creation of the court itself triggered the autism epidemic -- comes into clear view, thanks to thousands of parents and the dynamite article, "Unanswered Questions," by Holland et al.
The vaccine injury denialists are stuck defending a situation in which more people are harmed by prevention than the diseases supposedly being prevented. And that's not even utilitarianism!
Call them the futilitarians. Or maybe the F-U-tilitarians. Every once in a while the grinning death's head does shine through: the hell with your child's death or disability from vaccine injury.
From John Stone: "Ken Reibel puts his foot in his mouth on Katie's blog. I have commented: "Seasoned vaccines public relations professional Ken Reibel admits below that HPV vaccines may have seriously injured as many as 4000 girls in the US and argues that this is acceptable collateral damage for the program:
"'Of the 22,000 HPV vaccine related VAERS reports filed from 2006 to 3/2013, 92% were non-serious (fainting, soreness at injection site, nausea, etc.) So that leaves 1,760 "serious" reports. Even if we double that number and round up to 4,000, it comes nowhere near the 50,000 cases of cervical cancer reported in the US since 2006.'"
Four thousand serious injuries that include deaths. A trifle.
Many people, including our own John Stone, Katie Wright and Anne Dachel as well as a number of regular AOA commenters, did epic battle with the trolls, although it was hard to match the 800 comments left by California law professor Dorit Reiss alone! (Her time might be better spent studying for the state bar exam. It's hard, I hear.)
Here's one comment that caught my eye, from "minority view":
"Something that is puzzling me about this discussion. I've read a number of the accounts of adverse reactions to the HPV vaccines. The explanation being offered is that the reactions are either minor or coincidental.
"That might work, but what about the accounts of multiple reactions? A girl who reacts after the first dose, then seems to be mostly okay until she gets a second dose and becomes ill AGAIN after the third dose.
"One time could be a coincidence. Two times is a bit freaky. Three times sounds a lot like an adverse reaction."
That is exactly right -- challenge-rechallenge is accepted as evidence of causation, everywhere but in troll land. And what about the fact that the Japanese have stopped recommending it due to widespread reports of chronic pain and injury?
Oh, never mind.
Few things in orthodox autismland irritate me as much as reading about all the new and groovy things Johns Hopkins University is doing to figure out the cause of autism. Hopkins, close readers of this blog and our book of the same name will recognize, is where Leo Kanner first described autism in 1943. To make a long story (namely, our book) short, he had a golden opportunity to recognize its origins in the ethylmercury fungicides and vaccine preservative that went on the market shortly before, and to which those families had amazing backgrounds of exposure. (See our ten minute and four second version, the video on this page titled How Mercury Triggered the Age of Autism.) Instead, he started playing the parent blaming game.
Someone whose opinion I care about told me this week: "how can anyone seriously dispute what you’ve uncovered with Kanner’s original subjects? They can’t – and I suppose that’s why they ignore and shun us so effectively."
So excuse me while I choke on my Christmas cookie when I read the headline (courtesy of our indefatigable media editor Anne Dachel): "Autism experts join forces in new center at Johns Hopkins." The story begins, "We do know this: Very little about autism is straightforward." No! Everything about autism is straightforward, because, as my colleague Mark Blaxill point out, epidemics are simple. But to continue:
"Through the pioneering work of scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a handful of others scattered throughout the university, and colleagues at the nearby Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins has a leg up in solving autism's many riddles, and health and societal consequences. Now the university has a single place to unite that expertise: the newly created Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities."
They don't have a leg up on it, they have a blanket over it. Pardon the acronyms, always telltale of bureaucracy above all, but "the CADDE, one of six such centers funded by the CDC, had dutifully fulfilled its mission, notably launching the Maryland sites of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, which aims to monitor the number of cases of autism and other developmental disabilities throughout the country, and the Study to Explore Early Development, or SEED, which looks to find the causes of autism that may be related to genetic and environmental risk factors."
There's a challenge-rechallenge element here, speaking of "environmental risk factors." Autism -- "unknown to me or anyone else heretofore," Kanner wrote in 1943 -- was first observed shortly after the commercialization of ethylmercury, and the connection to Kanner's kids is striking. (The eldest child in the case series was born in 1932, the same year it was first used in vaccines. The father of Case 2, a plant pathologist, was experimenting with ethylmercury fungicide "dusts" when his son was born. And on and on.)
The autism epidemic was first observed shortly after the 1986 vaccine court law led to an explosion of new vaccines and a huge increase. The rise began in 1988, the same year the first new mercury-containing vaccine was recommended.
Maybe Hopkins should take a look at that.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.