Anti-vaccine, anti-vaxx, anti-science, anti-vaxx denialism, fear mongering, unreasonable, irrational, panicked, crusaders who tell long debunked lies, they kill children. You don’t have to search long on the internet or in the newspaper to find these labels among other unprintable ones.
At this point, I’m surprised that they still call us “anti-vaccine.” We seem only one small step away from the label – “pro-baby killers.”
People on both sides of this debate are guilty of calling people on the other side names, but only one side seems surprised by it. My question to the “pro-science” side is really? After you throw mud at someone you are surprised and complain that a “panicked parent” picked it up and threw it back?
I understand that name calling can be effective and secretly satisfying, if admittedly childish. So, if you do it – own it! Many “anti-anti-vaccine” proponents like to wrap themselves in the false security of the label “science and rationality” while flinging insults. But is an argument ever that simple? Do you win over anyone by calling them stupid?
I was surprised to find myself in the periphery of the recent Amy Wallace fray. I’d commented on Dr. Parikh’s article, The Ugliness of the Anti-Vaccine Movement. (HERE) The next thing I knew I was listed as an anti-vaccine writer on a Neurodiversity blog. I decided to take a look at other bloggers’ writing.
What I found on the “pro-science” blogs didn’t surprise me.
One blogger’s wisdom includes calling J.B. Handley a “Colossal cockweaseldouchemonkey, genuine asshat, and founder of the ultimate denialist's association,” and accuses him of illegal and immoral acts [sic].
Another blogger says, in his post The anti-vaccination movement is morally bankrupt, that “Fear and intimidation is the enemy of science. But the anti-vax crowd doesn't care about dialog; since they have no science to support their delusions, all they are left with vitriolic spittle. The anti-vaxxers are fundamentally immoral. They, like many fundamentalists, want us all to suffer for their faith, and heretics and apostates must burn.”
And another blog article titled How To Kill Children Legally (Even Your Own) claims “not vaccinating your kids is like patrolling your neighborhood for panel vans while Cousin Steve, the thrice convicted child molester, stays home to babysit. Except it’s actually worse than that because every child that isn’t vaccinated raises the risk that other kids will become sick. So Cousin Steve isn’t just watching your kid, the whole play group is under his tender care.”
So, if I understand the arguments of some of the “pro-science” proponents: it’s really bad to call people names, I’m an immoral fundamentalist who is delusional and has a spitting problem, and I’m the equivalent of a procurer of victims for child molesters.
The pedestal upon which the “pro-science” movement is standing doesn’t seem very elevated, does it? But it’s very loud. It’s full of uniformed and ill-informed people who think vaccines are all that’s standing between us and death. They accept the government’s propaganda without critical thought or research. I understand this person all too well because I used to be one of them. I drank the cool-aid.
The “pro-vaccine” proponents are engaged in a purposeful and selective distortion of the “anti- vaccine” proponents’ argument.
Common tactics examined:
Label someone into irrelevance: Words have power. Labels matter. Witness the differences between the labels: pro-life, pro-choice and anti-choice extremists. This tactic also has the benefit of sometimes sidetracking the whole discussion to a label.
One of the anti-anti-vaxxers’ most effective arguments is that if someone questions the safety or necessity of any vaccine they are anti-vaccine. Many of us believe that vaccines are among the environmental triggers of autism. We question the safety of additives and preservatives in vaccines and propose spreading out the vaccine schedule. We believe some children are genetically predisposed to developing autism and we want the link between autism and vaccines studied. Somehow what they hear seems to be “vaccines are evil.” I don’t understand why the “pro-science” movement seems willing to believe half of what we say (when we question the safety) yet unwilling to believe the other half (we want them studied, so we can safely give them to our children). Anyone who claims vaccines triggered autism in their child obviously saw enough value in vaccines to vaccinate in the first place!
Another effective argument from the “zealots of one size fits all medicine” is: “the anti-vaxx movement is anti-science.” They claim that science has closed the door on any link between vaccines and autism. “Asked and answered!” They say, sandwiched between sentences calling us stupid and immoral. But science doesn’t actually work like that. Just ask any pure scientist. (They wax on poetically while you regret asking them anything.) The history of science is littered with accepted “facts” that actually were later proven false by other scientists. Our knowledge of the physical world builds upon itself. As more information is gathered and tested, established “facts” are discarded and new facts emerge.
Dr. Bernadine Healy the former head of the National Institutes of Health has publicly stated that she found credible published, peer-reviewed scientific studies that support the idea of an association between vaccines and autism. (HERE) And she said in a interview with CBS that a memo went around the NIH in 2004 saying, “Do not pursue susceptibility groups. Don’t look for those patents, those children, who may be vulnerable.” If our public health organizations are actively avoiding doing this research, it is not our side that is anti-science!
The “anti-safe vaccine” movement seems to believe that since vaccines are good and save lives, it is inexcusable to say anything bad about them. This leads to convoluted arguments such as a mercury containing compound can be safely injected in babies. How do I even respond to that? If someone claims mercury isn’t harmful they’ve chosen irrational, selective ignorance over science.
Autism is 100% genetic. Then why are the numbers increasing and why don’t both of all identical twins have it? The hidden horde doesn’t exist. “Desperate mothers” do believe that autism has a strong genetic component – that’s why many of us don’t have more children. But it is not possible to have a genetic epidemic – period.
We’re the experts! The “anti-vaxx” movement is full of hysterical parents who don’t know anything. This is colloquially known as “shut up and sit down.” This approach is used when “anti-safe vaccine” proponents claim that we don’t understand: herd immunity, correlation does not imply causation, diseases kill people, and so on. The experts also told us that refrigerator mothers caused their children to develop autism and that the only cure for autism was psychotherapy. Then they told us that autism was lifelong and to institutionalize our children. It was a parent that debunked that idea. All good science is based on observation. Parents, untrained as they are, spend countless hours observing their children from necessity. To dismiss this observational data set is arrogant and anti-science.
The medical profession castigates us for trying alternative medicine. Using that as proof that we are ignorant of science and irrational dupes who unknowingly harm our children. Well, conventional medicine has failed our children. They seem to only offer our children drugs. Then more drugs to combat the side effects caused by the first drug. They say that we’re desperate, willing to try anything regardless of harm. Well, there is no doubt that many of us are willing to try wild sounding treatments. I learned to be more open-minded after putting my son on the gluten and casein free diet. The behavior improvement caused by a dietary change shut me up and opened my mind to other alternative treatments. A gluten and casein free diet is far less risky than powerful anti-psychotic drugs!
The “weak must perish to protect the herd” movement likes to play with statistics. At first they claimed that the number of children diagnosed with autism wasn’t increasing, it was due to a change in diagnostic criteria or to misdiagnosis. They admit a few people are injured by vaccines, but won’t release VAERS data for independent replication of the analysis. Figures don't lie, but liars figure. - Samuel Clemens
“Jab them all Darwinian warriors" state that side-effects are unfortunate and wholly unpredictable. Medical professionals know that some people shouldn’t be vaccinated including those with: immune deficiencies, seizure disorders, neurological problems, certain food allergies and drug sensitivities. We argue that our children have a genetic predisposition to develop autism and that vaccines are one environmental trigger. Thus it is predictable that vaccines trigger autism in a susceptible population.
The “anti-parental choice” movement links the “anti-vaccine movement” to pseudo-sciences such as “reincarnation, channeling, and extraterrestrials.” Brilliant redirection! Thus mentioning that vaccines have side effects becomes equated with alien abduction.
And my favorite “Darwinian Fundamentalist” argument: Jenny McCarthy posed for playboy! Alright, I concede! She did. The “pro-vaxx” movement felt compelled to get their modesty impaired “spokesmodel” to compete -- Amanda Peet. Who looks better naked has no bearing on the issue!
“Champions of the herd”, when you’ve run out of arguments you can always ask the children who’ve been injured by vaccines to speak up for themselves.
Note: The labels are used to make a satirical point, not to widen the divide or offend anyone.
Marjorie Hansen unknowingly embarked on a new career as an “anti-vaccine writer.” In her spare time she searches for UFOs and spits on science. She can be sarcastic but usually tries to be respectful of others. She’s calling for a civil and label-free discussion. She blogs at Life As The Mother of 4.