The nadir for me came on January 6, 2011, when Anderson Cooper interviewed Dr. Andrew Wakefield live on national television. It was an absurd and painful moment. Anderson Cooper, a journalist I had generally respected, treated Andy like a common criminal. Andy, who admirably stood his ground, did himself no favors by appearing to be standing in a cave somewhere in Jamaica…
I remember feeling nauseous after watching the interview, and thinking that Pharma had finally won and that the movement to tell the truth about what was being done to our kids had just been setback by a decade or two and that we’d certainly see vaccination rates jump back to historical highs.
And I was dead wrong.
Fast forward almost exactly four years and guess what? Andy Wakefield, Jenny McCarthy and our whole community are getting dragged through the mud by the mainstream media once again, this time because measles are lurking down in Disneyland and everyone is pissed off. Or at least that’s what you’d think if you only read mainstream media publications.
Would you believe me if I told you that the Disneyland measles outbreak benefits our community, movement, and kids?
Just nine months ago, a Harris poll survey reported some astonishing news: 33 percent of parents of children under the age of 18 believe “vaccinations can cause autism.”
Ironically, the group that commissioned this survey, the National Consumers League, is very pro-vaccine, and so they positioned the results to mean that “One third of American parents mistakenly link vaccines to autism.”
I laugh when I read interpretations like this. It’s sort of like some of the other silly headlines I have read over the years (and I’m paraphrasing here):
“Richer, better educated parents avoiding vaccinations.”
“Trump mistakenly says too many shots causing Autism.”
“Hollywood elite avoiding vaccines, endangering kids.”
You have to wonder sometimes who is behind the marketing of the vaccine program as most of the initiatives they have created have a meaningful backfire effect (anyone remember Amanda Peet calling us, ironically, parasites?), which is really the point of this article: why does PR like the Disneyland measles outbreak actually benefit our community when the people pushing the campaign are clearly trying to put an end to us?
I have my theory, which is really very simple, but I’ll tell you what the other side says first.
Time Magazine, a publication almost on par with the New York Times for their consistent pro-vaccine stance, wrote a great article right around the time the Harris Poll was released with a really respectful title:
“Nothing, Not Even Hard Facts, Can Make Anti-Vaxxers Change Their Minds”
The article laments that, “Researchers found a backlash effect when presented with scientific evidence that vaccines don't cause autism” and goes on to explain how this Pediatrics study found that many of the pro-vaccine messages seemed to harden, rather than soften, parents’ views about vaccines. The study author, Brendan Nyhan, theorized that:
“People think, ‘what are they trying to convince me? The ‘don’t worry, don’t worry, everything is safe’ approach is not often effective, because they think ‘why are they trying so hard to reassure me that everything is safe?'”
Nyhan and his colleagues tried out different messages on parents to see if any had a stronger effect on the intention of parents to vaccinate with the MMR shot. Interestingly, they found that two of their messages actually increased parental concern about vaccines:
- Disease Narrative: “conveying the dangers of measles, mumps, and rubella”
- Disease images: showing parents “disturbing pictures of infected children.”
Let me repeat this because it’s such an interesting point: an article in Pediatrics, published only nine months ago, found that messaging to scare parents into vaccinating by talking about the dangers of the disease vaccines prevent and showing images of that disease actually hardened the interest of parents in NOT vaccinating. I love reading the results and conclusions of the study:
RESULTS: None of the interventions increased parental intent to vaccinate a future child…
CONCLUSIONS: Current public health communications about vaccines may not be effective. For some parents, they may actually increase misperceptions or reduce vaccination intention. Attempts to increase concerns about communicable diseases or correct false claims about vaccines may be especially likely to be counterproductive. More study of pro-vaccine messaging is needed.
You read this recent study, published in the most mainstream of journals, and you wonder about the folks directing the massive Disneyland-MMR campaign…I guess they didn’t get the message?
Dr. Nyhan and Time Magazine both go out of their way to armchair psychoanalyze WHY parents would react to information in this way.
Nyhan thinks that “these parents are suspicious of the scientists and that the pro-vaccine movement is trying to pull a fast one on them.”
While I think Nyhan is generally correct, I also have a much simpler explanation for why the messaging by the pro-vaccine community is backfiring:
They’re fucking lying.
There, I said it. It really is that simple. You can’t suppress truth forever, no matter how hard you try. Richer, more educated parents vaccinate less because they are smarter and have more resources and their bigger brains and pocketbooks give them the time and money to research the issue and when they do they are scared shitless that vaccines might trigger Autism in their child. They compare that risk to measles and guess what? Bye bye MMR.
Because it really is that simple and because we now live in a world where truth and information are only a mouseclick away, the CDC, AAP, Autism Speaks, and Big Pharma cannot scare the public into behaving. I love this comment from the Time article, by Swtmarie:
“I am trying to get information on both sides of the issue, and yet again, I am disappointed by the Pro-Vax advocates. Why?? Because every Doctor or Scientist I have read articles from that is Anti-Vax has given educated or scientific hypothesis as to why they feel they are dangerous or have the potential to be dangerous long-term.....and all I want, is to hear a Pro-Vax authority counter those ideas, claims, etc.....but all I come across are Pro-Vax articles that say "the science shows vaccines are safe" and then they don't EXPLAIN why or even link the articles!!! Then they go on to bash Anti-vax usually by way of name-calling such as "uneducated", "ignorant", "stubborn". This is how you get the reputation of fear-mongering and manipulative. You call people uneducated or ignorant for putting their trust in someone supposedly without merit or proof; but essentially you want that same blind trust. I don't think that Vaccines are the sole cause for Autism, but since this article discusses it, I will point out that if you don't know what CAUSES something...then you don't know what DOESN'T cause it!! Simple as that. The strongest argument from Mainstream Medical Authority seems to be simply that-- that they are the "Mainstream Medical Authority". In my opinion, something is not true just because the mass majority thinks so. Where is the ‘heavy scientific evidence’? “
The Disneyland story will ebb, a new one will take its place (because MMR and DPT have efficacy issues so outbreaks are permanently guaranteed of measles and pertussis) and every time they do another new parent will ask, “what is this all about?” and they will do their own research and they will discover that: autism, adhd, and a zillion other neurological conditions have all skyrocketed in the last 20 years; that vaccines can and do cause brain injury and that the government has awarded billions to injured children; that literally tens of thousands of parents report regression after vaccination appointments that led to autism in their baby; that here and in other countries parents have been compensated for vaccine injury causing autism; that some “CDC Whistleblower” is saying the CDC knew about this relationship a long time ago and buried it; and that Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield are actually heroic beacons of truth rather than bad people…
…and they will choose to protect their child and we will keep losing every PR battle but slowly winning the war…because truth, in the end, always prevails.
J.B. Handley is Co-Founder of Generation Rescue.