When one lacks character, one must apply a method.
By Adriana Gamondes
Looking for Mr. Goodvax
The first time I noticed how territorial industrial pundits are about the use of analogy was from watching the ascent of Panic Virus author Seth Mnookin, who conceivably set off the current mandate campaign. He was also one of the earlier PR figures to deploy a few of the most common false comparisons for vaccine choice advocacy—particularly those geared to progressives, such gay rights opposition, racism, and climate change denial.
Actually Mnookin’s entire book is an analogy. In two hundred words or less, Panic Virus is the story of how “self-indulgent”, “hysterical”, “bitter”, “angry”, “resentful”, “guilt”-ridden, “helpless”, “isolated” and “self-righteous” vaccine safety advocates— corrupted by the democratization of the internet, clouded by the trauma of their children’s disabilities, suffering from low cognitive complexity and seduced by a series of scientific rogues— court the endangerment of their own children and public health. It’s also a story of how, in order to quell public reservations about mass vaccination at its advent, government and health authorities in the U.S. had to lie about the risks of vaccines at various junctures— although authorities are not lying now when they say benefits outweigh risks and vaccines don’t cause autism. But even if industry and health authorities were lying, human beings are panicky creatures who, being overly dependent on intuition, had best be guided by authority and cooperating media in service to the greater good. Or else… biblical plagues, chaos, the breakdown of the free market, etc. Ergo, compulsory mass vaccination, legal sanctions against those questioning vaccines and inhibition of press freedoms would be justified. The End.
The above is basically the plot of Looking for Mr. Goodbar. But an alternative interpretation of the theme bleeds through the overlay of Panic Virus:
The once conservative fields of vaccine science and health regulation—drawn to the commercial meat market, guilty of departures from medical orthodoxy and nursing themselves back from public jilting—consort with increasingly dangerous public relations initiatives and security industry operations in order to regain status and empowerment at the cost of public trust, children’s health and civil rights.
Mnookin specializes in selling scientific absolutism in progressive drag. If the author doesn’t advocate legislating compulsory immunization clearly enough in his book, then statements he’s made in his blog and to legislators are more explicit:
With the vaccine debate, we're seeing that more and more as more children are getting sick and they're dying. I think we're not far from the point at which we start having real discussions about consequences for people who don't vaccinate and end up bringing in disease. I don't have a background in the law, of course, but I do think the conversation is going to pivot in that direction.
During Mnookin’s seemingly endless book junket in 2011, I noticed his PR tendency to repeat key words and phrases and engage in “repetition of emotional language” such as “anti-vaccine” and “narrative”— the latter to reduce public testimony of vaccine adverse events to folksy mythology. But one repeat term really stood out—the passive form of “disappeared.” At the time, I wondered whether Mnookin was having a reaction to the vaccine safety movement’s use of the expression.
To be “disappeared”— as the Tom the Dancing Bug comic strip explains— is a transitive verb only in Latin languages.
Q. Have I been disappeared?
A. People aren't "disappeared" in America! Only in lawless dictatorships can intransitive verbs be used to make passive verb forms.
Q: Isn’t this very wrong?
A: That’s just the kind of thing an enemy of America would say. What are your relatives’ addresses? Never mind. We know.
But obviously this doesn’t only happen in openly lawless dictatorships, which is why the Spanish transitive use of “desaparcer” has been adapted to nearly every language for an analogous reference to the hundreds of thousands of individuals who were kidnapped, detained or executed and their children stolen by the state in Argentina, Chile, Peru and throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean during Operation Condor, a US-backed covert Cold War program to replace democratically elected pro-labor governments with cooperating military puppet regimes which would support American and multinational corporate interests. The leader of the Argentine military junta, General Jorge Raphael Videla, first used “desaparecido”—“the disappeared”— in reference to the 30,000 detained and executed by the Argentine military junta in the 1970’s during a press conference in 1979:
Es un desaparecido, no tiene entidad. No está ni muerto ni vivo, está desaparecido... Frente a eso no podemos hacer nada. (It’s a disappearance, it’s a mystery. Neither dead nor alive, they are the disappeared. There’s nothing we can do about it.)
In 2010, I used the “desaparecidos” analogy for an article about my husband’s family’s view of our children’s vaccine injuries. I thought they were entitled since they’d had to escape the actual Argentine junta due to my father-in-law’s work as a screenwriter and were nearly “disappeared” themselves. A year earlier, Age of Autism editor Dan Olmsted used the expression to describe the CDC’s minimization of the autism crisis through removal of an entire state in autism rate factoring.
In any case, for about five months in 2011, Mnookin seemed to get on a jag with “disappeared.” He used it in a Tweet, said it on CSPAN (at 40:20, in which he appears on a panel with Merchants of Doubt author Naomi Oreskes mentioned in Part 1) and repeated it facetiously in several blog posts in reference to certain studies being removed from publications—measures that he applauded, such as Rolling Stone’s temporary online removal of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Deadly Immunity, which was quickly restored.
It’s hard to say if Mnookin term-flogging was out of objections to its use by his perceived opposition or, in the case he never saw these references, if it was some kind of preemptive territoriality. Perhaps it just seemed catchy. Either way, I became curious whether there might be something personal in Mnookin’s history compelling him to wear out this particular analogy to the point of meaninglessness.
It’s par for the course that many fervent vaccine defenders—Paul Nuki, Gardiner Harris, Alison Singer, etc.—have turned out to be the sons, siblings or spouses of pharmaceutical and vaccine industrialists, if not to have direct financial ties. So of course Mnookin has industry ties, though this wasn’t what got my attention. Every PR operator has an MO and a bag of tricks. Mnookin’s just seemed a little heavier than usual.
Whether Mnookin’s overuse of a passive verb was coincidental or not, there did turn out to be a personal connection to it. Mnookin’s great-granduncle, Nathan Mnookin, was the founder of Thiokol—as in Morton-Thiokol, a solid rocket fuel manufacturer and the company largely considered responsible for the Challenger disaster. The company suffered further from the effects of an internal whistleblower:
A Morton Thiokol engineer, whose anguished pleas to delay the launching of the space shuttle Challenger were ignored a year ago, filed a $1 billion personal injury and damage suit against the company today and accused it of ''criminal homicide'' in the death of the seven crew members.
The engineer, Roger Boisjoly, accused Morton Thiokol of fraud, negligence, manslaughter, racketeering, defamatory statements and untruthful testimony to a Presidential investigating commission and Congress, among other wrongdoings.
The company, now Alliant Tech or ATK, is also known as the maker of the white phosphorus shells used against civilians in places like Gaza in 2008 and in El Salvador in the 1980’s. The latter was simply a continuation of Operation Condor in which the U.S. supplied tactical and $6 billion in financial support for the infamous Salvadoran death squads, an involvement which Archbishop Oscar Romero protested openly, costing him his life in 1980, and which the U.S. media scarcely reported. The Salvadoran military junta was known for forced disappearances, including—as in Argentina— the theft and marketing of children for illegal adoption, sometimes to the U.S. The Salvadoran repression and U.S. involvement were dramatized in films like Romero and Oliver Stone’s Salvador and have become an analogy for modern war crimes and related manipulation of the press.
Pulitzer winning journalist Chris Hedges gave a firsthand account of what white phosphorus does to human beings from the time he covered the war in El Salvador for The Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio:
I've been around white phosphorus attacks. The Salvadoran military used them when I covered the war. And when bits of white phosphorus fall on your body, they burn right through your body. There's no way to stop it, in essence. It'll literally burn a swath right through the core of your body… And let me finally say that in the end, you know, there are weapons contractors for whom, once again, this is about profit. They don't really care what the consequences are. For them it's about how to swell their bank account.
Mnookin’s book launch in 2011 and the general media smear blitz against vaccine safety skepticism, which included Paul Offit’s Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All and Bill Gates’ statement on CNN that vaccine safety critics “kill children,” occurred just four months before Operation Neptune Spear—the mission to kill Bin Laden—which Homeland Security advisor Lisa Monaco was forced to admit was not an isolated case of using vaccine philanthropy as cover for military intelligence operations (plural). The BBC reported that backlash against vaccine campaigns abroad before and after the “Neptune Spear” mission to kill Bin Laden was driven mostly by the reported connection between the immunization drives and drone strikes in Pakistan—also plural, strikes that have reportedly killed an estimated 1,147 civilian “unknowns” , including hundreds of children — a rate of 28 civilian deaths per known enemy combatant. Two weeks prior to his appearance on CNN, Gates invested $60 million in fracking and mining tech company, Neos Geosolutions, which has a branch in Abu Dhabi and has run airborne surveys in the Middle East. Mnookin was shortly appointed associate director of the science writing program at MIT, site of the William H. Gates tower.
I have no idea if the Mnookin family is still invested in weapons and aerospace manufacturing. Granted that Nathan Mnookin had died before the first rocket was launched into space and the family seems to have branched out into law and de facto policy stumping. But that familial policy stumping frequently has a distinct weaponized edge to it. For instance, Seth’s uncle, law professor Robert Mnookin, advocated a preemptive invasion of Iran in 2010 based on “WMD” fears, while analysts like General Wesley Clark argued that the real motivation was oil. The UN now claims evidence of Iran’s nuclear weapons preparation was likely manufactured spin by U.S. intelligence.
Robert Mnookin is chair of the negotiation law program at Harvard who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II, founder of the eugenic Pioneer Fund and the son of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan who ruled in favor of compulsory vaccination in the 1905 Jacobson decision.
As the king of shallow analogies, Mnookin himself has a great interest in making things relative when it suits him. So what’s in a family legacy? In the introduction to his second book, Hard News—which spends more than 200 pages trying to distract from a major event of the 21st century that it grants barely two paragraphs to: the New York Times illegal planting of domestic propaganda on WMD in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq and the firing of one of the few editors in the media at the time who objected— Mnookin becomes nearly reverent about the New York Times Sulzberger “dynasty.”
Some have a sense of pride about the accomplishments of forebears— and some might feel shamed by the same token. Then again, a reference to “desaparecidos” was once used in an episode of Sponge Bob. But, whatever, consider the source: the weaponized PR maven for global industry with plausible ties to military industrial interests, who launched his corporate defense career distracting from the media’s illegal planting of manufactured state department spin for a war based on weapons that didn’t exist, who hails, however distantly, from an actual weapons manufacturer. That’s not an analogy. That’s a seamless progression—though not exactly a progressive one.
The use of the passive transitive for “disappeared” was required to depersonalize a junta’s victims. Removing any agent from the sentence was to assign no responsibility to that agent. That’s the international definition of forced disappearance—that the harm is denied and the evidence and bodies hidden. The blame is assigned to the object by omission, something “the agent” is prone to do in most human rights catastrophes. By turning the historic event into an analogy and measure for inhumanity, the blame is removed from the “object”—who becomes human— and placed back on the perpetrator, both for the original event and for the event being compared to it— but only as long as the comparison bears any truth.
Pointy White Hate and Corporate Exorcism
All the above brings up Matt Novak’s comparison between vaccine choice advocates… and the KKK. I think this one should get some kind of prize. From The Anti-Vaccine Movement Should Be Ridiculed Because Shame Works:
White Americans of the 1940s didn't instantly become less racist. But joining the Klan was now something laughable — it was something you didn't admit to in public. Klansmen continued to exist and racism persisted, but Americans no longer wanted to be openly affiliated with an organization that dressed up in their bedsheets and whispered stupid codewords to each other. The introduction of ridicule to anyone who thought of joining the Klan had worked. Association with the Klan was now something to be ashamed of in mainstream American society after the KKK's brief (yet still terrifying) flirtation with respectability. What worked against the Klan can work for unscientific ideas, like the toxic meme that vaccines are causing more diseases than they're preventing…
Even if someone were approaching the issue blind, they might still wonder if there’s something on the flipside of that race card Novak is waving around. Turns out there is—from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s CDC Scientist Still Maintains Agency Forced Researchers to Lie About Safety of Mercury Based Vaccines:
A senior CDC vaccine safety scientist, Dr. William Thompson, has invoked the protection of the Federal Whistleblower Statute following the release of his taped conversations disclosing pervasive corruption within CDC’s Vaccine Safety Division… Thompson now says that the data showed a definitive statistically significant association between Thimerosal and tics. “Thimerosal from vaccines cause tics….I can say tics are four times more prevalent in kids with autism. There is biologic plausibility right now to say that Thimerosal causes autism-like features.” After burying these findings, CDC touted Thompson’s study to exculpate Thimerosal for use in current flu vaccine which is administered to pregnant women and young children. Thompson stated recently, in a taped interview with Simpson University biochemist Dr. Brian Hooker, “Do you think a pregnant mother would want to take a vaccine that they know caused tics? Absolutely not!! I would never give my wife a vaccine that I thought caused tics.” http://vimeo.com/104141199
Thompson was also the co-author of a 2004 study in Pediatrics in which he now admits that, under pressure from CDC bosses, his team fraudulently withheld data demonstrating a significant link between the MMR vaccine and autism in African American boys. In a taped conversation, Thompson confessed, “I have great shame now when I meet families with kids with autism because I’ve – I’ve been part of the problem.”
So Novak is correct—this is a racially hued issue. Though, again, not in the way he intended.
Rates of autism, which were once considered very low among immigrants, African Americans and Hispanic children in the U.S., are now exploding since the institution of broad and sometimes coercive campaigns to vaccinate “underserved” minorities, including recently proposed legislation to tie vaccine compliance to participation in Head Start programs.
I have another analogy for bad analogies: they’re like the spray-painted marks left by Dig Safe technicians to warn of the location of underground power and sewer lines. If you’re looking for a jolt or to track bullshit to its source, X marks the spot.
Novak’s comparison is more than an attempt to distract from converse facts; it also looks like inverted rhetoric meant to divide. The CDC whistleblower scandal happened right in the middle of Ferguson protests against the repression and criminalization of black life. Given the more ready analogy for racial injustice provided by the campaign to ban not-fully- and unvaccinated children from school and public places, send their parents to jail, strip doctors who question vaccine safety of their licenses, or ditch HIPAA privacy rules to form a publicly accessible registry of vaccination status, it sounds as if Novak and his fellow crusaders are setting up vaccine dissent as the “new black.”
And it looks like minorities—who are vastly overrepresented in America’s prisons, mostly for nonviolent offenses in the “war on drugs”— will be getting company courtesy of the war on disease in the privatized, for-profit slave centers we call the penal system, all while making packaging for Microsoft since, not incidentally, aside from being one of the most evident forces behind the media’s compulsory shot campaign, Bill Gates (guest editor for Novak’s publisher) is invested in one of the largest private prison corporations in the U.S.
Novak is careful to say that he doesn’t advocate mob attacks on individuals—as in “lynch mob,” though the photos used for the piece are confusing. It starts with a picture of Jenny McCarthy with giant cartoon hands pointing at her—clearly an instructional to go with the title— followed by an overexposed 50’s era photo of teens beating a body hanging from a tree. The caption below the second picture states that it’s an effigy of a black student. But this isn’t apparent, so it just looks like a second graphic instructional, especially since the immediately preceding statement reads:“The United States is a nation of guilt. We could use a bit more shame.”
And that we shall have—particularly policy greasers like Novak. Between NSA spying, CIA torture files, privatized prisons and this era’s wholesale assault on environment and basic human rights, we’re definitely stocking up on shame for the history books. The blurring of effigies is the ultimate takeaway, though what Novak says he advocates is some sort of “formal” denunciation that brings to mind lots of devout finger waggling and the casting out of the infidels. While the Catholic Church hits daily headlines with a relatively progressive quote-machine pope, it’s interesting that commercial science has gone outright medieval.
Novak and other corporate commandos paving the way for a shutdown of consumer rights would naturally disavow any responsibility for the predictable consequences of a campaign like this succeeding, just as Novak denies he’s promoting dangerous stigmatization. But he can’t pretend he’s not throwing his hat into a controversy which includes simultaneous arguments from draconian crusaders whose gross mischaracterizations he repeats. So I have news for him: if this all comes to pass and the campaign predictably snowballs into wider incursions on consumer and civil freedoms, it will be his fault. To make a parallel analogy of an analogy, here’s one from GK Chesterton on what he terms social policy “euphemists.”
I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the same thing. Say to them "The persuasive and even coercive powers of the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of longevity in the previous generation does not become disproportionate and intolerable, especially to the females"; say this to them and they will sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles. Say to them "Murder your mother," and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same.
Chesterton was indicating proponents of eugenics legislation, but the comparison, as overused as it is, has a smoother application to the mandate campaign than, say, comparing medical choice advocates with the Ku Klux Klan— particularly in light of two stories that surfaced from Israel and Kenya.
The first foreign press story, which demonstrates at least one danger of compulsory vaccination, broke last year after filmmaker Gal Gabrai’s documentary Vacuum was aired in Israel, reporting the reason for the 50% decline in birthrate among Ethiopian immigrants to Israel: Israeli health authorities had made receipt of Depo-Provera injections a condition of entering Israel for Ethiopian women of childbearing age. Many of the women were left to believe they were receiving a vaccine.
“Depo-Provera has a shameful history,” Efrat Yardai wrote in an op-ed for Haaretz, explaining that the drug was used between 1967 and 1978 as part of an experiment that took place in the U.S. state of Georgia on 13,000 impoverished women, half of whom were black. Many of them were unaware that the injections were part of an experiment. Some of the women became sick and a few died...
The second story, which is lent more credence by the first, stems from a report by the Catholic Archbishops Association of Kenya that tetanus vaccines provided by the WHO and UNICEF were independently tested and shown to be laced with human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a combination which is known to cause permanent sterility within three year of administration. The report follows WHO research on this precise type of abortifacient vaccine and other reports from decades back on similar programs carried out in Nicaragua, Mexico and the Philippines.
To throw in a dash of media Islamophobia, the preferred press buzz has always been that these anti-fertility vaccine conspiracy theories spreading through the third world were generated out of thin air by radical, anti-progressive Muslim clerics— not medical personnel and Catholic medical aid organizations that have facilitated vaccination for more than forty years.
The history of forced sterilization in the U.S. also has ties to immunization. The Supreme Court’s decision in Buck v. Bell—one of the more infamous eugenics era forced sterilization cases—used mandated immunization as the precedent. In 1927, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote:
We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.... Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
Holmes simply argues that the decision in Jacobson, for which he ruled in favor of compulsory vaccination in 1905, technically allows the state to engage in radical social engineering, though the reference wasn’t an attempt to couch the Buck decision. You know you’re at a low point in history when the cold logic isn’t even veiled by palliative analogy or euphemism.
At least in Chesterton’s day, he was free to take aim at these policies. And for as long as speech is still technically free at the moment, the pharmaceutical industry has a lot to worry about concerning who gets to a potent analogy first. Comedian John Oliver returned from a hiatus to slam Big Pharma over payoffs and off-label marketing, quipping that “Drug companies are like high school boyfriends—they’re much more interested in getting inside you than in being effective once they’re in there.”
But as any serious media watchdog knows, the same seemingly progressive commentators rarely extend these comparisons to vaccine makers, despite the fact that vaccine manufacturers are often the same companies paying out massive settlements for fraud and off-label drug marketing. It’s as if selective mainstream critics assume drug company executives go through some kind of purification rite or exorcism when they cross the hall to their vaccine divisions. For that analogy, I thought Matt Novak would make a perfect Father Karras.
Nuts and Jolts
Statistically, over half of all American families impacted by autism will reportedly cease or limit vaccination for subsequent children, so it’s hard to pretend the main targets of aggressive media attacks aren’t simply struggling parents of disabled kids.
The targets are also the disabled themselves. For example, the worst allegory Murdoch stringer Brian Deer could think of to disparage vaccine safety proponents was to compare them to their own disabled children: “…their personal behavioural issues are indicative of a better explanation for their children's issues. Certainly a lot better explanation than MMR… The festering nastiness, the creepy repetitiveness, the weasly, deceitful, obsessiveness, all signal pathology to me."
But it’s not personal—it’s business. Deer's professional apotheosis was in the best company at a vaccine industry conference on the shores of Lake Annecy in 2011. Media henchmen are only as vicious as their parent industry.
One father of a child with autism I know has grown weary of the media hypocrisy and coined his own analogy in response to a Time article titled Unvaccinated Families’ Addresses Should be Made Public:
Could you see Time publishing this with "HIV Positive" replacing "Unvaccinated" in the headline? Yeah, me neither. And to be clear, I find either scenario abhorrent and an affront to the principles of liberty and freedom that this nation was founded upon.
Unfortunately, the embedded media could probably think of a way to boomerang the above comparison in defense of a prospective AIDS vaccine. But at least the subject should be relatively safe from industrial attempts at humor—say, drawing a doubly heinous parallel between having unprotected sex and failing to vaccinate for flu— if not because this brings up the sticky facts that the AIDS industry has its own issues with ethics and accountability, or because public health authorities stalled in monitoring the blood supply in the early days of the AIDS epidemic even after 89% of hemophiliacs became infected, then because ACT UP is rightfully hell on wheels over defamation and insensitivity.
But lethal food allergies apparently aren’t out of bounds. A Cincinnati news station recently ran a cartoon by Kevin Necessary that manages to mock both peanut anaphylaxis and vaccine choice proponents in two frames.
John Gilmore of Autism Action Network offered a corrected comparison:
Suppose there was a law that said on the first day of school every kid had to eat a big spoonful of peanut butter. What would happen? Most kids would say, "Yum" and enjoy the peanut butter. But there is no question that some kids would get ill, perhaps go into anaphylactic shock, and some would certainly die. That's exactly what happens with vaccines. Most kids are fine, others react violently, some are permanently disabled, some die.
Again, X marks the spot. Peanut anaphylaxis—rates are on the rise and increasingly deadly among school aged children at 2% to 2.8% in 2010, so far doubling every 5 years. This could mean that now, in 2015, the rate is verging on 5%. According to historian Heather Fraser, author of The Peanut Allergy Epidemic,the massive spike in severe food allergies began the same year as the spikes in autism and chronic disease rates among children—something which she says may be more than coincidental. In fact, she states that the overloaded vaccine schedule is “totally contributing” among other toxicant sources, and has elsewhere argued that Margie Profet’s theory of allergy as it relates to toxic overload may be key to understanding the connection. Recently, Heather wrote,
There was a small window of time in which children suddenly became unwell in numbers larger than we had ever seen; and it was so specific as to actually make a mark on social consciousness: “We didn’t have this when I was young and at school,” exclaim the parents, now aging into their 40s and early 50s. And something did change suddenly. Children in western countries, at the same time developed anaphylaxis to peanut. This apparent mystery continues to baffle doctors who somehow missed their medical history classes… Anyway, it has occurred to me that at the current rate this will greatly impact the America military because the first wave of those affected are in their early 20s. The boys especially have proven so vulnerable with twice as many boys to girls affected by peanut allergy. Forget the bullets and nerve gas, lob a few open jars of Skippy from a trebuche or shoot crushed nuts from a grenade launcher. Ironically, the device they all carry with them, the Epipen, was developed for the US military in 1977 to administer an antidote to chemical exposure on the battlefield. Military personnel already know how to use this excellent defense.
Empires fall. Ours could be done in by a sandwich.
Considering that statements like these could be criminalized at some point, we might as well go for broke. The Halliburton style “war on disease” may be the war to end all wars—at least it could be the last that doesn’t have to outsource for recruits. That’s not an analogy yet but it will be at this rate.
Adriana Gamondes is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism and one of the blog’s Facebook administrators.