Los Desaparecidos Industriales: Privatization and the Use of Child Protective Services as a Tool of Vaccine Enforcement
While a system of holding people in hostage is as old as the oldest war, a fresher note is introduced when a tyrannic state is at war with its own subjects and may hold any citizen in hostage with no law to restrain it. An even more recent improvement is the subtle use of what I shall term “the lever of love” (applied so successfully by the Soviets) of tying a rebel to his wretched country by his own twisted heart strings. ~Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister
Over the past several years, it’s been more and more common to hear stories in the news or through the social grapevine about parents losing their children to the state due to disagreements with doctors or hospital staff. Some of these cases involve children’s medical conditions which are arguably vaccine-related—like the 2014 case involving the late Maryanne Godboldo and the state’s attempt to forcibly sedate her daughter, who Godboldo claimed was vaccine-injured; or the more current case of Joe and Maria Selva’s attempts to treat their daughter’s seizures with (legal) medical cannabis instead of risky standard anti-epileptic drugs.
But over the past year, these stories of state child removal have shifted from possibly vaccine-related to vaccine-contingent, such as the case of vaccine-resistant Florida mother Autumn Ceyten losing four children to the state. Ceyten’s is not an isolated account and follows an increasing number of news stories in which vaccination status played some key role in state charges of parental neglect. Taken together, this creates the appearance of a disturbing but not unexpected trend.
On April 28th, 2015, New York University law professor Mary Holland expected it as she testified before the California Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to SB277, a bill—since passed— that would remove all personal exemptions to vaccination, leaving only impossible-to-acquire medical exemptions for California’s school children.
On the issue of consent, Holland drew a sharp parallel between forced vaccination and rape that angered Chairwoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara). When Chairwoman Jackson was done sputtering, Holland asked whether the state would criminalize dissent.
MARY HOLLAND: Furthermore, a problem with SB277 would be in its enforcement…Will you be willing to remove children and force-vaccinate them as wards of the state?
Will you be willing to throw non-vaccinating parents in prison?
And what happens if the state does vaccinate a child who is removed and that child is severely injured or dies?
What will the state do?
SEN. JACKSON: Where in this bill does it talk about throwing parents in prison?
MARY HOLLAND: No, but what will you do? The parents—many of the parents who are…
SEN. JACKSON: I’m sorry but there is nothing in this… I mean, there are enough concerns raised. To kind of push it to a level… Now we are talking about putting parents in prison…
Senator Jackson expressed outrage for several more minutes about Holland’s “inflammatory” suggestions, to which Holland replied, “But I don’t know what you will do.”
Now, in 2017, we’re getting a clearer idea of what they will do. Shortly after Mary Holland testified, various state social services divisions began adding a stipulation that parental failure to get children immunized with all required vaccinations can be categorized as a form of child abuse/neglect and can be grounds for criminal investigation.
From page 14 of the Mandated Reporter Training Educators Training Manual put forth by California Department of Social Services:
Lesson 1 - What to Report:
Other forms of neglect include
- Medical neglect, such as not providing appropriate medical care, dental care, or immunizations
- Emotional neglect, such as not interacting with an infant or child
- Educational neglect, such as not enrolling a child in school or providing proper home-schooling
The addition of the word “immunizations” in the routine language of a standard document seems to be new. Having seen various states’ mandated reporter guides in the past, I know several specifically indicated that vaccination was not in the purview of child protective services and that an investigation could not be launched on those grounds.
The addition of immunization to mandated reporter guidelines isn’t isolated to California and could turn out to be an edict sent down from on high—the US Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency of Child Protective Services as well as the CDC. Whatever is the case, reports are coming in from teachers in other states that their mandated reporter training modules have changed in the past few years. The following photo of a media presentation given to staff during a mandated reporter training session was taken in an Oklahoma public school:
The teachers in Oklahoma reported that vaccine exemptions were never mentioned during this or any other presentation on the issue. When several individuals attempted to call various regional departments of children and families to inquire about the new language, they were reportedly angrily brushed off, much like Chairwoman Jackson’s stonewalling of Mary Holland.
In any event, it’s clear certain machinery has gone into gear and vaccine industry avatars like UC Hastings assistant law professor Dorit Reiss could not be happier.
During a panel discussion for the National Meningitis Association in May, Reiss— wearing what appears to be a mermaid costume and bedroom slippers—explains how employing police to "force vaccination...certainly isn't easy on anyone. So it's not something done easily. It can be done. But just not done easily“
Evoking unsettling visions of police with military grade tactical gear battering down doors, tasing dads, shooting dogs, putting moms in headlocks and snatching up screaming kids seems quite easy for Reiss. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that, throughout the videotaped meeting, her demeanor is disjointedly cheerful considering the grimness of the topic: her eyes glow, she smiles reflexively and swings her fidgety feet like a contented toddler at story time. But it's apparent by Reiss's mincing grammar why she feels so buoyant: only police are assigned agency and the burden of responsibility regarding the thing she describes being "done." Those directing the doing of it and fabricating legal and moral pretexts for the doing of it remain unburdened, unnamed.
So what’s so hard about the tactic? It won’t be Dorit having to batter down doors. It’s actually quite a simple process if you compare it to the monumental task of reforming the vaccine manufacturing process, compensating victims, restoring the right to sue industry and recovering public trust. Of course people (and dogs) may die in the process, but that’s a sacrifice Reiss is willing to make. As we’re seeing with other forms of political injustice, industrial atrocity is not hard to spin when industry owns the press.
After showing him the above video, my husband wondered aloud whether states could possibly muster the resources to snatch children from every single family who sought vaccine exemptions. How could states place all these children and jail all these parents? I said, “They can” and brought up the model of prison privatization.
For-profit corporate prisons which contract with various industries to hire prisoners for pennies a day are actually suing states if “lockup quotas” are not met—particularly for nonviolent detainees who can be contracted to work in call centers for banks and insurance companies or rallied to put out fires in California (fires related in part to water privatization-accelerated drought)— evoking more unsettling images of police departments charged with rounding up enough jay-walkers and individuals owing municipal fines to fill prison beds.
Yes, all those children can be placed and all those parents jailed. There’s big money in it. It's also a market with great growth potential since today's vaccine enthusiasts may easily become tomorrow's imprison-able resistors as the tort-protected childhood vaccine schedule continues to expand as it has over the past forty years from 10 to 24 to the current 74 doses and with over over 300 new vaccines in the approval pipeline.
For some background, neoliberal (which is neither new nor liberal) privatization is a process of corporations taking control of formerly public services, either through total privatization or what is euphemistically called “public-private partnerships.”
Corporate actors, since they are not public servants even as they profit from public taxpayer money, are immune from Freedom of Information Act requests and public accountability, which is another perverse incentive to privatize and why quality of services typically nose-dives from the moment corporations dig their claws in.
Furthermore, transnational corporations which take over public services aren’t even vulnerable to the flak that local corporations face when going afoul of public opinion. It doesn't matter what countries these corporations are based in, only that they're not local-- meaning it's just as bad when the US does the same in other countries. In essence, these corporations might as well be extraterrestrial: they have no country, no population to which they’re loyal other than shareholders. Considering the disastrous results of privatization around the world, privatizing politicos all over the world are quite literally traitors, selling out their constituencies' health, lives and environment to foreign invaders.
As it happens, there have been discussions of privatizing the CDC, though considering the CDC purchases and sells $4.1 billion in vaccines annually and how rife the regulatory agency is with “public-private partnerships,” it seems the CDC is well beyond the larval stages of privatization already—as is true of public education, social security, pension plans, health care, utilities, military, prisons, mail, water, port authority, disaster relief, and police.
The schemes leading up to privatization are typically led by the very corporations that end up profiting from privatization, following a routine “defund, defame and privatize” pattern worldwide. These corporations first lobby government and pay politicians to defund and lower the quality of the public service or resource. This predictably triggers public and media outcry and pleas for the systems to be rescued, at which point those who lit the fire arrive on the scene to play firemen, offering to cure the ailing service/resource with free market medicine, usually citing supposedly successful examples of corporatization. Except what results from privatization are invariably things like Common Core testocracy, Flint water catastrophe, and NSA spying, not to mention the current US vaccination program and child protective services.
Aside from Dorit Reiss (a fan of privatization ), the National Meningitis Association panel on vaccine enforcement included the usual paid vaccine industry mouthpieces like $29 million dollar vaccine patent holder Paul Offit and Alison Singer. But the panel included an interesting new presence: Paul Lee, M.D., Director of the International Adoption Program and Pediatric Travel Center at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, New York.
At first it might seem that Lee’s relevance to the panel is due to the fact that he provides health and immunization consultation for international adoptees at Winthrop University Hospital. But on closer inspection, it's possible that Lee's inclusion has more significance since Winthrop’s International Adoption Program also partners with for-profit international adoption corporations which, according to University of Massachusetts-Amherst professor Laura Briggs, have been increasingly setting up shop domestically due to several countries banning adoptions by US parents after many children were found to be stolen, sold or otherwise trafficked illegally, a process which Briggs regards as distinctly neoliberal. According to some estimates, revenue from adoption related services in the US is around $13 billion and the non-profit status of adoption service providers like Winthrop can be deceiving.
The specter of international adoption corporations putting the cross hairs on North American children after running out of foreign fodder and lobbying states to lower the threshold of what constitutes abuse/neglect is frightening enough without the reported profit motives of state CPS agencies, which apparently receive over $20 million (and rising) in federal incentives for increasing adoption rates from previous years, as well as fees and kickbacks from corporate foster care, adoption and juvenile mental health facilities.
Even more chilling, the very same companies that provide "corrections services" are also investing in for-profit adoption and foster care, which would effectively create a bundled profit package if private prisons receive a sudden influx of parents jailed for vaccine noncompliance.
Another "bundled profit" could be that one third of foster children end up enmeshed with the criminal justice system and 14% of adult prisoners surveyed in California had formerly been in foster care. But nothing is more shocking than the recent report that children are dying in corporate foster care at a rate 42 times the national average for child mortality even as foster care corporations like MENTOR, a subsidiary of Civitas Solutions, are seeing stock prices soar.
Like the topic of vaccine injury, the subject of perverse financial and political incentives for child removal seems to be a media third rail, usually featured only with limited scope. The blog Medical Kidnap covers a range of state abuses, but the blog’s alternative status leaves it open to Snopes’ corporate-leaning “debunking” tactics, while more “journalistic” sources perform a sort of table cloth trick, featuring only select forms of state overreach while carefully avoiding others. For instance, a Nation article titled Has Child Protective Services Gone Too Far? focused mostly on the history of targeting poor and minority populations which is a legitimate subject and longstanding crisis. But despite the fact that poor and minority victims of social services might be helped if the wider public were to recognize their own stake in curbing CPS abuses, the article mentioned nothing about the increasing practice of child removal for medical disagreement (the Justina Pelletier case, Rebecca Bredow, Isaiah Rider, Maryanne Godboldo) or to suppress activism (Shona Banda) and certainly nothing about child removal for vaccine resistance.
Mother Jones did the same finessing when it covered the increasing corporatization of Child Protective Services. Granted that it’s a difficult task to surgically separate the “baby” of legitimate child protection from the “bathwater” of the current Halliburtonization of social services, but the latter two publications’ strict (and likely sponsored) support of the public health establishment has arguably led to a failure to warn the public of the expansion of state child displacement as a tool of political coercion which, ironically, will most deeply impact the poor and minority targets these publications pretend to be concerned for.
The result of all this is that the public response to wholesale child removal remains confused and flaccid and the monster grows.
The removal of children from their families has been characterized by the U.S. Supreme Court as “tantamount to a ‘civil death penalty’” (In re Smith, 137 Wash.2d 1, 969 P.2d21 (1998)).
In Stanley v. Illinois, Kennedy-appointee Justice Byron White wrote:
The Court has frequently emphasized the importance of the family. The rights to conceive and to raise one's children have been deemed "essential," Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399 (1923), "basic civil rights of man," Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942), and "[r]ights far more precious . . . than property rights," May v. Anderson, 345 U.S. 528, 533 (1953). "It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder." Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166 (1944). The integrity of the family unit has found protection in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Meyer v. Nebraska, supra, at 399, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Skinner v. Oklahoma, supra, at 541, and the Ninth Amendment, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 496 (1965) (Goldberg, J., concurring).
The thumb trap of progressively privatizing CPS/DCF and dependency court is that the state will often hang people on their own principles, on the passion with which they love and try to protect their children which is illustrated by the number of cases of parents losing custody merely for seeking a second medical opinions, or by the gag orders commonly placed on families who attempt to call for community support. The terrible takeaway is that it may be better not to have any principles, and it’s better not to love lest that love be used as a lever of control as Vladimir Nabokov described in a novel about a fictional rogue state that attempted to force public declarations of fealty from dissidents by killing family members and abducting children.
Still, I sense that much of the hush surrounding the expansion of CPS abuses isn’t simply a collective assumption that all is well and that agencies are properly performing their critical service of protecting children from genuine abuse, but more like something seeping from an infected wound. The infection involves growing fear and consequent denial, the dirty bandage of silence and the hope that not naming the bad thing may keep it at bay. The infection is also historic.
I didn’t have to elaborate much when I answered my husband’s query about the capacity of states to track down and grab every last vaccine resistor. He knows. There have been several moments over the years when writers or speakers for the vaccine safety movement drew criticism for comparing mass vaccine injury and related coverup and persecution to other political repressions and historical atrocities. But the following is an example of those who survived the US vaccine-enforcement debacle as well as a particular political atrocity and agree with the analogy between the two. When men with guns break down your door to unjustly take your well-loved child away as a means of social control, it doesn't matter what uniform they're wearing, what authority they represent or what scientific rationale is wielded— it's political. When children are dying in the process, it doesn't matter how many miles or decades exist between historical and present events in which the same thing occurred. The comparison is no longer even political analogy. It's repetition.
When my husband was a child, his family was forced to leave Argentina after his father ended up on the blacklist of the “Triple A”—the violent right wing death squad whose members eventually launched the Argentine “Dirty War,” a US-supported military coup and seven year reign of terror that led to the deaths and disappearances of over 30,000 people.
As with most dirty wars, the first targets of oppression were dissidents and revolutionaries—or whatever was left of them in the case of Argentina in the 1970’s, since radical left Peronists hadn’t been heavily active for about five years prior to the coup that ousted President Isabel Peron. Once Henry Kissinger gave the green light for the killings to commence, the hit list quickly expanded to include those who merely protested the killings and detentions on moral or judicial grounds, unionists, students who picketed against bus fare hikes, conservative constitutionalists, judges, human rights activists, priests, nuns, journalists, artists, academics, Jews, homosexuals—anyone.
My late father in law had strong opinions, supported indigenous rights and labor but he was hardly a revolutionary. He was a writer and filmmaker, and artists under repressive regimes— if they don't passionately pledge complicity and grovel for amnesty— become automatic suspects. He ended up on the list mostly by association because he wrote for a television series starring the outspoken actress Norma Aleandro, a high profile “lister” whose house was bombed by the Triple A. Aleandro survived and escaped the country but nearly the entire cast and crew of this particular series were forced into exile. The arts community in the country was quickly scattered and obliterated; careers, lives and families were disrupted. Some were caught and killed, many never recovered, some eked out an existence in exile and a few resurrected careers after the fall of the dictatorship.
One particular atrocity the Argentine junta was famous for was the theft of children. When my husband’s family received the knock on the door and the usual demands for lists of “associates,” it was understood that it was only a matter of time before family members—including children—might begin to disappear. The idea was to bring the main target to heel by destroying everything they loved in order to publicly break them, Winston Smith-style, before killing them. My husband remembers people talking of how neighbors would cluck their tongues after someone was dragged away in the middle of the night, parroting the expression that later became an infamous symbol of the oppression: “Algo habrán hecho”—“They must have done something.”
It’s terrible to exist under threat and worse that the system of terror can rely on blaming bystanders as a key component of psychological torture. A cousin of my father in law, a lawyer for the opposition, was driven to an early death by it. He died while in hiding.
Under the Argentine dictatorship, children were also stolen and adopted to supporters of the dictatorship as part of a “societal reprogramming” campaign to “reduce expression” of the “red gene”—a peculiar amalgamation of Nazi eugenics and Freudian hysteria borrowed from the theories of Spanish dictator General Franco’s chief psychiatrist and race hygienist, Antonio Vallejo-Nágera, who sought to connect heredity to criminality through research of maternal “constitutional psychopathic inferiority"— a theory used to justify the theft of over 300,000 children.
The toxic psychiatric theories wielded by past dictatorships to separate families and worse could be seen as precursors of the modern overuse of the Neo-Freudian Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (theorized by some as "genetic") to remove custody from parents who disagree with doctors, as well as the newly minted DSM diagnosis of "Somatic Symptom Disorder"(also assigned “genetic factors”) which, when applied to parents' health views regarding their children, could be even more destructive than the over-application of MSBP since it's even broader and vaguer. And of course there's the "tabloid science" behind the campaign to criminalize vaccine dissent and cast side effects as the fault of booby-trapped genes.
So not even the fake science behind today’s industrial child-snatching is particularly new. In fact, the use of weaponized pseudoscience to rationalize human rights abuses is also neoliberal.
The Argentine Guerra Sucia was only one of several coups in Latin America engineered under Operation Condor, a secret Cold War political program, such as the earlier CIA-backed coup by General Augusto Pinochet in Chile which also directed the murders and disappearances of over 30,000 people and child displacement. But what’s interesting about this history today is the attempt by certain corporate media sources to revise it, reframing the main impetus for the coups—neoliberal privatization of Latin America—as a successful experiment.
In The Guardian, Noami Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism , describes how neoliberal “free market” economic guru Milton Friedman and his Chilean “Chicago Boys” who in a sense drew the blueprint for the Chilean coup and its murderous domino effect throughout Latin America, are now being re-sanctified in the New York Times and countless other publications as the saviors behind Chile’s more recent resistance to disaster (earth quakes, economic catastrophe). Aside from the problems in this argument that Klein points out—that the policies that bolster the current Chilean infrastructure and economy came from the ousted administration of President Salvador Allende —what’s even more disturbingly relevant is that the revisionism is occurring simultaneous to the domestic creep of repressive policies that we once exported.
To understand what may yet unfold in the US, it seems worth taking a look at what the US once helped to unfold abroad. Things may not play out precisely as they did forty years ago in South America with secret torture centers peppering the suburbs, electrocuted babies and disemboweled nuns. But history has echoes nevertheless and, to corporate power, what’s past is prologue as Shakespeare wrote. For instance, it seems convergent that Pinochet’s coup against Allende began with a PR campaign in the US media (and whatever media the CIA could bribe or buy in Chile), some of which focused on Allende’s proposed medical policies that de-emphasized vaccination. An article in the October, 1970 edition of Time Magazine placed the bull’s eye on Allende. Critics waxed livid because Allende, a medical doctor, stressed the importance of infrastructural improvements in sanitation in poor districts where disease ran rampant, and also nutrition and economic programs, rather than medical intervention. Allende was deeply criticized for having “conceptualized illness as a disturbance of the individual fostered by deprived social conditions.”
The "outrage" at Allende from the Chilean medical association, who took out a full page ad in the aptly named El Mercurio, was likely US-sponsored, though members expressed genuine ire that their bread and butter profits (presumably from drugs and shots) were being threatened. According to journalist and biographer Jon Lee Anderson, the revolt by the Chilean medical association was one of the deciding factors paving the way for Pinochet’s bloody coup d’état. Once dictator Pinochet was in power, according to former President Allende’s niece, novelist Isabel Allende, militarized medical squads would roam poor and rural districts "grabbing and stabbing" (force vaccinating) any child they could get their hands on regardless of prior vaccination history or medical status. People would hide their children because of persistent rumors that over-vaccinated children developed seizure disorders.
And now more than chickens are roosting as the policies we once exported come home. Several years ago, an article by Alex Berezow of Forbes-held RealClearScience was republished or reviewed in major national news media such as USA Today, the Washington Post and the LA Times, proposing that parents who fail to fully vaccinate their children should be criminally prosecuted. As bloggers and activists have pointed out, this is the logical progression of a media campaign proposing a variety of punitive measures, anything from segregating the not-fully-vaccinated in schools (National Public Radio ), being sued for imagined damages (Forbes) or fined (Dorit Reiss for Skeptical Raptor), or fined and jailed (Slate). From USA Today:
The entirely preventable California measles outbreak has now sickened more than 70 people. With perhaps hundreds more exposed, the outbreak will likely continue.
As the disease spreads, experts will debate how we respond and what to do about the anti-vaccine movement that's partly to blame for this mess. Likely, all we'll agree on is better outreach to parents.
That's not enough. Parents who do not vaccinate their children should go to jail.
Algo habrán hecho …
In an era when 1 in 5 American children are on food stamps and 51% of American school children live in poverty, individual ability to extricate themselves from such a legal bind— in the case such laws were ever passed— would vary widely, with many unable to pay bail, court costs and attorneys fees.
In effect, the proposed policy is actually a threat of arguably politicized mass child removal. The criminal charge against families would likely relate to child abuse, neglect or endangerment. When parents go to jail, children would logically be placed elsewhere in the interim—after being vaccinated without consent.
Forced medical treatment is notably condemned in the Nuremberg Code. And “forcibly transferring children of one group to another group” is a form of genocide according to international law. Dr. Kok Thay-Eng, research director for Documentations Center of Cambodia, an organization that researches genocide, has argued that the definition of genocide should be redefined to include "politicide," i.e., the persecution and destruction of political groups such as attacks against government critics in Argentina. Thay-Eng notes that it was due to under-the-table decision making during the Genocide Convention of 1948 that politicide was not included.
The fact that the increasingly corporatized state in the US has increasingly dictated the removal of children from families who dissent from corporate rule is, again, distinctly political. Vaccine enforcement has never been about public health.
To be “disappeared”—desaparcer— as the Tom the Dancing Bug comic strip explains, is a transitive verb only in totalitarian-speak.
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 probably why the passive verb and noun forms of “desaparcer” have been adapted in nearly every language on earth since the leader of the Argentine military junta, General Jorge Raphael Videla, first used “desaparecido”—“the disappeared”— specifically in reference to the 30,000 detained and executed by the Argentine military junta in the 1970’s. During a press conference in 1979, Videla stated:
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.]
The verbal mutation is kind of the grammatical equivalent of a self-exculpatory shrug and was required to depersonalize the junta’s victims, who could not even be called victims. Dehumanization of the collateral is always a key part of repression. Injuries are always deserved or imaginary, fallout is recast as fate, whistleblowers become victims. They all must have done something. Removing any agent from the sentence is to assign no responsibility to that agent. The blame is assigned to the object by omission, something “the agent” gets to be pretty good at doing. It's not done easily of course, but it can be done.
Adriana Gamondes is a contributing editor to Age of Autism and one of the blog’s social media administrators.