We are reaching a critical point (and historic moment) which resembles in some ways both WMD and the banking crisis of 2008: the burden of scientific evidence and personal testimony weighs heavily against the industry (everyone has been lied to and the products have been over-sold) and what we are seeing is a pre-emptive strike to stop people talking – to stop them at all cost. The evidence is that the industry and governments are afraid of exposure and are going for broke. This was the message of the industry spokeswoman Heidi Larson on 1 January 2018 in her column ‘Let Freedom Ring’. It was a very odd kind of freedom – Larson who works closely with the World Health Organization and Bill and Melinda Gates, as well as Merck and GSK – seemed to be trying to trade vaccine compulsion (distancing herself and the Vaccine Confidence Project from moves around the world towards draconian mandates) for silence on vaccine safety.
“The growing challenge in the vaccine landscape is that it is no longer isolated individuals who are thinking twice or refusing vaccination, but that there are growing groups of people who are not only expressing their individual right to question and to choose, but are increasingly connected with others and demanding the right to choose as part of a larger movement. These movements are about principles of freedom and rights, not about specific vaccines, or specific safety concerns.”
Larson is not wrong about rights but she is about people not having “specific safety concerns”: only a few months before she had declared on a Johnson and Johnson website:
“Yes, there are potential risks—there will always be potential risks with any medical treatment. And we don’t talk enough about that.”
Anybody might reasonably be worried about safety of something over which they are being threatened with censorship. And, of course, now there are many people writing and speaking on the web, who want to talk about the risks both from personal experience and published science who are not poorly informed, malicious or engaging in irresponsible talk. Of course, there are clickbait sites that put out deliberately false information but it does not seem likely that they are the ones that industry or government are really scared about.
When the European Parliament balances the bald assertion that vaccines are “safe” with condemning “ the spread of unreliable, misleading and unscientific information on vaccination aggravated by media controversies” and calling “on Member States and the Commission to take effective steps against the spread of such misinformation and to further develop awareness and information campaigns, especially for parents…” they are themselves being misleading, naive or worse – and they are trying to forestall public examination of what the industry and surrogate government bureaucracies are doing, and suppress the ever growing body of evidence that vaccines are not safe. They are declaring falsehoods, engaging in innuendo and calling for socially repressive measures. This sadly is all too likely to dovetail with French President Macron’s proposed legislation on Fake News, following on his extension vaccine mandates.
Simultaneously, we have the alarming spectacle of Senator Pan who having notoriously piloted the notorious SB277 school vaccine mandates bill through the Californian legislature has now filed SB1424 to censor social media with the appointment of state “fact checkers” to decide which facts are true.
This bill would require any person who operates a social media, as defined, Internet Web site with a physical presence in California to develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Web site. The bill would require the plan to include, among other things, a plan to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories, the utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories, providing outreach to social media users, and placing a warning on a news story containing false information.
(a) Any person who operates a social media Internet Web site with physical presence in California shall develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Internet Web site.
(b) The strategic plan shall include, but is not limited to, all of the following:
(1) A plan to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories.
(2) The utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories.
(3) Providing outreach to social media users regarding news stories containing false information.
(4) Placing a warning on a news story containing false information.
(c) As used in this section, “social media” means an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.
Not surprisingly there is already a fine article about this by John Rappoport. The bill does not of course specify vaccine related stories but obviously we can see where this going – of course it is altogether terrifying to envisage the scale and cost of this new bureaucracy, not to mention its potential for arbitrariness, incompetence and vindictiveness: perhaps above all to stop people talking about their own experiences. Is this so mad, grandiose, so Un-American that even California’s legislature might back off? In this brave new world no one could be confident.
These are not of course random events. Our new rulers are the pharmaceutical industry hiding behind men of straw.
John Stone is UK and European Editor of Age of Autism