Note: On this, the final day of the month, year and decade, we are happy to share this review of David Kirby's latest book, When They Come For You. David's book Evidence of Harm and his work on Huffington Post brought many readers into the AofA fold. And like everyone who dares to question anything about vaccinations, he paid a price. Please join us in congratulating him on this book, and we encourage you to support his work with a purchase. Thank you to AofA Contributor Jonathan Rose for his review.
A revealing book about how government, law enforcement, and bureaucratic interests are seizing our property, our children, our savings, and our fundamental American rights—and how to fight back. St. Martin's Press
By Jonathan Rose
David Kirby, When They Come for You, St. Martin’s Press, hardcover $29.99, e-book $14.99.
For many of us, the penny dropped when we read David Kirby’s Evidence of Harm. My wife and I had watched helplessly as our two daughters gradually descended into autism. The younger one regressed visibly after her fifth-birthday MMR shot, but we did not immediately connect the two events. Doctors offered no explanation, no means of arresting the decline, and no effective treatment (ABA really didn’t work). Shortly after it was published, I took Kirby’s book to read on a business trip. When I arrived at my hotel, I immediately phoned my wife and told her that the culprit had at last been identified.
At the time we had every reason to think that the autism epidemic would be reversed. Evidence of Harm was favorably reviewed in the New York Times, it won the 2005 Investigative Reporters and Editors award for best book, and Kirby was invited to discuss his findings on television talk shows. Though a disastrous medical error had been committed, we were reasonably confident that what are called the “self-correcting mechanisms” of a democratic society – open public debate and free scientific investigation – would set things right.
Of course, that didn’t happen. Vaccine injury – along with an ever-lengthening list of controversial topics – is no longer debatable. And abuses of government power, far from being checked, are ever more pervasive.
This is the subject of Kirby’s latest book, When They Come for You. It devotes only a few pages to compulsory vaccination, but it places the issue in a much larger political context: the protections ostensibly guaranteed in the Bill of Rights are increasingly ignored or flouted by the police, the courts, and bureaucrats. SWAT teams launch warrantless raids on homeowners who have done nothing wrong. Debtors prisons did not end with Charles Dickens: courts today impose fines that impoverished defendants cannot pay and then jail them indefinitely. Police can seize your property even if you are merely suspected of a crime, and they usually keep what they seize.
Acting on anonymous accusations, Child Protective Services removes children from their parents, who are presumed either guilty until proven innocent, or just plain guilty. (Some vaccination advocates have proposed that nonvaccination alone would justify prosecuting parents for medical neglect.) An “unclean home” is considered grounds removing children – and frankly, if your autistic fifteen-year-old is incontinent, your home probably isn’t spotless. Julian Dominguez and Melinda Murphy, two former social workers who have studied allegations of child abuse, concluded that the permanent removal of children was necessary in only 20 percent of cases. The other cases involved either parents who were either completely innocent or too poor to properly care for their children, and the latter could be helped by a more adequate social safety net.
Most troubling of all, freedom of speech, the bedrock of American liberty, is under attack from institutions that used to defend it. Colleges that once upheld academic freedom now impose speech codes. Major news outlets that always stood up for press freedom now insist that alternative websites be shut down. (See a recent op-ed in the New York Times by a New Yorker staff writer, “Free Speech is Killing Us”.) The Internet was at first hailed as a public forum open to everyone: now tech oligopolies have hired armies of censors to enforce arcane, contradictory, and ever-changing restrictions. Scientists once insisted on free inquiry: now they treat “science” as a set of eternal dogmas, not open to debate or revision in the light of new evidence.
Kirby cites the case of Brandon Raub, a decorated Marine Corps veteran whose controversial Facebook page attracted the attention of the FBI. Though he could be charged with no crime, he was forcibly detained in a psychiatric ward under a “green warrant”, a legal mechanism used to detain about 20,000 Virginians whom someone somehow judged to be some kind of threat. (The Soviet Union, in its final days, also tried to confine dissidents to mental hospitals.) Granted, Raub spun some wild theories about government conspiracies – but then, AoA has also alleged conspiracies involving federal agencies, haven’t we?
Kirby isn’t nearly as hostile to the “deep state” as (say) Steve Bannon. He was for a time a New York City employee, and he rightly insists that genuinely dedicated public servants do exist as individuals. But what emerges from this book is that bureaucracies as institutions always tend to accumulate power, pilfer wealth, suppress public criticism, insulate themselves from democratic control, and seek favors from the institutions and corporations they are supposed to regulate (the so-called “revolving door”). As his friend and ally Sharyl Attkisson illustrated in her book The Smear, whenever one of those dedicated public servants turns whistleblower, bureaucracies mobilize to destroy him. Every government department (not just the CDC) has a PR apparatus that can call upon complicit journalists to attack its critics and credulously publish its press releases. (Except for a segment on Sharyl Attkisson’s program Full Measure, the mainstream media has virtually ignored When They Come for You.)
Kirby despises Donald Trump, and he points out some real abuses under the current administration. But he honestly admits that, “Given Obama’s progressive public rhetoric, I was taken aback to discover the Obama administration’s shameful legal record on legal and judicial matters.” Because the electorate cannot control unelected bureaucracies, they tend to become increasingly powerful and corrupt regardless of the election results. And given that big tech companies (also unelected) work hand in glove with government agencies to conduct surveillance of we the people, they become an extension of intrusive bureaucracies.
Kirby describes himself as a “leftist libertarian”, and wryly concedes that this now seems to be a contradiction in terms. When he was growing up in the 1970s, all leftists were fiercely antiauthoritarian and profoundly distrusted government institutions. But now, for reasons that would require a scholarly monograph to explain, that virtually anarchistic countercultural left has evolved into a very establishmentarian “progressivism”, which may be defined as liberalism without liberty. “Woke” college students aspire to bureaucratic jobs in education or tech companies or government where they will be well-paid for surveilling and policing the rest of us. They view the Bill of Rights and civil liberties as obstacles to be overcome. (Kirby may be the only bona fide leftist who supports the Second Amendment.)
However focused we may be on the autism epidemic, we should listen closely to David Kirby, because he sees the larger picture. “They” have come not only for us, but also for millions of other persecuted citizens, and that kind of bureaucratic arrogance has no doubt contributed to the worldwide populist revolt. Politics are all about coalition-building, and a protest movement that concentrates solely on autism will necessarily be small (even if it is growing). Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has attracted a much broader following by taking on all the chronic disorders that afflict the Sickest Generation, including but not limited to autism. If we widen our appeal still further, and join forces with all those whose individual rights have been trampled in the name of the “greater good”, then we will have a large majority.
Jonathan Rose is a Professor of History at Drew University. His most recent book is Readers’ Liberation (Oxford University Press).