Why Do Anti-Vaxxers Try to Convince Parents the Government Will Kidnap Their Children?

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend on anti-vaccine sites and social media outlets. They are promoting stories of (as they tell it) good families whose children are unfairly and injudiciously kidnapped from them by government agencies. The anti-vaxxers sometimes assert that these so-called kidnappings are related to vaccines, but more often they do not. It seems that the overriding take-home message is, “Don’t trust the government.” Here are a few samples I found in 2 minutes of Googling:

The first instance is Natural News asserting that a child was (unfairly and unjustly) taken by CPS after receiving vaccines. For some background, Natural News is a for-profit website that promotes all manner of conspiracy theory, including that vaccines are a Nazi-like plot to thin our population and that Sandy Hook was a hoax.

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The next example I found was from the ironically-named National Vaccine Information Center’s Facebook page, asserting that Child Protective Service’s “corrupt” practices have finally been exposed (on a website about doctors and government workers kidnapping children):

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The last example I will present here come from a new website called Edgy Truth, which is closely tied to snake oil saleswoman Dr. Sherri Tenpenny’s practice. Dr. Tenpenny sells very expensive videos discussing the dangers of vaccines, and she also sells access to medical studies she did not write.

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The question in the title above asks why the anti-vaxxers are trying to convince parents that the government will kidnap their children. I’m not a mind-reader, and I cannot say for certain, but I have a few hypotheses:

  1. More and more every day parents are speaking up on behalf of vaccines. It is no longer just government agencies who are promoting high vaccine rates. In this way, parents from all political parties are giving the same message about something as the government. The anti-vaxxers may be trying to peel away this rare bi-partisan, every-person support by showing just how untrustowrthy and wicked the government truly is.
  2. The anti-vaxxers are so conspiracy minded that they truly believe that at any moment, someone will burst into their homes and remove their children for reasons capricious and nebulous. The message of “medical kidnappings” has a stickiness to them, and anti-vaccine pages and websites get more hits with these stories than less conspiracy-laden stories. In other words, these stories sell to the anti-vaccine base.
  3. The purveyors of anti-vaccine wares want parents to hide their children away from school officials and doctors so that they will be more vulnerable to anti-vaccine messaging. When parents do not trust doctors and other officials, they will not share information with them, and their beliefs about vaccines (and a whole host of other stuff) will go unchecked, leaving them at the mercy of the anti-vaccine pages and what they are selling.

Perhaps you have another observation or hypothesis. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, by any means, but it is worth paying attention to the paranoia and conspiracies being sold to our anti-vaccine friends and family members. I have a great deal of sympathy for people who live in a world so frightening that they believe this new message. Every parent deserves to be confident that their community will support them and their children.

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