Filling Wakefield’s Coffers

Really, that’s all VAXXED is about. The movie, written by, produced by, funded by, and starring Andrew Wakefield is about Andrew Wakefield. It came to the city where I live and caused very little stir.

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The Uptown theater in Minneapolis didn’t even list VAXXED in its marquee while it was being shown there.

Nor should it. Andrew Wakefield is a fraud, but he is also a washed up has-been. It was no surprise when friends of mine went to see the film, sitting in nearly empty theaters.

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My gut feeling is that this film, like many of the other anti-vaccine endeavors preceding it, will fizzle out with a whimper.

But not without a fight. The anti-vaxxers are goading each other to buy tickets to the film, even if they have no intention of using the tickets. They hide this racket by terming it a donation or calling it their “Angel Ticket” program. But what they are trying to do is to make this film seem like more of a success than it is so that they can push it out to more theaters across the country.

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The Hear This Well Facebook page is only one of many encouraging people to “donate tickets” (to whom? they don’t say) in order to sell out the theaters in Florida and pressure Regal theaters to show the movie nationwide.

I have to believe that Regal will notice that no one is actually in these so-called sold out theaters, although they might not care–as long as they are selling tickets. I have heard rumors from insiders that the VAXXED DVD is coming out next month, though. I don’t know any theater that would show a movie that is also out on DVD.

All this brings me back to the beginning. The movie itself is made by, written by, promoted by, and starring Andrew Wakefield. He tried to swindle us all once with a phony study and a media tour aimed at frightening us away from the MMR vaccine. Andrew Wakefield doesn’t do anything that doesn’t benefit Andrew Wakefield, and once again–even in the promotion of this film, the main beneficiary is Andrew Wakefield (and the main victims are public health and autistic people).

 

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Anti-Vaxxers Dox a Child

One particularly vile and unethical way of shutting down opposition is to make public personal information about someone whose ideas oppose yours. Sometimes doxing comes with the presumption that others will then follow up by contacting and harassing that person. Often the defense on the part of the doxer is that the doxee’s information is already available online. However, giving that information to people who are ideologically opposed to someone makes that person a target, and thus doxxing becomes horrible and awful and you should never do it.

So why is it happening to a child? I guess the answer, if you don’t want to read any further, is that anti-vaxxers are narrowly hellbent on defeating anyone who champions vaccines that they don’t see a child as a child, a human, an actual person who should be off limits to harassment. Marco Arturo, whose adorable satirical video purporting to show all the evidence that vaccines cause autism (Spoiler: he reveals an empty folder), has become the target of Levi Quackenboss‘s doxing.*

I’m upset, my friends. And that’s really the motivation behind this post. However, because I don’t want to further the doxing and harassment, I won’t link to the blog post in mine.  But here you have a screenshot:

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In one particularly hypocritical point, “Levi Quackenboss” writes:

So who is Marco?  I’m not going to post his full name out of respect for him and his parents as well as their safety, but they’ve been a little sloppy about making trails to it so they should clean that up. The last names his parents use are not the name that he uses on social media.

Why is this hypocritical, you ask? You will notice that everyone who responds to “Levi Quackenboss” calls her she and her, not he or him–as you would expect with a man named Levi. Guess what. Levi Quackenboss is not the blogger’s real name! Oh shocking! (Or actually not at all.

Although, as a side note, I was irked that “Levi Quackenboss” used one of her pseudonyms to testify in front of a Colorado congressional hearing. Her testimony consisted of showing memes that Voices for Vaccines had made and making false and disparaging remarks about the organization and the Colorado VFV Parent Advisory Board member who was in attendance. She does seem to hide behind fake names to say horrible things.

A second aside, amazeball epidemiologist and awesome guy, Rene Najera points out this Picasso’s full name is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. So yeah. Marco didn’t use his full name.

“Levi” concludes her doxing piece against a child with this bit a conspiracy paranoia:

One thing is obvious, though: Marco isn’t just some random unknown kid when his parents have connections with the Mexican government and Walgreens is on standby with a celebrity media company to sponsor his pro-vaccine video.

Yes, because children of lobbyists never make videos and don’t have opinions. And Walgreens and Ashton Kutcher are apparently in on the conspiracy–along with the Mexican government–to cover up the vaccine-autism connection championed by such savory characters as Andrew Wakefield. People who believe this are really the same sorts of people who believe that Tupac is still alive and that 9/11 was an inside job.

This entire affair brought to mind an experience I had with a viral blog post and doxing. In December 2013, my organization (Voices for Vaccines) published a piece by Amy Parker titled “Growing Up Unvaccinated.” I actually hadn’t realized it was going viral until our website crashed and I was unable to access my email. Like Marco’s simple and marvelous piece, Amy Parker’s struck a nerve both among pro- and anti-vaxxers.

And the anti-vaxxers immediately pounce in some of the most despicable and horrible ways possible. They began by taking to Google and discovered someone named Amy Parker Fiebekorn who worked at the CDC. They immediately decided that because Amy Parker is such an unusual name that this CDC Amy Parker, and not the one from the UK whose actual biography we gave, was the true author of “Growing Up Unvaccinated.” You know–because if we went to the trouble of tricking people by secretly publishing a piece by someone at the CDC, we wouldn’t bother changing her name. This myth persists to the day and will pop up if you Google “Growing Up Unvaccinated Fake.”

Others were not satisfied and decided that perhaps Amy Parker didn’t work at the CDC. So they tracked her down. They found her profile and her mother’s Facebook profile. Some sent PMs. They found Amy’s cell phone number, and some began texting her. They found a video where she discusses her struggles with mental health issues and posted it publicly, as if to shame her with the stigma of mental illness. In one forum, one woman (who, by the way, makes a living teaching online classes about the dangers of vaccines), discussed paying her a visit:

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Amy Parker (the real one) had to shut down her Facebook page and take down her business page (which included her phone number). To make matters worse, the doxing and harassment came as she welcomed a new baby into her family.

Doxing has real consequences, and an adult shouldn’t have to deal with those consequences, but a child really, really should not have to. The doxing of Marco Arturo is despicable and has to stop now.

All this because a child made a satirical video. Grow up, anti-vaxxers. If you disagree with him, discuss your disagreement. Don’t disparage and harass a child.

*ETA: The doxing included in the Quackenboss post included the names of his stepfather and his mother and some employment information regarding his stepfather. A screenshot of the stepfather’s Facebook page included the name of their hometown. This information not only makes it easy to harass Marco and his family, but collating together could incite that harassment. 

Anti-Vaxxers Defeated by Twelve-Year-Old Whiz Kid

And they know they’ve been defeated. Do you want to know how we can tell? Because they are spending their time trying to tear this kid down.

Perhaps you are the last person in the world who hasn’t seen the phenomenal video by science whiz kid Marco Arturo. Marco presents all the evidence that vaccines cause autism–in a folder full of nothing. (I’m embedding the video at the bottom of this post–please watch it an up-vote it!)

The anti-vaxxers sure haven’t missed it. Some of our favorites have written rebuttals. Let me type that again so we can all understand what they are doing. The anti-vaxxers are rebutting a satirical video made by a 12-year-old. Surely they are taking this video in stride, right?

Uh, no. No they are not. They are losing their minds.

Blogger and salesperson Kate, who runs Modern Alternative Health, claims the video is “devoid of facts and amounts to little more than uninformed bullying” [emphasis hers]. Really, Kate? A 12-year-old is bullying you? I know a lot about bullying, about how people use their social power to make you feel excluded and to gain control over you. What kind of small person are you that a 12-year-old you have never met has social power over you? But she’s not done. Immediately after claiming that she is being bullied, she resorts to this classless diatribe:

Naturally, it’s being heralded by the kind of brain-dead pro-vaccine nut jobs that the internet regularly produces.  The kind of people who don’t understand the importance of actually examining new scientific information critically and having an honest conversation. . . . I kind of imagine them as “cavemen” of sorts — pounding on their keyboards, drooling, and thinking that they have won, while all of the actual intelligent people are smirking and shaking their heads at how painfully, obviously ignorant they are.

In the world of Kate (MAM) and other anti-vaxxers, a 12-year-old is a bully, pro-vaxxers don’t understand science, and only anti-vaxxers are intelligent (and smugly so). Also, up is down, black is white, and the sky is green.

From there, Kate’s post goes nowhere, repeating that the kid is a bully and that pro-vaxxers are terrible and dumb in all ways. It also doesn’t actually present any science showing that vaccines cause autism. In other words, she kind of proves Marco’s point.

By the way, here’s some evidence (okay lots of evidence) showing that vaccines DO NOT cause autism.

But MAMKate is not alone. National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is getting in on the act of rebutting a 12-year-old’s satirical video. (Because NO voices must ever say anything positive about vaccines without being actively shouted down.)

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NVIC has a history of classless, terrible behavior, including promoting the harassment of children. This time, they are getting in on the “take Marco down” campaign by posting a hit piece written by “Levi Quackenboss.”

The Quackenboss piece begins by claiming scientific pursuits concerning vaccines are a religious belief and intimates that Marco shouldn’t even be on Facebook because he is not the requisite 13-years-old yet. So actually, the piece begins by slamming Marco for being young and influenced by his parents (and science).

Then, in anti-vaccine style, she (Quackenboss) picks up the goalposts and moves them downfield. SV-40! Acellular pertussis! HPV! Monkey pox! Faked moon landings! Spaghetti at the ceiling! She discusses anything except, you know, how vaccines don’t cause autism–the actual topic of the video. It’s pure throat clearing written by someone who loves her own voice.

Then she goes on with a condescending and easily refutable diatribe, writing:

Little dude, I totally get that you love science but I’ve got some sad news for you: there’s very little science in vaccine science.

And following with every possible anti-vaccine trope she can find. Here are some answers for her:

After all these myths, Quackenboss ends with a smug little kicker, something meant to put a 12-year-old in his place:

Look, clearly you’re a smart kid in your knockoff Polo shirt and your eyeglasses that look like wraparound safety goggles.  I trust that one day you’re going to figure out that you’ve been lied to, not only by your parents but by your government and the leaders of this world, and you’re going to look back on this insulting video and say, “God, what a little prick I was.”

And that’s OK, Marco.  We’ll be here for you when you do.

But you know what, anti-vaxxers? Marco doesn’t need you and he isn’t interested in you waiting for him. One of you visited him, and he was ready for you.

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Credit: Karen Halabura

A final piece of advice for anti-vaxxers: pick on someone your own size. I mean that two ways: while Marco is smaller than you in stature, he is far larger than you when it comes to class and intellect.

Here’s Marco’s video. Please give it a watch. It will restore your faith in our future.

 

Why doesn’t Age of Autism like me?

Everyone is talking about the movie produced by, funded by, directed by, and starring Andrew Wakefield. And while Andrew Wakefield doesn’t need anyone’s help with promotion (he is the master of self-promotion), we all became enraged when Robert De Niro used his non-existent medical degree to almost every media outlet in the country in order to say that maybe the film has a point that maybe vaccines cause autism.

I mean, science? Pfffft. Who wants to listen to science when the actor whom I confuse almost always with Al Pacino says that he wants studies done and people to look into. (Apparently, while I was busy confusing De Niro with Pacino, he was busy reading absolutely none of the 107 studies that show that SERIOUSLY VACCINES DON’T CAUSE AUTISM.) But whatever. Today show and stuff.

And actually, that’s where I’d like to begin my tale. For me, it wasn’t just De Niro needing to put a sock in that nonsense that had me going bananas. It was also an NBC interview with Autism Speaks’ Bob Wright and former NBC guy Tom Brokaw on the radio, both spouting nonsense about vaccine injuries and autism and whateverwhoneedsfacts.

So I tweeted this:

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And thus, I drew the ire of anti-vaccine, biomeddling conspiracy site Age of Autism once again, as you can see with this snippet from their most recent post:

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No response? That is really unfair, because Wayne Rohde (the author of the above piece), and I had an exchange which ended in him inviting me to the movies. And so I left a comment:

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But I have little faith that this will all turn out with mutual understanding and mended fences. I guess I’ll have to go see a different movie in June. I’ve been waiting to see Me Before You.

 

Is NVIC Anti-Vaccine?

Of course it is.

For those of you who do not know who NVIC (National Vaccine Information Center) is, I submit to you this simple and accurate definition by Michael Specter:

[A]n organization that, based on its name, certainly sounds like a federal agency. Actually, it’s just the opposite: the NVIC is the most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America, and its relationship with the U.S. government consists almost entirely of opposing federal efforts aimed at vaccinating children.

Of course, this is not how NVIC defines themselves. In an interview with NVIC president Barbara Loe Fisher, the author noted:

NVIC is not “anti-vaccine,” as mainstream news media might encourage the public to believe. Rather, it is pro-safe vaccines and exists to ensure the informed consent of the parents and patients who chose to vaccinate.

Of course, an organization that frames itself as being “pro-safe vaccines” should be able to answer what it would take to make a vaccine safe. In fact, one anti-vaccine parent DID ask NVIC what makes a vaccine safe, and received the clearest and most revealing response possible from NVIC’s New Hampshire State Director of Advocacy, Laura Condon:

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“Nothing can make a vaccine safe,” according to Laura Condon, speaking on behalf of Barbara Loe Fisher and NVIC. The assertion that it is impossible for vaccines to be safe is stunning, and it brings what is meant by “pro-safe vaccines” into focus.

Let’s keep this in mind the next time NVIC claims that they are for “informed consent” (meaning filling people with nonsense about how vaccines are never safe) and that they are “pro-safe vaccines” (even though they believe such thing is an impossibility. What they really want is for you to be scared witless about vaccines, to refuse vaccines, and to demand that it is as easy as possible to refuse vaccines without consequences (except, of course, leaving your children at risk for terrible diseases).

If you are for only safe vaccines, but safe vaccines are impossible, you are, by definition, against all vaccines. What is the name for someone who is against all vaccines? Oh yes, right. Anti-vaccine.

 

You’re banning me!

Like so many of you, I have been banned from Dr. Bob Sears’ Facebook page. While it isn’t headline-making news, I wanted to write about the comment that got me banned because it highlights, once again, that Dr. Bob is anti-vaccine.

The problem began when he posted something on his Facebook page that stirred in me the inability to stay silent:

“DEATH IS THE ONLY LEGITIMATE VACCINE EXEMPTION . . .”

. . . said the former doctor of one of my patients-to-be. I kid you not. My wife, Cheryl, who manages the office, sometimes picks up the new patient messages on our voicemail. She never has me listen to any of them because, well, that would be stupid. But she grabbed me the other day and said, “You have to listen to this. You’re not going to believe it.”

I didn’t. Believe it, that is.

A mom actually called our office and said she needed a new pediatrician because her old one wouldn’t even discuss vaccine medical exemption with her. Now, of course, that part’s believable. There are hundreds of thousands of doctors nationwide who won’t even discuss these exemptions. And if they choose not to offer informed consent for invasive medical treatments for their patients, that’s their decision. It’s also a patient’s right to leave their care.

But this doctor took it a step further. Well, a giant leap further. The message on our phone actually was “My doctor said death is the only legitimate vaccine exemption . . . and I disagree. So I’m looking for a new doctor.”

I can’t wait to hear the whole story. I hope this patient comes in soon. We’ll see if we can find something in her child’s medical and family history that qualifies for an exemption short of death.

Dr. Bob

Everyone I have spoken to has two reactions to this post.

  1. That sounds like something that never happened.
  2. Does that mean Dr. Bob is going to sell this woman an illegitimate medical exemption?

But my reply actually gave Dr. Bob the benefit of the doubt:

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“I hope that when this parent comes in, you share with her that the contraindications to vaccines are discrete and that if her child does not fit into any of those contraindications, she is not eligible for a medical exemption.”
I also directed Dr. Bob to the list of contraindications to vaccines. This comment does not attack Dr. Bob nor does it treat him or anyone else disrespectfully. It simply points out that there are only so many contraindications to vaccines, and that a medical exemption outside those contraindications is inappropriate.

It is possible the reason for my ban was the only other comment I left on that thread. Unfortunately, I did not get a screen shot, but it was in reply to a woman who was replying to my friend’s comment, a reply filled with references to Thalidomide and smoking as proof that vaccines are terrible. Here is her reply to me:

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I cannot imagine I was banned for pointing out that Thalidomide was never approved by the FDA (fun Women’s History Month fact) or that measles and chickenpox parties, like smoking, used to be acceptable health practices, but now that science has moved on, they no longer are.

But it is significant to me that the commenter above, and others like her, were left on the page to comment freely. The woman above, for example, began her reply to my friend with this dig about her as a mother and about how she gave birth:

Do you have biological children? If so, did you have them without any drugs? If you do, or did then that true bond would not allow you to push for all these vaccines and boosters in your flesh and blood. Other countries have excellent scientists who are against so many vaccines in such a short time. I bet you only had a fraction of the vaccines that babies are subjected to these days

Yes, you read that correctly. If you had a pain-free birth, you don’t love your children and that’s why you vaccinate them.

That comment, along with the mountain-loads of misinformation posted by Dr. Bob’s fangirls, was left untouched and uncorrected by Dr. Bob because it plays into the fear of medical interventions and other doctors he promotes in order to drum up his own business and grow his own brand.

Do me a favor, friends, and call him on it–because I no longer can.

 

 

 

The Conspiracy Theorists Were Right!

The latest episode of the X-Files touches on all the possible favorite anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. This post will contain spoilers, so if you want to watch the episode first, stop reading now.

Of course, the episode is all about the vaccines. It appears that the smallpox vaccine has given the human race the Spartan Virus, a virus which is unleashed by (of course) aluminum in the chemtrails overhead and by microwave radiation transmitted by those nefarious towers everywhere. The reason? The Smoking Man is mad at us about global climate change and wants to depopulate the planet. Fortunately, Agent Scully’s DNA has been altered and contains protective alien DNA. She uses her own genomes to make a vaccine in an attempt to save the human race.

Despite the fact that a vaccine is going to save the human race, the anti-vaxxers love this episode because it reinforces a number of their beliefs–that:

  1. Chemtrails are a thing
  2. The vaccinated spread disease
  3. “The science that we were taught will take us but a distance to the truth.”
  4. Vaccine programs have been “an unprecedented violation of the public trust”
  5. Aluminum is evil
  6. People who believe in climate change have nefarious plans
  7. There is a plot underway to depopulate the planet

All poppycock, of course, but studies have shown that people who are anti-vaccine are also prone to believing all manner of conspiracy theories, such as the moon landing being a hoax, because you are prone to believing that something is being hidden by those who are supposed to protect.

And that is why the topic of the smallpox vaccine being part of a plot to depopulate the planet makes for great science fiction television. The key word being, of course, fiction. I struggled with whether or not to expose what the anti-vaxxers were saying about this episode because it could be construed as mean-spirited, but my intent is rather to show that being anti-vaccine is predicated on believing the most spurious conspiracy theories possible.

In one anti-vaccine Facebook group, a discussion about how this X-Files episode exposed the truth was not limited to vaccines, but that was the basis for one person’s love of this episode: “loved it….chemtrails, vaccines loaded w/? for decades…++++ GREAT show tonite!” However, another commented warned that television like this serves to make people feel dismissive of the Truth:

My hubby reckons it’s just the way media tries to desensitize people to these issues. Then when you bring up the issues (that are very real!) most often times the ‘sheep’ just say things like ‘oh, god…this isn’t a movie you know!’ He’s right I think…
BUT it’s great to see storylines like this, might get some people thinking at least!

One blogger* discusses how the episode underscored everything those in the know have been saying about vaccines for decades:

Everything that has been said about weaponized vaccines leading to pandemics was presented in a telescoped fashion, with the timeline from “Case Zero” to full pandemic seemingly only a few hours: anthrax, bubonic plague, ramped-up influenza…

A simple search for vaccines will turn up all sorts of these conspiracy theories because anti-vaxxers believe that vaccines are a weapon used against people in order to enact all sorts of so-called awful ends, from autism to complete depopulation of the planet a la Plague, Inc.

They believe the conspiracy theories because they have to. Because either the scientists, corporations, and governments of the world are telling the truth that vaccines are safe and save lives or someone along the chain is wrong or stupid. And once one person is wrong or stupid, a bunch of other people have to come along and actively hide their wrongness and stupidness–and the only reason to do that is some sort of evil or greedy plot. Once you believe that you should disbelieve the experts, the next step is to accept that the experts are actively hiding information from you because they are trying to hurt you. And when you believe that, a show like the latest X-Files episode seems less like science fiction and more like your darkest fears being exposed before you.

The problem is two-fold: that’s not how fiction works and that conspiracy theory is untenable.

I can’t dissect the anti-vaccine reaction to the X-Files without digging into my past as an English teacher (my MA is in English literature and writing). One of my favorite units to teach was science fiction because it is a bold and audacious genre. It speaks to us so much about our fears and about what we refuse to see, but it isn’t meant to be a documentary.

One of the main fears science fiction exposes is how the technology we create will end up destroying us. Think Terminator and Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, for you purists). However, watching Terminator should not make someone go out and destroy all robot technology because it is bound to wage war against us one day. The idea behind science fiction such as these is that as people, we do not want to lose our humanity to our technology. As far as the X-Files, we now fear the things we cannot see (alien DNA, viruses) more than robots, and so we want to make sure that we retain our humanity even as we look to alien technologies to save ourselves. Oh, it’s not a documentary at all.

To the second point, a conspiracy theory to hide the evils of vaccines would never hold. One physicist actually did the calculations showing that a conspiracy concerning vaccines would unravel within 3.2 years:

[E]ven if a small devious cohort of rouge [sic] scientists falsified data for climate change or attempted to cover-up vaccine information, examination by other scientists would fatally undermine the nascent conspiracy. To circumvent this, the vast majority of scientists in a field would have to mutually conspire—a circumstance the model predicts is exceptionally unlikely to be viable. . . .

So where does that leave us? Well, it’s all a matter of taste. If you enjoy the escapism and intellectual intricacies of science fiction, you probably enjoyed this X-Files episode (because, let’s face it, it is a heck of a lot better than that wretched last season we thought ended it all before). And if you are a conspiracy theorist, you probably take the entire thing, wrongly, at face value and there is no hope for you at all.