Crank magnetism at a young age: Anti-vaccine “resistance” and 9/11 Truth

If there’s one thing that irritates me about the anti-vaccine movement, it’s the utter disingenuousness of the movement. How often do we hear the claim from anti-vaccine loons that “we’re not ‘anti-vaccine’; we’re ‘pro-safe vaccine'”? I’ve tried to pin such people down time and time again to answer just what it would take in terms of scientific studies and evidence or in terms of what “toxins” would have to be removed to convince them that vaccines are sufficiently safe that they will have their children vaccinated? Inevitably, the answer involves levels of evidence that are beyond what can be practically or ethically obtained; i.e., a randomized, double-blind clinical study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children (which would be totally unethical) or an underpowered, poorly designed retrospective study (which would be prone to false positives or could be dismissed by anti-vaccinationists as inadequate if it were negative). That’s because, its denials notwithstanding, it is always and has always been all about the vaccines, period, end of story. Similarly, from the fringe of the autism community that passionately believes in “biomedical” treatments for autism, we frequently hear oh-so-pious denials that it’s “not about the vaccines.” Yet, if you take a look at, for instance, Generation Rescue or Age of Autism (or many other “autism advocacy sites” in that believe in the quackery that is the bulk of “biomedical treatments”), you will see more verbiage spilled about vaccines than about almost anything else when arguing for what causes autism, and many of these “biomed” interventions are touted as being a means of “reversing vaccine injury.”

That’s because, for the anti-vaccine movement it is always and has always been all about the vaccines, period, end of story.

If you have any doubts about this, check out this video currently being promoted by J.B. Handley of Generation Rescue over on the ant-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism:

NOTE ADDED AFTER THIS WAS POSTED: Apparently Robert Wanek’s video has been removed from YouTube for a TOS violation. However, Mr. Waneck tells his story on Alex Jone’s Prison Planet TV below; so it’s no huge loss:

I trust you’ll get the full flavor of Mr. Wanek’s anti-vaccine proclivities from the two-part video above.

But, wait! Someone else posted what looks like Mr. Wanek’s original video, or perhaps Mr. Wanek himself created a new YouTube account to post it:

And Mr. Wanek’s story is apparently on that New World Order conspiracy theory site, Infowars! As they say in the Internet Age, information will be free. Now, back to what I originally wrote!

First, I’ll note that the teachers at Breckenridge High School probably overreacted, at least the teacher who apparently put Robert in a bear hug and tried to physically confiscate his camera. However, I tend to doubt that the principal was too far out of line in pushing the student out of the area; reading between the lines my guess is that Robert Wanek was engaged in a delaying action and arguing with him. Still, it probably would have been better to get the security guard to do it. As for the teacher who tried to physically bar him from entering the room where the teachers were being vaccinated certainly was entirely within her rights, given that she merely stood in the doorway and told him he was not allowed to enter, although perhaps she should not have pushed him. No, the only teacher who very likely went over the line was the teacher who put him in a bear hug. Even so, however, one could argue that the Mr. Wanek had disobeyed a direct order from a teacher not to enter the room. At the risk of sounding like a hopeless old fart, I could also point out that I went to a Catholic high school, where disobedience of the sort demonstrated by Mr. Wanek would have probably resulted in a week long suspension, possibly even expulsion from the school. At the very least, it could very well have resulted in a serious butt beating. I’m not saying that’s good (corporal punishment rarely achieves much). I’m saying that Mr. Wanek is whining about a relatively minor punishment for his behavior. Heck, even a commenter at Age of Autism named Dan E. Burns in essence agreed with me:

In 1963 when I was Robert Wanek’s age I’d have been sent the the vice-principal’s office and assaulted with a paddle. Principal Daniel Bettin may be a troglodyte, but do a little research on the poor, stressed-out, in-over-his-head guy before you light your torch and go after him with a pitchfork. You might want to Google Robert Wanek, too. There’s a back story, and it’s not all about informed consent.

Indeed not, as we shall see later in this post and as you may have already gathered by Mr. Wanek’s appearance on Alex Jones’ show. Leaving that aside, if I had been the principal, I’d have probably suspended Mr. Wanek for a week and then followed it up with a week of detention. Mr. Bettin was actually quite merciful and measured in his response to Mr. Warnek’s behavior. Also, I would counsel Mr. Wanek to be less careless about what he says on videos. Contrary to Mr. Wanek’s surprise that he received a two day suspension for his antics, it is very clear from just a brief perusal of Breckenridge High School’s handbook online that he was clearly and unequivocally in violation of school policy. To wit, this passage:

Personal phones or electronic devices with photographic/video capabilities used as photographic/video instruments are not allowed in the school building. Persons using these phones/electronic devices in the school as a photographic/video device will be subject to suspension for a period of time designated by the administration.

Mr. Wanek was using an electronic device with video capabilities on school grounds. He was suspended for two days. End of story. Truly, Mr. Wanek, for all his moxie, is not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree; it’s rather odd of him to be surprised, shocked, and outrage that he got suspended for his actions when right there in the school handbook it says that he could be subject to suspension for using a video device to videotape on school property. Moreover, behaviors listed as having “disciplinary consequences” include disrespectful, disruptive, or insubordinate behavior, all of which Mr. Wanek has admitted to, although he doesnt’ call it that. Thus, the school was entirely within its rights to discipline him and suspend him. Yet, in the description of the video that has been circulating with it, Mr. Wanek states:

However, the punishment for handing out flyers was a 2 day out of school suspension which was issued to me. This is ludicrous unjust and downright fascist.

“Fascist”? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means, Mr. Wanek.

In any case, it’s sad to see a young mind being corrupted this way. Mr. Wanek has cojones and is willing to stand up for what he believes. These can be admirable qualities, particularly when put in the service of a good cause. Nothing should be sacrosanct. Unfortunately, what he believes about vaccines is a load of pseudoscientific nonsense probably fed to him by anti-vaccine parents. Also, unfortunately, Mr. Wanek apparently doesn’t know much about the history of nonviolent resistance movements. One of the main pillars of such movements is that protesters take whatever penalties are meted out for their behavior. If that means going to jail, so be it. In any case, this whole sordid affair makes me wonder if Handley (or someone Handley knows) put this poor dupe of a kid up to this:

Last Fall, for the first time ever, one of my son’s schools decided to have a flu shot clinic, using exclusively thimerosal-containing vaccines and welcoming kids of all ages. In a fit of local activism, we chose to hand out flyers warning parents of the risks of vaccines, and were promptly escorted off school grounds by the head of the school board (and, no, that’s not where we stopped fighting, but that’s a story for another day).

What happened to informed consent? What are people so afraid of?

Of course, it is not “informed consent” to try to frighten people into refusing the H1N1 vaccine based on misinformation and pseudoscience. It is fear-mongering. Personally, I’d love to see the text content of the flier Mr. Wanek was handing out. My guess is that it’s chock full of anti-vaccine talking points and other anti-scientific nonsense, which the son of the science teacher recognized right away. I’d also guess that the informed consent form that parents have to sign for the H1N1 vaccine is entirely reasonable and very much like the one I signed when I got my H1N1 vaccine. In any case, the “free speech” gambit is a crock. It’s been ruled time and time again that minors in a school do not have the same free speech rights that adults do; certainly, they do not have the “right” to try to disrupt a vaccination clinic. If Mr. Wanek had tried to pass out his leaflets anywhere else off of school property, he could have argued free speech infringement. Indeed, if his school tried to stop him from doing so outside of school hours and off of school property, I’d be down with Mr. Wanek, even though I know he’s a profoundly misguided young man when it comes to vaccines. But he didn’t. He was disruptive and insubordinate on school property.

One of the depressing aspects of the anti-vaccine movement is not just its promotion of fear mongering based on either no science or pseudoscience, in which it claims that vaccines are the cause of autism and all manner of other neurdevelopmental disorders, not to mention dystonia, and other complications. It’s how anti-vaccine activists like Handley manage to play cleverly on Americans’ sense of fair play and support for free speech to spread their deadly misinformation. Add to that list how the anti-vaccine movement is indoctrinating its children, much as cults do. They’re indoctrinating children into not just being afraid of vaccines but into pulling stunts like Mr. Wanek’s. Then, after youths like Mr. Wanek are punished for their behavior, they are held up as martyrs to the cause, thus reinforcing their view that they are right. In Jake Crosby and Robert Wanek, we see how the anti-vaccine movement is grooming the next generation of activists for pseudoscience and quackery.

Barring more information that may lead me to change my mind, I conclude that Mr. Wanek may have a point about the behavior of one of the teachers, but he’s so wrong that he’s not even wrong about the rest of what is in his video. Vaccines, including the H1N1 vaccine, do not cause the problems that he attributes to them, and Mr. Wanek was, whether he knows it or not, by his own admission clearly guilty of violating multiple school policies. If anything, by being suspended for two days, Mr. Wanek got off lightly for his infractions. Now, with the help of J.B. Handley, he’s going to try to make trouble for Breckenridge High School by making this video, which prominently includes e-mail addresses of the teachers involved and the school principal, for which he’ll probably receive an Age of Autism crank award.

You know, I doubt it will do any good, but maybe it would be helpful to try to counter some of the praise from anti-vaccine loons that Wanek is getting with a dose of reality over at his YouTube page. After all, Mr. Wanek also appears to be a 9/11 Truther who was previously disciplined for wearing a “9/11 was an inside job” T-shirt:

Also, check out Mr. Warnek’s photo on his YouTube channel, where he is wearing a T-shirt declaring Barack Obama to be a fraud and happily posing next to one of those hilariously off-base photos of Barack Obama made up to look like the Joker with the word “socialism” ominously inscribed beneath it, along with a plug for Alex Jones’ über-conspiracy crank site, Infowars.

It’s very sad to see crank magnetism in action already operative in a teenager like Robert Warnek. Sad, but not surprising. (I wonder if J.B. Handley knows that Mr. Warnek is, at his tender young age, already a raving New World Order conspiracy theorist.) I fear that, 20 years from now, we’ll see Robert Warnek occupying the same place that Gary Null, J. B. Handley, Alex Jones, John Scudamore, Joe Mercola, or Mike Adams occupies today. I fear that Mr. Warnek is the future of quackery and conspiracy mongering, although one can always hope that he grows up, wises up, and discovers real skepticism rather than pseudoskepticism.

Finally, think about this for a moment. The crew at Age of Autism keeps telling us that they’re not “anti-vaccine.” Its bloggers, who in essence function as a propaganda arm of Generation Rescue, claim they’re an “autism advocacy group.” If that’s the case, then why is J.B. Handley promoting a young man like Robert Warnek, who is protesting against H1N1 vaccination among high school students and teachers, all of whom are too old for vaccines to possibly cause autism even if the paranoid ravings of Generation Rescue that vaccines cause autism actually had any validity? It’s the same reason why AoA and GR constantly harp on Gardasil, where the same is true. For them, it’s all about the vaccines. It’s always been all about the vaccines. It always will be all about the vaccines.