Barbara Loe Fisher: Hypocritical, not “fearless”

I’ve been criticizing the grande dame of the anti-vaccine movement, Barbara Loe Fisher, for her cowardly attempt to shut up vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit and to intimidate journalists into not writing exposes of the anti-vaccine movement by suing Dr. Offit, Amy Wallace, and WIRED Magazine for Wallace’s excellent article in which Dr. Offit was quoted as saying “She lies” about Loe Fisher. Such is her commitment to free speech that she is trying to shut down criticism through legal bullying.

That’s why Barbara Loe Fisher’s latest screed overloaded yet another of my irony meters and sizzled that sucker into a molten pile of metal and rubber, sputtering pathetically, “¡No mas, no mas!” The article, entitled 2010 Needs a Fearless Conversation About Vaccination appeared on the NVIC website (which appears to allow comments), on BLF’s blog (which also actually allows comments, if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink wink), and on the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism (where you shouldn’t bother commenting due to the ruthless censorship of dissenting views practiced there, unless you like wasting your time).

The whole screed is just more of the same, full of conspiracy-mongering and despicably trying to link “forced vaccination” to 9/11:

Those who criticized the quality and quantity of government regulated vaccine science or questioned the ethics of mandatory vaccination laws were marginalized by those in positions of authority, who defended the status quo. The fear, prejudice and intolerance defining the first decade of the 21st century was eventually turned on parents of vaccine injured children, who were asking doctors and public health authorities how many vaccines their children were going to be forced to take in the name of protecting national security and the public health.

September 11, 2001 was a day of indescribable loss. And the losses America suffered that day have been magnified by the losses we have suffered since that day because some have used fear as a political tool to silence criticism of government policy.

Poor, poor, pitiful Barbara! Nice attempt, though, to paint herself as the brave, put-upon opponent of overreaching government and creeping fascism. Whatever the depredations committed by the government on our civil liberties in the wake of 9/11, trying to prepare the nation for bioterrorism attacks probably wasn’t among them, nor was trying to beef up the nation’s vaccination system in order to be prepared for bioterrorism or pandemics. Moreover, laws passed to protect vaccine manufacturers would probably not have been so necessary were it not for the threat of anti-vaccine advocates like Barbara Loe Fisher trying to sue vaccine manufacturers into bankruptcy.

In any case, this is standard boilerplate BLF anti-vaccine nonsense. Here’s the part where she destroyed that poor irony meter of mine:

We, who are critical of one-size-fits all mandatory vaccination policies because those policies fail to acknowledge biodiversity and do not respect the informed consent ethic, welcome a new, more rational and substantive conversation about vaccination in 2010. As President Franklin Roosevelt said “The truth is found when men are free to pursue it.”

Hopefully, 2010 will be the beginning of a fearless and fierce search for the truth about health and vaccination that will enlighten us all.

Apparently BLF’s definition of a “fearless” is different what one normally thinks of as “fearless.” It is anything but “fearless” to try to shut up your ideological opponents with frivolous lawsuits. It is anything but “fearless” to use lawsuits to try to frighten off journalists by leading them to conclude that the chance of being sued if they criticize the anti-vaccine movement is too high to be worth the bother. It is anything but “fearless” to hide behind libel law because you don’t have the goods when it comes to science. “Fierce” it may be.

“Fearless”? Not so much.

Actually, I kind of agree with BLF on one thing, but not in the way she thinks. We do need a fearless conversation about vaccines. It needs to be a conversation free of the fear of the anti-vaccine movement filing lawsuits against its critics, free of the fear of harassment by the anti-vaccine movement, and with scientists being free of the fear that their work will be hijacked and misrepresented as supporting the pseudoscience of the anti-vaccine movement.

Hey, maybe we do need a ‘fearless” conversation about vaccines after all.