Anti-vaccine activists try out a new metaphor

If there’s one thing that the loons over at the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism might actually be somewhat good at, it’s leaping on a news story and trying to liken it to their unshakable pseudoscientific belief that vaccines cause autism. Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for our our amusement), the merry band of anti-vaccine activists over there is so utterly, irredeemably bad at constructing a coherent and logical metaphor that whenever they try the result comes out something like these two posts:

That’s right. They’re trying to compare the “autism epidemic” (due to vaccines, of course) to the massive BP oil spill that’s currently fouling the Gulf of Mexico with millions of gallons of crude that’s threatening the Gulf Coast. First, let’s look at what an old anti-vaccine stalwart, Dan Olmsted, has to say about it. As an aside, note that I do give Dan some props for trying to appropriate the silly “Drill, baby, drill!” slogan thought up during the 2008, but other than that, his post is pure brain dead stretching akin to Stretch Armstrong reaching out his rubbery arms to try to pull together two things that aren’t related. Get a load of Olmsted’s rhetoric in some quotes:

Have the American people finally had it with “experts” telling them that things will be just fine? That oil wells won’t turn into gushers in the Gulf, that cars won’t suddenly become speeding bullets, that a deregulated Wall Street will never rob us blind — and that autism is a mysterious genetic disorder we’ll get to the bottom of some day in the comfortably far-off future?


Ah, the joy of anti-intellectualism! If there’s one thing that is a major driver of the anti-vaccine movement, it’s the arrogance of ignorance. We don’t need no steekin’ experts! Yes, experts sometimes make mistakes, sometimes spectacular mistakes, but evidence suggests that it wasn’t the experts who were at fault for the spill but rather the bean counters and a corporate culture that valued profits over safety. The evidence is pretty clear that the engineers at BP, the guys who knew what they were doing, were alarmed at the recklessness of what was being asked of them by their bosses, most of whom were businessmen, not oil men or engineers. The engineers raised the alarm many times, and it was ignored. True, the engineers were not without blame. After all, they did ultimately implement management’s directives, but it was management who ignored the experts. This is clearly a case where the company brass’ listening to the real experts might well have avoided the ongoing environmental catastrophe in the Gulf.

None of this stops Olmstead from making his analogy to the vaccine program explicit:

It’s just that kind of expertise that reassures us the out-of-control U.S. vaccination program is, well, under control, that vaccines and mercury have been disproven as a cause of autism, that’s it’s time to move on. The problem is that neither big government nor big business (nor big media) has any incentive to get to the truth, which leaves only the people caught in the middle – namely, the American public.

The problem is that neither Dan Olmsted nor the rest of the anti-vaccine movement has no incentive to abandon the scientifically discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.

Here’s my favorite part:

“Drill, baby, drill!” didn’t work out so well, even though Obama said he had been “assured” everything would be fine. “Vaccinate, baby, vaccinate!” – and shut up about the toxic damage washing up in a generation of children — is about to meet a similar fate. You can feel it in your bones.

The ironic thing is that this is clearly a swipe at Sarah Palin. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good swipe at Sarah Palin as much as the next guy. However, for all of Sarah Palin’s idiocy, if there was one good thing about her it was that she did seem to have some empathy for parents of special needs children.

And Olmsted threw her under the bus.

As for the “toxic damage” allegedly caused by vaccines, maybe Olmsted can “feel it in his bones,” but he has no evidence, no science, no anything other than his belief that it has to be the vaccines that done it–all coupled with his distrust of anyone with expertise, an attitude mirrored by a contributor to AoA whom I’ve never encountered before by the name of Ralph Toddre, who fantasizes about President Obama making a speech about the “autism epidemic” like the one he just made about the BP oil spill:

Already, Autism is the worst neuro-biological disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it’s not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The damage caused by this epidemic, is one we will be fighting for years and years.

But make no mistake: We will fight this with everything we’ve got, for as long as it takes. We will make the pharmaceuticals pay for the damages their companies have caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help our citizens recover from this tragedy that we have caused.

Because vaccines are just like an oil spill and autism is just like a devastated Gulf Coast shoreline. But what does Toddre want to see done? This:

We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across the country to remove vaccinations and medicines that contain toxins. But we have to recognize that, despite our best efforts, Autism has caused devastating damage to our citizens. And sadly, no matter how effective our response is, there will be more Autism and more damage before this siege is done.

That is why the second thing we’re focused on is the recovery of our children and citizens affected by this disease. I’ve talked to advocates and families. The sadness and anger that they feel is not just about the loss of their child development and the financial devastation they have incurred; it’s about a wrenching anxiety that an entire generation may be lost.

I refuse to let that happen. Tomorrow I meet with the Chairmen and CEO’s of the pharmaceutical companies to inform them that they are to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the families and individuals who have been harmed as a result of their company’s recklessness.

Of course, for compensation to be awarded, justice would demand that there should be some–oh, you know–evidence that what a company has done has actually caused harm. Fortunately, the vast majority of the “harm” caused to children by vaccine manufacturers exists primarily in the fantasies of men like Ralph Toddre and the band of anti-vaccine propagandists at Age of Autism and similar cliques of reality-challenged loons. I am impressed by Toddre’s grandiosity, though. He really believes that somehow vaccine companies have caused an “epidemic of autism that requires 30,000 health care workers and billions of dollars to “clean” vaccines that don’t need cleaning because there is no evidence that they cause autism in the first place.

My guess is that AoA is running this particular analogy up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes. All it deserves is ridicule.

ADDENDUM: AoA commenter Rob Smith provides a perfect example of seeing the fallacy of Dan’s analogy but for all the wrong reasons. Here’s an example:

Regarding the “Drill Baby, Drill” analogy, it is a failure on so many levels as to be riduculous. First, if “Drill Baby, Drill” where the policy of the US, we wouldn’t be drilling 50 miles off shore and in 5000 ft of water. There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of places on land and in shallow water that oil could be explored for at much lower cost and risk, and where, if something did go wrong, the clean up and repair would be much easier. There is just no parallel with the current regime of oil exploration in the US and the “vaccinate early and often” policy of the CDC. Second, we actually need oil. I need oil to make my son’s annual 1200 mile trip to Thoughtful House so that they can supervise his care. I need oil to make the 150 mile round trip to our DAN doctor for my son’s infusions every other week. I need oil for the IV bags, tubing, and syringes we use to administer is treatments. I also need oil to power the delivery trucks that bring his specially compounded vitamins, etc. On the other hand, I don’t think we need the majority of the vaccines on the CDC schedule. There is certainly no compelling reason to give Hep-B, for example, to every newborn before they leave the hospital.

Yep, we have to “drill, baby, drill” to supply the oil necessary for Mr. Smith to take his child to Thoughtful House to subject him to autism “biomed” quackery but we don’t need no steeenkin’ vaccines.