Every so often, something happens that rekindles the need in me to discuss what, exactly, it means to be “antivaccine.” As many of my readers know, if there’s one thing about antivaccinationists, it’s that they assiduously avoid ever admitting that they are antivaccinationists. In order to avoid having to make that admission, they’ll go through all sorts of transparent rhetorical contortions to try to convince people that they are not antivaccine. The most common (and transparent) of these is a gambit I like to call “I’m not ‘antivaccine’; I’m pro-safe vaccine” or “I’m a vaccine safety advocate.” This is all, of course, utter nonsense that fools only other antivaccinationists who manage to delude themselves into thinking that they are not antivaccinationists.
What’s rather amusing about this (and it’s something I’ve written about before an numerous occasions) is that there is a profound tension between antivaccinationists between those who cling to the “vaccine safety” schtick and those who are more–shall we say?–honest. It never ceases to bring a chuckle to my lips when I see the tension between these two groups of vaccine rejectionists erupt again, which is what I’m seeing now down under in the form of a post by reasonablehank entitled Fran Sheffield declares the Australian Vaccination Network “anti-vaccine.”
In this post, reasonablehank describes how Fran Sheffield, owner of Homeopathy Plus called upon Meryl Dorey, founder of the Australian Vaccination Network, to come clean and be honest for a change. You see, Dorey, like so many antivaccinationists, including, for example, J.B. Handley, liberally uses the “pro-vaccine safety” smokescreen to hide her true intent. Fran calls her out on it:
I think almost everyone, supporters and non-supporters, believe the AVN is antivaccine in spite of its protests to the contrary.
How can they do otherwise when 99.9% of information about vaccines released by the AVN is anti or reveals their problems? When there is not explanation why this imbalance exists?
Fran is too generous. It’s more like 100% of the information about vaccines released by the AVN is designed to cast doubt on the safety and efficacy of vaccines. The same is true of Generation Rescue and its antivaccine propaganda crank blog Age of Autism, our equivalent to the AVN, namely the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), SafeMinds, and pretty much every other antivaccine group I can think of. I’ve perused all of their websites numerous times, and I can’t recall seeing a single positive thing said about vaccines of any kind.
Fran apparently agrees, which is why she goes on:
It is possible to be BOTH anti-vaccine and pro-choice but when the anti-vaccine label is denied in the face of evidence to the contrary, it makes us look dishonest – something the judge hinted at with her ‘coy’ statement? It also places our pro-choice position in the back seat, out of people’s minds.
As far as public opinion goes, I don’t think the anti-vaccine position is the problem – they can cope with that.
The problem is that most people, even supporters in secret, now believe the AVN is dishonest and this has caused the AVN more harm than anything else. This is what will take a long time to get over, not any perceived anti-vaccine stance which they can respect even it they don’t agree.
Fran nailed it. It’s not just Australia. Antivaccine groups right here in the U.S. try their hardest to deny that they are, in fact, antivaccine in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In fact, they are fundamentally either (1) dishonest or (2) self-deceiving or (3) both. Which is why Fran Sheffield’s admonishment is so refreshing:
If the AVN wants to be perceived as being a truthful organisation then it has to proudly accept the anti-vaccine label or do something that explains (repeatedly) why most of the information it provides about vaccines and vaccine promoters is negative.
I agree, of course. There’s a reason I call antivaccine groups “anti-vaccine,” and it has nothing to do with smearing them, although that is what they claim. It has to do with linguistic precision. “Antivaccine” is what they are. I was reminded by this yesterday while perusing the usual collection of crank sites that I check out periodically in search of blog fodder. This time around, I came across a post by Cathy Jameson on the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism entitled The Mother Load. If you want evidence that we’re talking about antivaccine, not pro-safe-vaccine. Basically, Jameson is unhappy at how a story was portrayed. The story, out of Detroit, was about how a mother was angry after daughter vaccinated without her permission.
Now, I’m about to say something right here that might surprise you. I can actually understand where that mother is coming from. I might think that she is misguided and completely wrong about refusing vaccines for her child. Scratch that. There’s no “might” about it. The mother in question, Sighle Kinney, is misguided and wrong. However, the law is the law, and the law says that she is allowed to refuse to let her daughter be vaccinated. As a reault, as much as I disagree with her, I can understand why she’s upset.
So can Jameson, except that she takes it beyond reason:
We start reading about this horrid event with the following emotional sentence: “Sighle Kinney is fuming after her 14-year-old daughter was given four shots by the school nurse at Marcus Garvey Academy without her permission.” Really? That’s the opening sentence? Of course it’s warranted and depicts some of the truth–a teenager was just assaulted–but, why isn’t the nurse strung up the proverbial flag pole in the opening sentence? She’s the one who made the mistake. Why isn’t the school also part of the main focus of this story? They’re the ones who opened the doors to the nurse who made the mistake. Why is it that the child and her “fuming” mother make the headlines instead the actual people who caused the problem?
The entire tone of the article is near-apocalyptic. Vaccination is described as a “medical assault.” the mothers who wanted to prevent their children from being vaccinated are portrayed as “having done everything right” but in the end being thwarted by an evil and uncaring bureaucracy that vaccinated their children anyway. To her it’s beyond a mistake; it’s a “criminal act.” It’s “injecting known toxic substances into minors with no consent.” Meanwhile, in the comments, we see statements like, “‘School Nurse assaulted in retribution for vaccinating child against parents’ wishes; nurse also loses job and house’ – that would be the headline in my local paper should anyone dare vaccinate my child against my wishes.” Yes, threats of violence.
Yes, as much as I might have some understanding of parental rights, even when exercised by parents who are misguided to the point of endangering their children by refusing to let them be vaccinated, I can’t help but notice that “antivaccine” is the correct term to describe the beliefs of these parents. If it weren’t, they overblown rhetoric in stories like this wouldn’t come to the fore as they do. One only wishes that parents like Jameson would drop the pretense as well and just admit that they are antivaccine.