Another zombie antivaccine meme rises from the grave again

No mas! No mas!

I surrender. Even though what I’m about to blog about is over a week old (ancient history in blog time), the combined force of you, my readers, sending this link to me and my seeing it on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere compels me. Oh, I resisted. I read it and thought it so dumb, just a variation on the antivaccine nonsense I’ve deconstructed more times than I care to remember, and not even a particularly interesting variant, that I didn’t really want to blog about it. But sometimes duty calls, and I have to dive into a cesspit that I’d rather avoid. So here we go. If you’re on Facebook, I bet you’ve seen this. I’ve personally unfriended a person for posting such drivel. Consider this my public service. If you see this article, post a link to this post to counter it.

The article appears on a website I’ve never heard of before and is entitled Courts quietly confirm MMR Vaccine causes Autism, which is basically a reprint of the same article posted at something called Whiteout Press. I was half-tempted simply to write, “No they haven’t. The stupid, it burns.” However, fortunately, my somewhat less “Insolent” side restrained me, albeit barely. However, the article is truly a hunk o’ burnin’ burnin’ stupid on par with anything published on the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism or The (Not-So-) Thinking Moms’ Revolution. You know what I mean: Black hole-grade stupid, from which no light of reason can escape once within the event horizon.

So I got my hazardous waste suit, picked up my tongs, and picked up this turd to examine it closely. It was basically a new case from the Vaccine Court wrapped in the same old tropes, like a turd wrapped in rancid bacon. The whole thing stinks, but it’s hard to tell what contributes more to the stench, or whether it’s just a putrid mix of the two. Let’s take a look, if you can stand it. I knew I was in for a neuron-apoptosing blast of nonsense when I read the very first paragraph:

After decades of passionate debate, parents probably missed the repeated admissions by drug companies and governments alike that vaccines do in fact cause autism. For concerned parents seeking the truth, it’s worth remembering that the exact same people who own the world’s drug companies also own America’s news outlets. Finding propaganda-free information has been difficult, until now.

Yes, indeed. Secretly, The Man really knows that vaccines cause autism but has hidden it from you. He has, however, been forced to admit it, only you don’t know it. In this mindset, Andrew Wakefield (you do remember Andrew Wakefield, don’t you?) isn’t a crappy scientist in the pay of an attorney who wanted to sue insurance companies for “vaccine injuries” resulting in autism (as Brian Deer found) but is rather a hero who has been unjustly persecuted for revealing what The Man doesn’t want you to know. Added to the mix is the same old tired claim that the Vaccine Court has actually admitted that vaccines cause autism.

I always find it rather puzzling that antivaccinationists, who all too frequently claim that the government is against them and who heap opprobrium on the FDA, the government, and the courts for “hiding” that vaccines cause autism are so quick to point to any shred of a case that suggests to them that the courts have ruled that vaccines cause autism. Of course, as I like to point out, it doesn’t really matter what the courts think about science as far as whether that science is well-founded. Many have been court rulings that have found for plaintiffs based on bad science or even pseudoscience. (The rulings against Dow Corning in the 1990s that blamed silicone breast implants for a variety of systemic autoimmune diseases come to mind as a prominent example. Subsequent studies failed to find the links claimed.) Unfortunately, all too often court rulings on matters of science and what the actual science says are often related only by coincidence and all too frequently not at all. So even if a court ruled that vaccines cause autism, it would not actually mean that vaccines cause autism, just as the ruling in the Dow Corning case in the 1990s did not mean that silicone breast implants cause autoimmune diseases.

But, as I say so often about the antivaccine movement, when you don’t have the science, try to invoke the law, and that’s exactly what this article does. It invokes two cases from December decided by the Vaccine Court that allegedly ruled that vaccines caused autism in two, one named Ryan Mojabi and another named Emily Moller, all apparently based on this article from June. Basically, the story is spun thusly:

In December 2012, two landmark decisions were announced that confirmed Dr. Wakefield’s original concern that there is a link between the MMR vaccine, autism and stomach disorders. The news went mostly unreported, but independent outlets like The Liberty Beacon finally began publishing the groundbreaking news.

The website wrote last month, ‘In a recently published December 13, 2012 vaccine court ruling, hundreds of thousands of dollars were awarded to Ryan Mojabi, whose parents described how “MMR vaccinations” caused a “severe and debilitating injury to his brain, diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder (‘ASD’).”’

The Liberty Beacon went on to describe the second court ruling that month, as well as similar previous verdicts writing, ‘Later the same month, the government suffered a second major defeat when young Emily Moller from Houston won compensation following vaccine-related brain injury that, once again, involved MMR and resulted in autism. The cases follow similar successful petitions in the Italian and US courts (including Hannah Poling, Bailey Banks, Misty Hyatt, Kienan Freeman, Valentino Bocca, and Julia Grimes) in which the governments conceded or the court ruled that vaccines had caused brain injury. In turn, this injury led to an ASD diagnosis. MMR vaccine was the common denominator in these cases.’

Uh, no.I thought the names Ryan Mojabi and Emily Moller sounded familiar. So I did what I always do when I’m not sure whether I’ve blogged about something and simply typed “Mojabi” into the search box and hit “enter.” Sure enough, back in January I wrote about these very cases, and guess who was promoting them as evidence that vaccines cause autism back then? Yes, it as washed-up antivaccine “journalist” David Kirby. A full discussion of these cases, complete with an Orac-ian length explanation and deconstruction, can be found in that length. Basically, Ryan was vaccinated with MMR, and his parents reported that he developed high fevers and encephalitis after that rendered him disabled. There are a number of inconsistencies and implausible claims in the parents’ testimony, not even counting that they took Ryan to France and Iran on a trip and apparently at the time of the trip there were no signs of fevers or a severe vaccine reaction. The parents reported taking him to the hospital several times in Iran, he was not admitted to the hospital, and there was a seven-week stretch before his trip home when he appeared to be fine. Moreover, if you read the court case carefully, you’ll see that the Vaccine Court ruled to compensate Ryan’s family because he appeared to have suffered a “table injury” of encephalitis. Whatever the reasoning for the court’s final decision, the court did not compensate the Mojabi family for Ryan having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). From the evidence that is publicly available, it doesn’t even sound as though Ryan has an ASD.

The case of Emily Moller is even less convincing. Although it does appear that she did have encephalitis within two weeks of being vaccinated. The funny thing is, there was no mention of autism in the ruling on Emily. I took note of that, as did others. It was also noted that the full concession documents were sealed; so no one knows exactly what the government conceded, but it appears from the rest of what we know that it is pretty unlikely that it conceded that vaccines cause autism. Unfortunately, that very sealing of the complete ruling left a huge hole for antivaccinationists to go into full conspiracy mode.

So now that we know that neither of these cases were actually cases of the government compensating a child’s family from having developed autism after being vaccinated with the MMR< we know that there is nothing to this article. Unfortunately, this article is an example of what I like to call a “zombie meme,” which is basically an antivaccine trope that keeps popping up time and time again for months or even years. For instance, there is one article that claims that a new scientific study shows that the MMR causes autism that I’ve seen popping up every few months for years now. It’s the same article. Exactly the same article. Yet every so often it shows up as though it were new news, to circulate again. This is a little different in that the stories are different, but the tropes are the same, but it’s the same idea. it’s an antivaccine story that just won’t die, no matter how many times it’s buried by evidence. I fully anticipate that this particular article will keep showing up in various forms for a long time to come.

Same as it ever was.

So is this comment from someone named Susan Beryrle, who wrote in the comments of the article using her Facebook login:

I was born in the 50s. We all contracted the measles, mumps and chicken pox. It was considered a natural part of childhood and NOT ONE SINGLE CHILD ever had a lasting medical condition from these childhood diseases.

And Vivian Vukojevich, who answered:

I agree. I was born in 1944. It was considered a normal part of childhood to contract measles, mumps, and chicken pox. They were not considered dangerous diseases. I never knew or heard personally of anyone who died of these diseases.

Black hole grade stupid, indeed.