Release the Kraken! (I mean antivaccine “Thinkers.”)

Oh, dear.

I didn’t think I’d be writing about that wretched hive of Dunning-Kruger scum and quackery, the most inaptly named website and blog of all time, The Thinking Moms’ Revolution (TMR), after having written about it just earlier this week. When last we visited this klatsch of smugly arrogant moms, one of them was bragging about how, if your pediatrician “fires” you because you won’t do the responsible thing and vaccinate your children, you should be proud because it means that you’ve arrived as a “Thinker.” And, yes, they do capitalize the word “Thinker” and its variants, such as “Thinking,” to emphasize just how awesomely enlightened they think they are compared to everyone else and how much they think that people who support science-based medicine, in particular vaccines, are sheeple. Here it is, now, only two days later, and I see this post at TMR, You’ve Awoken the Mommies. As I’ve mentioned before, the “Thinking” moms like to take on either cutesy or self-important pseudonyms, and in this case the mommy is Savage, who features a cartoon of what, I guess, is to supposed to be a gladiator, in order to cement her self-image as a “warrior mom.”

The entire post drips with that sense of smug self-satisfaction of being so much greater than other moms that is what is most irritating about moms at TMR, starting out with a recounting of a hearing about Common Core Curriculum standards. For those of you not in the US or who don’t follow such things, Common Core represents a change in educational methods and standards that is being offered to states that seems to have provoked the full wrath of the Tea Party for reasons that rather elude me. Basically, Common Core is a grade-by-grade outline of what children should know to be ready for college and careers supported by a consortium of 45 states. Since its debut in 2010, opposition to Common Core has become a cause celebre among right wing politicians and pundits, who represent it as a federal government takeover of local schools and “indoctrination” of children into “leftist ideology.” There is some resistance among liberals for different reasons, but by far the overwhelming majority of the opposition to Common Core comes from the right—not by all conservatives, by any means, but by many, particularly those affiliated with the Tea Party. I don’t want to dwell on Common Core and only mention these things for the benefit of people who might not be familiar with it, but it does explain a lot when Savage quotes a critic of Common Core:

During the last part of her testimony, she said one statement that brought the crowd to their feet with raucous cheers. She stated simply, “You’ve awoken the Mommies, and now you’re in trouble.”

Which leads her—of course!—immediately to vaccines and autism, which, apparently, have also “awoken the mommies”:

That statement really resonated with me. It’s not just about pushing an education agenda that parents don’t agree with. The truth of the matter is, moms and dads are waking up. Every day, more and more parents are witnessing an epidemic firsthand. Children are being diagnosed with neurologic disorders at an alarming rate — autism, epilepsy, and dyslexia to name a few. Parents are left with more questions than answers when they visit their pediatrician’s office.

None of which has anything to do with vaccines, but this particular “Thinker” believes that these things are intimately related to vaccines so fervently because she thinks she knows better than pediatricians, scientists, immunologists, and neurologists. Now, someone who might come across this particular post who knows nothing about this blog or TMR might think I’m being too harsh. I urge such a person to read my previous post on this, Savage’s post, and then zero in on this passage:

Mothers don’t lose their brain cells all of a sudden when we give birth. We don’t become mindless dolts whose only function is handing out juice boxes and scheduling playdates. We are Thinkers. Yes, we are Thinkers. We question; we learn; we demand answers instead of just accepting the status quo. We will exhaust all possibilities for our children. We network with other moms and dads and share our experiences. We travel to different states seeking out the best doctors and therapies for our kids. We call upon the knowledge of the mothers who have been fighting this fight for decades and never had a platform until now.

My retort is that mothers don’t instantly become doctors, scientists, or geniuses, either, capable of understanding complex science and interpreting the medical and scientific literature on autism, vaccines, immunology, metabolism, and genetics, “all of a sudden” after they give birth. These “Thinkers” seem to “Think” that they do, however, and that motherhood somehow gives them magical insights into pediatrics and developmental disorders. The truth is quite different. Stupid moms will remain stupid after giving birth, and intelligent moms will remain intelligent. Moms prone to the Dunning-Kruger effect and arrogance of ignorance were almost certainly prone to such shortcomings before they gave birth, but I will admit that it does appear that having children can be a trigger that awakens such tendencies or brings them into full flower.

I will also admit that Savage does have a tiny point in that I have occasionally come across skeptics who let slip contempt for “mommies” in general, rather than antivaccine mommies, when refuting the dumbest of the dumb antivaccinationists. Not cool. However, by and large, we don’t criticize mommies like Savage because they’re mommies and we don’t think mommies can think. (Excuse me, “Think.”) Rather, we heap scorn on these mommies because they constantly repeat scientifically ignorant drivel about vaccines and autism, all laced with conspiracy theories and self-congratulatory tripe like referring to themselves as “Thinkers” without even a hint of irony or self-deprecating humor. No, they really mean it when they proclaim that they are “Thinkers,” as they repeat the mantra that Savage parrots that “Knowledge is Power,” never realizing that what they have is not knowledge. It is anti-knowledge, anti-science, and anti-medicine. No, it is anti-reason and pro-motivated reasoning.

Savage also demonstrates something I noticed the other day, when a post about pediatricians who fire patients who dont’ vaccinate ended up with a discussion about how one such “Thinking” mom utilizes homeopaths, chiropractors, and all sorts of “natural” quackery to treat her child. There was even an example of how this “Thinking” mom would choose homeopathy first for her child and then only go to the pediatrician if her child didn’t get better. I’m referring to this passage, in which Savage brags about how she and her “Thinking” peers have Changed Everything:

It’s exciting to see a change in mindsight by parents of typical children as well. The special needs community has been quite vocal for years because we’ve lived it. It’s wonderful to see new moms with healthy kids are now joining the trenches. A few years ago, I would read articles about the potential causes of autism and the correlation between vaccines and developmental delays. Back then, about 80% of the comments were pro-vaccine and pro-pharma. Fast forward to 2014, and the landscape is very different. The support for vaccines and pharmaceutical medications has dropped dramatically. For every comment supportive of the CDC’s current vaccine schedule, there are 3 or 4 in opposition. People are becoming distrustful of the medical community. People aren’t running to the doctor when they get sick. They’re educating themselves on natural remedies. They’re rejecting the conventional healthcare paradigm that has long been ingrained in our society. People are taking charge of their own health and wellness. Mothers are at the forefront of the medical marijuana issue, trying to get legislation passed in order for those that need it to be able to have access to it. We’re demanding our food be grown organically and clean, and not genetically modified. Support for local farmers is increasing every day with a rejection of mass produced factory farms.

Savage’s memory is a bit—shall we say?—selective. I say that because, from my perspective, the pendulum seems to be swinging back towards science, at least in the media. It’s true that not too long ago, the antivaccine movement seemed to be ascendant. As a sign of that, a few years ago, I used to dread the date coming up a mere three weeks from now, namely April 1. No, I didn’t dread it because it’s April Fools Day. Rather, I dreaded it because April is Autism Awareness Month, and I could always count on the media to air lots of bad stories about vaccines and autism in which it would “tell both sides.” Virtually every story about autism would have a vaccine angle. Virtually every story about vaccines would feature an interview with an antivaccine activist. It was great for blogging Insolence, terrible for the public understanding of science. Back in those days, J.B. Handley, Andrew Wakefield, Jenny McCarthy, Barbara Loe Fisher, and the usual suspects were regular features on television during Autism Awareness Month. They aren’t so much any more, and that’s a good thing. Much of the media finally seems to understand that antivaccinationists are, by and large, cranks, to be paid no more mind than flat earthers, 9/11 Truthers, or moon hoax believers. That’s why the “tell both sides” trope seems to be receding, and antivaccine pseudoscience, when even acknowledged, is marginalized and dismissed, just the way it should be.

Perhaps that’s the reason for the seeming influx of antivaccine sentiment into the comments after any article on vaccines or autism that allows comments, particularly if that article appears in a major media outlet. “Media Editor” Ann Dachel, over at the other wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery,” Age of Autism, regularly sends her flying monkeys in to throw their feces at the comments of any article or post in a moderately to highly visible media outlet, in a deliberate attempt to flood the comments with antivaccine propaganda. It’s the last desperate attempt of a fringe group of advocates of pseudoscience to achieve relevance, all the while bemoaning being misunderstood “Thinkers” and wondering how all the sheeple could be “keeping them down.” It never occurs to them that supporters of science-based medicine are the thinkers (not capitalized), and they are the sheeple.