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The Daily Show: Hilarious segment about vaccines, not so hilariously wrong about the politics of vaccine denialism

Not surprisingly, being a guy who leans mildly left, I like The Daily Show. Jon Stewart and his writers are incredibly adept at skewering all manner of bovine excrement, be it political, scientific, or otherwise. In particular, the way Stewart and company skewered the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) for its promotion of the chemical industry. Indeed, Samantha Bee, who did the infamous Little Crop of Horrors segment that mocked ACSH for its defense of pesticides über alles and its criticism of Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative.

Another Daily Show segment by Samantha Bee is making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and the skeptical blogs. As is usually the case with one of Bee’s segments, it’s quite funny. It mocks the antivaccine movement. It also features one of my heros, Paul Offit. What’s not to like? Unfortunately, although Bee nails it when it comes to pointing out that antivaccine sentiment is antiscientific and just as immune to change as any global climate change denialism or creationist views, she gets it wrong when she parrots the standard stereotype that vaccine denialism is primarily a liberal issue. Check it out the report, An Outbreak of Liberal Idiocy:

In the piece, in particular Bee makes fun of a crunchy lifestyle blogger, Sarah Pope, who, after establishing her liberal-crunchy bona fides (after Bee’s amusing prompts, of course), rattles off pretty much every antivaccine trope and bit of misinformation and pseudoscience in the antivaccine canon, claiming herd immunity is myth, that vaccines cause autism, that they don’t work, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Yesterday, Pope wrote about the interview thusly:

“The Epidemic of Idiocy” that The Daily Show segment labels the no-vaccination movement is head scratching given that the anti-vaccine movement is being led by the most educated in our society.

Are all those parents with college degrees, master’s degrees, PhDs and, yes, even many MDs that are saying no to shots for their kids complete idiots?

Highly doubtful!

No-vax parents aren’t the real “science deniers”. In fact, they the ones most interested in the science because they are digging into the research and demanding unbiased, objective data to support vaccination, not the slanted version presented by the CDC and conventional pediatricians like Dr. Offit who makes millions supporting the very industry that handsomely maintains his lifestyle.

Uh, no.

No matter how much Ms. Pope wants to claim the mantle of science through the University of Google, she and her fellow antivaccine activists are just as antiscience as anthropogenic global climate change denialists and creationists (a.k.a., evolution denialists). They also share another important trait with people holding those antiscience beliefs. They’re just really, really good at motivated reasoning, and one reason they’re so good at motivated reasoning is because they are educated and smart, which is why vaccine denialists and other science denialists are sometimes referred to as “smart idiots.” It’s a very apt term. I do, however thank The Daily Show for making me aware of Ms. Pope. Her blog looks like—shall we say?—a highly “target-rich” environment for potential future blog posts.

As for the political angle, which is where Samantha Bee and The Daily Show went wrong, I’ve frequently said in the past that antivaccine views are the pseudoscience and quackery that span all political persuasions. It’s true that areas with a lot of affluent people on the coasts where the politics tends to lean heavily liberal, have been focuses of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses. However, there is also a very strong strain of antivaccine views on the right as well, including General Bert Stubblebine III’s Natural Solutions Foundation, far right libertarians, and others who distrust the government, including government-recommended vaccine schedules.

Indeed, many of the the antivaccine people and groups whom I monitor tend to be anything but liberal politically. For example, The Canary Party, a rabidly antivaccine group that pushes the idea that toxins in vaccines are responsible for autism and all sorts of health issues and that autism “biomed” quackery is the way to cure vaccine injury recently teamed up with the East Bay Tea Party to oppose vaccine mandates in California. Moreover, the Canary Party has also recently been sucking up to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), with one of its major financial backers, Jennifer Larson, contributing a lot of money to Issa’s campaign (indirectly, of course) in order to buy influence and win a hearing by his committee examining autism and focused on vaccines as one potential cause. Fortunately, Issa’s hearing in 2012 was a bust.

Let’s look at the most prominent politicians making antivaccine statements or backing antivaccine causes. Although he’s retired now (fortunately), Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) was for many years the foremost promoter of the idea that vaccines cause autism. His activities in support of antivaccine views as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform were legion while he was in Congress. For instance, Burton held showboating, Kangaroo court-style hearings about thimerosal and autism back in 2002 that remind me, more than anything else, of the hearings about Stanislaw Burzynski by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) back in the 1990s. Burton also was known for harassing FDA officials over thimerosal in vaccines, and at one point tried to insert himself into the Autism Omnibus hearings by writing a letter to the Special Masters asking them to consider crappy scientific papers (such as the paper by Hitlan, which was pure crap) allegedly supporting a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Burton wasn’t the only one. As I mentioned, his successor as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Darrell Issa, is flirting with the antivaccine Canary Party, although it’s not clear whether he’s a true believer or just opportunistically taking Larson’s money and then throwing her a hearing or two to make it look as though she got something for her money.

Also on the right-wing antivaccine political crew is Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), who’s introduced dubious legislation demanding the Holy Grail for antivaccinationists, a “vaccinated versus unvaccinated” study. True, Posey co-sponsored the bill with Carol Maloney (D-NY), who is also apparently antivaccine, but she’s the only Democrat I’ve ever been able to find willing to go on record supporting a piece of legislation giving the antivaccine movement something it desperately wants. Meanwhile, prominent Republican and occasional candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, Donald Trump, is a rabid antivaccinationist, while Michelle Bachman has been known to drop the occasional antivaccine bon mot as well. Meanwhile, the Texas Republican Party famously included a “vaccine choice” plank in its 2012 party platform.

It’s not just right wing politicians, either. FOX News, for instance, isn’t above pushing anti-vaccine nonsense. For example, of late the FOX and Friends crew has been doing sympathetic pieces on Andrew Wakefield, interviews with Dr. Bob Sears, SafeMinds’ anti-vaccine PSA campaign, Louise Kuo Habakus (who is virulently anti-vaccine herself and politically active in New Jersey pushing for transparent “philosophical exemption” laws), while FOX News fell for the story of a young woman claiming dystonia from a vaccine. (FOX News has also been known to promote blatant cancer quackery.)

Unfortunately, there aren’t actually a lot of good data examining whether there is a correlation between political affiliation and anti-vaccine views. I blogged about this very issue a three years ago, discussing an article by Chris Mooney looking at polling data and doing the best he could to characterize the politics of vaccine denialism. It’s worth doing a brief recap of that discussion here. Reanalyzing a poll from 2009 asking about Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccine views, specifically how many people were aware of them and how many were more or less likely to agree with them, Brendan Nyhan and Chris Mooney found:

So here are the results: Liberals (41% not aware, 38 % aware but not more likely, 21 % aware and more likely); Moderates (48% not aware, 28% aware but not more likely, 24% aware and more likely); Conservatives (49% not aware, 28 % aware but not more likely, 23% aware and more likely).

These results basically suggest that there’s little or no political divide in terms of who falls for Jenny McCarthy’s misinformation. Notably, liberals were somewhat more aware of her claims and yet, nevertheless, were least likely to listen to them. But not by a huge margin or anything.

Mooney also noted another poll done by Pew regarding whether vaccines should be mandatory:

What’s interesting here is that Pew also provided a political breakdown of the results, and there was simply no difference between Democrats and Republicans. 71% of members of both parties said childhood vaccinations should be required, while 26% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats said parents should decide. (Independents were slightly worse: 67% said vaccinations should be required, while 30% favored parental choice.)

Bottom line: There’s no evidence here to suggest that vaccine denial (and specifically, believing that childhood vaccines cause autism) is a distinctly left wing or liberal phenomenon. However, I will reiterate that we don’t really have good surveys at this point that are clearly designed to get at this question.

So, yes, the evidence is admittedly weak, but the evidence that we do have suggests that antivaccine views are prevalent across the right and the left, with little or no discernible difference in prevalence between the groups. Although we all know about the unreliability of anecdotal evidence, this concept is in line with my experience, as well. Although I can’t discount the possibility that my impression is influenced by confirmation bias, I’ve noticed a lot of right wing vaccine denialism. Basically, right wing and left wing vaccine denialists tend to justify their antiscience stance using different rationales. From the right, the reasons to reject vaccines tend to be grounded in suspicion of government, support for “health freedom” (or, as I like to call it, the freedom of quacks from pesky government interference with their selling their wares), and rejecting any idea that they have an obligation to contribute to herd immunity. In contrast, left-wing antivaccinationists tend to ground their views in appeals to “nature” and “natural” immunity plus suspicion of pharmaceutical companies. Similarly, alternative medicine use tends not to fall into an easy left-right dichotomy either. My favorite example to illustrate this point is that, even though alternative medicine is viewed as a crunchy, “New Age” phenomenon more prevalent on the left, the Nazi regime actively promoted naturopathy and various other “volkish” alternative medicine modalities. I realize this is an extreme example, but it’s intentionally extreme.

Indeed, I’ve even noticed that (and written a characteristically detailed post about how) antivaccinationists seem particularly home with the libertarian movement. In it, I noted that when Ronald Bailey of wrote an article entitled Refusing Vaccination Puts Others At Risk: A pragmatic argument for coercive vaccination, the reaction from his fellow Libertarians was less than receptive. Indeed, at the right-wing Libertarian FreedomFest in 2012, I was privileged to watch a debate between Julian Whitaker and Steve Novella about vaccines. At the debate, vaccine pseudoscience flowed freely from Whitaker in a most embarrassing fashion, and I couldn’t help but note that FreedomFest that year featured two screenings of Leslie Manookian’s antivaccine propaganda piece, The Greater Good. The same conference had featured antivaccine talks in previous years. Ironically, at one point, one of the antivaccine bloggers at the crank blog Age of Autism blamed “progressivism” for failing to “get” autism. (Translation: From his perspective, his fellow progressives don’t accept the vaccine-autism link the way he would like.)

So, although Samantha Bee’s segment is, as usual, very funny, it is unfortunately based on a premise that is a convenient stereotype, not to mention demonstrably almost certainly wrong. Here’s hoping that The Daily Show doesn’t screw up this badly again about such an important issue any time soon. If Bee and Stewart want to consider how badly they went wrong, they have only to look at where the worst outbreak of measles has been this year. It isn’t in California (although there are outbreaks there). It is in Ohio, with Knox county having the most cases as of today. Note that Mitt Romney won Knox County 61% to 37% in 2012. In fact, all of the counties with measles cases reported voted overwhelmingly Republican in the last election, one of them (Holmes County) giving Mitt Romney a margin of 75% to 23%. That’s more than three to one. Barack Obama won none of these counties. Not a single one.

Think about that, Ms. Bee and Mr. Stewart.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

145 replies on “The Daily Show: Hilarious segment about vaccines, not so hilariously wrong about the politics of vaccine denialism”

I didn’t see them claim that this was unique to the left–just that there was an outbreak of it on the left. And the problem is they hypocrisy of this stand when the left wants to cling to science on climate, stem cells, women’s reproductive health, etc.

Just like the idea that the Tea Party doesn’t speak for all Republicans, but they would be characterized as an outbreak of lunacy on the right.

I remember the anti-vaxxers booth at the DailyKos convention. I was horrified.

I thought that Pope was just playing a role.

Pope – Poe – it’s obvious. she is a plant, but not in a naturopathic way.

Maybe the best way to convince the right winf vaccine denialists is to show them their left wing twins.


I didn’t see them claim that this was unique to the left–just that there was an outbreak of it on the left.

No, the segment tried to make it seem as though antivaccine views were primarily a left-wing phenomenon, even setting viewers up with the fake-out at the beginning in which Bee seemed to be preparing to blame right-wing science denialists for the resurgence of antivaccine views (and hence the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases), only to be “shocked” to “discover” that it’s coming from the left. That’s the whole joke, which is based on a stereotype that isn’t true, namely that it’s the crunch lefties who are the main force behind vaccine denialism.

thought that Pope was just playing a role.

Oh, no. Peruse her website. Pope is antivaccine to the core and promotes a whole lot of “natural” woo.

Their is an anti-vaxxer candidate running for the Senate in West Virginia, as a member of far-far-right Constitution Party. His name is Phil Hudok. His daughter was banned from high school two years ago after the family refused to follow new vaccination rules.

Although anecdotal data are obviously not “real” evidence, if I look at who in my circles of friends online and offline is into anti-vaccinationism, alternative medicine, restrictive diets, and even just “crunchiness” in general, it seems quite independent of politics. I’m inclined to think, in fact, that these things have a relationship to social elite status or aspirations to said status. And to not being into scientific skepticism.

Of course I can’t speak for the Daily Show, but I think part of the strength of their approach here is that by focusing on the left’s involvement it bolsters the segment’s credibility. Since the Daily Show and its viewers (myself included) lean liberal politically, and they usually skewer the right (deservedly IMHO), they can’t be accused of just taking another easy shot at right-wing wackadoos.

I’ll add my anecodote as well: My Facebook wall is filled with very Republican/Tea Party friends and acquaintances (I live in Texas), and yet a surprising number of them are anti-vax for Libertarian or even religious reasons.

It’s a rare case where the result is the same (anti-vax), but the reasons are very different. The verbiage also differs: you’ll hear about “forced medication” and “meddling in God’s creation” instead of references to “chemicals”. The completely refuted autism linkage is likewise non-partisan. There’s a weird dichotomy about distrusting everything new in science, but also touting new technological developments as exciting and new.

An excellent observation, Orac, often missed by others in our community.

Both AoA and TMR ( who are not quite exactly the same people despite a large overlap of personnel) seem to have members who are left, right and not political. Just off the top of my head, Jameson is conservative and MacNeil is left. Olmsted leans left and Blaxill right. Occasionally their articles espress their politcal views. The Canary Party faction seems libertarian by design.

Antivax woo-meisters like Adams and Null try to play both sides of the fence ( courting paying customers is more important than ideological purity amongst the ranks) but opt for low tax/ non-regulatory libertarian solutions which makes sense : why pay for a social safety net for people if you yourself will never need one?.

It just occurred to me. I never even mentioned Mike Adams, who goes into far right conspiracy theory territory.

Their is an anti-vaxxer candidate running for the Senate in West Virginia, as a member of far-far-right Constitution Party. His name is Phil Hudok. His daughter was banned from high school two years ago after the family refused to follow new vaccination rules.

Heh. And West Virginia, if I call correctly, is one of only two states without even a religious exemption for school vaccine mandates. 🙂

I found the segment quite amusing and IMO, it might have diluted the message about silly “beliefs” regarding vaccines, if it included an interview with a far-to-the-right individual. I tend to stick with the science when I post comments on blogs and I disparage those posters who bring politics into the discussion.

Orac, you haven’t posted an article recently, exclusively devoted to Bill Maher and his anti-vaccine beliefs. 🙂

The reason’s simple. Bill Maher hasn’t said anything loony about vaccines lately that I’m aware of. Burned badly from his antivaccine stylings in the past, he seems to have toned down the nuttiness about vaccines and medicine, at least on his TV show, which I do watch from time to time because it’s usually pretty funny. I’d actually be more than happy—nay, eager!—to do another post about Maher if he were to spout off again about vaccines. I’d also note that I have done multiple posts about the antivaccine stylings of Rob Schneider, who has been portrayed as the next big political comedian in progressive politics:

The night that this segment aired, I happened to be up later than usual and turned on The Daily Show to watch until I fell asleep. I was very pleasantly surprised to see the segment and thought how lucky it was to have caught it. While I agree, Orac, that anti-vaccine views span the political spectrum, and TDS and Bee messed up on that front, I don’t see how they could have covered both left and right angles in the same segment with the same power. Maybe they could do a followup (unlikely at this point, barring any significant changes in the outbreaks) looking at the right side of the aisle, but without going well beyond their time constraints…

I think one of the strengths of the segment was showing that, “Hey, look! Liberals can be anti-science whackos, too!”

I think that the anti-vaccine left and right have more in common with each other than they do the political middle. They are both paranoid and conspiracy prone. They feel victimized and deny science equally. This has been described in the past as the “horseshoe theory” of politics.

@ Yvette:

Both are insistent upon returning to Nature and the pristine edenic condition in which humans flourished in ages past prior to Original Sin or Corporate Greed ( choose one- oh wait..they may be essentially the same).

A sly woo-meister can tailor his rhetoric and adverts towards creating a renaissance of purity either way- God’s Green Earth or the People’s Republic of Gaia. Both woo-meisters I regularly survey speak of science infused with ‘spirituality’ as well.

I am sure I will receive response about false equivalence, but I think there is sufficient research to say that people on both the left and right can easily dismiss or reject science if it does not fit in with their ideology. The study found that people who could correctly solve non partisan math problems could not solve the same problem correctly if the result went against their preconceived ideologies. I recall that on the left, solving math problems which showed increased guns lowering crime rates caused issues for people. The same phenomenon happened to people on the right, but I can’t recall the topic.

In the case of vaccines, those distrusting of big businesses from the left will not trust science which says they are safe. Those distrusting of government will not trust vaccines mandated by government.

In the case of globl warming, the sceince suported the preconceived ideology of a strong central government regulating big businesses, so the science was easy to accept. In contrast, the sceince went againt the preconceived ideology on the right so it was hard to accept.

GMOs is an area where the science seems to be hard for those on the left to accept but easier for those on the right to accept. Acceptance of certain scientific findings can unfrotunately be predicted based on the ideology of the person. The ideology of the person does not seem to matter as long as the scientific finding is in contrast to preconceived ideology, wheher it is the righ or the left.

Organic also seems to be a left wing anti-science movement as well that seems to fit in with those supporing homeopathy. If I recall correctly, almost all of the congressional members of the organic caucus are left wing.

While there is anti-vax on both ends of the political spectrum, they tend to be for different reasons. On the left, it’s because vaccines are “unnatural”, “toxic”, and produced by Big Pharma. On the right, religious rationales tend to be more common — vaccines go against the idea that we are created perfect and that God’s healing is the best healing. As a consequence, I think the left wing antivax position has the most growth potential, and so perhaps is worthy of attacking first (if a “divide and conquer” approach is to be used).

Based on the scant data available, there seem to be anti-vaxers on both left and right, and it is fine to point this out if true.

However, this does not mean, and should not be construed as meaning, that both left and right are equally anti-science. A handful of equal quantities of anti-vaxers on both sides does not balance the far too huge number of climate change deniers and creationists on the right. False equivalency is the result.

In addition to the “It’s God’s Will” crowd of right-wing anti-vaxxer’s, there is the “Gummint can’t tell me what to do with my kids” variation and the less often seen “FEMA puts microchips in vaccines so they can track us” whackdoodles.*

(*Seriously. I had that thrown at me during the H1N1 response).

However, this does not mean, and should not be construed as meaning, that both left and right are equally anti-science.

No one here says it does. In fact, the reason that antivax beliefs are so frequently presented as being most prevalent on the left is precisely for that purpose: To produce a false equivalence that goes something like, “Well, there might be AGW and evolution denialism on the right, but look at all those loony antivaxers on the left!” That’s part of the reason I wrote this piece, in order to counter that false equivalence.

Rebecca Fisher,

Here’s interesting piece about the UK’s latest right-wing nutcases, UKIP, and some of their other beliefs.

That’s very worrying indeed. I marched with the Anti Nazi League in the late 70s when the National Front looked like they were gaining ground, and I find it sad to see history repeating itself. I feel particularly bad because I forgot to vote last week – I put my polling card in my pocket when I went out, got distracted and only remembered after the polls closed, not that my vote would have made the slightest difference in my borough.

I’m hoping UKIP is a flash in the pan, and most of the votes for them were protest votes from people who will vote otherwise next year when they realize there’s a real chance of them winning seats.

I am a big fan of the Daily Show as well as a flaming liberal and, for what it’s worth, didn’t find the segment especially problematic. I completely understand the criticism that the segment frames anti-vaccination as a progressive plague, when it is not so clearly partisan. However, I thought the framing was a deliberate pedagogical choice based on their intended message and audience.

There is, I think, a tendency among liberals/progresives (who comprise the majority of TDS’s audience) to assume that anti-scientific thinking is solely a right-wing phenomenon or even that anti-scientific thinking is motivated by conservative principles (traditional values, religion, etc.) to which liberals are (excuse the pun) immune. So, I saw the segment as attempting to counter a narrative that lets progressives off the hook with regard to anti-scientific thinking.

If the intended message is that conservatives dont have a monopoly on anti-scientific thinking and that progressives need to be attuned to the ways that they too can fall victim to anti-scientific thinking, then I think the approach was right on. Presenting the issue as non-partisan would allow progressives to discount the possibility that their political ideologies may actually be predisposing them to certain assumptions. There may not be uniformity in the political orientations of anti-vaxxers, but I do think that there are political ideologies on both the right and left that are being mobilized to oppose vaccination. Pointing out how right-wing ideology can lead to anti-vaxx thinking isn’t particularly novel — I’m sure TDS’s audience is familiar with other examples of conservative anti-scientific thinking. But TDS can accomplish more by showing their (mostly) progressive audience that they, too, can succumb to anti-scientific nonsense despite all of their education and values.

Shay — yes, I was forgetting about the libertarian lunatic fringe too. Maybe that’s part of the trouble; we put it on “left” and “right” and forget that the political spectrum isn’t a one-dimensional line, so there are really more than two directions. And more than two broad reasons to be antivax.

If the intended message is that conservatives dont have a monopoly on anti-scientific thinking and that progressives need to be attuned to the ways that they too can fall victim to anti-scientific thinking, then I think the approach was right on.

Sure, but antivaccine views were a poor choice of antiscience to use to try to illustrate that point.

I’d agree that creationism is almost exclusively the province of the religious right. On the left side of the spectrum there are probably more GMO conspiracy theorists and alarmists.

lilady: “Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist, has a post up about her appearance on Jon Stewart’s Show:”

I saw that. In the comments she is asked for the source of her comment that unvaccinted children are healthier than vaccinated children, so she provides this link in response:

It is all about the idiotic self-selected internet survey done by a German homeopath: A survey administered by a German anti-vaccine homeopath backfires spectacularly.

Obviously her Ivy League education missed out on both basic science and statistics.

And as for politics: there is anti-science on both side. It is very interesting to compare and contrast the anti-science blathering between my Fox News addicted father and my super feminist liberal niece.

I had to help my father clear out his mail with Fox News blaring at us, and I found the stupid Whitaker newsletter with the flakey autism graph in one pile. And a few years earlier in the same living room my niece told me her homeopath had a PhD in chemical engineering, plus the woman had cured her son of autism. Aargh.

@Rebecca Fisher and @Krebiozen: Well, not all went well for anti-vaxxers in the EU elections. The Five Star Movement in Italy is led by a notable anti-vaxxer (and its members have come out with weird statements, like vaccines causing homosexuality) and they came in a distant second.

I have been wanting to ask knowledgeable people: what are the position of these far-right European parties re: medical hoaxes and quackery? We know how UKIP voters feel about vaccines, but what about UKIP? Has UKIP and the Front National and the Sweden Democrats, or their candidates, used conspiracy campaigns against vaccinations?

@Orac: I think if The Daily Show wanted to knock anti-science from the left, they should have taken a look at GMO-skeptics.

Personally I get the feeling that the antiscience “facts” parroted by right-wing antivaxers are presented merely as a useful proxy for their actual ideology of not letting government control their lives, while the antivaxers on the left present these “facts” for their own sake. It’s the difference between believing in what you say and taking advantage of useful idiots in the pursuit of your own agenda.

If my theory is correct (and there’s no real evidence to support this, except for the characterizations you, Orac, yourself have presented, which is nowhere near enough for any purpose other than inviting further study), then we have an interesting dichotomy: From an antiscience standpoint, the left is much worse; from an integrity standpoint, the right is much worse.

@Orac in #30
How was it not a good sbject choice to illstrate that some on the left wing side can have an ati-science response when the science does not fit in with preconceived ideology? While all anti-vaxxers are not left wing, roughly half are. That certainly seems enough to prove the point that coc was making in #28.

I finally watched the segment (took a while to get the whole thing to load on this network) and my favorite bit is the last sentence:

“So when Florida is under water and we all have polio, it will get better.”

😀 Obviously a bit of gallows humor, but funny all the same. I don’t think it will get that bad; already I’m seeing mockery of anti-vaxxers on mainstream news comment sections, so they will end up in the lunatic fringe too.

The pooper scooper that is anti-vaccinationism carves a broad swath through all manner of political leanings.

@Sebastian Jackson(#33):
The UKIP has been actively suppressing anything from their party that wasn’t an anti EU/isolationism or anti immigration message.
Same goes for Front National. They’ve been riding a tight herd on the what was said and the message is (again) anti EU and general xenophobia.
Don’t know about the Sweden Democrats but I’m guessing it is the same.


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist, has a post up about her appearance on Jon Stewart’s Show:

I made the mistake of clicking on her link to Russell Blaylock’s piece supposedly explaining why herd immunity is a myth. I think I see where some recent trolls here got their misinformation. For example Blaylock claims that, “vaccine-induced immunity lasted for only a relatively short period, from 2 to 10 years at most, and then this applies only to humoral immunity”. This isn’t true, as we know. Some vaccines, acellular pertussis and tetanus for example, require boosters every few years, but MMR certainly doesn’t, and the extra doses required are not boosters, as Blaylock claims, but simply increase the percentage of people who are immune – 1 dose leads to about 70% immunity, 2 doses to 90% immunity if memory serves.

Blaylock then goes into some weird ass-backwards logic:

If we listen to present-day wisdom, we are all at risk of resurgent massive epidemics should the vaccination rate fall below 95%. Yet, we have all lived for at least 30 to 40 years with 50% or less of the population having vaccine protection. That is, herd immunity has not existed in this country for many decades and no resurgent epidemics have occurred. Vaccine-induced herd immunity is a lie used to frighten doctors, public-health officials, other medical personnel, and the public into accepting vaccinations.

It seems obvious to me that the fact there haven’t been large outbreaks in those who were vaccinated with MMR 20 or more years ago proves that MMR-conferred protection lasts at least that long, and that herd immunity is a undeniable fact. How Blaylock can take prima facie evidence for vaccine efficacy lasting for several decades at least and interpret it to mean vaccines don’t work beats me. What possible explanation does he have for all those vaccinated baby boomers never having had measles, mumps and rubella?

Blaylock really annoys me, waving his credentials about (world-renowned neurologist? I don’t think so) and spreading such idiotic misinformation.

@WhoCares: It’s what I’ve heard, but I wanted to see if anything regarding vaccines or chemtrails or AIDS denial ever slipped through the filter.

I know the Australian Vaccination Network was popular with granola people in its heyday, before they devolved into trolls. One of its members ran for a local council in 2012, and her Facebook page has a lot of pro-green granola propaganda.

I’ve got a comment stuck in moderation on Sarah The Healthy Home Economist’s blog and I linked to Respectful Insolence. Let’s see if Sarah allows it.

@Kreb – the only way that logic works is if they blindly accept that vaccine-induced immunity is short-lived (which we know it is not for the vast majority of vaccines)…….because they are taking the first lie at “face-value” it allows them to accept the further lies based on the first one….very stupid logic, but it seems to work for them.

Ref 18

I think that the anti-vaccine left and right have more in common with each other than they do the political middle. They are both paranoid and conspiracy prone. They feel victimized and deny science equally. This has been described in the past as the “horseshoe theory” of politics.

Quoted for truth.

This has long been a teaching of my Church, as shown in this graphic –

Yah, The Church of the SubGenius still exist. Praise ‘Bob’!

Simple bills like trying to require all schools to disclose vaccination rates have been stalled in the AZ legislature for a few years now, and it seems to be the extremists on both sides of the political fence doing the stalling.

Phil Plait has a post up at the Bad Astronomer on the segment, with similar sentiments as Orac. He sums it up with: “Yes, anti-vax rhetoric is an equal opportunity reality offender. And, well, we know what happens when we let it go unchecked.”

Looks like that big Ohio mealses outbreak in the Amish is up to 233 cases.

@ Chris:

” Obviously her Ivy League education missed out on both basic science and statistics”.

Amongst the anti-vaxxers I survey, there are quite a few with graduate degrees- altho’ some are in business, finance and PR ( Blaxill, Habakus); a few have social work and psychology/ related degrees ( MacNeil, Taylor, Wright, TM Saint) but these degrees which may not focus on physio, development, cognition et al and may only require a prefunctory statistics course ( unlike my own degrees). Others may have studied language, history and education.Their earlier course work at a secondary level and at university may have not required much basics in the areas which matter ( bio, chem, physics) . Jennifer Margulies has a PhD.

Anti-vaxxers often brag that they are “better educated” and ” more affluent” than is the average but I venture that their education also shirks the hard science, statistics and research-oriented areas.

BUT then there’s Jake.

its members have come out with weird statements, like vaccines causing homosexuality

Nonsense. Everyone in the US knows that Common Core causes homosexuality.

MacNeil, Taylor, Wright, TM Saint

“Saint” is Jennifer Limekiller.

I enjoyed the segment immensely, because it made fun of Sarah Pope. Also, I loved reading her delusional response that she didn’t look bad in the segment was better than smoking GMO weed.

I understand what Orac is saying, that is that all of the evidence seems to support the hypothesis that there’s no difference in supporting vaccines. But there’s just a couple of small nits to pick:

1. The answer that “Parents should choose” gives me no indication whether they would still choose to vaccinate. Or not. There could still be a statistically significant difference between parties if that question could be answered.
2. I have higher standards for liberals. We should be more pro-science, though support of PETA, anti-GMO’s and anti-vaxx seems contradicts it. Liberals should be 99% in support of vaccinations, because one of the core values of liberalism is that society (herd effect) should protect one another.

Finally, as much as we can find data that support Romney counties being anti-vaxx, the highest incidence of whooping cough in California’s current epidemic are in the wealthiest most liberal counties. The average incidence rate of whooping cough in California is around 7 per 100,000. In Marin County, which voted over 75% for Obama, has a rate >80 per 100,000. No, maybe Marin County, one of the 10 wealthiest counties in the country, got a bad batch of DTaP. But I think what’s more important is their vaccine refusal rate.

Helen Conroy ( TM Goddess) also has a business background- not sure about which degrees exactly.

I think coco at #28 is right.

It’s true that antivacine nonsense spans the political spectrum, it was just used as an ongoing news story to show that antiscience also comes in all flavors. This seems more likely to me after all the comments on the recent AGW segment that went on and on about how antiscience is a right wing problem. Parading around in glass houses like that while ignoring your own group’s faults is just begging a show like TDS to notice you.

So yes there are better examples of antiscience on the left, but using the current outbreaks as a backdrop made the story more hitting since both anti vaccine and anti AGW pose serious ongoing threats to our specie’s well being.

@ Uselesstwit:

I doubt that you’re useless.

I might guess that leftie anti-science would include- amongst other things-
traditional medical systems, Chi ( Xi), anti-GMO, Planetary Consciousness, AGW anti-corporatism, Panherbalism, Gaia-ness, veganism, food anti-corporatism, New Age blarney, stick-it-to-the-Man ( Woman?) Pharma rap, Back-to-Nature AND…..

Based upon debates and people on internet forums (fora?) I think it is more of a libertarian thing. This is in a lot of ways like the 9/11 conspiracy theories and denial of scientific fact being labeled as coming from the left. IMO it was primarily pushed by people with strong Libertarian leanings.

I suspect that the confusion arises when the right encounters a story that doesn’t align well with the central party dogma they immediately assume it is coming from the left. Because they automatically blame the left for pretty much everything back to original sin.

This reflexive mislabeling also fulfills a need to balance things out. The right has long be identified with kooky conspiracy theories and deinalism, and rightly so.

ie: Just the ones relating to one of their favorite targets, Obama –

The right loves its conspiracies and it so quickly creates more that nobody will ever document them all. IMHO this has to do with their projecting their own methods and tendencies on others and assuming the worse about everyone but themselves.

By any means the end result is that if there is a conspiracy theory it more than likely came from the right. To the point where the wild conspiracy theories and denialism are part of the well established, and justified, caricature of the right-wing ideologue.

Which is also why some on the right are quick to agree with the idea of any particular conspiracy theory being a left-wing thing. The media, primed for the both-sides-do-it story line, is also quick to see at least a few conspiracy theories coming from the left.

Obviously her Ivy League education missed out on both basic science and statistics

As it happens, one of my degrees is from an Ivy League school, so I can testify from firsthand experience that, at least at that school during the years I was there, one could easily get a degree without learning any basic science. There were distribution requirements, yes, but some of them were less than rigorous, and any knowledge accidentally acquired in those courses could be blotted out in a post final exam drinking binge. More generally, it is well known in the higher education business that the quality of undergraduate education at Ivy League schools is not significantly better than what a motivated student can get at State U.–what the Ivy League gives you is greater opportunities for learning and/or research, and membership in the school’s alumni association. The latter is what has historically made an Ivy League education worth the premium price.[1]

My other alma mater is a bit more rigorous–the core curriculum for all majors (including political science, etc.) includes two semesters of calculus and two semesters of physics. But even there, statistics isn’t given the importance it deserves; rather than having a university-wide course in the subject, you got it in a major-specific course, if that major thought it important enough to teach you the material. I’m not aware of any US university which has a general requirement to learn statistics.

[1]Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Guess where our favorite anti-vaccination crusading journalist (non-David Kirby, non-Dan Olmsted edition) has landed?

So FOX didn’t want her? She certainly illustrates the confluence of anti-vax and rightwing thinking.

ORAC garbage. How does it get published? Oh yea paid for by Big Pharma.


he less often seen “FEMA puts microchips in vaccines so they can track us” whackdoodles.

When I got my seasonal flu shot I asked the pharmacist if she remembered to put the New World Order mind control chip in. Here response was “Oh you’re on of the keen ones”, followed by a “shocked” “You’re not supposed to know about that”.

I generally agree with coco – also, If the goal is to increase critical thinking, this much more effective than allowing the Daily Show’s audience to feel superior to the right wing loonies.

Finally, as much as we can find data that support Romney counties being anti-vaxx, the highest incidence of whooping cough in California’s current epidemic are in the wealthiest most liberal counties.

Again supporting the contention that antivaccine sentiments span political boundaries. There’s just no good evidence out there that antivaccine beliefs are significantly more prevalent among the left compared to the right. As I pointed out, maybe there is a difference, but if there is it’s too small to have been detected convincingly in the currently existing data set.

Now, to be fair confounding things in Ohio is a population of unvaccinated Amish in some of the counties in Ohio, although news reports I’ve read state that it was a Christian mission that was determined to have brought back the measles from the Philippines. Previous reports have indicated that it was mainly unvaccinated people going to the Philippines and other countries with endemic measles and bringing it back to areas with low vaccine uptake. Then, of course, there was the measles outbreak at a Texas megachurch whose pastor discouraged vaccination.

Why, hello there, Ross Coe!

I see you have graced us with your presence. By the way it has been over three years since I asked you a question. Will you even try to answer it?

So, Mr. Coe, how exactly is the experience Roald Dahl’s daughter, Olivia, had with measles just like autism?

You know, if you don’t know what happened to her, just open up the pages in his book The BFG and see what he wrote about Olivia. You’ll love it.

news reports I’ve read state that it was a Christian mission that was determined to have brought back the measles from the Philippines

Which was initially misdiagnosed. (I don’t know offhand whether this group was the only importation.)

Eric Lund: “As it happens, one of my degrees is from an Ivy League school, ”

I mentioned it because on her site she actually spells it out:

I am a 40-something, Wife and Mother of three. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Economics (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Furman University and a Master of Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution.

If I said I got my degree from a department developed through a specific Guggenheim Fund, does it make it better than from elsewhere? Oh, wait, my engineering degree did include science and statistics.

Except there are lots of goofy anti-science engineers who personify Dunning Kruger. So never mind, it does not make any kind of difference.

Chi ( Xi)

No, the Pinyin is . Online converters spit out the likes of 西 (; “the West,” “Spanish”), 系 (; “system,” “department,” “to button up”), and 戏 (again ;* “trick,” “drama,” “play”) for ‘xi’.

* “‘I though it was only foxes who had a red beard, but here is another red-bearded fox!’ [30] …

“30. This phrasing makes a pun on ‘barbarian,’ which has the same pronunciation as ‘fox’ (hu).” —Steven Heine, Shifting Shape, Shaping Text.

my experience (anecdote alert!) to a man (actually a woman), all of my AV friends are left leaning. as are all the people who argue about GMOS w me. And lots of them were linking to Naturalnews etc. , until Ol Mikey started bashing Obama and being a gun nut. A lot of them who did vaccinate still trotted out the ‘both sides’ stupidity to me when I’d freak out. Funny, they aren’t too “both sides”-y when it comes to climate change.

First, I’d take issue with the designation of libertarians as “right.” Someone who wants to shrink government but favors legalizing pot as well as meth and other “hard” drugs, favors legal abortion up to the point where the baby crowns, favors gay marriage and wants to bring all the troops home finds as little common ground with conservatives as he does with liberals.
Also, Ohio should be recognized as an anomaly. The measles outbreaks in that state are in religious communities that have historically low vaccination rates, vote conservative and represent an incredibly small percentage of the US population. The Amish are as much statistical outliers as they are cultural outliers.
Now I know many people on the right and the left who are antivaccination, just as I know many people on the right and the left who are anti-evolution. Ignorance knows no political bounds. Just the same, I’ve lived in many conservative cities and I’ve lived in many liberal cities and nowhere was the antivaccinationism as pervasive as it was in liberal Boulder, CO.

Also, government officials advising travelers on vaccination should be more aware of this danger and recommend the MMR.
According to this story:
the Amish travelers weren’t advised to get the MMR, but some did get tetanus shots prior to the trip.

Yoder, who is 33 and whose wife, Fannie, is now experiencing measles symptoms, said the Amish community that he grew up in is not religiously opposed to vaccines. Some do, however, opt out of shots.

He said he asked about any special vaccines that his group might need before traveling to the Philippines, but the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine wasn’t suggested. He had no idea there was an ongoing and deadly outbreak of measles in the Philippines. Had he known, Yoder said, he would have been vaccinated.

Some of the Amish travelers did get tetanus shots, said Knox County Health Department spokeswoman Pam Palm.

@ Narad:

That was making fun of them (the many ways to spell ‘Chi”) –
see also : Gaia-ness, Pharma rap, unicorns

@ p:

Mikey and Gary have been extremely harsh on Mr O ( see NN and PRN headlines):
I tend to believe that these are examples of honest emotion rather than the habitual pandering to potential customers’ predelictions usually displayed at these websites because it may actually cause some potential buyers to walk away.
Which would mean a loss of money.
It’s very rare that they would say something that isn’t aimed at earning.

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