15 antivaccine tropes for Christmas


Christmas is over, and we’re in that weird time between Christmas and New Years Day, when, usually at least, I have to work but so many people are out and so few patients seem to want to come in that it hardly seems worth the effort. So it is with the blog, too. The week between Christmas and New Years tends to be the lowest traffic period of the year. Although that’s been true this year as well, I’ve noticed more commenting activity than I usually see. So, I figured, what the heck? There are odds and ends worth writing about, although I don’t plan on doing an epic posts before next Monday. Who knows? Maybe I’ll finally figure out how to do brevity right.

Try not to laugh too hard.

In any case, right before Christmas, a reader sent me a link to yet another brain dead listicle that’s longer than most listicles in which an antivaccine maven tries to warn a hypothetical “normal, socially accepted person” about to become an antivaccinationist like him what to look out for. (Why is it that antivaccinationists can’t seem to keep their listicles short and punchy, as any good link bait listicle should be? Even I can manage that when I put my mind to it.) It’s entitled 15 Things You Should Know Before Becoming An Anti-Vaxxer, and, hoo boy, is it a doozy, so much so that I doubt I’ll be able to cover all 15 items in the listicle.

At least Matt, who describes himself as a “conservative millennial whose greatest wish is that people would just stop and think” is honest and declares himself an “anti-vaxer.” Of course, the very fact that he is an antivaxer demonstrates that, whatever it is he’s been thinking about so much, he’s been going about it all wrong. No surprise there. He’s also useful in that, as a self-declared conservative, he’s a nice counterpoint to the mistaken prevailing idea that antivaccine pseudoscience is primarily the province of the left. As I’ve described many times before, it’s not.

His introduction is a combination of bravado and self-pity that we’ve seen before. In it he declares himself an outcast, but equally declares that he chose this path because, well, I’ll let him him say it in his own words:

For those of you still reading, you read that right. An Anti-Vaxxer.

You’ve seen things about me. The scum of the earth? Disease ridden outcast? The sickie in town?

You’ve read things about me. The idiot. The moron. The child abuser. The ignorant one.

You’ve said things about me. The pseudo science pusher? The health nut? The conspiracy theorist?

Yeah… it sucks. But that’s me. And the worst part is, I did it to myself.
I chose to be an Anti-Vaxxer, even though I knew forsaking my pro-medicine stance wouldn’t be easy.

I chose to keep researching when I had my curiosity peaked. I chose to keep clicking those links.

I chose to delve into forbidden mainstream knowledge; to suckle at the temptingly attractive teat of common sense. I chose to walk this path.
I guess some people have to learn the hard way. I did.

See? He’s a special snowflake, not like all those pro-vaccine sheeple. He kept researching. He kept clicking those antivaccine links on the Internet. Unlike you, he was brave enough to “delve into forbidden knowledge.” At this point, I wanted to ask Matt whether he had given himself a rotator cuff tear patting himself on the back so furiously, but I couldn’t because of the bile rising in my throat due to a profound urge to vomit in reaction to his self-important arrogance of ignorance. However, I have seen worse; so my constitution is strong enough to resist such urges.

Let’s “cherry pick” my favorites among the 15 items. Feel free to take on the leftovers that I don’t bother with or to take a bite out of ones I have.

The first item Matt starts out with is this:

1. Once you go down this road, you won’t go back.

If you really put in the time and research, you’ll eventually see for yourself what the ‘crazies’ are really saying. You’ll also realize that it makes perfect sense. It’s logical. And you’ll see that what you’ve been thinking are anti-scientific ramblings all these years are really the most scientifically valid points in the entire debate.

You’ll see that there really is more risk than benefit, and that there really haven’t been any legitimate safety studies conducted on vaccines or their ingredients.

You’ll see plenty of other things along the way, and if you put enough time in, you’ll realize sooner or later that there’s no going back. It’s ok, though. There’s a growing number of sensible, down-to-earth people who are there to help you along the way. The road is dark, but there’s light at the end. I promise.

To me, this resembles a promise to a convert to a new religion. “Listen,” the priest or imam or whatever cleric we’re talking about will say, “It’s hard. It’ll take a lot of work. People will give you crap. But it’s worth it. There are lots of people doing the same thing.” Whether that’s the case with a religion is pretty subjective. Whether it’s the case “converting” to the religion of antivaccination is easy to assess: It’s not. What Matt is trying to persuade people is that becoming an antiscience loon who endangers his own children and others is a good thing to be.

In fact, consider item #2, which is that “you’ll be forced to ponder certain possibilities you didn’t consider before.” What Matt doesn’t tell you is that the reason you didn’t consider these possibilities before is because you were a rational, pro-science, pro-medicine person before. It’s only by contemplating and embracing (or at least accepting) pseudoscience that you can become an antivaccinationist like him. Oh, well…

Perhaps my favorite is this one:

3. Sometimes conspiracy theories are actually true.

You’ll instantly be branded a conspiracy theorist for questioning vaccines. No, I’m not kidding.

Numerous ‘extremist’ Pro-Vaxxers will descend on you like vultures on a carcass just for asking why the autism rate is skyrocketing, since you’ll discover that there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that autism is a body disease, not a mental disease, and it’s an auto-immune body response. You’ll see how many thousands of kids out there suddenly developed autism after a vaccine(often first noticed after a whooping cough shot). You’ll see that there’s a ton of correlation between vaccines and autism. Doesn’t matter, though. You’ll be a laughing stock. They’ll say that theory has been debunked, and then fail to show you any real studies to back this up. They call you names, and lump you in with other conspiracies that you may even think are ridiculous, just to publicly shame you. Get ready.

But a conspiracy theory is just that: A theory with some sort of compelling evidence that someone is covering up an act of crime and lying about it. Until it’s proven, it remains a theory. Let’s go on to prove vaccines are at the heart of one of the biggest, evidence based conspiracies out there.

Or, far more likely, you really have become a conspiracy monger. After all, contrary to what Matt claims, there is no correlation between vaccines and autism, at least not any that indicates causation. As I’ve described more times than I can remember over the last decade, all the well-designed epidemiological studies that have looked at the question have failed to find a correlation. Yes, autism prevalence has increased greatly over the last 20 years, but that does not mean that it’s the vaccines. Again, as I’ve pointed out before, cell phone use has increased greatly over the last 20 years. Why isn’t it cell phones? Wifi use has skyrocketed over that same period. Why isn’t it wifi? Internet usage in general has also skyrocketed? Why isn’t it the Internet that’s causing autism. But, no. It’s the vaccines. It’s always the vaccines. It’s always been the vaccines. To antivaccinationists, it will always be the vaccines. Always. You can see that by the way that Matt says, “let’s go on to prove vaccines are at the heart of one of the biggest, evidence based conspiracies out there.” Not “let’s see if vaccines are at the heart of one of the biggest, evidence based conspiracies out there” Rather, let’s prove it.

In other words, Matt “knows” vaccines are evil. He’s just cherry picking information to “prove it.”

Which leads to Matt’s warning that you’ll become a “hardened person”:

You’ll become immune to insults after a while. The ‘extremist’ Pro-Vaccine crowd shows up online in large numbers and hurls many stones. They may hurt at first, but if you keep at it, it just toughens your skin. After a while, you’ll probably become so calloused that you may not even care what your friends or family members think of you anymore. There is a time that you reach a point of nay-saying immunity, and it’s certainly not thanks to a vaccine.

As my irony meter melted down, I went on to read:

5. You’ll need to develop an acute sense of civility.

As a battle hardened veteran of the vaccine debate, you’ll be filled with an urge to warn others, yet take the high road in most debates. You’ll see that to win a vaccine argument, you need to be poised and controlled. While some sarcasm is allowed, you can’t overdo it. Once you’ve discovered that vaccines are nothing but a big gamble with your child’s life, you’ll want to make sure those you love have the same information.

And that’s when Matt blew another one of my irony meters. He melted that sucker flat, to the point that all that was left was was a bubbling, pathetic, sparking pile of goo. After all, over the last decade I’ve endured frequent abuse at the hand of antivaccinationists like Matt. Four years ago, antivaccinationists mounted a concerted effort to get me fired from my job. Since then, periodically they mount attacks against me. If Matt really thinks antivaccinationists are (or have to be) more “civil” than their opponents, I respectfully submit that he is on crack.

Reading the rest of Matt’s listicle, which is well over 6,000 words and thus actually beyond even what I, who am known for my logorrhea, usually generate, led me to conclude that I must stand in awe. While it’s true that I do indeed sometimes write 6,000 word posts, particularly for my not-so-super-secret other blog, but for the most part, I keep myself under 2,000-3,000 words here, which is plenty indeed. That’s why I’m not going to march through each and every item, although I must admit that #10 (“you’ll read the ingredients on a vaccine insert”) amused me given the frequently used and deceptive technique of “argument by package insert” so beloved of antivaccinationists. Add to that his liberal use of the “toxins gambit,” and the lulz just keep coming. (If you don’t believe me, read Matt’s hilariously scientifically ignorant “rebuttal” to Dr. Paul Offit.) Ditto Matt’s claim in #11 that vaccines cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They don’t. In fact, if anything, they decrease the risk of SIDS. Then in #6, he proclaims antivaccinationists not “anti-science” while demonstrating quite conclusively in the text that he is, in fact, antiscience. It is, however, very cute to see Matt attempt to justify a “vaxed versus unvaxed” study without understanding clue one about why a randomized, placebo-controlled study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children would be unethical and without a hint that he might understand the incredible difficulties that would be involved in carrying out such a study. It’s not so cute when he delves into the intellectually dishonest “vaccines didn’t save us” gambit in #7, when he describes vaccines as “one of the biggest hoaxes in human history.”

Perhaps what’s most telling is #12:

12. You’ll start to realize there’s a big problem with western medicine.

The more you research, the more you’ll start to see that modern medicine has some real issues. Ever notice how when you’re sick, you get a prescription for something usually pretty expensive (most insurance covers the majority of cost) that temporarily relieves your symptoms? Most doctors will recommend some kind of medication to mask your issue, not fix it.

The reason is simple: Most doctors don’t know how to fix your problem. Instead, they prescribe man-made medicine that will “help” only to a certain degree, instead of focusing on ridding the body of your ailment. Your time is much better spent with a holistic health provider. They will actually take the time to inform you of the best natural way to cleanse your body of various ailments; with amazing results. Many people roll their eyes when you mention holistic health. This is partly due to the work of Big Pharma, who has put in a ton of subtle work behind the scenes to make sure you think that way. There is potentially a lot of money flushed down their drains for every person that seeks natural healthcare.

Everything you see nowadays is designed to make you think that modern medicine is the best thing since sliced bread. They’ll also tell you that homeopathic medicine and natural healthcare are “dangerous”, and unproven. You’ll discover that this is not true at all. Most of the things your holistic health provider recommends fix the problem fast, with no side effects, are cheaper, and have been proven for hundreds or even thousands of years. There are many things you’ll learn to be able to actually keep yourself healthy and your immune system like an iron horse so you’re less likely to get sick in the first place.

Of course Big Pharma would have a problem with holistic health; it’s a direct threat to their business. As we’ve already discussed, once the pharmaceutical companies are upset, the medical system, government branches, and media are soon to follow. It’s a vicious cycle, so it will come as no surprise to you that many holistic health care providers are targets. The government seeks to shut them down whenever possible and strip them of their medical licenses. They are under intense scrutiny from a very powerful entity.

If you actually put in the time to seek holistic diagnoses, you’ll learn more in an hour about your body than you ever knew before, and you’ll quickly discover it’s far from the quackery you thought it was. It really works; I’ve personally experienced it.

No, the reason I roll my eyes when someone like Matt mentions “holistic health” is because I know that what he means by it is a hodge-podge of quackery. It is, however, amusing to see just how much antivaccine views correlate with quackery. Naturopaths and chiropractors, for instance, are notorious for being antivaccine or at least for giving out advice that, if not blatantly antivaccine, tends to be littered with antivaccine tropes dressed up as “skepticism” and “natural healing.” In the above passage, there are the very common tropes trotted out by quacks of all stripes about “Western” (don’t get me started on the racism inherent in that term) medicine: The claim that doctors “just treat the symptoms, not the cause” (never mind that homeopathy, for instance, is all about treating only symptoms); that “holistic medicine” is somehow a threat to big pharma that pharma must destroy; that “detoxification” cures everything and you can prevent vaccine-preventable disease with diet (expounded on explicitly and in more detail in his incredibly brain dead “rebuttal” to Paul Offit).

The arrogance of ignorance is strong in this one. Very strong. Worse, he’s proud of it and thinks he’s “educated” himself.