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Quoth Katie Tietje: Stop being mean to non-vaccinators!


Here we are, into a new week, and the Disneyland measles outbreak continues to grow, the total number of cases now having topped 100 and the disease attributed to someone visiting Disneyland now having reached my state. More than ever, given the high proportion of victims who weren’t vaccinated, antivaccinationists are feeling the heat. Rober, “Dr. Bob” Sears, MD might have been the most petulant one trying to downplay the seriousness of measles and then letting out a whole bunch of antivaccine dog whistles to his patients to let them know that, despite his assertion that the measles vaccine works, he’s still one of them.

Now others are getting in on the act. Maybe they’re envious at how much attention Dr. Bob has been getting (although the attention he’s been “enjoying” has been almost universally negative, given that supporters of science-based medicine recognize it for the disingenuous BS that it is and antivaccinationists can’t be too pleased by some of Dr. Bob’s positive assertions with respect to vaccines even as they recognize his antivaccine dog whistles about “freedom to choose” and how antivaccinationists shouldn’t be “ostracized”).

Enter Katie Tietje, known by her nom de blog as Modern Alternative Mama, and a deliciously schadenfreude-inducing whine entitled Enough is Enough with Blaming “Anti-Vaxxers.”

No. No it’s not.

But let’s listen for a moment to what Teitje has to say. After starting out with a boisterious, “All right, I’ve had it!” and complaining about articles in the mainstream media “dripping with hate and anger towards families that don’t vaccinate,” she lashes out thusly:

There is bullying, nastiness, insanity from every corner. We’re at the peak now. And it’s affecting people in their everyday lives. More and more are having to read tirades in their Facebook newsfeeds about how stupid “anti-vaxxers” are, or endure personal berating over their family’s choices. Some are encouraging people to find out which children in their child’s classroom aren’t vaccinated so they can ostracize them. Some are refusing to allow unvaccinated children into church nurseries, playgroups, and more. Perfectly healthy children, who happen to not have been vaccinated.

I’ve even been told that some of my readers have been messaged by trolls and harassed, simply for participating in some of the threads on my Facebook page! That’s just going too far.

“Messaged by trolls” on Facebook? Oh, the horror! Ever hear of the “block” function? It works quite well—better of Facebook than, for instance, on Twitter, and if you report a troll on Facebook you’re more likely to get him or her banned from Facebook, either temporarily or permanently. “Endure personal berating”? Those horrific bullies! What’s next, the comfy chair? Here’s the thing: The “personal choices” of Tietje and her fellow antivaccinationists not only endanger others but do indeed contribute to outbreaks like the still growing one linked to Disneyland that we continue to follow with alarm. If I ran a church nursery, a playgroup, or any other function where large numbers of children congregate, for whatever reason, I’d start banning unvaccinated children too. In fact, it’d be my general policy because it’s the responsible policy. Personally, I see this as a good thing that this measles outbreak is getting the attention of organizations that didn’t previously require childhood vaccinations are starting to wake up. Similarly, if I were a parent of young children I would not let Tietje’s kids play with mine. Yes, they might be “perfectly healthy”—now. However, by not being vaccinated they are at a much higher risk for contracting the measles. More importantly, they could contract it and seem to be completely asymptomatic but infectious. (That’s the reason for quarantines, by the way, and even though measles is one of the most infectious diseases there is, people can’t seem to get that.)

o, my dear Ms. Tietje, I’m oh-so-sorry that your “personal choices” have consequences. You seem to think that they should not, which is an unrealistic, childish standard that we apply to virtually no other choice that impacts others. By her “logic,” someone making the “personal choice” to drink alcohol and then drive shouldn’t be ostracized. But wait, she would say. Those people are a danger to everyone on the road. And so they are. It’s an immediate danger of crashing into other cars and causing death and injury. The choice to leave your child unvaccinated poses a much less obvious danger, but it’s a danger nonetheless. Moreover, it helps degrade the herd immunity that keeps infectious diseases outbreaks from spreading.

All of this leads to a call to arms from Tietje:

Families who believe in vaccine choice, it’s time to stand up. I know it’s hard, with all the hate. But if we sit silently and let them rage and fight, they’ll strip our rights. Yes, it’s easier to be quiet and hope people don’t know who we are, so that we don’t have to deal with the brunt of the anger directly. If we are silent, they win. And they cannot win. They are wrong. They are wrong to bully people into their way of thinking. They are wrong to try to force their will on others. And they won’t do it, if I have anything to say about it.

You know, when I read something like this, I often find it hard to tell how much of this “hate” is real and how much is simply people like Tietje not liking criticism for her “personal choice” and having a hard time accepting responsibility for their choices. From my perspective, I’ve yet to see an article or story in the mainstream media that I’d characterize as “hateful.” I’ve seen op-eds criticizing antivaccinationists for facilitating outbreaks by contributing to pockets of low vaccine uptake that degrade herd immunity to the point where outbreaks are possible in those pockets. I’ve seen antivaccinationists characterized as misguided and wrong (which is true). However, I haven’t seen anything that I’d characterize as “hate” or “bullying.”

Of course, Tietje is not likely to succeed in getting too many more parents to speak up and identify themselves as non-vaccinators. As we all know (and as Dr. Bob himself teaches antivaccinationists), being a non-vaccinator involves “hiding in the herd” and relying on herd immunity to protect one’s child. That doesn’t work if others know, both because more might try to hide in the herd and other parents might understandably react the way that Tietje is complaining about right now! If you “out” yourself as a non-vaccinating parent, you can’t easily hide in the herd any more—at least not as easily and certainly not in the middle of an outbreak, when awareness of the measles is at, as Tietje might put it, a “fever pitch.”

Next up, Tietje tries to demonstrate that it isn’t the unvaccinated who are to blame:

In the Disneyland situation:

  • There are around 70 confirmed cases currently
  • 5 of them were fully vaccinated
  • 37 were not vaccinated
  • There are no records available for at least 30 cases (so we don’t know their vaccination status)
  • We don’t know the vaccination status of “patient zero” (the first person to have measles in this outbreak)

We can’t make the leap, from what we do know, that this was “caused by unvaccinated people.” We simply can’t. That is just an easy scapegoat. If fits their agenda — to stir up hate and anger towards people who make alternative vaccination decisions, in order to try to strip exemptions and peoples’ rights. (No, nobody has the right to force medical care of any sort on anyone else. Period.)

Yes, Tietje’s post was written a few days ago, when the total was 70. It’s 100 now. Funny, however, that her own figures largely demolish her own argument. As even Dr. Bob himself recognizes, in many outbreaks more vaccinated children than unvaccinated children fall victim to the disease because vaccines are not 100% effective and there are a lot more vaccinated than unvaccinated children. However, when you correct for that difference and calculate the risk of catching a disease in an outbreak, the unvaccinated are always at much, much, higher risk. Indeed, in a measles outbreak in the Netherlands in 2000, it was estimated that unvaccinated children were over 200-fold more likely to catch the measles than vaccinated children, although it’s usually more like a 20-fold differential—still substantial. By Tietje’s own estimate, at least half of the measles cases to that point were unvaccinated, which points to an enormously increased risk of contracting the measles among the unvaccinated.

Of course, the next tactic Tietje moves on to is the same one that Dr. Bob used, essentially a variant of what I like to call argumentum ad Brady Bunchium, namely the claim that measles just isn’t so bad. For those who don’t remember, argumentum ad Brady Bunchium is a term I coined four years ago based on how frequently antivaccinationists appeal to an old episode of the Brady Bunch in which all the kids contract the measles and the family treats it as just a normal part of growing up. In fact, the kids are portrayed as not very sick and happily playing Monopoly, glad not to have to go to school for a week. It’s a mischaracterization of measles, which is not a benign disease.

Tietje then rattles off a bunch of figures about the measles vaccine and measles, harping on how the last measles death was in 2005 and there have been only 15 measles deaths since 1992. Yes, and we’d like to keep it that way; actually we’d like that number to be zero, because zero is achievable, but people like Tietje are, through their ignorance, fear mongering, and belief in “personal choice” above all, sure are doing their best to make that impossible. No, they don’t believe they’re doing that, but that is the end result of their actions.

Finally, Tietje concludes with a call to action. The first is a request for people to sign a highly misguided petition entitled Stop allowing the violation of our children’s human rights through mandatory and forced vaccinations with or without parental consent. Of course, in this country no one is “forcing” vaccinations. Parents can refuse vaccination. They simply pay a price of not being able to get their kids into public schools, although in most states nonvaccinating parents don’t even pay that price because of easily obtained religious and personal belief exemptions.

One other thing by Tietje stands out:

Third, speak up. If people are being rude, call them out. Be respectful, but say something. “We all make different medical decisions for our children. The evidence is not clear cut. Being rude isn’t going to change anyone’s mind, and I’m asking you to stop talking to others like this.” I suggest deleting and banning anyone who can’t remain civil. If you’re ready, share some information on your personal Facebook profile, or talk to friends in person. Remain calm and let everyone know how hurtful and harmful this sort of negative attitude is.

To which I would respond: Those supporting science-based medicine should also speak up. Remain civil. Tell parents like Tietje (politely) that the evidence actually is clear cut. Vaccines are very safe, and measles is not. As for “hurtful or harmful negative attitudes,” realize that concern trolling is a powerful weapon. As a pro-science advocate, to a person like Tietje you can never, ever be sufficiently civil. You will always be accused of being incivil, mean, nasty, and unfair by antivaccinationists, no matter how polite and civil you are. The reason is that antivaccinationists hate the message; so the messenger can never be civil enough. Also, accusing someone of “incivility” is a powerful means of shutting them up, particularly in face-to-face social situations, as opposed to online debates. Nobody likes being portrayed as a meanie, and most will usually back off.

Finally, Tietje calls for censorship by taking advantage of Facebook’s automated banning policies:

Fourth, report hate pages. There are a number of different ones on Facebook. “Anti-Vax Wall of Shame.” “Things Anti-Vaxxers Say.” “Banned by Modern Alternative Mama.” There are many others. Report them for hate speech. Their entire purpose is to take screenshots from groups where they troll and mock the people — some of you may recognize your own comments being mocked on those pages!

Sorry, but mocking stupid things said by antivaccinationists does not equal hate speech. It just doesn’t. Tietje seems to think, as many antivaccinationists do, that freedom of speech should equal freedom from consequences due to that speech. It’s a profoundly immature attitude that says, “I can say anything I want, and you can’t criticize me because freedom of speech.” Sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.

Sadly, Tietje is not the only one spouting nonsense like this, but I am out of time and energy, other than to note that The Onion nailed the attitude of Tietje and her ilk perfectly in a post entitled I Don’t Vaccinate My Child Because It’s My Right To Decide What Eliminated Diseases Come Roaring Back.

But, then, I suppose Tietje would consider The Onion too mean.

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]

202 replies on “Quoth Katie Tietje: Stop being mean to non-vaccinators!”

It’s rather amusing to see the cries of “Bullies!”, “Censorship!” or “Haters!” from the AV side.

My kids’ school arranges playgroups so there aren’t the common cliques formed at that age – and the parents bring home a gaggle of kids once a month or so to play at their house.

I made it abundantly clear that I would only allow children over who had been fully vaccinated.

I think it’s hysterical that Tietje cries about freedom of speech, etc, when she’s one of the most ban-heavy page admins on Facebook. A whiff of dissent and WHAMO – banned.

Yes, please do stand up and scream your anti-vaccine nonsense as loud as you can. This will make it easier for your neighbors to know who is to blame for this measles outbreak.


“Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences”

Ouch, hitting a bit too close to home. The elites in my country are busy revisiting the meaning of the first part, but have trouble including the second part in the debate. We French are sort of very confused right now. Well, more than usual.

I’ll be mean to anybody who through stupid and irresponsible actions puts their kids, my kids and other people at risk of contracting serious and harmful diseases. They deserve nothing but scorn.

I hope Disney’s time in the spotlight motivates them to lobby at state and federal level to for vaccination legislation – legislation that allows the state to prosecute neglectful parents and removes religious or philosophical opt outs for a public health issue.

I really do feel for Katie and her fellow antivaxers.

Being mocked or berated on Facebook is ever so much worse than children having to be hospitalized to treat their measles-related complications.

Time to de-lurk…

The use of the ban hammer by anti-vaxers and other alt med types, while they scream about freedom of speech, is all too common: my alter ego is blocked from the FB pages of several UK alt med and anti-vax types purely for asking a few pertinent questions (I tried very hard to be polite but a bit of sarcasm might have slipped in).

Now, if only there was a term for such behaviour…

I posted a comment on Katie’s post Orac references above a few days ago. Here is is, days later, still in moderation. I was polite, but obviously not anti-vax enough in outlook for Katie.

I’ll post it here because I’m willing to bet she’ll never approve it on her blog.

OK. I just have a few questions for you. “ONLY” 500 or so deaths from measles. Isn’t 1 death too many when we could prevent them entirely? Personally, I believe it is. I would LOVE for this generation to eradicate measles the way we were able to eradicate smallpox. And then we no longer have to vaccinate for it. Isn’t that what we want? To decrease vaccinations? Measles has no animal vector, so if we get rid of it in humans, it’s gone forever.

I will carry a smallpox vaccine scar to my death. None of my children – or even my younger siblings – ever had to get it because we eliminated it. I’d really love for no more measles.

And no, I didn’t use this name. I used another name, perfectly legitimate email address and all.

Their idea of “free speech” is rather transparently the freedom to say whatever they like whilst silencing all those who disagree with them. It’s the same notion of “free speech” that exists in North Korea.

It gets worse: Eventually someone’s going to go blind from measles. That could mean malpractice suits.

Grey Falcon @10 —

Eventually someone’s going to go blind from measles.

Or worse.

But malpractice suits against whom? If a parent refused vaccination for a child against medical advice, they’d have no case. Then again, we all know of a few pediatricians who would be open to lawsuits on this matter, which if it were to occur would at least be a silver lining.

We’re talking about someone who, two days after her child showed signs of a badly injured arm, first chose a chiro over a real Dr. Another 5 days passed before a real Dr diagnosed the broken arm. A Week Later. Screenshots of the saga are halfway down this article

The scary thing about that Onion article is that you actually hear those statements (It’s my right. It’s my choice. It’s my child et cetera and ad nauseum) from parents like Tietje.

I have seen very harsh language aimed at anti vaxers that I’m sure would be seen as abuse, like calling them murderers or wishing harm on unvaccinated kids.

That said, it seems that abuse or attack here more often than not does mean criticism of choice – just like “discrimination” means treating them differently based on a real difference. And they completely ignore the behavior of their side.

@palindrom: see –

And more about doctors:

(Sorry for the self reference).

Dr. Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP, got on twitter yesterday to self congratulate himself that one parent decided to vaccinate their child due to something he said on the radio. In other words, he did his job. Hooray for him.

After some back-and-forth with Seth Mnooking, Dr. Vince Ianelli, and others, an actress decided to jump into the Twitter discussion and defend Dr. Jay for not “bullying”. I asked her what she meant by bullying, but I think we all know the answer. If a parent says that they don’t want to vaccinate, and he acquiesces, that’s not bullying. If he were to explain to them that vaccines are far more beneficial and far less dangerous than antivaxxer groups and people make it out to be, then that would be bullying.
If your feelings are so frail that someone pointing out reality to you in any tone hurts you or makes you feel like your world is coming apart, get yourself some help. Your kids need a parent with a backbone.
*Drops Mic*

Though the comments I referred to above were generally by specific commentators, not in articles or blog posts. I can’t think of an article or post that went there – can anyone?

That could mean malpractice suits.

As palindrom says, that would only be the case if you could prove that (1) a parent followed a doctor’s advice to not vaccinate the kid and (2) that recommendation was not based on a specific medical contraindication. If the parents ignored medical advice to vaccinate, then the charge would be reckless endangerment. Unfortunately (IANAL), you would have to make it a civil case, because there is enough misinformation accessible via the University of Google for parents with competent lawyers to raise reasonable doubts in a jury’s mind. (Of course it would be a criminal charge in a perfect world, but we don’t live in that world.)

I recommend checking out her blog. Tietje is a one-woman tsunami of BS. There seems to be no woo she doesn’t push. A truly harmful person! BTW I’ve chosen to drive on the left side of the road (in the US) from now on. It’s my personal choice and no one has the right to restrict my freedom to choose where to drive. Besides, millions of people do it in the UK and they’re just fine.

@eric Lund: the question in suing a parent for failure to vaccinate will be whether there is a duty to act. There are arguments for it, but it’s far from obvious (this is the über short version). It would be ideal if states passed relevant statutes.

In other news, Jake has a new post up, accusing Mr Fraudytrousers of being a money-grubbing bag of sh1t. (I paraphrase).

I’m surprised it took him so long to work that one out.

Orac says,

“If I ran a church nursery, a playgroup, or any other function where large numbers of children congregate, for whatever reason, I’d start banning unvaccinated children too.”

MjD says,

My fully-vaccinated autistic son (4 years old) was not allowed in the church nursery because of behaviors.

Simply put he is a victim of medical science in that the autistic behaviors were caused by atypical immunity after vaccinations (i.e., allergy-induced regressive autism).

It’s apparent that In Regressive Autism, with respect to vaccines, sometimes your damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Banning children because of their vaccine status (Orac-ian reflex), it’s terribly simplistic and uncivilized.

I just posted the following on her site:

“All right, I’ve had it!

I simply can’t believe that you are surprised at the backlash you are getting. A preventable, highly contagious disease is spreading because of people like you who think your right to eschew good medical science outweighs the reactions you deserve because of the consequences of your choices.

Orac at Respectful Insolence has a very thorough response to your post here, perhaps some of your readers would like to see it:

By the way I love how you switch topics about deaths from preventable disease to those caused by medical errors. Yes, the latter is a huge problem that must be remedied, but that doesn’t negate the importance of preventing the former. And we have an easy way to prevent most, if not all, of those deaths from disease. I’d love to see some numbers for deaths from “alternative” therapies. One such death just occurred, with another likely hot on it’s heels. What are you doing to prevent such unnecessary, tragic deaths?

I am not optimistic that you will post this comment. But I hope you will allow it to show that you aren’t trying to hide science-based comments on your site.”

Do you think she’ll allow it? I noticed the only comments there were supportive. I haven’t read the comments here yet, but I hope others have posted too.

Eric Lund @17 — Dorit linked a discussion of the liability issues above, @14.

IANAL, but SIAL. (“She is … “)

@ Rebecca Fisher:

Oh I know.
Even more hilariously. as I noted earlier, he is opening up comments @ ET.
Perhaps he got some editorial power or else….
the minions will frolic unencumbered.

Because, you know, being treated badly because you make dumb choices is exactly like being oppressed for the color of your skin, your religion, your sexual orientation, etc.

Arresting people for stealing is discrimination against thieves, don’t you know?

Tietje’s numbers could lead some folks to mistakenly think only 70 children were exposed, and therefore conclude that the vaccine is not very effective. However, what is not stated is how many 100’s or 1000’s of children were exposed, but didn’t get the disease because they are vaccinated.

@ imr90
Cyclists in the Netherlands do this all the time. That’s why I hate them, though my bike is my only mean of transport.

A. Not a lawyer. Legal academic, though.

B. @Young CC Prof: exactly. What people don’t realize is that discrimination means treating like cases alike, distinguishing on an illegitimate basis. Not every different treatment is discrimination.

Unvaccinated children are different in a meaningful way because of a choice: they are intentionally left at higher risk of disease (that may not be what the parents are trying to do, but that’s the meaning of the choice). That’s a reason to treat them different.

So Orac recommends we ‘remain civil’ why? These people are rude, awful, and never learned manners or civility. They deserve all the rudeness they get.
And why not work on bribing the kids? If the vaccinated kids get a well lit waiting room, with movies, coloring books and toys, and the unvaxxed kids get a small dim waiting room, and get shoved out at the first opportunity, the kids might come to see vaccinations as a good thing, and pressure their parents into getting them the shots. Another thing that might work is for, at the first mention of “i’m not vaccinating,’ the doctor just gives the parents a first aid kit and a stethoscope, and doesn’t say another word for the rest of the appointment.

Renate: “Cyclists in the Netherlands do this all the time.”

It was a real shock the last time we were there that motor scooters were in the bike lanes! At least in Amsterdam.

Marc Siegel M.D. has a generally good op-ed piece in the today’s Wall St. Journal about how parents should fear measles and not the vaccine.

Unfortunately, he commits a major goof of omission by mentioning VAERS data showing 688 deaths associated with measles vaccine since 1990 (this is supposed to show a low complication rate since 10 million doses of vaccine were given over the stated time period), without any explanation of the unconfirmed and often dubious nature of VAERS reports.

If I was a parents concerned about the vaccine I’d read that and think whoa, 688 deaths?

What’s telling is how perfectly pretty much every point she makes dovetails with stuff that Dr. Bob’s posts on FB.

IMHO, the calls for civility, and the denigration of ‘bullies’ (note the word choice) are only partly group cohesion practice. In truth, I’d guess any guff she gets is water running off a duck’s back to Kate (quack!). I think this is a rhetorical strategy to establish comparative Ethos and Pathos for fence-sitting mom’s who drop in looking for guidance. It’s an appeal to the self-identity of ‘nurturing mom’ that has nothing to do with vaccines. Are the bullies ever right?

So, note MAM’s address and tone. She’s not speaking in ‘nice’ to pro-vaxers. She’s being being verbally aggressive, urging moms to get mad about being bullied over the silly little measles. But based on the other AV discourse I’ve run into in checking stuff about the Disneyland outbreak, I think she’s running a kind of standard-talking-point-for-this approach, and it’s actually quite clever…

There is an address to pro-vaxers in the subject, and it amounts to, ‘Please, Brer Bear don’t be mean to me. Ri me with your science, but please don’t throw me into the bully briars! Anything but that!” That is, what I think she wants is even more snark and condemnation to circulate on the web, so all those undecided newbies can see just what kind of arrogant jerks stand against the Right to Chose, Mom and apple pie.

Really, could any post be wearing more of a sign screaming “FLAME ME!”? I have to wonder if Dawn’s most is in permanent moderation because it’s too civil/reasonable/humane. Tietje may censor “nastiness and hate” from her threads, as noted quickly at the end of her post. But look at MOM’s calls to action. ‘Complain!’ she says: “let everyone know how hurtful and harmful this sort of negative attitude is.” Report the Hate Speech! And those dovetail with signing petitions, writing to polticians, and sharing the anti-vax with everyone and anyone. The complaints build to the ‘positive’ anti-vax activism, and thus the strategy depends on there being stuff to complain about, the more barbed the better.

So, yeah, I’m thinking ‘don’t take the bait!’ Don’t give all the AVs spreading the ‘bully!’ trope any more ammunition. Do the ‘good skeptic’ thing, ‘don’t be a dick’ — in fact be extra polite, non-judgmental, let the science and the facts do most of the ripping, and express your personal take as ‘Gosh, I’m just so worried about all the vulnerable kids that could die from VPDs.” Not, ‘you stupid lying ho, measles are really dangerous, tell the truth!’ But, ‘I’m sorry. i know most people don’t understand how serious measles is, but it is really bad.’

Of course, “mocking stupid things said by anti-vaccinationists does not equal hate speech” and in once sense MAM and the rest deserve all lot of the sharply-worded critiques they get. But while their position on vaccines may be dumb, their rhetorical strategy is anything but stupid. Consciously or not, it’s cleverly Machiavellian.

Orac is dead on in saying, ‘as a pro-science advocate, you will always be accused of being incivil, mean, nasty, and unfair by AVs, no matter how polite and civil you are’. And he right that ‘concern trolling’ is a powerful weapon in IRL coversations, where don’t like being viewed as bullies, and may well back off the critique altogether. But that is not the dynamic online. Almost nobody backs off in text exchanges. Face-to-face, I’m super-sensitive and emotionally devoted to conflict-avoidance. ‘sadmar’ quite obviously, is not, at least most of the time.

One big difference is that face-to-face interactions are personal and private, and online exchanges are public. We write in awareness of a larger audience observing us — one reason we go on counter-offensives when we feel attacked. But the audience, at least the audience we really care about here, is not stupid. If we do indeed get labeled as unfair nasty bullies when we are civil and respectful, that may play with the choir, but it will backfire with the noob undecideds, ‘Hey! Who you kidding? That post wasn’t mean. It was just thoughtful!’

I would cite Dr. David Gorski’s 1/26/15 post on SBM about parental rights and the death of Makayla Sault as an overall model of taking a tone that is not just civil, but even sympathetic to the persons engaged in pseudo-science without backing off one iota from the hard facts of the wrongness of the medical science. It also goes deeply into a human concern for the victims that shows sympathy for them, and will, I’m sure, establish credibility for Dr. Gorski with any readers ‘in-the-middle’, as sincere civility-and-caring is simply more trustworthy than ‘arrogant-seeming’ trash talk.

There are 2 kinds of motor scooters, the ones one can drive without a helmet and that are supposed to go only 25 kmh (most go faster) and the ones one need to wear a helmet on, which have a maximumspeed of 40 kmh. The first are allowed on bike lanes, the others are sometimes allowed on bike lanes and sometimes not. In Amsterdam they want all motor scooters on the road and not on the bike lanes.

One way to understand MAM audience and their ideology is that they can read” “No, nobody has the right to force medical care of any sort on anyone else.</b" (emphasis original), without seeing any sense of contradiction. Anti-vaxers are forcing medical care decisions on their children, and they are the only ones doing so. Physicians are only making recommendations. Individuals or organizations who make the un-vaccinated stay away are creating consequences for medical decisions, not forcing them to be made. AVs can (and do) keep kids inside and home-school.

The only way MAM's statement makes sense is if children are excluded from "anyone else." They are not individual human beings. but mere extensions of their parents. It might just be 'My kid is my property,' but it smells of something even deeper: a shared identity, 'My kid is a part of me. We are but a single body, with the apparent separation of physical space a mere illusion hiding a metaphysical unity of being.'

Thus from our POV MOM's bold-face may be blazingly stupid, but to counter it effectively, we need to step into the head-space of an intelligent and articulate person who could write that and ask, 'What do I have to believe in order to think that way? From what sort of view of world could such a statement follow?' Then figure out a (civil and polite, natch) strategy to counter the philosophical/theological root. You know, treat the disease holistically, not just the symptom. 🙂

This “vaccine strain” measles vs wild measles angle the anti-vaxers are trying to spin is pretty hilarious. It even popped up on AoA yesterday.

“1. Has there been any laboratory confirmation of even one case of the supposed measles related to Disneyland? If yes, was the confirmed case tested to determine whether it was wild-type measles or vaccine-strain measles? If not, why not? These are important questions to ask. Is it measles or not? If yes, what kind, because if it’s vaccine-strain measles, then that means it is the vaccinated who are contagious and spreading measles resulting in what the media likes to label “outbreaks” to create panic (strange how they’ve completely missed the Autism outbreak going on for the past 25 years). It would be what one might call vaccine fallout. People who receive live-virus vaccines, such as the MMR, can then shed that live virus, for up to many weeks…and can infect others. Multiply that in your head by all of the people who receive not only the MMR live-virus vaccine, but many others. Other live-virus vaccines include the nasal flu vaccine, shingles vaccine, rotavirus vaccine, chicken pox vaccine, and yellow fever vaccine.

Thus, it is often the vaccinated who are spreading disease, despite what the media tell you, media that are heavily supported and influenced by pharmaceutical advertising dollars. Why aren’t those who receive live-virus vaccines, and the DTaP and TDaP vaccines, quarantined in their homes until it can be confirmed that they are no longer contagious with the diseases against which they were vaccinated? Why are they being allowed into schools, hospitals, grocery stores, and the like?”

The stupid. It burns!


We’re talking about someone who, two days after her child showed signs of a badly injured arm, first chose a chiro over a real Dr. Another 5 days passed before a real Dr diagnosed the broken arm. A Week Later.

As I’ve mentioned before, this appears to be based on a misreading.

the cries of “Bullies!”
I watched a documentary about Noam Chomsky in which one of Chomsky’s intellectual adversaries complains that he is a bully. This seemed to be a term of art, meaning “Spoils perfectly good arguments by dragging in facts”.

The choice to leave your child unvaccinated poses a much less obvious danger, but it’s a danger nonetheless.

Not sure how doing nothing (not vaccinating) can be dangerous.

Not sure how doing nothing (not vaccinating) can be dangerous.

Keep telling yourselves that Sid so you can delude yourselves into believing that these outbreaks aren’t your fault.

Johanna: Slightly more ethical than that. Think of airplanes. Vaccinated patients and their parents get ‘first class’ regardless of economic status, unvaccinated patients regardless of economic status get the economy, no-frills, lightbulbs perpetually on the fritz room. It isn’t a direct bribe, but people will do a lot to get a slightly more pleasant experience. Parents who chose not to vaccinate are very susceptible to pressure from their kids.

Sid: The very, very short answer is that doing nothing is dangerous because viruses are doing things. They’re hitching rides in people, they’re sitting in the soil, they’re having parties on rusty nails and in puddles. Of course, this probably wouldn’t be clear enough for you if it was written in ten foot high letters, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Mr. Schecter (who is not related to a highly qualified pediatrician): “Not sure how doing nothing (not vaccinating) can be dangerous.”

How many red lights did you not stop for? Or what has happened when you refuse to move from the doorway during a fire drill?

Sid – If you choose to do no maintenance to your house and yard, does that increase or decrease the danger to you and your neighbors from, say, vermin infestation or fire? Does it hurt or help your neigbors’ property values?

Being treated with civility is something you get by adhering to the social contract–do onto others, yadda, yadda. So is accepting rule of law.

You really, really don’t want to vaccinate your kids? Fine. Just completely remove yourself from society so that you can’t harm anyone, and while I feel bad for your kid, most of my concerns are addressed. Go churn butter, shit in the woods, cool with me. Otherwise, you’re acting as a free rider on the rest of us. And if hearing that hurts your feelings, well, there’s the trailhead. Pack an extra sweater, you’re gonna need it.


“doing nothing is dangerous because viruses are doing things.”

Oh, so the measles is the danger. For once I agree with you.

Thanks Annie @37 – there was no bad argument left unused down your link. Vast and lengthy entertainment.
“It was not ever, is not today, and will not be tomorrow my child’s job to protect your child, in any way, shape, or form.”
I’m teaching kids the dangers of obeying speed limits – don’t be sheeple!! You could get rear-ended.


You are arguing with the exact opposite of what Orac said, which includes

As a pro-science advocate, to a person like Tietje you can never, ever be sufficiently civil. You will always be accused of being incivil, mean, nasty, and unfair by antivaccinationists, no matter how polite and civil you are. The reason is that antivaccinationists hate the message; so the messenger can never be civil enough.

“Oh, so the measles is the danger. For once I agree with you.”

So go vaccinate your kids, you worthless scum-sucking dog.

As a member of some of those “hate groups” on facebook, I can honestly say that the vast majority of us are not trolls. We simply state facts, and/or ask questions (generally, members found spouting hate/threats/personal attacks are removed) and act civil. The reason for the screenshots: we often take shots of our posts because MAM will remove the post then block the commenter to make sure her flock doesn’t get to read the comment. She does her best to crush any attempts at open dialogue (right from the Food Babe play book).

I dislike this woman immensely and have never met her. I have heard a lot of screaming on the FB lately about ‘bullying’. Bullying now seems to be well I posted something and you commented with science and facts (politely) which contradicted my post and now your a bully. You can’t win with these people. I try to be scrupulously polite, particularly when online as the written word does not have the nuance of face to face contact, but a lot of anti-vaxxers make that so very, very hard to do. Lately some of the mainstream mommy bloggers (such as Baby Sideburns) have posted positively about vaccinating and have called out the anti-vax contingent. (sorry I don’t have the link) This will probably result in fallout for them unfortunately as the anti-vax troll contingent is strong, though they scream bloody murder about even polite disagreement on their own pages they are often downright nasty to critics. I am myself on FB, I post pro-science articles and comments. People who are offended are free of course to unfriend me.

Renate @27 — The great humorous blogger “Bike Snob NYC” has a term for wrong-way cyclists — “Bike Salmon”, the idea being that they’re like salmon swimming upstream to spawn.

Mephistopheles @45. Please. In an effort toward gender neutrality, we should all adopt the term “verpersons”, since many rats and so on happen to be female.

palindrom @56 – I’m not sure I’m willing to grant rats and so on personhood, however I will agree to the term “verbeings”.

Shay @50 – How do you expect anyone to understand your position if you keep sugar coating it like that?

a term for courageous contrarian thinkers wrong-way cyclists — “Bike Salmon”

Alternatively, “Organ Donors”.

“1. Has there been any laboratory confirmation of even one case of the supposed measles related to Disneyland? If yes, was the confirmed case tested to determine whether it was wild-type measles or vaccine-strain measles? If not, why not? These are important questions to ask”

It’s as if the author is too busy asking these Important Questions to stop and read the answers. Indeed, the author must work quite hard to avoid the available information.

In a weird way, I find it kind of encouraging that antivaxers seem to be falling back on the “health freedom” arguments more and more lately. MAM can make vague statements like “the evidence isn’t clear-cut” all she wants; anyone who’s not already antivax is going to realize that if the science was on her side she’d be citing it, not falling back on “It’s my child to put at risk if I want to, and you’re all meanie heads.”

Keep telling yourselves that Sid so you can delude yourselves into believing that these outbreaks aren’t your fault.

And that he’s actually a publisher and that his child-rearing books are soon to appear.

Same woman that left her child with a broken arm for more than a week before taking the child to the doctor. Oh yes! I would totally trust her medical advice on vaccines. She is evil incarnate, to me as a mother.

It’s as if the author is too busy asking these Important Questions to stop and read the answers. Indeed, the author must work quite hard to avoid the available information.

Vincent Ianelli popped into the comments to lay this on them. Hayes’s response is dumbfounding:

“So it seems the WHO was previously very well aware that travellers, infected with measles genotype B3, were permitted to travel to other countries and presumably spread measles infections, without any kind of official sanctions or controls. Some infected persons who visited Disney World were vaccinated against measles, but still contracted the disease. We are all entitled to ask WHY!”

^ Oh, wait, that was Jenny Allen’s response, making it par for the course rather than dumbfounding.

I will agree to the term “verbeings”.

The barbarous habit of verbing nouns is bad enough without verbeing them as well.


” Eventually someone’s going to go blind from measles.

Or worse.

But malpractice suits against whom? If a parent refused vaccination for a child against medical advice, they’d have no case. Then again, we all know of a few pediatricians who would be open to lawsuits on this matter, which if it were to occur would at least be a silver lining.”

That wouldn’t be the case if the child had been vaccinated, got measles due to an unvaccinated child in his classroom, and died. Then the parents of the non-vaccinated child would be open to a wrongful death suit . . . and if the pediatrician were an anti-vaxer, malpractice could be an issue.

I pray it doesn’t happen. But I fear eventually it might.

Orac, did you see Jay Gordon on the CBS Evening News a few minutes ago (6:45 EST)? I just did.

The reporter had asked him didn’t he think it was serious that if one child with measles came into his office that 92% of his patients in the waiting room would get it? The guy actually had the unmitigated gall to say that measles is not coming back in this country.

He signs a large percentage of the parental exemption forms for vaccination in California.

How can the Medical Board continue to ignore this? I know that physicians practice independently . . . but where are the limits???

Dr. Jay, I know you read and comment here sometimes. If you’re reading this, please accept the scorn of my mother-in-law, who cared for many kids with measles at a large children’s hospital prior to the advent of the single dose. Most recovered. But some went deaf, some went blind, some got pneumonia, some ended up with brain damage. Some didn’t survive. What a short memory you have, sir.

Just today I had lunch with a scientist who is deaf in one ear because of childhood measles (her childhood pre-dated the vaccine). She’s pretty exercised about this whole thing, and with good reason, I’d say.

Vicki: No, my general argument is that we don’t need to bother to be civil to anti-vaxxers. Be rude, be insulting, be dismissive, make ’em cry. Most of them were on the tip top of the totem pole in life before they had kids. In high school they were the nasty mean girls and the jocks who never developed empathy. A little shunning and a few verbal smackdowns would be good for most of them.

Palindrom, Gray Falcon: I would hope that if a child from an anti-vax family went blind from measles that they would be fostered out to relatives or understanding people. Anti-vax people absolutely hate disabled people, and a disabled child would be in danger until they managed to gain independence.

Newest link spreading around anti-vax circles:…58ac38525.html

“The case is not thought to be related to an outbreak of measles in California. Health officials say the patient has no travel history to California or any places with measles outbreaks. The symptoms began after the child received the measles vaccine.”

“Health Commissioner Leana Wen says the department is treating this as a suspected case of measles as a precaution and is conducting tests to learn more. Wen says it’s possible the patient had a reaction to the vaccine.”

And this will be used to somehow trump the hundreds of cases of measles that have occurred in the US over the past 2 years due to unvaccinated travelers importing measles from overseas.

Even if it turns out not to be true.

On the subject of Jake, it looks like he has next to no friends left. It has been humbling for him to learn that all his heroes had feet of clay. If only someone had told him this before he hitched his wagon to the movement.

Politicalguineapig there is no need to be rude or insulting. The anti-vaxers are never going to be convinced and it is the people who are unsure and looking for information that need to be convinced. Remaining polite and demolishing the arguments with the facts is by far the best way.

A little bit of sarcasm is good, but only a little bit. You hear that Murmur? How many times have you been told?

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