Just when I thought I had heard every bone-headed historical analogy by antivaccinationists

Ever since SB 277 became law, I didn’t think I’d be writing about it much anymore. Actually, I probably won’t be writing about it much any more, because it’s now a done deal. It’s the law of the land in California. Beginning in 2016, non-medical exemptions (i.e., religious exemptions and personal belief exemptions) to school vaccine mandates will go away. Only medical exemptions will be permitted, which is as it should be. Sure, implementation will be a big deal, and I’ll probably have something to say about it as news of how it will happen filters out. However, right now, not much is going on. So why blog about it now? The reason is simple.

I’ve just seen an analogy made about SB 277 that I’ve never seen before.

I had thought I’d seen them all. To antivaccinationists, SB 277 is the Holocaust with antivaccine parents being labeled the same way Jews were labeled during Hitler’s Germany. It’s the equivalent of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. It’s fascism, authoritarianism, and Communism all rolled up into one! In brief, it’s pure evil. At least, that’s how antivaccinationists see it. Indeed, I thought I’d heard it all, but leave it to the so-called “Thinking Moms’ Revolution” to provide a new, ever more ridiculous example, that I’d never heard of before and that never would have occurred to me. Of course, the reason it never would have occurred to me before is the same reason it never would have occurred to any sane person with a rudimentary knowledge of history. It’s so incredibly, hysterically exaggerated and ahistorical. In this, it is like antivaccine analogies invoking the Holocaust.

Did it ever occur to you that SB 277 is exactly like 1700s Ireland? I know because a “Thinking Mom” whom I’ve never considered or encountered before tells us so:

Many attempts were made to thwart Ireland’s nationalistic pride. (In fact, there is a side of the history of Ireland and Great Britain that is still not fully resolved.) So how does this have any bearing on SB 277?

The Irish at the time spoke Gaelic, not English. They were scholars and poets, religious and traditionally devout. Religious leaders spoke Latin and Greek. Beginning in 1702, a series of Penal Laws were passed in Ireland by Great Britain aimed at extinguishing this rich Irish culture. One of the first laws stated, “Whereas it has been found by experience that tolerating at papists keeping schools or instructing youth in literature is one great reason of many of the natives continuing ignorant of the principles of the true religion, and strangers to the scriptures, and of their neglecting to conform themselves to the laws of this realm, and of their not using the English habit and language, no person of the popish religion shall publicly teach school or instruct youth, or in private houses teach youth, except only the children of the master or mistress of the private house, upon pain of twenty pounds, and prison for three months for every such offence. 7 Will III c.4 (1695)” [Editor’s note: don’t you love it when educational reformers sound like they themselves haven’t been educated?] As noted here, “The Punishment Laws passed by the Anglo-Irish parliament were so harmful to the Irish people that the Frenchman Montesquieu described them as “conceived by demons, written in blood, and registered in Hell.” Sound familiar? One commentator said that “It was not merely the persecution of a religion, it was an attempt to degrade and demoralize a whole nation.” Or, to put it mildly, a kind of religious apartheid.

Many have been the examples of a ruling nation trying to stamp out the religion and culture of a nation throughout history. Such examples exist today. If there is one depressing tendency throughout history, it’s the tendency of conquerers or colonizers to eliminate anything that might fuel rebellion or resistance. Rulers vary in just how brutal they are about suppressing dissent and cultural characteristics that fule that dissent, but the tendency is the same.

So why does ShamROCK mention this particular time period in Irish history? Surely you can see what’s coming. If you can’t, ShamROCK is more than happy to make it explicit:

SB 277 threatens a similar apartheid based upon the vaccine status of California’s children. Perhaps what transpired in Ireland could serve as inspiration for the future of California.

Because requiring that children be vaccinated before they attend school or are enrolled in day care is exactly like the Penal Laws in Ireland in the early 1700s, just as it is exactly like the Holocaust, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, fascism, Communism, and whatever evils antivaccinationists can imagine as being related to SB 277. This sort of nonsense leads “ShamROCK” to opine:

I don’t see the “vaccine debate” as being different from a religious debate. By their nature, it’s impossible to debate people’s personal religious beliefs — simply because they are beliefs that are personal. That’s why we have the First Amendment. In a similar way, it has become equally impossible to debate the merits and demerits of vaccination in a civil manner because of the collision of personal beliefs on both sides of the question. Obviously, those who use personal belief exemptions are doing so based upon their personal beliefs, but the rationale for mandating vaccines is also hinged on personal beliefs, albeit scientific-sounding dogma about “herd immunity,” “resurging disease,” “debunked theories,” and vaccine reactions being rare, that have little basis in fact, logic, or science.

Although I’ve not infrequently likened alternative medicine and destructive beliefs that flow from it to a religion or a cult, the “vaccine debate” is nonetheless not the same thing as a religious debate, no matter what someone like ShamROCK believes. Wait. Scratch that. It is somewhat like a religious debate but not in the way ShamROCK thinks. It is antiscience versus science, as the battle between creationism and evolution is. However, in the case of the antivaccine movement, rarely is the motivation explicitly religious, as is the case with creationism. Nor is it an entire culture and world view, as, for example, Irish language and culture and Roman Catholicism were for the Irish. Indeed, SB 277 has nothing to do with stamping out religion or culture of the usually affluent, nearly always privileged members of the antivaccine movement. Rather, it has everything to do with protecting the rest of society from their antiscience and infectious disregard for the rest of society.

Right on cue, Shamrock demonstrates that disregard:

We live in a complex world and unless we build a wall around each state, that ever-elusive perfect “herd immunity” cannot be achieved. California already has high rates of vaccination, including measles vaccine, and we can see that their high rates of vaccination did protect them in the Disney outbreak, keeping rates of infection quite low, despite the high number of adults who either were never immune or are no longer, thereby invalidating that justification in the Pan/Allen bill. No panic. No spread of disease in schools. Not one school was shut down. No national emergency at all — except for media-propagated hysteria. Vaccinating the remaining tiny percentage of shoolchildren who have not been vaccinated already cannot prevent future outbreaks of measles as long as people are free to travel to places where measles is still endemic. In spite of all that, heavily influenced by pharmaceutical company donations and political posturing (see Doctor Bob’s Daily for June 25th at 3:35 p.m.), SB 277 emerged and fast-tracked its way through the legislature to become law, and children whose parents wish to abstain or delay even one vaccine are being marginalized. They are being denied their basic rights as citizens afforded to them by the constitutions of California and the United States, based on their religious or personal beliefs. Religious segregation if you will.

The appeal to high statewide vaccination rates is, of course, a common factoid trotted out by antivaccine activists that seems reasonable but is quite deceptive. Yes, California has high statewide vaccination rates. That’s not the problem. The problem is pockets of children with low vaccination rates in the very affluent communities that are home to antivaccinationists, rates below that necessary for herd immunity. That’s where the outbreaks begin, as predicted when those pockets were first noted. These are the communities that are home to antivaccine or antivaccine-pandering pediatricians like Dr. Jay Gordon or Dr. Bob Sears, the latter of whom touts that only 50% of his practice is completely unvaccinated. Yes, an increasingly mobile population means that traveling can result in exposure to diseases like the measles—which is all the more reason to be vaccinated! Similarly, travelers from areas where measles is endemic can bring measles to the US—which is also all the more reason to maintain high vaccination rates, so that even if one or a handful of people catch the measles a larger outbreak is prevented by herd immunity. Finally, most adults have been vaccinated against te measles, but even so in the case of immunosuppression they can lose their immunity. Indeed, the first death from measles in years occurred in just such an adult.

As for “freedom,” one can’t help but note that among antivaccine activists, “freedom” is all about the parents’ freedom and “parental rights” and seldom, if ever, about the rights of the child to good quality preventive medical care, which includes vaccines to protect them from dangerous illnesses. It’s all about the parents, not the children. Indeed, the overall attitude tends to be the one explicitly stated by Rand Paul in what had to be a Freudian slip: “The state doesn’t own the children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.”

The freedom and rights of the parents über alles, that is. The parents’ appeal to “freedom” and “parental rights” are what I like to call an antivaccine dog whistle, reasons that resonate because everyone’s for freedom and rights, because…’Merica!

ShamROCK ends thusly:

The United States was founded on the principle that people should be free to practice their religion based on their own beliefs. That principle is being tested right now in California. Constitutional rights must and will prevail, but only the will of the people will see it through. It is going to be a fight, maybe the fight of our lives. The lesson from Ireland is that it can be done — even if it takes 120 years. We don’t have 120 years; we have only a matter of months. But there was no social media in 18th century Ireland . . .

Because, to antivaccinationists, SB 277 is just like the battles waged by the Irish against the British. Of course, if that analogy is taken far enough, it could easily go to a very, dark place. I’m referring, of course, to the numerous bombings carried out by the Irish Republican Army and other groups over the course of over three decades last century, particularly the 1970s. Is that where ShamROCK really wants to go with this. One really needs to be careful when making boneheaded historical analogies.

I can’t help but finishing wondering what off-base, tone-deaf historical analogy antivaccinationists will come up with next for their “plight.” Hmmmm. Let me think. Will it be the oppression and genocide committed against Native Americans? I wouldn’t put it past them, although one can’t help but note that a lot fewer Native Americans would have died if they had had access to vaccines against diseases brought by the European conquerors.