Yet another antivaccine rally, yet another yawn

If there’s one thing that’s amusing about the antivaccine movement, it’s the disconnect between its members’ perception of their own importance and the reality of it, which is that they tend to be a pretty pathetic, risible band. They post their blogs, full of the rage of Dunning-Kruger, thinking that they are putting forth the most sophisticated scientific arguments that real scientists, who have spent their entire professional life studying vaccines and autism, somehow missed and finding evidence of a link that no other scientist can. Of course, pesky things like rigorous study design tend to get in the way of real scientists finding the same things that antivaccine crank scientists, like Mark Geier, Christopher Shaw, Andrew Wakefield, or the like do.

Particularly pathetic in general have been antivaccine “protests,” starting with the infamous “Green Our Vaccines” march on Washington, lead by none other than Jenny McCarthy herself. The only reason that march got the attention it did was because Jenny McCarthy and her then-boyfriend Jim Carrey led the march. Other “protests” in which there isn’t celebrity leadership (or at least a celebrity face) have been much less “impressive,” consisting often of small bands of loons standing outside the CDC or the American Academy of Pediatrics and waving placards. Alternatively, it consists of a bit of antivaccine activism at places like Freedomfest. I’ll admit that there are sometimes exceptions to this rule, such as when antivaccine views combine with a natural American tendency not to be want to be told what to do by the government, as happened last summer in the opposition to California SB 277, the bill passed into law that will eliminate nonmedical exemptions beginning with the 2016 school year.

The most recent pathetic display by antivaccinationists of just what fringe cranks they are is scheduled for this Saturday, October 24, and is being promoted by—of course!—the merry band of antivaccinationists at the crank blog Age of Autism in a post filled with typical hyperbole entitled The Week American Parents Demanded Truth from CDC. It’s something I’ve known about for quite some time now, but now that it’s almost here I feel an obligation to mention it:


Oh, goody. It’s the “CDC Whistleblower” manufactured scandal again, the one that produced a book by Kevin Barry that fizzled. Yes, the fruits of William Thompson’s betrayal of his CDC colleagues is still in play, complete with the false claim that the CDC covered up “smoking gun” evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism in African-American boys. Notice the specificity. As I joked the very first time this whole “CDC whistleblower” nonsense popped up, it’s amazing how the very study being touted by antivaccinationists as having been altered to cover up this, even if taken as represented by antivaccine activist Brian Hooker’s “reanalysis,” proves Andrew Wakefield wrong, as it showed not a whiff of a hint of a whisper of a correlation between MMR and autism in any subgroup other than African-American males.

Of course, as I explained time and time again, this correlation only showed up in African American boys because of small numbers and failure to properly correct for confounders, which is why it disappeared when better analyses were made. It’s depressing how someone who really should know better, namely Dr. Thompson, so easily fell for this mistake and has apparently been torturing himself with “guilt” over his failure to speak out about this “cover up” since 2004. There was a time when I thought that Thompson was just misguided, but these days I think he’s gone full-on antivaccine. Not surprisingly, the videos above include the usual misinformation about the “CDC whistleblower’s” revelations and promises involvement of the Nation of Islam. As I said when the antivaccine movement cozied up to the Nation of Islam, if you want your movement to be taken seriously, the best thing to do is to cozy up with loons like the Nation of Islam, which has become in essence a wholly owned subsidiary of the Church of Scientology. Cranks of a feather, indeed.

So what’s going on in Atlanta this weekend? Take a peak at the CDC Truth website. On Friday night, there’s a rally at the CDC headquarters from 7 AM to 2 PM. (What they’ll be doing all that time, who knows? Probably being annoying but not effective.) Then they’re having a dinner, and you—yes, you!—”could WIN a once in a lifetime opportunity to have an intimate dinner with the Stars of #cdcTRUTH Rally!” Amusingly, as of this writing, only $818 of the target of $4,000 had been raised, which, if I were organizing this event, would would worry the crap out of me a mere four days before the event. Be that as it may, you, too, could hang with the luminaries and stars of this event, were you to win the raffle. These are the same people who will be speaking on Saturday at the rally at Grant Park:

  • Barbara Loe Fisher
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
  • Minister Tony
  • Dr. Brian Hooker
  • Dr. Toni Bark
  • Eric Gladen
  • Alison Folmar
  • Marcella Piper-Terry
  • Stacy Francis
  • The Refusers
  • All Star Blues Messenger
  • Lyn Redwood
  • Ron Cummins

What? No Andrew Wakefield? What’s wrong with these people? After all, he’s Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ all rolled up into one!

I was amused to see that The Refusers will be there. The amusement comes from just how bad The Refusers are at writing tunes and just how idiotic their antivaccine arguments are. I have no idea who the All Star Blues Messenger is, but I do know The Refusers. I even have one of their CDs (for free, of course). Let’s just say that subtlety is not one of their strong points, as they favor song titles like Vaccine Gestapo. Let’s just put it this way. Originality is not The Refusers’ strong point.

Not surprisingly, the sponsors of this event comprise a cast of the usual suspects, a cornucopia of antivaccine groups such as:

  • Focus for health (Barry Segal’s anti-vaccine outfit)
  • Mississippi Parents for Vaccine Rights
  • educateadvocateca dot com (California autism group)
  • Richie Onori’s Blues Messenger
  • The Mom Street Journal
  • The Weston A. Price Foundation
  • The Refusers
  • Our Kids Our Choice (California anti-vaccine group)
  • The Refusers
  • National Vaccine Information Center
  • Million Mamas Movement (Wendy Silver’s outfit)
  • Mandate the Truth — Voters Call the Shots
  • SafeMinds
  • Moms in Charge
  • VaxTruth
  • Rawesome Juicery
  • The Greater Good Movie
  • The Thinking Moms’ Revolution
  • A Voice for Choice

Barbara Loe Fisher will be there (of course). In her own video, she tries to link this new rally to her own rally 30 years ago over the DPT vaccine:

Note the portentousness:

In the spring of 1986, NVIC co-founder Kathi Williams and I gathered with a small group of parents in Atlanta, Georgia to hold the first public demonstration demanding that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) be truthful with the American public about vaccine injuries and deaths. We held up signs with photos of children who had died or been brain injured by toxic whole cell DPT vaccine to witness and honor them, the children who had no voice and had no choice.

Now here’s the link to today:

Almost 30 years later, on Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 1 p.m., Kathi and I will again gather with parents in Atlanta, this time for the Truth, Transparency & Freedom Rally in Grant Park. The rally is being organized and sponsored by the parent-led Vaccine Injury Awareness League (VIAL), a small California non-profit founded this year after the Pharma-led forced vaccination lobby descended upon that state’s legislature and attacked the human right to informed consent to medical risk taking so they could eliminate the personal belief vaccine exemption and the civil right to a school education.

There actually is a difference between thirty years ago and now. Thirty years ago, Barbara Loe Fisher wasn’t truly antivaccine. She actually worked with legislators to pass the National Child Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which set up the Vaccine Court that she now castigates so regularly. In the 30 years since those early rallies, Fisher has become quite antivaccine, to the point where I usually refer to her as the grand dame of the antivaccine movement, because she’s been at it the longest, at least of the current crop of antivaccine activists. In any case, if you don’t believe that her group, the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center, isn’t antivaccine, just peruse the site for a while, particularly its memorial for “vaccine victims” and its pseudoscientific vaccine ingredient calculator, and you’ll see that it’s as antivaccine as they come.

Oh, and the DPT was ultimately exonerated. Larger epidemiological studies done later failed to find a link between the DPT and encephalopathy. As is typical, new scientific evidence failed to sway the NVIC.

To go along with the antivaccine embarrassment near the CDC, there’ll be a West Coast rally in Oakland on Saturday as well:

Here we go:

Council for Vaccine Safety, and A Voice for Choice, in collaboration with community leaders, announce that on October 24, 2015 at 12 noon, protesters will rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, Calif. in solidarity with the Truth, Transparency & Freedom Rally happening on the same day at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia.

Protesters are standing against CDC corruption and the disturbing partnership between industry and government, which undermines the health, safety, and freedom of American citizens. In particular, the protesters are calling for the “CDC Whistleblower” Dr. William Thompson, to be subpoenaed to give evidence to congress, following the revelation by Florida Rep Bill Posey (R) that CDC scientists were allegedly instructed to destroy vaccine research which revealed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, particularly African American boys.

At 12 noon protesters will rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, California in solidarity with the Truth, Transparency & Freedom Rally happening on the same day at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia.

The speaker lineup in Oakland will be—shall we say?—a lot less scintillating than the Atlanta lineup:

  • Minister Keith Muhammad – Resident minister at the Nation of Islam mosque in Oakland. He is an educator and activist and has served Bay Area communities for decades.
  • Sister Tesha Muhammad – Tesha is a graduate of University of California at Berkeley, a mother of four including two vaccine damaged sons. The experience of dealing with the challenges associated with autism has motivated her to become an activist against unsafe vaccines.
  • Dr. Tina Kimmel, former research scientist for the California Department of Public Health’s Immunization Branch.
  • Samsarah Morgan, mother and grandmother, and founder of Nia Healing Center for Birth and Family Life.
  • Brandy Vaughan, former Merck employee, and founder of Council for Vaccine Safety.
  • Christina Hildebrand, founder of A Voice for Choice.

What? “Dr. Bob” Sears wasn’t available? Maybe he just couldn’t make the trip up to the Bay Area from his redoubt in the San Diego area. It is a long trip. in any case, this is about as “B” of a “B-team” as I can imagine. In fact, this is more like a C- or a D-team when it comes to antivaccine activists.

Personally, I find this “rally” (or these “rallies”) to be evidence of just how marginalized the antivaccine movement is. I would like to think they are a sad, last gasp of a dying movement, but, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the antivaccine movement, no matter how beaten down it is, never dies. Like Michael Myers or Jason in a slasher film, it always returns to endanger our children and kill again.