It’s been a somewhat slow blogging week, with fewer than usual posts. I’m not sure why that is. One reason is that, for reasons I can’t explain, I totally crashed the other night at around 8 PM and didn’t wake up until nearly 5 AM. Work and all my extracurricular activities must have finally caught up with me. It doesn’t matter, because I’m back in the saddle again, having found a bit of antivaccine propaganda that I’ve been meaning to address. No, it’s not J.B. Handley’s new book on how to “end the autism epidemic,” although I might address that at some point. (No, I don’t plan on wasting several hours of my life actually reading it. There’s no reason to, given how many interviews and posts that our old buddy has done regarding it. They provide plenty of fodder, and, given how long I’ve been following J.B.’s support of antivaccine quackery, I can pretty much predict what’s in his book without reading it. Besides, he basically says what’s in it.) Rather, I’m referring to a new “movement” (if you can call it that) of mothers known as “Crazy Mothers” (social media hashtag #crazymothers), founded by an antivaxer named Hillary Simpson.
According to the group’s Facebook page:
The #crazymothers community was created in hopes of bringing awareness to vaccine injury. We hope to give a voice to all of the crazymothers.
I see what you did there, Ms. Simpson. You’ve appropriated the “crazy mothers” epithet as a badge of honor. I don’t think it’ll work in this case, though, because the things being written in the name of #crazymothers are, well, pretty crazy. In fact, Ms. Simpson herself lays down some pretty nutty stuff herself. For instance, just take a look at what one can only call her personal manifesto, laid down about three months ago. (Yes, #crazymothers doesn’t appear to be that old.) Here she is:
I must admit, I had a hard time not laughing out loud at this video. Ms. Simpson seems to think she’s Eminem freestyle rapping, but she’s so overwrought, and her acting is so very, very bad. Her rhymes and lines most definitely are not anything even coming close to resembling sick. Her dramatic pauses linger far, far too long, to the point of being uncomfortable—and not in a good way. In fact, I couldn’t help but think that she reminded me more of a parody of an Eminem video, with all her rhythmic hand motions in time with her seeming free verse, than an homage or an attempt to emulate his rapping. Yes, Ms. Simpson’s video is basically open mic night at the suburban rap club, and even by those low standards Ms. Simpson’s not very good. If you can’t stomach actually watching the whole thing, you can get a taste of how overwrought the video is by this pasage:
Don’t listen to them. They’re just a bunch of #crazymothers.
[Loooong “dramatic” pause.]
I am a mother.
I am the one who knows the rhythm of my child’s heartbeat.
I am the one who gave life to this baby, no easy feat.
I am that baby’s first food, first sustenance in every sense of the word. Emotionally, physically, spiritually.
Whether the first or the third, I have what it needs to survive and thrive.
And now they’ve grown a little…
As a mother, I know when they need to eat or poop or get a big hug.
I know when they’re hiding.
I know if they’re lying.
I know who hit who first, without even trying.
I know how they like to sleep,
One bundled up, one without covers, and one somewhere in between.
I know all of their dreams.
I know their fears, their hopes. I know their wins and their losses.
I know which ones loves to brush their teeth and flosses
Every day so she won’t get a cavity.
I know how he won’t eat it unless it’s exactly right.
So I’ll make three meals just to avoid a fight.
I know how to keep them safe
How to read the emotion on their little face,
How one needs a nap, while the other needs some space.
I know how to juggle their feelings and toys
And somehow keep it together with all that noise.
And most importantly…
I know what happened to my little boy.
Yes, basically, Ms. Simpson is invoking what Jennifer McCarthy used to call her “mommy instinct,” because all her mommy superpowers let her just “know” what happened to her baby. She just “knows” vaccines injured him. Now, don’t get me wrong. Moms are amazing, and raising children is hard, incredibly hard. However, they are human. They don’t have any special powers that allow them to do and detect things that other human beings can’t, nor do their observations trump what we know about science, which tells us that there is no detectable link between vaccines and autism. Indeed, because the mother-child bond is so very, very strong, one can almost argue that mothers (and fathers, too) can have a hard time being reasonably objective, as a physician, advanced practice nurse, or other provider taking care of children needs to be. Thus any doctor who tries to pursuade one of these “#crazymothers” that vaccines don’t cause autism is viewed as disparaging them as, well, #crazymothers.
Ms. Simpson, predictably, goes on to blame the vaccines her son received at his six month visit for his abdominal symptoms, for recurrent ear infections, food allergies, and, of course, his neurodevelopmental disorder, which she describes as a “fog rolling in” trying to take her baby away from her, thus invoking one of the more offensive bits of imagery that antivaxers like to use to describe autism, that their autistic child is not their “real” child, that autism has somehow taken their “real child” away, their “real child” that they have to “recover” or somehow get back. Particularly telling is how she describes her “crusade” to “bring my boy back” and, above all, to “fix my mistake.” Yes, because to antivaxers, it’s always about them.
Of course, to “recover him,” Simpson went full “autism biomed” on her child, subjecting him to supplements, probiotics, and massive dietary changes. Not surprisingly, she felt that she was getting better because one day he looked at her and sang. Of course, as I’ve described many times, autism is not a condition of developmental stasis, but of developmental delay. Most autistic children “catch up” to some extent or another; a significant percentage even go on to lose their diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. A key feature of autism biomed is that parents are encouraged to try, try, try, and never give up. If one quackery doesn’t “work” (and none of them do), they’re encouraged to try another.
Also, not surprisingly, given her propensity for autism “biomed,” Simpson is into quackery. After all, that’s what autism biomed is. She goes on about “methuylation pathways” and how mutations in the MTHFR gene (more quackery) impair the body’s ability to eliminate the “toxins” in vaccines. Of course, while there are “toxins” in vaccines, the dose makes the poison and what’s in vaccines are minuscule, far below a level that could cause harm. Personally, I was more amused at her list of “toxins” in the vaccines, including fetal calf serum, monkey kidney cells, aluminum, and more. She buys into the lie that aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease, and she fully buys into the formaldehyde gambit. (Word to Ms. Simpson: Formaldehyde is a product of normal metabolism, and the amount of formaldehyde in vaccines is far below the amount present in the blood of the children getting the vaccines. I thought of trying to come up with a little rhyme to tell you that, but, unlike you, I’m not going to try to rap when I know I’m no good at it. A man’s got to know his limitations. So does a woman, and, unlike Ms. Simpson, I do.)
Hilariously, she also buys into the “cells from aborted fetuses in vaccines” gambit, one of the more brain dead antivaccine tropes. Her rap about this has to be heard to be believed:
Then there’s the formaldehyde, the egg protein
And, of course, aborted fetal cells
They do try to filter the dead baby stuff out
Which is why it’s listed as an excipient, no doubt
But the study that found injected DNA
Can still become biologically active and mutate
I won’t get into that here, but let’s just say
We have no freaking clue if that’s even remotely safe.
There aren’t enough studies, period.
Uh, wrong. Actually, we do. I’ve written about the whole “fetal DNA in vaccines” trope more times than I can remember, so much so that I’m having a hard time finding a way to express just how many times I’ve written about it. Let’s just say that Ms. Simpson has zero clue what she is talking (rapping?) about. I’m well aware of the “studies” that claim to find “fetal DNA” in vaccines, and I’m well aware of how tiny the amount is and how incredibly unlikely it is that any harm is caused. Antivaccine cranks have even tried to pass a law requiring “informed consent” telling parents that there are “fetal cells” in vaccines.
Which brings us to a particularly harmful thing that Ms. Simpson “inspired.” I’m referring to something called #DearDoctor. Basically, it’s a movement in which mothers of autistic children who mistakenly believe that their children are “vaccine damaged” are encouraged to write letters to their doctors blaming them for their children’s plight because, of course, it has to be the vaccines and someone must be blamed. You can get an idea of this from a post she did for—who else?—The Thinking Moms’ Revolution (or, as I like to call it, The Not-So-Thinking Moms’ Revolution). It’s an open letter entitled To the doctor who injured my child. She starts about how nice the doctor was:
I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I will never be able to forget you.
I vividly remember your kind eyes and gentle touch, your sense of humor and calm energy.
I remember the tiny toy duck that you always had with you. The one you would slather with hand sanitizer every time you walked into our room.
I connected with you as a fellow mother and felt like you had my child’s best interest at heart. I knew I had made the right decision by choosing you as our pediatrician, and I felt lucky since you were in high demand at one of the nation’s top hospitals.
I figured that I had won the Doctor Lottery and eagerly scheduled our well-baby checkups anticipating our conversation. You were always so nice.
I told you my worries, my concerns, the stories I had read, and how something wasn’t sitting right with me. I talked to you about a delayed schedule and how I wanted to space them out. I asked you to make sure we only did the “absolutely necessary” ones.
I listened intently as you reassured me that nothing would happen to my baby. I nodded in agreement when you told me that if I was an immigrant then I would feel differently because mothers in underdeveloped countries have seen the ravages of disease. I felt ashamed that my white privilege was suddenly so apparent, and I finally agreed that at my son’s 6-month appointment he would have his second round. I walked out of your office feeling safer and more confident that I was making the right decision to vaccinate my child. You handed me a neon-colored VIS [vaccine information sheet] on the way out and assured me that in your 20 years of practicing medicine, you had never seen a single serious vaccine reaction.
Ms. Simpson might not have meant it that way, but her portrayal shows that this pediatrician really does appear to be patient, kind, and evidence-based in his practice. Indeed, the next part of the open letter reveals the doctor trying to reassure the mother, to point out that there was nothing she could have done. However, like so many other antivaxers from Jenny McCarthy to the whole crews at TMR and Age of Autism, Simpson came to believe that she knew something that doctors didn’t through her “research”:
I started to research. Every single day. I looked up the vaccines, their ingredients and their known side effects. I read peer-reviewed studies and books written by doctors. I found thousands of stories that mirrored mine exactly. I discovered the term vaccine injury. I unearthed the corruption behind the vaccine industry, and most importantly I realized that I could heal him. I began our family’s journey into holistic medicine and gathered a tribe of Crazymothers who echoed my experience.
I began to feel strong.
I had always known that my son had a bad “reaction” to the vaccines, but when I came home one day from getting groceries and saw him standing by the window staring, rocking back and forth, ignoring my loud calls to him, I knew.
I knew that if he ever had another vaccine, that I would lose him into the world of autism.
As is so often the case, that Google University “research” led Simpson down the rabbit hole of risibly bad studies by antivaccine “scientists” like Mark Geier, Christopher Shaw, Christopher Exley, and others. I’d be willing to bet that she didn’t read a single study from a single reputable reseacher because she was looking for information to back up her belief that vaccines “injured” her child, not for information about vaccine safety. Not surprisingly, she found “holistic medicine” (i.e., quackery) and went all in. She found a naturopath and chiropractor and “did years of diet, vitamins, toxic elimination and treated everything without pharmaceuticals.” In other words, quackery.
You might think I was exaggerating when I said that, to antivaxers, it’s always all about them. Always. That bit about how she felt “strong” after her Google University “research” had led her down into the depths of antivaccine pseudoscience and quackery—obviously, she didn’t put it that way, but that’s what happened—is a tell Towards the end of her letter, after she’s done haranguing her son’s pediatrician about how she doesn’t believe him any more and how very, very wrong he was, Simpson brings it back to—who else?—her, because it’s all about her:
You were wrong.
And you were also wrong about me. You were wrong to think that I wouldn’t spend every waking second to try and heal him. You were wrong to think that I wouldn’t catch on. You were wrong to think that I wasn’t educated enough to read. You were wrong to think I wouldn’t be appalled at the corruption of Big Pharma. You were wrong in thinking I wouldn’t find millions of mothers saying “Me too.” You were wrong in believing that I would stay silent. You were wrong to think that I would eventually give up. You were wrong to think that I would forget what you did, and you were wrong if you ever thought I would forgive you.
We injured my child.
I healed him.
And because of that I will never stop telling the world just how wrong you were.
I couldn’t help but think of Donald Trump’s malignant narcissism here, although not quite as bad, as I could never imagine Donald Trump admitting that he had a part in doing anything bad. (“We injured my child.”) However, the part about how “I healed him” after the whole bit about how dedicated she was and how badly the doctor had underestimated her is and how she tried to misappropriate the “#metoo” movement to antivaccine purposes is pure narcissism. I alone can fix it. I alone healed my son. And all of you doctors know nothing.
It turns out that Simpson had announced a campaign to do a “guerrilla marketing campaign for the health freedom movement” two weeks ago and that her open letter was just an opening shot:
The result was the #DearDoctor hashtag, with antivaxers writing letters like this to their children’s doctors. Not surprisingly, antivaxers also used it as an strategy to promote and sell J.B. Handley’s new antivaccine book. Of course, Twitter being Twitter, provaxers took the hashtag and co-opted it:
— ImmunizeTXW (@ImmunizeT) September 7, 2018
— (((Kathy Hennessy))) (@handmadekathy) September 7, 2018
Seeing @DrBobSears whine about his “HIPAA rights” being violated because there’s rules about the #influenza #vaccine in a hospital he visits worries me. He seems to not understand how #vaccineswork. #DearDoctor Sears, did you not learn from your medical board troubles?
— René F. Najera (@EpiRen) September 20, 2018
— IPVC (@IPoVC) September 9, 2018
— jennagensic (@jennagensic) September 10, 2018
Yes, Katie Paulson took note of this a couple of weeks ago, and explained why the #DearDoctor movement is horrific for autism acceptance:
As I have read through this horrific and disgusting letters berating doctors, I feel an utter sense of sadness for the mother and doctor. The mother is living in a place of anger and denial. Instead of dealing with their grief, they are throwing stones at anyone that they can hurt. My therapist always use to tell me, “Hurt people, hurt people.”
Of course parents can be angry if something happens to their child. However, there is no valid reason to believe vaccines played any role. Instead of wasting their time and energy beating a dead horse about vaccines, they need to spend their time trying to accept their children.
Absolutely, no child would ever want to read some of the horrible things some of these moms are saying about them. These mothers speak about Autism as though it’s this horrific and deadly disease. That is not the heart of a mother that is accepting their child. No, that is an angry and bitter mother.
No child deserves to have a mother telling the world they are damaged. When they call their children “vaccine injured”, they might as well call them “damaged goods.” Chidren with autism are not damaged. They are different and beautiful.
I see what you are doing, mommas. I know your heart hurts. But taking your pain out on a doctor is misplaced and misguided. Stop deluding yourself to believe a vaccine created the autism. Your child was always autistic. Perhaps you didn’t see it right away. But I promise you they were born this way.
Indeed. Again, the #DearDoctor movement is not about doing what’s best for autistic children. It’s about the delusion that autism has somehow “stolen” antivaxers’ real children and that doctors are complicit in that theft. It’s about the illusion of control. It’s about blame, not acceptance, and she’s not the first to have this idea.