“Crush”-ing the victimhood gambit among antivaxers

Vaccines seem to have been the topic of the week; so I figure I’ll finish with a post about vaccines, more specifically antivaxers. A common theme I keep encountering among antivaxers is an extreme sense of victimhood. It’s not hard to understand why. Even though they are almost invariably incorrect in their belief that vaccines somehow injured their child or caused their children’s autism, they nonetheless do believe it intensely. I was reminded by this by a post that appeared on that other wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery called The Thinking Moms’ Revolution, to which I sometimes like to refer as the “drinking moms’ revolution,” given their propensity to talk about wine. Be that as it may, I was reminded of this when I came across a post by one of the “thinking moms” named Crush, who is one whom I don’t believe that I’ve discussed before. At least, if I have I don’t remember having done so. In any event, Crush wrote a post entitled I’m Not Afraid of Measles; I’m Afraid of Hatred. I think you can get the idea from the title. It’s not as bad as, for example, Heather Barajas portraying herself as the equivalent of Jews being forced to wear a yellow Star of David by the Nazis, but it’s in the same vein. I suppose I should give her credit for restraint. Not bringing up Nazi analogies while complaining about “persecution” by pro-vaccine advocates, big pharma, the government, and the deep state is restraint indeed for an antivaxer.

Her attitude is clear right from the beginning:

I am normally a pretty chill person when it comes to the whole “anti-vaxxers” nonsense. I’ve spent so many years in this conversation that most of the nasty articles and vile comments and heartache just roll right off me. I get that those folks do not get it. Whether it’s ignorance, unwillingness to listen and think, fear, or hearing so much crazy over the years they just go along with it, I don’t know, and most days I don’t care.

But sometimes, it is just too much.

So, from now on, let me make very clear that I have a child who was harmed by a vaccine.

We know from science that, whatever health problems Crush’s child has, they were almost certainly not caused by vaccines, but it’s clear that she believes that they were. It’s also clear that she believes that vaccines are causing an epidemic of health problems in children and actually killing them. For instance, in this article from 2017 Crush decides to use the title Children Sacrificed on the Altar of the Vaccine Program, a title that both blames vaccines for death and destruction and labels them as a religion, another favorite tactic of antivaxers.

Next up, Dunning-Kruger in full effect:

For the last fifteen years I have read hundreds of books, both pro and anti and in the middle. I have earned a number of certificates from top universities on the subjects of vaccines, trials, environment and health. I have been a part of over 200 online or webinar-type classes, ranging from autoimmune disorders and autism to brain abnormalities and genetics.

I have attended numerous medical conferences and spoken about or taught classes on epigenetics, biomedical approaches in health, and caring for special needs children. I have volunteered for numerous organizations. I have no idea how many families I have sat with over the years discussing these topics, but my guess would be in the thousands.

Note the false balance: books “both pro and anti and in the middle.” The “anti” and “in the middle” are, of course, basically always slanted in how they present the science. As for these certificates from “top universities,” if they are as Crush describes them, then it’s clear that she didn’t internalize the knowledge taught in them, because any reputable course on vaccines, immunology, environment, and health at a reputable university (or a “top university,” as Crush puts it) would not be supportive of the sort of antivaccine misinformation being peddled by people like Crush. Of coure, being antivaccine and full of Dunning-Kruger, Crush vehemently denies that she’s a victim of Dunning-Kruger.

First:

I can explain mitochondrial disorders, enzymes, and inflammation and name every ingredient in a vaccine in my sleep. I can rattle off the history of vaccines and tell you the problems in recruiting for trials and the failures to address reporting of adverse events or true informed consent.

And there you go: “True informed consent.” As I’ve described more times than I can remember, what antivaxers consider “informed consent” is in reality what I like to refer to as “misinformed consent.” Indeed, the antivaccine concept of “informed consent” is a parody of true informed consent. Their idea of informed consent is to make up nonexistent “adverse reactions,” risks, and complications from vaccination (e.g, the claim that autism, sudden infant death syndrome, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and neurodevelopmental disorders are caused by childhood vaccines), exaggerating the very tiny real risks of vaccination, and, to top it all off, to downplay the benefits of vaccination, basically claiming that vaccines don’t work or that getting “natural immunity” to the disease is better than immunity from a vaccine. Of course, it’s not, if only for the reason that to achieve “natural immunity” to a disease like measles you have to actually suffer through the disease and be at risk for the potentially deadly complications from the disease. That’s the whole idea of vaccination in the first place, to avoid the morbidity and mortality (and just plain suffering) from vaccine-preventable disease.

As for “mitochondrial disorders, enzymes, and inflammation,” color me unimpressed. My guess is that her knowledge is a mile wide and millimeter deep, as well as warped through an antivaccine lense to produce a funhouse version of the science. Similarly, being able to rattle off a list of vaccine ingredients is no more impressive. That, too, is a favorite antivaccine gambit that I like to call the “toxins gambit.” It basically involves picking ingredients in vaccines with scary chemical names and trying to frighten parents by portraying them as hopelessly toxic. Sometimes the “toxins gambit” can reach truly ludicrous levels of scientific illiteracy and idiocy, with variants involving claims that there are “aborted fetal parts” in vaccines. Antivaxers have even tried to get laws passed to mandate that parents be told that fetal cell lines are used to grow viruses for vaccine stock.

This brings us to the predictable claim of victimhood:

My worry these days is not about the media calling me crazy or a conspiracy theorist or someone who wants their kid to get diseases. Nope. My worry is whether my child will live if she is subjected to another vaccine when it nearly destroyed her the last time.

My worry is that the venom that is coming from the same people who are supposed to love, protect, educate, legislate, and care for our kids leaks into her ears and she believes the horrible things said about her or us.

My fear is not measles; it is hatred.

It’s family that is fine with sacrificing my daughter’s life for some bullshit fifty cases of measles in a population of millions and millions. It’s the lawmakers that can’t be bothered to hear all of us screaming we aren’t “anti-vaxxers”; we are parents of children already harmed. It’s the friends who talk iron lungs and ignore our kids who are seizing and fighting to breathe every day—sometimes literally hundreds of times a day. It’s the adults who haven’t had a vaccine since they were children yelling about how I am “putting others at risk” and it’s all about “protecting the vulnerable”—but can’t seem to comprehend that “the vulnerable” include our kids.

First, no one is claiming that children with developmental disorders are not vulnerable. Indeed, it is precisely because we are concerned about vulnerable children that we advocate vaccination so strongly. Vulnerable children, such as those with autism, neurodevelopmental disorders, and all the chronic health issues that antivaxers rail about as having been caused by vaccines are exactly the vulnerable children who most benefit from being protected against infectious disease. Second, it is quite correct that people like Crush are putting other children at risk by not vaccinating their children. She doesn’t like to hear that? I don’t care. It’s true. She can deny it all she wants, but it’s true. All we have to do is to look at measles outbreaks among the Somali immigrant population in Minnesota, in Clark County Washington, and the even worse outbreaks all over Europe to see what antivaccine information and the refusal by so many to vaccinate their children have wrought.

Not that Crush gets it. Although she doesn’t play the Nazi card, she does launch into some overwrought and downright offensive analogies:

So the next time you post one of those ridiculous articles or some nasty meme, I am going to take it that you would also feel it appropriate to spit on a soldier’s grave, to mock those with cancer, to kill someone who is disabled, to mandate peanut butter be fed to those with nut allergies, to debate how someone’s loved one died, to require everyone with an illness to be treated with an experimental drug, to remove all liability from your car manufacturers, and allow the government to make all your medical choices, right?

No? That sound a little crazy? So does not understanding that my child has endured enough. ENOUGH.

I don’t care what you have to say about my decisions, but I do care if your hatred will kill my kid.

Seriously? These are some seriously offensive analogies. What does spitting on a soldier’s grave have to do with criticizing antivax pseudoscience? Nothing. It’s just Crush trying to portray herself as a soldier or her child as a fallen soldier—or something. To kill someone who is disabled? OK, I guess Crush couldn’t quite avoid the Nazi analogies; she was just a bit more indirect about it than the usual antivaxer.

Contrary to Crush’s extreme victimhood, the vast majority of pro-vaxers have empathy for the situation of any parent with special needs children, even antivaxers. I can’t speak for anyone else, but those parents are not the target of my ire; it is the leaders of the antivaccine movement, the ones who actively spread antivaccine misinformation, campaign against vaccines, advocate for lawas that make it easier for parents not to vaccinate. Now, that being said, even I will admit that there are a few on our side who go a bit too far, and the vast majority of us call out those on “our side” who are too abusive.

There are always bad apples in any group of humans, but there’s a difference here. The antivaccine movement is built on the rhetoric of victimhood, but worse, it’s also build on some seriously scary, violent rhetoric. No, I’m serious. Crush needs a serious smackdown of the “pot, kettle, black” variety, given the seriously threatening rhetoric that antivaxers regularly lay down to the point of frequently comparing the vaccine program to the Holocaust. It’s bad, really bad. So while I can empathize with the struggles of someone like Crush taking care of a special needs child, when it comes to her antivaccine misinformation and extreme victimhood, I’m less receptive.