If there’s one thing antivaxers want, it’s to be taken seriously. They labor under the delusion that they represent some sort of mass movement. While they’re more influential than they should be for a group promoting a dangerous anti-science and anti-health message, fortunately the hard core antivaxers still represent a tiny fraction of the population. Still, they keep trying. One tool they like to use every now and then is to try to hold a mass demonstration. The first one of these that I wrote about occurred over a decade ago. It was led by Jenny McCarthy and her then-boyfriend Jim Carrey and was called the “Green Our Vaccines” rally. It was…interesting. For example, there I first understood the tensions in the antivaccine movement from the antivaxers who want to appear “respectable” and those who are loud and proud in being antivaccine. The first group, I like to refer to as the “I’m not antivaccine” antivaxers. They’re the ones who say, “I’m not antivaccine; I’m a vaccine safety activist” or “I’m not antivaccine; I’m just suspicious of big pharma” or some variant. The point is that they deny being antivaccine, but there’s always a “but” or a qualification to their denial. Their antivaccine beliefs are always couched in something else, with “freedom” or “parental rights” being the most popular camouflage these days. In any event, they’re at it again. This time around, the event is called the Vaccine Injury Epidemic (VIE) event:
The V.I.E Event is a special event on the National Mall. We are kindly asking attendees to consider contributing towards our event expenses via a ticket donation. Donations are not required for attending, but for this event make the national presence we need, we are incurring event expenses for insurance, staging, electric, bathrooms and more, and cannot do with with our generous donations from our warrior families.
We understand the financial undertaking in attending this event and we have secured a limited amount of discounted hotel rooms to help offset costs. Currently discounts give a savings of $100 per night. If you have a large party, please send us a PM via our Facebook page where we will be happy to assist.
The organizers, CrazyMothers, is a registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization.
CrazyMothers is the group organizing VIE? Oh, great. That’s Hillary Simpson’s group of antivaccine mothers. You might remember that Simpson seems to fancy herself a female Eminem freestyle rapper. In fact, I think I’ll repost the video here, but I warn you: It’s painful indeed to watch:
As I said at the time, I had a hard time not laughing out loud the first time I watched this video because Ms. Simpson seemed to think that she was Eminem freestyle rapping, but she was so overwrought and her act and rap were so very, very bad. Her rhymes and lines most definitely were not anything even coming close to resembling sick, and her dramatic pauses lingered 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 was basically the sort of performance you might see on open mic night at the suburban rap club, and even by those low standards Ms. Simpson was not very good.
In any event, somehow I missed this call to action by Simpson a couple of months ago:
Yes, she was all worked up over laws being passed that eliminate nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates, ranting about how it’s not about vaccination but about “medical freedom” and how fellow antivaxers (obviously, she didn’t all them that) “have to get to Washington” to show lawmakers how many people are fed up with vaccines, big pharma, the elimination of nonmedical exemptions, and all the things they blame vaccines on. Apparently, the date (November 14) was chosen to coincide with the 33rd anniversary of the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, a law that, oddly enough, the grand dame of the antivaccine movement, Barbara Loe Fisher, helped to pass with her activism but that has now become the most hated law among antivaxers other than laws like California’s SB 277, which eliminated nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates in the state.
Why is the NVCIA so hated? You’d think that antivaxers would like it, given that it created the Vaccine Court, a court that not only pays the legal expenses of complainants bringing cases before it, win or lose, but has fairly lax scientific standards in that it accepts claims of causation and allows the most dubious of scientific “experts” to testify compared to what normal courts will allow. Even better, there is a list of “table injuries” that are assumed to be due to vaccines based on evidence and for which compensation is automatic. Oddly enough, antivaxers do not like the antivaccine court. The reason is that, as lax as it might be, the Vaccine Court still operates on science. Sure, it screws up on rare occasions, but only rarely are its decisions not heavily grounded in science and the screw-ups tend to favor complainants, rather than inappropriately denying compensation to them. So basically, the Vaccine Court provides more reliable compensation than regular courts and costs complainants nothing to bring a case before it, but becauew its decisions are science-based it does not compensate families of children with autism who blame their child’s autism on vaccines. It does very well at compensating true cases of vaccine injury, but it doesn’t compensate what antivaxers blame vaccines for. Not surprisingly, lawyers who sue for “vaccine injury” also hate it. They want big payouts from which they can take a big chunk as their pay, not relying on the less lucrative (but also less risky) billable hour.
On the VIE website, I found this video:
Yes, it’s very emotionally manipulative, complete with images of autistic children and teens, dramatic music gradually building to a crescendo over a “call to action” against the “vaccine injury epidemic.” But what, exactly, will be happening on November 14? Well, certainly, you’ll get a whole bunch of the usual suspects in terms of antivaccine speakers: Hillary Simpson (of course), Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (the “fiercely pro-vaccine” antivax leader), Andrew Wakefield (whose tiny Lancet case series claiming to find an association between MMR vaccination and autism launched a thousand quacks and is arguably responsible for the measles outbreaks going on today), Sherri Tenpenny, Mark Blaxill, Mary Holland, James Lyons-Weiler, Polly Tommey, Sheila Ealey, Jim Meehan, Kari Bundy, and Tia Singleton, with more promised later. My first question was: Where’s Del Bigtree in all this? Publicity hound that he is, as well as being the most famous public face of the antivaccine movement these days outside of Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy, I couldn’t believe that he’d sit out an antivax confab like this. My guess is that he’ll be one of the speakers to be added.
Then, earlier, there was this video:
Yes, they have contests. They also have—wait for it—the VAXXED bus:
You remember the VAXXED bus, right? VAXXED, of course, is Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree’s antivaccine propaganda movie disguised as a documentary, or, as I like to call it, quackumentary. The VAXXED crew bought a bus, painted it up, and now take it all over the country for parents to “tell their stories” of how vaccines made their children autistic or even killed them.
Of course, antivaccine pseudoscience is always all about the grift. So even though the event itself is free, there are (of course!) ancillary events that cost money. For instance, a meeting of something called the Practitioners for Medical Freedom, which will be limited to only physicians, nurses, and PAs and costs $125. Amusingly, this group uses the Caduceus as its logo rather than the Staff of Asclepius, which is the true ancient Greek symbol for medicine. It’s a common error. How can you tell the difference? The Rod of Asclepius has only one snake, while the Caduceus has two snakes. In any event, any physician, nurse, or other provider who attends this event can quite safely be referred to as a quack.
Elsewhere, the VIE event charges $20, and there’s a VIP after event that costs $125 for adults. Then, of course, there’s lots of merch, naturally. Finally, there are sponsor packages of varying levels from $50 to $500, and a link to donate. You can even sponsor a “warrior” who couldn’t otherwise afford to travel to Washington, DC otherwise.
So what can we expect at VIE? Fortunately for us and unfortunately for antivaxers, the history of these “march on Washington,” protests at the CDC, or other “mass protests” is not good, and I don’t expect VIE to be any better. Even Jenny McCarthy’s “Green Our Vaccines” rally attracted at most a couple hundred people, as I recall. More recent protests have been even more anemic, such as a march on the CDC in 2015 or a march on Washington in 2017.
Here’s my guess. My guess is that the VIE antivax confab will be larger than the average antivax confab but in no way large enough to provide a convincing narrative of a mass national movement. The usual suspects will give the same overwrought speeches blaming vaccines for autism, autoimmune diseases, sudden infant death syndrome, and all the things that they attribute to vaccines that vaccines don’t cause. The usual grifters will use the march as a profit center, and maybe the event will get a bit of national press coverage. In the end, though, the result will be the same as the results of previous events like this: No significant effect on law, policy, or public opinion. That’s why I conclude my discussion of VIE with this unintentionally hilarious and ironic meme posted over at the CrazyMothers Instagram account:
Whoever posted this meme is quite correct, just not in the way that she thought when she posted it.