As was the case yesterday, every so often I like to write about something that no one else is likely to write about, all because something odd caught my eye. Back in the day, I used to have a regular feature, Your Friday Dose of Woo, that picked up on the weird, the funny, the odd bits of woo that bubbled up. That feature used to be a regular, but now only shows up every now and then, my having chafed under the pressure to have to find new amusing woo every single week. These days, I go beyond Your Friday Dose of Woo to look at oddities I find that might not actually be that funny but do give an insight into one of the regular topics of this blog. In this case, it’s the antivaccine movement. Did you know that the antivaxer Levi Quackenboss—a.k.a (probably) Robyn Ross—has a podcast, Safe & Effective? You remember Levi Quackenboss, don’t you? She’s the one who doxxed and then got into an online exchange with a 12-year-old boy over vaccines and lost badly. She also revealed that then-candidate Donald Trump had met with antivaccine “hero” Andrew Wakefield during the 2016 campaign. Last week, she was posting the “Rules of Antivaxxing”:
First off, all I can say to Quackenboss: Stay classy, Robyn. Stay classy. The next two rules of antivaxxing are rather revealing:
Her second rule of antivaxxing is just plain silly. By her logic, then we shouldn’t elect people with children to pass laws that govern childless adults either. This is a society, ostensibly a democratically governed country (although that is increasingly in doubt), and we are all one country. I’m sure Quackenboss/Ross thinks she and her fellow parents are somehow special and should have special rights. This all feeds back to what I’ve been saying about antivaxers all along. It’s all about the vaccines—always, always, always—yes, but it’s not so much about the children after that. That’s what antivaxers want you to believe, but this second rule of antivaxxing gives the game away. It’s about the Quackenboss. It’s about the parents. They think they’re special and be treated differently when it comes to government and laws.
You can see some of this in the third rule of antivaxxing, but, far more, you see a bitterness and hatred towards anyone who seeks to protect children and maintain public health by encouraging vaccination, to the point where she doesn’t think they should be in charge of anything. Now, it would be one thing to say just that because you disagree with them. Hell, personally, I don’t think that President Trump should be in charge of “jack shit.” However, she goes beyond that and calls them “vaccine-injured,” as though that were an insult. It goes beyond that, though. Remember what “vaccine-injured” means to antivaxers. It doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to, say, physicians, who do recognize the rare instance of true injury due to vaccines. No, to antivaxers “vaccine-injured” means autistic. Basically, here Quackenboss is using “autistic” as an insult and aiming it at two respected academics, Dr. Peter Hotez and Dorit Reiss. This is emblematic of the attitude of antivaxers towards children with autism. They view them as less than human, as “vaccine-injured.”
The fourth and fifth rules of antivaxxing are also telling, in essence evidence that confirms and expands upon what I just observed above:
So, Quackenboss views vaccines as “erasing normal, healthy people from history” (translation: children before their autism diagnosis) and replacing them with the “quirky, angsty, depressed, attention-deficient New Normal” (translation: autistic people), does she? Well, of course she does! That’s the whole “antivaxxing” narrative! The common story among antivaxers is that the parents’ child was perfectly normal before vaccines, but “stolen” (or, in this case, “erased”) after vaccines. Of course, it goes beyond that, as the fifth rule of antivaxxing makes clear. To her I respond, simply: “Infertility, learning disabilities, seizure disorders, food allergies, asthma, type 1 diabetes, autism, autoimmune disease” are not vaccine injuries. That’s just science. I don’t care if you don’t like it. Unfortunately, it has to be said, though, because fear mongering antivaxers with terminal Dunning-Kruger (like Quackenboss) keep selling a narrative that vaccines are dangerous poisons that will “erase” parents’ “normal healthy children” from history, when in fact vaccines are the single greatest invention in medicine conceived by the human mind and have arguably saved more lives than every other medical intervention combined. They are incredibly safe and very effective and do not cause autism.
The sixth and seventh rules of antivaxxing straight up made me laugh:
Good luck with that. Antivaxers are, at best, fringe in their beliefs, and they are certainly fringe candidates. True, I have lamented how a certain political party has taken to pandering to antivaxers, even to the point of having political candidates and legislators (and even a President) running for office and being elected, but even now antivaxers are fringe. True, they’ve been claiming that they’ll be vindicated and eventually take power ever since before I started blogging, but there’s not a lot in the way of signs that that will actually happen, except in small measures, such as when I had an antivaccine state senator and a state representative sympathetic to antivaccine beliefs, if not outright antivaccine himself. No, I’m not being complacent. The increasing embrace of antivaccine views by primarily Republican candidates, fueled by their perceived need to pander to their base, does worry me, but I do not (yet) foresee a time when Quackenboss’s rules of antivaxxing will come to fruition.
The eighth and ninth rules of antivaxxing just made me laugh:
The eighth rule is, quite simply, fantasy. There’s no evidence that vaccinating in school clinics is dangerous, and school clinics are an effective way to increase vaccine uptake, and it’s delusional to think that antivaxers are going to mobilize parents to the point that they become a political movement that will “get the shot clinics out of the schools.” It’s not going to happen.
The ninth rule of antivaxxing harkens way back to Jenny McCarthy’s “mother warriors” schtick, the idea that mothers of autistic children who think vaccines caused the autism are “warriors” who will stop at nothing to fight for their children. While no one denies that mothers fight for their children, it’s rather toxic to say that mothers like this have to be warriors in that it implies, by contrast, that mothers who don’t think vaccines caused their children’s autism and are therefore not fighting are not “warriors” and are somehow lesser parents. At least, that’s the not-so-subtle implication I’ve always gotten from the “mother warriors” narrative. Worse, I have no doubt that Quackenboss and antivaxers want to indoctrinate their children into their evidence-denying cult to grow up to be just like them when it comes to belief in pseudoscience and conspiracy theories and extreme distrust of authority of any kind.
The tenth rule of antivaxxing is, unfortunately, not inaccurate. Antivaccine activists like Quackenboss are fanatics. They never shut up:
Rule eleven of antivaxxing is unsurprising:
Yes, being litigious and issuing dubious legal threats designed to do nothing more than bully are signature moves of antivaxers like Quackenboss. Indeed, I expect that a future rule of antivaxxing will be that you always, always harass pro-science public health advocates who defend vaccines through their jobs by contacting their bosses. That, too, is a signature antivaccine move. I do encourage you to read Dorit Reiss’s treatment of the Evee Gayle Clobes case, though. It’s a case antivaxers are trumpeting as an example of vaccines causing sudden infant death syndrome, when it is anything but.
Finally (at least as of around 11:30 PM last night), there’s the twelfth rule of antivaxxing:
I found this last “rule” of antivaxxing particularly hilarious, even by antivaccine standards. Why? If there’s anything that antivaxers are good at, it’s making assertions without backing them up with citations to the peer-reviewed evidence and then telling anyone questioning them to “look it up” or “Google it.” When Quackenboss says something like this, it’s projection at its most blatant, as is frequently the case when antivaxers write about…just about anything having to do with science, vaccines, and science advocates.
I must say, I hope that rule twelve isn’t the last “rule of antivaxxing” that I see from Quackenboss. The entertainment so far has been epic. Yes, Ms. Ross, if you read this, I want you to know: I am laughing at you. Also, I’m happy to see that Ms. Ross has dropped the “we are not antivaccine” act and let her antivaccine freak flag fly.