It’s strange how these things work out. Wait, it’s not strange at all: It’s as if logic, reason and facts actually work every time they’re applied. It’s a pity that someone like Jenny McCarthy, who is largely unfamiliar with all three of these terms, may soon have a taller platform from which to spew her harmful anti-vaccine misinformation.
When Technocracy first challenged the unsubstantiated vaccines-autism myth, the reaction from vaccine conspiracy theorists was surprisingly vehement. WND actually ran a column by Cynthia Cournoyer attempting to rebut that piece. As it turned out, Ms. Cournoyer’s arguments were extremely easy to shatter. She and her fellow conspiracy theorists follow a predictable pattern when it comes to arguing their baseless, fearmongering positions, wherein everything that does not support their claims – even the absence of evidence – is automatically deemed “proof” that a conspiracy is at work to harm their children.
These useful idiots’ argument begins with an assertion that may or may not be based on facts. In the case of the myth of vaccine-caused autism, those “facts” are a single, completely debunked and discredited study by one Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield is almost singlehandedly responsible for a new outbreak of measles in the United Kingdom, as reported by Phil Plait in Slate.
“Right now, in the U.K., the outbreak of measles has reached epidemic proportions,” writes Plait. “Nearly 700 people have come down with the highly contagious disease in south Wales, and that number may double. Measles can cause a nasty rash and high fever, and in children can cause ear infections, encephalitis and death. Yes, death. Measles can kill.”
Plait goes on to lay the blame for the epidemic squarely where it belongs: At the feet of Andrew Wakefield, who is widely regarded as starting the vaccines-autism hysteria by faking a study that was published in, and later retracted by, the medical journal Lancet.
Wakefield’s study, in Plait’s words, “contained shoddy and subsequently disproven work in 1998 that contributed so much to the anti-vaccination movement of today. His work has been called fraudulent by the British Medical Journal, and the paper was so awful the Lancet retracted it. Time and again, MMR vaccines have been shown to have no link to autism, which is what Wakefield claimed. His serious professional misconduct led to his being struck off the official listing of doctors in the U.K.”
Make no mistake, it is from Wakefield that all rumors and assertions of vaccine-caused autism stem. But confronted with the overwhelming dearth of evidence to support their assertion, vaccine conspiracy theorists draw from the playbook that so many of them seem to have been issued. They cherry pick data to support their ill-conceived opinions, ignore subsequent data that disproves the studies they’ve chosen to believe, and when their current position becomes unsupportable, they move the target, creating a never-ending blame game.
Oh, there’s no proof that the vaccine itself causes autism? It must be something in the preservative used in the vaccine. What? Diagnoses of autism were unaffected by removing that preservative from children’s vaccines? It must be the combination of multiple vaccines given to children that somehow magically causes the problem. You say there’s no evidence supporting that assertion? Well, we just can’t possibly know, because vaccines are mysterious and sinister things, so we should probably be suspicious of the vaccine schedule for … well, for no reason we can specify. And if there is no evidence, it means Big Evil Corporations covered it up. Obviously.
If this type of “reasoning” upsets you, brace yourself, because the word is that loudmouth Jenny McCarthy (who, let us not forget, first became famous simply for being naked in men’s magazines) may find herself among the lib-talkers on “The View,” spewing her ignorance at a functionally captive audience of daytime television watchers who will believe what she says despite the fact that she has no idea what she’s talking about. This prospect alarms the Atlantic’s David Perry, who has a child who cannot receive vaccinations and must rely on the “herd immunity” of the population at large.
“Anti-vaccinators risk not only the lives of their own children, but also those of others who are too medically fragile to get vaccinated,” writes Perry. “Many medical conditions, especially those which compromise the immune system … make vaccines medically inappropriate. Happily, in a population of vaccinated people, infectious but preventable diseases have trouble spreading even to the immunocompromised. But herd immunity breaks down when vaccinations are not administered to all who can medically receive them. At that point, people who chose to refuse vaccinations endanger those who had no choice.”
It isn’t just the surge in potentially deadly measles cases in the U.K. that Perry refers to here, either. “It’s happening right now,” he writes, “as diseases long rendered unthreatening are roaring back into dangerous life. We’ve seen a rapid increase of outbreaks in preventable diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough), measles and mumps in the U.S. and the U.K.”
The upshot is that children are getting sick and dying from preventable diseases because an industry devoted to selling fear to parents has terrified mothers and fathers when it comes to vaccinating their children. That witless idiot McCarthy claimed that her son had autism, that this autism was caused by his vaccinations, and that she cured him through a combination of diet and other unscientific mumbo jumbo. As it turns out, every single one of these assertions is false. Her kid never HAD autism, most likely, and her bizarre claims that you can feed or spoon-rub someone out of a brain development disorder are utterly without factual, medical, or scientific grounds.
All good parents worry about the well-being and health of their children. No proof exists, however, for the hysteria connecting vaccines and autism. Wakefield’s original study was fraudulent. Even if it weren’t, its sample was too small to be compelling. What parents should be worried about are the very real, very preventable childhood diseases that can kill their children, and for which vaccines have been developed.