Regular readers may have noticed something happening around ScienceBlogs. As PZ pointed out, a little malware somehow infiltrated the ScienceBlogs collective, and many of us appear to have turned into zombies. It’s a veritable Zombie Day, complete with illustrations by Joseph Hewitt, creator of Gearhead.
Obviously, with anything having to do with zombies, there’s only one thing for this blog, namely a certain undead German dictator with an insatiable thirst for human brains, who leaves idiotic analogies in his wake. Unfortunately, with the 2008 election being behind us, there was a dearth of suitable material for a new Hitler Zombie opus right now. (Where are all the political hacks comparing people to Hitler willy nilly? They were always so reliable before!) More importantly, I was up most of the night working on a grant last night and wouldn’t have had time to compose a new Hitler Zombie brain chomping adventure. So I cheated and picked a couple of my favorites. This one dates back to about a year ago, and it turns out that the segment being made fun of ended up as a chapter in Andrew Wakefield’s new book. In any case, If you haven’t been reading at least a year, it’s new to you! Enjoy.
From a crypt in Berlin, it returns to decimate the anti-vaccine movement
SETTING: A NONDESCRIPT CLINIC IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
TIME: AFTER DARK
It had been a long, hard day at the clinic. The man trudged to the back of the building and plopped himself down on a large, cushy leather office chair, causing it to spin around. He was fiftyish, but still boyish in appearance, possessed of a seemingly unflappable self-confidence. Even so, he was not happy.
Damn, I hate being here. He thought. I’d much rather be back in London than stuck in this hick state. At least Austin is about as good as it gets here. I suppose it could be worse; I could be in Arkansas.
He sighed. “Damn that Brian Deer!” he said aloud. “If it weren’t for him I’d still be sitting pretty, rather than being reduced to this.” He reflected on his experience over the last few years, his head sinking into the leather of his high backed office chair. On the other hand, being a hero to all those parents of vaccine-injured children did have its advantages. Certainly, it had its rewards.
He sat up abruptly and looked at the pile of charts on his desk. So many vaccine-injured kids, so little time. If only the world understood. But he’d be vindicated. He knew he would. So what if he had had to accept hundreds of thousands of pounds from trial lawyers to do his work? It hadn’t affected his objectivity. And so what if he had cut a few corners with his PCR assay? He knew he was right, damn it! He would be vindicated! The General Medical Council couldn’t touch him. The truth was on his side. Science be damned! He knew the MMR causes autism and one day he would prove it.
Homesick and more than a little curious about what was going on in his home country, the man turned to the blue glow of his computer screen and started surfing the websites of British newspapers. Then, ever curious about what people were saying about him, he Googled his own name. He was not pleased with the articles that came up on the first page. He scrolled down some pages. His face darkened into a scowl, his lip curling down and a wrinkle forming around its edge with a snarl. “What is this?” he muttered aloud. What the hell are they doing to me–
He stopped abruptly.
The clinic was completely empty. Everyone had gone home for the night. The only noises that broke the oppressive silence were the whirr of his computer’s fan and the gentle whoosh of the air conditioner. But there was something else? Was it real? He thought he heard something? Something like a footstep. The man listened.
Click, click, click, click. He started typing furiously. I need to get this response out to those idiots at Age of Autism right away, he thought. They’ll regurgitate anything I want them to. Click, click, click, click.
He stopped again and sniffed the air, his face scrunching with distaste? Who forgot to take out the trash? he thought, grimacing at the vaguely sweet smell of rotting meat. He now distinctly heard a scratching, like nails on wood. It sounded very close. Maybe even right outside the door to his office. Did he have an intruder?
Slowly, ever so slowly, he rose from his chair. It creaked loudly, and he exhaled abruptly as he froze. There was definitely someone or something out there. He spun around frantically, looking for a way out. Maybe the window. He moved to his left to head for the window. At that moment, the door swung open violently, crashing against the wall and driving the doorstop into the wall.
The man turned to see a vision of hell.
Skeletal and shambling, rotting flesh hanging in shards from glistening bone, all wrapped in what looked like a military uniform, it came. Reeking like death itself, its dead eyes focused on the man, and it came. With a gutteral cry coming from its unnaturally retracted maw of “BRAAAAAAIIINNNS!”** it advanced relentlessly. The man tried to sprint for the window, but, fueled by whatever unholy energy that animated it, the creature leapt to block his path. The last thing the man saw as the bony hands latched on to either side of his head were two things. First, he noted a red armband with a white circle and a black symbol in the middle. No! he thought. It couldn’t be! The last thing he saw was the maggot-infested maw of the creature descending upon his skull with a crunch. Is that a moustache? he thought, as what should have been rotted teeth feasted on his gray matter.
SETTING: UNDERNEATH THE BRICK AND STEEL OF A NONDESCRIPT BUILDING SOMEWHERE ON THE EAST COAST
Orac was unhappy. Well, not exactly unhappy. After all Orac was a computer. True, he was the most advanced computer the universe had ever seen, his appearance of a Plexiglass box with blinking colored lights notwithstanding, but that didn’t mean he understood humans, or emotions. His advanced circuitry did provide him with a rather arrogant, impatient, and petulant personality that caused no end of irritation to the humans who had to work with him and no end of anger from those on the receiving end of his insolent diatribes. Not that he cared that much. That was the point.
Lately, he had been studying human illogic and pseudoscience, the better to understand humans and how to influence them. In particular, he was unable to understand how the anti-science faction that denied the benefits of vaccines and concocted all sorts of horrible nonexistent complications due to them could so thoroughly deny mountains of evidence.
Orac’s reveries were interrupted when Kev poked his head into the room in which Orac was ensconced. “Orac, I think we have a sighting of the monster.” Kev had been visiting to help Orac with his research into the anti-vaccine movement. Indeed, Kev was the one who had introduced him to one of the most loony sites of antivaccine propaganda, Age of Autism. Orac’s autorepair circuits took a full day to fix the damage due to the assault of illogic from the utter nonsense on that blog. How so much illogic, pseudoscience, and beliefs utterly unsupported by science can persist in the human mind against all evidence was a source of constant fascination to Orac.
Orac’s lights blinked and then changed their pattern. “Show me!” he said.
“Sure thing, mate!” Kev replied. He walked over to a keyboard and typed. A 50 inch monitor descended from the ceiling and activated. Words formed on the screen.
“You do realize,” said Orac testily, “that you could have simply downloaded the text directly into my memory.”
“No doubt,” replied Kev, but then how could I serve as the eyes and ears of the audience and explain how this article indicates an attack by the Hitler Zombie?”
“Good point,” conceded Orac.
Long had Orac sought the monster known as the Hitler Zombie. The Hitler Zombie is, as you might have guessed, a zombie created when one of the worst mass-murdering dictators of all time died. His mission, driven by a primal desire, was to eat the brains of credulous. But his bite usually didn’t kill. Instead, it rendered its victims prone to the most amazing flights of hyperbolic invocations of comparisons to Hitler, the Holocaust, and Nazis, be they comparing Barack Obama to Hitler, claiming that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution led directly to the Holocaust, or comparing baseball etiquette to guards throwing Jews into the gas chambers. He sought the monster because he despised (as much as a computer could) such assaults on logic, proportion, history, and reason.
And, after so many false starts, the monster might be again with in his reach.
Kev explained, “This is an editorial written for the Clown Blog [ed. note: the nickname for AoA sometimes used by pro-science advocates] by Andrew Wakefield.”
“I remember Wakefield,” said Orac. “He performed dubious research while in the pay of trial lawyers that, according to him, suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and the neurological condition known as autism. It turns out that not only was he a shoddy scientist but that he falsified data.”
“Correct,” said Kev. “Now get a load of this. He wrote it because he somehow got a hold of the UK’s January 2008 national General Certificate of School Education (GCSE) biology exam (higher tier). Students are now being given this exam in preparation for the 2009 exams, and Wakefield was very unhappy about this question:”
The MMR vaccine is used to protect children against measles, mumps and, rubella.
(a) Explain, as fully as you can, how the MMR vaccine protects children from these diseases.
(b) Read the passage.
Autism is a brain disorder that can result in behavioural problems. In 1998, Dr Andrew Wakefield published a report in a medical journal. Dr Wakefield and his colleagues had carried out tests on twelve autistic children. Dr Wakefield and his colleagues claimed to have found a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Dr Wakefield wrote that the parents of eight of the twelve children blamed the MMR vaccine for autism. He said that symptoms of autism had started within days of vaccination. Some newspapers used parts of the report in scare stories about the MMR vaccine. As a result, many parents refused to have their children vaccinated. Dr Wakefield’s research was being funded through solicitors for the twelve children. The lawyers wanted evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers.
Use information from the passage on the opposite page to answer these questions.
(i) Was Dr Wakefield’s report based on reliable scientific evidence? Explain the reasons for your answer.
(ii) Might Dr Wakefield’s report have been biased? Give the reason for your answer.
“Given Wakefield’s well-known perfidy,” said Orac, “it strikes me as a perfectly reasonable question.”
“Quite. Not surprisingly, Dr. Wakefield didn’t see it that way. Surprisingly, though, is the analogy he chose to make in his post, called The Poisoning of Young Minds. First, Wakefield starts with his usual argument by assertion and appeal to authority:”
Like it or not, there is an unrelenting debate about whether vaccines have poisoned the minds of some children. That vaccines may do so is acknowledged (by, among others, autism expert Professor Sir Michael Rutter ) and is not actually the debate at hand; the real questions are, which children and how many? The base of the tsunami that is the autism epidemic – one sustained hitherto, by competing arguments for the rising number of diagnoses and those invested in non-environmental causes – is no longer able to support its top. In accordance with simple wave mechanics, the tsunami’s slope is too great and breaking is inevitable. Breaking, for the purpose of this metaphor, extends to the shoreline’s horizon, from the child to the family, to schools, to the state budget, to public confidence in healthcare infrastructure, and beyond.
“What twaddle!” interjected Orac. “There is no evidence that vaccines have ‘poisoned the minds of children,’ turning them autistic. And what an awful metaphor! But where’s the evidence of the monster?”
“Here,” said Kev:
But another form of poison has been insinuated into the collective conscious of young, able minds that threatens like an aftershock on the seabed. Although the tendrils of this poison are deeply embedded in the history of human conflict, its main roots are to be found in the propaganda of emergent Nazi Germany circa 1935. As an example, a math question to German children in schools where Jewish children were limited to 1.5% by 1935 and banned from education altogether by 1939, reads as follows.
The Jews are aliens in Germany – in 1933 there were 66,060,000 inhabitants in the German Reich, of whom 499,682 were Jews. What is the percent of aliens?
It was deemed important, indeed necessary, to sow the seed of anti-Semitic propaganda early into young, fertile Aryan minds. Before continuing, I acknowledge that mere mention of the Third Reich and anti-Semitism risks an emotive distraction from the point this article seeks to make. It is notable, however, that the Holocaust analogy has already been exploited in a different and deliberately pejorative context in an attack against those concerned with issues of vaccine safety in the promotion of Dr Paul Offit’s book Autism’s False Prophets by the New York Times.
Then, one by one, each of Orac’s blinking lights went black.
“Orac!” cried Kev. No response. “Orac!”
A single light blinked on, flickering at first, but then growing stronger. It as joined by another, and then another, and then finally another. “Oooooh,” said Orac.
“That was one of the worst ones yet. Wakefield has the actual temerity to liken his case being used as an example of scientific incompetence, undisclosed conflicts of interest in a simple school exam to the relentless barrage of propaganda the Nazis launched against the Jews, including questions on school exams. It’s beyond belief. He’s likening himself to the Jews and the British educational authorities to the Nazis. Truly, the Hitler Zombie has feasted well on Wakefield’s brain. Indeed, he’s left little, as clearly evidenced not only by Wakefield’s ridiculous argumentum ad Nazium and reductio ad Hitlerum but that that horrendous mixed metaphor of tendriles and poison with an aftershock on the seabed! What the hell is that? Clearly the consumption of his frontal lobes by the monster has eliminated whatever writing ability he had left.”
“It’s worse than that,” said Kev. “I won’t bore you with Wakefield’s attempted point-by-point rebuttal. It’s the usual self-serving, self-pitying pseudoscientific twaddle we’ve come to expect from Wakers. For example, in response to the passage saying that he had ‘claimed to have found a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism,’ Wakefield retreats to the lame defense that he didn’t actually say that in his infamous Lancet paper. Never mind that he said it to the press on numerous occasions. Disingenuous, eh? He even has the cojones to deny that he was funded through trial lawyers. Brian Deer documented his reports very well.”
“Indeed,” agreed Orac. “I notice that he’s invoked the Elsevier debacle as a defense for his scientific misconduct and invoked the pharma shill gambit as well. He’s pulling out every crank trick in the book.” Orac’s blinking lights were blinking almost as vigorously as they had before the assault on his logic circuits had begun. “So what is worse?”
Kev hesitated, walked over to the bench on which Orac rested, and carefully looked him over. “Are you sure you’re ready?”
“I’ve reinforced my logic circuits. They should be able to handle it.”
“OK,” said Kev:
‘Corporate government’ is heavily invested in propaganda, many of the techniques of which are a legacy of the Third Reich. It is difficult to believe that it was not influential in setting the UK school’s biology curriculum. For their efforts, Julius Streicher, the Reich’s apothecary of young Aryan mind poisoning, would have given the GCSE examiners and whoever was pulling their strings no more than a six out of ten and a “see me after class.” Streicher was tried and sentenced to death at Nuremberg. Who knows where he might otherwise have ended up?
Orac’s lights blinked out instantly.
“Damn!” said Kev. “I knew that idiotically brain dead comparison to Julius Streicher would be too much for him. His circuits aren’t as well-shielded as he thinks they are.” To Kev’s relief he noted that Orac’s lights were already coming back on mere moments after being exposed to Wakefield’s Nazi analogy.”
“Is there more?” Orac croaked, accompanied by a feeble blink of his lights.
Kev leaned over, “Are you sure you can handle it? You don’t look so good.”
“Show me! Show me all at once!”
“You asked me for it, mate. Here’s another victim of the monster:”
Anyone who is offended by the use of the world “holocaust” when talking of autism needs to study up on their history. I’ve read many books which told of autistic children being the first killed in Nazi Germany. Autistic children were practised on. I’ve read books which detailed the nurses notes from the “hospitals” where the children were getting “treatment” and they clearly were describing autistic children. The children were marked for death by the doctors at the hospital and the parents were just told their children died mysteriously. The holocaust was not only about jews and should be discussed when talking about autism because we don’t want to repeat this hisotry.
“That’s right. They honestly believe that vaccination is a repeat of the Holocaust. And here’s Kathy Blanco bringing home the crazy, her brain clearly chomped:”
Doctors have always been thought of as the saviors of mankind, the healers, and caretakers of our utter existence. Even ancient civilizations revered the medicine men as having special power to protect life. The trust of a physician is sacred. This is why the practice of medicine by the doctors of the Third Reich is egregious, outrageous, and shocking. The Nazi doctors violated the trust placed in them by humanity. The most painful truth is for the most part the doctors escaped their crimes against Humanity and lived a life, unlike their victims.
So when it happens to their family, is justice due? Maybe…but I hate to have one more child suffer, even if they come from “bad genes”.
That said, I am sure they are living their life with ease, with no discomfort…because they have been brainwashed just enough to seer their conscience on this subject, almost to the point of being self righteous about it, though I find that hard to believe when they profit so much off of our sorrow.
It’s called, acceptible losses…and that’s exactly what we are to them.
The poison from the needle, is concecularly joining up with the poison from our enviornment, from our overprocessed food supply, depletion of soils, to the chemicals we make, sleep on, wear or partake of. I am sure these poisons clog up the immune sytem just enough, especially in young vulnerable children, to make them more susceptible to vaccine injuries. It is somewhat a miracle that all children are not autistic…but look at the result? If they are not MBD’d, they are ADHD, they have problems coping, they have immune dysfunction, etc. And or we have sown the seeds of cancer for decades.
“And here’s Robin Nemeth, no gray matter left:”
I don’t understand why it is considered exploitation to use the word ‘holocaust’ to describe a situation that is in essence a holocaust.
I was banned from a political chat room once for suggesting that what is currently occurring with vaccines is akin to the holocaust of nazi germany. I won’t go into the parallels—they seem too obvious to me. And yet, the implication for why I was censored when speaking of this was that it somehow was either a distraction from ‘real’ debate, or that it was somehow belittling to the ‘real’ suffering that the jewish people experienced in nazi germany. Neither argument makes much sense to me. I thought that the purpose of debate was, well, debate. And I don’t understand why so many children of our current generation are less deserving of having their suffering recognized and stopped, or even discussed, than were the jewish people so many decades ago.
And a commenter named Julie:”
The Nazi comparisons are very apt. Pharmaceutical companies and Dr.s who profit by unsafe vaccines remind me of Baron Krupp making a fortune selling Zyklon B to the extermination camps.
“And, finally, moving farther afield, recently Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, showed sign of the monster’s attention last month:”
Vaccine proponents won’t admit this [that vaccines cause autism] because, he said, “Every doctor now essentially in this country has done something as heinous as the Nazis did, unknowingly.”
This time, Orac’s lights did not go out, although the colors became more muted. “It’s far, far worse than I thought. the monster has fed well and long, claiming many victims in the anti-vaccine movement. There is no other explanation for this recent spate of risibily stupid Nazi analogies coming fast and furious from the anti-vaccine movement. And it goes right up to the top, to the luminaries of the anti-vaccine movement, to Andrew Wakefield himself!”
“But why?” asked Kev. “Why would the Hitler Zombie be so drawn to the anti-vaccine movement. After all, it’s not as though there’s a lot of intellectual firepower to provide them the creature with sustenance. He’d have to eat a lot of antivaccinationist brains to get any nourishment whatsoever, so meager is the gruel there. Maybe there’s something particularly tasty about those anti-vaccinationist brains. After all, it’s not as though this penchant for Holocaust and Nazi analogies is anything new.”
“Perhaps vaccines render the brain less palatable to the monster. Perhaps mercury doesn’t taste good.”
“Why, Orac, I think you actually made a joke. Clearly your study of limericks is paying off.”
“Enough frivolity!” barked Orac. “We must resume the search for the monster before he strikes again!”
With that, the bench upon which Orac rested descended into the floor with a fluorish and a roar, to be covered by a trap door.
“Bloody git. Show-off,” muttered Kev, as he turned to his workstation to assist in beginning the hunt anew.
**Translated from the German, of course!
Oh, no! The Hitler Zombie chomped the brain of another one:
After the Second International Conference on Vaccines was held in Washington DC in 2000, I spent a couple of days at the Holocaust Memorial. The parallels are there and you would have to be willfully blind, not to connect the dots. Here are a few of the dots:
“We are recording the individual characteristics of every single member of the nation on a little card…. We are proud that we can contribute to such a task that provides the physician of a German body politic with the material [the needs] for his examination, so that our physician can determine whether, from the standpoint of the nation’s health, the data thus arrived at correlates in a harmonious, that is healthy, relationship–or whether diseased conditions must be cured by corrective interventions…. We have firm confidence in our physician and will follow his information blindly, for we know that he will lead our nation toward a great future. Heil to our German people and their leader!”
Managing Director of DEHOMAG
January 8, 1934
DEHOMAG–Deutsche Hollerith Maschineu Gesellschaft, A subsidiary of IBM since 1922. The Hollerith machine played an integral part in tracking, who was Jewish, who had Jewish features, who was gypsy, who had gypsy features, who was black, who had black features, who had diseased conditions, retardation, handicapped, neurological disorders, homosexual, genetic or congenital defects……………………………the ultimate victims of the Holocaust
January 20, 1942 a meeting took place with the purpose of “coordinating a Final Solution to the European Jewish Question.” More than half of the 15 Nazi’s present held doctor-al degrees. Adolph Eichmann took minutes. – The Wannsee Conference, 1942 A Final Solution
September 18, 2000 “The majority of the panel could envision circumstances when intentionally dosing humans with pesticides could be scientifically and ethically acceptable.” Scientific Advisory Board final report to the EPA on human testing of pesticides.
The First to Perish were the Children…….From these a new dawn might have risen
-Yitzhak Katzenelson, Holocaust Memorial
And another victim:
There are no words to describe the horrors of what’s currently being done to children, which is probably why we’re all forced to turn to analogy in the struggle to even understand it. The fact that one historical analogy in particular lends itself– without extrapolation– to the current disaster is more shocking and saddening to us than it could possibly be to the people who disagree with such analogies. I’m sure no one wishes that what you’re writing was untrue more than you.
Adding to the parallel, Alfred Doblin, author of “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, wrote an essay on his experience returning to Germany after Hitler’s defeat. Doblin described trying to find a single psychiatrist or doctor who would admit to taking part in the T4 exterminations (that Ray Gallup mentioned as well) and writes sarcastically that he found Germany to be filled with only “innocent” people. At last he’s approached by a physician who drew Doblin into the role of confessor. This physician admitted that he had worked within the T4 program and had witnessed the selections, transports and systematic exterminations of mental patients throughout the war. The physician wishes to confess because he had hidden his own disabled child in the country throughout the war while he’d quietly participated in the slaughter.
As it happened, when families tried to approach the authorities in fury that their institutionalized loved ones had “disappeared” and that the countryside was filled with rumors of mass gassings, the families were warned that they could easily, by hereditary association, be deemed “mentally deficient” as well. This was apparently enough to quell the outrage.
Everything old is new again. What’s happening now seems to be– relatively speaking only– a “soft” version of the historical pattern: children aren’t being deliberately selected for murder; the causualties of health policy are just being allowed to die or to age into agonized neglect and isolation. Too often, they’re killed “by accident” within underfunded schools and institutions. This isn’t extermination– not exactly. No one hand-picks who the casualties will be after all. Dissenting families aren’t precisely threatened with death; they’re simply repeatedly demoralized, driven into poverty, threatened with social ostracism with the help of constant propaganda, sometimes threatened with the loss of custody or the snatching of their children by the state for “acceptable, mainstream” treatments, such as Nate Tseglin’s forced institutionalization and near-lethal drugging. Sometimes. It’s not *exactly* mass persecution.
Will nothing stop the undead Führer?