Respectful Insolence

Earlier today, I had a bit of fun deconstructing Dan Olmsted’s whiny complaint about how “progressives don’t ‘get’ autism,” his definition of “getting” autism being, of course, buying into the scientifically discredited notion that vaccines cause autism and the quackery known as “autism biomed” that anti-vaccine loons like Olmsted advocate to “recover” autistic children. Of course, I wrote my little bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence last night; so I didn’t get to see a rather amusing additional bit of information showing Olmsted to be clueless that happened to pop up today. First, let’s look at a key quote from Olmsted’s whine:

The best major-media reporting recently on this issue has come from conservative Fox News, which has taken to running almost weekly reports. The network seems to have been prompted by the government’s strange concession in Vaccine Court – that autism was not “caused” by vaccines but autistic symptoms “resulted” from the vaccinations – which a reporter called “fishy legal language.”

Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch, which also owns The Times, which employs Brian Deer, whose investigations into Andrew Wakefield’s ethical and scientific lapses were critical to bringing about the hearings that resulted in Wakefield’s losing his medical license in the U.K., it was amusing to have several readers e-mail me this link this morning:

The news outlet that published this article? Fox News.

As I’ve said before on numerous occasions, anti-vaccine lunacy is the lunacy that knows no political boundaries. There are right wing and left wing anti-vaccine activists, and there are right wing and left wing defenders of vaccine science. I don’t know that anyone’s ever done a study that provides convincing evidence that anti-vaccine pseudoscience is more prevalent among those who consider themselves conservative or those who consider themselves liberal (or progressive), but I do know that Dan Olmsted’s prolonged whine about how the progressive media have been ignoring his book for ideological reasons is hilarious. Apparently when Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill released Age of Autism, Olmsted thought he’d be invited to promote their book through interviews with Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, and other liberal pundits. Too bad Olmsted and Blaxill couldn’t even score an interview with Bill Maher, arguably the best known anti-vaccine liberal out there.

Comments

  1. #1 viggen
    November 15, 2010

    There are right wing and left wing anti-vaccine activists, and there are right wing and left wing defenders of vaccine science.

    Very good set of posts, Orac. I wish more people would realize this. I’ve watched people on either side of the political coin using this sort of information to demonize the opposite side –even here on science blogs– and I’m happy somebody is pointing out the truth.

  2. #2 Mu
    November 15, 2010

    You can only have anti-vaccine liberals, both Nazis and Soviets had rather strong feelings about those that “endangered the well being of the people” by doubting the wisdom of proscribed vaccinations.

  3. #3 Mandrellian
    November 15, 2010

    #2, Mu:

    “You can only have anti-vaccine liberals, both Nazis and Soviets had rather strong feelings about those that “endangered the well being of the people” by doubting the wisdom of proscribed vaccinations.”

    The fact that Nazis and Soviets had strong feelings about public wellbeing means that ONLY liberals can hold anti-vaccine views?

    That’s quite a non-sequitur. Care to elaborate? Or is the fact that I’m asking you a *question* clear evidence that I’m descended from Gestapo interrogators?

    PS: “proscibed” doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  4. #4 Ace of Sevens
    November 15, 2010

    Fox News goes with whatever angle will scare white people the most. If middle America is vaccinating, vaccinations are scary. If enough quit vaccinating, then it’s time to get concerned about that.

  5. #5 Emil Karlsson
    November 15, 2010

    Maher is a libertarian, not a liberal?

  6. #6 novalox
    November 15, 2010

    Seeing the comments on the Fox News article make me wonder about the reasoning of some of the anti-vaxers.

  7. #7 Mu
    November 15, 2010

    Sorry about the pre and pro mixup. And my point was you need to have a liberal political climate to even be allowed to discuss vaccination refusal in the first place, as such I find the argument if someone is a right wing or left wing loon pretty funny.

  8. #8 jcs
    November 15, 2010

    I’m a Christian conservative, but I’ll be the first to point out that the right has its fair share of anti-vaxers as well. As Orac said in his last post, it all comes down to paranoia against authority.

    There is a strong overlap between the community of Christian conservatives that was building shelters to prepare for the Y2K Apocalypse, and the community that is opposing vaccination of their children.

    Same with the subpopulation of conservatives who are hardcore Attachment Parenting / ecological breastfeeding advocates.

    There are certain spots on the left/right spectrum where the crazy woo begins to take over, and the left and right become difficult to distinguish in this regard.

  9. #9 augustine
    November 15, 2010

    [jcs: I’m a Christian conservative]

    So was Hitler!

  10. #10 jyounce
    November 15, 2010

    jcs has this right- the left and right begin to look alike at their extremes, not in their beliefs, but in the bizarre cognitive processes used to reach those beliefs. The loony left tends to be against vaccines due to anti-corporate paranoia, while the extreme right tends to be against vaccines due to anti-government paranoia. Both exhibit an equally dangerous paranoia, however.

  11. #11 Andrew
    November 15, 2010

    @Emil Karlsson: Maher calls himself a libertarian. He’s not a libertarian.

    I’m on the right side of the envelope by this blog’s standards (as an actual libertarian). And Orac’s right. This kind of idiocy transcends politics.

  12. #12 Vince Whirlwind
    November 16, 2010

    Here in Australia, anti-vaccination loons are characteristically lefties. The measles outbreaks have been occurring in northern-NSW hippie areas.

    We have far fewer religious nuts than you do. The few we have are far more discrete than yours, too.

  13. #13 Militant Agnostic
    November 16, 2010

    We have far fewer religious nuts than you do. The few we have are far more discrete than yours, too.

    That is because you ship the indiscreet ones like Ken Ham to the US.

  14. #14 Bickle
    November 16, 2010

    I would say that it’s probably about 70/30 on the left. As a liberal, I know that while conservatives see conspiracies and people coming to get them around every corner. Liberals are by far the biggest total suckers when it comes to new agey, suspicion of medicine crap that is the anti-vaxxer bread and butter. People on the right buy magic water and salt from Peter Popoff, religion is their snake oil

  15. #15 Matthew Cline
    November 16, 2010

    I wonder if he says that because he’s a conservative who happens to believe that his political opponents and his vax opponents must be one-and-the-same, or if he presents his anti-vax views in a way that’s likely to be off-putting to liberals?

  16. #16 Militant Agnostic
    November 16, 2010

    JCS @6

    There are certain spots on the left/right spectrum where the crazy woo begins to take over, and the left and right become difficult to distinguish in this regard.

    Canadian Autism Quack and Anti-Vaccination Whackaloon Andrew Moulden was leader of the loony left (9-11 truther etc.) Canadian Action Party until he resigned to join the right wing fundamentalist Christian Heritage Party.

    Ultimately the loony left doesn’t trust the government any more than the reality impaired right does. The loony left sees the government (even if the government is well left of center) as being controlled by the evil corporations. The reality impaired right sees the government as being controlled by socialists/marxists/communists (in the US add Kenyan Muslims and optionally add the Jews anywhere outside of Israel).

  17. #17 Antifia
    November 16, 2010

    It is not that surprising that he thinks he is more likely to find kindred spirits among the conservative fold than among the librul bunch. The GOP seems to be a big umbrela under which every whaco idea is welcome. These ideas don’t even need to square up to each other: One wants the government to keep their hands out of the economy while blaming them for not creating jobs (go figure). Another thinks that a balanced budget is the main goal but wants more tax cuts at the same time. And then you have those who are pro-life but are ok with poor childrem dying from deseases after they are born because having the government providing health care for them is socialism (God forbid!). And what about those that expect their president to solve all their problems and drive America forwards but want her/him to be as stone-stupid (i.e. folksy)as they are. The contradictions keep on coming. And then you have the birthers, the I-am-not-a-witch-anti-masturbation Senate candidate (a Senate candidate, for crying out loud!), the every-muslim-is-a-terrorist bigots and so on. Thus, if I were him, trying to push the vaccination-autism connection, I would also think that my ideas would find more fertile ground among consevatives than anywhere else.

  18. #18 Vicki
    November 16, 2010

    Mu–

    That’s a definition of “liberal” that would include most Americans who identify as conservative: for example, anyone who goes to Tea Party rallies and agrees that the government should allow such rallies is “liberal” by that definition. As such, it’s about as useful here as insisting that universities are leftist because they teach the “liberal arts.”

    Also, there’s a difference between “you need freedom to object publicly to a government-supported vaccine program” and “you need freedom to think vaccination is a bad idea.” A totalitarian ruler is not, because he is in power, magically exempt from the sort of attitudes that lead to opposing vaccination, including but not limited to paranoia and xenophobia.

  19. #19 intercostal
    November 16, 2010

    @Antifia 17: And then you have those who are pro-life but are ok with poor childrem dying from deseases after they are born because having the government providing health care for them is socialism (God forbid!).

    I don’t know any American conservatives who think that children dying of diseases isn’t a bad thing; most of the anti-socialized-medicine attitude is that the government would be *bad at doing it*. If Americans believed their government was competent enough to *actually help*, there would be far less opposition.

    (I remain somewhat undecided on the issue, but lean towards ‘it’s a bad idea’, because I’m not convinced it would actually improve access to medical care on-the-whole; it would CHANGE who got good medical care, but I’m not sure the “total # of people with access to care x quality of care” equation would actually improve, because I don’t believe that ‘lack of ability to pay’ is the main impeder of access-to-care; if it were so, there’d be hospitals all over the country closing for ”lack of patients”. Unless a plan increases the number of people becoming healthcare professionals, and builds more clinics and hospitals etc., it’s not actually increasing the “amount of care x quality of care” product.

    It strikes me as far more likely that we’d end up with *more people* getting *worse care*.

  20. #20 Archangl508
    November 17, 2010

    I wish I could remember the exact quotation, or who said it, but I remember reading it one time in response to a homeopathy blog. It was something like:

    The political spectrum is not truly a line with an end on either point (i.e. left and right). It is more like a circle where the far-left and far-right eventually meet in the land of anti-vaccine and alt-med nonsense where, just by coincidence, Dana Ullman has a clinic set up.

  21. #21 Michaelis
    November 21, 2010

    “….Brian Deer, whose investigations into Andrew Wakefield’s ethical and scientific lapses were critical to bringing about the hearings that resulted in Wakefield’s losing his medical license in the U.K.”

    Andrew Wakefield should not be working as a doctor. However the above is incorrect. The General Medical Council did not strike Wakefield because of his lapses in “scientific” ethics, because many other cases show that GMC does not care a jot about science or scientific ethics. They did not take any note of the scientific irregularities exposed by Deer, but concentrated on relative piffle. They ignore serious academic crimes committed by powerful academics who have discredited themselves in other ways including in interactions with industry. Therein lies the difficulty for us all. A selective, corrupt and otherwise laughable watchdog is worse than no watchdog at all.

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