Whenever I call an anti-vaccine activist “anti-vaccine,” frequently there will be an indignant response along the lines of either, “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine'; I’m pro-safe vaccine” or “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine'; I’m a vaccine safety activist.” (This latter retort is a favorite of Barbara Loe Fisher.) Another favorite retort is, “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine'; I’m for ‘informed consent'” or “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine'; I’m for freedom!” (Imagine the person saying this looking like this the photo below.)
Anti-vaccine warrior crying “Freedom!!!!! (from vaccines)”
Not infrequently, it doesn’t take very long to put the lie to these claims. All you have to do is look at the websites or delve into vaccine discussion forums. Or look at their blogs. For instance, take The Refusers. The Refusers first rose to infamy among the anti-vaccine movement about a year ago, when at last year’s anti-vaccine “American Rally for Personal Rights” they combined bad music with bad science and a healthy dollop of conspiracy theories to bring us gems like “Vaccine Gestapo” (complete with comparing supporters of science-based medicine to Adolf Hitler) and “Get Your Mandates Out of My Body.” After that, I didn’t hear much from The Refusers (a fact for which my ear drums are profoundly grateful). Unfortunately, The Refusers appear to be back to demonstrate their pro-personal rights cred:
Yes, unlike many anti-vaccine activists, The Refusers are right up front about where they’re coming from. Let’s see. Vat of vaccines with worker whose head is a skull? Check. Vat looking like a toxic waste container? Yep. Logo of the World Health Organization on the vat, in order to provide insinuations of a New World Order or threats of a one-world government? Check.
Bad music and paranoid conspiracy-mongering back elsewhere on the blog and website? Check.
Indeed, it looks as though The Refusers have a fresh batch of new songs, with catchy titles like “Crazy Cult” (in which pro-vaccine advocates are predictably and tiresomely compared to–yes–a cult or a religion, which is the message they repeat time and time again). Never mind that it’s not the science-based medicine supporters who are comparing their heroes to Jesus, as J.B. Handley did with Andrew Wakefield less than two months ago, likening him to “Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ all rolled up into one.”
I will give Michael Belkin a mild degree of credit for shamelessly stealing from the Dead Kennedys in naming one of his songs “Vaccination Über Alles,” but after listening to it I think I’ll stick with the Dead Kennedys. They’re far easier on the ears.
But if you really want to see over-the-top, check out this video for The Refusers’ “Mad Hatter Blues”:
Nice touch, using a guy doing a bad Dr. Strangelove impersonation portraying a representative for the “Centers for Autism Creation.” The video then segues into a storyline where a scientist wearing a huge Nazi-esque cap (apparently he is a cross between the Mad Hatter and, well, a Nazi) is chasing a cute little girl through a forest, brandishing enormous syringes, all accompanied by mediocre rock music. Meanwhile, we’re treated to lyrics like:
They’re so self-righteous
But doctors haven’t got a clue
Vaccines with mercury
Will make a Mad Hatter out of you
Never mind that mercury was removed from childhood vaccines other than the flu vaccine nine years ago, that no childhood vaccine other than some flu vaccines contains more than trace mercury, and that there are many thimerosal-free flu vaccines out on the market now. Also never mind that there is no convincing scientific evidence that mercury in vaccines was ever responsible for autism or other neurological conditions. I mean, really. Mercury? That’s soooo 2004.
As I said a year ago, the anti-vaccine movement has degenerated to the point where it has become almost impossible to distinguish real from parody. It’s just like Poe’s law with fundamentalists, only this time with antivaccinationists. If I hadn’t known that The Refusers and “Mad Hatter Blues” were real, I would have had a hard time knowing for sure whether they were real or parody. They also lead me to repeat my proposed corollary to Poe’s Law, first suggested a year ago:
Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody anti-vaccinationists in such a way that someone won’t mistake for the genuine article.
The Refusers lead me to conclude time and time again that this law is a good description of the anti-vaccine movement.