If there’s one thing about the reporting of the 2016 election that irritated me, it was the massive underreporting of certain antiscience views held by the man who is now our President-Elect. Sure, there was coverage about his denial of anthropogenic climate change from time to time. Much less reported was his long history of antivaccine views, a history I’ve been documenting since 2007. I started documenting it again in September 2015, just before the first Republican Presidential Debate. Then, the vaccine issue came up during that debate, and the mainstream media took notice—briefly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just Donald Trump spouting antivaccine pseudoscience there. It was also Rand Paul and Ben Carson, which diluted the effect. Then a mysterious thing happened. There was little to no coverage of Donald Trump’s antivaccine views in the mainstream media for the next 14 months.

I was reminded of my irritation by a recent article in MedPage Today, Trump’s Meeting With Wakefield Rattles Vaccine Supporters, published on December 2. I note that that was one month after antivaccine blogger Levi Quackenboss couldn’t keep her mouth shut about the meeting, which occurred in August in Florida and after I and other skeptical bloggers tried to sound the alarm. It was also one week before the election. Then it was three weeks after Quackenboss bragged about what antivaccine activists want from a Trump administration. Now, four weeks after the election, Medpage notices Trump’s flirtation with the antivaccine movement.

I know, I know. It’s almost certainly wishful thinking that the revelation of such information before the would have made the least bit of difference in the ultimate outcome of the election, but, still, it irritates the hell out of me to see public health officials only now starting to wring their hands about Donald Trump and mainstream medical outlets notice that he met with Andrew Wakefield.

It also irritates me when I see someone make a point by misunderstanding what is and isn’t “antivaccine” I’m referring to an article I saw in Slate.com by Brian Palmer, Trump Isn’t an Anti-Vaxxer. He’s a Slow Vaxxer. Basically, Palmer fundamentally misunderstands antivaxers and uses that misunderstanding to explain Trump’s appeal. He gets things partially right, but lays down a howler like this right in the beginning:

Anti-vaxxers think they finally have a friend in the White House. Donald Trump has voiced concerns about vaccines for at least a decade, and, in August, he reportedly attended a fundraiser with disgraced and delicensed doctor Andrew Wakefield, whose discredited research helped launch the anti-vaccination panic.

But Trump isn’t quite an anti-vaxxer. If he were, he wouldn’t have vaccinated his own children. In fact, Trump is a slow vaxxer, which means he accepts the idea of vaccination, but he thinks kids get too many vaccines, too early in life. In practice, this means parents pick their own vaccine schedule, scientific standards be damned.

If you are struggling to understand the appeal of Donald Trump—as I have been for months—his vaccine position offers a window. Trump occupies a middle ground between fact and fiction. For people who can’t distinguish between the two, this compromise is irresistible.

Palmer has a point, but not in the way he thinks. Antivaccine activists have been using this very tactic for a very long time. They claim, “I’m not antivaccine.” They proclaim themselves as being “vaccine safety activists.” It’s a lie. It’s nonsense. But it’s nonsense that convinces a lot of people who haven’t paid attention to the antivaccine movement. Indeed, I have a whole series of posts that I call, in my inimitable fashion, Annals of “I’m not antivaccine” in which I document such “not antivaccine” sentiments from “vaccine safety activists,” such as likening vaccines to human trafficking, rape, and other evil as varied as the Oklahoma City bombing and the sinking of the Titanic. That’s leaving aside all the references to Nazis and fascism. This series has been going on for six years now and is up to installment #22, with no sign of running out of material. I could go on and on if I wanted to, but I’ll spare you. The evidence is there in the links I just provided, if you want to see it.

Of course, the real point is that the claim that “I’m not antivaccine, I’m a vaccine safety activist” does have traction, as does the “too many too soon” trope frequently repeated by antivaccine activists. Palmer fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the antivaccine movement. Clearly, Palmer doesn’t understand that “Too many too soon” is a rallying cry of the antivaccine movement. He realizes at some level that it’s based on pure pseudoscience, but he doesn’t connect the dots to understand how it is used to undermine the legitimacy of the current vaccine schedule, which leads him to write things like:

Imagine that you don’t understand medical research. You’re torn between the medical establishment and the scary claims of anti-vaxxers. In that context, slow vaxxing seems like the ideal third way. Here’s Trump, talking about his son Baron in 2007.

[W]e’ve taken him on a very slow process. He gets one shot at a time then we wait a few months and give him another shot, the old-fashioned way. But today they pump the children with so much at a very young age. We do it on a very, very conservative level.

What could be more reasonable? Slow. Old-fashioned. Not just conservative—very, very conservative.

It’s not as though skeptics, including a “friend of the blog,” haven’t addressed this issue many times. The quote that Palmer cites dates back to 2007. What it shows is that in 2007 Trump was already parroting the antivaccine pseudoscience that at that time I had been deconstructing for seven years and blogging about for nearly three. It was a performance—and, let’s face it, everything Trump does in public is performance art, if you can call it that—that was brilliantly parodied at Autism News Beat as The art of the schlemiel. What Palmer fails to quote is what Trump also said:

“When a little baby that weighs 20 pounds and 30 pounds gets pumped with 10 and 20 shots at one time, with one injection that’s a giant injection, I personally think that has something to do with it. Now there’s a group that agrees with that and there’s a group that doesn’t agree with that.”

In any case, as I’ve said multiple times before I’m hard pressed to come up with any time when a baby gets 10 or 20 shots at a time, and that’s even assuming that Trump was ignorantly conflating the number of diseases vaccinated against in combination vaccines with “shots.” For example, the DTaP vaccinates against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, or three “shots,” to use Trump’s apparent parlance, and MMR vaccinates against measles, mumps, and rubella, or three more “shots.” That’s six vaccines, six sets of antigens so far, but in only two real injections. You get the idea. Trump seems to think that each vaccine in combo vaccines is a single shot, or at least he talks as though that’s what he believes. This 2007 interview was just the first example of which I’m aware in which he did that. In 2012, Trump posted statements on Twitter about a “monster shot” that causes autism. I noted at the time, Trump seemed to be getting his misinformation from Bob and Suzanne Wright, the founders of Autism Speaks. Although Autism Speaks has backed away from the antivaccine pseudoscience somewhat in recent years, back then they had drunk deeply of the antivaccine Kool-Aid, so much so that the continued embrace of antivaccine nonsense by Autism Speaks in the face of overwhelming evidence that vaccines are not linked with autism was a large part of the reason why Alison Singer left that group. Trump had even done fundraisers for them.

Palmer isn’t totally wrong. It’s just that he misunderstands the nature of the antivaxers and how the “too many too soon” trope does not imply a belief in vaccines. In other words, contrary to what Palmer appears to believe, being a “slow vaxer” does not mean that one is not antivaccine. It can, I suppose, but in the vast majority of cases the reason a “slow vaxer” is a slow vaxer is because she believes in antivaccine nonsense and is scared enough of vaccines to think that they need to be spaced out Indeed, the vast majority of the time, being a “slow vaxer” is part and parcel of buying into antivaccine pseudoscience. That’s why, when I read Palmer’s argument that “slow” vaxing doesn’t necessarily imply antivaccine beliefs, I laughed at his naïveté. Clearly, this is not someone who has had much experience dealing with the antivaccine movement, or, if he has, he failed to see how the “too many too soon” trope is one of the central dogmas of the antivaccine movement. Touchingly, he seems to actually buy the antivaccine line that “too many too soon” is not antivaccine. He even seems to believe that Dr. Bob Sears, arguably the foremost purveyor of the “too many too soon” trope, is not antivaccine. Never mind those Nazi references by him and his fellow travelers.

I don’t mean to be too hard on Palmer. I really don’t. His heart is in the right place. He even gives a good explanation why “too many too soon” is a bogus reason not to vaccinated. Besides, if his heart weren’t in the right place, he wouldn’t write things like this:

For one thing, slow vaxxing is not actually old-fashioned. The old-fashioned way to vaccinate was quite the opposite: We used to wallop a child with an enormous dose of antigens all at once. The smallpox vaccine that Trump likely received as an infant required his immune system to respond to 200 different proteins. Today the entire compliment of child vaccines contains just 160 proteins. Children do receive 10 times more shots today than they did a century ago, but the number of needle sticks is irrelevant—it’s the size of the immune challenge that matters. Of course, you need some scientific literacy to understand this difference.

All of this is correct. Unfortunately, it’s also irrelevant to the question of whether Donald Trump is antivaccine or not. He clearly is. Worse, he is the President-Elect. Even worse, given that Donald Trump is the President-Elect, too many are, like Brian Palmer, are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, even when he doesn’t deserve it. `

Comments

  1. #1 jrkrideau
    At the bottom of the lake (the bottom end that is)
    December 6, 2016

    Well it might be worse.

    Wakefield might take US citizenship and Trump could nominate him for Secretary of Health . Given the rest of the proposed cabinet he would fit right in.

  2. #2 Lawrence
    December 6, 2016

    Does the President-elect appoint the head of the CDC, or would that be the head of HHS?

  3. #3 Dorit Reiss
    December 6, 2016

    As a mom of a young up to date (plus early MMR for traveling) toddler, the most we had at one time were six shots at his one year old visit, and that’s because I asked to split MMR and v and give them as two shots.

    And anyone who thinks it’s a big needle likely hasn’t seen a kid vaccinated for a long, long time.

  4. #4 Dorit Reiss
    December 6, 2016

    The president elect appoints the Director of the CDC. That appointment does not require senate confirmation.

    On the other hand,the secretary of HHS, whose appointment does require confirmation, appoints the members of ACIP, and there are clear criteria for those appointments.

  5. #5 Helianthus
    December 6, 2016

    Trump occupies a middle ground between fact and fiction.

    I’m going to sound like an extremism, but by definition, any “middle” ground outside of facts is fiction. Something is reality-based, or is not.

    I would agree that the whole view of a scientific topic is not fully black-and-white. There could be exaggerations, shortcuts, some gray area where we don’t know everything, or just wrong.

    But at some point, as you go away from the scientific consensus, you step onto nothing. Like when you are starting at the beach and walking into the ocean. At some point, there is no rock under your feet.
    And this point where you go into deep waters is not precisely midway between the scientific consensus and the craziest ideas floating around. I like to think it’s a lot closer to the beach than to the middle of the ocean.

    tl;dr: the Earth is round-ish. Saying it’s round is being in a middle ground between fact and fiction; saying it’s flat is pure fiction.
    Trump is a lot closer to the flat-earth proponents than to the round-earth proponents.

    With credits to Isaac Asimov for the flat/round earth comparison.

  6. #6 jrkrideau
    At the bottom of the lake (the bottom end that is)
    December 6, 2016

    # 3 Dorit Reiss

    anyone who thinks it’s a big needle likely hasn’t seen a kid vaccinated for a long, long time.

    I don’t know about little kids but I got my flu shot and a shingles shot a couple of weeks ago and the needle was tiny, well at least in comparison to the horse vaccination needles used when one is donating blood. I hardly felt them.

    Oh, as another story about the perils of “gasp” Socialized Medicine here in Canada I walked into my medical clinic on a flu shot clinic day and presented my medical card. I was promptly told that it had expired!. Oops. The receptionist said I should get a new card and told me she would make a note of this on my chart.

    After a 10 minute wait I walked down the corridor to get a shot. While there, one of the nurses said that OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) now covered shingles shots as well for people my age and did I want one? Sure

    So I walked out with an expired health card and a shot in each arm. Of course, my friends immediately started patting me on the arm.

    I do not think I am showing any signs of the onset of autism.

  7. #7 Beth Clarkson
    United States
    December 6, 2016

    You are defining anyone who disagrees with the schedule established by the ACIP committee of the CDC as anti-vaccine. Do you really think that is the case? Are people who make different vaccine choices necessarily anti-vaccine? Personally, I think you do the pro-vaccine side a disservice by labeling any dissent with the current schedule as anti-vaccine.

    • #8 Dorit Reiss
      December 6, 2016

      I can’t speak for Orac, but I don’t see people who deviate from the schedule as necessarily anti-vaccine, though I do see many of them as vaccine hesitant and having fears.

      But in this case, President-Elect Trump did more than that. He also promoted anti-vaccine myths and beliefs in social media and elsewhere. I think that makes it fair to classify him as anti-vaccine.

  8. #10 Ren
    Deep in the heart of Zika
    December 6, 2016

    The people on the ground who work for that three-lettered agency in Atlanta are worried but not panicked. The director will likely leave, and his replacement will be a political appointee. They will try to change things up, but the old guard is still there, still running things. And the troublemakers are still around, still brilliant, still breaking the rules and dealing with the consequences.
    In my opinion, whoever decides to mess with the vaccination program or anything else like that will have to decide if THEY are grown-up enough to live with the consequences. They’re going to have to see if they can replace the people who’ll quit and go to academia for a few years.
    The anti-vaxxers’ dreams might very well become their nightmares.

  9. #11 sadmar
    December 6, 2016

    Orac misrepresents Palmer’s piece slightly, as they’re really “on the same page”.

    Palmer’s writing for an audience not that familiar with this stuff. So he begins with the premise that ‘slow vaxxing’ seems sensible and conservative, and then explains the science that shows slow vaxxing is neither, but just as pseudo-science as anti-vax. He has just chosen to stick to the science, so he doesn’t get into what Orac discusses here: the rhetorical/ideological tactics of the anti-vax movement, and the use of “too many too soon” as a crapola dodge.

    Palmer’s approach is a good choice for his audience. If he dropped ‘Trump is an anti-vaxer’ at the top of the essay, readers are likely to think ‘whoa, there, he hasn’t said that; you’re over the top; don’t BS me!’ It’s hard to get past this sort of initial hostility. Orac demonstrates that, actually, since he has the inverse reaction to Palmer writing ‘Trump isn’t quite an anti-vaxxer’ – ‘whoa there; sure he is; why are you cutting him slack; don’t BS me!’ What happens then, is that these initial reactions color the perceptions of everything that follows. So Orac seems not to take full account of how the structure of Palmer’s argument is built on a pivot: ‘What Trump says seems reasonable doesn’t it? Well, I shall now demonstrate that it is anything but…’

    But mixing one part fact with one part fiction does not get you something that is partially true. Those who understand the science know that everything Trump says about vaccines is wrong…Trump’s most dangerous claim is that slow vaxxing is “conservative.”…The only conservative aspect of the slow-vaxx approach is its appeal to our moderation bias, or, roughly, our preference for compromise…Delaying vaccination is not conservative—it’s ignoring the evidence… altering the vaccine schedule is like reaching into a finely tuned engine and randomly moving the parts around.

    Orac is writing for an audience familiar with the vaccine wars and already dug-in on the pro-vax side of the fence, trying to rally them against Trump. It seems he read the MedPage article first, developed some ‘where were you when we needed you pique’ carried that negativity over to Slate, and is upset that this is all just Not Enough for the danger posed by The Donald.

    Palmer, though, is writing for an audience peripheral to the vax wars, probably strolling on the pro-vax side but with no firm anchor – not ‘fence sitters’ exactly, but maybe glancing at the fence when it makes those ‘delayed schedule/vaccine-safety/monster-shot-scary’ noises. He’s laying out the case that delayed vaccination is still bad science and bad public health policy – such that they’ll see the fence makes no sense, develop a deeper understanding of the stakes involved, unroll their tents and stake them down in the pro-vax yard.

    Which would be a necessary preliminary to getting them to where they’d be receptive to Orac’s rallying cry against Trump. So, basically, it’s all good.

    [My only critique of Slate is that Palmer’s coinage of ‘slow vaxxer’ needs to be explained, and thus the main headline comes off too confusing. But that’s cleared up by the page header – “Trump’s Vaccination Position Is Just As Wrong As Anti-Vaxxing. Scarily, It’s Also More Relatable” – and sub-head – “His position is still a nonsensical attack on science. It also helps explain his appeal.]

  10. #12 Mike
    December 6, 2016

    Brian Palmer is generally on the mark, having written skeptical columns about adrenal fatigue, chronic lyme, acupuncture, and naturopaths. But yes, “too many, too soon” is an anti-vaccine trope, no question.

    i don’t understand why the video of Trump promoting his anti-vaccine conspiracy theories on Fox News did not get more coverage.

  11. #13 Denice Walter
    December 6, 2016

    OOOOOH! That photo of DJT! Yiiii!

    He subscribes to various species of woo, anti-science and conspiracy theory: I wonder why that is? What does that say about his level of functioning/ thought?

    Right now, I am increasingly alarmed by his Mr/ General? Flynn ( * et fils*) who both have descended into the lower depths of post factuality. see Pizzagate conspiracy mongering. The former doesn’t need to be confirmed. Good company for Bannon I suppose.

    Seriously!!!!
    if your views are called out by Joe Scarborough who generally tolerates/ supports much rightie crap, you must be especially horrible.

    Then there’s a Japanese PM and Ivanka and her business dealings there

    I could go on but won’t..

  12. #14 Denice Walter
    December 6, 2016

    I should note that Mike Adams is carrying on ( what else does he do?) about the war on his breed of ‘journalism” i.e. fake news. He fears censoring.

    I always thought that I was traipsing about the muckiest dead marshes of internet detritus and that It would never be of interest to the general public- only to loonies, true believers in dreck and psychologists/ scientists who research aberrant thinking but GUESS WHAT!

    Donald’s brought it mainstream.

  13. #15 Robert L Bell
    December 6, 2016

    #7 Crank Magnetism on Parade!

  14. #16 sadmar
    December 6, 2016

    Curse you, Denise Walter. Until I read “That photo of DJT! ” my subconscious had successfully blocked realization that I have the same initials IRL. But now, I fret I won’t be able to get that out of my mind.

    Anyway I’ll go on, just briefly:
    Mad Dog Mattis / Theranos
    Ben Carson / Mannatech
    Betsy DeVos / Amway fortune / school privatization / “once compared her work in education to a biblical battleground where she wants to ‘advance God’s Kingdom’.”
    Wlibur Ross / investments of “hundreds of millions of dollars” in oil and gas firms

    [Nominees for Interior, Energy, Agriculture, EPA and VA yet.

    And therein lies the answer to what that says about Trump’s level of functioning/ thought. It’s focused on the stock prices of his own securities in oil and pharmaceuticals, and the similar financial interests of hos coterie of billionaire buddies. And it’s functioning very well.

  15. #18 sadmar
    December 6, 2016

    @ Denice #14

    Samantha Bee took on ‘fake news’ last night. There was a brief shot of an animated infographic composed of fake news site logos that turned into a gas can and poured fuel on cgi flames. In there with the logos for Breitbart and Infowars and Christwire was, ta da, Natural News! The only health science related fake news site that made the cut! Yes, Mike Adams, war has indeed been d NNeclared against your breed of journalism by a cable-TV satirist from Canada!

    Never fear, sheeple, The Health Ranger will not be silenced! Since posting the ‘censorship’ screed to which Denise refers, NN has defied the campaign ” to eliminate dissenting views altogether” by boldly publishing:

    Killing Grandma: Over a third of elderly sent to ER due to adverse medication reactions

    EPA just approved another toxic herbicide linked to infertility, birth defects and lung cancer

    Big Pharma now wants to vaccinate babies while they’re still in the womb

    Monsanto war crimes exposed via white phosphorus, a chemical that burned civilians to the bone

    Global Seed Vault: 860k seed samples stored for survival in case of a global extinction event

    Health Ranger store announces huge Christmas sale with bonus gifts.

    Of course, they’re just starting with Grandma. Natural News reports the “final end game” of the globalist conspiracy is “the elimination of 90% of the human population.. More than six BILLION people are scheduled to be exterminated.”

    What better time then to take advantage of those Christmas specials at the NN store and enjoy life while you can? Save 36% off the Organic Rejuvenating Bath gift set For Her so the lady in your life can go to the gas chambers looking and smelling fine!

    • #19 Wzrd1
      December 6, 2016

      I always loved that depopulation screed.
      After all, corporations love it when they have no more workers and customers, just like governments love it without taxpayers to support them.

      Oh, the stupid crap people believe in!

  16. #20 Jazzlet
    December 6, 2016

    May just be my browser (Firefox) or computer but the link to ‘The art of the schlemiel’ doesn’t work for me.

  17. #21 Lawrence
    December 6, 2016

    So, which is it?

    A global cabal of capitalist thugs who just want to exploit the population and make billions?

    Or a global cabal of liberal thugs who, until they implement their plan to eradicate 90% of the population, exploit the population and make billions?

    Seriously, I can never get the conspiracy theories straight.

  18. #22 Narad
    December 6, 2016

    Slatestink is terrible.

    Not quite as bad as forgetting to update one’s moving date with ComEd, but close.

  19. #23 sadmar
    December 6, 2016

    Jazz:
    I found ‘Art of the Schlemiel”: http://tinyurl.com/hnh7eyo
    _______

    Please.
    “A global cabal of capitalist thugs who just want to exploit the population and make billions” isn’t a conspiracy theory, because it isn’t a theory.

    It’s what some people call ‘history’ or more generally, ‘facts’.

    Except maybe for the ‘cabal’ part, per the most cited definition of “a small group of secret plotters”. Since the thugs are almost as much into screwing each other over as in exploiting the proles, so they don’t actually compare notes much, or have secret meetings in the basements of pizza parlors where they twiddle their Snidely Whiplash moustaches and cackle with glee. It’s more of an auto-pilot thing, uncoordinated and more-or-less out in the open.

    But definition 2. of ‘cabal’ is just “an exclusive set of people; clique,” so though I’d rather avoid the term altogether, I can live with it in that sense.

  20. #24 sadmar
    December 6, 2016

    Yes, ‘too many, too soon’ is an anti-vaccine trope, no question.

    And Trump is anti-vaccine, pretty much. But per Prof. Reiss’s response to Beth Clarkson above, we do need some nuance here. And I’ll hold that means it’s wrong to say ‘Trump is an antivaxer’. As a noun, ‘antivaxer’ asserts an identity, not just a secondary characteristic. We should reserve that noun for people who who don’t vaccinate at all, tell others not to vaccinate at all, propose ludicrous CTs about the evils of vaccines, etc. etc. It’s enough to say ‘His statements are anti-vaccine,” or better, “His statements echo misleading anti-vaxer tropes.’

    What I mean is, I think it’s fair to say that anyone promoting delayed vaccination is spreading an anti-vaccine ideology, since we’ll take ‘pro-vaccine’ as ‘the-proper-practices-per-vaccine-science’ and, as Palmer writes:

    Delaying vaccination introduces a lot of unnecessary risk… We give vaccines to children when they most need them. Delaying vaccination is not conservative—it’s ignoring the evidence.

    But when we talk about an ‘anti-vaxer trope’ we’re talking about a conscious tactic of people hiding their true agendas behind a PR facade. Orac seems to have mis-stated his case in writing that ‘too many too soon’ “is used to undermine the legitimacy of the current vaccine schedule.” It’s used to undermine the legitimacy of vaccination, period. But not everyone buying into “too many too soon” falls into that category. AFAIK, Trump hasn’t even made any policy statements on the schedule. He gave a sort of apologia for parents doing a delayed schedule, even a personal endorsement, but that was 4 years ago and the kind of ‘opinion’ that doesn’t necessarily translate into action, especially for a blow-hard like Trump.

    The key point here: As Orac says above, the ruses of “vaccine safety” and “too many too soon” have traction. Which means they’re gong to be picked up by people who find them credible enough to repeat, which they will do sincerely, and not-at-all as a disingenuous ruse. And the repetition of the message carries the same danger regardless of how sincere or insincere it was intended.

    Many’s the time I’ve considered that skeptics, and sbm advocates especially are so deeply engaged with the BS of pseudoscience peddlers they over-identify any component element of the BS with the anti-science perspective. So many of Orac’s posts present “If it quacks like a duck…” arguments. It seems the sbm’ers lose sight of where the pseudosciencers get the tropes to hide their agendas behind veils of respectability – which is exactly that they steal them from people who are, in fact, respectable. It’s not like anything that would spring from their own heads would have any credibility, any traction outside their bubbles. So the legit, sincere folks are the ducks, and the AVs are Duck Dynasty. If it quacks like a duck about vaccines, it’s probably is Phil Robertson or Uncle Si, but it just might actually be a duck every now and then.

    There are several good reasons for observing such distinctions, critiquing the idea, not the person, being very careful with accusations of intent, and saving pejoratives of identity like ‘antivaxer’ for those the ‘out’ true believers. Chief among these we may consider parallels to the currents underneath Trumpsim that have carried disillusioned rust-belt workers into very dark places: If we keep telling people they’re ‘anti-vaxers’ they might just start believing it.

    • #25 Orac
      December 6, 2016

      He gave a sort of apologia for parents doing a delayed schedule, even a personal endorsement, but that was 4 years ago and the kind of ‘opinion’ that doesn’t necessarily translate into action, especially for a blow-hard like Trump.

      Um, you haven’t been paying attention. Trump has been making antivaccine statements on and off for at least nine years, probably longer. (The first time I noticed and blogged about it was in 2007.) He’s also been very consistent. He thinks vaccines cause autism, having referred to it as a “monster shot” that causes autism on multiple occasions. IIRC, he hung out with Bob and Suzanne Wright, who founded Autism Speaks, which back in 2007 fully bought into the myth that vaccines cause autism. In fact, given how many times Trump has changed his position on various issues, his antivaccine views are about the most consistent belief I’ve seen him espouse, other than, of course, the greatness of Donald Trump.

    • #26 Orac
      December 6, 2016

      We should reserve that noun for people who who don’t vaccinate at all, tell others not to vaccinate at all, propose ludicrous CTs about the evils of vaccines, etc. etc.

      Uh, no. That’s far too restrictive. Moreover, many of those who claim they’re “not antivaccine” but rather “vaccine safety activists” are engaging in some relabeling of themselves. I’ve encountered such people on multiple occasions, and when you push them just a bit it becomes clear that the “vaccine safety” and “I’m not antivaccine” bits are bullshit. They’re antivaccine.

      Defining “antivaccine” can have some nuance, and it’s sometimes difficult to define. However, I sometimes like to cite Justice Potter Stewart’s adage about hard core pornography when discussing how to define “antivaccine”: “I know it when I see it.”

  21. #27 Eric Lund
    December 6, 2016

    And I’ll hold that means it’s wrong to say ‘Trump is an antivaxer’. As a noun, ‘antivaxer’ asserts an identity, not just a secondary characteristic.

    I’m going to disagree with this. Crank magnetism is a thing, and Donald Trump has it in spades. It’s true that unlike most of the anti-vax people on the receiving end of Orac’s respectful insolence are primarily if not exclusively anti-vax. But some of them are into other conspiracy theories as well. Remember the Conspira-Sea cruise back in January? Trump would fit in well with that crowd. He was the public face of the birther movement, and since the election he has been claiming that millions of people voted illegally in the election. I haven’t seen any evidence that he has fallen for the “pizzagate” hoax, but at least one of his close advisors (Gen. Flynn–his son is even more into it, but I’m not sure the younger Flynn counts as a close advisor) has. There are probably other conspiracy theories Trump is into that I haven’t mentioned. None of that prevents him from being anti-vax.

    • #28 Wzrd1
      December 7, 2016

      The laugh of Trump’s claims of illegal voting is, my oldest daughter’s polling entry was changed in party and signed that she had voted.
      The problem was, she was at work at the hospital at the time. Somehow, she was changed in party from Democrat to Republican and someone signed the register under her name, so obviously voted as a Republican.
      There was other similar reports, largely voting for Trump.

  22. #29 sadmar
    December 6, 2016

    I’m really not disagreeing with Orac’s assessments of Trump, and certainly not with Eric’s. Though he apparently had Baron vaccinated on a delayed schedule after the date Orac suggests he fully bought into the vaccines cause autism myth, he could have hardened his opinion since then. My point was that since he hasn’t been vocal about it recently – and what is he NOT vocal about – it’s not something he’s pushing in a way that will concern the looking-at-the-fencers, who won’t get any farther than ‘monster shot’. Which, once they make the standard Trumperbole adjustment, will leave them with that notion that doesn’t seem unreasonable.

    That’s the main part of “wrong to say ‘Trump is an antivaxer’.” As in ‘bad tactic”. I have some notion of a sort of moral/ethical/intellectual ‘wrong’ relating to lack of conclusive evidence, but that doesn’t really apply to Trump per se, as he is so obviously a total pox in general terms. It’s more a concern that this sets a bad precedent for framing other far more decent folks ‘anti-vaxers’ when they may be crediting those anti-vax tropes sincerely. De Niro, for example. He may speak it, but it’s not what he is in the way even, say, Del Bigtree is, not to mention Daschel et. al.

    Of course, the people Orac runs into claiming to be “not antivaccine” but rather “vaccine safety activists” are just bald-facedly BSing, putting on a mask of reasonableness for public consumption that drops when anyone pushes them a bit, (or digs into their rantings on the web). The Duck Dynasty clan is out pushing themselves into the spotlight, and the ducks are staying home and minding their own business. They’re not ‘vaccine safety advocates”. I will accept that at this point, the odds that anyone claiming that label is NOT an ‘anti-vaxer’ by my definition aren’t worth discussing. (As distinct from someone who might say, “I’m interested in vaccine safety.) F*** ’em, they’re antivaxers.

    I’m just talking about folks who might harbor a sincere suspicion about ‘too many too soon’, since, as I said they’re not veterans of the vaccine wars and not all that well informed. Which are the people the Slate piece is aimed at, and does what I gauge to be a damn fine job addressing.

    The issue isn’t whether Orac or Eric or I know either an ‘antivaxer’ when we see one, or ‘antivaccine ideology’ when we hear it or read it. The issue is how the broad public sees those things, since you can’t just hammer people into your point of view. You have to go to them where they are, root your persuasion in things they care about, and show them how the principles they already have must lead them toward your conclusion.

  23. #30 LouV
    France
    December 7, 2016

    One thing I wonder : as a french there is a lot I don’t understand about the US health system.
    From I understood, Trump is planning to gut Obamacare, thus reducing poor americans’ healthcare access.
    So, does he plan to make an exception for the multiple doctor visits who will be needed in order to “slow vax” ?

  24. #31 Helianthus
    December 7, 2016

    @ Sadmar, Orac, Eric Lund

    We should reserve that noun for people who don’t vaccinate at all, tell others not to vaccinate at all, propose ludicrous CTs about the evils of vaccines, etc. etc.

    Uh, no. That’s far too restrictive.

    One way it’s a very restrictive definition is that a standard story among antivaxers is “I vaccinated my first child, he became autistic, so now I’m not vaccinating him or my other children”.
    Another common position is “vaccination for really dangerous diseases, OK, but not for some harmless bug”.

    Both these positions would fail the first part of your proposed definition of antivaxers (never vaccinate), although they would pass the later parts (tell others, believe in CT…).
    Actually, the same would happen with Trump’s opinion. He did have his later child vaccinated, but is clearly into vaccine CTs and bad science.

    As it is, Sadmar’s definition may be a distinction without a difference.
    @Sadmar #28 – I understand that you are trying to distinguish between misinformed ordinary people, and antivax hardliners. And I agree with the premises.

    I’m just not sure how we should go about it, through. I guess Palmer’s article is trying to reach the broad public. The concern I have with the use of terms like “slow-vaxer” instead of antivaxer is that it may end up being counter-productive.
    Instead of telling people “it could be worse, but that’s already not good, his position is ill-informed and it’s a potentially dangerous advice to follow”, it reads as “it’s not as bad as those alarmists would like you to believe”.

    Actually, I would put “slow-vaxer” in the same bag as all those terms we (and the media) are bandying around to call people from the alt-med sphere (integrative, CAM…). It dilutes and defangs the debate by unnecessarily multiplying the targets.

    The same goes for what to call the Alt-Right. Sometimes, you have to call a spade a spade.

  25. #32 Chris Hickie
    December 7, 2016

    The AMA, AAFP and AAP were remarkably quiet about anti-vax candidates for President during this election cycle–with the one exception being when the AAP issued a statement defending vaccines following one particularly odious Republican primary debate where a number of candidates (including 2 physicians-candidates) made anti-vax statements ( https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Reiterates-Safety-and-Importance-of-Vaccines.aspx )–which you covered ( http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/09/24/most-doctors-are-not-scientists/ ).

    I though for sure that given the very public anti-vaccine statements of Donald Trump that the AMA, AAFP and/or AAP would have publicly at least denounced them by name prior to the actual election last month. But–and to me this is very sad–none of these organizations stepped up to the plate and grew a spine. Now, of course, these groups are weighing in on Trump’s appointments (like for HHS), but why they couldn’t/wouldn’t stand up for what was important back when it could have made a difference is flabbergasting.

  26. #33 MI Dawn
    December 7, 2016

    @LouV: I highly doubt DT gives a flying f*** about the poor people who can’t afford health insurance and extra doctor visits needed to support his “slow vaccination” schedule. He’s always been a “I’ve got mine, the rest of you who don’t have it can just suffer because you’re not as rich as me” mentality.

    Yeah, I worry about the ACA being repealed. My younger daughter is back at school and has insurance under it. Since she’s over 26, I can’t put her on my insurance, so we’re out of pocket for hers. If the ACA is repealed, covering her under any policy will be horribly expensive.

  27. #34 Lawrence
    December 7, 2016

    As anyone who has ever had to rely on COBRA (between jobs, for instance), knows that buying individual, private insurance used to be prohibitively expensive…

    At least with the ACA, there was an attempt to control those costs and provide subsidies.

    And I can’t stand the hypocrisy of the Republicans claiming that the ACA “passed without a single Republican vote” – when no Republican vote was necessary. The Dems had the votes to pass it – so the Republicans let them.

    Politically, it was the right thing to do (though morally repugnant), since it put any blame or problems squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats and President Obama.

    This time around, the Republicans will pretty much be able to pass whatever they want, but I wouldn’t expect a single Democrat to vote for whatever comes up, for the exact same reason – the Republicans are going to own this one, with all of the good, bad and certainly the ugly.

  28. #35 sadmar
    December 7, 2016

    @ LouV
    My impression is that here in the US, delayed vaccination is mainly the province of MDs who practice among the well-to-do, and don’t accept insurance. I’m sure Dr. Hickie would know for sure, but my guess would be that neither the ACA nor the sort of standard health plans most working folks get through their employers would cover a delayed schedule. Chris H.??

    Helianthus:
    “It reads as ‘it’s not as bad as those alarmists would like you to believe’.”
    Then I don’t think you read the whole article. Right at the top of the page, in large type:
    “Trump’s Vaccination Position Is Just As Wrong As Anti-Vaxxing. Scarily, It’s Also More Relatable”
    I.e. be MORE alarmed.

  29. #36 Calli Arcale
    http://fractalwonder.wordpress.com
    December 7, 2016

    sadmar — I think most plans (certainly under mine), vaccines are reimbursable regardless of the schedule. Office visits may or may not be; it depends on how the clinic bills it. A delayed vaccination schedule might be doable without any additional costs if the clinic is willing to schedule them as vaccine-only appointments. Technically, you don’t actually need to see the doctor each time you get a vaccine. But it would depend on how the clinic chooses to structure that.

  30. #37 Denice Walter
    December 7, 2016

    @ sadmar:

    Don’t worry, no one would ever mistake you for THAT DJT because you aren’t orange, awful or a purchaser of many gold-leafed dining room chairs.

    I’ve immersed myself in fake news because I’ve followed New Age nonsense and woo since the 1990s. Around the turn of the century, I started listening to Null’s Noontime Circus of Fear and Self-Aggrandisement regularly. I learned of Adams and a few others in the next several years.

    There were always bizarre tales on international intrigue and corporate malfeasance floating around but I think that the thing really took off circa 2008 in the wake of the financial meltdown when woo-meisters began portraying themselves as experts on economics and politics as well as health.

    I venture that they took this path because people were afraid of the future and cut back on spending. Vitamins and highly specialised health foods are usually not on anyone’s list of ESSENTIALS but our stalwart entrepreneurs decided that they could convince the faithful to buy even if they lost their jobs or were in danger of foreclosure. They did this in a few ways:
    – by frightening their public about possible catastrophes wherein health would be of the greatest value in order to survive at all.
    – that experts in the government, sciences, education, business and the media were intractably corrupt and not to be regarded as anything but the enemy
    – that they alone were trustworthy
    – that by providing this inside dope of the realities of life, they should be rewarded for their efforts in BRINGING YOU THE NEWS after all, they were humanitarians and saviours you know.

    Both of these idiots set up news services and ‘information’ over the internet ( prn.fm and Natural News) expanding intrepidly beyond the narrow confines of health into new and exciting realms of (in)expertise. They liked to other web-based nonsense and featured guests who lectured endlessly about their skewed view. Usually, they had something to sell- a book, a product or a service. The head honchos also branched out into new product lines with an emphasis on dangers in the environment and socially as well. Many books and films detailed how followers can protect themselves.

    I have shared my treasure trove of ‘knowledge’ over the internet – primarily here @ RI- and in a few other venues. So far, no one has tried to stop me or has visited me at my home- wherever that is.

  31. #38 Denice Walter
    December 7, 2016

    That is they LINKED to other web-based nonsense

  32. #39 Eric Lund
    December 7, 2016

    I think that the thing really took off circa 2008 in the wake of the financial meltdown when woo-meisters began portraying themselves as experts on economics and politics as well as health

    There have always been financial scammers out there. They are the people who have predicted nine of the last two stock market crashes. I first noticed this crowd in 2007, when the ongoing risk of the housing bubble became obvious to a bunch of people, myself included. I had seen firsthand the excessive amounts of new home construction in places that didn’t have the local economy to support it (e.g., a resort town about an hour east of Salt Lake City over two mountain summits–not a commute I would want to have in winter), and heard reports that people were taking on negative amortization mortgages (meaning that the monthly payment didn’t cover the interest, let alone the principal). Lots of these self-proclaimed economic gurus–whom you will not be surprised to hear were almost always vocal supporters of Ron Paul’s campaigns for president–got lucky in 2007-08, like a blind squirrel finding an acorn. There were a few good financial/economic sites out there, among them Calculated Risk (which had an actual mortgage expert, the late Doris “Tanta” Dungey, explaining what was up with all those dodgy mortgages) and Barry Ritholtz’s The Big Picture. There were also a bunch of charlatans, of which ZeroHedge was (and remains) one of the most notorious.

    Some of these financial woo people also got into health woo. So it may be that the financial woo people cross-pollinated with the health woo people. By 2007 it was obvious to any reasonable observer that something bad was going to happen with the economy. The only question was timing: markets can remain irrational far longer than you or I can remain solvent. So some health woo people started adding financial woo stuff to help them sell newsletters, and some financial woo people added health woo stuff for the same reason.

    I’ve heard that it is easy to look like a financial guru. Pick 10,000 people and send them letters: half saying that stock ABC will go up, the other half saying that ABC will go down. Then, to the half that you sent what turned out to be the correct prediction, send another batch of letters, half saying that XYZ will go up and half that XYZ will go down. After five iterations you will have either 312 or 313 people who think you are a financial genius because you have correctly “predicted” the movement of five different stocks. These are the people to whom you sell newsletter subscriptions.

  33. #40 Chris Hickie
    December 8, 2016

    Could Robert De Niro be angling for a chance to capitalize on President-elect Trumps anti-vaccine beliefs? De Niro was extremely anti-Trump before the election but now he’s suddenly changing his tune in this December 7 interview: : http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/video/robert-de-niro-donald-trump-winning-election-44043528

  34. #41 LouV
    France
    December 12, 2016

    Thank you MI Dawn, sadmar, Calli Arcale for your detailed answers.

  35. […] sordid history of antivaccine nonsense about “monster shots” causing autism and buying into the “too many too soon” trope. It was even revealed just before the election by an antivaccine blogger who couldn’t keep her […]

  36. […] Jay still parroting the same antivaccine nonsense (and, yes, “too many too soon” is a familiar antivaccine trope) while, in a true Dunning-Kruger fashion shared by Dr. Bob Sears, placing his expertise above that […]

  37. […] in at least two or three different interviews his belief that vaccines cause autism. He is an antivaxer, just like Robert F. Kennedy, […]

  38. […] in articles and news reports. Still, I never thought we’d nominate, much less elect, an antivaccine conspiracy monger as President. Donald Trump’s long, sordid history of antivaccine […]