Vox Day: Mindlessly parroting antivaccination myths again

I tell ya, I get sick for a few days, and the antivaccination cranks come out of the woodwork. This time around, it's über-crank Vox Day entering the fray (or, as I like to call him Vox "hey, it worked for Hitler" Day). We've seen him in action before. Be it using the example of Nazi Germany as a reason why we could, if we so desired, round up all the illegal immigrants in the country and eject them, labeling women as "fascists" who shouldn't have the right to vote, or falling hook, line, and sinker for an evidence-free antivaccination claim, when it comes to an inflated opinion of his own knowledge and understanding, coupled with the arrogant belief in his ability to apply them to the real world, no one turn the Crank-O-Meter up to 11 quite as easily as ol' Vox, so much so that he's even been too much of a crank for WorldNet Daily.

That's saying a lot.

This time around, he's unhappy at some recent articles pointing out that parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated are a danger to public health, and in attacking such sentiments he lays down some serious, neuron-apoptosing stupid bombs that reveal just how ignorant he is about vaccines. The proximal target of his wrath is Megan McCardle, who told it like it is about the antivaccination movement, and, consistent with his usual misogyny, Vox can't resist starting out with a sexist insult and then launching into a brain-fryingly dumb rant:

But your health isn't at risk if you've been vaccinated, right? What a loathsomely liberal fascist little cow! I truly don't know understand why Instapundit likes McArdle so much, she never writes anything even remotely intelligent and regularly coughs up hairballs of asininity like this.

What a moron. Talk about "coughing up a hairball of asisinity"! Apparently, Vox labors under the delusion that vaccinations are 100% effective. They are not. They range from very effective (polio, MMR, etc.) to moderately effective (flu vaccines). That means that just because you've been vaccinated doesn't guarantee that you're immune from vaccine-preventable diseases. Chances are that you are, but if a vaccine is, say, 90% effective, that means that stil means that 10% of the vaccinated population is not or is only partially immune. He also seems blissfully unaware of the concept of herd immunity or that there are people out there who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons.

The toxic stupid, it truly does burn.

The rest of his little tirade is nothing more than a panoply of antivaccination talking points, some of them so dumb that the smarter antivaccinationists cringe when they see another antivaccinationist use them. For example:

If the vaccine industry wasn't hiding so much information about the children being harmed by vaccines, if Congress wasn't indemnifying both the industry and the medical personnel who inject vaccines into non-consenting children, if millions of dollars weren't being paid out by VAERS, if there weren't very good medical reasons to avoid going along with the insane U.S. vaccination schedule, she still wouldn't have a point.

I bet Vox can't name a single "very good medical reason" to avoid going along with the U.S. vaccination schedule. As for all this information supposedly being "hidden" about children being "harmed" by vaccines, perhaps Vox could tell us who, specifically, is hiding this information. Whoever it is, they sure aren't doing a very good job, are they? I mean, the Autism Omnibus case is sure secret, isn't it? So is the Hannah Poling case. Cranks like Vox are sure having trouble publicizing their antivaccination viewpoints far and wide, aren't they?

But if you really want to see what Vox's Libertarianism is about, read no further:

Her health is not my concern. Or anyone else's. At all. End of story. If she wants to live in a cave so that no one can ever infect her with anything, she is free to do so. Life lived in contact with others implies risk. Deal with it. McArdle's claim to be a libertarian is as ludicrous as Bill Maher's; vaccinated or not, she has no more right to the public roads than an unvaccinated Amish child. Ironically, she is also an advocate bringing in more disease-ridden third-worlders to use those very public goods and services that she wishes to deny bad citizens she deems insufficiently injected with foreign substances.

Nice. Pure "screw 'em all" selfishness with some gratuitous (and racist) imagery of illegal immigrants as disease-carrying freeloaders. A more concise encapsulation of Vox's brand of politics I've yet to encounter.

Not content with that, Vox goes on to parrot a couple of common antivaccination myths. Myth number one:

And there is no more evidence that vaccines are safe than there is that they cause autism, since the vaccine industry has resolutely resisted proper double-blind scientific studies into the safety of its products in favor of population surveys and metastudies of those surveys.

There is abundant evidence that vaccines are safe. As for "randomized, double-blind" studies, what on earth is he talking about? The only way to do such studies would be highly unethical in that it would necessitate leaving one experimental group unprotected from common childhood diseases. The appeal to "randomized, double-blind" studies is there merely to make it look as though Vox knows what he is talking about. He doesn't. Sometimes in medicine it is not possible or ethical to do such studies; in such cases, the bulk of other forms of evidence can be used, and that bulk supports the efficacy and safety of vaccines. Evidence-based medicine does not absolutely require randomized, double-blind studies, and a preponderance of epidemiological studies can equal that of the hallowed double-blind randomizd trial.

Here's myth two:

But pumping infants full of toxins that have never been tested in combination with each other, 19 shots in the first six months, isn't just asking for trouble, it's demanding it.

Oh, no! The dreaded toxin gambit! That's one of the oldest and dumbest antivaccination canards out there, so much so that Jenny McCarthy thinks it's the height of argumentation against vaccines. (Of course, I always did suspect that, deep down, Vox was no more knowledgeable than Jenny.) Did it ever occur to Vox that vaccines aren't tested in isolation? New vaccines are tested in infants who are getting all the other recommended vaccines; other recommended vaccines are not withheld. True, not every possible combination is or can be tested, for the simple reason that it's logistically not practical, but that's not what Vox and other antivaccinationists are interested in anyway. What they are interested in, when they bring up this "combination" gambit, is in proposing so many roadblocks in the way of approving vaccines that vaccines are never approved.

The bottom line is that, his protestations otherwise, Vox has revealed himself to be an antivaccinationist. No surprise there. If ever there was an example of crank magnetism, it's Vox.

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Don't even bother with Beale. He is a boob. A returned empty. A vacuous überwanker. Not worth a single floating-point cycle of Orac's CPU. When I see that the post is about Vox, I skip over it.

Thank you for your relentless battle against the anti-vaccination quacks.

I grew up with a mum who bought the anti-vaccine propaganda of the anthroposophists. She still firmly believes that vaccination is more harmful than contracting the diseases. (I'm getting my second MMR-shot now, and I'm 30! I got the tetanus+diphteria vaccine only a couple of years ago. And to my parents credit, they did opt for the polio vaccinations when I was a baby.) What's interesting is that the anthroposophists, like all quacks I suppose, are great opportunists. The toxins-autism-whatever scares are, for them, really only bonuses, good for persuading people to sway their way. Being that for them, the diseases are good, by and of themselves, any possible means that further their ends are welcome. The spiritual good that comes out of the diseases is sort of out of reach of any scientific evidence pointing to vaccines being beneficial for the health situation generally. The guru of the anthroposophists, Rudolf Steiner, had some interesting thoughts about how the soul-spiritual qualities and karma works in the case of childhood illnesses such as measles. (I've included a few of them in a recent blog post: http://zooey.wordpress.com/2008/03/25/anthroposophists-and-vaccination/ - though there's lots more stupidity where those quotes came from.)

The problem is, it doesn't matter how harmless the medical profession and the researchers show the vaccinations to be, because there's no way to prove that vaccinations don't meddle with the soul-developments and the karma. For those people, at least. And I suspect the rest of the anti-vaccination-maffia is just as irrational, though they too are hiding behind claims that - occasionally - may give off some air of seriousness to those who don't know better.

The only reason I didn't catch any of the childhood diseases (MMR) was because where I live, in Sweden, the rate of unvaccinated kids was so infinitesimal (back then - sadly not anymore), so the diseases were simply not "available" in the population. I'm extremely thankful for that.

I'm glad there are people like you, people who keep fighting despite the frustration. Perhaps Mill was correct in On Liberty when he said that in the long run truth is stronger than lies. But at the same time so many people are desperately trying to make their vincible ignorance invincible. Even if truth is stronger, lies have brass knuckles hidden in their boxing gloves.

I'm glad there are people like you, people who keep fighting despite the frustration. Perhaps Mill was correct in On Liberty when he said that in the long run truth is stronger than lies. But at the same time so many people are desperately trying to make their vincible ignorance invincible. Even if truth is stronger, lies have brass knuckles hidden in their boxing gloves.

Maybe you didn't have the death flu after all. Maybe your body was ridding itself of the toxins brought on by neuronal apoptosis.

But the whinge about the lack of "randomized, double blind clinical studies" of vaccine safety seems to be a meme popular among the sciency antivaxxers. I've heard it more than a few times.

The vileness at

Oh, last I checked, VAERS didn't pay anyone a single dime since it's an adverse events reporting system. Maybe Vox needs to do that pesky thing called "research" before he goes on another one of his anti-vaccine tirades.

Anti-vaccinationists aren't even interesting. They're just stupid.

By anonimouse (not verified) on 28 Mar 2008 #permalink

As something of a connoisseurs of post-punk emo hair, I can tell you that the sad, greased up, little roadkill-like pelt that apparently had the misfortune of emerging into life on or near Vox's giant head is not cool enough to qualify as either post-punk or emo. Whatever it is, or was, or will be... it definitely ain't emo.

As for the post-punk... Well...He's clearly trying to go for the Bruce Willis look. I don't think that really counts. Not for someone Vox's age, anyway. And I'm pretty sure the emo kids aren't renting Die Hard for fashion tips.

No that abomination, my dear Rev, is nothing more than serious poseur hair. Identifiable at several hundred yards by the gleam of the "wet-look" gel and the stench of Tommy cologne. Although, I have a feeling that if he quit shaving his head and kept slopping it up with the LA Looks gel (from the pump dispenser, of course) we could use him for an impromptu geo-engineering device. He could cruise around town in his convertible reflecting sunlight back into space and single-"headedly" do more to prevent global warming than the entire Democratic and Communist parties combined.

Some of these people (antivax, conspiracists, etc.) sound like they are suffering from serious mental disorders, and in need of some kind of intervention. The fact they have access to a computer and communicate their delusion, and connect with others with shaky critical thinking, and it seems there's evidence for a group psychoses.

I find this as disturbing as the fact they can actually sway ignorant, ill informed people.

I enjoyed reading your post, although reading the Vox quotes was sort of like listening to fingernails being dragged across a blackboard. There is so much inane ignorance spewing forth that it's pretty near impossible to know where to begin slicing his diatribe into pieces. But you did a nice job (if you had continued, your brain may have melted).

Your point about vaccine efficacy brings up one of the more noxiously idiotic weapons the antivaccinationists try to use. I often hear antivax parents ask me why it is that more vaccinated children get sick during a disease out break than unvaccinated children. Of course this reveals a lack of even the most rudimentary understanding of statistics. If the measles vaccine is 95% effective, and 1000 children in a school are exposed to measles, 20 of whom are not vaccinated, 70 children will become infected, 50 of whom were previously vaccinated. An individual devoid of any understanding of the concept of percentage, will infer that vaccines must not work very well. Of course, the above scenario indicates a 95% efficacy rate for the vaccine, and a 100% attack rate for those unvaccinated.

As for the comment about there being no double blind placebo controlled studies, I would add to your well-made point that there actually was such a study (of sorts). It was not a study of adverse events per se, but when the MMR vaccine was discontinued in Japan for 3 years (over the concern about autism that was sweeping the planet), there was a perfect opportunity to see what happened to the rate of rise of autism. No surprise, there was no change in incidence during the 3 years in which the vaccine was held.

(See: Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 46 (6) 572-579, Jun 2005 at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01425…)

RationalEyes was slightly incorrect about the Japanese autism prevalence during their 3 year "experiment" of stopping the MMR vaccine.

The prevalence (not incidence) of autism went up - just like it did in the UK and US (and Europe and ...) during that time (and continuing today).

That certainly doesn't support the claim that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism.


"But pumping infants full of toxins that have never been tested in combination with each other, 19 shots in the first six months, isn't just asking for trouble, it's demanding it."

Even the 19 shots in six months part isn't accurate. If I'm counting correctly (going from memory here), my youngest daughter (now 14 months) had seven shots in the first six months, and three or four more at here six-month checkup (which of course occurred after six months of life). That's including the influenza vaccine. Additionally, she got a couple doses of the oral rotavirus vaccine. (Vaccine, but not a shot, and Vox specified "shots".) Thanks to multi-vaccines, it's a lot fewer shots, and thus a lot fewer supposed "toxins" (though frankly in my mind, the best thing about the multi-vaccines is that they are a mercy -- fewer pokes for a poor baby to endure at once).

Vox is a transparent idiot. And he's not a libertarian. He's in favor of his own freedom and against everybody else's, which I think makes him technically an egocentrist.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 30 Mar 2008 #permalink

I'd love to see someone who was put in an iron lung by polio comment on vaccines. Is the polio vaccine truly worse than polio itself?