Time to rally the troops against the antivaccine movement again

Here we go again.

A week ago, I tried to exercise my blogging powers (such as they are) for some good by rallying my readers to appear at rallies organized by the antivaccine movement against California Bill AB 2109. Fortunately, ultimately Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill, although he did try to insert weasel words in his signing statement to create a religious exemption from the requirement for informed consent from a health care professional before being allowed a philosophical exemption. All in all, it was a transparent and cowardly attempt to placate opponents and privilege religion over non-religion. Starring at that last ditch antivaccine rally designed to persuade Governor Brown to veto AB 2109 was someone who is auditioning to be Jenny McCarthy's replacement in the antivaccine movement, comedian (if you can call him that anymore) Rob Schneider.

Well, Skepchick Elyse Anders warns us that Rob Schneider, whom she calls appropriately enough Deuce Bigalow Antivaccine Gigolo, is going to be on the air on a radio station in Salt Lake City and provides skeptics with an action plan to call in this morning with some—shall we say?—pertinent questions. Todd W. joins in the call. Schneider will be on KXRK 96.3 in Salt Lake City at 7 AM local time, which is MDT (which is 8 AM CDT for the Chicago contingent and 9 AM for us EDT types). No doubt he's there to promote his standup act at Wiseguys Comedy Club. As Elyse reminds us:

Call in during the show to talk to Mr. Schneider* and confront him with weird ass facts that he’s discussing. 877-602-9696.

For your reference pleasure, in addition to Elyse's handy-dandy guide to boning up on common antivaccine arguments that need to be demolished, take a gander at the sort of idiocy Rob Schneider has been spouting. This idiocy includes but is not limited to claims that school vaccine mandates are simultaneously both Nazi persecution and violations of the Nuremberg Code. Peppered in there is the usual idiocy, such as claims that "doctors won't tell you both sides" because they're paid off by the pharmaceutical companies, exaggerations of the number of shots, and—I kid you not—that vaccines are not tested for safety or efficacy.

If you want a taste of the sort of brain dead statements that Rob Schneider has made about vaccines, Elyse helpfully provides us an audio clip from the last time that Schneider was on this particular radio show. Here are some "highlights":

  • "Don't vaccinate. Vaccines don't work. There's no science behind them."
  • "There's no medical science behind vaccines."
  • "They don't research this stuff." (At this point, one of the hosts—and remember, this is a morning show, which means that the host is probably not particularly scientifically inclined—challenges Schneider with retorts like "this is crazy." And it is.)
  • Vaccines apparently, according to Schneider, had nothing to do with the eradication of smallpox from the world. Instead, according to him "diseases run cycles." This argument is ignorant even by Schneider's usual standards, particularly given that smallpox's "cycle" seemed unending until concerted vaccination efforts in the 19th and 20th century. The same is apparently true of polio, of which Schneider says, "When it runs its course, it's done." Again, funny how polio's "running its course" didn't happen until there was a safe and effective vaccine against it.
  • Under Reagan, they signed a thing that says, 'Hey, if anything goes wrong, pharmaceutical companies don't have to pay; the government does.'"

As you can see, even by antivaccine standards, Schneider isn't exactly an intellectual heavyweight, if you know what I mean. Appropriately enough, the particular morning show that Rob Schneider will be appearing on is called Radio from Hell. From the clips I listened to, it sounds very much like the stereotypical "morning zoo"-style show. Interestingly enough, even the hosts of the KXRK morning show weren't buying what Schneider was selling about vaccines and appeared to be making fun of Schneider in the background, in essence, calling B.S. on what he was lying down. (Let's just put it this way. If the local morning zoo show doesn't believe your pseudoscience, you're not doing very well.) Assuming there's a call-in segment, which is often the case for guests on a radio show, they might well be receptive to letting a skeptic or two duke it out with Schneider, although one wonders whether Schneider would allow it. Still, it's worth a try and a worthy cause for skeptical activism. Even if you don't live in the Salt Lack City area (and I would be very curious to know how many people from Salt Lake City actually read this blog), there is streaming audio from the radio station website.

Unfortunately, when Schneider will be on conflicts with work obligations for me; so let me know what happens and, if I feel so motivated, I might listen to the podcast later.

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I hope there's a podcast or something of the talk; I don't have time to look for an internet broadcast and let's just say I'm not in the 'range' for the station itself.

You know, that routine kind of backfired with Stanley Kurtz on WGN-AM. Trying to saturate the phone lines of a radio station (and remember, it's almost certainly just one guy running the board and screening and talking into the ears of the hosts simultaneously) from afar, as good as the zingers might be, doesn't have anything to do with the local audience. I'm willing to venture that it might be better to let the antivax brigade let their freak flags fly with the weird inbound area codes.

Since you asked... Hello from Utah.

If Darwy checks back, the podcast is located at: http://www.spreaker.com/show/the_radio_from_hell_show
I don't know what the turnaround time is though.

Anyway, despite being a morning show they really aren't the typical morning zoo. Locally, they are probably the best chance of having someone call BS in a manner that is not just the host being rude in an attempt at humor.

We'll see though.

So long from Salt Lake

I've mentioned this before but I think a comparison of chicken pox incidence in the USA and the UK is a bit of useful ammunition in the arsenal of information to counter misinformation about the efficacy of vaccines. Incidence of chicken pox in the US has declined by 80% since the varicella vaccine (now in the MMRV) was introduced.

Chicken pox incidence in the UK, where the varicella vaccine has not yet been introduced (too expensive for the NHS in times of austerity) <a href ="http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/~/media/Files/CIRC/CIRC%20… remained much the same (see figure 10 in link) for over a decade. Why would a contagious disease 'naturally decline' in the USA but not the UK?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 04 Oct 2012 #permalink

A couple of notes:
The station offers real-time streaming. Check their website linked above.
The station offers a toll-free number, given in the article above, so callers do not need to be local.
I am local, but I invariably sound foolish on the air – even more foolish than Schneider. It's a personal matter.

By Bill Price (not verified) on 04 Oct 2012 #permalink

One of the Radio From Hell hosts is also a host on a podcast I like called Geek Show Podcat. I sent them a couple of angry tweets.

Why doesn't he just go all-out and go on Coast to Coast AM?

I went and had a look at Radio from Hell's facebook page. It's hard to tell for sure, but there's some hope that the hosts will tear Mr Schneider a new one, especially if they can be funny while doing it. Let's just say that they appear to thrive on a kind of worldly sarcasm, rather than being crunchy, more-earnest-than-thou types. After all, they're pushing alt-rock in Salt Lake City.

By palindrom (not verified) on 05 Oct 2012 #permalink

palindrom, are you saying that Radio from Hell is satirical, much as The Colbert Report is satirical?

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 05 Oct 2012 #permalink

The idea of "cycles" is interesting. I would assume he means that a naive individual gets sick, but then (should he survive) won't get sick with the same strain again. Of course, the next strain will appear. All of which is in favor of vaccination.

Naturally, this means smallpox has been on a "cycle" from ancient Egypt into the late 20th century. There are now adults, such as myself, who are completely naive to smallpox.

And under Clinton, Congress passed a law absolving the supplement industry of all responsibility, and defining "supplement" to include all kinds of alternative medicine.

Why do celebrities do this? Is there a competition to see who can out-crazy each other? "Yeah, you're a Scientologist. Big deal. An alien abducted me and I inseminated her!" Is that what it is?

I don't know, since I've never heard them (I live far away) -- I was just taking my clues from the web page.

Colbert runs an elaborate satire in which he adopts a persona. There's nothing that deep going on here, I think -- but these shows tend to be a bit snarky and not that serious. They give a daily award for stupidity, for one thing, and I suspect that Mr. Schneider got some pushback from them.

Did anyone actually hear it?

By palindrom (not verified) on 05 Oct 2012 #permalink

@palindrom

I heard it. Will be writing up a post on it.

I just listened to it. The guy was like 8 minutes late to and they were assuming he wasn't going to show up. He just sounds like such a numb nut. He may just be the best thing that ever happened to the pro-vaccination advocacy. There's no way anyone could listen to him and be convinced he knows what he's talking about, unless they are already entrenched. But if I were them, I'd encourage him to talk less about his stance on vaccination, not more, because I really feel whenever he opens his mouth, he just proved how much of a lack of evidence and science and critical thinking there is behind this way of thinking. The DJs spent the rest of the time in that hour, after he left, making fun of him. That part was funny, but I think really they just wanted to get him out of there so it wouldn't come to blows.

By Lara Lohne (AK… (not verified) on 05 Oct 2012 #permalink

Lara,

I've seen a commentary by a local media critic to the effect that sometimes it's best to let cranks just speak - if you know they're the sort that will remove all doubt themselves.

Thanks Chris for the link. Jeez, Rob Schneider is clueless about vaccines. Whatever possessed him to talk about the supplements he takes? Curcumin? Blueberries?

@ Grant...

http://www.quotationspage.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=150

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt . -- George Eliot

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.-- Abraham Lincoln (also attr. Confucius)

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.-- Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. -- Bible, 'Proverbs' 17:28.

Engage brain before putting mouth in gear -- Old USMC saying.

The claims he kept making that he's done the research... It sounds to me like he read a top ten anti vaccine myths and then summaries of some other anti vaccine pages, but hasn't actually read anything since he keeps repeating the same things over and over, but can't argue about why everyone else is wrong, as he claims. Talk about a name dropper! I'm wondering if he even knows how to read now let alone that he's read the books he claims he has. And who is this doctor he kept shouting about? I don't remember the name, but what do we know about him?

By Lara Lohne (AK… (not verified) on 06 Oct 2012 #permalink

By the way, vaccination could use some support over at: http://www.causes.com/causes/787378-the-immunization-initiative

Granted it is not any kind of official poll, but the past few days the anti-vaccine troops have been getting out of control and most pro-vaccine voters commented once, if at all, and never came back. Also didn't seem to share it with anyone else. Anyone want to come take part?

By Lara Lohne (AK… (not verified) on 06 Oct 2012 #permalink

Something I never understood about Schneider and the recent legislation in Cal:

What did the opponents think they would accomplish by having him testify? He has no credentials on te topic of vaccination, so what did they think? That the Cali legislature would be dazzled by his celebrity? "Wow, thgis guy was on SNL and in 50 First Dates and Waterboy. I bet he has a lot to say about vaccines."

Its California - you can find D-list celebrities anywhere.

By Marry Me, Mindy (not verified) on 06 Oct 2012 #permalink

lilady,

I like quips too. The media commenter was thinking more pragmatically. IIRC, it was part of a discussion of how to deal with cranks on TV/radio - he suggested that for some it was easiest to just get them started then let them ramble for a bit until it was clear to viewers/listeners they were a bit "off".

Some good news on the anti-loon front: Our pal Seth Mnookin has the feature article in this week's Parade magazine that takes the anti-vacc brigade to task. Parade reaches a huge audience.

http://www.parade.com/health/2012/10/07-why-so-many-parents-are-delayin…

I suspect it's only a matter of hours before the Daschel bot and her minions Maurine Melnick et. al. begin their spamming in the comments section of the online version....

The Dachelbot has struck the article and the woo is flowing like sewage. Go to the above link and comment.

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 07 Oct 2012 #permalink

Sorry Kelly...I "don't do Facebook".

Thanks for taking this on. Between celebrities and the internet the antivaxxers are reaching more people more of the time. They're doing damage and I can't help but think their numbers are growing. And I wonder if they become more rabid by the day.

BTW, there's a poll floating around on causes.com about vaccines (full disclosure - I started it). It's been hijacked by anti-vaxxers. Responders are asked to finish the sentence: "If I had a young child I would give my child...". Currently 47% are answering "No vaccines at all. I would get a religious/philosophical exemption. I may vaccinate my child homoeopathically."

It's a silly poll, not scientific in any way and essentially pointless. However, the comments are lively and the antivaxxers as rabid as they get. And it's alway better when they don't win.

So, if you can help, please let people know about it. Thanks.

http://buff.ly/QuYan7

By Daniel Weinstein (not verified) on 07 Oct 2012 #permalink

I stumbled upon the show on my way to pharmacy school. I only heard about 10 minutes of it and didn't even realize it was Rob Schneider til they were winding down the conversation. I was yelling at the radio to get that idiot off the air. But I have to admit the hosts did the best they could do for not being prepared for such an argument and not being experts, themselves. I applaud them for their effort in standing up against such idiocy