Twitter as an amplifier of antivaccine messages

Before 2005, I did pay attention to the antivaccine movement, but it wasn't one of my biggest priorities when it comes to promoting science-based medicine. That all changed when Robert F. Kennedy published his incredibly conspiracy-packed black whole of antivaccine pseudoscience entitled Deadly Immunity. Sadly, almost exactly ten years later, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. hasn't changed. He's still spewing the same antivaccine pseudoscience and conspiracy theories that he was spewing a decade ago, with no sign of letting up.

One thing that has changed over the last decade is the social media landscape. Back when I first started blogging, pretty much all there were were websites and blogs. On the antivaccine side, there were pretty much websites, most of them not particularly well-designed or attractive, and some of the "big name" blogs that serve as amplifies of the antivaccine message, such as Age of Autism, didn't even exist yet. Jenny McCarthy was still into "Indigo Child" woo and had not become an antivaccine celebrity. Overall, the antivaccine movement wasn't particularly good at leveraging these tools.

Over the years, different forms of social media proliferated. There came Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, and who knows what else. Yet, for a while, the antivaccine movement was fairly slow to adopt these new tools. Truth be told, so were skeptics, but that is changing. In fact, arguably, last year was the year the antivaccine movement discovered Twitter. I noted it myself when I mocked the inept attempts of antivaccinationists to use Twitter to capitalize on the "CDC whistleblower" scandal, that fake scandal based on a clueless CDC psychologists' flirting with antivaccinationists and misinterpretation of a major study that failed to find a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. As I put it at the time: A mix of antivaccine loons plus antivaccine Twitter newbies = comedy gold! Antivaccine cranks Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield are still trying to use this fake scandal to stir up trouble and appear to be (mostly) failing.

Unfortunately, since their first hilariously nonsensical attempts at using Twitter to get the attention of news reporters and legislators, antivaccinationists have turned their attention to defeating California SB 277, the bill currently wending its way through the California legislature that would eliminate nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates. Every time SB 277 advances further in the process towards becoming law, antivaccinationists lose it. Through it all, they've been likening the vaccine program to the Holocaust and themselves to the Jews, in the spirit of choosing the most wildly offensive and inappropriate comparisons they can, something they have a proclivity for. Through it all, they've started to successfully co-opt the language of "health freedom" to portray their opposition as an issue of "personal choice," "parental rights," and other antivaccine dogwhistles that resonate with conservative and libertarian politics, including a subset of the white, affluent parents who make up the bulk of the antivaccine movement.

It turns out that I'm not the only one who's noticed these things, either. Just yesterday, an excellent article by Renee Diresta and Gilad Lotan entitled Anti-Vaxxers Are Using Twitter to Manipulate a Vaccine Bill:

But a small group of vocal anti-vaxxers is fighting hard to keep it from passing. This group, which leverages the power of social media, has launched a full-scale attack on the bill as it travels through the legislature. Each day, leaders craft tweets and instruct followers to disseminate them. Several senators who voted in favor of the California legislation have found themselves receiving extensive attention from the group—one, Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, has been @-mentioned (often unfavorably) in a particular Twitter hashtag more than 2,000 times since casting her vote in favor of the legislation.

This anti-vax activity might seem like low-stakes, juvenile propaganda. But social networking has the potential to significantly impact public perception of events—and the power to influence opinions increasingly lies with those who can most widely and effectively disseminate a message. One small, vocal group can have a disproportionate impact on public sentiment and legislation. Welcome to “Anti-Vax Twitter.”

So far, you might ask yourself: So what? How is this different from any other interest group trying to harness the power of social media to get its message heard? To some extent, it's not, but one thing Diresta and Lotan note as distinguishing this effort from those of other interest groups is just how much Twitter is used to attack and bully legislators who voted for the bill. They are particularly ruthless about going after these people:

Tweetiatrician” doctors, lawyers, and pro-vaccine parents often do attempt to join the conversation around the antivax hashtags. Unfortunately, many of the most active accounts experience the same attention received by the legislators: They become the target of harassment that includes phone calls to their places of employment, tweets posting identifying information or photos of their children, or warnings that they are being watched. Pro-vaccine activists and legislators alike often encounter paranoia when they attempt to engage the anti-vax community. They face accusations of being shills paid by Big Pharma to sway the narrative and keep “vaccine choice” activists from spreading The Truth.

Yes, this is typical behavior for the antivaccine movement, and I've been at its receiving end more than I can recall, beginning within a year after I started blogging. The most "spectacular"—if you can call it that—example occurred a few years ago, when our old buddy Jake Crosby wrote an post for his former buds at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism accusing me of a major undisclosed conflict of interest, resulting in a campaign on the part of antivaccinationists to contact my Dean, my department chair, and the board of governors of my university demanding an investigation and my firing. Things have been quiet for a while, but if my media presence increases (and it just might this year) I could have to put up with a new round of attacks.

Fortunately, I work for a university, and the tradition of academic freedom at universities is such that such campaigns almost always fail, with the administration politely listening and then ignoring the cranks. At a private company, I might not have been so lucky. I might have been fired, or the company might have ordered me to stop blogging, and there would have been little or nothing I could do about it. This is how antivaccinationists silence their critics.

So far, so good. Diresta and Lotan's article rings true, but it doesn't tell those of us who try to counter the antivaccine movement anything we haven't already known for a long time. What Diresta and Lotan did that was interesting (to me, at least) was to analyze the hashtags associated with Tweets in opposition to SB 277 and analyze how they clustered. Basically, they analyzed hashtags used by people in Twitter, generating images in which circular nodes are Twitter handles and large nodes indicate accounts with more followers, making their Tweets more likely to be seen ("high centrality"). Lines between the nodes represent follower relationships, and different colors represent communities sharing similar messages, with the distance between regions based on common ties: The more common ties, the closer one group is to another, the more shared connections they have, and the more likely information is to spread among them.

First, Diresta and Lotan note the "Twitter party" that I made fun of back in August, particularly the instructions given by more "experienced" antivaccine Twitter users to all the newbies they were trying to recruit. In the end, one thing Lotan and Diresta found that I thought to be true without quantifying last year: Large numbers of these Tweets came from a few accounts. Indeed, 63,555 of these Tweets came from 10 prominent anti-vax accounts, such as @tannersdad and @ThinkerMichelle (yes, one of the "not-so-Thinking Moms' Revolution").

The second thing Diresta and Lotan did was to analyze these clusters with reference to the #SB277 hashtag to look at trends over time, specifically at how the antivaccine Twitter community, the autism Twitter community, and conservatives, many of whom use popular Tea Party hashtags. Remember how I've discussed how antivaccinationists have of late been aligning themselves with more conservative talking points? Well, take a look at these results.

In the first graph, the conservative Twittersphere is pretty separate from the antivaccine Twittersphere, which has some overlap with the autism Twittersphere. At that intersection are some names you're probably familiar with, such as @AgeofAutism, @The_Refusers, @TannersDad, and others. By the second network graph for SB277:

But as you look at this second network graph, you can see how antivax political strategy has shifted. A new group emerges in the space between “Antivax Twitter” and “Conservative Twitter”—we call it “vaccine choice” Twitter. The tweeters are the same individuals who have long been active in the autism-vaccine #cdcwhistleblower network. And originally, much of the content shared in #sb277 focused on the same anti-vax pseudoscience underlying #cdcwhistleblower. However, as bad science and conspiracies repeatedly lost in legislative votes, anti-vaxxers updated their marketing: They are now “pro-SAFE vaccine” parental rights advocates. Instructions to the group now focus on hammering home traditionally conservative “parental choice” and “health freedom” messaging rather than tweeting about autism and toxins.

Twitter activity around #sb277 is part of a multipronged strategy that takes place alongside phone, email, and fax campaigns, coordinated by well-funded groups including the Canary Party and the NVIC. The net effect is that legislators and staffers feel besieged on all fronts. In one unfortunate video, a movement leader encouraged supporters to use Twitter to harass and stalk a lobbyist, who has since filed police reports. In a very recent creation, that same leader excoriates her “Twitter army” for diluting the power of the #cdcwhistleblower movement by creating their own hashtags rather than using the ones they’ve been assigned. She also requests that the entire network tweet at Assembly representatives to inform them that their political careers will be over if they vote in favor of SB277. Much like Food Babe leverages her #foodbabearmy to flood corporations with demands for change, the goal of anti-vax twitter is to dominate the conversation and make it look as if all parents are vehemently opposed to the legislation.

It's amazing how much what Diresta and Lotan have found resembles what I've been saying all along. Specifically, I've been pointing out for several months how how the antivaccine movement has been co-opting conservative rhetoric, to the point where some conservative politicians have found it worthwhile to pander to these kooks, as Rand Paul does and, unfortunately, my very own state senator. Yes, antivaccine beliefs are, as I've pointed out so many times before, the pseudoscience that transcends politics and party lines, but over the last year or so, the loudest voices in the antivaccine movement appear to be increasingly leaning conservative-libertarian, thanks to their intentional co-optation of "health freedom" rhetoric and messages based on distrust of the government and being against government regulations and mandates with respect to health. It's a potent message that can appeal not just to conservatives.

And who opposes this on Twitter?

That's the depressing thing. Diresta and Lotan note that, despite the vast majority of the population supporting vaccination, there is no pro-vaccine Twitter machine to speak of to oppose the antivaccine Twitter machine. That's because most parents just vaccinate. They don't organize into groups around the activity, or, as Diresta and Lotan put it, people "don't organize in groups around everyday life-saving measures," which is why there is no pro-seatbelt movement on Twitter. Worse, the goal of the antivaccine movement on social media like Twitter, its disingenuous claim to be "not antivaccine but 'pro-safe vaccine'" notwithstanding, is to make new parents question everything about vaccines and erode confidence in vaccination. Indeed, as I've noted before, antivaccinationists like J. B. Handley gloat when vaccine rates fall.

No wonder they hate SB 277 so much.

More like this

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Two years ago, I wrote about a study that demonstrated how the antivaccine movement had learned to use Twitter to amplify their antiscience message. At the time, I noted how in 2014, when the whole "CDC whistleblower" conspiracy theory was first hatched, antivaxers were so bad at Twitter, so…
It is very reasonable for a parent to worry about vaccines. For one thing, most of them involve sticking the baby or child with a sharp object, thus making the little one cry, and it would be abnormal to not have an automatic reaction to that. For another thing, they are drugs, in a sense. When…
It is very reasonable for a parent to worry about vaccines. For one thing, most of them involve sticking the baby or child with a sharp object, thus making the little one cry, and it would be abnormal to not have an automatic reaction to that. For another thing, they are drugs, in a sense. When…

It kind of reaffirms two things, though: 1) that the anti-vax name is so universally reviled that they've been forced to evolve into the more palatable 'pro-choice' and 'pro-safe vaccine' titles, which proves that at some levels they know that even their turd of a movement cannot be polished; and 2) that there is such important value in retiring your work and the work of other prominent sceptics in order to inoculate those on the fence and make them aware of the tactics used by the antivaxxers.

I have made a personal mission of rebutting anti-vax comments at a couple of Australian news sites - typically, they respond by changing the topic entirely to a different issue, or by calling me a pro-Big Pharma prostitute. Not that it particularly offends me, but it is telling that they know how lacking their material is.

Retiring? *Resharing. Ugh.

as Diresta and Lotan put it, people “don’t organize in groups around everyday life-saving measures,”

That's so true. About 2 decades ago, the idea of people spending so much time discussing vaccines would have been completely alien to me.
It's so trivial for most of us. One would get his/her jabs and, one week after, have the whole issue out of one's mind.

And then I stumbled onto Orac's blog and discovered the dark side...

By Helianthus (not verified) on 08 Jun 2015 #permalink

I'm rather surprised that any legislator would be using Tw*tter as anything but a write-only device to start with.

It isn't much but i saw two articles recently where ananti-vax parent suffered the scourge of VPD and repented. One was the whooping cough mom with 7 kids, all with the disease an the diphtheria parent lamenting her choice.

Small, good steps both worth tweeting about. Now what did I do with that twitter account info I got all those years ago?

@Narad

I imagine it's the job of some poor staffer or intern to do the reading.

Yes, most Twitter accounts for politicians are run by staffers, although some candidates will Tweet themselves at times.

Orac - Thanks for the insight into this article. I was shocked when I read it but still digesting what it all meant.

Narac - I run across many Twitter-skeptics but I am finding it to be one of my major sources of news. Find someone like an ex-cop tweeting and you can get news before the usual media channels post it.

So, if anyone wants to start the pro-vaccine Twitter army, let me know. I have a largely silent account that could be taught to retweet life saving hashtags. I'm already on the "pro-vax troll" list despite astonishingly scant online presence, so I might as well start really advocating, huh?

None of this is surprising to me, because similar things happen on a number of issues that can be made controversial. People with sensible positions are trying to make a living and don't always have the time, energy, and expertise to wield this kind of influence, while the lunatic fringe[1] pumps out inflammatory rhetoric. Climate change and guns are two other issues where I have seen this dynamic. And this is why we cannot have nice things.

[1]Sometimes they are better described as hardcore nut cases.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

""" but if my media presence increases (and it just might this year""""

When will you tell us about this?

Good luck and I hope you share the good news to us soon and your skeptical message to a wider audience.

Wonder if anyone studied clusters of parents that vaccinated just because of all the disingenuous social bullying done by the anti-vaxers?

The comment threads on that wired article are really something. It's like a bunch of evil flying monkeys had dirty buttsecks with a bunch of acid-leaking energizer bunnies, and dumped their fecal offspring directly into the disqus forum.

If all the disease perverts put half as much effort into supporting disease research and prevention in the real world as they do into polluting the virtual one with their endless lies and hate, one can only good how much good they might do for humanity instead of this.

But it's always infinitely easier to destroy rather than build, and they do have such incredibly large, voracious egos to fill...

I wonder how many people will be put off just by the voracity of their activity?

They ruthlessly promote their views and themselves in an orgy of advertisement and self-aggrandisement. I would guess that there's already a small amount of backlash against social media being used this way. Isn't the time about ripe for comics to make jokes about this?
I know that I do all of the time.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

Unfortunately, I clicked the link for AoA's twit-feed. I imagine that Kim is the chief culprit. IIRC She and Gamondes work facebook for AoA.
So that's what we're dealing with?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

Somewhat of a side note: Biology Babe entered the fray on twitter and it only took a couple hours to overwhelm her with the sheer number of anti-vaxxers attacking her, including incredibly sexist comments about her.

Just an FYI. Her name is spelled Renee DiResta

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

FYI
'tannersdad' is Tim Welsh of AoA who lives in Illinois.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

The pro-SB277 campaign has been using #Iheartimmunity and sometimes #vaccineswork.

There's a big rally starting at 10 AM, with anti-SB277 Assemblymembers speaking. I don't know if that is a usual move. Then at 11 there will be a bunch of speakers -- the usual suspects.

This should be ... not exciting. It's the usual blather.

It is possible that Ms. Loe Fisher will be testifying in opposition. I don't know who else is queued up. Will be livetweeting @lizditz if anybody is interested.

Denise@16: It'd be even better if there was a central online collection of all the anti-vaxxers Greatest Hits (e.g. something like Fundies Say the Darnest Things, but with a page design that doesn't scream 1995). Then we could all just point fencesitters and apologists to that as the cliff notes version, because anyone who would still think the anti-vax movement isn't utterly corrupt both morally and intellectually after five minutes reading the likes of, say, Edwin Alber has some serious honestly and/or rationality issues of their own.

As I hinted at over in the wired comments, if the anti-vax movement genuinely wants itself to be an honest, caring voice for those with concerns and complaints and not just some evil, lying corruption of malignant narcissists and stone-cold sociopaths (as they often accuse everyone else of being), then the very first thing it needs to do for itself is run about a billion gallons of drano down its very extensive sewers and completely clean them out. Because they're an absolute joke criticising everyone else when their own house is so fetid and rotting throughout.

@LizDitz - thank you for all you are doing and have done for this. I have read various comments on here, and seem to always fail to share my gratitude. Sorry about that.

I imagine it’s the job of some poor staffer or intern to do the reading.

I didn't mean the legislator per se, I meant that I'm surprised at not using the medium solely as an outbound device. It's not as though inbound 130-character messages from random yahoos are going to contain any meaningful content.

I stopped by the rally/event briefly but I can't listen to that blather long. The crowd looks smaller than the previous ones. First the anti-sb277 legislators spoke, then such luminaries as Bob Sears and a Nation of Islam person and some former Big pHARMa people...

I don't know who is lined up to testify for the opposition. Rumor is that Ms. Loe Fisher is about.

Anyone with their kilts, blue painted faces, and battle axes ??

has@15

I posted this at the Wired article.It's worth a look.

By Roger Kulp (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

Paint your face blue? Doesn't the colloidal silver you're relying on to get you through flu season make that unnecessary?

"‘tannersdad’ is Tim Welsh of AoA who lives in Illinois."

It's curious how many of these "vaccine damaged" kids have autistic fathers.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

Narad @25.

I doubt they care much about an individual tweet but are rather looking at trends and volumes of chatter just like they did in the article referred to here. For as much skepticism as there is about Twitter, there is an equal or greater over exuberance of its use and meaning by many institutions. Their interest alone will fuel the growing importance of the platform.

I apologize for the typo in your name earlier. Bifocals and computer screens do not mix well.

@ Brian Deer:

Heh.
But we're not supposed to say things like that.

Anyway, I can't diagnose anyone over the internet but that shouldn't stop others from looking up diagnostic categories.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

The problem with the pro-vaccine movement is two fold, as pointed out excellently above most people just get their kids shots and don't fuss about it. Those that are engaged in fighting the anti-vaccine mindset all too often encounter the vaccine version of the 'shruggie'. I have met parents who vaccinate their kids but think others should do what they feel is right. They haven't quite gotten the whole herd immunity thing. It usually takes some event (having an immunocompromised child, losing a child to a VPD, etc.) or knowing someone personally in that boat to get them worked up about it. Plus, when you are a parent and working it can be hard to find the time to be engaged in a twitter war with people. The sheer nastiness of the tactics employed by the antivax crowd (as noted in the article) can be enough to turn all but the most formidable off. Rape threats, death threats, threats to your employment, threats to your children, I mean there are no lows to which these people will not sink to silence their critics. For most people, this is reason enough not to engage. Even if the likelihood of physical harm is low, the mental anguish can be brutal. Plus, you don't ever know that some random crazy person won't show up to harm you.

TrUTH @31 --

Bifocals and computer screens do not mix well

Presbyopia is a bitch, no?

I recommend that you procure a pair of "music glasses" that focus at about 3 feet and leave infinity slightly blurred. They' changed my life!

On another note, one can always hope that some pro-vax message will end up going viral.

By palindrom (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

@ Denice

Tanner's Dad self-identifies as autistic. Mind you, with his tweet frequency he'd need to be.

I tell you something else I've seen: really very seriously challenged kids, allegedly vaccine damaged, with siblings who have astounding drawing/painting skills. I've seen it both in MMR and in the old DTP cases.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

"On another note, one can always hope that some pro-vax message will end up going viral."

Common sense going viral??
that's just crazy talk

It’s curious how many of these “vaccine damaged” kids have autistic fathers.

Indeed, studies of the broad autism phenotype might suggest that ASD is largely genetic if you weren't already convinced that it is caused by the evil vaccines.

Ooh, an eye discussion, hope you don't mind if I jump in. :)

"I recommend that you procure a pair of “music glasses” that focus at about 3 feet and leave infinity slightly blurred. They’ changed my life!"

Another good option are a set of computer progressives such as these:

http://www.essilor.com/en/BrandsAndProducts/Lenses/Lenses/Pages/Varilux…

Another option is regular progressives, they would have a spot in the intermediate zone where computer screens would be clear...

@ Brian Deer:

re artistic skills-
would that be skill in realistic portrayals or more conceptually-driven/ design oriented works?

Jung discussed someone else's aesthetics theory in regard to his own Intro/ Extro delineation. Not that I'm a Jungian.

Would siblings of ASD kids- who may have some commonalities psychologically- prefer rendering the external world perfectly or striking out from their own internal ideas?

Food for thought.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

palindrom & EBMOD,

Yes, presbyopia is a PITA. I think I have progressive lens now but have to tilt my head around like a bobblehead doll to find the one clear spot that never seems to be in the same place twice.

Thank you both for the tips on different types of eyeglasses. I'll check them out.

On the other note, all that is needed is a catchy meme and even common sense could go viral on social media. But don't let anyone know that's what it is; it'd ruin their fun. What color was that dress?

"Thank you both for the tips on different types of eyeglasses. I’ll check them out."

My husband and I both have "computer glasses", though they are single vision ones. I sometimes use mine when I sew, since they are both medium close range.

I also have a pair of prescription swim goggles, which are set for more distance. I mostly use them to read the wall clock since I can no longer wear a watch (nickel allergy, and even the backs of the cheapest water "proof" watch is steel with nickel, I can't find the very very cheap all plastic ones anymore).

As a brief aside, California's SB277 passed the Assembly Health Committee 12-6 and is now on to the full Assembly.

As a brief aside, California’s SB277 passed the Assembly Health Committee 12-6 and is now on to the full Assembly.

Which is good news.

No doubt there will now be a doubling of the activity around the bill. The trouble the anti-vax movement is going to have in the current climate is that their main doubt point (vaccines might be associated with autism) has been so comprehensively debunked that even politicians know it is not correct. Hence the move towards libertarian arguments against vaccination. However, these are never going to be in any shape convincing given the size and behaviour of the lunatic fringe involved.

There are certain elements of similarity to the response of the anti-vaxers in Australia when the Government announced they were going to withhold a tax rebate for parents who didn't get their children vaccinated or didn't have a medical exemption. All the anti-vaxers started looking around for a religion that forbade vaccinations - despite the fact that religious exemptions would not be permitted.

Red alert!

There's another article on Wired right now, soft-peddling the anti-vax line via the usual BS libertarianism that infests Wired and Silly Con Valley. Go here and chime in:

http://www.wired.com/2015/06/can-increase-vaccination-rates-california-…

Quotes: "But the bill it referred to, SB 277, is legislation every parent—whether their kids have all of their vaccines or some or none—should oppose." ... "SB 277 ostensibly is designed to increase vaccination rates..." "There’s a better way to increase vaccination rates, without resorting to government-forced medical interventions: Start counting the kids who already are vaccinated."

Notice the logical fallacy, which carries throughout the article: increase vaccination _rates_ without actually increasing the number of kids who _are vaccinated_, by counting this number and tweaking that number: all of it pure statistical manipulation that doesn't get a single kid immunized. This is libertarian obfuscation at its worst, and it needs to get pushed-back so hard it falls of the far edge of the table.

Time to pounce on that article, hard, with claws and with a good loud roar.

Other:

Has @ 15: Apparently our side is fighting back in the comments in the Wired article Orac discusses, because the badguys are on the run and grasping at straws. However see the other article per above, yeeks.

Narad @ 25: Inbound 130-character messages from morons translate to morons who vote, and the vote of a moron counts as much as a vote from a genius. So YES they ARE paid attention to, even if only to count up the numbers of pro-X and anti-X voters on any given issue.

Other:

Missing from the Twitter graphs, are any data showing connectivity with liberal politics. Embarrassing though it may be, we have this problem on our side of the aisle too, and we need decent intel in order to fight it. We should not be blindsided by it when it suddenly appears as if out of nowhere. So I'd like to see the analytics run again with tests for connectivity to various liberal memes, designed to figure out where the anti-vaxers on our side of the aisle are coming from. I'll bet it's not just the NewAgers.

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

I think the vote went straight down the party line:

Y Rob Bonta (Chair)
N Brian Maienschein (Vice Chair) R
Y Susan A. Bonilla
Abstain Vote Autumn R. Burke
No Rocky J. Chávez R
Y David Chiu
Y Jimmy Gomez
Y Lorena S. Gonzalez
Y Roger Hernández
No Tom Lackey R
Y Adrin Nazarian
No Jim Patterson R
Y Sebastian Ridley-Thomas
Y Freddie Rodriguez
Y Miguel Santiago
NO Marc Steinorth R
Yes Tony Thurmond
NO Marie Waldron R
Y Jim Wood

Barbara Loe Fisher, Jay Gordon, an attorney named George Fatheree, a woman who claimed to have a PhD in statistics (whose name I did not catch) and a woman who owns and operates a preschool all testified in opposition. Each one repeated at least one falsehood, some of them several.

There was some very pointed questioning from Assemblymembers who eventually voted yes. Assemblywoman Waldron took up a lot of time with her misunderstanding of the concept of informed consent.

One member of the opposition was ejected from the hearing room when she began screaming at Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. I think Screaming Woman's final word was something about how her child (who evidently has a seizure disorder) was more important than Gonzalez's child. I was really disappointed in Assemblymember Rocky Chavez -- I thought he was pro-science, but evidently not.

George Fatheree claimed that the Congress had subpoenaed William Thompson, and repeated the MMR gives black boys autism lie.

But there was gold -- both Fisher and Gordon admitted that there is no thimerosal in pediatric vaccines.

All the anti-vaxers started looking around for a religion that forbade vaccinations

Some of the more wild-eyed members of the vaccine denialist brigade are talking about starting their own churches, believing that Gov. Brown will add a religious exemption at bill-signing.

No doubt there will now be a doubling of the activity around the bill.

You're right but given how unhinged the anti-vaxx contingent is and how they have been escalating intimidating tactics and inflammatory rhetoric, I think CA House members are going to require Wellies and extra security.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

Missing from the Twitter graphs, are any data showing connectivity with liberal politics. Embarrassing though it may be, we have this problem on our side of the aisle too, and we need decent intel in order to fight it. We should not be blindsided by it when it suddenly appears as if out of nowhere. So I’d like to see the analytics run again with tests for connectivity to various liberal memes, designed to figure out where the anti-vaxers on our side of the aisle are coming from. I’ll bet it’s not just the NewAgers.

There reason, I would guess, is because right now antivaccinationists are finding it most effective to co-opt conservative/libertarian politics in the form of appeals to "health freedom" and "parental rights" coupled with distrust of government. If you dive into some areas of, for instance, Democratic Underground, you can find antivax. Dittos some Daily Kos diaries. It's just that, right now at this point in history, when it comes to political activism, the antivaccine movement finds it most convenient to align itself with libertarian/conservative rhetoric and causes.

Some of the more wild-eyed members of the vaccine denialist brigade are talking about starting their own churches, believing that Gov. Brown will add a religious exemption at bill-signing.

Sadly, they may not be wrong there.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

It's a dodge they have seen used already. Of nowhere else, by Jim Humble in an attempt to sell his bleach longer...

Orac, I agree, they are for the most part going libertarian right now, but some of the hotbeds are in Berkeley and Oakland CA, which are traditionally Democratic & left. I'm inclined to think they're a combination of NewAgers & anarchists with libertarian sympathies, and some may be "thinking moms" types who think they're so smart, but I'd like to see data.

We've got the antis under control pretty well on Daily Kos, where antivax CT has become instantly-bannable under site policy. I don't know about Democratic Underground, I haven't been hanging out there.

Update on that anti-SB277 article on Wired (the one I "red alerted" about, not the one you linked): per one of the comments, apparently the author is a senior editor over there. Time for LTEs as well as Disqus comments.

Re. what Jerry Brown might do: time for another round of emails. Brown had Jesuit education, he's a very smart guy, also very astute with moral/ethical questions, and usually very good on science (with the embarrassing exception we all know about). I'm inclined to think that the keys to reaching him are herd immunity and the item about PBErs exposing medically exempt kids to disease risk.

Wild proposals dep't:

Introduce bills that prohibit promoting medical fraud, using the same language as used in "ag-gag" bills that prohibit "disparagement" of agricultural products. This is a potential win/win situation: if ag-gag bills survive court attacks, then quack-gag bills also survive, but if quack-gag bills fail, then ag-gag bills fail along with.

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

RE bertarian right now, but some of the hotbeds are in Berkeley and Oakland CA, which are traditionally Democratic & left. I’m inclined to think they’re a combination of NewAgers & anarchists with libertarian sympathies, and some may be “thinking moms” types

There has been a concerted effort to link up the antivaxmoms with the antiGMO crzies which includes crazed anarchists who manipulate gullible jaded hippy types. Such is the left - when the USSR failed, they turn to anti-Monsanto agitation to build an anticapitalist movement. Now they are beholded to the Mike Adams propagandizing, Alex Jones and the combination is volatile but will probably fizzle once Jerry Brown signs SB277. Then other states and the 2016 national elections will become the battleground as antivaxxers spew hatred toward Hilary and Republican contenders build on the misstatements of Rand Paul and Christie.

Such is the left – when the USSR failed, they turn to anti-Monsanto agitation to build an anticapitalist movement.

I'm no fan of anti-GMO nonsense, but I would strongly question the historical and political accuracy of this statement and whether the phenomenon has anything to do with "anarchists."

"notwithstanding, is to make new parents question everything about vaccines and erode confidence in vaccination."

Pro-vaxxers claim two Vaccine Safety PhD's hired by the CDC are dangerously inept: Dr. Thompson and Dr. Verstraeten. Neither were fired.
Thanks. You've increased my confidence in vaccine safety.

By Toto "The Rock" (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

Except for Toto, I consider all Science Blog posters to be TWIT-ers.

By Toto "The Rock" (not verified) on 09 Jun 2015 #permalink

Narad @ 25: Inbound 130-character messages from morons translate to morons who vote

For whom? It's not as though it's particularly interesting from the point of view of the role account what random people from other countries, states, etc., think, and it's not even a meaningful sampling of actual voters in any event.

There's a reason that the long-standing wisdom is that E-mailing your representatives is meaningless compared with actually writing. Sure, most of the same blowhards can flood your phones, but that's no particular reason to further waste time attending to an absolutely bottom-of-the-barrel noise factory.

Orac @#48.

Exactly, and this is a big tent effort. See the Nation of Islam weigh in (along with videos of others speakers at the rallyAgainst SB277)

https://vimeo.com/caassemblygop/videos/sort:date/format:detail

I know this is not the bill that would force vaccination compliance but if there does come a day when one is passed, what's your take on the market for fraudulent vaccination records? It wouldn't be practical to titer everyone.

If there was a market for it, it could result in serious jail time for whomever got caught doing it......not to mention that any doctor found doing it would lose their medical license.

I can't see any normal doctor taking the chance.

Pro-vaxxers claim two Vaccine Safety PhD’s hired by the CDC are dangerously inept: Dr. Thompson and Dr. Verstraeten.

Is this the same Dr. Thompson who was the so-called "CDC whistleblower?" If so, I'd say there is a basis for the claim of ineptitude. However, he has been at the CDC long enough for his job to have civil service protection, and the "CDC whistleblower" thing isn't egregious enough to overcome that protection. So the government has to pay him to do something.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Jun 2015 #permalink

Lawrence @58, I'm not sure these are normal times. Or maybe so, and the appreciation for honesty is actually what's abnormal.

Somewhat OT - I worked with a contractor from India who told me how bad corruption is in his country. You have to grease palms to get anything done there and it is one of the reasons he wanted to stay in America. As far as medical fraud, he had a very real concern that the stent(?) they were going to place in his dad's heart was going to be sold as from the States but actually be one manufactured in India. He spent hours on the phone with his brother trying to figure out a way to tell if this happened. He asked me what I thought and I advised him to request the Lot Number of the part. Not fool-proof but I was hoping he would catch them off guard and they would supply the actual number whether legitimately American made or not.

But philosophy aside, weren't opioid Rxs pretty easy to come by at one time? And if not in this case, the phony records would not necessarily have to come from a doctor.

I believe most of those "doctors" have their own pages on the Encyclopedia of American Loons.....

Apparently, Russia's anti-GMO stance has more to do with hurting American trade than with general anticapitalist fervor.

"The Russian government’s most public reason for banning GMOs—its citizens’ health—may not be its primary reason. During President Putin’s recent meeting with the Board of the Russian Federation Council, a senator pointed out that, to date, worldwide sales of GM seeds come to $50 million and the owner of the rights to the majority of those seeds is the United States. The increasing presence of foreign agricultural biotechnology in Russian grocery stores is viewed not only as a threat to people’s health, but also as a threat to the country’s domestic agricultural production. Banning GMO imports, restricting GMO cultivation to research endeavors only, and allowing farmers to only plant GMO-free crops may be Russia’s new strategy to increase agricultural profits. The Deputy Agriculture Minister, Aleksandr Petrikov, stated that the ban could afford Russia large economic gains if the country chooses to become a major global producer of GMO-free products. With anti-GMO sentiments sweeping multiple continents, Russia could be looking to position itself to meet international demands as a major supplier of organic foods and ingredients."

http://www.biofortified.org/2014/06/why-does-russia-plan-to-stop-gmo-cu…

Some Russian anti-GMO fervor stretches into the realm of crazy, as in the attempt to punish companies that introduce "unsafe" GMO products into the country in the same way as terrorists.

http://rt.com/news/159188-russia-gmo-terrorist-bill/

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 10 Jun 2015 #permalink

@ Gray Squirrel:

As far as I can tell, some of the principals at AoA/ TMR have leaned to the right for at least the past several years- especially those involved with the Canary Party- their conservativism may reflect the more business-y side rather than the religious . A few have openly opposed near-liberals like Mr Obama consistently. Offhand I can only name two whom I know are liberally bent ( Olmsted, McNeil).

AS I mentioned previously, idiots like Null and Adams are primarily libertarian, small government/ low tax proponents although they sometimes toss in a little left-sounding rhetoric since they wouldn't refuse liberal cash flowing into their coffers. In fact, the former has recently barked derisively at various US liberal outlets- print, web and television- as well as their writers/ presenters who have supported vaccination in response to the California outbreak this year: he calls them the "corporate left" as opposed to true 'progressives' like himself and Ralph Nader. Interestingly, a leftist radio station gives him free airtime but he disparages them also.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Jun 2015 #permalink

@ Science Mom:
@ Lawrence:

Well, Ginger Taylor's diatribe has appeared at AoA mentioning Toni Bark calling for lawsuits then, a commenter declares war

Why oh why is it always the same handful of doctors?.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Jun 2015 #permalink

Oh good. Maybe they'll all really get behind it and support it then, instead of pointless sniping. Excellent - everyone's on the same side! :-)

*skips happily*

By Rebecca Fisher (not verified) on 10 Jun 2015 #permalink

Apparently, Russia’s anti-GMO stance has more to do with hurting American trade than with general anticapitalist fervor.

I don't have time for a detailed comment just at the moment, but the lack of anti-capitalist fervor in Russia is fairly obvious, given that it has an enthusiastically capitalist economy.

^ I would also caution against using RT as a news source, especially regarding anything to do with Russia, just as a general rule of thumb.

Denise Walter@64:

As far as I can tell, some of the principals at AoA/ TMR have leaned to the right for at least the past several years

Unsurprising: everything about them screams "egotistical authoritarians", and in the US all the successful ones are over on the hard right. I imagine if the US was left-leaning with a large, powerful hardcore-socialist/communist wing (J Edgar wept), they'd be over there instead. Those who crave power and glory above everything else will naturally go wherever it's most easily attained and work out from there.

Denice Walter@65:

Why oh why is it always the same handful of doctors?

A much better question would be: Why the hell are they still doctors? For all the screaming that alties do about the endless evils of mainstream medicine, the one giant elephant that really does exist in the room - the profession's utterly miserable record on policing its own - is also the one they always manage never to see.

@ JP:

And Mike Adams just loooves RT.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Jun 2015 #permalink

I’m inclined to think they’re a combination of NewAgers & anarchists with libertarian sympathies, and some may be “thinking moms” types

There has been a concerted effort to link up the antivaxmoms with the antiGMO crzies which includes crazed anarchists who manipulate gullible jaded hippy types. Such is the left – when the USSR failed, they turn to anti-Monsanto agitation to build an anticapitalist movement.

First, I don't really see how the collapse of a totalitarian bureaucracy a quarter century ago has much bearing on the American left. I mean, I don't think American leftist with half a brain in their head and any knowledge of the region has considered the USSR a socialist paradise since, I dunno, the 70s at the latest. I mean, there are morons out there, and apparently some of the dumber people in the left have recently latched onto Russia in some weird way because somebody told them that "some o' them there Ukrainians on the Maidan are fascists!" or something, apparently. Which means the Russian tanks are just there to keep the neo-Nazis in check, I suppose.

Re: crazed anarchists: I've spent a fair bit o' time pretty deep in some of those circles, and I've never met any actual anarchists who were into the anti-vax movement. There were general rants about big pharma, along with any other big corporation*, but any actual anti-vax stuff was to be found mostly among the phoney hippies, the New-Age types with purity fixations, who, as a general rule, were more likely to call the cops than call them out. We (tinw) were more interested in dumpster diving, squatting, and anti-war protests, TBH. (I still remember the first time I went inside a Trader Joe's.)

*Myself, I'd never go so far as to trust a corporation.

And Mike Adams just loooves RT.

Somehow I am not surprised.

I'm insufficiently motivated to enter twitter wars about vaccines, but if I thought my child had been harmed by a vax, or made money being a quack, I'd be more inclined. Anti-anti-vax is a good cause, but there are so many others, where the people you are opposing are more numerous, and the stakes just as high. For me: environmental issues, treatment of LGBT folks, economic issues. I can't do it all. And that's likely typical.

"effort to link up the antivaxmoms with the antiGMO crzies"

Hey, the TMs have sponsored e-conferences that featured JEFFREY friggin' SMITH! They revere Seneff on GMOs ad nauseum. Similarly, PRN and NN. Antivax and antiGMO -

what does Orac say?-
' two crappy tastes that taste crappy together! '
Crank magnetism or protecting ritual purity from man made substances that pollute G-d's green earth?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Jun 2015 #permalink

@ JP,
I think the love for Russia by some left-wing loonies (I'm left wing myself, but I still can't stand mr. Putin, who I not only hold accountable for the dead of the passengers from flight MH-17, mostly from my country) and some others has mostly to do with "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". I always wonder how mr. Snowden would be received in Russia if he would have published the secrets of the Russian secret services.

I’m insufficiently motivated to enter twitter wars about vaccines, but if I thought my child had been harmed by a vax, or made money being a quack, I’d be more inclined.

I (very briefly) considered volunteering for the twitter wars under the name of 'The Society for the Preservation of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella', and favoring tweets from the likes of AoA and the rest, but, alas, lack the ability to pull off humorously.

Humor, like music, is easy for me to love, but rather impossible for me to create, except in very rare and small amounts.

Anyone who's been to Russia in the past decade would know that it is no "worker's paradise" and in fact is a better image of what unbridled capitalism will do a society......I think I passed 30 car dealerships on the way from the airport to downtown & stayed in a hotel that had a Maserati Dealership on the ground floor.....

I always wonder how mr. Snowden would be received in Russia if he would have published the secrets of the Russian secret services.

He would not be alive.

RT (formerly known as Russia Today) would report that he had been involved in "an unfortunate traffic accident"

@Barefoot: Shortly after which, they delete the article from existence while the journalist and editor responsible are off having a lovely vacation in Siberia.

Denice Walter@73:

And Mike Adams just loooves RT.

And the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

I mean, there are morons out there, and apparently some of the dumber people in the left have recently latched onto Russia in some weird way because somebody told them that “some o’ them there Ukrainians on the Maidan are fascists!” or something, apparently.

Or something.

Special guest appearance by Gamondes.

@Narad:

I went to school with Alex Kelly of Truthdig. Before college.

A good friend of mine here gave a talk about the situation in Ukraine (I would call the guy a patriot, though not a blind nationalist) in connection with some event marking the 40 year anniversary of SDS. He got a lot of weird, angry, and not-based-in-reality questions and comments.

AS I mentioned previously, idiots like Null and Adams are primarily libertarian, small government/ low tax proponents although they sometimes toss in a little left-sounding rhetoric since they wouldn’t refuse liberal cash flowing into their coffers.

Per Roger Griffin's formulation, I'd say that the overall tendency was towards fascism.

But I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't recognize that. It's not a self-aware ideology. That kind of goes with the territory.

idiots like Null and Adam
They're going to go where the money is. In other words, the combination of disposable income + stupid.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Jun 2015 #permalink

Agree.

Still...Well. I don't know about Null. But Adams also throws in some boosterism for stuff like the Oath Keepers from time to time. And I don't think there's really a profit motive for that. So I assume those are actually his politics.

@ ann:

From what I've observed, he's libertarian which makes sense monetarily- small government, lower taxes, less regulation and he supports Rand Paul. And although he does occasionally throw a bone to liberals who might buy his products, I think that he promotes - and possibly believes in- more traditional values-
so much of that home, family, farm, guns, self-reliance, G-d and country as well as capitalism unrestrained by rules seems to percolate through his screeds.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Jun 2015 #permalink

@ ann:

After seeing your earlier comment- sure, there's an element of fascism in their visions of green, healthy utopias although they're forever screaming about fascism and police states.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Jun 2015 #permalink

@#90 --

Self-identifying as staunchly anti-fascist is rhetorically basic to the Ron/Rand Paul model of crypto-fascism.

This is all "imo," obviously.

But wrt Ron Paul's presidential campaigns in particular, when you set aside the libertarian rhetorical justifications he was offering and just asked yourself what would happen if he was elected and all of his objectives were realized -- ie, if the troops were all home, if there was no income tax, all currency was backed by gold/silver, most of the federal government was eliminated, there was no Department of Education, etc. -- the answer appeared to be that you would get an isolationist, xenophobic, racist, pro-Kinder/Kuche/Kirche country that was governed by Ron Paul and his army at the national level, and backed by militias at the state/local/regional level, with no checks or restraints on the power of either apart from what they imposed on themselves/one another.

That doesn't sound like a recipe for freedom of any kind to me, including market freedom. Guns beat gold, in rock/scissors/paper terms. Not to go all Godwin, but it basically sounds like the Third Reich, minus the Holocaust and the need for Lebensraum.

Those are not minor distinctions, I admit. But as far as I can tell, he wasn't kidding around or simply profiteering. I did think the latter, initially. But he didn't just collect the campaign cash and retire. He built a national political organization. So I think he really wants revolution and rebirth.

And while I don't think that has any chance of succeeding, I don't really feel entirely comfortable just being complacent about it.

Maybe that's crazy, I don't know.

ann: Another way to put it, when someone talks at length about freedom, ask, "Whose freedom?". In many cases, it's exclusively "My own."

By Gray Falcon (not verified) on 11 Jun 2015 #permalink

Before becoming a symbol of Fascism what were those bundles of sticks (fascia) used for?

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 11 Jun 2015 #permalink

@#94 --

I'm not sure. But I think they've always been symbolic.

@Gray Falcon --

Too true, and not excluding those on the left, unfortunately.

MA -- the Romans swiped them from the Etruscans.

I mean, there are morons out there, and apparently some of the dumber people in the left have recently latched onto Russia in some weird way because somebody told them that “some o’ them there Ukrainians on the Maidan are fascists!” or something, apparently.

Well, Putin's overseen passage of a lot of anti-gay legal measures, which plays well to a certain demographic.

Before becoming a symbol of Fascism what were those bundles of sticks (fascia) used for?

Firewood usually.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 11 Jun 2015 #permalink

Well, Putin’s overseen passage of a lot of anti-gay legal measures, which plays well to a certain demographic.

I am well aware of this. I don't really see how this would make most lefties feel sympathetic toward Russia, though.

@ ann:

I responded to you on the wrong thread ( Autism One) sorry but I have to run as I have an appointment.

re Fascist symbol:
Wikip--- has it as a symbol of authority etc.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Jun 2015 #permalink