The violent rhetoric of the antivaccine movement, VAXXED edition

Back in December, I wrote about a phenomenon that I had observed from the very beginning of my sparring with those who promote antivaccine pseudoscience and thoroughly debunked idea that vaccines cause autism. It was a phenomenon that seemed to get a lot worse last year, almost certainly due to the impending passage and then passage of SB 277 in California, a bill that eliminated nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates in the state beginning this month. So it was that I came to describe the violent rhetoric of the antivaccine movement, complete with examples of such rhetoric, as well as memes like this one:

Gee, I wonder what is meant by this. Gee, I wonder what is meant by this.

Since April, the producers of an antivaccine propaganda film by Del Bigtree and Andrew Wakefield, VAXXED: From Cover-up to Catastrophe, have been touring the country along with fellow antivaccine activist and Wakefield admirer Polly Tommey (and, at some stops, Sheila Ealey) to do Q&As and crappy Periscope videos at screenings of their movie and fawning over parents who let their children die of medical neglect. Bigtree has also been teaming with lawyers eager to exploit parents of autistic children by suing for “vaccine injury” to lobby the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who just so happens to represent a district in a state that is the epicenter of supplement manufacturing in the US. While doing these Q&As, Tommey and Bigtree have been demonstrating that antivaccine is as antivaccine does, with Tommey declaring without a doubt that “there is no safe vaccine” and Bigtree likening having to adhere to school vaccine mandates as being like the Jews during the Holocaust.

Yes, there’s nothing like comparing a law that protects children by mandating vaccines for school to what the Nazis did to Jews and other people they didn’t view as fully human to demonstrate to the world that you aren’t antivaccine!

As if that weren’t enough, though, on July 10, Bigtree and Tommey did a video of one of their Q&As, this time in Pittsburgh. I commented on this before, but, I must admit, I didn’t watch every minute of the video. It was too neuron-apoptosingly painful, even for me. So I missed something important, even as I did comment on a video of his Q&A from the night before, when he asked “What were the Jewish people thinking when the Nazis took over?” and likened SB 277 to slavery and apartheid.

Let’s go back to the July 10, video, though, which is still on Facebook:

I missed a very critical part, but Matt Carey pointed it out to me. Here is the relevant segment, which is starts at about the 44 minute mark in the full video:

In the lead up to this segment, Bigtree invokes the “Brady Bunch fallacy” about how measles isn’t a dangerous disease and then goes on to rant about how we’re being “slowly brainwashed” by the media and big pharma, after which he continues using apocalyptic language about politicians bought out by big pharma and if you see one recommending a vaccine for Zika virus then you’ll “know what your future is.” He also mentions how this “will be the last vote for freedom you’ll have” as we watch the “most powerful lobby in the country and the world” poison our children. This is, of course, one of the major “dog whistles” of antivaccinationists, to invoke “freedom” and “parental rights” to justify their antivaccine views. Also, why big pharma would want to intentionally poison our children, Bigtree never explains. Neither has any antivaccine activist who’s invoked this line, either. I guess it’s because pharma is just plain evil and enjoys poisoning children.

Right after this he goes straight into the same territory that I wrote about last December:

...but now we’re watching the most powerful lobby in the country and in the world poisoning our children. And our government is helping them. What are we going to do about it? We have the power. But we have got to stop being afraid to talk about it. If you’re afraid to talk about it, your Twitters, your Facebooks, I don’t want to bring it up at my PTA meeting, I don’t want to at lunch or at Thanksgiving dinner, then I can imagine those same conversations were happening in Nazi Germany among the Jewish people. Let’s not talk about it. I don’t want to bring it into my reality. It’s still 20 miles away. I’m still allowed in this theater, not that one. All I have to get is this little star. All I have to do is to sign this little thing saying that I’m not going to vaccinate because I think they’re dangerous—and they are dangerous. I’m just going to sign this paper. I’m going to let them put me in a log. At some point, they have gone too far.

Do you think it’s a good idea to let the government own your baby’s body and right behind it your body? That is the end for me. Anyone who believes in the right to bear arms. To stand up against your government. I don’t know what you were saving that gun for then. I don’t know when you planned on using it if they were going to take control of your own body away.

It’s now. Now’s the time.”

You heard that right. Del Bigtree strongly implied that antivaccine activists opposed to SB 277 should consider taking up arms to resist. As Carey notes, at best this rhetoric is irresponsible. At worst it’s a call for violence. As I note, this is the sort of thing we’ve seen many times before. Tell me, how is Bigtree’s rhetoric any difference from the sort of sentiments expressed in these memes?

 

Or this one:

Apparently, there has to be eye candy for the male antivaccine activists seeing themselves as resisting tyranny. Apparently, there has to be eye candy for the male antivaccine activists seeing themselves as resisting tyranny.

 

Or this one:

Who's the side using violent imagery now? I mean, seriously, which side looks scarier? Who's the side using violent imagery now? I mean, seriously, which side looks scarier?

 

You get the idea...

At its heart, Bigtree’s rhetoric is no different. Of course, I strongly suspect that Bigtree is the proverbial chickenhawk, someone who talks a big game but probably doesn’t even own a gun himself and would likely run at the first hint of violent confrontation. What worries me is that some of those listening might not. Certainly, there was no evidence of any disagreement at the Q&A or in the comments of the Facebook page.

Basically, Bigtree is bordering on inciting violence, but with just enough plausible deniability to be able to claim that he was only indulging in rhetorical hyperbole, but his rhetoric is no different than a lot of rhetoric one finds in the deeper darker places of the antivaccine Interent underground.

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Dorit Reiss wrote several excellent pieces on the potential legal liability of antivaxers (e.g. http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/legal-liability-…). In the end, this kind of hate-filled rhetoric is not neutral: it has effects, and the vicious thugs who use it must be held to account.

I have never seen a skeptic issue death threats. I have never seen an antivaxer go in genuine fear of harm simply for stating the facts as they see them. This happens almost daily to people like Paul Offitt and Richard Pan.

And there is a serious problem here in that the anti-vaccine message is not robustly challenged by the authorities. Then again, these nutters would probably see any defence by the authorities as validating their insane conspiracist worldview.

As skeptics, what do we think should be done? Something definitely needs to change.

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 18 Jul 2016 #permalink

Whom are they going to shoot? The school admin who tells them they need vaccination details to enrol? The practice nurse who asks them if their kids' vaccinations are up to date? It's hard to shoot a faceless boogey man like Big Pharma.
I get the feeling they haven't really thought this one through.

And now for something completely different...

By Can't remember… (not verified) on 18 Jul 2016 #permalink

@ Can't remember my nym

Whom are they going to shoot?

Please don't give them ideas.
The leaders/posters spouting up these slogans may not have someone precisely in mind*, but the more crazy followers won't have trouble projecting all of their issues and hatred on some healthcare people working next door.
Happens every week with other extremists.

But I have to admit these slogans are based on their fantasy of armed MIB invading their home and vaccinating everybody at gunpoint - IOW, a boogeyman, not something reality-based.
That was actually the nightmare the Steven mother reported at the trial - a SWAT team barging in and taking away her children.

* and I can already hear them yelling "we didn't meant it this way, it has nothing to do with us, and it was just some loony on psych meds/a failed bank robbery anyway" after some mass shouting occurred.

Somehow, antivaxers are just surfing on the day's cultural currents, like so much flotsam.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 18 Jul 2016 #permalink

OMG. They pictures are insane.

What will they come out with next? A syringe with a Zyclon-B label in the hands of a GP with a Swastica armband?

I want to reinforce Hellathus' point - that in many cases, they are reacting to a threat that isn't there, that of someone coming to their home and force vaccinating their children. That's not SB277 or school mandates more generally.

But as pointed out here, there are a lot of angry people in the movement, and not all of them think clearly. I would worry about the effect of such a call on the safety of people like Dr. Pan (who is still subject to threats and pressure - and even mr. Bigtree seemed to think there's a point in trying to change his mind. Even though SB277 is currently law, and Dr. Pan or Senator Allen couldn't change it single-handedly if they wanted to - even if they turned anti-vaccine).

Beyond that, in some circumstances things come pretty close. I have in mind, for example, a family where parents disagree on vaccinating - and the court orders vaccinating. What is this kind of rhetoric encouraging the anti-vaccine parents to do? Or if the children are in state custody - and several states have upheld decisions to vaccinate children that are wards of the state over parental opposition.

This call for violence, to a group already filled with anger, can lead to bad places.

By Dorit Reiss (not verified) on 18 Jul 2016 #permalink

Some of the more carefully crafted "ThugHealth" items seem to be redolent of Gamondes, who hasn't Grunioned up the shores of lake AoA in a while.

I find it amusing that the thug lady is wearing shin-guards. The only reason I could infer for this is that; if armor were to placed anywhere else, it would have detracted from her femininity.

The shins are basically neuter.

But Why would anyone besides a cricket player bother with only shin armor in the first place? This is ridiculous when you think about it. Is she anticipating an attack by raccoons?

By Fendlesworth (not verified) on 18 Jul 2016 #permalink

I don't get it. Do this people really consider themself being thug?

They consider vaccines as not being invented to protect their children, but they consider guns to be invented only for their protection?
So Big Pharma is in business for killing, but Big Gun is in business for protection?

I'm sorry, but I prefer getting a vaccine over someone with a gun coming to me.

The first image, with the mother holding baby in one hand and a rifle in the other? I don't know why but the first thing I imagined is that she is about to take the kid behind the shed and do like with him like with The Old Yeller... But I have pretty morbid imagination.

By The Smith of Lie (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Fortunately in my state, we have a very weak anti-vax movement which is telling considering we have the most vilified school vaccine law mandate. But to those that say who are they going to shoot, I wear a name tag every day out in public that says the name of the world's largest vaccine producer on it and my name. I worry about my counterparts in places like Northern California who do the same thing. I'm mainly in cardiology offices which are usually full of people who remember polio, but over my 25 year career I have learned to play dumb when facing nutters in waiting rooms and usually mumble something about just trying to feed my children. Fortunately I'm usually able to change the subject to who will be the starting QB at WVU this year and why they will go undefeated.

@7 I thought pretty much the same thing. "This is my unvaccinated child. If she gets sick, I'll just take her out back and shoot her." But, I too, tend to have a morbid imagination.

"Basically, Bigtree is bordering on inciting violence, but with just enough plausible deniability to be able to claim that he was only indulging in rhetorical hyperbole, but his rhetoric is no different than a lot of rhetoric one finds in the deeper darker places of the antivaccine Interent underground."

That rhetoric is not bordering on inciting violence. In order to be outside the 1st Amendment protections on free speech, the speech has to be inciting imminent harm to a specific person or group of people. This generalized rhetoric you cited is not even close to being outside of 1st Amendment protection.

That does not make it good speech. But it is still protected speech that is not bordering on being outside of the bounds.

It's hard to do anything about the general sort of rhetoric discussed here until something bad happens, but anyone who is on the receiving end of a specific threat should go directly to the appropriate authorities, which would presumably be the FBI for a threat received over the Internet. Most of these people will put their tails between their legs and run when the Feds show up.

Speaking of that, what ever happened to Mike Adams' run in with them?

By Michael Finfer, MD (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Thanks, Ellie.

I was confused by Smith of Lie's comment. My thoughts went to Ole Yeller, a P-51D. Your comment got me double checking.

I guess I'm not as well acquainted with Americana as I thought!

Thanks Stuartg. I've just learned something new today, also!

There is a loud minority of Americans who espouse "Second Amendment solutions" to what they consider to be problems in this country. The "Thug Health" movement is tapping into that, by strongly implying that they intend to "water the tree of liberty" with the blood of anybody who tries to force vaccination on their kids. (The Second Amendment crowd is fond of that particular Jefferson quote.)

It's not substantially different from certain elements of the anti-abortion movement. Some prominent people advocate violence against abortion providers, just as the Thug Health people seem to advocate violence against people who try to enforce vaccine mandates. As long as there are no specific threats, it's protected speech. But that comes with a wink and a nudge, because the people saying these things know (or should know) that sooner or later somebody is going to act on that rhetoric, as has happened multiple times to abortion providers.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

There will always be a difference between those of hateful rhetoric chest-thumping internet photoshoppers, probably from their parents' basements, and those of us that run into the storm providing aid and health care to others. A difference heavily favoring to the latter.

At best, anyone who takes Bigtree's rhetoric as advice to act is setting themselves up for the crime of assault. Just imagine a gun-toting anti-vaccine parent walking into their pediatricians office, or talking to the school nurse/admin. When the subject of vaccines come up, with strong urging for them to vaccinate their child, they reach into their purse/bag/waistband and pull out a pistol. The threat is clear: disagree with me and there will be violence.

I find that scenario far more likely than a deranged follower opening fire. For the most part, people, like most animals, would prefer to puff up and appear intimidating, rather than actually take a life.

But, yes, given enough time, if this sort of rhetoric continues, it won't be long before we see some deluded individual follow through.

As for Bigtree himself, he might be treading into sedition or inciting rebellion territory, but IANAL.

That does not make it good speech. But it is still protected speech that is not bordering on being outside of the bounds.

Straw man. You are reading into my words things I haven't said and attacking a point I didn't make. I'm very aware of Brandenburg v. Ohio, and I never claimed what Bigtree was saying wasn't protected speech. I said that it bordered on inciting violence, not that it "incited imminent harm to a specific person or group of people." As for the "plausible deniability part," that was referring to his ability to dodge any blame aimed at him if someone acts on his rhetoric. It's the same technique radical abortion opponents use to fire people up to shoot doctors who perform abortions and leaders of anti-government militias use to inspire the troops to violence without a specific target other than "the government."

Sheesh. Friggin' pedants.

How do these people see me and my autistic child? Do they see me worthy of a bullet for vaccinating my kids?

A local police officer was ambushed on a routine traffic stop last week. He only survived because people gave him first aid and 911 responded quickly. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said today he is paralyzed from the neck down and breathes with a machine. All the tough talk eggs on unstable people to commit acts like Dallas and Baton Rouge. I support local efforts for much needed court and policing reforms, but guns are not the answer.

I'm old enough to remember the Detroit riots and Chicago 1968, so I know it has been bad before. I'm rambling here, but last week someone drove a truck through a crowd in the same spot my youngest toured with her French class last spring.

@ Geesen #4

Been done already.

@ Renate #9

So Big Pharma is in business for killing, but Big Gun is in business for protection?

The second part is the gun-lovers' motto in a nutshell.
The first part is quite prevalent among alt-med circles ("100,000 kills a year" or something)

Some overlap between the two populations is bound to happen...

By Helianthus (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Todd W@18: "But, yes, given enough time, if this sort of rhetoric continues, it won’t be long before we see some deluded individual follow through."

That's precisely the balless wonders' objective, of course. Get their cheap crazy cannon fodder to do all their dirty work for them, while maintaining plausible deniability and their own precious skins out of jail. Happened in the UK just a month ago where a far-right psychotic murdered a Labour MP. She's dead, he goes to prison for life, and the scum that stoked it gleefully profit from all the extra fear and hate in society. Someone always gets rich from a fire sale.

As a Brit, I not only look with some degree of pity on the backwards US healthcare system which seems to revolve around making as much money for insurance companies as possible, but also at the (probably unfixable in the foreseeable future) gun culture problem. And yet, even as someone not surrounded by gun culture, I still notice that those memes show people casually handling firearms with their fingers on the triggers, which they totally shouldn't be unless they want to shoot whatever the gun is pointed at.

By Marcus Hill (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

@ Fendlesworth

I find it amusing that the thug lady is wearing shin-guards. The only reason I could infer for this is that; if armor were to placed anywhere else, it would have detracted from her femininity.

Precisely.
Same reason there was this fashion of camo trousers not so long ago. Mix of soft feminine flesh and hardass military equipment.
Incomplete armor? She must have left the torso part of her armor somewhere and will put it back anytime soon. Or she thinks she will need speed. Never needed an helmet, of course.

These pictures are meant to elicit some emotional response from the viewers, male or female (I want her/ I want to be her). Liberals will react to the amazon subtext, conservatives to the mother bear subtext.
That's not original. Fantasy/sci-fi works are full of ladies of war in impractical/incomplete armor. You could use the first lady's picture to advertise a zombie movie (or some modern-day western), and the two next ladies' pictures on the jacket of dozens of FPS/action video games of the last decade.

Again, nothing original, very textbook pictures, but from a propaganda POV, these pictures are good work.They convey very well a message of impending violence.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

That first image is of a Texan woman named Alexandra Knight, and is from a photo book titled Chicks with Guns. The photo is copyright Lindsay McCrum and has absolutely nothing to do with vaccines.

It's just another example of anti-vaccine activists not giving a rat's ass about intellectual property rights.

The other photos also appear to be gleaned from the internet and similarly appropriated without attribution or interest in the original context.

Since it is better written by a lawyer than I could do:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/canadas-law-on-hate-speech-is-th…

with the take home:

"the Supreme Court recognized the insidious impact of propaganda campaigns that gain social traction and incrementally dull our rational faculties and empathy. Perhaps paternalistic, but the court is saying sometimes we need to be protected from our baser and stupider selves"

By Ross Miles (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Orac,
I did not intend to be pedantic. I incorrectly thought you were claiming that the speech in question was outside the bounds of free speech because it was inciting violence.

Trying to limit free speech because it is "hate" speech or "inciting violence" has been far too common recently.

ToddW @22 I feel the need for brain bleach, now. I don't think I'll watch anything again with these people. Somehow, it's less horrifying to read than to listen. I have an acquaintance who is autistic. I suppose I should be thankful every day that his parents loved/love him, and would never compare him to a chimpanzee...or call him a freak if he were protesting that awful movie.

@ Todd

It’s just another example of anti-vaccine activists not giving a rat’s ass about intellectual property rights.

I am so not surprised...

Chicks with Guns? That's ringing a bell, the picture looked familiar to me.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

I find it amusing that the thug lady is wearing shin-guards. The only reason I could infer for this is that; if armor were to placed anywhere else, it would have detracted from her femininity.

I assumed the shin guards were there because she just couldn't learn trigger discipline. Like all the models in those pictures except the first.

Unless the ceiling or the two model's own feet were the intended targets, that's just bad form.

And yet, even as someone not surrounded by gun culture, I still notice that those memes show people casually handling firearms with their fingers on the triggers, which they totally shouldn’t be unless they want to shoot whatever the gun is pointed at.

As an American who earned the Rifle and Shotgun Shooting merit badge as a Boy Scout (admittedly this was mumblety-mumble years ago), I'd say that you err in being too kind to the people holding those guns in those photos.

Rule #1 of gun safety is that you never, ever, even for a moment, point a gun at something you do not intend to shoot, whether or not your finger is on the trigger.

The woman with the shin armor and combat boots looks like she needs those things, since she literally looks like she is about to shoot herself in the foot. The one right above her is an even more likely Darwin Award candidate given how close that barrel is to her head. The other two at least have the sense to be pointing their hardware at the ground.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

I actually once owned a pair of shin guard for sparring practice. No one in my class ever used their shin guards, as they were so stiff they hampered kicking. So, unless you're playing soccer, rugby or cricket, they're fairly impractical. (Also, if those are kevlar shin guards, they'd be too stiff to run in.)

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

When I hear 'Chicks with guns', my mind goes to this

(Probably not work safe, but there isn't anything dirty, and it teaches a good lesson.)

https://youtu.be/C917QJH9GNM

OK, it's 'Chicks who love guns', but close enough.

It's from the movie Jackie Brown.

Looks like Matt and Orac hit a nerve. Bigtree is backtracking his gun statement, while once again likening vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany (he actually hits the Nazi comparison many, many times in the video). He also blew my irony meter when he whined about being "taken out of context" and "edited", despite the fact that the full Q&A videos were also made available.

He and Polly Tommey also go off on a tangent comparing vaccines to Adderall and other anti-psychotics/anti-anxiety drugs, claiming that we're moving toward government forcing drugs like this on children.

He also says that girls died during HPV vaccine trials, with the clear implication that the vaccine killed the girls. Yes, girls did die during the clinical trials: 21 from the vaccine group and 19 from the placebo group. Causes of death included motor vehicle accident, drug overdose/suicide, gunshot wound, and one pulmonary embolism. Way to be misleading, Del.

I like Tarantino, but he sure makes no attempt to hide his fetishes!

By Darthhellokitty (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

#22 I'd feel insulted if I didn't like dogs and chimps so much.
In their appropriate places, obviously. No pet chimps. My face is not pretty but it's the only one I have! ?

By Darthhellokitty (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Not sure Bigtree is doing anymore than deleting his material on his own pages, Todd. I wouldn't hold breath on apologies from Bigtree anytime soon.

Re Guy Chapman #1--agree completely. None of the big medical groups or any public health departments have called out Vaxxed for what it (and Wakefield) is. Given that the AAP is all over opposing gun violence, you might think Bigtree's call to gun violence would bring the AAP into denouncing Vaxxed, but I am doubtful they would even though Bigtree's words are a threat against pediatricians.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

@Chris Hickie

No, he posted a new video of him and Polly Tommey. Tommey also tries to backtrack her statements about not judging parents who murder their autistic kids. She never comes out and actually condemns them, though, rather opting to say that she wouldn't use violence.

The faithful will lap it up, though.

#22 - since I am a proud simian with mild Asperger, I'm doubly insulted.

By ScienceMonkey (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

"Looks like Matt and Orac hit a nerve. Bigtree is backtracking his gun statement"

I gave up after four and a half minutes of diversionary nonsense, right around the time Del brought up the Nazi stuff.

All those clucking sounds in the background - is that poultry, or noises of approval from Del and Polly's antivax fan club?

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

What a joke. When I think of the filth that has spewed from their guru about me in the last decade, they've got some nerve expecting some sort of special treatment to revise their opinions to suit their audiences.

This individual Tommey was even part of a conspiracy to place totally false allegations against me - claiming I was being paid by the drug industry and that I'd stolen medical records - with the UK publicist Max Clifford. Okay, he's now in jail for sex offences, but that's the kind of people we're dealing with here.

They had a group working for years trying to smear me for their master.

Even now on their website the have a smear from Wakefield trying to link me with GSK, a company I've had no dealings with for at least a decade, when I telephoned a press officer.

These are a really cunning little trio.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

As well as speaking of violence, anti-vaxxers often talk about jail terms for people who support vaccines, doctors, nurses et al. ( AoA, NN, prn etc)

Although I don't want to call attention to those who were targeted in other ways ( so anti- vaxxers won't go back to those examples and harass them), I can say that a vaccine supporter had photos and the name of his/her young child put on the web and another person had his/ her home address publicised in the same manner. Also calls to employers.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Oh speak of the non-devil!

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

It should be noted that a certain MPH blogger is linking up to his political party's gun rall .. I mean *convention*.

What's wrong with these people?
Oh wait, I'm a psychologist.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

anti-vaxxers often talk about jail terms for people who support vaccines, doctors, nurses et al.

Last week I mentioned John Baez's Crackpot Index. It was originally designed with physics crackpots in mind, and some of the items on the list are physics-specific (e.g., references to Einstein, Newton, or Feynman). But most of them apply to alt-med cranks as well, and in particular, this one trips item number 36:

40 points for claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, present-day science will be seen for the sham it truly is. (30 more points for fantasizing about show trials in which scientists who mocked your theories will be forced to recant.)

The anti-vax crowd runs afoul of many other items on that list, enough to amass a crackpot score well into triple digits. Nazi comparisons, check. Claims that the scientific establishment is engaged in a conspiracy, check. Galileo gambit, check. That's already 185 points (including the initial 5-point credit) on just four items, and I've barely scratched the surface.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

@ Todd

The faithful will lap it up, though.

Ah.
Wakefield never talked about a link between autism and MMR in his article, Tommey never found sympathetic a mother who slaughtered her own son, Deltree never told antivaxers to grab their guns, and they certainly never tried to dox, smear or generally threaten any pro-vaxers.

Well, I guess I can say that Wakefield, Deltree and the rest of the gang are not bottom-feeding fishes.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

This kind of thing genuinely frightens me. It only takes one psychotic to cause a tragedy and poking the wasp nest of conspiracists, hatemongers, and delusional wingnuts that comprise the anti-vax movement is bound to start something sooner or later.

Given the way 2016 is going as it is I'm just waiting to turn on the news and see a report about a clinic getting shot up or molotov-ed by some wackjob.

right around the time Del brought up the Nazi stuff.

This is what really bothers me. Maybe I'm overly sensitive but some of his comments sound like he's blaming Jew's in Nazi Germany for not noticing/acting quickly enough. Either way, Bigotry needs to f*ck off and stop exploiting the Holocaust to advance his agenda. He seems more all in on the comparisons that all but the most deranged AVers.

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Bigtree is being a weasel.

Here's his comment:

“Anyone who believes in the right to bear arms. To stand up against your government. I don’t know what you were saving that gun for then. I don’t know when you planned on using it if they were going to take control of your own body away.

It’s now. Now’s the time.”

Emphasis added.

This isn't about supporting gun rights. Bigtree's context is clear.

Be Brave, Del. Be Brave--own your mistakes.

By Matt Carey (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

ANOTHER lawsuit has been filed against SB277. Part of the complaint

16.For a declaratory Order that all named Defendants be required to take all of the CDC’s 70 scheduled inoculations; to be completed within a 48 hour time-period, and that such shots be administered by Dr. Brian Hooker and Dr. Jim Sears.

The named defendants are the legislators who sponsored the legislation and their spouses. There's more comedy gold there.

Here's the complaint.

http://www.cafepeyote.com/files/RICO_-_Civil_Rights_Complaint.pdf

Orac,

listen--it's incredibly bad. Bigtree claims that he was just showing support for gun rights. He cites this poem (but he doesn't know it)

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

You see, Bigtree is speaking out for the gun owners because next they will come for him.

It's just an outstanding example of absolute bullshit.

By Matt Carey (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Did they have a lawyer work on that complaint at all? And if so, how in hell does xe still have a license?

Oh, and they need to recount the number of inoculations. They are woefully off; but we already know that anti-vaccine activists aren't the best at math.

By the bye, I didn't realize that Brian Hooker is now a licensed physician capable of legally administering vaccines.

# 57, Liz.

So what's going on with that lawsuit? I've dealt with a lot of lawyers over the years, but only ever come across crank lawyers in the context of vaccines.

I mean, RICO, spouses, and pretty much all of it. Is this just some whack-job like that Clifford Miller we have here, or is there any discernible point to all that garbage? After all, he's got court costs, his own time and presumably has to pay for the electricity to power his laptop.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Liz@57: I see the lead plaintiff in the case bills himself as a "Private Attorney General". I didn't look at the allegations (IANAL and am therefore not qualified to assess them), but that sounds like "sovereign citizens" or something of that nature. IME, sovereign citizens are nucking futs, even by the standards of conspiracy theorists.

Brian@61: Crank lawyers come up in lots of contexts here in the US. The aforementioned sovereign citizens tend to feature them. Orly Taitz was a notorious crank lawyer during the manufactroversy over President Obama's birth certificate. The lawyer(s) for the loons who took over the wildlife refuge in Oregon last January have provided more than a few crackpot arguments. It's also moderately common in the US for people to act as their own lawyers; almost all of them, as the saying goes, turn out to have a fool for a client.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Eric Lund: "Rule #1 of gun safety is that you never, ever, even for a moment, point a gun at something you do not intend to shoot, whether or not your finger is on the trigger."

My fave are the guys who shove the pistol into their belt that is perfectly aimed for a traumatic circumstition. There is a great example in (the author talked to our skeptic group, he is also following the idiots in Oregon):
https://www.amazon.com/Hell-Followed-Her-Crossing-American/dp/1568587252

Todd W.: "Well, when you take Bigtree’s gun rhetoric and combine it with his comparison of autistics to dogs and chimps, you might not be too far off."

Now I worry about young autistic men who are walking around while black. It is bad enough for those who drive around while black, but heaven forbid anyone also be autistic!

I see there is precedent; it does not take much for the gun vigilantes to also declare themselves law enforcers:
https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2010/06/10/reading-while-black-and-au…

Based on my calculation, each thimerosal containing vaccine contains the same amount of mercury as 1.14 cans of Albacore.

https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/mercury-in-tuna-calculation-su…
http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSaf…
http://www.bumblebee.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/3oz-solid-white-alb…

Why don't we see anti-albacore images of the "thug" or "Nazi" variety, and why don't they put swastikas on the sleeves of commercial fisherman and grocers?

By Fendlesworth (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Cap'n krunch:Either way, Bigotry needs to f*ck off and stop exploiting the Holocaust to advance his agenda. He seems more all in on the comparisons that all but the most deranged AVers.

Especially since the anti-vaxxers have more in common with the Nazis than the people they killed. Frankly, I'm beginning to wonder if they're crying 'Nazi' to distract from their own anti-semitism and bougie racism.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

The GoFundMe part is priceless:

I have spoken with Del Bigtree (producer) and he is overwhelmed at the amount of support this movie has received. This goes to show that a small number of people CAN make a difference. Now – the next phase is legal. Travis Middleton has done a MASTERFUL job in creating a RICO document that will stand as firm as any other law suit out there. He has done his homework. It is 74 pages. It will change the course of the trend for legislators who think they can get away with anything relating to the rights of Americans.

The GoFundMe part

I am shocked to find grifting in progress here. SHOCKED.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

a traumatic circumstition

I shall assume this to be a portmanteau of 'circumcision' and 'superstition'.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

No, it means I can't spell. :-)

Though with further thinking, it is usually a traumatic castration.

Oh, dear, Travis is also suing* the Santa Barbara Police Departmet.

Yes, it's RICO.

* Might take a while for that even longer complaint to be processed by archive.org.

Travis is also suing* the Santa Barbara Police Departmet.

Up to and including "John / Jane Doe, court clerk".
I can only suppose that his is his way of dealing with an unpaid parking ticket.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

HDB: Up to and including “John / Jane Doe, court clerk”.
I can only suppose that his is his way of dealing with an unpaid parking ticket.

Seems like an expensive way to get out of a moving violation. Might cost less just to appeal- or actually pay the durn thing.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

Eric Lund @57

I see the lead plaintiff in the case bills himself as a “Private Attorney General”. I didn’t look at the allegations (IANAL and am therefore not qualified to assess them), but that sounds like “sovereign citizens” or something of that nature. IME, sovereign citizens are nucking futs, even by the standards of conspiracy theorists.

The guy who shot the cops in Baton Rouge was a sovereign citizen from a afrocentric faction. Most sovereign citizen's are white supremacists, but there are some who believe that "Moors" were the original inhabitants of North America. This isn't first time Police Officers have been killed by sovereign citizens. Any overlap of Antivaxxers with a group that believes they are exempt from the law (provided they say the magic words) is worrying.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 19 Jul 2016 #permalink

DB@35

It should be pointed out that the context for the increase in A&E waiting times includes record numbers of attendances and a systematic reduction in funding for the NHS since 2010, with a consequent reduction in clinical staff numbers (well, most NHS expenditure is on us inconvenient clinical staff).

The reasons for this may have something to do with 6 years of a right wing government with a barely concealed contempt for public service and love for the private sector and a Secretary of State for health who has published books about how to privatise health services...Oh, and the many senior Conservative politicians with financial links to private health companies...

Murmur @77

the many senior Conservative politicians with financial links to private health companies…

Colour me unsurprised.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 20 Jul 2016 #permalink

# 78 Kochanski. I think I hear her say that he is "paralegal" in Santa Barbara county.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 20 Jul 2016 #permalink

#80 yes, that is what it looks like to me too, so not a lawyer. This guy reminds me of George R Simpson and his fun lawsuits including one against members of the JREF forum, that was fun times (I am one of the people named in the suit).

By Kochanski (not verified) on 20 Jul 2016 #permalink

Q. What leads a guy to shove a pistol into his belt perfectly aimed for a traumatic circumstition?

A. Hu-Bris.

It's a traumatic circumstition (circum-stitchin', actually) because the guy wants his oriah back, and has to endure the sutures going around his schmeckel without anaesthetic.

It's times like this - in fact, for me, always - that Britain's "loser pays" legal system is so much better. Here, if you bring a lawsuit and you lose, or abandon it, then you pay the other side's costs. That's the general rule, and it discourages much meritless litigation.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 20 Jul 2016 #permalink

Anyone interested in the scope of anti-vax legal cranks out and about should consult the schedules from recent Autism One conferences. They are thick as thieves..

( side note- Autism One 2017 will depart from its usual haunts to the sunny clime of Colorado Springs. I wonder why)

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 20 Jul 2016 #permalink

Another mystery - there don't seem to have been any World Congress of Urine Therapy annual meetings since 2013.

Apparently the flow of new ideas dried up, or enthusiasm petered out. A wee puzzle, to be sure.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 20 Jul 2016 #permalink

DB - We saw what you did there.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 20 Jul 2016 #permalink

Exhibit D of the latter suit (the traffic stop that he tried to unilaterally "remove" to federal court) has one out-and-out howler:

Whereas, much of your CITATION is not in proper English....

I have seen the worst chicken pox can do to a child and how it took years for her to die while the virus ate through her brain. If you want to see a VERY angry woman, put an un-vaccinated person close to my immuno-compromised granddaughter who is battling leukemia and see what happens.

I support the use of firearms for self-protection and other lawful uses, and this is utter stupidity. In fact, I think I have more of a right to take up arms to protect myself and my children against THE because they are spreading a disease. Of course, even this is an extremist statement that I wouldn't promote as I belive in the rule of law.

I hope they know how the rules of safe firearms use and storage, because at least some of them will accidentally shoot themselves otherwise.

# 78 Kochanski. I think I hear her say that he is “paralegal” in Santa Barbara county.

#80 yes, that is what it looks like to me too, so not a lawyer.

The court has just reminded the other 25 plaintiffs of this fact (document 7).

Does the First Amendment to the US Constitution allow people to legally get away with creating violent rhetoric that could potentially incite violence...or does "violent rhetoric that could incite violence" fall under hate speech laws?
I know that violent rhetoric and hate speech are immoral, unethical acts that are a very real threat to human society and to world peace...but WHY would the US Constitution protect violent rhetoric and hate speech as legal under the First Amendment right to free speech?

@Melissa - Because you either have free speech, or you do not. There is no compromise. Hate speech laws should be abolished, especially in Europe where they are used in countries such as Sweden and Germany to silence people guilty of "wrongthink".

@ Amethyst

Hate speech laws should be abolished, especially in Europe where they are used in countries such as Sweden and Germany to silence people guilty of “wrongthink”.

You will have to be more precise than that (not sarcasm, just, I would like to have some examples of abuse of hate speech laws).
From where I am standing, I have the feeling that hate speech laws are the only thing preventing various far-right parties from having openly an holocaust-revisionist, kill-all-brown-foreigners platform*.
Or more openly. Granted, these parties are good at toeing the line and emitting the proper signal whistles.

* bit of an hyperbole, but I'm afraid not that much. Trump's racist messages generate some echoes in Europe, and not pretty ones.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 25 Jul 2016 #permalink

Well, for example German SWAT teams raided and arrested people for their post on social media, I kid you not. What was their crimes? The hate speech of pointing out the massive problem of sexual abuse and crime that come with the economic migrants (not refugees, no - only a very small amount of people coming to Europe are actual refugees) in Germany. This is a clear case of German authorities using hate speech laws to quiet dissent.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUmN80JB8cA

Also, who cares if it gives crazy people a platform? You do not combat repulsive ideas with censorship. Let them speak, let them make fools out of themselves. Debunk them. Shame them. As our host probably knows, it is not a hard to do when facts are on your side. Holocaust deniers are a joke.

From where I am standing, I have the feeling that hate speech laws are the only thing preventing various far-right parties from having openly an holocaust-revisionist, kill-all-brown-foreigners platform

The Irony Phone is ringing.*

* See also the related items.

@ Amethist
I think with Hitler Germany saw first hand what crazy people can do with hate speech.

And I'm sorry, but most refugees in europe are not economic migrants and are not criminals.

@Renate -

1. That is a silly statement. The problem in Nazi Germany was not hate speech, but hate action. They did not talk all those people to death.

2a. I never said that "most refugees in europe are cirminals". Thanks for that strawman. They are however bringing with them a backwards and sexist culture that causes some of them (NOT ALL!!11) to commit sex crimes against native women. This is a fact, no matter how much the governments in Europe are trying to cover it up. It is not native men/boys that suddenly developed a rape/molesting urge that just happened to coincide with the influx of these people.

2b. They are not majority refugees. Again, look at the statistics. They may come from shitty countries around North Africa/Middle East but not shitty enough for them to qualify as refugees. They are economic migrants.

Not all neo-NAZIs are bad people.

I know one NN, also a KK member, that helped me jump my car when the battery died. All that he asked for was a cigarette.

He is really nice to other non-semitic white people in his class.

By PuppyBoners (not verified) on 25 Jul 2016 #permalink

Ah, yes, Germany does have an issue, recently. Although, I was under the same impression as Renate #97.

let them make fools out of themselves.

Doesn't work. It's all about blowing the correct whistle signals and pouring gazoline on fire.

Debunk them.

If it was a science topic, may work.
A political issue, with racism on top? Doesn't work. It's all about emotions and populism. It's an hydra.

Shame them

They have no shame. They keep yapping about "political correctness" stopping them from saying "the Truth".
It's the trouble with moral issues. The haters have a point: things would be much easier if we were to take the easy road.
Which could be an imaginary or inefficient easy road, like, IDK, building a wall thousands kilometers long. But it still look easier.

That being said, now that I'm typing it, hate speech laws don't work much, either, aren't they? I think I will stop digging this hole.

@ Narad

Thanks, these links do make me question my position. This one did a good job at challenging me.
https://popehat.com/2014/01/21/the-self-perpetuating-logic-of-censorshi…

Actually, since a former French president tried to legiferate history, taking the anti-holocaust-denial laws as a model, I will admit freely that my position is not as strong as previously stated.
OTOH, some of the comments in the article I linked to are providing some arguments I would have liked to be smart enough to present. Although I'm afraid the conversation could rapidly devolve into "slippery slopes" accusations from both sides - censorship vs anarchy.

In short, at which point should a government, or anyone, step down and tell someone "Sir or Madam, you are going too far"? And if the answer is different from "never", which form of actions are ethically acceptable?

To try to steer the conversation back to vaccines and other usual topics, why should we care is antivaxers get a movie out or some naturopath get invited to teach in medical schools? We will just debunk them.
Bit of a strawman, so I will precise: Orac and other regulars made it very clear they are against censorship in these events.

But why could a university board - or anyone else - tell a AVer/ND "you are spreading medical falsehoods, we don't want you speaking here", but a government cannot say "you are spreading historical falsehoods, we don't want you speaking here"?
As I pointed before, give me 5 min to fire my neurons and I will see why allowing the latter - government censorship - is not a good idea. And "our place, our choice" could be a good summary of the former.

But, still. Why the difference?

By Helianthus (not verified) on 26 Jul 2016 #permalink

Let me guess - the two of you are North American?

It is not just Germany, it is all over Europe - where-ever the migrants go. Germany was just the first example I had in mind. Here in my native Sweden it is exactly the same: a wave of sexual and violent cirme in the wake of migrants and the government and police cover-up the nature of the perpetrators, and use anti-hate speech laws to silent dissent. Heck, they barely even give the rapist(s) a slap on the wrist. Deportation is unheard of.

And what is even worse is our stupid regressive media going on a full-out offensive on how SWEDISH men/boys need to stop raping/molesting. How Sweden is, and always has been, a "rape culture" and utter nonsense about "toxic masculinity". I Think they also somehow blamed video games, despite that having been disproved decades ago when Jack Thompson (remember that old anti-video games lawyer fart?). It is maddening.

@Helianthus - you asked "But why could a university board – or anyone else – tell a AVer/ND “you are spreading medical falsehoods, we don’t want you speaking here”, but a government cannot say “you are spreading historical falsehoods, we don’t want you speaking here”?"

The simple answer would be private property. A university is not required to provide a platform on its property for every viewpoint. It may if it so chooses, but university campuses are private space and the university can choose who is and is not allowed to be there.

Naturally, there are such spaces owned by governments as well. A legislator, say, would be within his or her rights to tell someone to leave his or her office based only on what that person said (or for any other reason). Not all government owned property is considered an open forum for speeches.

A university can't tell you you can't spout your position when you're not on their land.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 26 Jul 2016 #permalink

I'm not North American.
It's easy to say, words don't kill, just like guns don't kill. But propaganda speech can have bad influences. People voted for Hitler, because he came with a quick solution. Currently some Turkish people in the Netherlands, fear for other Turkish people, who are supportive of mr. Erdogan, because mr. Erdogan calls the people who are critical about him terrorists. It is easy to say words don't kill, but they can influence people, to think some people who are not like them, deserve to be killed.
And I still think we should take refugees. I'm more affraid of neo-nazis, than I'm affraid of refugees. And I'm gay and a woman and probably belong to some other minority as well.