Dissecting the Antivaxxer
Fear-Mongering in the Age of Disinformation
I was almost one of them. I was young and impressionable, in the age of instant information. As a young American with no family, I was poor and desperate, bitter about the health industry, and too poor to get treatment when I needed it. My saving grace was my interest in science and strong reading comprehension.
There were so many strong voices, loud in righteous fervor. Celebrities, detailed blogs, and people who called themselves ‘Doctor,’ all warning of these exotic and unlikely hidden dangers, of some grand conspiracy. Considering how prolific and money-driven our medical industry is, that there may be corruption was never doubted. In my defense, I did not always know that naturopaths and chiropractors were allowed to call themselves such things, despite having no formal medical training.
It felt like being part of something bigger. It was like knowing a grand secret. Having a one-up on the masses. It made me feel empowered in some way. Everyone else was a sheep, and I was separate. I was better. I was smart.
However, over time I noticed small inconsistencies with the stories, and with the data. Naturally, data changes as experiments are completed, but there was something that couldn’t be described as anything but strange. Even recent information clashed drastically, and the sources for the information either conflicted with the interpretations or was never provided. It was then that the cards began to fall and I became more critical of my sources.
The majority of the most authoritative voices always had a “store”, be it supplements and medicinal gadgets or an overpriced book they wanted to sell. Some even have the gall to run continuous fundraisers while disclaiming in the fine print that they may use the funding for their own bills. Ignore the doctors, buy these oils. Buy my book to learn more. It started to feel like they were gathering people into pyramid schemes or brainwashing them into a cult.
By this point, my apprehension towards what had enthralled me was pushing me to read the statements with more scrutiny. It was then that I had found that far too many claims were incompatible with reality. They were counter to basic biology, like the belief that our body could seamlessly integrate foreign DNA into our own, or that an element already present within our blood would reconstruct entire neural pathways within hours. I looked at these claims with impartial eyes and realized that I was a fool for even beginning to entertain them.
I began sharing these concerns with others in the “community,” and it led to heated debates—being called a shill, an idiot whenever they could not counter a point that was made. I was inevitably extricated from these groups. I do not believe there could have been anything better to happen to my younger self.
It was then that the focus of my research shifted. No longer was I filling my head with cotton and essential oils, instead, I became focused on understanding those who wanted to mislead me. I needed to know why— for in a way I had felt as though they had committed some manner of offense against me. Why did they want to drag me into their paranoid delusions? Why did they want me to attack people who lost children or compromised family and friends? I needed a different kind of answer.
"There were so many strong voices, loud in righteous fervor."
I began to notice that there was a recurrence of specific personalities within the leadership of these circles. You could only imagine my shock and surprise, to find that many of them had something to gain, be it stroking of a persecution complex, financial gain, or indulging in vainglorious narcissistic behavior.
Some thought vaccines kept us from realizing the world was flat, and the chemicals are turning our children into Monsanto fueled zombies.
Others thought of themselves as an analog to Claire from Outlander— sweeping in with their magic oils to spare you from barbaric sawbones. Mind you, they are very happy to sell you these oils, or even recruit you into her “own business.” Is there any irony that Pyramids themselves are naught but tombs?
There are the Mommy bloggers, who appear devoid of any personality or skill beyond basic biological production. They eagerly ride the wave of fear, surfing along as sheep are herded to their frantic and fear-filled blog posts. It makes them ‘interesting.’ It also shuffles them in as ad-based revenue.
Heading this herd, one will find nefarious characters—the Larry Cooks, Jillian Epperlys, and David Avocado Wolfes, who put people in danger, by using their platform to tell people to give up their live-saving medicines, in exchange for a box that shocks you, bathing in urine, or drinking toxic amounts of salt. One will note that these internet personalities always ask for funding, their services or paraphernalia through their e-store, membership dues for their sites, or through crowdsourcing campaigns, that are not-so-cleverly disguising the statement that they can use the funds for personal finances.
Recently, as these communities are becoming more outspoken, I have witnessed them using their groups to focus their followers into people’s personal posts. They have used this force to bully and harass mourning parents, and the ill or disabled. Threats, mockery, and malice fill the void, where any fair person would dispense sympathy and understanding. It’s a neon sign from the shadows, screaming “narcissism.” After all, reality bends to their delusions, and anyone who says otherwise is an agent of mysterious shadow corporations.
Yes, Karen from Nebraska with your job selling leggings on the internet. You are on to them, the masterminds of the evil multi-billion dollar industry, and you will lead the world to wokeness.
Vaccines do contain extraordinarily low amounts of, what some may consider, toxins. But if one were to actively seek high levels of toxicity, the antivaxxer movement is where you need to look.
Look to any news article or personal story involving the death of a child. Grieving parents are being harassed, such as the case of Riley Hughes, where they had founded a Facebook page to spread awareness about vaccine-preventable diseases. Then direct your attention to the reactions on the posts about their loss: laughter, scorn, malice. All about the loss of their child. Follow that same themes to the story of Dana McCaffery. The founder of the “Australian Vaccination Skeptics Network,” Meryl Dorey, used her personal platform to call for harassment of these parents in their time of mourning.
You may even look to ‘Light for Riley Factchecker,’ a Facebook page set up to directly attack the grieving parents. Their “rebuttals” varied from the belief that the parents are plants, to abstract thinking that leads to vaccines being the ultimate cause, and not the actual virus that the baby had contracted. Winding through the comments are the familiar themes of mass global conspiracy, paid actors, and even mind control. It’s a stroll through a madhouse, replete with fecal scribblings on the walls and inane wailing.
Autism and chronic illness groups are also often attacked in these “raids”, wherein they slither from their anti-vaccine groups in mass and browbeat innocent parents into believing their misinformation campaign. Shame and overwhelming the desperate are their greatest tools. Often times those suffering from illness want an answer—and who could resist the dual blessing of that with the addition of having someone to blame?
Twisting their way through these angry words and actions, one finds the recurring themes. Those who disagree are shadow-agents. Paid shills. We’re on to something, everyone else is delusional. Don’t think. Don’t grow. Share only these posts. Do not read the studies, and only believe this dubious minute set of information.
In the anti-vaccine movement, scorn for science and progress is tied deeply to ego and pride.
The greatest difficulty in discourse with the anti-vaccine crowd is the unwillingness to learn or concede, when they are incorrect. When faced with a disproval of a talking point or piece of information, even if they do concede or admit that they were incorrect, the same point can often be seen reused afterward in other conversations.
It has come to the point for many that engagement is only worthwhile for just dropping simple rebuttals, and calls for actual research to be performed. In doing so there can be the opportunity for helping prevent other impressionable people from falling into their trappings. The greatest tools in destroying anti-vaccine arguments are helping people learn to read data, as well as the intricacies of medical information and studies. Oftentimes the talking points witnessed revolve around a failure to properly understand or interpret findings and conclusions.
If we as a society, can help people think for themselves and understand what they are presented with, we will watch the decline of the anti-vaccine movement decline faster than we have seen fatal disease fall from public concern.
Please be advised that many of the stories contained below may be upsetting and detail harassment of grieving parents and other vulnerable individuals. If you seek scientific sources or discussion, please write to me and I will be happy to compile information for you.