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Science-Based Medicine: What does anti-vaccine really mean? [View All]

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HuckleB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-30-11 12:23 AM
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Edited on Sun Jan-30-11 12:29 AM by HuckleB


Before I try to define anti-vaccine in more detail, I should take a moment to point out that, if theres one thing Ive learned in nearly six years blogging about vaccines and the pseudoscience used to attack them, its that no one well, almost no one considers himself anti-vaccine. This is very easily verifiable in the outraged reaction elicited from people like J.B. Handley (who simultaneously gloats about the decline in confidence in vaccines among parents), Jenny McCarthy, and Dr. Jay Gordon when they are described as anti-vaccine. Jenny McCarthy, for instance, will reliably retort, Im not anti-vaccine. Im pro-safe vaccine. An alternative response is, What I really am is anti-toxins in the vaccines. Meanwhile, Dr. Gordon will say the same thing while simultaneously saying that he doesnt give a lot of vaccines and foolishly admitting in the comments of a blog post that some parents have actually had to persuade him to vaccinate reluctantly.

The rule that those holding anti-vaccine views will rarely admit that they are anti-vaccine is a good one, although there are exceptions. It is not uncommon to find in the comments of anti-vaccine propaganda blogs like Age of Autism and anti-vaccine mailing lists comments proclaiming explicit anti-vaccine views loud and proud, with declarations that I am anti-vaccine. This dichotomy has at times caused problems for the more P.R.-savvy members of the anti-vaccine movement, as demonstrated two years ago at Jenny McCarthys Green Our Vaccines rally, where images of vaccines as toxic waste and weapons of mass destruction were commonplace. Even so, the Green Our Vaccines slogan and coopting the vaccine safety mantle have been very effective for the anti-vaccine movement. In particular, Barbara Loe Fisher has successfully portrayed her National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) as being a vaccine safety watchdog group looking out for parents rights, this despite hosting an online memorial for vaccine victims and a deceptive and disingenuous vaccine ingredient calculator.


Distinguishing true anti-vaccine rhetoric from cluelessness is not always easy. To help, Ill recap the eight characteristics Ive just discussed:

1. Claiming to be pro-safe vaccine while being unrelentingly critical about vaccines
2. The vaccines dont work gambit
3. The vaccines are dangerous gambit
4. Preferring anecdotes over science and epidemiology
5. Cherry picking and misrepresenting the evidence
6. The copious use of logical fallacies in arguing
7. Conspiracy mongering
8. Trying to silence criticism, rather than responding to it

Someone who is anti-vaccine will almost certainly use at least three or four of these techniques. The cranks at Age of Autism use all eight and then some. Indeed, when these eight techniques fail to suffice, they make up more.



This piece shows the phenomenon quite well. It can be observed all over the Internet, and it seems like a wise thing to be observant about the ways that those who oppose vaccines attempt to fool others into their beliefs.

As with any piece, if one chooses to take one small bite, one can attack the piece easily. However, if one chooses to attack this piece as a whole, it would be difficult to support one's attack.
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