I don’t like to throw inflammatory epithets around casually. Words like “fascist” are overused to the point that they have become almost meaningless. But sometimes, the word is simply an accurate description of a policy or a person. This is one of those cases.
This week, the Washington Post ran an off-the-rails opinion piece titled “Anti-vaxxers are dangerous. Make them face isolation, fines, arrests.” It would be easy to mistake this piece for an attempt at satire, but I’m pretty sure it’s not. And it’s not the first time that calls for state violence against those who choose not to vaccinate–or even to adhere completely to the CDC vaccine schedule–have been made in a major publication.
I could go into a lengthy rebuttal of all of the factual errors and omissions contained in this piece, of the over-the-top scaremongering over an illness that only a few decades ago was seen as a benign rite of passage, and which, at the time the vaccine was being developed, even the CDC admitted there was no compelling reason to target with a vaccine.
Dissolving Illusions: ... Best Price: $38.50 Buy New $21.60 (as of 11:00 EDT - Details) I could talk about the fact that the MMR vaccine is a live-virus vaccine and sheds, that 73 of the 194 measles viruses identified in the 2015 “outbreak” in the US were vaccine-strain, or that measles outbreaks frequently occur in highly vaccinated populations. I could mention that most adults are not up to date on their MMR vaccines, yet there are no measles pandemics–much as the media would have us believe otherwise. I could also ask where the massive epidemics of illnesses like scarlet fever are, if the only thing holding them back is mass vaccination.
I could go on about how the case-fatality rate for measles has actually increased since the introduction of the vaccine, because having a heavily vaccinated population has shifted the risk of infection to the most vulnerable: Infants and adults. Or I could mention that even the Cochrane Review has stated that “The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate.”
But I won’t go into any of that. Instead, I will just ask that readers look beyond the ignorance and scare-mongering in this piece, and notice something about the person who wrote it. The author of the op-ed, Juliette Kayyem, starts out by saying:
“I am quite confident in this fact: I love their children much more than they love mine. These anti-vaxxer parents — call them free-riders or even pro-plague — are putting my children and our communities at risk to cater to their erroneous belief that vaccinations would harm their children rather than contribute to the elimination of childhood diseases.”
She finishes her piece with this:
“Yes, this language is harsh, the language of a homeland security expert, not a pediatrician. Maybe the threat of greater penalties will get these parents to be less self-centered. But, sometimes a crisis requires a change in orientation if only to scare the free-riders into loving my children as much as I love theirs.”
It’s hard to believe that anyone writing about those who oppose vaccines in the year 2019 can fail to be aware that the vast majority of these parents did once vaccinate their children, suffered horrible results, and only then became “anti-vaxxers.” (Kayyem chooses instead to blame–yes–Russia!) But if you can wade through the phenomenal ignorance–and arrogance–here, look at what the writer calls herself: a “homeland security expert.”
A glance at her website tells us that she was “Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security” under Obama; that she was the homeland security advisor to the governor of Massachusetts; and that she was a legal advisor to Attorney General Janet Reno.
So now it all makes sense. This is a person who has spent an entire career working for the national security apparatus. She is someone who thrives on “crisis”, genuine or otherwise. She knows no paradigm other than that of government action, so it should come as no surprise that the only way she knows how to deal with her fellow human beings is through violent force.
I’m going to humbly suggest that a person who helps to enable the national security apparatus; who assists in keeping the public in a constant state of fear over the negligible dangers of terrorism; who, by so doing, helps to keep in place the very foreign intervention that creates that terrorism in the first place; and who gave legal advice to a woman who was responsible for literally burning children alive–is by orders of magnitude more dangerous than any parent who chooses not to vaccinate his or her child.
I’ll go even farther and say that a person with full-blown Ebola who walks into a crowded subway car or airplane poses much less of a threat to society and to civilization itself than do the Juliette Kayyems of this world.
I’ll say something else too. And this is an entirely faith-based statement. Unlike everything else I say on this topic, I can’t back this up with any evidence at all:
When I look at some of the comments on this piece, they make me ill. Comments like this one:
“WE don’t need to punish anyone. Just go to their houses, and give their kids the shots against their will. Seriously. The sheriff rolls up with an RN, the parents are held back and the kids are given the shots. Then they leave.
“This isn’t a moment when we have to punitively attack these poor ignorant deluded people. We just need to solve the problem with irresistible force. If they choose to fight back, well then that becomes a different policing action with different consequences. But I suspect most of them will just moan and scream and rail at the government and give angry interviews about their freedom to be sick and dangerous being infringed, and most people will just ignore them until they shut up. The best part is that no matter how much they freak out, their kids will still be vaccinated.
“See how that works?”
Or this one:
“I only know two things for sure on this issue:
“1. People who do not vaccinate their children, and have no valid MEDICAL reason for failing to do so, should have their legal parental rights suspended until they immunize their children.
“2. Back when we had newspapers and Walter Cronkite delivering our news, these things did not happen like this. Wackos were not given a platform to spread their dangerous ideas (for free) to like-minded imbeciles. One more crumbling foundation of society directly attributable to the internet and (the misnamed) social media.”
“I couldn’t agree more and I love the idea of having an anti-vaxxer registry. If they are so proud of putting other kids in danger, let them put their names in public.”
The entire comments section is mostly an avalanche of this kind of authoritarian, rage-filled, hysteria. Much of it reads as if it could have been written by the same person. Jabbed: How the Vaccin... Best Price: null Buy New $19.99 (as of 02:10 EST - Details)
So here’s my faith-based statement: I don’t believe the comments.
I know there is plenty of ignorance out there on the topic of vaccines, and the reasons why some choose not to vaccinate, and I know there are plenty of people who have fallen for the aggressive media campaign to make us all fear measles as if it is–in Kayyem’s words–the plague. I also know that there are plenty of people out there who are happy to trample the rights of others over the flimsiest of pretexts.
I just don’t believe that there are as many of them as the Washington Post wants me to believe there are. I certainly don’t believe that their views are representative of the majority of the people in this country. I believe most of these comments are fabricated. Created by one or two, maybe three or four people, all in the pay of someone who wants the public to believe that this is what everyone else thinks too, and that it’s socially acceptable to talk about forcing medical procedures on other people’s children, or taking those children from them because of the medical choices they make.
I could be wrong. As I said, this is a faith-based statement, founded only in what remaining faith I have in the human beings around me. I know we’re bad. I just don’t believe we’re this bad. And the hysteria is becoming a little too ridiculous. I don’t believe that comment sections like this one represent the views of any large number of the people who live around me. And you shouldn’t either.