We all know that the anti-vaccination movement has a public relations problem and has been unable to mount a legal challenge to compulsory immunization, this is often blamed on corporate shills and a corrupt media and indeed they do their part. However, the behaviour and in particular the associations of antivaxxers has thus far given their enemies abundant ammunition to use against them. To understand why, it might be useful to draw comparisons with earlier failed branches of social activism.
No doubt you remember Occupy Wall street (and it’s spinoffs), such a widely coordinated effort, such a massive turnout and yet so little accomplished. Why? Simply because it was easy for the corporate media to portray the protesters in a repulsive light (no less a persona than Steve Bannon directed Occupy Unmasked). The Occupy movement’s initial vision was against financial deregulation, the undue influence of corporate lobbyists on government and of the people shackled to spiralling debt, all worthy issues, but vaguely understood and poorly enunciated by the bulk of attendees, who focused their slogans and banners on the inequitable distribution of wealth in the US, the fruit rather than the roots of the problem. This was a bad idea because without adequately arguing their case as to how the proletariat is trapped in poverty the protesters were easy to frame as “occutards who want free stuff”.
Add to this the naked hippies climbing trees, the nightly outbreaks of sexual assault in their encampments along with the mess their camping made of the park and it becomes clear why Occupy was ineffective. Big protests may draw the public eye, but in order to sway public opinion they must also deliver a coherent ideology and present a positive image. Unsavoury associates are tremendously damaging to both ideology and image.
Now, consider the kind of people who comprise the public face of the anti-vaccination movement: Enter David “Avocado” Wolfe, self described “rock star and Indiana Jones of the superfoods and longevity universe”.
The Australian Vaccination Network’s official facebook page has promoted him, and AVN has marketed his advice.
Let us note that David Wolfe is a flat-earther, this isn’t a slur, it’s something he actually believes or at least hypes, insofar as this man can be said to “believe” anything, being that he is a content aggregator floating any trendy conspiracy theory. The MSM of course chortled about this during his visit to Australia; flat-earther and antivaxxer in the same headline and it wasn’t even a polemical exaggeration. He also sells philosopher’s stones in the form of longevity zappers, for a mere $397 apiece.
This isn’t the first time AVN has been involved with a ridiculous alternative medicine scam, their website used to advertize black salve (which in it’s intended topical application shouldn’t even be relevant to vaccine injuries), until ordered to desist by the TGA. David Wolfe meanwhile was sensibly disinvited from another conference for those who dissent from the medical establishment’s paradigm – the 2017 Biohacker Summit in Helinski, but toured Australia in the same year and was welcomed by many antivaxxers. I didn’t see him in Perth, but I saw several other alternative medicine snake oil salesman given a platform at AV meetings. People like Wolfe must not be invited to speak at anti-vaccination rallies, his success in self-promotion and social networking in addition to his fame and popularity with some nearly 12 million Facebook followers might seem to recommend him as a useful advocate, but this huge number is still a minority and mostly drawn from an overseas US demographic anyway, a voting majority at home is needed to effect change, moreover those who subscribe to the fringe of Wolfe-type quackery will always be a minority anywhere no matter how many are gathered, as such, association with him is ultimately more of a hindrance than a help.
A similar objection could be raised regarding the confused delivery of contradictory messages at the vaccination protests in 2017 where speakers acclaimed the Australian screening of Andrew Wakefield’s Vaxxed movie but in the same breath talked about detoxing the body of heavy metals like mercury. The notorious MMR triple shot – the basis of Wakefield’s scandal – never contained any mercurial thiomersal, or aluminium adjuvant for that matter; Wakefield’s initial thesis holds that MMR vaccine related neurological damage is caused via the induction of an atypical measles infection. Some other authors have suggested a synergistic effect between MMR and previously administered aluminium-containing vaccines. Actually, the specific vaccine component responsible for brain inflammation in early development and resultant dysregulation of normal development might vary considerably between cases; in 2016 researchers at the University of Maryland induced autism-like brain damage in rat pups via administration of naturally occurring PGE2 and lipopolysaccharides as adjuvants. Anyway, confusion on this topic has become a running joke among pro-vaccinators: The crazy antivaxxers don’t even know what’s in vaccines or what they want to ban!
Of course this is a fallacious line of argument, you do not need a mechanistic knowledge of the interaction between vaccines and neurodevelopment (there are very few people who could be considered experts in both the fields of immunology and neuroscience) to object to the practical consequences of vaccination. Likewise, the exact workings of nuclear weapons and nuclear technologies in general are a classified secret, therefore following these vaccine shills’ line of thought nobody’s opinion on them should be regarded bar a handful of government anointed physicists and nuclear engineers; those ignorant islanders and sailors who claim to have been poisoned by fallout do not understand the intricacies of nukes, therefore their personal experience and complaints are invalidated by their inexpertise.
In any case, antivaxxers’ current lack of purity of purpose and inconstancy of message are self-sabotaging enough without associating with obvious scoundrels and charlatans; continue to comingle with them and you’ll continue to enjoy the same success in influencing public thought and opposing forced vaccination that you’ve had to date.