Antivaxxers are *all about* the open dialogue

Bad Astronomy
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Jan. 13 2010 11:00 AM

Antivaxxers are *all about* the open dialogue

This seems to be the decade of "I don't like what you say, so instead of refuting it with evidence I'll sue you to shut you up!" for the alt-medders.

First, it was Simon Singh being sued by the British Chiropractic Association, and now it's Barbara Loe Fischer from the ironically named National Vaccine Information Center, who is suing writer Amy Wallace and vaccine researcher Paul Offit about an article Wallace wrote in Wired magazine. The article is one of those rare ones that actually uses facts and evidence rather than anecdotes and hearsay, so of course shines a very ill-received spotlight on the antivaxxers, showing them for what they are: a public health menace.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


As usual, Orac has the details. One thing that Orac notes is that Fischer chose to file her suit in Virginia which does not have SLAPP laws, designed to prevent lawsuits intended to silence critics. So it really really looks like she is suing simply to silence critics. Others think so too.

That is enough for an interesting story all by itself, of course. But the thing about people who deny reality, though, is that eventually they find themselves having to believe seven different things before breakfast, and at some point the irony meter can get pegged as they twist and spin. In this case, Ms. Fischer blows the gauge because she is asking for a "fearless" discussion about vaccines in 2010.

Yes, you read that correctly. She wants this because open and fearless conversation is so well-supported by libel lawsuits tossed around specifically to silence your opponents.

And people wonder why I think the mouthpieces for the antivax movement are so awful.

Skeptic Rebecca Watson agrees. Here's what she has to say about this:

You can read Ms. Fischer's complete statements on the NVIC website, but I'd make sure you clean your computer with bleach afterwards; who knows what you might catch from going there. You might want to protect your brain, too, since she somehow manages to link vaccines with terrorism and 9/11. When it comes to terrorism, I think the antivax movement fits better than vaccines, since fear is something they use all-too-well to scare parents into not vaccinating their kids.

Of course, if they used such things as evidence and scientific research, they'd have no movement at all.

The best thing we can do is keep shining this light on the hypocrisy and distortions of the antivax movement. They will continue to push garbage like this, and we have to make sure that the public sees it. The only alternative is to wait for kids to start dying from measles, pertussis, HiB, and other preventable illnesses in greater numbers than they already are... an event which, tragically, is already underway due in part to the antivaxxers.

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