anti-vaxers: to insanity and halfway back again

J.B. Handley and the crew at Age of Autism had a disturbing and revolting meltdown this week.

baby with headphones

Suppose you want to start a debate on the safety and efficacy of vaccines, one of the most successful tools for promoting public health along with clean water and proper hygiene. You could recruit a team of researchers to participate in the routine studies conducted on vaccination programs, point out what you see as issues worth discussing and have a civil debate about potential side effects of the vaccines currently used. Or you could set up an alternative world which becomes a hostile echo chamber that only tolerates the idea that vaccines are a tad less harmful than drinking raw toxic sludge and create editorial cartoons of doctors and science writers at a Thanksgiving table, eating a baby while posting denigrating jokes about oral sex and demonizing skeptics as murderous hyenas paid off by Big Pharma. Then, when you realize you went over the line, silently hide it.

Care to guess which route was chosen by J.B. Handley, an organic food biz financier with a very obvious and debilitating inferiority complex towards scientists and doctors? True to his typical classy ways, Handley went for the low blow, just as he did when Wired’s Amy Wallace wrote an honest piece about the medical Luddism he proudly espouses and its dangers. After trying to refute the facts cited in the article with quack studies that were financed by his organization, or groups affiliated with his ideologies, this self-appointed sentry against the evil forces of pharmaceutical companies went on to set up a graphic scenario in which Wallace gets date raped by vaccine expert Paul Offit, resulting in the article that sent him foaming at the mouth with rage. But then again, it seems that Handley’s temper is so microscopically short, any take on his efforts which doesn’t pat him on the head or dares to point out his total lack of critical thought or scientific knowledge will send him into a conniption and producing the kind of apoplectic howls you’d expect from a rabid banshee.

Just like every crank, Handley believes himself to be brilliant and that his skills in raising cash for a number of niche businesses can more than compensate for his lack of education in biology, medicine and immunology. During the first few months of this blog, I wrote about two studies which provided empirical evidence for what quite a few of us probably knew already. Bosses are often the people who talk the most confidently rather than those with the best set of skills, and they tend to grossly overestimate their performance by virtue of being in a position of power. In fact, 9 in 10 managers believe their abilities place them in the top 10% of their company’s highest achievers. To put this in other words, they talk a big game and eventually end up swallowing their own self-promotion, which leads them to acquire an over-bloated ego. Med school? Science class? Who needs all that? They’re managers of a company! And this is precisely what Handley says when given the chance…

I’m not intellectually intimidated by any of these jokers… I chose a different path and went into the business world. In the business world, having a degree from a great college or business school gets you your first job, and not much else… Brains and street-smarts win, not degrees, arrogance, or entitlement.

See that? He doesn’t need degrees or an actual education before going out and spouting off about how killer vaccines will give children autism. His mantra was that autism is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning, and while he stands on the podium, rallying the masses with scaremongering and pseudoscience, he lacks the will and the knowledge to figure out that mercury poisoning is caused by methyl mercury that you find in fish or industrial waste, not the ethyl mercury which was used in the vaccine preservative thimerosal. Which was not used in childhood vaccines since 2000 and is clearly not at fault. Handley is arrogant enough to think that he’s exempt from knowing that there’s more than one type of mercury and it has different effects on the body, and yet he’s ranting about how he’s not afraid of all those elistist doctors and their fancy degrees.

On top of that, he’ll be more than happy to forward your potentially autistic child to a quack who uses kids as his guinea pigs on the parents’ dime with absolutely no accountability, no oversight and no skepticism on the part of the groups managed by Handley and his biomed woo crew. That’s right. The same people ready to rip into a doctor’s throat over half a statistically negligible quantity of a chemical that’s a total mystery to them and demand enormous studies on vaccine safety be done and re-done time and time again, won’t bat an eyelash on borderline medical child abuse and consider random anecdotes from people who have been lied to about their progeny’s condition from beginning to end, sufficient proof that their woo is more potent than real clinical medicine. Autistic children who just need help in learning how to communicate better and a careful eye from a concerned professional, become pawns in Handley’s publicity game.

Make no mistake, Age of Autism or Generation Rescue are publicity weapons to him. He truly wants to stick it to modern medicine. He wants the glory of saying that he’s right and everyone’s wrong. And the kids? They’re just being used as his trump card, whether he realizes it or not. Considering that he stealthily pulls bits where his hatred goes way too far off his blogs, there may still be a flash of sanity in his head once in while. But now, his beliefs about vaccines have become his religion, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary, and his organization won’t back down solely on principle. They could never possibly be the ones who have to eat crow. In their minds, either the doctors lose or the battle will continue until they do. There is no other option.

# health // anti vaccination / autism / medicine / pseudoscience


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