Antivaccine nonsense Autism Complementary and alternative medicine History Hitler Zombie Holocaust Medicine Quackery World War II

The Hitler Zombie smells thimerosal

i-e7a12c3d2598161273c9ed31d61fe694-ClassicInsolence.jpgVacation time! While Orac is gone recharging his circuits and contemplating the linguistic tricks of limericks and jokes or the glory of black holes, he’s rerunning some old stuff from his original Blogspot blog. This particular post first appeared on July 6, 2005 and is the very first time ever that the Hitler Zombie appeared in a horror story form. As such, it was a landmark day in the annals of Respectful Insolence. Appropriately enough, it’s over what had become a frequent blogging topic even back in those early days. Enjoy!

Deep within a dark crypt, far beneath the ground, it slept. The air was thick and musty, and the crypt utterly silent, so silent that its heartbeat would easily have been heard, if it actually had a beating heart and if any ears were there to hear. Not a photon of visible light could penetrate the gloom, producing the kind of darkness that would drive a person insane within minutes due to total sensory deprivation. So it remained for weeks.

Then there was a stir, ever so slight, almost imperceptible, but just enough to move a small volume of dank air, producing a rare brief breeze. The tomb fell silent again.

The hunger grew. The Hitler zombie had fed well on the brains of many politicians, gorging on the brain centers controlling rational thought and sense of proportion, driving them to make ill-considered and inflammatory comparisons to Hitler, the Nazis, or the Holocaust that the brain damage from its feasting would either prevent them from recognizing as ridiculous or that they would later regret. Sated, it had finally retreated to its resting place craving only release from its hell, the real sleep of the dead that feeding on brains briefly allowed it.

Unfortunately for the not quite living Führer, politicians’ brains are a poor source of nourishment, even for an undead monster that had caused the deaths of tens of millions during life. It was soon hungry again, despite its primeval desire for eternal rest. It needed to hunt. Deep within the sulci of its rotting white matter, it craved something different than the same old brains that were prone to use the same old fallacious Nazi, Hitler, or Holocaust analogies, something that might sustain it longer and allow it to sleep as dead for longer. A creature of sheer instinct and minimal residual intelligence, it just couldn’t quite know what. Nearly two years ago, drawn by the rising level of ridiculously overblown rhetoric eminating from PETA, it had visited PETA’s world headquarters and feasted mightily on the brains of several of PETA’s leaders. The result (besides a big mess) was the infamous Holocaust on a Plate advertising campaign. Next it found one Karen Davis, Ph.D., whose brain was most satisfying to eat, resulting in an essay entitled A Tale of Two Holocausts. It had been a marvelous feast, those brains, so unlike the monotonous brains of politicians, whose only thought was power and how to use the Hitler analogy as a weapon against their enemies. The creature craved something like that again.

The Hitler zombie stirred again, this time more forcefully. It sensed similar rhetoric, rhetoric similar to what it desired. If the Hitler zombie had more sentience, it would have been surprised, as this rhetoric was coming from a most unexpected source indeed, groups advocating for autistic children. Most incongruously, they were decribing autism in increasingly horrific terms. In their unshakable and self-righteously mistaken belief that thimerosal in childhood vaccines was causing an “epidemic” of autism, activist groups were increasingly (and probably unwittingly) demonizing even the very victims of autism, calling the “epidemic” an autism “tsunami” (showing an enormous lack of respect for the more than hundred thousand dead), and even going so far as to call some of its victims “walking biohazards,” “an equal opportunity disaster,” or even “government mercury vaccine poisoned kids.” The rhetoric was clearly accelerating to what the Hitler zombie instinctually knew would inevitably be the ultimate bad analogy, the very reason for its tortured existence. For the rhetoric to reach that end, all it would require is a little feeding, and the Hitler zombie existed only to feed.

The time was ripe. The Hitler zombie rose and started clawing his way through the dirt to the surface. It didn’t take long for it to find Mark Blaxill of and an altie named Dr. Mercola.

It fed deeply and well.

Mr. Blaxill then wrote this letter to Time Magazine, likening autism to a “silent holocaust,” an analogy that Dr. Mercola echoed on his own website, also likening it to “pharmaceutical terrorism.” The “silent holocaust” analogy spread, and was soon found in a number of publications by organizations that claimed that autism was caused by the mercury in thimerosal. The Hitler zombie was temporarily sated.

It was not enough. The Hitler zombie enjoyed this new use of the tired old Nazi/Holocaust gambit (if an undead creature such as he could be said to feel any sensation resembling “pleasure”), but still hungered for more brains and more of the analogy. It craved another receptive brain on which to feed to produce these fallacies.

The Hitler zombie hunted again.

It did not have far to look. It somehow found its way to Sacramento and to the Schafer Autism Report. It shambled into Lenny Schafer’s office, leaving a trail of maggots and bits of rotting flesh behind it. “More braaaiiins!”* it croaked through rotting lips, and fed again. Lenny did not even try to run. Soon after, e-mailed to thousands of subscribers was the usual Schafer Autism Report. However, embedded in the e-mail was this headline, referring to an article that supposedly debunks the widely cited Danish study that failed to find a link between thimerosal and autism:

Danish Studies Roundly Clobbered
Autism holocaust deniers lack the science

Deep in the collapsing skull of the shambling undead creature, what little consciousness of the dictator that remained enjoyed this analogy immensely. Instinctively, he appreciated the dual-pronged fallacious use of the Nazi Holocaust analogy. Besides implying that autism and autistic spectrum disorders (conditions that, although often devastating, can still also be compatible with a relatively normal life for many of their victims) were akin to the Holocaust, to the intentional killing of millions of people and the attempt to wipe out European Jewry as a matter of Nazi government policy, this particular analogy had the additional irony of also equating anyone who questioned the thimerosal-autism link, anyone who looked at the scientific studies on this issue and concluded that the mercury in thimerosal-containing vaccines was not the cause of autism, with that most vile variety of anti-Semites and Nazi apologists, Holocaust deniers! Such a monumentally exaggerated analogy that simultaneously equated autism with with industrialized mass murder while also equating those who questioned an autism-thimerosal link with Holocaust deniers was not only a gross insult autistics and their parents (not to mention any who happen to disagree that mercury causes autism), but a trivialization of the Holocaust. Indeed, to the Hitler zombie, these ironies were just as delicious as the brains it had just consumed.

But there was yet another irony in this nasty analogy for the Hitler zombie to savor as it digested Lenny Schafer’s brain in its putrifying intestines. People using idiotic Holocaust analogies (like Mr. Blaxill, Dr. Mercola, and Mr. Schafer) probably fail to recall that the earliest mass murders of the Holocaust occurred during the T4 euthanasia program, in which the Nazis decided to eliminate what they termed “life unworthy of life.” Specifically, children and adults who were mentally ill, mentally retarded, or disabled were the targets. Indeed after 1939 in Nazi Germany, psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes gradually became feared places; families with the means to do so tried desperately to get their children out of them. Many who could not received vague and mysterious letters informing them that their family member had died of “natural causes” and that the body had been cremated for reasons of “hygeine.” It is impossible to know how many autistics died through the intentional starvation, lethal injection, or in the gas chambers used this phase of the Holocaust because, before Dr. Leo Kanner described the condition in detail and developed specific diagnostic criteria for autism in 1943, autistics were usually classified as schizophrenic or mentally retarded. However, because these two groups were among the primary targets of the Nazi T4 program, it is not at all unreasonable to speculate that many autistics were probably victims of the Nazi regime’s desire to rid the Volk of the mentally “defective.” Likening autism to the Holocaust was thus doubly insulting to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Indeed, it even came uncomfortably close to resembling the very rhetoric that the Nazis were so fond of when it came to the mentally ill and retarded (“worthless eaters” and “life unworthy of life”).

Savoring the vicious and mindless fallacies behind such a comparison, the Hitler zombie found its way back to its crypt and slept. It was starting to like the smell of thimerosal, and one day it would be back for more. Perhaps Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. would be its next victim…

*Translated from German, of course!

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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