Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Pseudoscience Skepticism/critical thinking

RFK Jr. doesn’t like being called antivaccine and antimask

RFK Jr. is angry—so very, very angry—because Terry Gross had pro-science guests on her NPR show “Fresh Air” who called him antivaccine and antimask.

RFK Jr. (a.k.a. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.) has long been antivaccine. Indeed, he rapidly became a prominent figure in the antivaccine movement in 2005. That was when when his publication of Deadly Immunity simultaneously in and Rolling Stone (to their eternal shame, a shame I will never stop reminding them of) popularized the Simpsonwood conspiracy theory, which posited that in 2000 the CDC met in an Atlanta suburb to “cover up” the evidence that the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal was the cause of the “autism epidemic.” It was nonsense, of course, based on a misrepresentation of how in epidemiological studies seemingly “positive” associations disappear when confounders are properly taken into account.

From there, it was off to the races, with RFK Jr. ultimately forming his antivaccine organization World Mercury Project, which was ultimately renamed Children’s Health Defense after it had become very clear nearly two decades after thimerosal was removed from vaccines that autism rates were not falling (quite the contrary, in fact), thus showing no association between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Along the way, his claims to be “fiercely pro-vaccine” notwithstanding, RFK Jr. demonstrated himself to be, in reality, fiercely antivaccine, whether he was likening vaccination to the Holocaust, trying to persuade Samoan officials that the MMR vaccine was dangerous (in the middle of a deadly measles outbreak!), claiming that today’s generation of children is the “sickest generation” (due to vaccines, of course!), or toadying up to President-Elect Donald Trump during the transition period to be chair of a “vaccine safety commission.” Indeed, last year his own family called him out for his antivaccine activism, while, predictably, RFK Jr. has, as so many antivaxxers have done, gone all-in on COVID-19 pseudoscience and conspiracy theories and become antimask, “anti-lockdown,” and pro-quack treatments.

No, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is most definitely not “fiercely pro-vaccine.” Rather, he is antivaccine to the core. Amusingly, though, he does really, really, really hate being called antivaccine, which leads me to an incredibly hilarious whine that he posted yesterday on the Children’s Health Defense website, RFK, Jr. to NPR’s Terry Gross: ‘I Urge You to Correct the Record’. This particular post is a rant against everything and everyone he hates, and it’s gloriously giggle-inducing to read, particularly his numerous threats to sue people like children’s health advocate Dr. Peter Hotez for expressing the opinion that RFK Jr. is antivaccine, a threat that is particularly hypocritical given how much of his screed is devoted to false complaints about “censorship” and “silencing” free speech.

One thing I can’t figure out is why it took RFK Jr. so long to write this post. The Fresh Air segment that set him off aired over a month and a half ago, right before Thanksgiving. I note the contrast to his response to a December 30 op-ed by his niece Dr. Kerry Meltzer in the New York Times, calling him out for spreading antivaccine disinformation. That time, it took him less than a week to do an equally amusing article complaining about how the NYT had declined his request to print a rebuttal. (Good going for once, NYT! Never give a crank a forum!) Equally entertaining was how RFK Jr. called his niece’s op-ed “defamatory.” Maybe he reacted so fast because Dr. Meltzer is a relative, while perhaps he was reluctant to get on Terry Gross’ bad side given how much Fresh Air likes to feature environmental causes, the area where RFK Jr. first became an activist and primary claim to fame (at least before he went full antivax nearly 16 years ago). He probably was reluctant to foreclose any chance of being on the show in the future, although it does appear that he hasn’t been on the show in a very long time.

The statement that really appears to have irked RFK Jr. the most was the observation that he had spoken to an antilockdown protest in Germany that had involved far right wing groups and QAnon conspiracy theorists:

During your November 24 interview, Dr. Peter Hotez made several inaccurate and damaging statements about me that went unchallenged. I know you value accuracy and integrity, and so I urge you to correct the record.

Dr. Hotez falsely claimed that I spoke to Nazis and QAnon in Germany.

Dr. Hotez was apparently referring to my August 29 speech at the Rally for Peace and Freedom in Berlin organized by the German group, Querdenken 711, or “Critical Thinking 711.” Querdenken is neither Nazi nor QAnon.

Querdenken is a broad-based, peaceful citizens’ movement launched by a large group of European human and civil rights lawyers and others to promote freedom, peace, democracy,and human rights. It strongly opposes Nazism, anti-Semitism, and all forces of extremism. There was no evidence of Nazi iconography anywhere near the Querdenken protest. (Dr. Hotez apparently conflated the large Querdenken rally-reliably estimated crowds = 100k to 1 million plus-with a tiny, staged demonstration by about 50 Nazis and QAnon supporters that occurred simultaneously across town at the Reichstag).

Perhaps my German-speaking friends can look at RFK Jr.’s claim that Querdenken means “critical thinking,” because when I run it through Google Translate and look it up on other sources I get the translation of “thinking outside the box.” (I don’t speak German; so I don’t know which is correct.) As for denying that Querdenken 711 is far right, this Daily Beast story about the demonstration at which RFK Jr. spoke tells a rather different tale:

Querdenken 711, whose name loosely translates to “Thinking Outside the Box 711,” had tried to invite other controversial world leaders to the rally before landing Kennedy. On Aug. 7, the group’s Twitter account tweeted at Donald Trump, calling him “the only American President who has not started a war,” despite his record escalating the U.S.’s foreign conflicts, and cordially invited him “to speak on the subject of ‘peace.’” Three days later, the account tweeted at Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, asking him, too, to speak about “Peace in Europe,” apparently ignoring Russia’s intervention in Eastern Ukraine. (Members of Querdenken’s many Telegram channels noted that Putin might be too busy with the escalating tensions in Belarus to attend.)

In a last-ditch effort to score a major speaker outside of their own ranks, the group finally tweeted at Kennedy, asking him to join them on stage for “freedom and peace” on Aug. 19. Kennedy had already signaled his interest in the growing “anti-COVID” movement in Germany. On Aug. 11, his anti-vaccine group, Children’s Health Defense, published a letter by an anonymous “Friend in Germany” on the organization’s website. Four days later, Querdenken 711 founder Michael Ballweg offered an official public invitation during a speech in Hamburg.

That’s got to sting. Querdenken 711 couldn’t get Trump or Putin, so it settled for RFK Jr. instead. Its members were quite happy, too:

The news of Kennedy’s arrival put German QAnon Telegram channels into a frenzy. The conspiracy theorists, many of whom are obsessed with JFK, had been hoping for a resurrection-style reappearance of the 35th U.S. president, but were mostly content with his nephew filling in. Members had long been sharing Kennedy’s attacks on Bill Gates. Some QAnon followers have even fantasized about Kennedy throwing Bill Gates in Gitmo.

Admiration for Kennedy and hatred for Gates connects QAnon conspiracy theorists, far-right extremists and the more mainstream corners of anti-COVID activism. Kennedy’s interview, “Perspectives on the Pandemic” has been widely shared by Querdenken activists. Anti-Bill-Gates shirts and signs are a common sight at Querdenken protests. Ballweg—a tech entrepreneur and self-styled apolitical freedom activist—denies any connection between the event featuring Kennedy and the group that attempted to break into the parliament building in the wake of Querdenken’s protest, but the speeches he’s been giving throughout the summer seem to tell a different story.

My conclusion based on what I’ve been able to find is that Querdenken 711 appears very much aligned with and full of QAnon cultists and full of far right wing activists, but that its leadership likes to try to maintain plausible deniability with respect to such groups. RFK Jr., being the longtime liberal icon that he is, probably has serious cognitive dissonance when it is pointed out to him that most of his admirers now are Trump supporters, far right wing anti-“lockdown” protesters, and QAnon conspiracy theorists. Indeed, he was listed as a keynote speaker in the initial advertising for AMPFest, a QAnon gathering held October, although it appears that he must have backed out, as I never saw evidence that he spoke there.

It is, of course, true that RFK Jr. did rail against “tyranny.” He did it in the same way that he has in the past invoked Nazi-ism and the Holocaust to demonize vaccines. As he likened vaccine mandates to tyranny, so in Berlin he likened COVID-19 measures, 5G, digital currency, and the like to “slavery.” (His speech is here, if you can stomach it, and the transcript of his press conference afterward shows how he went further than in his brief speech.) However, it’s also clear from his very first remarks that RFK Jr. was quite aware of Querdenken 711’s reputation, as the transcript shows that he started right out saying:

Back at home, in the United States, the newspapers are saying that I came here today to speak to about 5,000 Nazis. Tomorrow, they are going to report that, yes, I was here, that I spoke to maybe 3,000 to 5,000 Nazis.

And, at his press conference, he returned to his old playbook:

Hitler could point at the Jews and say those are the big threat, we need to be frightened of them, and everybody else needs to obey so that we can fight them off. Other countries were scared of the Bolsheviks. In the United States, our demigods point to the Mexicans or dark-skinned people and say we need to be scared of them, or terrorists. All of those things get us to voluntarily give up, relinquish our human rights, our civil rights and walk like sheep into the Abattoir.

Now they have a source of fear that is the most pervasive, an all-encompassing power that they’ve ever had which is the fear of pandemic.

I won’t dwell on this. RFK Jr. has been playing footsies with the right wing at least since he helped lead the opposition to the California law SB 277, which eliminated nonmedical “personal belief exemptions” to school vaccine mandates six years ago.

More amusing is how very, very much RFK Jr. hates being called “antivaccine”:

I am not anti-vaccine. I have said this hundreds of times over the years. I have explained, ad nauseam, that my demand for safer vaccines, robust science and regulatory agencies — free from Big Pharma’s corrupting conflicts — does not make me anti-vaccine. (I have fought for four decades to remove mercury from fish, yet nobody calls me “anti-fish”). Characterizing all questions about vaccine safety and efficacy as “anti-vaccine” is a calculated industry propaganda technique for muzzling debate, and for marginalizing and vilifying critics. It is Dr. Hotez’s strategy to apply the “anti-vaccine” ad hominem to anyone who questions the medical cartel’s orthodoxy that all vaccines are safe, effective and thoroughly tested. Dr. Hotez applies the defamation broadly: to discredit attorneys like me who sue his industry, to intimidate the many doctors, scientists and public health educators who ask reasonable and thoughtful questions about vaccine safety protocols; and to bully, silence and gaslight the mothers of millions of intellectually damaged children who believe that vaccines harmed their children.

I’ve addressed this risible claim more times than I can remember, ever since RFK Jr. first referred to himself as “fiercely pro-vaccine” on—and you can’t make stuff like this up!—The Dr. Oz Show in 2014. I already summarized a number of examples of RFK Jr.’s antivaccine statements and beliefs in the introduction to this post, but I’ll add a couple of more. There was the time when RFK Jr. teamed up with Robert De Niro to do a dishonest Jock Doubleday-like “challenge” to vaccine advocates to provide him with enough evidence to convince him that vaccines are safe. Then there are the continued lies about vaccines promoted by his organization Children’s Health Defense. I could go on and on and on, but it is very clear that RFK Jr. is not a “skeptic.” He is antivaccine.

Let me just put it this way. If RKF Jr. is ever so utterly foolish as to sue someone for libel or slander for calling him antivaccine, I hope that the lawyers for the defense ask him a very simple question at his deposition: Name a childhood vaccine (or childhood vaccines) that you personally consider sufficiently safe and effective to recommend generally. After all, if you’re “not antivaccine,” then surely there must be at least one vaccine whose use you support. (If I were on the legal team for the defense, I’d also follow up by asking him to do the same for adult vaccines.) My prediction is that he wouldn’t be able to name a single vaccine that he considers safe and effective or that he’d do his best to dance around the question. These sorts responses reveal how antivaxxers can’t help but reveal that their posturing as “vaccine safety advocates” is nothing more than a ruse, a misdirection, a camouflage designed to hide their antivaccine views. I could, of course recommend a whole lot of other questions for his deposition that would help bolster the case that he is antivaccine, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader (not to mention to keep them in reserve, in case RFK Jr. is ever actually stupid enough to sue a pro-vaccine advocate for libel for calling him “antivaccine”). Certainly, his funding sources are likely to be a fruitful area for such explorations.

Next up, RFK Jr. doesn’t like being called “antimask” either. To deflect, he does the same dance that he does around vaccines:

I am not anti-mask. Neither I, nor my organization, Children’s Health Defense (CHD), take a position on masks. I have asked legitimate and thoughtful questions about the science that justifies government mask mandates. I have also complained about the absence of notice and common rulemaking and due process accompanying the imposition of mask mandates. This advocacy means that I believe in science, democracy and our Constitution. This does not make me anti-mask.

On CHD’s website, we publish every peer-reviewed study we can find on mask efficacy, regardless of their conclusions. We have identified over 35 placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed studies to date. We have not been able to find any peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled study that supports the efficacy of masks against viral or bacteriological transmission — even in hospital settings. Meanwhile, dozens of studies suggest negative efficacy and several link masks to a grim inventory of respiratory, pulmonary, dental, gastrointestinal and dermatological injuries.

Oh, no. I’m not antivaccine. It’s just that I never, ever write about or amplify any studies or data that conclude that vaccines are safe and effective. Substitute the word “antimask” for “antivaccine” and “masks for “vaccines,” and you see RFK Jr.’s game here. Oh, no, he says. I’m not “antimask.” I’m just asking questions. Funny, though, how if you search his website you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single study or any data cited by him that masks do work to slow the spread of COVID-19. As with vaccines, RFK Jr. is a master of cherry picking studies that support his preexisting beliefs, to the point where I’ll paraphrase him: “I’m not ‘antimask.’ I’m a mask safety advocate.”

RFK Jr. then goes on to do basically the same thing with “lockdowns,” before launching into his conspiracy theories about Peter Hotez, Bill Gates, and, of course, “censorship,” in essence taking a chorus from the old Warren Zevon tune, “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me”:

For more than a year beginning in 2017, Dr. Hotez and I privately maintained a regular telephone debate about vaccine safety moderated by my cousin, Special Olympics Director Tim Shriver. It is my memory that Peter did not fare well in those exchanges. I continue to publish scrupulously sourced science-based castigations of Peter’s serial self-serving inaccuracies that he routinely broadcasts from his Twitter feed. I have frequently challenged him to debate publicly about those whoppers. I am not surprised that he has steadfastly refused my invitations. On March 11, 2019, Dr. Hotez told Joe Rogan that he would hesitate to debate me because I am a “clever lawyer.” In an earlier conversation, he told me that he would happily participate in a public debate, but only if NIH (presumably Dr. Fauci) gave him permission. That peculiar demurrer raises its own parade of questions about the cozy relationship between government and industry that, I hope, you also find troubling.

Here we go again with that favorite science denier and crank gambit, “all truth comes from live public debate.” No, it doesn’t, at least in science. Of course, cranks like RFK Jr. love “live debates,” be they on TV, radio, or live in front of an audience, for reasons that I’ve explained time and time again. Many are the example I’ve discussed over many years, such as, for example., when antivaccine guru Andrew Wakefield challenged Dr. David Salisbury to a “live public debate” about whether the MMR vaccine causes autism or not. (Hint: It doesn’t.) Then there was the time when all-purpose quack Julian Whitaker debated Steve Novella at FreedomFest in 2012. Sometimes cranks have tried to trick me, such as when an HIV-AIDS denialist tried to lure me into a “debate” with HIV-AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore back in 2007. Then there were Michael Shermer’s “debate” with Deepak Chopra; antivaccine propagandist David Kirby debating author Arthur Allen; and, of course, antivaccine activist Nick Haas’ challenge to have a blogger from Science-Based Medicine do a live public debate about vaccines. As I’ve pointed out before, time and time again, I don’t “debate” cranks, at least not live on stage in such artificial events, because such events (1) make it appear that there is an actual scientific debate when there is not and (2) give the crank the freedom to Gish gallop to his or her heart’s content.

Peter Hotez was wise not to fall into RFK Jr.’s trap. As I’ve said more times than I can remember, it’s very perilous for a science-based advocate to agree to such a “debate” with someone like RFK Jr. (or anti-“lockdown” groups), because unless one is very familiar with the tactics and obscure studies that such a crank will use and reference it is very easy to lose the debate while winning on science.

Then, of course, RFK Jr. goes straight to the pharma shill gambit, as he always does:

As you surely must know, Mr. Gates is also Dr. Hotez’s mentor and principal funder. Mr. Gates reportedly donated $52,000,000 to develop and conduct clinical trials in Brazil for his hookworm vaccine. After that donation, Dr. Hotez emerged as the principal voice for promoting vaccines globally and as a carnival barker for Everything Gates. In that sense, Dr. Hotez has become the most visible promoter of the government/Pharma partnership and the rich government subsidies and mandates that underpin the global vaccine industry.

Or it could be that the Gates Foundation donated the money because whatever committee is responsible for reviewing grant proposals thought the project was worthwhile. It could also be that Dr. Hotez is so vocally pro-vaccine because he really believes in vaccines. Such thoughts, of course, never occur to a conspiracy theorist like RFK Jr, who after the passage above goes straight into the usual (and a not very original) litany of Bill Gates conspiracy theories. Bill Gates might have many flaws, but one of them is not being the enemy and principal Dark Lord of Vaccination that cranks like RFK Jr. love to attack. That is perhaps his most admirable trait.

RFK Jr finishes with an appeal to Terry Gross about “fairness” and “censorship” that is so transparent in its intent that I laughed out loud when I read it:

You have long been a champion of the idea that censorship is the weapon of tyrants. You understand that America’s founders adopted the First Amendment not to protect popular speech approved by government and industry power centers, but to protect unpopular speech — especially during times of crisis. Democracy functions best when public policy emerges from the cauldron of open, and even fierce, debate. Turning “Fresh Air” over to pharmaceutical industry insiders to promote shoddily tested mandatory medical products and broadcast unchallenged industry propaganda is not consistent with your show’s proud tradition.

RFK Jr.’s rant about being “censored” is nothing new. It’s the same old schtick he’s been doing for a long time now, most recently when he so risibly proclaimed himself willing to “die with his boots on” over “censorship” and attempts to combat his disinformation. One can’t help but laugh at how someone as privileged as RFK Jr., who’s had access to the highest government officials, the richest and most famous people, and the most influential media figures for his entire adult life solely because of who his father was and the family into which he had had the fortune of being born whines about “censorship.” He reminds me of Donald Trump, having been born on third base and going through life thinking he’d hit a triple.

Finally, I would counter RFK Jr.’s appeal to fairness and against “censorship” by suggesting that Gross also likely recognizes that she is not obligated to provide her platform to every crank who feels maligned by one of her shows. There’s no requirement that she invite, for example, flat earthers, evolution deniers, Holocaust deniers, 9/11 Truthers, HIV/AIDS denialists, or moon landing hoaxers on her show to “rebut” criticisms of their views in the name of “fairness.” What RFK Jr. just can’t accept is that it is entirely appropriate to lump him in with these other cranks, because his antivaccine pseudoscience and conspiracy theories are, at their core of denying reality, no different than other common forms of denial and conspiracy theories. On second thought, this is not quite accurate. In actuality, RFK Jr.’s denial of vaccine and public health science in the middle of a pandemic whose death toll in the US alone is fast approaching 400,000 has the potential to harm and kill far more people.

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]

146 replies on “RFK Jr. doesn’t like being called antivaccine and antimask”

RFK Jr wrote the foreword last year to Ms. Judy Mikovits’s book. Ouch!

I don’t take legal advice from doctors and I don’t take medical advice from lawyers.

I have highest respect for his dad and uncle, and sadness for their extrajudicial removal from politics, but he’s still wrong on health.

“Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world–or to make it the last.”

President John F. Kennedy, September 20, 1963 speech to the UN calling for an end to the Cold War and converting the Moon Race into an international cooperative effort

Is it ok if we distinguish between “anti-vaccine” (an inferior person with cooties whom we can all enjoy defaming) and “concerned with vaccine safety” (an intelligent, decent person whom we might have to respect)? Or does the question itself mean I have the cooties now, too? Now back to the “2 Minutes Hate,” fellow proles…

Nothing wrong with being concerned about the safety of vaccines. However, if you decide that vaccines are unsafe and that every piece of research or data suggesting otherwise is false then you would be anti-vaccine. Basically, if you place your own intuition above scientific data and indirectly accuse every world government and every person in the world who is remotely connected to vaccine safety, of knowingly inflicting horrors on children, then you are anti-vaccine.

@avian801: “an inferior person with cooties whom we can all enjoy defaming”

That’s an awfully nice way to say “lying manipulative child abuser”. Perhaps you can come back once you’ve learned how to troll better?

Jamey, is that you?

RFK Jr. wrote the foreword to a hoax book last year written by hoaxer Judy Mikovits, which this site has debunked extensively. RFK Jr said she’s among the greatest scientists, which is Orwellian to be polite.

I’m glad that RFK Jr was unsuccessful in his quest to have Trump put him in charge of US vaccine policies. We might have been even further behind on stopping covid than we are now.

I’ve always kind of assumed that people who go to school for ten years to learn about vaccines are the best judges of vaccine safety. I mean I’m concerned about safety also, and there are plenty of experts who have no reason not to tear into a fellow expert who produces an unsafe vaccine. So that’s who I listen to.

Instead of “Ich bin ein Berliner”, junior should be know for “Ich bin ein dimwit”.

When I type “berliner” into Google Translate, it helpfully offers as the sole translation into English “donut”.
Unfortunately, “du bist ein berliner” gets the translation “you are a Berliner” – I was kind of hoping for “You are a donut”.

I’m partial to cherry or blueberry.

When I was a boy, every Saturday my Dad got up very early to hit the bakery. Bavarian cream. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that a Bismark is square.

Eons ago, when I was taking German in high school, “Du bist…” was an insult, particularly when used from one adult to another. The political form was “Sie sind….”


James 2:24

Two adults can agree that they use the familiar “du” rather than the formal “Sie” when speaking to each other. It’s usually proposed by the person with the higher status. It’s impolite to say “du” to someone who you’d normally say “Sie” to.

“Du bist ein Idiot” and “Sie sind ein Idiot” are both insulting. But an adult using the first to an adult stranger would be more impolite than the second.

@ prl

Yeah. “Du” has a strong sense of familiarity or social intimacy in German. You just do not use it around with just everyone. That sense of social intimacy has to be more or less explicitly negotiated.

““Du bist ein Idiot” and “Sie sind ein Idiot” are both insulting. But an adult using the first to an adult stranger would be more impolite than the second.”

Much much more. Yeah. Definitely.

A. Kennedy claims current vaccines are unsafe and don’t work. He said that explicitly in the middle of the Samoa outbreak in which over 80 people, most young children, died from measles, a disease vaccines prevent.

If he really thinks (wrongly) vaccines are harmful and don’t work, why isn’t he antivaccine? Does he think saying “I’m for this thing, that I say is harmful and ineffective” is a better position?

B. Note that Kennedy’s shill gambit isn’t even based on pharma, but on a donation from a philanthropist to support a vaccine designed to protect the poorest of the poor from a dangerous disease. Not only is it very thin gruel, but the fact that he sees it as a bad thing troubles me.

Well, yes, that rather is the inescapable paradox of “vaccine safety advocate” antivaxxers like RFK Jr., isn’t it? I mean, they say that vaccines cause not just autism, but so many horrible things, like SIDS, sudden death, horrible autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, and so much more and that they don’t work well or at all! I mean, if you really, really believe that vaccines at best don’t work very well and that they cause all sorts of horrible outcomes, then why wouldn’t you be antivaccine? If I believed those things about vaccines, I’d sure be antivaccine.

Wait, what? Junior’s OK with his niece (a doctor) explicitly labeling him “a noted antivaccine activist” in a national syndication but he’s injured because that well known media bully, Terri-The-Thug-Gross, famous for her disregard of facts had a typically biased-guest on her show (isn’t NPR only heard by a handful of lefties anyway?) who made claims identical to his own family’s? IANAL, but using Junior’s own logic, should’t he consider suing Gross, Hotez, AND his meanie niece?

Although isn’t there an old saying about shoes fitting…or maybe I’m confusing that saying with “stupid is as stupid does.”

I’m entering my 4th year as a contractor/consultant for vaccine development at the Gates Foundation and you are correct Orac. The Foundation is a granting organization; for vaccines you would find the process as rigorous and competitive as it is for typical academic scientists. Successful grants survive several rounds of expert evaluation/prioritizing; unsuccessful grants try again (and again, and again). Junior wouldn’t like it because just like vaccine licenses, grants are based on written evidence (not debates).

@ Moose: No, he was super, duper mad at his niece too, but then he was also mad at the NYT for not publishing his rebuttal to her opinion piece.

Then again I think most of his family has publicly disavowed his anti-vax position, so something tells me he doesn’t get invited around to dinner, even without the pandemic.

I used to work in a lab working on HIV vaccines that had a Gates grant. It was an excellent grant and a pretty good lab until the grant wasn’t renewed (not uncommon in academia) and my PI hadn’t bothered to have any other funding. Competition for those things is fierce!

between you and denise and well, everyone here .. I find this to be a liberal snakepit .. the guy (RFKjr) isnt going to adhere to a limited “anti-vaccine” label because of just this type of response .. pages and pages of ad nauseum comments raking him over the coals, (mis) quoting, biased or falsified link/website/study/newscaster/random homeless guy to further the agenda .. you laugh at those who say the world is not flat ! why ? because your ‘teachers’ hav taught you (that) the world is flat ! woo-hoo ! and yet the cerebral would consider the stats and data .. it comes down to a flu . no, not a pandemic, because it never met the true criteria of a genuine pandemic . (age groups) but its been a very virulent FLU . I mean if nothing, THINK . why would I get an experimental vaccine for something with an over 99% survival rate ..

let the lambasting begin in 3 .. 2 .. 1 ..

Did you know that RFK Jr. is not a conservative? Far from it! He’s an environmentalist and the son of a liberal icon!

And he is antivaccine. I’ve documented that going back to at least 2005. It’s not even close. When RFK Jr. claims to be “fiercely pro-vaccine,” it’s easy to show that he is either deluding himself or lying just by showing that there is not a single instance of him stating that even a single vaccine is safe and effective enough to be generally recommended, while there are more instances than I can count of him demonizing vaccines based on pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, misinformation, and disinformation, plus a number of instances of him comparing vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.

If there’s one thing that has been made abundantly clear in the last week, it’s that conspiracy nuts cannot deal with being held responsible for their actions. RFK Jr. is just one more example.

Narcs gonna narc.

Honestly, go spend an hour on r/raisedbynarcissists and tell me you don’t feel déjà vu crawling up your spine and sucking your cerebral fluids out. I mean, it’s easy to think “overactive pattern-matching” and want to check ourselves; but then remember that these cults self-select for specific personality types.

The only distinction between those who enthusiastically embrace such toxic relationships is whether they like looking up, or looking down. And I rather think RFK—like Wakefield and Bigtree—is very much the looking-down type, don’t you.

Abusers don’t win by being abusive; they win by convincing the rest of us to apologise.

Thank you for covering him speaking at the Berlin protests, Prof. Gorski. I think the best translation for “Querdenken” is “thinking outside the box”. Literally, it would be “lateral thinking”. These people are completely crazy and openly alligned with right-wing extremists. There is a huge grift behind it. There were Nazis at that protest, he can’t deny it. Listen, RFK jr, if you don’t want to be accused of speaking to Nazis, don’t speak to Nazis.

As far as I know, he originally planned to show up to a protest in Munich in October, but due Covid, the Anti-Vaxxers there had to cancel their little protest against mandatory vaccination for measles.
I’m still generally annoyed that he even got into Germany during this pandemic. These protests are a safety risk.

That’s a good question, though. How is it that RFK Jr. was even able to travel to Germany during the pandemic. It’s the very definition of privilege that he could do it so easily. I’m sure that his name helped a lot.

re Orac’s question ( paraphrase): name a childhood vaccine that you generally recommend as safe and effective.
Anti-vaxxers ( even trolls here) try to squirm their way out of that by naming vaccines only used in the past or that currently don’t exist ( single not multiple forms), “free” of toxins, adjuvants or that are tested better OR they claim that certain people ( i.e. their kids) have special conditions that preclude vaccines altogether. Thus, they can’t name one.

re RFKjr’s’ cosplay:
I watched his Berlin speech and notice that he ( like Del, Andy, Null ) have a particular style that might be derived from watching too many classic films wherein a lone, brave crusader speaks truth to power to a large assembly that applauds thunderously. Notice he wears no jacket. Sometimes they include a megaphone or grasp on to a podium or carry a stack of secret papers or reports.
AND for some reason, they’re all men.

Another dodge antivaxxers use is to point to the tetanus vaccine, a vaccine that, while very important, doesn’t protect against an easily transmissible infection disease. They’ll then whine about how hard it is to get just the tetanus vaccine any more, given that these days it is nearly always administered in the Tdap or DTaP combination vaccine. This lets them point to a vaccine that is, as you say, almost never given any more, at least not as a individual vaccine, while letting them demonize the pertussis vaccine (which they love to do) as a reason not to take the tetanus vaccine.

If one gets injured and there is a danger of getting tetanus, I think one just get a tetanus-shot.
Going through some stuff of my dad, who died just before Christmas, I found a Austrian vaccination-booklet, which stated he was vaccinated against tetanus in August 2002, when we were on vacation and he stumbled over some cable. He fell down and was wounded on his upper lip.

Renate, your father might have received tetanus anti-toxin and not a tetanus vaccine – I believe it’s a fairly standard treatment after a potential exposure. I received tetanus anti-toxin a couple of times after rusty nail incidents as a child (running around barefoot).

Is there a difference between the two? I’ve always seen it mentioned as tetanus-vaccine and it seems to wear of after a couple of years, so they ask when was the last time you were vaccinated against tetanus.

@ Orac

“Another dodge antivaxxers use is to point to the tetanus vaccine, a vaccine that, while very important, doesn’t protect against an easily transmissible infection disease.”

Maybe I’m way too tolerant towards antivaxxers, but, is there a real reason not to accommodate them on this point by separate the vaccines? (Other than the fact that it’s bonkers not to vaccinate your kid against tetanus) Is there a real, clear-cut reason that makes it important to have vaccines automatically bundled?

“[I]s there a real reason not to accommodate them on this point by separate the vaccines? Is there a real, clear-cut reason that makes it important to have vaccines automatically bundled?”
F68.10, I’m not Orac, but I’ll try to answer your questions.
It is possible to separate out the TDaP into tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. It’s just not worthwhile. Three separate vaccines means three doctor’s visits and three injections, which costs more than combining the three and just visiting the doctor once. Ditto with MMRV. While it can be done, it isn’t worth doing.

Every time I’ve ever gone to ER for a cut–every few years as I’m rather clumsy especially in the kitchen– I’ve been asked when I had my “last tetnus shot”, not vaccine, not anti-toxin, just “shot”. I usually say, um, I don’t really know and so I get another “shot”.

In the olden days, I was somewhat fearful that I was getting too many shots and would be overwhelmed by tetnus at some point. Happily, I stumbled upon a long series of science mentors, including our host and found my way out of all that. The thing is, it seems to me now that that kind of thinking must be instinctive to some extent, because I was born all science-y and skeptical, but I intuitively felt scared of “too many shots”. When the doc in question would say it was fine, I felt no reassurance and that too, seems to be a built-in reaction. I think it was good luck that I subsequently read all the right books and that I could have ended up like some of the cranks so often addressed here.

A couple of years ago I was bitten by a neighborhood dog (on leash, just walking by… the owner was horrified, it now has a muzzle — I think it is a rescue).

On the advice of the health insurance nurse I get a tetanus “shot”, which turned out to be the Tdap.

@ F68.10:

To elaborate on Julian’s remark:
if you have less appointments at the doctor’s/ clinic, it’s more likely you’ll keep them all rather than if you have 3 separate ones.
Anti-vaxxers also moan about the infant getting “6 vaccines” at once when they probably mean 2 shots with 3 vaccines each.

At heart, Andy trying to sell separate vaccines wasn’t about safety despite his selling point- it was about profit
since he would benefit from every one given. ( see Brian Deer)

@ Julian Frost

Thanks. Clears up that point.

@ Denice

I wasn’t thinking about Andy. When you see that argument popping up in the abstract by random people compatible with antivaxx ideas, you cannot pinpoint to the history of the idea and trace it back to Wakefie-who? You need a clear-cut and direct argument. Saying “it makes it easier to vaccinate” is unfortunately not bound to win hearts very easily.

Tetanus anti-toxin and tetanus vaccine (tetanus toxoid) are not the same.
Here’s a link to, which explains it in a convenient way to me as a non-physician; and here’s the CDC on tetanus and its treatments:
It seems that tetanus anti-toxin is not used in the US, at least on humans, though it is available for veterinary use, I suspect because it is made from horse blood; the preferred product is tetanus immune globulin which is made from human blood.
But it seems that people exposed to tetanus are also usually given tetanus vaccine.
I live and learn.

Denice: “AND for some reason, they’re all men.”

No surprise there. These are not complicated people—heck, even I can read them!

For all its claims of “free thinking” and “freedom”, it’s an authoritarian hierarchical power structure mirroring socially traditional roles. Thus dominant women easily control other women but are less effective at controlling men, whereas dominant men control both.

Members embrace this because as long as they get to dominate someone that’s beneath them† they’re happy; plus they’ve got their Daddy figure above to make all the big important decisions so that they don’t have to, and make them feel safe and loved. Personal advancement is achieved by being a good foot soldier and winning Daddy’s affection and attention, not by bucking the herd.

Same with Jim Jones and David Koresh. Same with Christian fundamentalists and Trump’s army.

† Did we mention where the kids fall in all of this? Right.

@ has

“† Did we mention where the kids fall in all of this? Right.”

Boy! Do you seem annoyed!

I get the sense that women are considered secondary even though leaders often crow about their feminism and traditional roles are vocally cherished.
Of course, they have to cover up this outdated attitude with platitudes and slogans (#Believe women;Mothers know best) but the role of mother is probably considered, the highest calling.
The leaders who shepherd followers are predominantly men although a few women try hard to gain followings- that was the motive behind TMR- those rebel mothers- but that site is mostly quiet in the past year or more; contributors at AoA who write books and speak publicly.. A few doctors, like Tenpenny and Humphries. attempt gaining recognition but they mostly function in auxiliary roles to the Big Guns
I sometimes get the vibe of a groupie-rock star relationship without the sex: worship, attention to appearance, following the dude around, trying to gain his attention.

@ Denice

I’m far from being a feminist, but yeah, I do agree. I also question the wisdom of “cover[ing] up this outdated attitude with platitudes and slogans”. Whatever one may think of women issues, I see these “platitudes” and “slogans” as giving free rein for real women-hater to attack them. “Believe women”? Well, yeah, like anyone, and believe them a bit more on women issues. “Do not discard women’s story of abuse” is a bit more direct and up to the point. I’d sum it up as “Do not disbelieve women”. And I’d say yes. “Believe women”? As a slogan? I’d say no. “Platitudes” and “slogans” distort debate and play in the hands of those who have an interest in making a huge fuss out of things that should be dealt with with more wits than bravado. Though I’m a bit worried about not finding words strong enough to cut through the power of denial. Because when people choose to go bonkers, seems nothing can hold them back.

It’s amusing how RFK Jr. tries to disassociate himself and Querdenken 711 from the attempted storming of the Reichstag August 29th, claiming that the violence there occurred “across town” from the main demonstration. In reality, both events occurred in central Berlin.

Querdenken’s pious disclaimers about violence would have more meaning if the group didn’t welcome all comers into its ranks, while refusing to denounce fascism. The organization doesn’t shy away from playing footsie with QAnon, neo-Nazis and of course antivaxers.

“Another outspoken figure in the movement is Heiko Schöning, who is a founder of the anti-vaccination group Ärzte für Aufklärung (“Doctors for Enlightenment”) and is also a regular speaker at Querdenken events.”

Angry insistence that one is not antivaccine despite continually promoting antivax falsehoods, speaking at antivax events, and being a hero to antivaxers (Judy Mikovits also fits this description) comes off as ludicrous denial. RFK Jr. should embrace the crazy like his “literary” collaborator, Kent Heckenlively who has proudly proclaimed himself to be “America’s #1 Antivaxxer”.

Maybe that’s the problem. RFK Jr. can’t bear to be #2.

Firehosing, Gaslighting, Sealioning, and Denial—the Four Harrassers of the Antivaxocalypse.

Of course they’ll feel right at home with the fascists.

“The two times I’ve been to the White House [since 2016], I was told I had to go listen to anti-vaxxers like Robert Kennedy Jr.” Bill Gates said this in a recent interview. Think about what that means for the pandemic response.

Mr. Gates reportedly donated $52,000,000 to develop and conduct clinical trials in Brazil for his hookworm vaccine.

Eh, don’t you know it’s just the terrain, and if you were to feed people infected with hookworms with a diet rich in vitamine C, vitamin D and zinc, the hookworms…. Err, will be better fed?

A vaccine against helminths. That I have got to see (not the worms themselves, thanks).

A vaccine against helminths.

I’ve had to resort to television lately to try to… I dunno, try to forget all the crap yet unaccomplished about my late father’s estate. And I’ll be jiggered if there ain’t a metric asston of DTC ads, even in unlikely places. (People watch reruns of Nash Bridges?)

And it all seems to have warnings about compromise of the innate immune system. I know why, but this is overload. I suppose the actual target Florida demographic doesn’t correspond well to the advographic.

Hey I just saw that Grail is launching a blood test that can detect 50 cancers including pancreas. I would love your opinion, as a well known early detection skeptic, about it.

GRAIL, Inc., a healthcare company whose mission is to detect cancer early, when it can be cured, today confirmed it expects to introduce Galleri™, its multi-cancer early detection blood test, in the second quarter of 2021.

Wait, so they won’t even finish collecting data from the trial until the end of May 2021 (one assumes it would take awhile to collate and study it), but plan to “introduce” the test sometime between April and June of 2021?

On the bright side: if it turns out there are a mess of false positives from assaying people for 50 different kinds of cancer, pathologists, radiologists and other physicians will stand to clean up from all the unnecessary tests and biopsies. Wouldn’t be so good for patients though.

RFK jr. would be in good company in opposing “lockdowns”. Right now New York state has a +11 % rise in infections (the highest 7 day moving average since the virus started).

BUT… from a twitter post dated the 11 January 2021

“We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.”
NY Governor Cuomo.

and this recent study, which shows how ineffective lockdowns are.
Assessing Mandatory Stay-At-Home and Business Closure Effects on the Spread of Covid-19

Not taking sides, just pointing stuff out.

Meanwhile, dozens of studies suggest negative efficacy and several link masks to a grim inventory of respiratory, pulmonary, dental, gastrointestinal and dermatological injuries.

It seems plausible. When worn as a chin diaper, it draws up the jaw causing the teeth to slap and gnash when trying to shout about rights.

@ Renate:

I hope that you’re doing alright. I know you tried very hard to assist him: it’s never easy.

Thanks for your concern.

My dad was rather stubborn and didn’t always listen to advice. Especially in the last months he sometimes was a confused state, something that mostly was gone after a while.
It seems I’m still not realising he is no longer with me. I don’t really feel a sense of loss, I suppose this will change. Biggest problem is in a way I’m alone and with all the Covid-19 limitations, it is more difficult to meet people. Neighbours have offered help, but it’s often hard to ask for it.

@Renate: There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. You would be first to pay it forward when it is next asked of you.

@ Renate

“It seems I’m still not realising he is no longer with me.”

I recall a time where you were really annoyed with me. Which is when I learned about your dad, that you were still taking care of at the time. I wish to express my condolences.

Meeting people can be engineered by playing on social cues. I do not like doing so, but it’s pretty much doable when you get to know what makes them tick. It’s kind of self-serving to do so, but if you find yourself too lonely, I’d really advise not being too prudish on that matter. It’s now time to socialise, which is likely what your dad (no matter how grumpy he seemed to have been given what you described over the last year or so) would have liked you to do. Maybe I’m overstretching here, but this is my advice as a very grumpy dad. (Reminds me I have to call my daughter… can’t really find the courage to do so…)

If I were in your shoes, I’d start wasting my time in a chess club. I’m not a fan anymore of brawls in bars.

My condolences as well, Renate — I lost my dad about three weeks ago, and I’m still kind of numb. And his remains are in a box in the bedroom until I hire a plane to scatter them in the Atlantic per his wishes.

Isolation is brutal, as I’m learning the hard way. This is one time I will not say “TINU.”

Renate and Narad:

Numbness is a good describer but that state does enable you to get things done. My lawyer said I could do as much of the paper work as I wanted ( except of course for his duties) so I choose ALL. There were many forms, insurance, former work/ service/ governmental information, investments, banks, cars, medical papers NO BILLS so I was kept busy for several weeks. Thus happened immediately post-9/11 so it kept my mind off of THAT too although it is rather difficult to ignore continuously smoking ruins nearby.

I didn’t feel like eating for weeks but fortunately someone kept taking me out to various restaurants. Early on, you may remember the more disturbing aspects of illness/ decline but later, better memories of better days will encourage you. It takes time. .

Numbness is a good describer but that state does enable you to get things done.

Denice, I’m afraid you’re wide of the mark in my case, unless numbness includes a combination of severe anxiety about and consideration of just not paying the bills. I was good for a couple of weeks, but my breaking point is in the rear-view mirror.

Too many people insisting upon too many things.

@ Narad:

I’m sorry to hear that. Money demands can invoke anxiety of course.
Do you have a legal advisor who might help you sort out the financial issues?
I’ve assuming that there were at least some assets to cover bills. Hope I’m not asking for too much information but sometimes there are ways to cover bills that lawyers can help with- delaying payments, selling, certain state laws etc.
they will charge you but it may help you feel better Good luck.

I just wanted inb4 somebody else coins the term: The Great Orange Insurrection Attempt of 2021

Also, I don’t know the makeup of the Guard but I did know one and he, while being quite jolly with blowing up small doll log cabins with homemade explosives and buying a $6000 dollar tent {complete with wood stove} for Y2K, was still a little ‘off’. It seems that lots of them are cops in their day jobs. In other words, not the most discerning types. Seeing the ARMED Guard on the ‘tube everywhere across DC today makes me fearful for how deep the Q crap and EIB might have penetrated… They have spent months poisoning millions of minds. I’m “shitting bricks” which may be a temporally and spacially a very local saying; Suffice it to say it is like prolonged high anxiety messing up the inner workings + pucker factor.

But Tim, are you shitting those bricks SIDEWAYS???? (Yeah, it’s not THAT local a saying!) BTW, I agree with you about being worried.

And if he was actually counseling Trump to use the military to overturn the election in a last-minute coup, it wouldn’t be out of character for him. Back in late December, after all 50 states had certified Joe Biden’s Electoral College win, Lindell tweeted — and then quickly deleted — a post calling on Trump to lock down swing state election systems and “please impose martial law in these 7 states and get the machines/ballots.”


It is so sad, all those troops assembled. This just invites some State actor to plane-bomb them all. 250 of which are from Alabama — would you miss them??

“Characterizing all questions about vaccine safety and efficacy as “anti-vaccine” is a calculated industry propaganda technique for muzzling debate, and for marginalizing and vilifying critics.”

This seems a legitimate concern to me. Asking questions about vaccine safety is, at least in my experience, will quickly get one labeled as ‘anti-vaxxer’. This essentially groups anyone with questions as a crazy, tin-foil-hat wearing crack that no one should listen to.

NumberWang says that “if you decide that vaccines are unsafe and that every piece of research or data suggesting otherwise is false then you would be anti-vaccine” yet that description doesn’t fit Mr. Kennedy. Instead, it uses the label to suggest that that Mr. Kennedy holds such views.

Frankly, I’m happy to see him fight back against the labeling. I doubt it will have much impact on the use of the term, but maybe it will cause public figures such as Dr. Hotez to pause in casting such appellations at others.

“Asking questions about vaccine safety is, at least in my experience, will quickly get one labeled as ‘anti-vaxxer’.”


Repeatedly raising unfounded fears about vaccine safety using the same falsehoods and debunked memes over and over and over again, gets one labeled an antivaxer. Likening vaccination to the Holocaust (RFK Jr.), callling vaccines “dirty, filthy vials of toxic sludge” (James Lyons-Weiler) or wildly alleging that prospective Covid-19 vaccines will cause “millions” of deaths (Judy Mikovits) results in one being viewed as antivaccine. Allying oneself with antivaxers whose rhetoric is equally vicious (or worse), speaking at their events and welcoming their adulation gets one labeled an antivaxer.

Spewing antivaccine nonsense in the guise of Just Asking Questions will eventually get one labeled an antivaxer. You should know – it’s long been your favorite tactic here and on Science-Based Medicine. Clutching your pearls and exclaiming about the indignity of it all fools no one who’s seen your act before.

Insisting in the face of voluminous evidence to the contrary that they are not antivaccine, merely makes antivaxers look even more duplicitous than they already appear.

This seems a legitimate concern to me. Asking questions about vaccine safety is, at least in my experience, will quickly get one labeled as ‘anti-vaxxer’. This essentially groups anyone with questions as a crazy, tin-foil-hat wearing crack that no one should listen to.

This is simply not true. It is appropriate to ask questions about vaccine safety when the answers are not known or remain uncertain. You can go back on this blog to the early pages on the Moderna vaccine on this blog and you would find a lot of us asking questions about its safety. Continuing to misrepresent the data to claim that vaccines result in more harm than good is what gets you labelled as an anti-vaxxer.

“Asking questions about vaccine safety is, at least in my experience, will quickly get one labeled as ‘anti-vaxxer’. ”

That’s because you ask the exact same questions over and over, despite the fact that they were disproven before you started asking them. No matter how many times you run at the wall, a door is not going to appear, so stop acting like your bruises are a conspiracy against you.

@ Dangerous Bacon @ Beth Clarkson

While on the topic of vaccines, I do agree with your position in the abstract, I have trouble not agreeing with Beth in the specific claim that in the context of healthcare, any opposition to medical care tends ultimately to be labeled anti-science in one sense or another. My favorite slur on myself is “scientologist”. I now wear it with pride. But I did experience more “reasonable” slurs that were specifically designed to deflect any discussion while at the same time forcing care on grounds with which I will never agree.

In the abstract, I agree with you. I do nonetheless believe that there is an issue that Beth raises that is legitimate, though I do believe she is whitewashing RFK.

(And I do not buy the anecdotality of my experience in this very specific respect. I however do suspect that the situation in the US may be a bit less bone-headed.)

Frankly, I’m happy to see him fight back against the labeling.

You would do well to realize that you yourself are not being “labeled” as an asshole, Beth. Cipher it out.

This part of Helmuth’s piece was especially telling:

“RFK Jr. was displeased. His managing director emailed me (I’m the health and science editor) to say that the story was full of inaccuracies, and I offered to correct any errors right away. He said Kennedy wanted to speak to Plait or me; I requested comments or corrections in writing; we went back and forth. Eventually Kennedy got me on the phone and he talked and I listened.”

Written exchanges provide documentation that’s difficult to deny (note the irony of RFK Jr. denouncing scientists who supposedly confessed to/agreed with him but who didn’t put their alleged objections on the record).

Either one of two things (or more likely, both) would happen if RFK Jr.’s cherished dream of debating a leading vaccine advocate came to pass. He’d rage and blather over them like Trump at the first Presidential debate, just like he did in his conversation with Phil Plait. Or he’d raise a storm of dust via Gish Galloping, knowing there wouldn’t be time in such a “debate” to clear the air.

Abusers employ language as a tool to control others. That’s a lot harder to do in written words. “Kindly put it in writing” then cut them off is the correct response. Giving into their demands under persistent pressure is not, because if you don’t control the entire exchange, they will. And they will use that against you.

@ has

“Abusers employ language as a tool to control others.”

I’ve noticed one time too many that you do seem to know abusers quite well…

@F68: Honestly, I’m lucky; the most abusive person I’ve ever had to deal with is me, and any abusive tendencies directed at others I kerb-stomped long ago; as whatever my other faults I have a strong ethical principle against hurting anyone other than myself.

Still, any time my general misanthropy slips too low, I go spend an hour on r/raisedbynarcissists or r/justnomil and that tops it right off. Having a rather toxic personality myself means both a morbid fascination and an embarrassingly short delta to “walking around in their shoes”. I may not be good at reading other people in person; but show me their words, yeah, I can form hypotheses with that. And my hypothesis for antivaxxers says Fear and Control, which I know myself; the difference being I finally chose not to embrace them.

I might be wrong in that hypothesis, of course, but nowadays I have no problem with being found wildly, embarrassingly, humiliatingly, wrong—a mark of my own progress as a semi-broken person, and not one I perceive amongst the antivax faithful (or any other cultish movement) very often.

And so it goes.

“The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

@ has

“Still, any time my general misanthropy slips too low, I go spend an hour on r/raisedbynarcissists or r/justnomil and that tops it right off. Having a rather toxic personality myself means both a morbid fascination and an embarrassingly short delta to “walking around in their shoes”.”

Ahhh… ok. I get it.

I must say I have a problem with the terminology of “narcissist”. It doesn’t seem to me to embody the reality at stake. It kind of fuses the notion of fear and control that you point out with a notion of intrinsic immorality and intrinsic evil. I would beg to differ: you can have a strong sense though perhaps a twisted one of morality (as many people do) and simply not know or care about your or other people’s boundaries. Which can be quite as damaging. I never use the word “narcissist”. I feel it doesn’t map well on reality, and map mostly on the subjective experience of abused people. I am somewhat uncomfortable with that approach. “Narcissist” feels more like a slur to me than a useful word.

But kudos to you for playing your sense of morality against your own fear and control instincts. Nothing wrong with being a “narcissist” as long as you live and let live.

@F68: IANAD, but Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an medically diagnosable condition and sibling to Psychopathy among the Type 2 Cluster B personality disorders in DSM-5. In essence, people without that bit of neural wiring that makes the rest of us into social animals. They’re still fully functional humans; they just don’t think the same way as us, and thinking that they do is the first mistake in interacting effectively with them. Some PDs are more self-aware and motivated to self-improvement, but narcs are at the bottom of that: they like who they are.

Even below clinically diagnosed NPD there are plenty of folk who are revoltingly greedy and totally up themselves. Heck, it might be an advantageous trait for first-world survival: think of the billions of less fortunate… we don’t. Donald Trump is frequently armchair-diagnosed as NPD (which fits), and I’m sure many of his followers share some narc traits as well—that insatiable craving for attention and praise is an obvious tell. Heck, I have a family relation who, if not full narc, is far and away the most selfish and entitled person I’ve ever met; who expects everyone else to wait hand and foot on them, like they’re royalty. (Perhaps not surprisingly, all their kids moved to other countries as soon as they good old enough. I think that’s a fairly common tell as well.)

As for me, when I had my first breakdown the doc initially wondered if I was schizoid (he might not have been entirely wrong about that, or I may have been a bit on the spectrum growing up; doesn’t really matter now), but really it was severe clinical depression (the suicidal kind), which I’d been working really hard to hide. But what horrifies me in hindsight was the manic bouts that followed, as I had some very large mood swings back then, and it’s those disinhibiting highs that make you a real danger to others, not only yourself, tapping and amplifying negative traits already there but normally suppressed under one’s usual veneer of civilization.

Am I over-sharing? Probably. (Obsessively thinking in circles in one of the traits of my illness.) but I look at what’s going on around us and easily see that had my personality been a bit more that than this, I might’ve been the other side too. “We” are not that different to “them”, and it’s one of the lies we like to tell ourselves that we are. There was a time I would never admit any of it, but nowadays IJDGAF. I think that reluctance in facing the nastiness in ourselves is another of our failings too, because it encourages us to say “well it’s not really that bad” when we see it in others, because we very much want to believe that it isn’t. But that’s another thing abusers know how to recognize and exploit: convincing the rest of us not to see what it right in front of us, allowing their abuse to continue. (See Saville. See Shipman. See all the Good Germans. See decades of frog-boiling by the GOP.) That’s why I think acknowledging and hanging onto all those nasty, sick, humiliating bits of yourself is so important, not because you’d ever choose to unleash them on others but because they tell you what to anticipate from those who feel no such restraint as you do.

TL;DR: I’m not a narc (I trust that’s clear), but I do know some of the traits—the deep-seated insecurities which manifest in forms such as negging and an utter inability to admit one’s own errors—as ones I’ve had to face in myself, and kerb-stomp best I can.

Anyhoo, my own personal journey to understand The Human Condition continues. Bring popcorn!

@ has

Yeah, I know NPD is cluster B, though diagnosability does not seem very reliable to me, and overall, it’s kind of a leftover of psychoanalysis in the DSM. Overall, I do not like much psych talk as I think it should be used only in a medical setting, and even there I’m not satisfied about how I witnessed it being done. Saying X is a narc or everyone has narc traits doesn’t satisfy me much either. While I do recognize that people do use weaknesses in others and that there is weird synchronicities occurring in abuser and abusee, I do believe that psych talk should not be used in casual conversations and should be strictly used to think and reflect scientifically. Too much projection happening in that world, and medical workers are not immune to that.

But yeah, I wasn’t expecting a full blown disclosure of yourself. I just was curious why you brought up abusive situations regularly when discussing antivaxxers. Was very surprised when you brought up medical abuse in the case of moms using bleach in their kid’s anus to “cure” autism. So that impression that you were big on talk about abuse kind of stuck in my mind.

@F68: I’m not a victim or perpetrator if you’re wondering. And I know how incredibly lucky I’ve been in life; I’ve met others in my past who I know know were not. But I do despise abusers, particularly those that target the most vulnerable, most especially when they lie to themselves that what they’re doing is right. And hurting others just because you can’t be honest with yourself is something I do know about, and have done, and have seen done—and while on the scale of things my own wrongs are a nothingburger they are important to me. Plus I know it’s a universal human tendency to look away from something that causes personal discomfort, or minimize it as “not that bad”, because that’s a defensive response I know in myself. Thus my point is: yes. Yes it is that bad, and worse. There might not be a lot I can do myself right now—can’t help others while I can barely help myself—but I’d like to hope I’ll rally and eventually leave this world in a slightly better state than I found it. Until then I’ll continue to wax purple (derp) and excoriate antivaxxers and authoritarians, because few things can become more dangerous than liars who choose to lie first and foremost to themselves.

@ has

“…most especially when they lie to themselves that what they’re doing is right.”

Aaaaaahhhh… that’s the trick… it may be a lie, or a lie to oneself, but when it is truly really believed, unfortunately, it cannot be that much argued that they are guilty on a psychological moral level: intentions do matter. Legally, that’s another topic, but I’m also somewhat convinced that judiciary authorities also have a tendency to lie to themselves about the intent of perpetrators and are kind of whitewashing their own failure to have stepped in time. I blame authorities almost as much, if not more, than perpetrators. (And, no, I do not vindicate the cavalier usage of Stockholm syndrome in these moral discussions. Too easy: ends up being another form of victim blaming in the end.)

“Yes it is that bad, and worse.”

It is bad. And worse. But unfortunately, good intents do immunise perpetrators of some (not all) of the blame people put on them. I wish it were not the case, but I can’t bring myself to lie to myself about this sad state of affairs.

This maybe a repeat but

RFK jr. would be in good company in opposing “lockdowns”. Right now New York state has a +11 % rise in infections (the highest 7 day moving average since the virus started).

BUT… from a twitter post dated the 11 January 2021

“We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.”
NY Governor Cuomo.

and this recent study, which shows how ineffective lockdowns are.
Assessing Mandatory Stay-At-Home and Business Closure Effects on the Spread of Covid-19

Not taking sides, just pointing stuff out.

Yes, you are repeating yourself. You were ignored first time round for good reasons. Maybe that seven-hour interval could have been better spent by you working out why.

Maybe that seven-hour interval could have been better spent by you working out why.

Maybe he was trying to sound out the words.

(And fat f*cking chance that the published version will meaningfully go through any sort of “copyediting, typesetting, pagination and proofreading process.”)

Uh, how does one perform a placebo controlled study on mask wearing?

Am I missing something?

It wasn’t placebo controlled, but it was randomized to who was given masks and asked to wear them.

Man, now I’m thinking about how you would make a “placebo” mask. You could make one of just, like, netting, but the participant would be able to tell in an instant, so it wouldn’t be blinded at all, and what’s the point of that.

This is one of the challenges of studying behavioral interventions: the only people you can blind in the study are the data analysts.

RFK jr can go you-know-what himself sideways if he’s posteriorly hurt about being called an anti-vaxxer and anti-masker and hangs out with nazis.

Richard Carpian PhD, MPH had an excellent string of tweets the other day showing very well how in-bed the US anti-vax movement is with the radical right wing, including the terrorists who attacked Congress last week. He shows Bigtree speaking at a DC MAGA rally on, of all days, January 6.

As far as I’m concerned you can haul all the leaders of then anti-vax movement up on charges given Bigtree speaking at that rally as well as quack “Frontline Doctor” Simone Gold (who is anti-vax, anti-mask, pro-hcq/crap) being inside the Capitol
with a megaphone during the terrorist attack on Jan 6.

I’ve watched them drift right:
around the time of the Great Recession ( 2008-9), natural health advocates Null and Adams shifted away from more liberal ideas and started sounding how they do now. Anti-vax and anti-medicine were always a part of their programming but they became more prominent. There was great anger at the government and – especially- Mr Obama, in Tea Party fashion. I think that in recessions, people may not have extra money to buy expensive vitamins and superfoods so they probably lost sales which may be a determining factor. These two also embraced tax cuts, decreased government- including spending- and what’s become more obvious lately, hatred of cities and city dwellers. They advise followers to move to the country, live in Nature and be self-sufficient: Adams is also a big gun nut and Null endorses “living off the grid”., not using the products/ services of Big Business. They bemoan the profits of Pharma or Tech that fleeces the little person..
as they live on extensive estates or ranches. They rail against companies especially after they do not allow them to use media for free adverts and dis-information services.

Some anti-vax mothers like Ginger Taylor ( see twitter) and former blogger, Jake Crosby have gone all in for the worst misinformation a la Trump,.

@ Denice

Just met another MD over coffee where I live. Pro-Raoult and anti-Big-Pharma. One more. Seems like this is playing over and over again. Online survey (do not get me started on methodology…) gives 97% of (lay) people having confidence in Raoult. I want to see a rigorously done such survey whose target is practicing MDs, with a breakdown depending on responsibility in the medical system. 45% endorsing Raoult in a pharmacy online journal online survey of health professionals. Thin, very thin majority against Raoult…

Hee hee… (to quote Greg)… seems people are willingly shoving shit between their two ears.

OMFG! Those comments!
They call him a ‘savant’, an ‘angel’
, a ‘good man’! He should be
‘General Director of the IOM’!
I couldn’t take any more!

Seriously, I didn’t know that the French smoke so much weed.

@ Denice

“Seriously, I didn’t know that the French smoke so much weed.”

Yep. Though, honestly, I do not believe that weed is the culprit, here…

@ Dangerous Bacon

“That survey needed another option, “Tu te moques de moi, imbécile?””

On a personal note, I love it when I hear it with that American accent in the mouth of John Searle.

Null endorses “living off the grid”., not using the products/ services of Big Business.

It’s a miracle that the Progressive insurance company can keep its head above water.

“Seriously, I didn’t know that the French smoke so much weed.”


Did I mention this already? I was fortunate to catch a little over half of The Harder They Come on TV late last night. Mamesh tragedy.

Narad, I’m saddened to hear of your father’s death and subsequent dealing with affairs.

Who am I to say? But this newfound drowning in inane television does not sound at all healthy for someone of your constitution and dignity. If I had a Plex setup, I’d invite you onto it. But I don’t so the best I can offer is to find a way for us to exchange the credentials for the vpn (they’re supposed to allow six concurrent devices) so you could at least gourge on The Expanse, Dark, Stranger Things, Mr. Robot, NeXt, or something.

My brother in law has a small plane (piper-cub, I think) depending on how far out you need to go, he might be willing to get back behind the stick. I don’t believe it is for hire but, as we are not exactly on speaking terms right now, if you call him up and tell him what an asshat I am, it might butter him up enough to make an exception.

I haven’t started the last series of The Expanse yet. Still have a couple of Star Trek Discovery to finish first. Not to mention the last episode of His Dark Materials.

@ NumberWang

The Expanse is great. Do give it a shot. It may bore you at the very beginning, though…

Number Wang:

I didn’t expect to like His Dark Materials but I really did. I had no idea what it was about and was surprised about its central premise being Milton * I read some of that aeons ago). The younger actors’ performances were outstanding and the visuals were intriguing.
I usually give the new shows a try out but don’t stick with them to the season finale: I watched both seasons of this and it isn’t my usual type of show.
Dark Materials. and dark matter

Still have a couple of Star Trek Discovery to finish first.

I don’t think it airs down here, but I have a certain fondness for Enterprise. Unfortunately, it’s relegated to midnight, after DS9, which I don’t care for, and then Voyager, which mostly has me staring at Kate Mulgrew’s freakish hairdo.

I’m saddened to hear of your father’s death and subsequent dealing with affairs.

Thank you, Tim. I do find a decent free movie maybe a couple of times a week. And I also do my best to try to keep shit together during the day, although I think I’m going to be needing more risperidone Real Soon, even if the neighbors are far away enough not to hear the yelping and the Angry Squirrel is purely an auditory hallucination.

I’ve seen some comments among science-based dieticians and other people observing the weird-diet community about how a lot of the more extreme diets, especially the ones that claim specific health benefits (like keto or paleo) end up having these tie-ins to the QAnon groups. Like, keto, then essential oils, then way past Alice down the rabbit hole.

I wonder where it comes from?

It may be an instance of the foot-in-the-door technique:
alt med prevaricators start out with something everyone can agree with:
people eat fast food and too much junk which then proceeds to things that are partially true fruits and vegetables are the key to health then to weird shit like carbs are absolutely forbidden, raw food is alive– they train followers step by step.

Scientologists don’t start out telling listeners about Xenu, volcanoes and Space Opera but say
stress is caused by modern life and communication skills are essential for success in business **

** if you wonder how I know that: there is a free Scientology channel on television
right next to RT ( Russia Today): they don’t discuss Xenu at all .

Crank magnetism. If your thought patterns lead you to dismiss evidence in one area because you believe a conspiracy, you are more susceptible to do so in other areas.

Our very own Paleo Pete has got into bed with Qanon conspiracies.

I was surprised last night while watching an hour-long documentary on some history channel that Manson was into Scientology. Ed Sanders never mentioned it, but I haven’t read Bugliosi.

@Terrie: That was a good article!

A friend of mine had a similar experience with Instagram and Facebook, except hers was all anti-vaxxers. She got shocked out of it when someone said something really horrible to her, but she ended up having to completely delete social media for quite a while to get away from it.

I don’t care how cute the yoga lady’s dog is, I’m not following any health/exercise/wellness people on Instagram. They’re just too weird. I’m going to stick with historical costuming. Expensive, but much safer.

“And in that moment; seeing what years of barely surviving is like; This man, probably ten years younger than me but looking decades older, despite his paleo diet, I realized, “the past fukkin’ sux, man!” — Steve, Synchronic

@Christopher Hickie: “how in-bed the US anti-vax movement is with the radical right wing”

No surprise at all. Cult leaders crave power, so head where it’s easiest to acquire.

“Freedums” my ass. It’s all Control.

I kind-a like ‘knockin on heaven’s door”

just out of curiosity, you’re sitting alone in your work space, taking a selfie in the middle of no where and wearing your face mask, isn’t that a little like driving alone in your car wearing a face-mask ?

isn’t that a little like driving alone in your car wearing a face-mask ?

There is more to life than your little universe, scott.

I’m required by my city’s mayor to wear a face mask while walking along the busy street between my flat and my car’s parking lot.
I’m required by my employer to arrive at work with my face mask on.
Also, I’m sometimes driving colleagues and friends. Wearing a face mask stops me from saturating my car with my viruses before I pick them in. And reduce how many of their viruses I will be breathing after I drop them. Plus, training to drive with this thing on.
And I’m lucky enough to be well-tolerating wearing a mask.

Conclusion: since I have to wear it before, after and sometimes when driving with passengers, I may as well keep it on while driving alone. That way, I don’t have to remember where I put it down. Or to put it back on.

The same logic applies in the work space.

Really, what’s the big deal?

That way, I don’t have to remember where I put it down.

I have a preposterous issue with thinking I’ve forgotten a mask only to find it hiding under my chin.

By the time 20% of the population receives their 2nd covid immunization, calling someone an “antivaxxer” will be faux pas & reflect poorly on the labeler & not so much the labeled.

Tish! You spoke French!!!

I do pretty well with Romance languages, but French has always baffled me. All the same, I’m pretty sure it has indefinite articles.

@DB: Then again this is Christine we’re talking about, so not exactly class. It’s more like she’ll threaten to get our little dog too.

Nice validation fantasy, but here in the real world, people are dying and people like you, blaming the flu vaccine for the pandemic and making baseless claims against the covid vaccines, are art of the problem.

@ Terrie,

I don’t believe the influenza vaccine caused the sars cov2 pandemic; I believe it has exacerbated it by causing CD4 T cell exhaustion.

I have no “baseless claims” against the covid vaccine. It’s a vaccine. Could it be even worse than other vaccines? Maybe but it is too soon to know that yet. If not, great but it’s a vaccine.

Ohio is searching for recruits for the Medical Reserve Corps, to administer Covid-19 vaccines in the community.

I am considering volunteering, regardless of whether they’re issuing snappy uniforms (I have a weakness for epaulets). My expertise and reassuring manner would be invaluable.

“Um, I’m a bit leery of this vaccine. Will it alter my DNA?”

“Nonsense, my boy! (surreptitiously consults list of Pfizer talking points) “Your precious bodily fluids will hardly be affected at all by the all-natural nucleic acids in this shot. Of course, we do insist on 15 minutes of observation to monitor for hair growth on your palms and a tendency to howl mournfully. Wait, where are you going?”

How much training would it take?? Hell, I was doing finger-prick blood lancets to kids in high-school biology class just one year under me {one nice girl in a vest suit that later owned the first ISP here asked me to do all her fingers}..

I do think those doing it should get the vaccine first, though.

Between his victim complex, his bristling at being called out for being exactly what he is, his persecution complex (specifically with respect to “censorship”), and his constant refrains of “debate me, coward!”, I am SO CLOSE to having right wing BINGO…

I am sensing that the Choir here is starting to wonder what I think about RFKjr denying that he is an anti-vaxxer. Guys, on this point, I am afraid I have to agree with you. It’s simple untenable that for RFKjr would be pro-vaccine while expressing such grave concerns about the science supporting them. I share his concerns that for the most part the science is bunk, and this leads to the inescapable position that I must reject vaccination in its entirety.

Yet, even though I agree that it’s disingenous for RFKjr to deny he is anti-vaccine, I don’t attribute much maliciousness to it. If anything, it proves the power of the vaccination cult that even some anti-vaxxers often find themselves forced to pay lip-service to it. Of course, in my case, the effect is non-existent.

I will also add, even if RFKjr is indeed an anti-vaxxer, that should not detract from the facts of his arguments criticizing vaccines. That the Choir here would seize on this tactic just proves who the real malicious ones are.

PS: Narad and Renate, sorry to hear about the passing of your dads. Love the person, not the pro-vaxxer.

“I will also add, even if RFKjr is indeed an anti-vaxxer, that should not detract from the facts of his arguments criticizing vaccines”

What facts? List them and the PubMed indexed studies from reputable qualified researchers that support those facts.

I especially “love” that his evidence against the DTaP/Tdap vaccine now used in the USA was a forty year old study of DTP in one of poorest countries on this planet. Also, it is quite amusing for him to keep going on about “mercury” in vaccines, when thimerosal was removed from pediatric vaccines two decades ago, and was never in many vaccines (IPV, MMR, etc)!

Yet, even though I agree that it’s disingenous (sic) for RFKjr to deny he is anti-vaccine, I don’t attribute much maliciousness to it.

Disingenuous? Pretty fancy word for lying. Of course, Junior isn’t being malicious. Like any bullshit artist, he knows he’s lying, he just doesn’t care.

“Like any bullshit artist, he knows he’s lying, he just doesn’t care.”

See also: Gaslighting. Making your critics doubt themselves is half the game.

@ Greg

“the Choir here is starting to wonder what I think about RFKjr denying that he is an anti-vaxxer.”

No. Not anxious. Not wondering. Do not care. Busy listening to this magnificent Kyrie Eleison. That’s a real choir.

@ F68.10,

Wow thank you. Memories of jingling chains & incense. And trying not to fall asleep on my feet holding a lit candle.

@ christine Kincaid

I do not care much for religion, but I do for culture. Old Roman Chant is what was performed before Gregorian chant took over after the Gregorian Reform. Marcel Peres has done a tremendous job of resurrecting these old ways of performing such chants.

I can’t remember the last time I saw someone link to an ancient FTP site, much less with the wrong prefix.

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