Antivaccine nonsense Movies Pseudoscience

“Virulent: The Vaccine War” Q&A with Dr. Novella and a familiar face

Director/editor/producer Tjardus Greidanus, whose documentary Virulent: The Vaccine War examines the rise of the antivaccine movement before and after the pandemic, joined Dr. Novella and a certain other person for a virtual Q&A.

Three weeks ago, I promoted a virtual screening of the documentary Virulent: The Vaccine War. There was also going to be a virtual Q&A with Dr. Steven Novella of Science-Based Medicine,  director/editor/producer Tjardus Greidanus, and a certain person well-known to readers of this blog. As regular readers know, there was a family health emergency resulting in my current blog hiatus and also delaying the virtual Q&A. Fortunately, by last Sunday, the situation had stabilized sufficiently and settled down enough that this certain person felt able to do the Q&A, just a week later than it had originally been scheduled.

The discussion was wide-ranging and all about the antivaccine movement. Check it out either at this link or on this embedded version:

Virulent: The Vaccine War – Q&A with Drs. Steven Novella & David Gorski from Tjardus Greidanus on Vimeo.

As for when Orac plans to return, let’s just say that it should be…soon. There’s one post from a not-so-secret other blog that can be repurposed for here, and then hopefully by this time next week I will be back to something close to normal.

In the meantime, enjoy this video.

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]

28 replies on ““Virulent: The Vaccine War” Q&A with Dr. Novella and a familiar face”

Producers are soliciting donations. You shoul really lisen people with diffrent opinions.

I suppose johnlabarge is suggesting that it is funded by Big Pharma. That is the answer he wants to hear and the only answer he wants to accept.

Nice Darlek, obviously a fellow fan of cheaply made 1970’s BBC SF shows.

Thanks for the Q&A, most informative.

I’m glad that Drs DG and SN discuss psychological and sociological aspects of anti-vax: adaption, protection, the illusion of control/ knowledge, tendency to see the “invisible hand” of agency, ego gratification, not based on lack of intelligence or on mental illness, the concept of narrative and rejection of reality for a “nice story”. The need for understanding how anti-vax works.

Lately, I’ve looked at stories from anti-vax/ altie leaders and followers for significant themes to alert sceptics to likely confabulation and have accumulated what I believe to be distinguishing marks ( just a starting point):
— great exaggeration. A child was very advanced, not average, The injury was devastating. Doctors were heartless and cruel
— the researcher/ parent was totally devoted and morally superior, selfless.
— the altie cure/ treatment worked nearly 100%, QUICKLY
— grand collusion between the government, industry and the media- the fix was in
— the movement is starting to win, more experts are jumping on the bandwagon
— good vs evil. Saviours abound

If you look at this amongst other stories people tell/ tell themselves, you may see a trend towards fable-like simplicity or folktales: good will triumph over evil and unlikely heroes will arise, usually in a charming manner. Someone from a humble background will defeat the powers-that-be. Hidden knowledge is discovered by simple parents, not researchers and powerful experts whose power will be obliterated in a flash. A righteous leader will rule justly and honestly, serving the people well. While I certainly don’t accept archetypes as an inborn phenomenon, I recognise that patterns revealed in stories have a powerful effect on belief. Sceptics have to battle** against anti-vax tales that lead people away from reality, especially when the facts are not “nice stories” but complicated, hard to tolerate, real life.

** oh wait, I shouldn’t say it that way

This strikes me as extremely insightful, and deeply humane, as well as beautifully stated. Kudos.

Thank you for your kind words.
I hear/ read many anti-vaxxers/ alt med proselytisers, leaders and followers, over time but these themes stick out most. I realise that people use stories to encourage themselves along difficult paths in life but also that they can be a means of manipulation by leaders to achieve their own goals and feed their egos.

Variations of the hero theme are most obvious: an unlikely person opposes Great Evil, exposing its vicissitudes and overturns the World Order. An obscure scientist finds the Root Cause opposing the Establishment. A brave mother fights the Powers of the World to save her child from Evil/ Death. A messiah emerges from a small town.
Thus we have Frodo/ Luke Skywalker, many Galilei/ Einsteins, Persephone and Jesus/ Mohammed.

People seek order and meaning, glazing over the chaotic world so there is always a market for fine stories to organise experience. A researcher in perception showed subjects an array of dots – just round figures that moved around a video screen randomly – and found that they often attributed those actions agency: a dot “chased” another, a dot attacked another etc.

In short, alt med leaders/ anti-vaxxers can use these templates to get followers to support them, knowing that people are vulnerable. Some political/ media operatives work against public health through planting stories as they attempt to dismantle laws, perhaps even dissolving government itself eventually.

The visual during the discussion was sad and creepy. A woman being ignored by three men, Hitler books on the shelf in the background, predator-like skeleton head on a lower shelf. Although, David Gorski was entertaining and informative with his many facial expressions and recollections.

@ Orac,

Why was the woman ignored?

A two part video and a baseball cap. You saw what you wanted to see. It didn’t seem nearly as creepy as hallucinations.

Ignored? She was only in the first five minutes or something. It looked like she dropped off unless you were watching something else.

Orac, I like your stein.

Thanks. Personally, I’m surprised that people fixated on my skull-shaped beer beer glass from Treasure Island in Las Vegas; I had rather expected comments on my Dalek cookie jar, which remains a treasured possession.😂

She wasn’t “ignored.” She was behind the scenes running everything, except for briefly, when she was up front. I was somewhat sensitive to the criticism that this was a “manel,” but we did the best we could.

As for the “Hitler books,” regular readers—other than you, apparently—know that I’ve been a huge WWII buff since I was a teenager. So, yes, I have historian Ian Kershaw’s two-volume biography of Hitler on my bookshelf, along with a number of other books on WWII, including books about the fall of Berlin, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1944, the bombing campaign against Japan and Germany, D-Day, Pearl Harbor, the war in the Pacific, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, etc. I also have a few books on WWI on my shelf as well.

I don’t know how well it showed up, but if you look directly behind me and above my head, you’ll see Brynn Tannehill’s book American Fascism (which I read a few months ago), as well as historian Richard Overy’s recent book Blood and Ruins, which argues that WWII was the last imperial war (and which I haven’t read yet). Then there are several of Mick Herron’s Slough House spy novels, which I find immensely entertaining and am working my way through as I watch the Apple TV+ series Slow Horses (which I also highly recommend, as Gary Oldman is just fantastic starring as Jackson Lamb). The rest of my bookshelf houses a whole bunch of SF and fantasy books that I own and have read, some yellowing titles dating back to when I was a teenager in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

So what was your point, other than trying to imply that I was some sort of Hitler lover or something because I have a biography of Hitler on my bookshelf?

Thanks for the clarification. After watching the video I had guessed that she was doing something like that.
You would need lots of references to combat all the holocaust denials.
Have you listened to Rachel Maddow’s new series?
I’ll have to watch Slow Horses.
Gary Oldman was great in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy!

@ JRigs:

Not just wokescolding but feminist wokescolding!
As if feminists would want MJD supporting their side.

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