Antivaccine nonsense Autism Politics Popular culture

The GOP was the antivax party before Ron DeSantis, but now he’s turbocharged its resistance

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has apparently decided that riding the antivax wave is his key to the GOP nomination. This wouldn’t have represented a viable strategy if the GOP hadn’t become the antivax party over the last decade or so.

Earlier this week, Vanity Fair published and article by Katherine Egan entitled Inside Ron DeSantis’s Plan to Ride Anti-vaxxism to the White House. I was inspired, if you will, to use this story as a starting point for today’s post because, while it didn’t report anything that I didn’t already know about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his embrace of antivax politics, it was nonetheless alarming for a couple of reasons. First, it represents what I see as the cementing of resistance to public health interventions, including vaccines, as key element that is part of the Republican Party’s identity now. Second, the story seems to lack a sense of history, treating this development not as the predictable result of a process dating back at least to 2010 or so, but as some new phenomenon that’s occurred since the pandemic. It’s not. I’ll start with the blurb after the title:

He was for the COVID-19 vaccines before he was against them, but now Florida’s governor is all-in on vaccine skepticism—and hoping to use the issue to outflank Trump on the right. With the presidential primaries looming, and MAGA activists angling to turn Trump against the vaccines he helped fast-track, experts fear anti-vaxxism could soon become an official plank of the Republican Party.

“Could soon become”? Arguably, it already has become! Granted, antivax statements haven’t (yet) found their way into the official Republican Party platform yet, but that’s largely because in 2020 there was no official Republican Party platform other than declaring fealty to Donald Trump and his “America First” agenda. While the article gets a lot right about how antivax beliefs have captured the Republican Party, leading DeSantis to embrace them in his quest to outflank Donald Trump for the 2024 nomination, I have to point out some annoying tropes that recur.

Egan starts out by contrasting how eagerly DeSantis embraced the COVID-19 vaccines as they started to roll out at the end of 2020 with his behavior now. Recall that DeSantis eagerly waited at a loading dock in Tampa that December for the first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in Florida, where, with a flourish, “DeSantis signed the FedEx manifest” and “proudly declared” that on that day “we will have shots going in arms.” Back then, he was like so many of us, hopeful about the vaccines, and like so many Republican politicians at the time, including Donald Trump, eager to take some of the credit for an amazing feat of vaccine development, in which a new platform (albeit one that had been in development for a decade prior) was quickly adapted to produce vaccines against a novel coronavirus in record time.

The contrast to now is stark:

By the end of last year, however, DeSantis’s vaccine cheerleading was a distant memory. On December 13, almost exactly two years after the FedEx delivery, he petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to let him empanel a statewide grand jury to investigate COVID-19 vaccine makers, particularly Pfizer and Moderna. “It is against the law to mislead and misrepresent, particularly when you’re talking about the efficacy of a drug,” DeSantis said, comparing the vaccine push to the profiteering that drove the deadly opioid epidemic.

In January, the grand jury went to work looking for dark intent or false claims behind the lifesaving vaccines. It is slated to report its findings by January 2024. That would be just in time to potentially influence the outcome of the Republican presidential primaries, in which DeSantis is widely seen as a leading challenger to Trump, even though he hasn’t yet officially declared his candidacy.

Nuremberg doctors: A question of justice.
Nazi doctors facing justice in Nuremberg in 1947.

Naturally, I wrote about this disturbing incident when it happened, largely because it was an example of Gov. DeSantis adopting and co-opting a very old antivax trope, namely that of “Nuremberg 2.0,” in which a tribunal would “hold them accountable” (e.g., punish) the perceived wrongdoers who had promoted vaccines and vaccine mandates. Again, as I’ve written many times, “Nuremberg 2.0” is an ahistorical misunderstanding of the Nuremberg Trials that reflects a desire among antivaxxers for vengeance against their perceived enemies more than any sort of legitimate investigation, legal proceeding, or holding people accountable who deserve to be held accountable. It’s a dark fantasy of a “new Nuremberg tribunal” that dates way, way back in antivax conspiracy theories and often involves fantasies of “stringing the bastards up” or even the guillotine that antivaxxers were promoting years ago based on the idea that childhood vaccine mandates violate the Nuremberg Code. That was 2012. Sound familiar?

Just a few examples from social media:

Antivax gallows
Whether he realizes it or not, Gov. DeSantis is pandering to a particularly nasty antivax mindset like this one.
“Rule of law”? More like mob vengeance.
There’s a lot of imagery like this in antivax social media.
It amused me to see Mike Adams say the quiet part out loud and have to back off. Note how he claims he’s all about “fair trials,” when called out for calling for the executions of vaccine researchers.
Nice choice of a graphic for the Brownstone Institute article you’re sharing, Marty.

This meme might give you an idea what “Nuremberg 2.0” is really about:

Ron DeSantis and Nuremberg
The dog whistles are so loud that even humans can hear them.

I could go on and on and on with examples (and have), but will spare you for now. Basically Gov. DeSantis harnessed the deepest, darkest, most violent fantasies of the antivax movement and channeled them to his political advancement. Just look at some of the people he chose to be on his tribunal committee:

As I noted at the time, Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff co-authored th “let the virus rip” Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) and now write for the astroturf anti-public health “group”think tank” Brownstone Institute, with Kulldorff having served as its scientific advisorBret Weinstein, of course, is the evolutionary biologist turned COVID-19 conspiracy theorist and promoter of ivermectin as a cure for the disease, while Dr. Fraiman is an antivaxxer who has coauthored an awful paper with Peter Doshi falsely representing COVID-19 vaccines as unsafe. Dr.Tracy Beth Høeg, of course, is a sports medicine doctor turned fake COVID-19 expert churning out a bad VAERS study and one of the main promoters of “Urgency of Normal” and dubious claims about vaccinating children.

And don’t even get me started on Gov. DeSantis’ pick for Surgeon General to run the Florida Department of Health, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a full-on COVID-19 conspiracy theorist from America’s Frontline Doctors who has used his office to promote disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and general pandemic minimization.

Oh, wait. There’s a contrast there, too:

In April 2019, DeSantis nominated Dr. Scott Rivkees to be Florida’s surgeon general. When DeSantis interviewed him for the job, “we talked about the importance of childhood vaccination,” says Rivkees, who is now a professor at the Brown University School of Public Health. “It was recognized as an important pillar of public health.”

At the end of September 2021, however, Rivkees left and Ladapo, a Harvard Medical School graduate and associate professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, was brought in. Ladapo had already gained notoriety for his critiques of school closures and “fear-fueled policy making” in the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Dr. Ladapo is so bad that earlier this month the CDC and FDA rebuked him for spreading misinformation.

All of this worries public health officials, as it should:

DeSantis’s probe has experts worried that vaccine skepticism could become an official plank of GOP policy. “The worst-case scenario is if it becomes a litmus test in the [presidential] primary,” says Saad B. Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health who has served on numerous US government vaccine advisory committees. “Then all bets are off.” 

I mean, who ever could have seen all this coming?

This sort of statement leads me to wonder: Is Dr. Omer oblivious, or is he trying to be diplomatic? I ask this because, first, it’s not “vaccine skepticism.” It’s antivax. It drives me up a friggin’ wall when public health officials mistakenly conflate vaccine denial and antivax conspiracy theories with “skepticism.” They’re not real skepticism, and referring to such nonsense as though it were legitimate skepticism not only denigrates skepticism by conflating it with contrarianism and science denial, but elevates cranks by conflating them with skeptics. Maybe these people conflate the two to be “diplomatic,” but doing so only serves to minimize just how much a conspiratorial science denial movement the antivaccine movement is. Second, Dr. Omer is a bit late to the party. Antivax has been a litmus test for the GOP base at least since fall 2021; it was becoming one before the pandemic, but the pandemic turbocharged the process, hastening it far more than even I could ever have feared.

Gov. DeSantis, of course, is probably not truly antivax, at least not yet. He could very quickly get there, because there’s a long history of GOP politicians who “come for the freedom” by resisting vaccine mandates and seeing themselves as standing up for “parental rights” and “freedom” but end up staying for the antivax conspiracy theories to the point where they become true believers. Where Gov. DeSantis is in that process is not yet clear to me, although right now he appears to be in the cynical pandering stage:

DeSantis, by all accounts a savvy politician, is clearly aware that anti-vaccine sentiment has surged among rank-and-file Republicans. 

Even a former senior Trump official who worked on Operation Warp Speed, the program that successfully accelerated vaccine development, acknowledges that DeSantis’s anti-vax 180 is “good politics.” Trump himself has drawn boos at his rallies when he mentions the vaccines. “There is a whole contingent of the GOP that don’t like vaccines,” the former official says.

Those familiar with DeSantis’s inner circle say his vaccine stance is indeed driven by politics, not science. “There’s no medical people involved in this,” someone with knowledge of DeSantis’s advisers says. “It’s all political people. Now a couple of those TV doctors, those people are in his orbit, but this is not engineered by the scientific side of the house.” His goal, insiders say, is to tack to Trump’s right and peel off anti-vaxxers whose votes could prove decisive in the Republican presidential primaries next year. 

Now there’s a frightening sentence! I would also add this. Even if Gov. DeSantis is probably still (barely) in the cynical pandering stage, that stage has led him to put a true believer at the helm of Florida’s entire public health apparatus. At a certain point, it doesn’t really matter whether Gov. DeSantis is a cynical panderer or has become a true believer. The end result in terms of public health policy is the same: A disaster.

Ten years ago, I used to say that antivax is the conspiracy theory and science denial shared across the political spectrum. And so it was. I also used to point out around five years ago that, yes, antivax views were generally probably roughly evenly distributed among the right and the left. The article (sort of) acknowledges this, although it falls for the rather lazy and not entirely accurate cliche that just a decade ago antivaxxers were all granola-crunching lefties:

Vaccine skepticism is nothing new. 

For years, it brewed on the political left, says Dr. Arnold Monto, an epidemiologist and acting chair of the FDA’s COVID-19 Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC). Affluent California mothers pursuing an organic lifestyle and “trendy West Siders in New York,” he says, embraced debunked claims about the links between childhood vaccinations and autism. These views have long been stoked by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a progressive environmental lawyer turned anti-vaccine crusader.

Again, this is only sort of true. There was definitely a stereotype, a narrative by the press, that nearly all of the antivax activism was left wing among coastal liberals in Marin County and trendy Manhattanites. Even as skilled a humorist as Samantha Bee used that stereotype as the basis of a 2014 Daily Show segment that was funny but got a lot wrong.

That wrongness continues in some quotes in the article:

By early 2022, the vaccine anger from the right was notable, says Monto. “A party which used to be in favor of vaccines, probably even more than the Democratic Party, turned it around so they espouse all sorts of data for their own purposes,” he says.

No, no, no, no, no! That is utter bullshit. I’m sorry, but there is no other word to describe such obliviousness, and that is something that no chair of FDA’s COVID-19 Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) should be clueless enough to believe. I can only think that maybe—just maybe—Dr. Monto is thinking back to before the turn of the millennium—or maybe even earlier.

No, for at long time, regardless of which party had more antivaxxers in its ranks, it has been only politicians of one of the major political parties, the Republican Party, who were embracing antivaccine policies because they sensed that they could win votes from the base that way. Some of them even rose to positions of great power in Congress and the Party, such as Rand Paul. Does Dr. Monto not remember, for example, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana)? He had an autistic grandchild and fervently believed that vaccines had caused his grandchild’s autism. As a result, in the 1990s and 2000s, he routinely used to abuse his position as the chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee to drag CDC and FDA officials before his committee to harangue them about whether vaccines cause autism and what they were doing to “investigate” this link, while giving voice to antivax activists and not believing any data that didn’t show a link between vaccines and autism. Does he not remember Senator Rand Paul, who is antivax to the core?

In comparison, Democratic antivaxxers—who certainly do exist!—tend to be largely shunned and relegated to the fringes of the party. (Think, for example, Marianne Williamson.) However, since resistance to vaccine mandates and public health interventions has become a badge of ideological and political identity, it is impossible to deny that right now, right here in the US, in 2023 antivax activism is far more a right wing phenomenon—and a far right wing phenomenon at that—than it is left wing, and this is not a new phenomenon. It had largely been cemented by the fall of 2019, when members of a far right militia marched on Sacramento with antivax activists and in 2018, when pro-vaccine Republicans in Texas were being successfully primaried by antivax Republicans and antivaxxers were running to be the governor of major state. I note that in my very own state in 2018 my local Republican Party held an antivax roundtable at one of its local offices, which I attended to document and that both my state representative and state senator espoused antivax positions, and that before that my state GOP had been introducing bills to make measles great again by hamstringing public health and school officials and making exemptions to school vaccine mandates much easier to get. Nor was the Michigan GOP alone in this. Indeed, in 2012, the Texas GOP had planks in its party platform opposing school vaccine mandates and the teaching of evolution. Funny how those two frequently go together. Also, the elimination of school vaccine mandates has always been the antivax endgame.

How did this happen? For details, you can read my accounts in 2021, 2019, and even 2015, when I first asked, Is the Republican Party becoming the antivaccine party? I’ve also discussed how far back the affinity between the far right and antivaccine views goes. (Hint: It’s not just back to 2021 but dates back at least to the mid-1800s, if not longer.) There’s a reason why Tucker Carlson so easily slipped into promoting antivax propaganda and a neo-Confederate like Jeffrey Tucker founded one of the foremost promoters of anti-public health propaganda, the Brownstone Institute.

I don’t mean to be totally critical of the article. So before I finish, I will note that there’s a lot that it gets right. For example, Eban notes how much COVID-19 “contrarian” doctors have helped fuel right-wing resistance to vaccines and public health, correctly noting Tucker’s role:

And yet, some members of the public health integrity committee have touted unproven cures such as hydroxychloroquine and used selective data to question vaccine safety. Four of the seven have had their work published by the Brownstone Institute, a nonprofit think tank set up in May 2021 to counter what it claims are threats to “freedom and fundamental human rights” exposed by the global COVID-19 response. Its founder, Jeffrey A. Tucker, who initially helped convene the signers of the Great Barrington Declaration, is an author and self-described “Victorian liberal” who has advocated for child labor. In a 2016 blog post in the Foundation for Economic Education, he lamented that bored kids were forced to attend public school instead of experiencing an “exciting life” of work “on the streets, in the factories, in the mines, with adults and with peers, learning and doing.”     

In an upcoming book titled We Want Them Infected, NYU’s Jonathan Howard chronicles the rise of what he calls “malignant contrarianism” among a certain subset of doctors and scientists. Attempting to answer the question “Why do smart people come to believe crazy things?,” he concludes, “They need to be smarter than everyone. If vaccines were banned, [they] would be the loudest voices saying, ‘They’re suppressing this miracle. No wonder big pharma doesn’t want you to know about it.”

Howard says the doctors surrounding DeSantis have vastly underestimated the toll of COVID, particularly in children, and have focused inordinately on vaccine side effects, elevating them to a “fate worse than death.” 

I like that part about how, if vaccines were banned, these same contrarians would likely be advocating for them. I rather suspect that Dr. Howard is onto something there.

Eban is also correct that the right wing fringe doctors appear to have taken over:

To the doctors and scientists who believe that COVID-19 vaccines are somehow a bigger threat than the virus itself, Ron DeSantis’s Florida is the tip of the spear in a fight to expose the agenda of public health experts and vaccine makers. “If not Florida to perform an independent audit, then who?” says Dr. Robert Malone, a physician and scientist who has publicly criticized the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. 

MAGA supporters and insiders are increasingly disappointed, meanwhile, with Donald Trump’s failure to disavow the vaccines his administration helped develop. Some have gone so far as to wage a pressure campaign to get him to renounce them.

Unfortunately, public health officials seem to take the wrong message from all of this;

According to Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, the public health establishment is partly to blame for this backlash. The “absolute refusal to acknowledge any side effects of vaccines” has led more right-leaning scientists and doctors to emphasize them, he says. “The public health absolutism of the moment has removed space for disagreement. It empowers people like DeSantis, who is obviously exploiting the situation” for his own benefit.  

I can’t help but ask in response to this; Who are these public health officials whose “absolute refusal to acknowledge any side effects of vaccines” supposedly led these contrarians to emphasize them? Seriously, I want names, because I don’t know of any. And, no, not even Dr. Anthony Fauci did that. Let me just put it this way. Dr. Galea is falling for a very common narrative in which supposedly more “transparency” (whatever that means in practice) will lead to more trust. That might have been true before social media (although I question whether it was ever as true as public health officials claim).

Let’s just put it this way. The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines was accompanied by the most transparent reporting of adverse events either, and the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) was heavily promoted. Predictably, antivaxxers weaponized it against COVID-19 vaccines, as they had against childhood vaccinations going back at least 20 years. Moreover, Dr. Galea should remember that in antivax-speak, saying accurately and truthfully that it isn’t clear whether a given reported adverse event is caused by a given vaccine is the equivalent of denying that the vaccine caused it, or, to borrow his words, an “absolute refusal to acknowledge any side effects of vaccines.” To them, correlation is causation, and no amount of epidemiology will change their mind otherwise. Similarly, saying (for example) that the risk of myocarditis from the mRNA vaccines is low and that the myocarditis is mild, making the risk of COVID-19 still far worse than the risk of the vaccine, is an “absolute refusal to acknowledge any side effects of vaccines.”

My annoyances aside with some old reporting tropes about the antivaccine movement and my frustration with public health officials with short memories and a lack of familiarity with antivax conspiracy theories, the article still does a needed service in emphasizing two things. First, antivax is the dominant ideology with respect to public health among the far right and the Republican base. Second, so dominant has antivax ideology become that an ambitious and cynical politician like Ron DeSantis sees far more advantage in pandering to this ideology (and likely eventually being captured by it) than in pursuing a more science-based position.

As bad as I feared that it might get, I must admit that I had never predicted that antivax views would become a litmus test for politicians of a major political party at the national level. Yet that it what has happened. Ron DeSantis is a symptom more than a cause of the rot at the heart of the Republican Party.

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]

54 replies on “The GOP was the antivax party before Ron DeSantis, but now he’s turbocharged its resistance”

I heard about a Substack recently blaming Nature’s endorsement of Biden in 2020 (and discussions of academic diversity and inclusion issues in Nature’s opinion pieces) for conservatives’ growing distrust in science. But that’s just one journal, known more for its “breakthrough” research papers than its opinion pieces.

Having followed Skepticism on and off for 15 years, I remembered climate change denial and alt-med belief becoming badges of honor among conservatives for a long time, the former even driving some out of the Skeptic movement. (And many covid denialists were alt-med believers or global warming denialists or both much earlier, both in the media and on the ground).

As for antivax, I first remember it being popularized among conservatives with the “Gardasil will make your preteen promiscuous and/or sterile” urban legend, followed by the then fully debunked autism-vaccine connection starting to be talked about on the right several years later. But antivaxing struck me as an elite luxury on both sides of the political spectrum (“I can afford special doctors, special schools or homeschooling, and Disney vacations, and heaven forbid my kid ends up ‘special needs’ due to a vaccine reaction because every kid in my household must grow up to make 6 or 7 figures off the bat, or marry someone who does if female”), not a primarily right wing populist thing, until covid.

It’s not just the antivax on the right that has been short-changed by the new-agey-granola-crucher stereotype but woo generally. Pimping magic supplements has long been central to right wing talk radio — and Alex Jones, e.g. of course — and chiropractors are heavily represented among GOP politicos.

But, yeah, it’s gotten more extreme on that side of the aisle for sure, while waning on the cultural left (actual liberal pols never having been that far out, Tom Harkin — a quite good Senator overall — notwithstanding.) The best Orac can muster for left antivax is Marianne Williamson, who kinda looney (and marginal) as she may be, is actually pro-vacine. She knows her audience though, and so in trying to present a case FOR vaccines (e.g. her appearance on a Bill Maher panel) she acknowledges things Orac takes to be giveaway antivax tropes. IMHO, it’s a bit of the old ‘to a hammer everything looks like a nail’ thing. Whatever, her stance is basically trivia either way.

Oh, geez. If you want to relitigate the question of whether Marianne Williamson is antivax, I’m just going to refer readers to my original post post about her appearance on Bill Maher’s show in 2015, the first time I became aware of her:

And then I’ll just refer to my statement and argument from four years ago that she is antivaccine, period:

Let’s just say that I’ve heard defenses of Williamson before arguing that she is not antivaccine. They’ve never impressed me:

It is, however, good to remind everyone how much “wellness” quackery (e.g., supplements, “New Age” conspirituality, etc.) have long been a feature of the right), because I just remembered that Marianne Williamson got her start in woo in—you guessed it?—New Age spirituality and “wellness.”

I recognize that Anthony Fauci was only mentioned in passing. Just wanted to let this audience know of an American Masters episode (on PBS) about Dr. Fauci:

He is justly lionized — an extraordinary physician who has devoted half a century to public health in the U.S. He will be sorely missed. And it is more than disgusting that he has to have security detail 24/7.

I do suppose the right always had faith healing as well, and economically speaking, snake oil has long been defended as business.

A lot of woo, conspiracies, and the like have long been prevalent on both sides of the political spectrum, from fad diets, acupuncture, and home remedies to Kennedy assassination and ghost and alien lore. (And certain fad diets, notably the low-carb family, seem to have a special appeal to right wingers.) Since 10-15 years ago already, anti-GMO seemed to be the most left wing biased of the un/antiscientific beliefs (well, ok, maybe facilitated communication too, but that’s more specific to the autism community), and the rest were either equal opportunity or more prevalent or essential on the right, and that was my hypothesis for why there seemed to be more left-leaning Skeptics than right-leaning ones. Most left wingers had to give up fewer precious un/antiscientific beliefs.

You describing antivaxxers ==> “I can afford special doctors, special schools or homeschooling, and Disney vacations, and heaven forbid my kid ends up ‘special needs’ due to a vaccine reaction because every kid in my household must grow up to make 6 or 7 figures off the bat, or marry someone who does if female”

I am not sure if you are a parent. I am. I doubt any parent wants their child to end up being mentally or physically impaired.

I’m sure they don’t igor. The problem is that the things you continue to rattle on about are pure bullshit — there is no data to support your warnings about vaccines, yet you continue to toss that shit around.

What do you call someone who tries to scare parents about things that aren’t scary? You don’t call them anything good.

I know you’re a contrarian/pot stirrer, but…My kid was hospitalized twice for “bad colds” (RSV and adenovirus) as an infant, before covid. Didn’t want to repeat that again, with anything that could be prevented or mitigated by a shot.
She’s physically fine and mentally a little on the spectrum. It’s expensive to educate her to make sure she learns better when to talk and what to say when she has to talk to people who don’t know her well. But every parent has to be open to the possibility that their kid won’t necessarily turn out standard issue. Heck, I’m a tad shy of standard issue myself (ADHD, dxed just after 7th grade), but never ended up in serious trouble from any disease they had a shot for when I was a kid.

…and all your minions on this site.

Give it up. You have no credibility. Zero. Even if the science is on your side (it’s not…at best it’s dubious). The idea the disaster of how COVID management happened was acceptable, productive, or, anything remotely good for American citizens is laughable. It was a disaster. We are paying for the disaster right now…the current banking crisis is an offshoot of the disasterous policies promoted by geniuses like you and your minions.

The facts are clear: the emperor has no clothes, and you aren’t he emperor, your minions your court.

The best thing that ever happened to your anti vax crusade was COVID vaccines. That doesn’t mean the vaccines made sense….ditto the disasterous management decisions the sanctimonious “knowers” wrought on Americans.

You and yours are why no one has faith in people like you..and, that isn’t good. But you squandered your credibility on your self righteous need to be “right”.

You are irrelevant.

Apparently we’re so “irrelevant” that an antivaxxer like you feels the need to post a long rant about how “irrelevant” we are.😂

Yes, you are correct Orac. I stand corrected. My choice of characterization as “irrelevant” was, in fact wrong. The motive for my “rant”, actually reflects how relevant folks like you and your minions are/were, in terms of making incredibly wrong, reckless, foolish, decisions, on COVID management. The damage folks like you and your minions have wrought on the US, and globally, is incalculable.

So, yes. You are relevant. But, my point is, you are not now. Which is not good . People should trust science, and knowledge. But you and yours don’t represent either science or knowledge. The fact you have to demean me with what you and yours consider a derogatory moniker (“antivaxer”) basically says it all. That has the same “nod nod, wink wink” intellect of any run of the mill bigotted insult, which pretty much proves the depth of your intellect.

Anyway, yes, you were quite relevant during COVID, and, thanks to folks with your mindset, the damage is now done.

But, you have also exposed the shallowness of your views (which you do everytime you insult people with opposing opinions), and thus, you are now irrelevant. No one is going to listen to folks like you…even if you are right….that is the price you pay for petty insults, and, inability to acknowledge how wrong the overall reaction to COVID was.

the current banking crisis is an offshoot of the disasterous [ sic ] policies promoted by geniuses like you and your minions

Of all the undefended assertions that make up this comment, this is the only one that offers the possibility of an absolutely hilarious defense.

“…the current banking crisis is an offshoot of the disasterous policies promoted by geniuses like you and your minions.”

So this blog and its readers made Silicon Valley Bank not diversify and forced them to invest in US Government bonds. Did we also make the feds raise interest rates?

Tell me how you did not take Econ 101 without telling us you skipped Econ 101.

Generally, I don’t get into debates with fools on blogs. But the minions on this blog are so ignorant, yet, so self righteous and assured….I am 64. Spent 42 years on Wall Street, and finance. For these commenters to have the intellectual dishonesty (ignorance) to take umbrage with what is obvious, to one that has a functioning brain, as in the global reaction to COVID, that caused central banks across the world to print money like has never been done before, to counter the impact of the stupid, unnecessary, lockdowns….for you ignorant commenters, open your eyes. Below is a link to educate yourselves. I encourage you to read more….learn. Actually live up to the intellect you are so sure you command. Educate yourself as to the cost of the “American Rescue Plan”… 1+ trillion over 10 years…all of it to offset the disaster of lockdowns. See link below.

Now, I realize from the caliber of intellect displayed on this site that few, if any, have any finance knowledge…so, I will spell it out. Printing 1 + trillion to bail out all the economic activity that was crushed by the teaction to lockdowns is precisely why we have a banking crisis….in order to print that amount of heat, zero interest rate evironment by the Fed was required…all was dandy until the predictible result of printing that much money took in inflation…so, rate rise, now we have banking crisis. Were it not for “the American rescue act”, a direct result of the policies from ignorant fools like those on this site, we would not be in this position.

So for you folks to deny this fact proves how intellectually bankrupt/ignroant you are.

But the minions on this blog are so ignorant, yet, so self righteous and assured….I am 64. Spent 42 years on Wall Street, and finance.

In other words, you have no relevant credentials to assess virology, vaccinology, infectious diseases, public health, clinical trials, or epidemiology but rather suffer from a massive case of Dunning-Kruger syndrome. Thanks for clearing that up.

“Now, I realize from the caliber of intellect displayed on this site that few, if any, have any finance knowledge”

I see you also failed your high school civics course, and ignored the damage on the economy starting with Reaganomics. Especially with opportunists would buy companies where they then sell off the assets and fire employees. Something that those of us who worked in manufacturing noticed.

Because greed was good. You must have participated in the exporting of manufacturing from the USA to China.

How interesting that if there is a “banking crisis” [there’s no real evidence of a wide-spread crisis except in the minds of the right wing bullshitters] one has to wonder how much responsibility the libertarians who continued to cry “leave us alone” while making stupid decisions in the operation of their bank then wanted a handout when their decisions went south. But, as portnoy illustrates, people claiming to be “financial experts” are way low on facts and have no clue about a wide variety of things.

all was dandy until the predictible [ sic ] result of printing that much money took in inflation

Oddly enough in the context of your just-so story, the current wave of inflation is not limited to the U.S.

@Portnoy Bliss You were 42 years in Wall Street and do not know difference between issuing a bond and printing money ?,a%20record%20low%20of%2031.80%20percent%20in%201981.
Russia invaded Ukraine, too, and commodiy prices skyrocketed Thirdly, there was tigh laor market, too.
Btw, I do advice against printing money

@Portnoy Bliss You cite a link sayin that Biden loans too much. You yourself need financial education. “Printing money” means that central bank issues new money. Yourknoledge of vaccines are at same level.

Portney: Isn’t is great that pro-children blogs like this one allow you to post here, while antivax sites boast that they delete any opposing views? It must be confusing for the antivax diehards, who like to pretend that they have been silenced – but the best part is that the more antivaxxerr talk, the more normal people see how obscene their disease-mongering, murder-promoting, child-abusing movement is.

To be honest, it probably hurts my Google ranking to let antivaxxers comment here, as I learned last year that Google penalizes blogs not just for misinformation in their posts but also in the comment section.

This attitude here Igor is why I treat you and your fellow travelers with contempt.

I am the parent of two children with a rare X-linked recessive disability condition.

Selfish parents bemoan the fact that their children are not perfect and go looking for someone to blame. This results with the children growing up knowing they have failed in their parent’s eyes and believing the fault lies with them. Personally, I view this attitude as a form of child abuse.

Parents who love their children, accept this is the hand they have been dealt and put their effort into making sure their children are loved for their own sakes. They work to ensure their children can overcome as many of the hurdles in their lives as possible.

You clearly fall into the first category.

You can hear Rebecca Watson’s discussion of that same article here.
Basically, learning about the editorial didn’t change the opinions of Biden supporters. But it made Trump supporters distrust it more because it was against Trump and his policies.

Those people have already been trained by politicians and media outlets like Fox to be incurious and just accept their stated talking points. We are not going to persuade them just by showing them an opinion article in a journal they have barely heard of.

And the editorial wasn’t aimed at them either. It was aimed at the scientists who have access to read the articles on Nature. And it’s important for them to get off the fence, recognize that these political choices are important and perhaps spread the word to those who are persuadable.

And the Republicans are already politicizing most areas of science. Scientists and politicians who support them should not just cede the ground to the anti-scientists in the name of maintaining “neutrality”.

Skepchick’s still around? Cool.
I think Nature could have sent the message to respect scientific advice without explicitly telling people who to vote for, but as you and Skepchick point out, right wing politics has been writing off science as elitist and bad for business since long before 2020.

When DeSantis was asked the other day what policy positions separate him from Trump, the first thing he cited was COVID response policy. No, not in the real direction of failure: He ripped Trump for paying any attention to Tony Fauci, who he said he would have fired.

When he was in Congress, DeSantis attacked the Obama administration for being too weak against Putin when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea. Now, he’s flipped on that too, attacking Biden for wasting US resources on a “territorial conflict” in which we supposedly have no compelling interest, when we should be enforcing the border, stemming the apocalyptic crime wave, blah blah blah blah.

The common point in these cynical moves, tellingly, is that he’s following the lead of Tucker Carlson, undoubtedly the top “thought leader” of the Trumpist base (not to mention a reliable propagandist fir Putin). Tucker is, of course, an uber-cynic himself, as the discovery in the Dominion lawsuit reveal he doesn’t actually believe most of what he says on air, all of which is selected to drive ratings by fueling red meat grievances.

I will not call this pandering, (although the dictionary definition fits) because in common usage that term gets applied to politicians who merely make limited gestures to appease some constituency. Following, going along… Tucker, and now DeSantis, are not satisfied with that. They work at driving the movement further out. Tucker (and his production team), especially, is canny at discerning just what path further toward the bottom his audience will follow. Remember, when the COVID denial on the right was all about “shut downs” and mandates, Tucker was the first major media figure to leverage the anti-government thing into questioning the mRNA vaccines.

So, DeSantis is indeed a symptom, but not one of a static condition, but a progressive, accelerating decline. Anti-science is a key element of this sickness — DeSantis is predicably bad on climate, gender, etc. — but it’s really a war against all of “reality” (e.g. history, centrally, as well) and the compromises with mythos and ego that would be necessary to deal with real problems.

If we’re shaking our heads that antivax is now a defacto plank of the GOP, with DeSantis determined to outflank Trump on the right, it’s possible that much more WTF things could lie ahead…

@ sadmar:

DeSantis is also “predictably bad” on abortion:
he supported a 15 week limit but now faces activists’ demands for 6 weeks ( see Business Insider March 7)
A majority nationwide ( 65%) support abortion in most situations.

De Santis has already “endeared” himself to Black people and LGBQT+ so why not aim for women too? In addition, he can “court” young voters with his positions on gun control and AGW/ climate.

Another political cycle, another “perfect” candidate.

Desantis et al want to set up parallel systems for everything they claim is broken–medicine, science, schools, etc. Sounds like something Germany went through ~ 90 years ago, where the parallel systems where nothing more than propaganda cults.

Omer is arrogant and uncaring. I’ve written him several times regarding the effects of the US anti-vaccination movement on vaccine rates, and not once did he even acknowledge my email. Somehow he’s become a gormless go-to for pseudo-pro-vaccine quotes regarding something he never really cared much about–except when it advance his professional career.

Yeah, I can’t make up my mind if Omer was trying to be political here and not outright say what is obvious to anyone who has been paying attention, namely that antivax has already become a litmus test for the GOP base, or if he really is that oblivious. Maybe a little of both?

A small note: one of the tweets Orac cited shows 12 people hanging and surrounded by a crowd of people wearing fur hats. Despite what the viral photo says, it is NOT a photo of Nuremberg hangings. The photo was taken in the USSR around 1944-45, and depicts a hanging of unrelated Nazi collaborators. It was supposedly taken in Kyiv.

Regarding DeSantis: there is a lot of talk among anti-Covid-vaxxers about “Nuremberg 2.0”. That term, to them, means reckoning, investigations and punishments of wrongdoers of the “Covid pandemic”, including variously people responsible for development of Sars-Cov-2, media censorship, rushed vaccines, vaccine mandates etc.

A lot of such talk is naive and someone described it as “boomer legal magic”, a hope by naive older people that a certain obscure law will be identified that the wrongdoers violated, and as a result of regular court proceedings fair punishments will be meted out.

I do not believe such simplistic thinking, and yet, I am optimistic that in the end, some sort of “reckoning”, investigations, trials, perhaps “truth and reconciliation” will eventually happen. I explained twice why I am hopeful, once on my substack and once on Twitter.

The first thing to know is that “reckonings”, “Nurembergs”, “truth and reconciliations” always follow a broad military defeat or a broad regime change. Their purposes are several, but one of them is to show people the wrongdoings of the previous regime, which helps politically cement said regime change. Another purpose, obviously, is to sideline people associated with the previous regime.

So, you see that there is always someone interested in “exposing the previous regime” etc and, in the case of the USA, DeSantis is an example showing who could politically benefit from “exposing Covid wrongdoings”. Desantis is not exactly stupid and he is fully intent on reaping said benefits.

The story that he will hopefully expose, is something like this:

Sars-Cov-2 is a product of intentional development
It was released intentionally
Extensive preparations for its release were undertaken in 2019
A “novel coronavirus vaccine” was in development around July 2019
A suppression campaign was undertaken to hide the obvious lab origin of Sars-Cov-2
Covid vaccines were dishonestly tested in rushed sham clinical trials
Much money was made by the vaccine industry, the press, Google and Facebook who advocated for lockdowns etc
Covid vaccines hurt a very significant number of people
Instead of stopping the pandemic, vaccines made it permanent

The main reason why the public would be even interested in all this is that Covid vaccine is not an obscure issue involving few. EVERYONE WAS AFFECTED BY COVID VACCINES. Some people were vaccinated, probably about half of them were jabbed under duress, and some people were not vaccinated and experienced mistreatment, which they did not forget. So there is public interest in this subject.

Both Covid, as well as Covid vaccines, are mysterious and pathogenic agents and cause a lot of short and long term problems. Thus, it is conceivable that a large contagion of fear could affect millions, wondering “what is the deadly covid vaccine doing to my body and why I am having Covid every 6 months and get sick so often and have no energy”. If such a contagion of fear materializes, the public demand for trials will surely follow. Think about the medieval times when mystery illnesses were blamed on “witches”, who were sadly mistreated. Here we can have the same sort of demand, but instead of witches we will have the real culprits.

So, we have

potential broad demand for a “reckoning”
somewhat easily identifiable culprits (it is actually complicated)
people willing to exploit these conditions

This has a potential of turning ugly in ways that people (myself included) could regret. Such a potential cannot be ignored.

If the past is any guide, almost all “reckonings”, “nurembergs”, “truth and reconciliations” etc were attempts to close a page of history, and the punishments were almost always too light and involved too few people. Most likely this pattern will repeat with “Covid reckoning” also and that is, perhaps, for the better.

However we look at this, with millions of deaths we have a “crime against humanity” transcending all borders, that should NOT remain unpunished and definitely should be investigated by people who are NOT associated with the criminals.

Sars-Cov-2 is a product of intentional development
It was released intentionally
Extensive preparations for its release were undertaken in 2019
A “novel coronavirus vaccine” was in development around July 2019
A suppression campaign was undertaken to hide the obvious lab origin of Sars-Cov-2
Covid vaccines were dishonestly tested in rushed sham clinical trials
Much money was made by the vaccine industry, the press, Google and Facebook who advocated for lockdowns etc
Covid vaccines hurt a very significant number of people
Instead of stopping the pandemic, vaccines made it permanent

Interesting list. No evidence for any of it, but it does show the rot that passes for “thought” among you science deniers.

Your evolution is amazing. Not that long ago you showed up saying you were looking for answers and saying you loved science. In an amazingly short period of time you’ve shown that neither of those things is true — you’ve shown you’re just another person with no relevant knowledge [like labarge, chaos inclusion, portnoy bliss, and lucas] looking to spread your favorite conspiracies. I think you realize the usual readers here know you’re full of shit, and won’t get sucked in. I suspect you’re hoping to draw in people who stop by to get information and think there is some validity to what you’ve posted. One can only hope they don’t get sucked in to your ignorant and dangerous views.

This comment section is not really the place to publish long proofs. I do that elsewhere.

I still love science and want to know the truth.

This is a good place to have my beliefs challenged by intelligent people (without pointing fingers, not every reader of this forum is such)

I am quote certain at this point that my version of the history of Sars-Cov-2 and the vaccine will be validated, although minor corrections inevitably will be necessary.

This is not a wild bat virus. And it was not a lab accident.

Virology had numerous studies and experiments with recombinant Coronavirus/HIV chimeras, other recombinant HIV viruses, etc etc.

Ralph Baric described the ideal biow eapon as a recombinant coronavirus/HIV chimera of moderate pathogenicity, which is designed to “create fear” and “panic”.

Please help me find the difference between the below description and Sars-Cov-2.

==> Synthetic viral genomics: risks and benefits for science and society.

More from Ralph Baric:
As a principle goal of bioterrorism is to inspire fear, highly pathogenic outcomes may not be necessary as large scale panic would likely
result after the release of designer pathogens in US cities.

A large number of recombinant viruses have been assembled
using reverse genetic approaches including … coronaviruses, HIV, lentiviruses and others usually for the purposes of generating
vaccines or dissecting basic questions about, e.g., viral metabolism (29, 34, 39, 40, 50).

Importantly, recombinant viruses are actively being designed with programmed pathogenic traits as a means of controlling certain insect and animal pests, providing both theoretical and practical strategies for conducting effective biowarfare

Igor, when I was younger, like a lot of boys, I went through a military history phase. One of the things I read up on was biological warfare.
The fundamental problem with using biological agents as weapons is that they can very quickly get out of control and boomerang on their wielders. That was one of the reasons the 1972 ban on biological weapons was so easy to pass. And I’d like to point out that if COVID-19 WAS created and released as a weapon by the PRC, then it backfired, as the PRC was severely damaged by it.
Not everything is the result of a conspiracy. Sometimes people screw up, and sometimes the universe springs a nasty surprise on us.

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Please read the above referenced Baric article as it is well written and offers a lot of thoughts to the reader. Baric’s main point is that a “biow eapon” does not have to be highly pathogenic and can be used instead to create fear for any purpose, for example a commercial purpose to make money.

We do now know the answers to: who, why, where and when as far as release of SC2 is concerned.

There is a small possibility that the lab leak was accidental.

An accidental leak would contradict known early preparations for SC2 release and also the virus was strangely successful. It is not easy to make a worldwide pandemic pathogen and a random lab recombination experiment would be unlikely to result in one.

This comment section is not really the place to publish long proofs. I do that elsewhere.

Since you have no clue about what is and what is not valid data, not only do you not post “proofs” here, you don’t post them anywhere. You post preconceived conclusions to your conspiracy theories.

I still love science and want to know the truth.

You’ve posted enough wild, baseless, conjectures to show that neither of those things is true.

Ah, yes, the old “V for Vendetta” conspiracy theory. Regarding that, I always think that if it’s true, they chose a really crappy place to release a virus and a really crappy virus to release. The ideal to impose tyranny is exactly what they had in the movie: release a virus that preferentially kills the young in a school full of rich white kids.

I explained twice why I am hopeful, once on my substack and once on Twitter.


There are only so many appropriate responses to this and its “(29, 34, 39, 40, 50)” follow-on. I’m going with the obvious one.

Covid vaccination rates are fair to middling in Florida ( USAFacts; Our World in Data) which is even worse considering that it is the place with the highest proportion of people over 65 ( Stacker) who have greater risks.
Like other states with a strong right wing presence, I can’t help but think that at least some older people probably put their health before ideology and do get vaccinated. Or else rates might rival Idaho and other younger red states.

I’ve been trying to get a longer comment through about Florida and vaccine uptake, but it’s just been Internal Server Errors all the way down. The short version is that I did not, during my tenure in Leprosy World, note any pushback from the senior citizens who were lending a hand after my father’s death or at the grocery store that was the proximal vaccination site:

Tomorrow (March 26) is the 70th anniversary of the announcement (on CBS radio) of initial successful testing of polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk and his University of Pittsburgh team.

While we’re toasting that success, antivaxers will be mumbling and muttering to themselves about how polio was caused by DDT*, so no need for vaccination.

*yes, this bizarre claim continues to spread in the sewage outflow from antivax sites and social media.

A newly retired nurse recently told me that polio was supposedly stopped in the USA by better sanitation (even though most of the sanitation improvements happened long before the virtual elimination of polio here). I thought, it’s good she’s retired and no longer treating anyone.

Wow. Did you explain to this nurse that improved sanitation was in fact a cause of the increase in harm from polio? As sanitation improved, children were no longer catching polio as infants when it was mostly benign, but as older children, teenagers and young adults when it was much more harmful.

The ignorance of anti-vaxxers and their confidence in their ignorance is astounding – including among our resident crew of anti-vaxxers here. These people are determined to wreak havoc on children in the name of not having to change their opinions.

You wouldn’t believe how many obstinate, foolish antivax RNs I work with on a weekly basis. What’s even more scary is many (maybe most?) work OB/Peds

Viewing all this from the far Antipodes, I see DeSantis as an unprincipled opportunist (are there any other kinds?) who is suffering a severe case of audience capture. His descent into anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, into the culture wars and into Putin supporting show this. However, if DeSantis thinks he is going to be able to outflank Trump by being more anti-vaccine, I suspect he will be disappointed. The true strength of Trump’s base is grievance politics, which Trump is a master at.

The full embracing of anti-vaccination by the Republican Party is an evolution of where they have been headed for the past 20 years. It is unlikely to be a good place. Attempting to appeal more and more strongly to a smaller group of people does not strike me as the secret to future electoral success. In 2020, the Republicans only won 4 of the top 15 US states by population. In 3 of those states there was a swing away from the Republican Party. Trump’s main base is interested primarily in Trump. When he goes, much of his base may evaporate. Personal loyalty is hard for others to capture.

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