As I try to ramp up to normal posting again next week, I couldn’t help but note a rather amusing “offer” from tech bro turned rabid antivaxxer and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist, Steve Kirsch. When last we left him, he was spreading one of the less believable and verifiable pieces of “evidence” that vaccines supposedly cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), basically an anecdote in which a police officer claimed to have investigated SIDS cases and found that they always happen after vaccination. As I discussed at the time, though, the police officer wouldn’t give her name, and the numbers just made no sense. If her estimate of the number of cases she’s investigated were true, the CDC should be in her city investigating an epidemic of SIDS, given that her story, again if true, would suggest that SIDS is five- to ten-fold more prevalent there than the US average. Obviously, her story is pure nonsense (as I discussed in depth), but that never stopped Kirsch, for whom no story is too unbelievable as long as it supports his now current belief that all vaccines are deadly poison that doesn’t even protect against disease.
Here it is, over a month later, and not only is Mr. Kirsch not realizing how unbelievable the story he’s promoting is, but he’s doubling down. He now has a video with this former police officer telling her story on it:
One thing I can’t understand is this: The officer, who calls herself just “Jennifer,” won’t reveal her full name or name the city of supposedly over 300,000 people where she works is; yet she’s on multiple videos telling the same story, with Kirsch doubling down on his innumerate and statistically ignorant claim that it would be “impossible” for “Jennifer” to have observed what she observed if vaccines didn’t cause SIDS. I won’t go into the details again other than to repeat that her claim, if true, would imply a SIDS incidence manyfold higher than anywhere else in the US.
I can’t resist. Let’s do the math again. If, as “Jennifer” claims 36-48 babies a year are dying of SIDS in a city of 350,000, a comparison with known SIDS incidence is very telling. The current population of the US is around 333 million according to Wikipedia. That makes ~350K a little more than 0.1% of the population of the US. Scaling up to the population of the US, 36-48 cases of SIDS/year in a town of 350K people would translate to ~34,251 to 45,668 cases, which would be 10- to 13-fold more cases on a per-population basis than the national average!
Whenever I encounter a claim as incredible as Jennifer’s, I find that doing a little basic math often tells you how plausible the claim is. To hammer home the innumeracy in Kirsch’s and “Jennifer’s” take, let me repeat one more time: There are only around 3,800 deaths of children under the age of four (not the age of one, but ages one through four) every year in the US. (And that number is still way too high for a wealthy nation!) “Jennifer’s” claim doesn’t pass the smell test of basic plausibility just based on a back-of-the-envelope rough calculation like this. I might believe a rough estimate of two or three times the incidence of SIDS, but ten ten to thirteen times? That strains credulity. Moreover, there’s no way that public health officials would not notice such a “hot spot” of SIDS that, if you believe “Jennifer,” has been a hot spot for over seven years and probably more.
I also can’t help but point out another area of implausibility. If there truly is a SIDS “hotspot” that intense in Jennifer’s city, then it would be highly implausible that vaccines are the cause given that it’s highly unlikely that there is a huge difference in the percentage of babies receiving their regular vaccines according to the CDC schedule on time. Again, I strongly suspect that another reason she “Jennifer” won’t divulge where she supposedly investigated all of these cases is because, if she did, then she could be fact-checked. I (and others) could look up the actual state health department statistics for SIDS deaths in her city and compare them to her claims. We could contact her police department and ask how many cases of SIDS have been investigated every year for the last 5-7 years.
It’s no surprise, though, that Mr. Kirsch gobbles up these statistics credulously. It’s what he does. He then asks “Jennifer” about how she had supposedly talked to her pediatrician about her observations and whether they were possible. Tellingly, though, she also reveals that she was looking for a pediatrician who would “respect” her and her husband’s desire not to vaccinate. In other words, she and her husband were already antivax and were looking for an antivax pediatrician, making it no surprise at all that the pediatrician that she found was “not surprised at all” when told of her observations and suspicions. It was also unsurprising that this pediatrician claimed that the American Academy of Pediatrics “trains” pediatricians to gaslight patients by downplaying or covering up the supposed role of vaccines in causing SIDS, autism, and all the other horrible diseases and complication blamed on vaccines by antivaxxers. She even characterized this quack as saying multiple times, “According to the AAP I’m not supposed to say this, but I don’t lie to my patients…” followed, of course, by antivax talking points. Personally, I’d say that, if this quack is saying what “Jennifer” claims that he’s said, he’s either an ignoramus, or he’s lying to his patients.
A new element to the story has appeared, though. Jennifer claims that her husband went to a police conference regarding child protection. At the conference, supposedly the “official narrative” was that almost no death is a SIDS death and “never did the presenters say it was vaccines.” I can’t help but suggest that there’s a reason for that: It’s not vaccines. The evidence is overwhelming that, at minimum, vaccines do not increase the risk of SIDS; in fact, they might decrease it. Of course, she reported lots of “side conversations” in which detectives expressed the belief that it was vaccines causing these deaths, with Mr. Kirsch leading “Jennifer” to assert that SIDS is a false diagnosis for “vaccine injury” or “anything else.”
Yes, it’s a conspiracy theory in which vaccines are causing the mass death of children from SIDS, but “they”—the AAP, police organizations, and, apparently everyone else—are gaslighting the deaths, covering them up! After all, “Jennifer” confidently asserts that she thinks that 85% of the deaths she investigated were related to vaccines. (At least she leaves 15% that weren’t. In that, I’m thankful for small favors.) Meanwhile, Mr. Kirsch goes on about how the medical profession supposedly “writes this off” because the “ends justify the means” and then lies to parents about the causes of SIDS, autism, and the like.
I couldn’t help but think as I listened to this nonsense: Seriously, dude, what year is this? I was debunking the same nonsense about vaccines and SIDS from far less stupid antivaxxers than you 15 years ago! And, make no mistake, it is a conspiracy theory based on the unreliable anecdote of a former police officer, who was clearly antivax. It has damned near all the elements, in particular nefarious intent and the persecuted victims, namely children but also Jennifer (who, despite saying she’s hiding her identity could be clearly identified if anyone who knows her ever saw one of her videos on antivax crank sites):
I laughed at Steve when he asked “Jennifer” why she isn’t providing her full name. To be honest, I’m rather shocked that someone hasn’t identified her before, given that she’s been all over social media on actual video! She then claims that she “doesn’t care” about being identified, which leads me to the question: Then why don’t you identify yourself? Alternatively, if you really are afraid of being identified, then why do video? The more you do video, the greater the chance that one of your videos will be seen by someone who can recognize you and identify you. She and Mr. Kirsch go on and on about what “happens” to people who tell stories like hers, and yet there she is on video. It’s almost as though she wants to have it both ways, pretending to be afraid to be identified and yet not taking any particular care not to be identified. Seriously, if I were so afraid of what “they” might do to me for speaking out about something, you can be damned sure that I would not appear on video anywhere. I might not even appear on audio, or, if I did, I would insist on having my voice altered. I would argue that “Jennifer’s” expressed “fear” is all performative, and the rubes—like Mr. Kirsch—eat it up because it follows the conspiratorial narrative.
The conspiratorial narrative goes further, as in his Substack article Mr. Kirsch claims:
Jennifer wrote me:Standard police policy was to ask about ANY pharmaceuticals. So while no detective is given a script per se, they are trained on ANY death investigation, of any age, to ask about pharmaceuticals so I guess you’d say unwritten policy only because the official training is “leave no stone unturned “ and ask every single thing that person was doing in the moments hours days and weeks leading up to their death (if it was not an obvious cause of death)…so with a baby: “when was the last time he saw a doc? Was he healthy? any meds or shots ? What has he been eating? What kind of soap do you wash him with? Was he ever out of your care? And if so who was with him?” Would be a typical line of questioning. And my husband just reminded me that the coroner who we had to often report to was especially a stickler on everything that went into that kid food and drug wise. So we just by default always asked since odds were we’d have him answering the call and if we didn’t we’d he’d to go back and get the info for him. Now the irony in that of course is even though we got him all the info, vaccines were never the “cause of death” or even mentioned in final death reports.
I suspect that the coroner recognized antivax cranks when he saw them. Either that, or “Jennifer” is exaggerating and/or outright lying. Any or all of the preceding could be true. To bolster Jennifer’s dubious claim, hilariously, Mr. Kirsch cites…Neil Z. Miller and his study of reports to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) database! I’ve already discussed how bad this study was once before; so I won’t trouble you with a detailed explanation again other than to point out yet again that truly Neil Z. Miller is The Energizer Bunny of bad vaccine science. No wonder Mr. Kirsch likes him.
Remember how I said that conspiracy theories are contradictory? First, Mr. Kirsch is trotting out “Jennifer” to demonstrate that SIDS is caused by vaccines, but that doesn’t stop him from jumping to the case of Helen Grus, an Ottawa detective who, given that COVID-19 vaccines are not recommended for infants younger than six months and the vast majority of SIDS cases occur before six months of age, is apparently trying to link COVID-19 vaccination of the mother to a spike in SIDS cases. Mr. Kirsch portrays her as a “persecuted victim,” but even the stories he cites suggest otherwise:
An Ottawa police detective who opposed the force’s COVID-19 mandates is under investigation for allegedly trying to find out if parents whose infants had suddenly died during the pandemic were vaccinated, CBC News has learned.
The misconduct allegations against Det. Helen Grus raise questions about how police treat cases involving the most vulnerable members of society — and whether their own personal pandemic biases are influencing their work.
Grus has been suspended with pay since Feb. 4 amid an ongoing internal disciplinary investigation into how and why she was allegedly attempting to collect the information.
A constable by rank, Grus is a detective in the force’s sexual assault and child abuse unit, which investigates criminal cases that involve some of the most vulnerable victims police see.
That includes newborns and infants who die in sudden circumstances — investigations that are mandated by law.
According to multiple sources, Grus allegedly accessed Ottawa police files for which she wasn’t an investigating officer and then allegedly contacted the coroner’s office to learn the COVID-19 vaccination information of parents in those cases.
It’s not known how many times she allegedly tried to access that information or whether she was ultimately successful in collecting it.
It’s also not clear to what end Grus was allegedly accessing the information, whether she was acting in her capacity as a police officer or whether she was acting out of personal interest.
In case you’re wondering what else Mr. Kirsch is up to, let’s just say that he’s still partying as though it were 1999 or, at the latest, 2009 with vaccine-autism conspiracy mongering. Right now he’s asking: Will you help sponsor “The Great Autism Debate” for just $5? It likely won’t cost you a dime! What does he mean by this question? He’s trying to get another “debate” together about vaccines and autism on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, in which the participants will split a pot:
This is a great idea with one modification: the participants split the pot (50% to each team). That way, nobody can “game” the outcome.
The idea is to start with a debate on a hugely important topic “Do vaccines cause autism?” between two highly qualified teams.
I want to use a large donation pool to attract a team of qualified scientific challengers. The good news is that it is almost a certainty that won’t cost you a dime because even with a $1M incentive, I don’t think anyone on their side of the issue will show up.
As I’ve said before, there’s a reason why no reasonable scientist or physician is likely to show up. That’s because it’s never a good idea to debate cranks like antivaxxers, as I’ve discussed so many times before. Again, make no mistake, this would be a debate with cranks. Don’t believe me? Just look at Kirsch’s “dream team” of antivax “debaters”:
- James Lyons-Weiler
- Brian Hooker
- Andrew Wakefield
- Mark Blaxill
- JB Handley
- Tony Mawson
- Paul Thomas
- Doug Hulstedt
- Peter McCullough
- Harvey Risch
- Joy Garner
- Russell Blaylock
- Chris Martenson
- Steve Kirsch
Wow! Some of those names are some real blasts from the past (Rusell Blaylock, wow), some whom I haven’t thought of in a while, particularly J.B. Handley. I can see why Handley and Kirsch would have an affinity for each other, though. They’re both rich obnoxious business bro antivaxxers. (I wonder if Handley was interested in Kirsch’s special “investment opportunities” for his “high net worth followers.” Even though antivax is about the ideology and conspiracy theories, it is, of course, also nearly always about the grift.)
Of course, if Kirsch’s “investment opportunities” are similar in quality to his proposal to get people to give him $5 to put into a pot for a “debate” and backed by the kind of evidence he finds compelling, like Jennifer’s anecdotes, his “high net worth followers” would be well-advised to stay far away