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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Split in the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Factionalism besets all social movements. Respectful Insolence reports on a split in the anti-vaccine movement.  Jake Crosby used to work with SafeMinds, but is now denouncing the group.
What I’m referring to is an article that Jake mysteriously posted a link on his Twitter feed with the cryptic caption New Post, but not on @AgeofAutism: @safeminds Steals The Show, Literally…, and, indeed, the link led to a post by him not on his usual home, that wretched hive of scum and quackery, that antivaccine propaganda crank blog supreme, Age of Autism. As hard as it is to believe, Jake apparently found a hive of scum and quackery even more wretched than AoA, a crank website even more supreme than the antivaccine home on the web, with a webmaster even more detached from reality than any blogger on AoA. I know, I know, it’s really hard to believe, but it’s true. Don’t believe me? What if I told you that Jake’s latest opus appears on Patrick “Tim” Bolen’s website, the Bolen Report. So full of pure pseudoscience, quackery, and nonsense, all held together with the glue of even purer bile, is Bolen’s website, that I hesitate to link to it, even with the obligatory rel=”nofollow” tag. But link to it I will, because you just have to see how Jake has, as Science Mom tells us, thrown his former “mentors” under the bus. In the process, Jake utterly betrays them by sharing excerpts of private e-mails from the mailing list of the antivaccine group SafeMinds, as well as from private e-mails sent by “luminaries” of the antivaccine movement such as Mark Blaxill, Lyn Redwood, Sallie Bernard, Kate Weisman, and Eric Uram. It is truly a wonder to behold. No wonder Liz Ditz has saved screen shots, lest Jake be tempted to throw his screed down the ol’ memory hole. (Personally, I prefer to save web archives, but that’s just me.)
Remember a couple of months ago? That was when Representative Darrell Issa, who currently chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the committee that the most antivaccine Representative ever, Dan Burton, used to chair, held one last Congressional hearing on vaccines autism. Given that Burton had decided to retire at the end of the last Congress, it was basically a last antivaccine hurrah, a farewell present for Issa’s old buddy Burton, whose tenure as chair of the Oversight Committee was remarkable for several hearings in which antivaccine “scientists” and activists were allowed to let their pseudoscience and conspiracy theories fly free in Congress. That’s because Dan Burton is a true believer, utterly convinced that vaccines caused is grandson’s autism. What a nice retirement present from a friend!
In any case, as you might expect, the hearing, held on November 29, turned into a fiasco. That, of course, was not unexpected. How could it be otherwise? What was unexpected is that it wasn’t as loony as a typical Burton vaccine hearing. Also unexpected was something that Jake revealed, namely the efforts to which SafeMinds went to try to appear sane and rational for the hearing. Where Jake wanted to go charging in with testimony laden with multiple antivaccine conspiracy theories, Blaxill and the rest of the SafeMinds leadership clearly wanted to keep Jake as far away as possible from that meeting room. At one point, Jake recounts how Kate Weisman, SafeMinds’ Communications Committee Chair, suggested that he “walk the halls”: