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Monday, April 10, 2017

Trump, InfoWars, and the Vaccine Theory

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns.   In this campaign, a number of posts discussed Trump's support for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  He also has a bad record on science and disability issues more generally.

At Vox, Julia Belluz writes about Alex Jones and the conspiracy-theory site InfoWars -- a Trump favorite.
Jones has said Oprah Winfrey is trying to reduce the African population by half, that Sesame Street’s new autistic Muppet was designed to normalize an increasingly common disease that’s caused by vaccines, and that the Atlantic and other lefty periodicals are hinting at an imminent decapitation of President Trump.
In this world, Andrew Wakefield, the discredited doctor who falsified data to suggest vaccines are linked to autism, is a “pioneer” and “trailblazer” who just wants to help keep people healthy. By contrast, Bill Gates is running a mass eugenics effort through his charitable work, and the HIV epidemic was actually created by the American government(which has incidentally been part of a Russian disinformation campaign about the US government).
In Rochester, MS, Brett Boese writes at The Post-Bulletin:
Medical personnel at Mayo Clinic, Rochester Epidemiology Project, Minnesota Department of Health and elsewhere routinely dismiss the alleged connection between vaccines and autism as — to use today's popular vernacular — "fake news." The 1998 study that first raised that alleged connection has been formally retracted, and its author, London's Andrew Wakefield, lost his medical license in 2010.

Newsweek says Wakefield remains "revered and reviled" by the two factions, but his claims have been so widely debunked — including by a 2005 REP study completed in Rochester — that Mayo Clinic Dr. Robert Jacobson says "it's strange that people are still questioning the safety" of vaccines.

Wakefield's fraudulent report remains a primary influencer nearly two decades later, and measles has become a problem again — 667 cases in 2014 — after the CDC declared it was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000.

"Now with a populist president who has met with some of the most rabid anti-vaccinists, that has a lot of people on edge," Jacobson said.