Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Antivaxxers and Anti-Shutdown Protests

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing disease to spread

There are signs of considerable overlap between the antivax movement and the anti-shutdown movement.

Carl Marinucci and Jeremy White at Politico:
They didn’t have masks, they weren’t into social distancing and they brought lots of signs, and some anger — some of it fueled, critics say, by the president of the United States.
But the arrival of a crowd of a couple of hundred protesters at the state Capitol underscored the growing efforts by conservative groups to push back at ordered shutdowns aimed at controlling the Covid-19 epidemic.
The organizers of Monday’s Sacramento event called themselves “Freedom Angels“ — but as CALMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall tweeted, many were regulars in the recent CA anti-vaxx movement. Already, they’re promising weekly rallies on Facebook with more “Operation Gridlock” efforts planned for April 24 and May 1.
Will Sommer and Jackie Kucinich at The Daily Beast:
Del Bigtree, a notorious anti-vaccination activist before the emergence of COVID-19, attended a reopening rally in Austin last weekend to find out why the protesters were showing up. Bigtree told The Daily Beast that he saw a lot of overlap between anti-vaccine activists who distrust vaccines and the rally-goers, who were complaining that the public health policies put in place by state governments are unconstitutional and draconian relative to the health crisis at hand.

“I think the science is falling apart,” Bigtree said, citing models he called “a disaster.”

On April 17, Bigtree featured Wendy Darling, founder of anti-stay-at-home-order group “Michigan United for Liberty” and an attendee of one of the Michigan protests, on his online show The High Wire, which usually dedicates programming to questioning health professionals and settled science. Asked by Bigtree whether the demonstrations showed that at least some Michiganders “are not afraid of dying from the coronavirus,” Darling said: “In our group, in particular, we've got thousands of people in Michigan United for Liberty and the consensus there is, you know, we are not. We're more afraid of the government than we are of the virus at this point.”

Bigtree isn’t the only drawing connections between the anti-vaccine movement—which advocates for the fallacious notion that vaccines cause autism or other ailments—and the movements against the stay-at-home orders. Anti-vaccine activists have pushed a hashtag calling for President Donald Trump to fire the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci—a message that evolved into a “Fire Fauci” chant at the Texas rally Bigtree attended. Some participants in the reopening rallies have also adopted “I Do Not Consent” as their go-to sign formulation, which is the same language that’s become a popular phrase for anti-vaccination activists.

Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins at NBC:
Protests against state stay-at-home orders have attracted a wide range of fringe activists and ardent Trump supporters. They have also attracted a family of political activists whom some Republican lawmakers have called "scam artists."
A family-run network of pro-gun groups is behind five of the largest Facebook groups dedicated to protesting the shelter-in-place restrictions, according to an NBC News analysis of Facebook groups and website registration information.

The groups were set up by four brothers — Chris, Ben, Aaron and Matthew Dorr — and have amassed more than 200,000 members collectively, including in states where they don't reside, according to an NBC News analysis based on public records searches and Facebook group registrations.
The Facebook groups started by the Dorrs each promote state-specific websites, which were registered with the same private registrar, and use similar language in their descriptions.
The websites, such as and, were initially shared by the same network of pro-gun and anti-vaccination sites, regardless of region, according to an analysis using the Facebook analytics tool CrowdTangle, which lets people track the spread of content on the platform.
For example, and were initially shared by the Dorr-affiliated Facebook groups Ohio Gun Owners, Pennsylvania Firearms Association, New York Firearms Association, a pro-Trump group called Ohio First and an anti-vaccine group called VaXism.