Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong. A leading anti-vaxxer is presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. He has repeatedly compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust. Rolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.
This feeling, that he wasn’t being properly heard and considered, and that so-called experts were dismissing him, is not a new one for Kennedy. In 2014, Kennedy wrote a book titled Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, which picked up on an argument Kennedy made in a 2005 article co-published in both Salon and Rolling Stone which alleged that childhood vaccines caused autism. The article was so error-ridden — including by vastly overstating the amount of mercury in vaccines, conflating ethylmercury with methylmercury, misattributing quotes and getting basic factual details wrong — that it received five major corrections within days of publication, and in 2011 was retracted entirely by Salon, which could no longer stand by the piece.
For the book, Kennedy told me he spent a year reading the literature on PubMed, a database of medical studies. “And I just thought: ‘When this book is published, it’s over, they are going to take this stuff out and everybody is going to feel like we made a mistake and we have to go fix this.’ And instead, it wasn’t a ripple. The book was totally censored. It was reviewed 12 times by people, all of whom hadn’t read it,” he said, without explaining that’s because there were no pre-publication copies made available by his publisher, Skyhorse. (For what it is worth, subsequent reviews have been no kinder; Time Magazine said that Kennedy was “wrong — utterly wrong, so wrong it’s hard even to know what the biggest piece of that wrongness is.”)