While I was offline for a month, I kept a note of any links and news stories worth commenting on. Now that I’m back, I’m aiming to post two short items a day here, about stuff that happened during my online absence, until I’ve cleared the backlog. This is one of those.
Skeptics vs. anti-vaccination campaigners is never a dignified fight.
Certainly not everyone who fears for the safety of their children because of this scary mercury they keep hearing about is a terrible person. In fact, I’d guess that a majority of the people who actually believe in a connection between childhood vaccines and autism are good people, mostly caring parents who’ve heard some startling medical claims from numerous sources and are just trying to do the best for their child.
But the people we tend to hear from are the more vocal and devout proponents of an anti-science, anti-vaccination agenda, based on fear-mongering and pushing an ideology beyond any concern for such petty trivialities as evidence.
These are the people who cross over into the realm of “utter, despicable fucks”.
One of the Skepchicks, Elyse, talked about her experiences as a target of some vicious and personal attacks, as a result of her campaigning against Age of Autism, an organisation whose remit seems to wander little further than repeating anything negative they can possibly find to say about vaccines.
As Elyse describes, the people behind Age of Autism posted a copy of her Facebook profile picture (which included her 6-month-old daughter), lied about the things she’s said, and then sat back and let their fans react.
They’ve called me ugly. They’ve called me negligent. They’ve threatened to call child protective services on me. They’ve vaguely threatened violence. They’ve threatened my face. They’ve threatened to rape me with broken thermometers.
Classy stuff. And it’s another example of the overwhelming imbalance between the two sides in this sadly ongoing debate.
They think we’re endangering children with autism.
We think they’re endangering children with death, from diseases that we know how to stop people getting.
Even aside from the little matter of which camp can actually back up their position with evidence, the skeptics have much more reason to be pissed off about the irresponsible endangering of children’s lives.
Yet which way do the torrents of vicious, hateful abuse, and threats of violence always, always flow?
(Okay, maybe not always always; I’m sure some science supporters have at some point been needless dicks about this as well. But those would be fringe individuals getting roundly condemned for it by the majority of their side. This is a mainstream organisation at the forefront of the movement. No scientific groups carry themselves like this.)