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Anti-vax rally fizzles

May 27th, 2010 · 20 Comments · Junk science

Andrew Wakefield is not going away, but if yesterday’s anti-vaccine rally in Chicago is any indication, his audience is growing smaller and smaller.

About 100 anti-vaccine activists turned out to hear Wakers and nine other speakers on a sunny day in Grant Park. If you add event volunteers, vendors, press, speakers, skeptics, and curious bystanders, the crowd numbered less than 200.  As Kevin at LBRB says, it was a bit of a damp squib.

Like any good public speaker, Wakefield started off with a story:

About 15 years ago a mother from London approached him and said “Do not judge me too harshly Dr. Wakefield, but when I die I am taking my son with me. You see, I’m all he has. I’m the only one who loves him.”

“I didn’t judge,” said Wakefield. “I was moved by the love that a mother must have for her child that she would take his life rather than have him fall upon a society that really didn’t give a damn.”

Here’s the video.

Having established street cred, Wakefield went on to assure his fans that vaccines are way more dangerous that the diseases they protect us against, and they are not being adequately studied for safety. So Wakefield, disgraced and defrocked medical doctor and spiritual guru to American’s floundering anti-vaccine movement, will soldier on, and continue to do the studies that the medical establishment is afraid of. Or something like that.

The crowd also heard from financial analyst and amateur immunologist Michael Belkin, who played electric guitar and sang Vaccine Gestapo. He was introduced by a speaker who claimed “vaccine safety” is the defining issue of our day – forget global warming, social inequality, radical Islam, and the season finale of Lost. The real tragedy is that too many children are protected against too many diseases. Fortunately we have a talented songwriter to whip the masses into a frenzy. Lucky audience members snagged free copies of Belkin’s CD, which featured two other ditties: We Don’t Want Their Flu Vaccine, and Keep Your Mandates Out of My Body. Here’s the cover art:

Vaccine trial lawyers hit some low notes of their own. Attorney Robert Krakow, who draws his sustenance from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, pretended to lead anti-vaccine activists in The Fish Cheer. He stopped at F, and quipped “That’s what the government can do with its vaccine program.” Referring to his salad days of prosecuting drug crimes in Manhattan, Krakow confessed “I should have been going after the real drug pushers” – meaning the CDC, AAP, FDA, etc.

Note to Attorney Krakow: Technically speaking, vaccines are not drugs, they’re “biologics”. But we get it – you’re mad.

For a time, Wakefield stuck close by Attorney Jim Moody, another vaccine-court regular, not surprising given that so many of the ethical charges against Wakefield stemmed from his cozy relationships with trial lawyers.  Here’s Wakefield and Moody catching some rays.

Rally organizers clearly expected much larger crowds, as evidenced by dozens of anti-vaccine signs still unused by 5 pm, when the park started to clear out. A sign-in sheet listed about 35 names and email addresses. Hundreds of free bananas remained unclaimed, and most of the vendors’ tables that lined one side of the quad remained empty.

Meanwhile, the rest of city carried on as normal. In this case, that was a good thing.

Update:

Here’s a terrific account by a skeptic who attended the rally.

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20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Autism Blog - The American Rally for Personal Rights – bit of a damp squib « Left Brain/Right Brain // May 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    […] See ANB’s take on it, he actually attended the rally himself. 0 people like this post. Like Share […]

  • 2 KWombles // May 27, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    I managed to sit through the first 53 minutes of the rally as it streamed live; at that point only 231 people were watching the live stream. They couldn’t even garner the interest of their 800 or so legitimate petitions signers to watch it.

  • 3 Prometheus // May 27, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    ANB,

    I’ve seen birthday parties and family reunions in Grant Park that were larger than this rally.

    A turnout that low – when the “Autism One” revival meeting….er, conference was going on in the same city certainly bodes ill for Wakefield.

    Didn’t you think it was considerate of the rally organisers to provide protest sign? Are you sure some of the people holding them weren’t just using them to keep off the sun?

    The vaccines-cause-autism movement has progressed to the self-parody stage of group self-destruction when they have a rally for a disgraced and discredited physician with musical interludes provided by a one-man antivaccination band. The next stage is when the group leaders claim they are victims of a “massive government conspiracy to suppress the truth”.

    Oh, wait. Didn’t Andy Wakefield claim that on Matt Lauer’s show?

    Prometheus

  • 4 Ian // May 27, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Nice work. Did you snag me a banana?

  • 5 Anne // May 27, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I watched the video of Dr. Wakefield’s speech today. He said he was moved by the love that a mother must have for her autistic child to take his life. All I can say is, thank goodness they took his license away.

  • 6 autblog // May 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Anne, I just watched the video and added that line to the post. I couldn’t believe he said that when I was listening to him speak. I resisted repeating it until I could hear the speech again, and transcribe word for word. It still blows me away.

  • 7 The Skeptical PWNage of Darth Wakefield & His Anti-Vax Woosters Continues « The Skeptical Teacher // May 27, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    […] Anti-vax rally fizzles – I really like the closing on this one… Rally organizers clearly expected much larger crowds, as evidenced by dozens of anti-vaccine signs still unused by 5 pm, when the park started to clear out. A sign-in sheet listed about 35 names and email addresses. Hundreds of free bananas remained unclaimed, and most of the vendors’ tables that surrounded one side of the quad remained empty. […]

  • 8 Sullivan // May 28, 2010 at 7:12 am

    They were supposed to have someone from the Minnesota Somali community to talk about the apparent high rate there. Did he speak?

  • 9 ANB // May 28, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Yes, he spoke.

  • 10 Sullivan // May 28, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Also–

    what were they thinking bringing all those bananas?

    Of course the highly toxin conscious crowd would avoid something with that level of formaldehyde.

  • 11 Collection of Anti-Vax Rally Articles « Le Café Witteveen // May 28, 2010 at 7:40 am

    […] Autism News Beat declares the rally a fizzle. […]

  • 12 Leila // May 28, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Dan Olmstead at AOA wrote a ridiculous post about how the rally was the beginning of a revolution, calling Wakefield a Colossus. Pure unintended comedy, although your post is funnier.

    Wakefield’s speech about the mom who wanted to kill her son before she dies – it just proves how dumb and pathetic this man is. The UK is safer without him, unfortunately he’s ready to do more damage here in the US.

  • 13 KWombles // May 28, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Sullivan, the Somali who spoke said that couples who had no children were happier than those who had several autistic children. Classy.

  • 14 Liz Ditz // May 29, 2010 at 4:33 am

    Curt Linderman Sr’s view of the rally:

    The inaugural American Rally for Personal Rights was a huge success! Everyone involved, from Louise Kuo Habakus to the large number of volunteers that spent months on conference calls and logistics, worked tirelessly to ensure this success. Timed to coincide with the Autism One Conference being held at the Westin Ohare in Rosemont Illinois, The American Rally for Personal Rights was attended by over three hundred individuals and 300 + computers logged on and watched online……

    While some websites run by unscrupulous individuals decided to misinform the public with the low estimates of those attending the mid week rally, numbers were essentially where we had expected them to be and this is apparent when you consider that the Chicago officials would have been riled had we underestimated the number and significantly more had shown up for the event. With more than 300 logins for the web based rally, the number of those viewing via the web should be placed at over 1500 considering that I know of a number of rally parties springing up….worthy numbers for a first time event.

    Man. You can’t make this stuff up.

  • 15 “Unscrupulous” skeptics versus the delusions of an anti-vaccinationist | The Skeptics Resource // May 29, 2010 at 8:02 am

    […] you don't think he means li'l ol' Orac (among others), do you? Skeptical Teacher, Autism News Beat, Jeremy Witteveen and Jamie Bernstein, take a bow too, you "unscrupulous" skeptics, […]

  • 16 Orac // May 29, 2010 at 8:35 am

    A turnout that low – when the “Autism One” revival meeting….er, conference was going on in the same city certainly bodes ill for Wakefield.

    Especially when said “conference” intentionally scheduled zero talks or sessions after 12 noon the day of the rally, leaving the afternoon free and plenty of time to get to Grant Park. If that’s not a strong indication that the organizers of AO wanted its attendees to head on down to Grant Park for a little anti-vaccine mania, I don’t know what is.

  • 17 Prometheus // May 29, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Orac,

    Not only did AutOne leave the afternoon of the rally open, the rally arranged shuttle bus transport to and from the site of the AutOne “conference”.

    Seriously, on a sunny afternoon in Grant park, they should have been able to attract more than 200 people who were just curious about what the signs and balloons were all about. I’ve seen bigger crowds in Grant park around an ice-cream vendor.

    Prometheus

  • 18 Brandy // Jun 2, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Wow….Wakefield keeps going lower and lower. Honestly, wish he wasn’t in the US, he should be in the UK in jail. (we have one verbal antivaccine nut already, thanks) Seriously.

  • 19 Broken Link // Jun 4, 2010 at 4:35 am

    You may be interested to know that Curt Linderman Sr. has this on his Facebook page. I’m not sure it is worthwhile to give him any attention ;)

    Today on Linderman LIVE! We’re going to continue the discussion from yesterday about the “infiltrator” to the Rally. I am encouraging call-ins to either reenforce what I have been saying or tell me I’m being too mean to these people. The show will be devoted to these morons today! We’re live at 11am EST 309 343 LIVE (5483) They are listening so lets show them how we feel about their tactics!

  • 20 Autism Blog - Another anti-vaccine rally fizzles « Left Brain/Right Brain // Feb 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    […] activist who can be seen here on stage with a guy who sang “Vaccine Gestapo” at last year’s anti-vaccine rally in Chicago’s Grant Park. Sample lyrics: They have swastikas on their shoulders They’re […]

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