I’ve always appreciated Kevin Drum’s political instincts and insight. He is pragmatic, eschews dogma, and brings an historic perspective to his musings on government, foreign affairs and politics. So it was depressing to read his Public Health Warning today at CBSNews.com:
Someone asked me a while back why I wasn’t Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s biggest fan, and this is why. His reckless demagoging about thimerosal and autism was and is actively dangerous. Ditto for John McCain’s ignorant burbling on the subject a few weeks ago. They should both be ashamed of themselves.In the end, this particular blend of of conspiracy theorizing and New Age ditziness probably won’t attract enough support to be too big a deal. But inchoate fear is a strong emotion, especially when threats to children are involved. The people who feed this fear are playing with fire.
No support? Not a big deal? We’re talking about the same people who buy miracle diet cures over the internet, and let Oprah tell them which books to read. People who believe there’s actually a method to picking the right cases on Deal or No Deal, or think that their annual IRS refund is a great way to save money.
I’m surprised Drum doesn’t see it. The anti-vaccine movement is the latest chapter in America’s distrust of authority that dates back to l’affaire Watergate and the Vietnam War. It’s not only the vaccines the parents hate – it’s the bureaucrats and medical professionals who recommend them. In a culture where the consumer is king, and voters are pampered and fluffed by obsequious politicians, the health care industry can seem stubbornly immune to the fickleness of the marketplace. Need a man’s razor with 18 blades? Here ya go. Carry-out chimichungas? No problemo! A fax machine for your jet ski? That can be arranged. Green vaccines? Uh, actually, no. It’s just not the same thing.
If the anti-vaccine movement gains enough traction to “be a big deal”, if it isn’t already, it will happen because good men like Kevin Drum did nothing.
“The people who feed this fear are playing with fire.”