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Sep 14 2011

Bachmann’s Anti-Vax Nonsense

You gotta hand it to Michele Bachmann. When she brings the crazy, she goes full monty crazy. On Fox News the other night she claimed that the Gardisil anti-HPV vaccine causes mental retardation, causing even conservative blogger Ed Morrissey to hammer her for it. Bachmann scored some points on Rick Perry during the Tea Party debate over his decision to mandate that vacine and then passed on this ridiculous story:

There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences.


Morrissey responds:

Huh? “Mental retardation” typically takes place in a pre- or neo-natal event. Autism becomes apparent in the first couple of years of life — and primarily affects boys. Gardasil vaccinations take place among girls between 9-12 years of age. Even assuming that this anecdote is arguably true, it wouldn’t be either “mental retardation” or autism, but brain damage.

The FDA has received no reports of brain damage as a result of HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix. Among the reports that correlate seriously adverse reactions to either, the FDA lists blood clots, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and 68 deaths during the entire run of the drugs. The FDA found no causal connection to any of these serious adverse events and found plenty of contributing factors to all — and all of the events are exceedingly rare.

The “mental retardation” argument is a rehash of the thoroughly discredited notion that vaccines containing thimerasol caused a rapid increase in diagnosed autism cases. That started with a badly-botched report in Lancet that allowed one researcher to manipulate a ridiculously small sample of twelve cases in order to reach far-sweeping conclusions about thimerasol. That preservative hasn’t been included in vaccines for years, at least not in the US, and the rate of autism diagnoses remain unchanged.

The most charitable analysis that can be offered in this case for Bachmann is that she got duped into repeating a vaccine-scare urban legend on national television. It looks more like Bachmann sensed that she had won a point and wanted to go in for the kill, didn’t bother to check the facts, and didn’t care that she was stoking an anti-vaccination paranoid conspiracy theory, either. Neither shines a particularly favorable light on Bachmann.

Now let’s go for the accurate analysis: Bachmann is abysmally ignorant and virtually allergic to reality. And she doesn’t really care whether what she says is true as long as it’s politically useful.

27 comments

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  1. 1
    Aquaria

    There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences.

    Uh huh.

    So what’s your excuse, Michele? And what’s the excuse of the sub-room temp crowd that gives a scumbag like you any credence?

  2. 2
    DaveL

    There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine.

    At which point Bachmann replied to her “Relax, Mom, it didn’t stop me from running for President, did it?”

  3. 3
    eric

    Bachmann scored some points on Rick Perry during the Tea Party debate over his decision to mandate that vacine [sic]…

    Every once in a while it’s worth stepping back from lunacy of the candidates to marvel at the lunacy of their constitutents. She scored points for this.

    These folks don’t want young girls vaccinated for a cancer-causing STD because they think reducing the threat of getting cancer might encourage more sex. Hand 1: more consensual sex. Hand 2: higher risk of cancer. Even if they were right (they aren’t), you would have to be evil not to take that bargain for your child.

  4. 4
    ehmm

    Clearly Ed Morrissey is part of the conspiracy. So is the AAP

    http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/hpv2011.pdf

    We’re through the looking glass here people.

  5. 5
    Akira MacKenzie

    @Eric

    Well at least when they die of cancer–in accordance with God’s mysterious divine plan–they will not meet there maker with the sinful stain of FORNICATION upon their souls! ;)

    You have to understand how these people, ahem, “think.”

  6. 6
    Larry

    So based upon a 10-second conversation with some unidentified mother (possibly, apocryphal), Bachmann spews an anti-VAX screed on national TV. No confirmation of the tale, no background investigation of the mother or her daughter, no understanding of what mental retardation is nor how it occurs. No understanding of the vaccine in question. No consultation with doctors or scientists who know what the fuck they’re talking about.

    And she wants to be President.

    Be afraid, kiddies. Be very afraid.

  7. 7
    Ingdigo Jump

    There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences.

    Michele dear, we’ve been over this before. You call that woman “mom”, remember?

  8. 8
    raven

    crosspost from Pharyngula

    PZ:

    There was another Republican debate (I skipped it; there are limits to the horrors I can endure),

    Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. Most of the GOP candidates seem to be Cthonic Horrors from Beyond the Formless Chaos. Death cultists worshipping a Sky Monster. AKA fundie xians.

    Michele Bachmann exhibits profound cognitive impairment. That is just obvious. I doubt there is any organic cause, it must have something to do with living in a fundie cult bubble for decades.

    It would however, be immensely entertaining if she was elected president. If the USA is going to go cuckoo and die, we might as well go out big time in style. This national end of getting nibbled to death by old white male christofascist ducks is boring.

    PS This imaginary mother’s claim isn’t credible. The HPV vaccine is given to 12 year olds and up. By that time, they will already be known to be mentally retarded or not.

  9. 9
    Fil Salustri

    There’s the old saying, never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity (I would add sloth to that), but I really don’t think Bachmann is stupid. I think she literally doesn’t care what’s true so long as it gets her power. I count that as malice.

  10. 10
    aluchko

    The moment I heard this I expected Bachmann to back away from the anti-vax stuff and I think she’s already started to.

    It’s all about tribal identification and anti-vax is a new-age left wing shibboleth, Bachmann is religious right and thus will stick with the right’s forms of anti-science, creationism, AGW denialism, etc. The last things she wants is to become associated with far left anti-science types.

  11. 11
    eric

    It’s all about tribal identification and anti-vax is a new-age left wing shibboleth

    Sort of. I don’t think she actually cares what the tribe believes, just their primary vote. If her staffers had told her she could win votes by claiming the moon was green cheese, the story would’ve been about a poor young woman afflicted with brain damage after being hit in the head with lunar limburger.

  12. 12
    Area Man

    What I found even more striking was her attack on Perry for having accepted contributions from Merck. I’m sure this signals a sea change in which the Republican party now campaigns against the pernicious effects of corporate cash on politics. Right?

  13. 13
    Krzysztof

    Couldn’t she pick a form of political grandstanding / tribal fist-bumps which does not result in dead people?

  14. 14
    DaveL

    Couldn’t she pick a form of political grandstanding / tribal fist-bumps which does not result in dead people?

    Let’s see:

    Perpetual War on the Muslim World
    Restricting access to abortion
    Continued drug prohibition
    Gutting environmental protection
    Blocking health-care access for the uninsured
    Abstinence-only sex education

    It turns out that quite a lot of right-wing talking points result in dead people.

  15. 15
    Scott Simmons

    I’m going to run up to Michele and tell her, while crying, about my cousin who converted to Christianity and joined the Republican Party, and within days was showing signs of severe brain damage.

    It’s possible I have the causal arrow reversed on these events, of course.

  16. 16
    Doc Bill

    The simple answer is that Bachmann made up the whole story. It wouldn’t be the first time. Bachmann suffers from a mental problem that prevents her from distinguishing fantasy from reality. Whatever she thinks of, it must be true.

    People excuse Bachmann by saying that she “misspoke” or “didn’t understand the facts” or “failed to look it up” but I don’t think you can categorize all of Bachman’s crazy statements and notions this way.

    No, she just makes things up.

    There’s a great video of Bachmann on YouTube where she’s on some panel rambling along about some nonsense and it’s the moderator at the end who says, aloud, “I’m sorry Mrs. Bachmann but you just made that up.”

  17. 17
    imthegenieicandoanything

    Hey! Some people actually enjoying bald-faced lying, since they know it has no consequences (for themselves).

    When she eventually ends up on trial, she will lie just as baldly, knowing they will not try to file perjury charges against such a wingnut luminary any nore than they would Dick Cheney himself.

    ALL “Republicans” and anyone who would consider voting for them are stupid, ignorant, insane, and/or evil. There hasn’t been the least excuse for years and years.

  18. 18
    Dr X

    And here is the kind of thing that happens every single day in America, but when there are no cameras, the corrupt cops get away with it:

    http://www.orlandoforums.com/forum/lobby/153410-police-harassment-orlando-police-tried-frame-me.html#post2070808

    Every piece of this story, except the planted drugs, is instantly recognizable to me from an assortment of personal experience with cops during my lifetime. And if this guy actually tried to pursue a complaint against these officers, they’d ruin his life.

    Besides the bind they put you in with demands to conduct an illegal search (just try saying no) one thing that jumped out at me is that part abouT answering the officers’ questions honestly and repeatedly being told that you’re digging a whole with your mouth after they demand that you speak–being called a “wise guy” when you answer questions absolutely honestly and sincerely. You’re abused and humiliated by some low-IQ, knuckle-dragging animal with a badge, and you just have to take it. You cannot win without audio-video recording, and even then there’s a good chance you can’t win.

    On a broader level, though, all of us can hammer these creeps relentlessly on the internet, swamping their objections to characterizations of their corruption, with damning evidence and ceaseless public pressure. They know exactly how they behave, which makes their whining about negative public attitudes toward the police laughable. Just because they can bully people into compliance face-to-face, they seem to imagine that they can actually make people afraid to think bad thoughts about the police. It doesn’t work that way.

    I think I mentioned here a couple of years ago that in the days when the internet was first exploding, I waged an all out war on local police where I lived at the time, anonymously online, garnering pressure locally and from all over the country. At the time, this kind of thing was new and they’d didn’t know what hit them. It was massively successful, and in the end, cops were indicted, the chief lost his job when his contract was up and the department underwent major reforms that are palpable today in everyday interactions with their officers. The cops now actually seem like very decent guys in their interactions with the general public, and as far as I know they’ve been every bit as effective in dealing with crime. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are actually more effective now. The change was like night and day.

    Pressure can work.

    We are the good guys.

  19. 19
    Dr X

    sorry, all that and it’s the wrong thread. Damn. Let me see if the filters let me repost in the right place.

  20. 20
    Aquaria

    Every piece of this story, except the planted drugs, is instantly recognizable to me from an assortment of personal experience with cops during my lifetime.

    Planted drugs aren’t in your experience? Really?

    Maybe I’m more cynical after living in LA and East Texas. I think all of us who have lived in either have known someone who was framed for drugs. One of the women who worked at the fast-food joint next to me in LA was busted for drugs that were supposedly in a pocket of her purse that her friend had turned inside out trying to get some change for a soda–only minutes before they were pulled over. But guess how much credence the black friend’s statement got compared to the LAPD’s.

    We know the answer: The cops were believed and the others weren’t, and those women both ended up having their lives ruined, I guess because they were black and working poor. How dare they forget to signal a turn, right? Have to be druggies, and make sure they are. It’s the LAPD way.

  21. 21
    jnorris

    If the vaccine causes retardation is that Bachmann’s excuse?

  22. 22
    Aliasalpha

    So why is it that she’s not being sued by the company that makes the vaccine? Surely a statement of that nature is libelous and within the boundaries of a lawsuit for causuing damage to their business. I can imagine “omg vaccines cause autism!!!!!11″ could be vague enough to get away with but isn’t this a specific claim against a specific product?

  23. 23
    raven

    So why is it that she’s not being sued by the company that makes the vaccine?

    It’s quite hard to prove slander under US law.

    Besides, it would be hard for the companies to prove they were damaged by her statements. It’s just Michele Bachmann after all. The one who just babbles incessantly and gets everything wrong all the time. Really, who takes anything she says seriously?

  24. 24
    Akira MacKenzie

    I don’t think that anti-vax is solely a left-wing pseudoscience. During my brief flirtation with libertarianism, I found most of the staunchest advocates of “individual liberty” and “freedom” believe that mandatory public vaccination efforts where yet another form of evil “big government” statism that sapped precious liberty from the people. Like the bullshit claims that libertarians make about the reality of climate change in order to oppose environmental protections, the nonsense about the efficacy and safety of vaccines is just frosting on the cake.

  25. 25
    dingojack

    Slightly tangentially. I wonder how much the Acme Lethal Dosage Company paid for Perry’s performance as Ko-Ko, The Lord High Executioner of Titipu, TX (and part-time Governor of that ‘great’ state)? – Dingo

  26. 26
    brotherbill

    What Michele failed to recognize was that this “unknown woman” was actually Joe the Plumber dressed in drag.

  27. 27
    pipermac

    I think this just about sums up Bachmann:

    http://thecreationnews.com/index.php/component/k2/item/142-bachman-claims-she-became-pregnant-after-oral-sex

    Obviously not true but it is the same kind of thinking.

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