The anti-vaxxers seem to be more militant than the anti-choicers

We know that the anti-abortion crowd can be very militant and resort to extreme violence, to the extent of murdering people who provide abortion services. But I notice that recently anti-vaxxers seem to be approaching and even exceeding that level of fervor, as can be seen when protestors temporarily shut down a covid-19 mass vaccination site that had been opened in the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles.

Richard Pan is a physician and a member of the California state legislature who has been harassed and even physically attacked because he is an outspoken advocate of vaccinations and introduced legislation that eliminated vaccine exemptions unless they were medically required. In an interview, he describes his experience with them.

I was outraged, certainly, that people had tried to block other people from getting access to vaccines. I think that event demonstrated a lie that anti-vaxxers often proclaim, that it’s about choice and freedom – yet here they were denying people their choice to get the vaccine and denying our community and our country the opportunity to be free from this terrible disease that has killed more people than world war two at this point.

Then you move ahead to 2019, when I introduced senate bill 276 (which required medical exemptions be approved by the California department of public health, and ultimately passed). They stepped it up. Not only do they show up in large numbers, which is fine, that’s their right to do so, but then they engaged in things like pounding on the walls, basically sounding like they’re trying to break into the legislative chambers during debate.

They would try to interfere with the legislature by standing on chairs and screaming, or screaming in the galleries not just when we’re discussing the vaccine bill, but overall, just trying to stop the legislature from doing its business. They invited a militia to come join them at the state capitol, so they demonstrated an open tie to other extremist groups, and the death threats continued. But then one of the anti-vaxxers actually assaulted me on the street and livestreamed it on Facebook.

And then after that yet another [anti-vaccine activist] threw blood on to the senate floor. Just to put that in the context, the California state legislature has been meeting in those legislative chambers for 150 years and those public galleries have been up there in that same building for that same amount of time. It was the first example I have found of someone intentionally throwing something from the public gallery at legislators while they were conducting the people’s business on the floor below.

One hundred fifty years: just think about all the different issues that came up in that chamber, everything ranging from abortion, gun control, civil rights. And that’s the group that does it, and the legislature had to go into recess and all the senators splattered with blood had to go get checked out and biohazard had to go deep clean the site.

They oppose masking, they oppose testing, they oppose physical distancing and avoiding gatherings. They have been out there opposing every effort to stop this disease. One of their leaders, Del Bigtree, actually had a video that was taken down, where he basically said, “If you die of Covid it’s your fault because you made bad health choices and didn’t eat right. This thing is as mild as a cold and we should spread it as much as possible.” This group is actively trying to get us sick. They’re also threatening the lives of those who are trying to stop that from happening.

Think about that. We have a pandemic that has killed more people than world war two and in less time. Yet we have a movement of people who not only want to spread the disease but have aligned with other extremist groups to actively stop people who are trying to stop this disease. And there are very few consequences for their actions.

There is truly some weird psychology at work here. Even if the anti-vaxxers think that covid-19 vaccines are dangerous, the people choosing to take it are adults. This issue should not have the emotive power of saying that they are trying to save the lives of the unborn who cannot choose, which is their claim when the try to shut down abortion clinics and harass the people who work there

There has to be some deeper underlying cause. I think that these people are really, really angry about some thing that they cannot articulate and may not even be aware of. We seem to be living in a time in the US when there is a significant number of people experiencing inchoate rage that seeks an outlet in some tangible form. Inspired by dangerous crackpots like Andrew Wakefield and Robert F; Kennedy, Jr., they have latched on to this issue as the one to take a stand on. If it had not been this, it would have been something else, possibly the usual standbys like abortion, guns, and gods. Being anti-vax has a novelty appeal that the other issues lack.


  1. Who Cares says

    It isn’t just something in the US though. For example the people of the French pro-vaccine group in this article receive death threats as well. The group that started the riots against the measures taken to slow down COVID in the Netherlands is contains a majority of the prominent anti-vaxxers in the Netherlands or (even after the riots) is supported by them.

  2. StonedRanger says

    This is all a result of the republican parties efforts over more than 50 years to dumb down the electorate. Their plan has come to fruition and they are getting more than they bargained for. Now the idiots have been elected to office and any stupid thing they say, the stupid electorate gobbles up. There is no sense to any of this.

  3. flex says

    Just spit-balling, but I think there are two factors in the US which are leading to this:

    1. An increasing distrust of people in positions of authority. For the past twenty years I’ve been increasingly hearing that the only reason people do well in politics and industry is through nepotism, and the only motivation for people to reach positions of authority is greed.

    2. A lack of accountability of people in positions of authority when their venality is exposed. When a politician or executive board is exposed as being motivated by greed, there are no repercussions. They retain their money, power, and social standing. This re-enforces point 1.

    Between the two factors, I think people are becoming more and more willing to act on what they believe. The can’t trust the establishment to tell them the truth, so they have to learn the “truth” from their own research, and they feel obligated to protect other people who haven’t done the research. It’s very much misguided, but I don’t think the anti-vaccine activists are evil, even if their actions will result in more people’s deaths.

  4. flex says

    Let me amend my statement, MOST of the anti-vaccine advocates are not evil. The ones which are evil are the ones who have had the time and opportunity to learn the science but are using that population of anti-vaccine believers as their own private piggy-bank.

  5. Matt G says

    If it’s all about “freedom,” they shouldn’t be bothered by other people making the choice for themselves.

  6. mnb0 says

    “the anti-abortion crowd”
    A better term is pro-forced-birther crowd.
    Perhaps also pro-infectious-diseasers?

  7. TGAP Dad says

    As insane as I believe anti-vaxxers to be, I feel that your title on this post is a bit over the top. As far as I know, anti-vaxxers haven’t assassinated any health care people administering vaccines, or bombed any vaccination sites. Perhaps this is because the antivax movement is not as mature as the anti-choice movement. Or possibly because of the tight coupling between anti-choices to religion, and the lack of same by the antivaxxers. Whatever the reason, it’s still just different degrees of insanity. We need a unit of measurement for that. Whatever the particular metric, I hereby propose that we use “Q” as the unit of measurement. Anti-vaxxers might be 0.6Q, anti-choicers 0.85Q, and of course, the Qanon bunch are 1Q. That makes republicans what, 3Q?

  8. raven says

    There is a huge amount of overlap between the anti-vaxxers, the forced birthers, Qanon, fundie xianity, and right wingnut GOP politics.
    The Venn diagram overlaps aren’t perfect circles but they are close.
    Once you have abandoned reality, you might as well collect all the delusions and crackpot theories.
    They can come as part of a package deal.

    It’s even got a name.
    Crank magnetism or polykookery.

  9. raven says

    The current poster person for crank magnetism is…Marjorie Taylor Greene, elected representative from Georgia.

    Jewish space lasers, Qanon, the school shootings that are fake despite dozens of dead children, 9/11 was a false flag event that never happened anyway, white genocide ongoing as I type and so on. (I’m white pinkish tan and would know if I’m being genocided.)

    Like a lot of these prominent rich and powerful crackpots, she is really a two year old in an adult body.

  10. jrkrideau says

    @ 7 TGAP Dad

    As far as I know, anti-vaxxers haven’t assassinated any health care people administering vaccines, or bombed any vaccination sites.

    No, they are much more dangerous and they kill a lot more people.

    They spread lies that leads to small measles epidemics such as the ones we have seen among the Somali community in Minneapolis or the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in New York City. They campaigned to discourage vaccinations in the midst of a measles outbreak in Samoa where an estimated 85 people died.

    Their lies about Gardasil , the human papillomaviris mean that a lot of people, mainly women, will die of a preventable cancer.

    At the moment their lies and antics against the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines will probably mean a lot of avoidable deaths or long-term disabilities among those who choose not to be vaccinated and those who catch Covid-19 from those un-vaccinated.

    They are not as overtly violent but they are much more deadly.

  11. TGAP Dad says

    @10 jrkrideau
    Well, you got me there. I guess the difference is killing directly or indirectly, when really, it’s killing just the

  12. Pierce R. Butler says

    … this terrible disease that has killed more people than world war two …

    Eh what?

    The deaths that directly resulted from the war are about 50-56 million people while about 19-28 million people died from war-related famine and diseases.

    Coronavirus … Deaths: 2,294,419 (according to www. worldometers. info/coronavirus (link de-formatted to evade site URL limitations).

    Maybe Dr. Pan meant to say “more Americans” than WWII:

    According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of U.S. combat deaths in the Second World War was 291,557.

    -- per an article soon after the US c-virus fatality list passed that number. (That was in early December of last year; less than two months later, we’re already above half again that many deaths, and counting more than another 9/11 every day…)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *