Anti-Vaccination Rally — May 26, 2010

Many of you know that I dropped by the American Rally for Personal Rights yesterday. It was a rally demonizing the pharmaceutical industry, vaccinations and science for causing the illnesses like autism and a variety of other issues.

Let’s be sure about one thing: I’m not a parent. Although I can say I would be completely devastated if my wife and I had a child who was stricken with a disease or physiological affliction. If something were to happen to my child, I would want answers. We all want answers.

I went because I support science, and I want to expose information like this.

At the rally, I estimated under 200 people in attendance, including some news agencies and a documentary film crew. There was a small group of pro-science folks organized by Elyse at Skepchick blog and encouraged by PZ Myers and Orac (I’m sure there were more involved).

I want to be perfectly clear about how small “under 200” is. I have gone to some of the most esoteric events in Chicago, ones with far less funding than the anti-vax event had yesterday, and they were far more supported than this pathetic excuse for a rally. If something is popular enough to have a following, Chicago has never disappointed me with a small crowd … until yesterday.

In general, the crowd was a pleasant little group of parents and concerned citizens.

When you meet a so-called enemy face to face, you find out one thing, “These people could be my friends.”

Like I said in a previous post, I wanted to like these people. They all seemed kind and decent. They seemed to truly want justice and peace for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. And like all disputes, they think they have correct information, or at least more correct than the information that has been presented to them.

Everyone who spoke yesterday exhibited a general ignorance for science on a basic level. Yes, there was a doctor named Boyd Haley, Ph.D who spoke and showed somewhat more scientific knowledge than other people who took the stage. But he took the same stage as Michael Belkin (included in clip below), who said outright that they should be able to make ONE flu vaccine and be done with it. By taking the stage, Dr. Haley tacitly agreed that evolution doesn’t happen.

This alone could have been the most appalling portion of the day, but it wasn’t.

There were many themes during yesterday’s rally. Many were told that their children were casualties of a type of war. They were told that the bigger picture requires some people to be pushed out of the gene pool. Many people think that the pharmaceutical industry is too greedy. Many think there is not enough research.

There was a teenager who stood up and made a speech explaining that his parents believed he had been diagnosed with autism because of vaccinations, and he had been cured because of alternative therapies. Throughout the speech, he kept repeating his parents believed this and his parents believed that. Parents often believe lots of things that they pass along to their children; it doesn’t make it true.

This group claims all it wants is the freedom to decide what’s best for their children. Parents, without any professional experience, should be able to recommend what happens to their children and what is put into their children’s bodies.

And despite having a de-licensed, known-fraud as a Jesus figure (Andrew Wakefield), they still hope to organize and augment membership to their little club of ignorance. Of course, we can agree that knowing your leader is a fraud doesn’t hurt the Mormon Church. It doesn’t hurt the Catholic church. It has maimed some protestant churches, I guess.

Ignorance is bliss?

In fact, when Wakefield took to the stage, the crowd leapt to their feet, clapping and cheering. The critics were right, Wakefield has been martyred, canonized and deified. Frankly — and you can see from the clip — he’s kind of a dick.

I want to go ahead and post these thoughts and a couple videos of the day that I uploaded to YouTube so that I can send it out to the science junkies who want to know about what happened yesterday. If you want to learn more about what these people are debating, I recommend watching this full episode of Frontline called “The Vaccination War.” There’s much more information out there that I’m sure will be helpfully posted in the comments.

This footage isn’t meant to be anything other than something for those who weren’t there to get a feeling of what it was like. I didn’t take the time to edit it too much. I did include the names of the speakers in lower thirds.

You can watch all of Andrew Wakefield’s speech here thanks to Bruce at Zenosarrow.

Here’s Michael Belkin showing his ignorance of simple science.