I’ve been following the anti-vaxxer movement for a while now – my elderly father is a proud member – but the latest news headlines have prompted me to speak out.
This post is not intended to persuade you to vaccinate your kids, but to convince the “skeptics” community to stop making things worse.
Parents are not idiots for being taken advantage of.
Why fraud? Well, it’s not really about the kids, is it. It’s about the money. Like all pseudoscience it’s always about the money. It’s about the books, the live appearances, TV appearances, commercials, “alternative” remedies and, like most things today, it’s about page views.
Fortune tellers have been exploiting human psychology for financial gains for centuries – telling their patrons what they wanted to hear, or what they were afraid to hear. This not much different than what the anti vaccine fear mongers do.
Most parents want what is best for their kids. But most parents also don’t have the time, energy or prerequisite knowledge and training in logical thinking to differentiate between the hoaxes and the truth. Nothing wrong with that – we can’t all spend hours researching every single thing online. So, like humans are want to do, they make judgment calls on the data they do have and this is what the fraudsters exploit.
So they google for a bit, and the key difference in the information they find is this:
Science claims something else will harm your baby if you do nothing.
Vaccine deniers claim you will harm your baby if you decide to do it.
What would be easier to live with? Ignoring the issue or risk actively crippling your baby.
Now combine that with much better marketing exploiting a whole list of cognitive biases and a side dish of fear of “chemicals”, corporation and government and you get a perfect cocktail to convince young, stressed out parents that vaccines are bad.
OK, but how do we convince them they are wrong?
Not calling them idiots, for one. Once humans form an opinion they stick to it (confirmation bias … ) and trying to convince them otherwise produces cognitive dissonance. Convincing people that “chema trails” are not a thing is hard enough, but can you imagine how embarrassed you would be, how horrible you would feel when you realized that your foolish decisions have put your own child in danger. So they deny it, rationalize it away and the more you push them, the harder they cling to it.
So don’t push them. Don’t attack them. Give them the information they need, give them the space to process the information, than act like they never believed the nonsense in the first place – thus giving them a way to safe face.
But most of all, stop blaming the victims, and start prosecuting those who would manipulate others and endanger our kids and entire communities for profit.