The hysteria surrounding vaccines and scheduled vaccinations is well-documented. The term “fever-pitch” comes to mind after reading this article. Here are a few of the hysterical comments it includes (all emphasis mine):
- “It’s one thing for Hollywood celebrities to wear their anti-vaccine pride like just another fashion trend. It’s another thing when anti-vaccine activists start preying on vulnerable people, particularly within immigrant communities.”
- “The anti-vaxxers appear to be plying their trade with the Somali community in Minnesota—and the result, sadly, is a dangerous outbreak of measles.”
- “The disgraced British doctor who once reported a link between vaccines and autism—which was deemed fraudulent and cost him his medical license—has met with families, the Post reported. Even amid this latest outbreak, anti-vaccine groups have fanned the flames, making it hard for public health officials and doctors to be heard above the noise.”
This kind of hysteria is not rational (because hysteria is never rational, right?). These types of statements are (1) irrational, (2) illogical, and (3) fallacious. (I am separating illogical from fallacious, because it is possible for something to be illogical without any clear fallacy; the fallacies are clear here.) The biggest problem is the fallacy of begging the question (assuming that which must be proven). But in addition to that, the authors include the fallacies of ad hominem and poisoning the well. There is no attempt by these authors to prove anything, despite the article being an argumentative style essay. If the article were merely reporting objectively the facts of the measles outbreak, even potentially drawing a supposed connection between the vaccine opponents and the outbreak, then it might be okay for it not to attempt to prove anything. But this article has a clear conclusion—completely without actual argument.
On top of this, the authors have the audacity to treat the immigrants as if they’re stupid. Though I haven’t taken the time to search deeply for the Boston Herald editorial team’s take on immigration, I strongly suspect that they’ve used the word xenophobic before (along with other words like it). This is inconsistent, illogical, duplicitous, even hypocritical. The idea that these immigrants are too ignorant to think through these issues for themselves is patronizing, at best.
All of this is not even the worst of it, though. The concluding accusation is what truly takes the tone of this article to the fever-pitch, the shrill irrationality that can’t be ignored because it is so invasive and so dangerous. Here is how the article concludes:
These are the facts: Vaccines don’t cause autism. Measles can kill. And lying to vulnerable people about the health and safety of their children ought to be a hanging offense.
“A hanging offense”—let that sink in. These authors are calling for the death penalty for advising a parent to make an informed (if potentially misinformed) decision regarding the health and safety of their own child. Consider the implications of this. For many years, parents who do things that don’t fit social services’ definition of good parenting have been in danger of having their children taken from them. I personally witnessed this kind of evil applied to those who chose to homeschool their children. (Thankfully that doesn’t happen in most places now.) These authors are proposing taking that line of thinking further: if social services doesn’t like the way you parent, they can not only take your children, they can take your life. In a sane, rational world, that would be called kidnapping and enslavement. Now, which of these offenses is actually a death-penalty crime? The authors get it completely backwards. If this were a rare case of vaccine supporters’ irrational vitriol, there would be nothing to see here. Unfortunately—and more and more—this is becoming the standard reasoning for those who support mandatory vaccination.
For the record, I am not declaring who is right about the health benefits or detriments of vaccinations. I am addressing only the authors’ irrationality and improper aggression. This is virtue-signaling at it’s finest: We care so much about you that we think we should kill you for exercising bad judgment. This is truly dangerous, and all the more so because it is accepted, admired, yeah, even commended by so many.