Hello again, dear readers of mine.
On August 11, I made a quick post on my Facebook page regarding the simple fact that I had seen Vaxxed, the recently released film based on the infamous fraud of a paper published in The Lancet in 1998, and was going to write a review blog for it.
And that time is finally here.
But before I go into the main discussion topic, I want to say something quickly.
If there’s anyone reading this who opposes vaccination, please, I beg of you, to stick till the end of this blog. Trust me.
Back when my video started to accidentally get popular, I devoted my time to the art of debating anti-vaxxers 24/7. And one particular pattern I pointed out multiple times was based on the fact that pretty much all of them told me to watch Vaxxed, and that until then, I had no right to talk about immunology, somehow.
Of course I didn’t watch it (until August 11).
I couldn’t have.
Not only because it seemed like a ridiculous idea, but because fortunately, down here the film isn’t projected for obvious reasons, like, the fact that it’s impossible for you to find anyone in Mexico who deeply believes that vaccines somehow cause autism.
Actually, vaccination is almost a part of our culture. We have quite a strict vaccination program, unlike the United States. Vaccines are also completely for free here, so the argument “BIG PHARMA MAKES SO MUCH MONEY OUT OF IT” is completely invalid.
When I told some of my classmates and people I know in general about the anti-vaccination movement, they just stared weirdly at my face and said:
“Who the heck in their right state of mind would possibly believe that vaccines cause autism?!”
And I don’t blame them, since that’s how I reacted to it years ago.
I don’t remember a lot about what I thought when I first heard about it, but the first thing that came to my mind was that I thought that they believed that the act of injecting was what caused autism, but not the ingredients. After that, I decided to fact-check it as the questioner I am, and came to the conclusion that the idea of vaccines causing autism was quite irrational. Months later, I came up with an idea for a short video that was intended to be a joke for a small group of friends I had met a few weeks prior. Some time later, annoyed anti-vaxxers reported my profile because apparently age is what matters and not maturity in the eyes of the virtual law. After the video got deleted from the web, that group of friends asked me to make it public by posting it to a Facebook page. I created it, posted the two videos they requested me to repost, and two days later it was an international headline.
That’s how I accidentally ended up with a science-related platform that was originally created by what kids these days call the “vaccine debate”.
And, when you have a platform that was created on something a film was based on, you gotta say something about it.
That’s why, today, I’m introducing you to my blog review of
“Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe”.
Vaxxed has been the most relevant film for both the scientific and anti-science communities lately. It’s Andrew Wakefield’s last resort to bring back the lie he himself created 18 years ago. And I’m hoping we all know the story behind it.
Wakefield published a medical paper in The Lancet in 1998 that I myself read. It was a study performed in 12 kids whose problems had an apparent correlation between loss of cognitive skills, gastrointestinal damage, and the third factor: the MMR vaccine.
Now, the paper didn’t explicitly mention autism, as it referred to it as a loss of social, and cognitive skills, including language. However, it is quite clear that Wakefield was completely talking about autism, since that’s what everything about him is based on.
As you know, when a scientific paper is published, the scientific method encourages people to replicate it in order to confirm if the results are the same. However, no single other study ever has been able to replicate Wakefield’s findings. In fact, there have been dozens of studies performed on, literally, millions of children, yet no single one of them has supported Wakefield’s position. Since then, his medical license has been taken away, and has been discredited as a fraud because not only did he publish a study based on profit, but after an investigation, he was found guilty of faking data for his study to be published. He also bragged about taking blood samples from kids at his son’s birthday party once, which doesn’t make him look good to the general public.
Something I thought when I was organizing my mind for this blog was that I might actually be in legal danger by writing this, as it’s been public that the makers of Vaxxed have threatened to sue an autistic advocate named Fiona O’Leary for speaking in favor of autism in a letter they sent, which you can read below:
Well, how vile from them. It’s no surprise, though, since the three main filmmakers (Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, and Polly Tommey) have all been known for committing rather politically and morally incorrect acts, and as quick examples, we got the fact that Tommey has previously harassed me on Facebook trough her page, as well as saying that she wouldn’t judge parents if they decided to murder their autistic children, the fact that Bigtree has compared kids on the spectrum to dogs and chimpanzees, and Wakefield’s entire existence.
But, of course, I’m not in any sort of legal danger. Not only am I twelve, but they sure know that “Makers of Vaxxed threaten to sue a Mexican 12-year-old” as an international headline would not resemble a positive thing for the film.
Anyway, let’s get into it already.
On August 11, I was informed of something that made my eyebrows rise: someone had uploaded a digital version of the film to Facebook. Wow. It’s quite amazing that anti-vaxxers themselves have unintentionally damaged the film’s profit motive. But apparently, the uploader cared more about “da childrens”. So, my first thought was obviously, “this will be taken down in a few hours”. And so, I started downloading the file. I’ve known of so many other people who’ve done the same in order to try to crash their business by uploading it for free. After a few minutes, the file had downloaded, and I started watching.
The first two minutes were the best part of the film. Short clips over short clips of TV news reports on measles outbreaks on several parts of the United States, and reporters claiming that an important role was played by the anti-vaccination movement. They continued to mention how most of the reasons why a lot of parents weren’t vaccinating were because of Wakefield’s study, and they all proceeded to mention that it was all debunked several times. If I remember well, there was a clip of Dr. Paul Offit saying that the outbreaks revealed why mandated vaccination was quite important. After that, a short clip from Penn and Teller is shown in which Penn says:
“You may have heard that vaccination causes autism in 1 out of 110 children. F- that! Total bulls-! It doesn’t!”
Then, a few more clips from news reports saying that new mandatory vaccination bills are being passed, and finally, a clip of President Barack Obama saying that he recommends vaccines and asks parents to consult with the CDC.
After that, the screen turns black, and silence takes over.
We start hearing a keyboard being typed on, and a few seconds afterwards we get to see that exact same scenario in a close-up, dark, black and white take.
We start hearing Wakefield’s voice, reading a text written in the form of either an email or a letter of how he lied about findings and how the CDC cannot be trusted.
We then hear him saying that the man who wrote that was William Thompson, a scientist from the CDC. The screen turns black, and the intro is shown.
“VaxXed: From COVER-UP to CATASTROPHE”.
The screen fades black again.
We hear a phone ringing, and we see a hand picking it up. Brian Hooker puts it on his ear, and we supposedly hear the voice of William Thompson, the *finger quotes* CDC Whistleblower. Hooker then proceeds to tell the story about Thompson’s call, which was supposedly of him claiming that they lied about data regarding the imaginary and non-existent connection between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorder.
The strange thing is, we never actually see Thompson nor we are provided anything else other than an audio file, which leaves the possibility of editing and manipulating. We are never granted with evidence that Thompson is the one on the phone either, which is quite thought-provoking.
After his story, we start watching an interview with Doreen Granpeesheh, the founder of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, as she talks about how the rates of autism diagnoses have skyrocketed for the last decades.
The answer to such an argument is quite simple: autism started to be a diagnosis a few decades ago, and before that, it was catalogued as schizophrenia. So, during the last decades, our knowledge on ASD has improved amazingly, and every day we know what to look for better, meaning that it’s now way easier to diagnose patients with autism than we did before.
So, obviously, autism diagnoses have skyrocketed. But the changing factor is not autism itself, it’s our understanding of it.
Also, this argument based on the autism diagnoses increasing statistics was later used in the film to say that by 2032, 80% of the people on the planet will be autistic.
…What the heck?
No. No they won’t.
Anyway, we get to hear Wakefield telling his (biased version of his) story while we see a dramatization of how it “happened”.
After he talks about how his paper was catalogued as a fraud, we get to see an unexpected clip: Bill Gates talking about Wakefield. Yes, Bill Gates. Fortunately, he said what’s right. He talked about the fraud, and his following words were marked in my mind:
“So, it’s an absolute lie that has killed thousands of kids.”.
And it is, exactly that. An absolute lie, that has killed thousands of kids.
Have you noticed how people like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have all spoken in favor of vaccines? How Zuckerberg posted a picture of his daughter before getting vaccinated?
I mean, these people are the richest and some of the most powerful men in the world, they should know something you don’t.
A peculiar pattern Wakefield shows during his scenes in the film is the victim-player. The way he talks is the one of a bad actor trying to impress a behavioral message of “I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me”.
I recently saw an image naming a lot of the sociopathy symptoms, surrounding a picture of Wakefield’s face, some of which included manipulation. I’m not saying he is a sociopath, I’m pointing out that it just wouldn’t be surprising. He lacks guilt, he doesn’t show remorse, he’s manipulative, and doesn’t quite understand moral standards, such as, “you shouldn’t unscientifically take blood samples from children at a birthday party”, or “you shouldn’t be the main cause of a massive lie that’s responsible for the death of uncountable children”.
From now on, I’ll summarize the rest of the film.
The film can be divided into, maybe four parts that interact altogether. The first ingredient for a conspiracy theorist film is based on the testimonials and interviews from people including the three main filmmakers, and several parents of severely autistic children who define their condition irresponsibly, while, of course, blaming it on the MMR. See, low-functioning (a term used to define the non-verbal end of the spectrum, for example) autistic people understand what happens around them. Take as an example Carly Fleischmann, who is a non-verbal, severely affected autistic teenager whose parents discovered that she started to communicate through typing on a computer. For all her life, her parents didn’t actually consider her a normal human being, as if she weren’t there, which is exactly what these parents think.
Now, Carly is worldwide famous for writing on her own blog and publishing a book. Yes, she published a book. Because she is there, and she is a human being just like the rest of us, and just like the rest of non-verbal autistic people. What’s my point? That seeing how the kids suffered as their parents talked about how they’d rather not have kids, and acting like their children are not human beings was horrifying. Imagine you had a misunderstood condition that made your speech pretty much impossible, and having to listen while your parents talk to a camera, acting like you’re not a person. Several individual videos on the Vaxxed Facebook page also show the heartbreaking reaction of the kids listening to their parents talk that way about them. Their kids are actually there. The vast majority of them understand the world around them. They’re aware of what’s happening, how, and why. Which is what makes it so heartbreaking to see that. It’s infuriating.
The second ingredient is based on home videos of children with severe autism as their parents recorded. Before I even start to discuss this part, I’ll quote my friend and fellow autistic blogger Garrett Winters, who wrote this for Never Less than Everything, a blog I recently joined as a writer:
“We are not your amusement. Think about the time you were most overwhelmed and your reaction, and think if you would want that on the web for the world to see. Now multiply that amount of stress by 10, and you have what brings us to meltdown. It is so messed up to take a video of your children when this is happening, and the makers of these videos should be ashamed.”
And that’s exactly what’s wrong with them. It just reflects ignorance from the recorder, and a lack of empathy and comprehension of the current situation.
If you want to read the rest of that particular blog, here’s the link:
I highly recommend you to read it, I loved it, and it’s incredibly well-written.
The blog describes exactly what’s wrong with the videos of people with severe autism having what’s called a “meltdown”, which is a moment in which anxiety makes the symptoms show up in the form of an attack.
The third ingredient is based on several short clips from a large number of news report stations talking about different related issues, as well as clips from conferences and other similar clips on the same context.
The clips are usually 2-6 seconds long each, and there’s a massive number of them throughout the film. One of which really bothered me.
About the already debunked argument, “by 2032 80% of people will be autistic”, we see a clip of an old man is giving a conference, and I’ll try to say something that’s similar to what he said.
“But these autistic kids are gonna grow up. Autism is not like other diseases that drop you dead, they will grow up to be adults, and who’s gonna care for them? Their parents won’t be there. Who’s gonna care for them by then? You wanna know the answer? Us, taxpayers.”
Wow. Just… wow.
It’s quite sad and infuriating to see the result of a mixture between ignorance, hate, and a severe lack of understanding of logic. The result is irrational hate. And that’s what the movie is based on.
Oh, you wanted to know the fourth ingredient? It’s the most special ingredient of them all, and without it, the film wouldn’t even exist.
It’s called ignorance.
Combine all of them up together and voilà! You’ve got Vaxxed, a film that will eventually kill thousands of kids because of the irrational propagation of fear it’s based on.
The film is a compilation of inaccurate information, hatred dressed up as emotion, irrational fear, ignorance, and fraudulent data.
But there’s something else I’d like to share.
Something you didn’t expect from me.
At the beginning of this blog, I asked any anti-vaxxers who could be possibly reading it to stick to the end. And this is it.
I want every anti-vaxxer on Earth to watch the film and to do what it says. Yes, I just said that. I support completely the idea of anti-vaxxers following the film as their sacred book if they want. No, I’m not joking, and no, there’s not my usual final sarcastic revelation after this. I just want everyone to know that I want every anti-vaxxer ever to listen to me when I say, listen to what Wakefield and the rest of the filmmakers said in the film.
Because the film asks people to vaccinate their children.
The film’s only desire is for people to, instead of taking the MMR, to take individual shots for measles, mumps, and rubella. And I have no problem with that, as long as you get immunized completely. That’s exactly what the film says. It wants people to vaccinate their children. If only anti-vaxxers listened to Wakefield, imagine the amount of lives that could be saved.
Of course the MMR doesn’t cause autism.
Of course there’s no difference between the MMR and individual shots at the end of the day.
Of course 80% of children will not have autism by 2032.
Of course people should vaccinate their children.
I honestly don’t care if people think that vaccines cause autism or not. The problem comes when people stop vaccinating because of a myth, because not only are they endangering themselves, but the people around them as well.
“How?”, the anti-vaxxer said, “How is my unvaccinated child a threat to everyone else if vaccines work?”
“Well,”, replied Marco, “because vaccines are not always 100% effective, and the chance for you to be immunized is usually around 95% with a shot, depending on which one you take and the organism it’s applied to, which means that literally everyone is in danger. Also, immunodeficiency is a thing among patients of, for example, leukemia, who cannot get vaccinated. They get protected because everyone around them is immunized, but when you’re not, the chance for them to unjustifiably get sick or even die skyrockets.
(The anti-vaxxer sadly passed away due to a severe case of cognitive dissonance)
In case that makes any sense, pretty much all anti-vaxxers have completely distorted the information in the film to their own confirmation biases.
They took a “you should vaccinate your kids, but instead of giving them the MMR, give them individual shots for measles, mumps, and rubella”, and turned it into “don’t vaccinate at all because all vaccines cause autism”.
I found it quite ironic that so many people asked me to watch the film as a way of trying to change my mind into believing that there was an equal sign between the words “vaccines” and “bad”, and that people shouldn’t vaccinate at all, when the reality is, the film asks for the exact opposite. It’s funny how a whole army of people was created due to something that asks them to do something else.
Yes, the film is as scientifically inaccurate as you’d expect. It is based on ignorance, hate, anecdotes, and fraudulent data. But what the film wants parents to do is to take individual shots rather than the MMR. And honestly, I really have no problem with that, as long as they’re fully vaccinated.
Do not watch this film if you get easily angry about ignorance and hatred based on misunderstanding towards the autistic community. It would make you punch the screen and want to kill someone as soon as possible. Trust me.
However, if you think you know enough about immunology and ASD to tell the difference between what’s a fact and what’s an anecdote, then just put the words “Vaxxed full movie” on the Facebook browser bar and give it a watch, then, try not to collapse from spontaneous combustion.
Vaccinate your kids.