By Phil Newman
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be completely and utterly submersed in the anti-vaccine echo chambers? I’ll give you a bit of an insight from my anecdotal experience…
Recently I was Zucked and put onto a 7 day Facebook ban, I thought I would use this time out to establish my sock accounts further and get to know these people a little better… and take screenshots of course.
Without a doubt, anti-vaxxers believe wholeheartedly what they think to be true, is true and correct in real world situations. This is reinforced by an emotion based appeals from others, which is understandable, humans naturally take the experiences of others on board as lessons of life for themselves. What they fail to see though, is they are sitting on the bottom of the ladder of a well-oiled propaganda machine. To the top players of the anti-vaccine cult, the average joes and janes are meaningless, they do not care, they are seen as nothing more than a cash cow which I will go into shortly.
The first few days of my ban were spent scrolling and taking notes on the actions and behaviours of these people in various groups. I would spend a substantial amount of time following a few of the secret groups as they tend to let their guards down a bit more in there (I also don’t screenshot from a couple of these groups, so it stays that way). Here goes…
Attention and Ego – They LOVE it, many tend to inflate their already monumental egos by making up stories to perpetuate their movement and in turn, are seen as a figure of knowledge to the plebs whom are not as woke as they are. Many of the people within these groups will try to outdo their fellow cultists with tales of wonder, and amazement, be it positive or negative, the spectrum ranges from who has the worst vaccine injured child (A pet hate of mine covered brilliantly here ) to stories of how they treated their sick or injured child with some magical product that science just can’t figure out.
Elitist Belonging – Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something special in some form or another, same thing goes for these guys, except, like many other alternative medicine practitioners, they feel they are a part of a select few who know the truth and have been its all-knowing wisdom. They haven’t... obviously, but good luck trying to convince them otherwise. If you take the case of Britt Hermes for example, a former naturopath turned whistle blower has admitted to feeling like she was more qualified than a real doctor, you can read more on her amazing story here
Tiers of Conspiracy – The problem with the anti-vaccine conspiracy is for them, it’s a way of life and a state of being. Unfortunately for them, is it is not founded on evidence and in order for them to maintain their belief they constantly need to double down. This creates a bigger and bigger conspiracy in perpetual growth. Virtually every conspiracy shares a few key elements that give themselves away. Here are a few pointers... Generally, they are reverse engineered to fit a specific narrative that makes as many assumptions as it needs in order to reach its conclusion. They will almost always search for key anomalies the match their story, while ignoring anomalies that do not. Any evidence presented against the theory can be turned into evidence for the theory, via the conspiracy. Furthermore, the larger the conspiracy the less likely it is to be true, it is near on impossible to maintain a secret within a small group of people, imagine that on a global scale. You cannot possibly rely of thousands of people to maintain a code of silence of that magnitude.
Frenzied Feeding – there’s no other way to put it, anti-vaxxers feed off the emotional stories they hear in the echo chambers and news to reinforce their established beliefs. Constantly seeking and asking each other for reinforcement. It truly is another world. They hunt together in large packs online, seeking out stories of parents that have lost a child for any reason whatsoever, and proceed to attack/educate them. This to me is probably the vilest thing they can do aside from spreading preventable diseases. Take a look at the Light for Riley fact checker Facebook page to see just how sick these people can be.
Scientific Illiteracy and Special Pleading – Nothing screams intellectual bankruptcy more, than having an anti-vaxxer make a attempt to backup a claim using scientific evidence, it just doesn’t happen… Ever. The best they can do is copy and paste a bunch of studies which generally do not say what they think they say. I’ve seen them make outlandish claims within the echo chambers that are digested without question, yet when they make the same claims to people who actually know what they are talking about and call them on it, they’re called a shill or troll and swiftly disregarded any and all statements made by that individual... in some cases, they will block the individual and continue to “educate” them whilst they have no capacity to reply nor view it, then have the cheek to parade around like they won the argument. If however they do engage in a debate, they are happy to try to provide evidence, but when met with a rebuttal, they engage their special pleading and add to the story or discrediting of the person as needed in order to maintain a stalemate or until the other person loses interest and moves on.
Cash Cow – I haven’t seen a bigger bunch of scabs since the lunch line at high school, these people are shameless, constantly asking each other for money via go find me accounts or simple donations. They pay it too; our good friend Larry Cock is making a killing off his followers. There’s also the Australian version Meryl Dory which loves to ask for money off her followers, people like this are the ones who make a living feeding off their cult. Don't worry South Africa, you've got plenty of leeches too, namely Christie Hewlett, SA's very own version of Health Nut News! America...well what more can we say, you guys are jam packed with them.
Collective Lies – It’s no surprise that Avers will pretty much believe anything that confirms their narrative. Regardless of the source from which it came, hence the bunk studies being published in predatory journals, which are subsequently retracted once found to be devoid of sound science. Many times, you will hear the words “do your research,” these people think that googling and seeking out information that supports your position is doing sound research... it isn’t. What better way to ensure your position is true and accurate than to try to disprove it rather than confirm it!
AltMed – there is a strong culture in the condemning of evidence based medicine within the anti-vaccine cult, this from what I can tell comes from proponents of the alternative medicine industry.
Some people working within the field of chiropractic's, naturopathic's and homeopathic's want nothing more than for you to disregard what your doctor has to say and follow their natural alternative treatment plan (for a ridiculous amount of cash). These people are called quacks for a reason, this is not the case with all though, there is some evidence to support chiropractic adjustments for the lower back, but not when it comes to topics of vaccinations.
This is just skimming the surface of what you see inside the echo chambers on a broader scale, the finer details become much, much worse. There is a complete inability to think critically. Without question this is a common theme within all of the echo chambers and gawd help you if you speak against the group. The ones that really make me laugh try so hard to use logical fallacies against you, yet don’t even realise what they are talking about.