Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#1483: Louis Conte

Louis Conte is a Community Corrections officer (i.e. a parole or probation officer) and anti-vaccination activist who sometimes contributes to that pit of quackery and denialism Age of Autism. To a significant extent, it seems, Conte expresses his frustration that the world at large doesn’t seem to take him or his insane crankery seriously (so yes, he seems to be sort of aware of that, at least) and complains that it (reality) is out to get him.

Thus, when Seth Kalichman of Denying AIDS and Other Oddities received a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “establish an internet-based global monitoring and rapid alert system for finding, analyzing, and counteracting misinformation communication campaigns regarding vaccines to support global immunization efforts,” Conte took it personally – in particular, Kalichstein’s failure to answer his (apparently numerous) emails – and concluded more or less that Bill Gates was out to get him (and give him some nebulous punishmet) after finding him guilty without due process. Yes, it is the reasoning of your stock conspiracy theorist, and quite illuminatingly: Kalichman is monitoring antivaccine activists not because he cares about the truth or about health, but because he serves (and is on the payroll of) some shady, undisclosed agenda. (And no, just to get that out of the way: Kalichstein’s program is not a threat to Conte’s free speech.) It is also telling that Conte is the author of The Autism War: A Novel, which is a novel about an autism coverup conspiracy.

We’ve actually met Louis Conte before, as a co-author with Mary Holland, Robert Krakow, and Lisa Colin on an absolutely abysmally horrible “analysis” of Vaccine Court claims that they tried (and failed) to represent as “proof” that the government has conceded that vaccines cause autism, using (among other things) an impressive array of misleading arguments and fallacies. Though of course, the purpose of the analysis was never to win on science, but to win law and policy makers over to the idea that there is, indeed, a serious issue here, which is the same strategy used by denialists and creationists everywhere. (There is also that novel, if you need further emphasis of that point.)

Otherwise, Conte seems to be a regular at anti-vaccine conferences and apparently a popular speaker (again, that novel – yeah, it’s fiction, but so is most of the other stuff peddled at those conferences).

Diagnosis: An interesting case; Conte seems to recognize that being a lunatic conspiracy theorist is sort of bad, but he doesn’t seem to be able to help it, and his writings are often blatant displays of the spirit of David Icke’s forums and InfoWars. That said, Conte has done quite a bit to perpetuate vaccine hysteria, and seems to have made some impact. Dangerous, in other words.

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