Tuesday, March 1, 2016

#1609: Rebecca Ferguson

The Chalkboard Campaign: We Need to Talk is a video that in 2012 went viral in the anti-vaccine horde and was generally treated there as if it provided solid evidence that vaccines are unsafe. Of course, it did no such thing, and was instead just a predictable collection of pseudoscience and misinformation. It’s creator, Rebecca Ferguson, is a board member of VaxTruth.org and a mother who claims to have “recovered” her daughter Caroline using all manner of “biomedical” pseudoscience. The video is not her first attempt. She has previously made videos about her daughters consisting of very straightforward examples of confusing correlation and causation: Blaming vaccines for her daughter’s autism, and for every sign of improvement, such as developing language and so on, simply assuming that none of these developments would have happened without the antivirals, gluten-free diet, chelation therapy, hyperbaric oxygen chambers and homeopathic remedies her poor daughter was subjected to at the time.

As for the Chalkboard Campaign, Ferguson appears to have accepted the myth of an autism epidemic, and the video is guided by the question: “What is causing all the neurological disorders?” To answer that, Ferguson claims that “we dug deep into the science,” but she evidently avoided science like the plague for the purposes of creating the video, relying instead on rants by infamous cranks like Russell Blaylock, Ginger Taylor and Andreas Moritz, who thinks that cancer is the “wisdom” of the body and that chemotherapy doesn’t work – there is, shall we say, a dearth of peer-reviewed, published literature among her sources. Then there are some standard tricks, like providing a scary-sounding (to the chemically illiterate) list of vaccine ingredients. All of it leads up to an impressive string of ridiculous, pseudoscientific conclusions. So Ferguson claims that vaccines decrease immune reactivity to viruses and increase immune reactivity to allergens (apparently that one comes from Moritz), and that “even the smallest amounts of heavy metals and toxins in vaccines” can “bypass all natural defenses” because they’re injected directly into the body (a common misunderstanding among antivaxx activists), which can apparently lead to something she calls “gut-brain encephalopathy.” Real doctors won’t tell you this, of course, since they are just “pharma shills”; no, for the truth you need to locate the Internet blogs of crazy conspiracy theorists like Andreas Moritz. And then she claims that “there has never been a single study of the current vaccine schedule,” which, of course, is tested every time a new childhood vaccine is introduced: She ignores that fact, of course, since they aren’t the kind of study the antivaxxers want; they putatively want epidemiological studies looking at vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations. Which exist. But you know: Those studies don’t prove what Ferguson already “knows” is true, and therefore don’t count.

Diagnosis: Apparently she’s talking primarily to the already converted – her claims are presumably sufficiently stupid and superficial to prevent any widespread impact – but attitudes and delusions like Ferguson’s are still frightening and likely to cause real harm. So: dangerous.

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