Celebrity loonis a pretty common breed; after all, celebrity status is only rarely the result of cognitive skills and qualities. We cannot cover them all, but some celebrity loons are particularly vocal and may actually wield enough influence to have a negative influence on civilization. Actor, comedian, screenwriter and director Rob Schneider is one such. Schneider is an anti-vaccine activist (and far from the only antivaxx celebrity loon). And as you expect, Schneider has no idea what vaccines actually are, how they function or how and what the science behind vaccines actually work and says.
Schneider promotes the thoroughly refuted claim that vaccines are dangerous and cause autism. In Schneider’s opinion “the efficacy of these shots have not been proven ... And the toxicity of these things – we’re having more and more side effects. We’re having more and more autism.” All of those claims are false, of course, but Schneider seems to have a rather foggy idea of how to determine whether claims are true or not. But then, Schneider has claimed that California lawmakers are Nazis for passing a law that requires parents to get educated before getting a vaccine exemption, so there is perhaps a certain bizarre consistency in his position (education, knowledge, research, facts are to be viewed with extreme suspicion), just not of the kind most people should be looking for. Of course, even that sense of consistency is undermined when Schneider claims to be all about advocating “informed consent”; he explicitly doesn’t care about the “informed” part.
Schneider is in particular a vocal opponent of the state of California’s restrictions on non-medical exemptions to school vaccines, mostly invoking the “health freedom” gambit, and views any actions from the state he perceives as attempts to mandate vaccinations “government overreach”. As Schneider sees it, “it’s illegal [it is not].You can’t make people do procedures that they don’t want [which the laws don’t, which is (in part) why it isn’t illegal]. The parents have to be the ones who make the decisions for what’s best for our kids. It can’t be the government saying that [Parent intuitions and conspiracy theories trump facts every time]. It’s against the Nuremberg Laws [and down the rabbit hole we go, as antivaxxers are wont to do].” Some would see it as a shortcoming of Schneider’s statements that they lack any basis in facts or reality; Schneider’s fans don’t seem to care. It is worth mentioning that the Nuremberg Laws were actually the Nazi laws that stripped Jewish people of their citizenship; Schneider might have meant the Nuremberg Code, but who knows – besides: details – details are related to facts and accuracy; good antivaxx conspiracy theorists hate details. Schneider has also railed against Big Pharma, claimed that kids get 70 vaccinations (apparently a number selected at random), claimed that there are no safety or efficacy studies of vaccines (presumably because he hasn’t seen them because he cannot be bothered to check because that would only be relevant if we cared about truthand this has nothing to do with truth), complained that doctors won’t tell you “both sides”, called for a randomized, blinded vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study (which would, ironically, straightforwardly violate the Nuremberg Code; hint: why don’t we have a randomized, double-blinded study of the efficacy of car seatbelts?), and finally claimed that vaccines contain mercury, which is idiotic for a number of reasons. And he wasn’t done: more stupid here; Schneider’s rant is actually kind of remarkable for being wrong about absolutely every single detail.
His main schtick is to claim that “there’s no medical science behind vaccines” or “don’t vaccinate. Vaccines don’t work. There’s no science behind them” or “they don’t research this stuff” (apparently betting on the idea that if he repeats a claim three times, it transforms into an argument). The claim is remarkably easy to refute, of course, but we suspect that Schneider doesn’t even have the faintest clue what he would be looking for. Nor do vaccines work, according to Schneider; “vaccines had nothing to do with the eradication of smallpox from the world.” Instead, according to Schneider, “diseases run cycles.” It is, of course, just a remarkable coincidence that the cycles abruptly end when vaccines are introduced and never return (at least until unvaccinated people bring them back).
Despite being wrong about everything, Schneider has, as mentioned, passionately fought the passage of California Assembly Bill 2109 and California Senate Bill 277, which both intended to make childhood vaccination exemptions harder to obtain. In 2012, Schneider joined California State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly at a “Medical Freedom Rally”, urging governor Brown to veto 2109. In 2015, after Schneider had talked to California state Assemblywoman and Bill 277 co-author Lorena Gonzalez, Gonzalez aptly illustrated the ridiculousness of having that conversation: “he was actually much nicer to me, but let’s be honest … that is 20 mins of my life I’ll never get back arguing that vaccines don't cause autism with Deuce Bigalow, male gigolo.”
His own people in the antivaccine movement don’t really see or care about the difference between Deuce Bigalow and scientists, however. Schneider was for instance invited as panelist, along with e.g. Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association (an antivaccine group sponsored by Boiron), and disgraced fraud Andy Wakefield, at the Give Autism a Chance Summit in 2014. He has also given numerous radio show appearances and narrated deranged videos for the Canary Party published by NaturalNews and apparently shown at a Congressional briefing explaining how antivaxxers completely and fundamentally fail to comprehend how the Vaccine Court works – Schneider really, really doesn’t get it – and venturing deep into Alex Jones-style conspiracy territory, e.g. with the familiar “CDC whistleblower” manufactroversy (decent summary of that one here and here); Schneider is of course himself a champion of the side of wrong regarding that particular conspiracy theory.
Also predictably, Schneider claims to have had his free speech rights violated since his vocal, stupid and dangerous claims about vaccines have generated a backlash and a certain amount of criticism.
He has also claimed that he can’t be bothered to work because California Democrats tax so much and put bureaucratic obstacles in the way of his vitamin company (Schneider is a Republican).
Diagnosis: The immediate reaction among minimally reasonable people is of course that the feeble idiocy of dense celebrities like Rob Schneider hardly matters; the thing is, of course: antivaxxers have never been able to distinguish the authority of fact, evidence and science from the authority of glitter and nonsense. Unfortunately, the efforts of blathering fools like Schneider actually do make a difference.