The antivaccine movement has a penchant for violent rhetoric, and the rhetoric has arguably grown more violent in the last few years – and that process started even before COVID and Qanon. The consequences are, unfortunately, not that surprising. And though antivaxxer Austin Bennett’s 2019 physical attack on Richard Pan, a California lawmaker and vocal supporter of various bills that would limit vaccine exemptions in public schools, didn’t in itself cause much actual harm (more on the attack here), the tendency and what it represents – not only the chance of real violence, but the silencing effects of legitimate threats of violence – should scare us. And here’s the thing: If Bennett’s crazy, deranged, paranoid conspiracy theories about the world were true, they would arguably justify extreme measures. The crucial point is of course that the frantic, idiotic nonsense that fuels Bennett’s brain is laughably ridiculously false.
It is also worth pointing out that Bennett received plenty of support in the various antivaxx communities after the attack. Others, predictably, claimed that Bennett’s attack was a false flag operation designed to cast antivaxxers in a bad light – as if any effort were needed beyond their own to put antivaxxers in a bad light.
Bennett, who by the way actually tried to run against Pan for the California Democratic nomination for his Senate seat in 2018, is not only an anti-vaxxer. Indeed, his rants and videos arguably tend to be more focused on disseminating his ideas on chemtrails. We haven’t made any attempt to sort out his rather disordered and incoherent thoughts on those matters.
Diagnosis: A paranoid, deranged idiot, and really a pretty minor crackpot in the antivaxx movement, whose only claim to fame rests on willingness to resort to violence – and yes, we do admittedly feel a bit ambivalent about giving him the attention of an entry here.