Tuesday, June 7, 2022

#2543: Dara Berger

Dara Berger is a long-time antivaccine activist, blogger for Age of Autism, antivcaccine podcast host (Every Choice Counts), at least one-time Board Member and Co-Chair of the Programming Committee for the National Autism Association NY Metro Chapter, and on the Advisory Board for the 2016 documentary Documenting Hope, a deeply lunatic pseudoscientific conspiracy flick produced by the Alliance for Natural Health that purported to “document” recovery from autism and “other” chronic conditions (and possibly where Marianne Williamson got some of her many nonsense myths about children’s health).


Apparently, Berger is also the author of the anti-vaccine screed How to Prevent Autism: Expert Advice from Medical Professionals, which we haven’t read and you probably shouldn’t either. It did, however, garner some controversy upon its release (but a glowing review from Jenny McCarthy; meanwhile, Berger’s publisher, antivaccine activist Tony Lyons at Skyhorse Publishing, responded to the controversy by yelling “censorship”). Of course, according to the book, you prevent autism primarily by avoiding vaccines, which Berger falsely blames for the imaginary “autism epidemic”. She also alleges that detox regimes can prevent your child from contracting ASD. It should be completely needless to say that they cannot. The “experts” in question were of course selected from the usual crowd, and included people like Anjum Usman and James Lyons-Weiler.


Berger is perhaps most notable for her strikingly melodramatic expressions of her persecution complex. You see, according to Berger (like other antivaxxers), antivaxxers are being bullied. Now bullying is bad, but “what happens when an entire country is bullying individuals?” asks Berger. “I find that this is the case for Vaccine Bullying.” Yes. Doctors, pro-vaccine friends and family members and skeptics: by showing that the claims and arguments offered by antivaccine activists like Berger are false, even crazy and harmful, they’re engaged in bullying. In particular, the entire US government is bullying her because they don’t accept her claim that “vaccines are hurting adults and children even though they secretly pay out billions of dollars in their not well disclosed Vaccine Court.” Of course, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has a rather prominent website that is easy to find and full of information, including detailed statistics. But then, of course, Berger, who otherwise “found” that it is all Vaccine Bullying, is evidently not very good at finding. Other bullies include pediatricians who strongly recommend vaccines, school administrators who act according to the law on issues related to school mandates, and a cousin who responded to Berger’s claim that vaccines caused her child to have a stroke that “you can’t be sure it was the vaccine.” (In her own words: “I felt very angry how she could even think to question me not once, but three times […]It is her own brainwashed views on vaccines that caused her to try to bully me at a dinner party […] It’s just incredible how pervasive vaccine bullying can be.” Yes, one imagines a lot of things feel pervasive to Berger.) And perhaps the worst bully of all: an acquaintance who linked to a book about autism that correctly states that vaccines don’t cause autism – the book, as Berger sees it, “undermines what has happened to so many children like my son,” (whom she falsely thinks is “vaccine injured”) – and then ignored her barrage of comments and messages about how bad of a person he was (“Your insensitivity explains why you are still alone”); “I felt silently bullied,” said Berger. She has also compared the pro-vaccine “movement” with the 2015 Colorado Springs shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility.


Beyond accusations of bullying and oppression, Berger is of course very fond of employing shill gambits, no matter how unconnected to reality the claims she makes might be. There is, of course, a clear connection between the two rhetorical strategies: after all, Berger can’t engage with the facts, so the most obvious move left is to try to present the people stating them as evil: either they’re bullies, or they’re corrupt.


Diagnosis: Clearly a terrible person, even beyond from her insane, wrong and harmful conspiracy theories and disinformation. Avoid at all costs.

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