Tuesday, July 12, 2022

#2550: Renee Bessone

The Conscience Coalition is a California-based antivaccine organization created to oppose political efforts to help kids receive their vaccines. Renee Bessone is their President, and since both Bessone and co-founder Greg Mitchell are scientologists, we suspect that the Church of Scientology tends to play a significant part in their effort – the coalition apparently doesn’t have the church’s official endorsement, but antivaccine views unsuprisingly run rampant among scientologists. Among the coalition’s primary strategies are attempts to cast anti-vaccine views as religious freedom issues, and the group scored something of a win when then-Vice-President Mike Pence granted them audience.


Bessone was also a signatory to an antivaccine letter to then-president Trump designed to spread antivaccine disinformation under the guise of “religious freedom” – the goal being to trick religious leaders into supporting their opposition to school vaccine mandates based, nominally, on religion. According to the signatories, school vaccine mandates are “persecution of people who choose to honor their faith by refusing vaccines, and the letter called on the president to issue an executive order, which, of course, is rather silly given that school vaccine mandates are a matter of state law. But yes, the letter managed to go through numerous antivaccine tropes, such as references tohuman aborted fetal DNA, animal cells, carcinogenic preservatives, and neurotoxins such as mercury and aluminum”, familiar and absolutely insane conspiracy theories, including one about how tetanus vaccines cause infertility and is therefore genocide, and – but of course – eugenics, through very predictable misunderstandings of the Nuremberg code. And of course, the letter failed to draw the obvious distinction antivaxxers always fail to draw: “Making personal decisions about protecting one’s body is a basic human right, and most religions agree that our sacred bodies are the holiest of temples” … even though they aren’t talking about making decisions about their bodies but their children’s bodies. The narcissism involved is as striking as it is predictable.


Diagnosis: Unless they take steps to cover up their affiliations, Bessone’s group’s effort will probably have limited impact. They are as crazy as they come, though, and the group seems to have resources. We won’t count them off quite yet.


Hat-tip: Respectful insolence

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