Monday, April 15, 2024

#2759: Robert De Niro

Celebrity loons! Robert De Niro is a sometime antivaccine activist and celebrity loon, and although it is a bit unclear exactly how committed he is to antivaxx delusions – concerns over marketing and image seem to weigh more than any intellectual commitments he might harbor – De Niro, who has an autistic son, does seem to think, at least intermittently, that vaccines are a cause of autism (they aren’t), and he has done more than his share of damage on behalf of the antivaccine movement.


His most obvious instance of antivaccine activism was greenlighting the screening of disgraced fraud Andrew Wakefield’s and conspiracy theorist Del Bigtree’s anti-vaccine conspiracy flick Vaxxed at the Tribeca Film Festival, which De Niro co-founded – indeed, De Niro admitted that he bypassed the festival’s regular selection process for documentaries and added the film to the festival’s roster. It was eventually pulled due to criticism from scientists and reasonable people (in fact: primarily from other documentary film makers who didn’t want to be associated with the tripe), something De Niro, the person who actually decided to pull the movie over concerns about his public image and market worth, seems to think is an example of “censorship. But De Niro didn’t really back down. He has later appeared at public events devoted to “vaccine safety” with e.g. anti-vaccine movement leader Robert Kennedy, jr., complete with fraudulent show-challenges to pro-vaccine advocates to prove them wrong (as judged by themselves).


According to himself, “I want to know the truth,” which, if correct, makes associating himself with Del Bigtree, Andrew Wakefield and Robert Kennedy, jr.’s antivaccine conspiracy theories and misinformation a notoriously poor strategy. About Vaxxed, De Niro claimed that “you must see it”, ostensibly because “There’s a lot of information about things that are happening with the CDC, the pharmaceutical companies [there is: it just isn’t accurate]; there’s a lot of things that are not said”, and yes: there are plenty of claims in Vaxxed that you won’t hear said by real scientists or medical doctors, for obvious reasons. He also recommended the conspiracy flick Trace Amounts. “I’m not anti-vaccine. I want safe vaccines,” added De Niro, regurgitating the oldest anti-vaccine line in the book.


But hey: He’s just asking questions: “Some people can’t get a certain kind of shot, and they can die from it, from penicillin. So why should that not be with vaccines?” asks De Niro, as if real scientists haven’t asked those questions, carefully investigated them and shown that vaccines are safe and effective. He is, like most people who are “just asking questions”, not just asking questions. Indeed, De Niro explicitly asserts that there “is a link” between vaccines and autism (there isn’t) and that both he and his wife, Grace Hightower, believe that vaccines were somehow part of the cause of his son’s autism (as opposed to e.g. father’s age, which does in fact correlate with autism). And as for the fact that science pretty conclusively shows that there is no such link? It’s “much more complicated than that,” proclaims De Niro, without explaining the complication since the complication is really just that he is wrong (and his wife is wrong) and it is hard for him to admit that he is wrong and his wife a crazy conspiracy loon. And yes, of course there is a conspiracy: The reason we don’t know about the vaccine-autism link isn’t that it doesn’t exist but that “it benefits the big drug companies.” Also, confronted with the fact that Wakefield is considered discredited because he demonstrably engaged in fraud and misinformation, De Niro countered: “but how was he discredited? By the medical establishment?” He was discredited by the facts, Bob – the facts, and his demonstrably fraudulent behavior. But hey: let’s poison the well with some JAQ-style allusions to grand conspiracies instead, shall we?


De Niro’s antivaccine rants received praise from Jim Carrey and Alicia Silverstone. And after the brouhaha with Vaxxed, De Niro quickly announced thatHarvey Weinstein and I are working on doing a documentary” on vaccines. It has yet to materialize and one suspects the project might have hit some snags along the way.


Diagnosis: A garbage person full of raging bullshit. And unfortunately, his soapbox is big enough for his bullshit to reach a lot of people, some of whom might, for some reason, think that this befuddled piece of mindrot has anything worthwhile to contribute to public debate.

1 comment:

  1. On the other hand, DeNiro recently appeared on Jimmy Fallon's show and said of Trump, "He's so f***ing stupid." So DeNiro isn't completely out of touch.