I've never been a big fan of the flu shot, though I've received one this season. Note, I said "flu shot" and not "flu vaccine." Its efficacy for this influenza season was estimated in the range of 23%. It's hard for me to argue that 23% effectiveness and mandatory yearly renewal rises to the level of what I think of as a "vaccine." I am also willing to admit that the pharmaceutical industry has been more successful at offering expensive drugs to treat minor symptoms than actually curing anything. We now take pills to treat one malady and are gifted a laundry list of new side-effects, usually including risk of death.
I say all that to say, I do not look uncritically at the pharmaceutical industry and at times joke about it. But this isn't funny anymore. This is where I draw the line.
Beyond flu shot semantics and Big Pharma, there is no debate to be had as to the necessity of vaccinating children. Polio, smallpox, mumps, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles et. al, have neither been eradicated nor diminished to near non-existent levels simply by luck and natural selection.
Yes, there are often times unintended negative consequences of medical and scientific advances but vaccinations of children have not ever yielded them. Nonetheless, "Facebook Mom" and "Conspiracy Theory Guy" brazenly argue otherwise.
Why... because Ignorance is the new Black.
This is and never has been a civil rights/liberties issue. It is and will always be a public health one. Refusing to vaccinate your child impacts MY health and my likelihood of going to Disneyland ever again. Restaurant employees not washing their hands after using the restroom impact MY health; regardless of any quip made by North Carolina senator Thom Tillis.
It is a waste of time to cite CDC studies or history of various epidemics here. "Facebook Mom" now believes she knows more than all of the world's greatest epidemiologists. "Facebook Mom" has convinced herself that vaccinations are a greater threat to her child than not having them is to everyone else.
Facts, history and medical journals have no place in this conversation. So no, I won't be spinning yarns about life in America before and after Jonas Salk. It's pointless.
Ignorance is the new Black.
"Facebook Mom" and armchair conspiracy theorists have been afforded far too much latitude; and that's the real disease spreading across the country. "Facebook Mom" and "Conspiracy Theory Guy" are now recognized voting blocks and Nielsen viewer categories. It is now "cool" to hate the president, the government, disbelieve science and shun those who champion education.
A conspiracy theory does not require any facts to support it. It does not require any logic in which to conceive it. It does not require reason in analysis or reasonable conclusion. It only needs for you to disbelieve... everything. A conspiracy theory is predicated on common sense having to now disprove the unbelievable. A conspiracy theory bears no responsibility for its unviability. A conspiracy theory is conveniently and irrevocably ignorant by definition.
Narrative: President Obama is a Muslim who hates America. He forged his birth certificate and every document since that time to obscure his true identity.
Narrative: President Bush/the government staged 9/11. A missile hit the Pentagon and the planes were shuttled to a remote location and then blown up to jumpstart the Middle East wars.
Narrative: President Bush ordered a slow Hurricane Katrina response to decrease the Black population.
Narrative: President Obama intentionally allowed ebola into America to make it more like Africa.
Maybe you believed one or some of the above. Maybe you believed all of them. The problem is, you are an idiot and there are plenty more like you.
In 2015, "Facebook Mom" and "Conspiracy Theory Guy" are presented as either credible or worthy of acknowledgment and rebuttal in our public discourse. Debating the need to vaccinate our children is to suggest that there is a debate at all to be had.
There is not.
There aren't two sides to every discussion. The world is not flat and never was.
If you're willing to believe the CDC and/or president "lied" about Ebola, then you're already on board six months later when someone suggests that we're better off without either the CDC or vaccinations. Our social media culture has allowed anyone with an ISP a platform that did not exist 20 years ago to "post" and "share" such ignorance.
"Facebook Mom" has thousands of online friends following her profile or blog. "Conspiracy Theory Guy" spends hours each day copy/pasting his favorite comments on news sites just below the top news stories of the day. Both have been elevated and we've been complicit in the process. There are likely millions of people who would still vote for Sarah Palin to be President, despite being bereft of any intellectual heft.
We live in a country where its president is forced to defend remarks supporting the idea that everyone should go to college.
There is a verifiable, quantifiable and disturbing segment of society which has openly embraced ignorance masquerading as intellect with politicians now publicly pandering to them. Yes, I know... the ignorant are registered to vote too. At the same time, we in this same America have to stop feeding the monster.
It is now "cool" to be willfully ignorant. Any sentence which begins with "I'm not a scientist," but ends with public policy suggestions regarding it, highlights the point. Ignorance has become a homeowner in America's discourse. It has a seat at the "grown folks" table and is asked its opinion. How in the hell did we get here?
Ignorance is the new Black. But back to the issue at hand.
In the past 7 days, we've had just about every potential presidential candidate weigh in on the merits of vaccinations. Maybe next week we'll have our future leaders debate whether we should require children to be educated or leave that to parental discretion as well. Let's all stop getting shots prior to traveling to the different corners of the globe and leave the results to chance. Enough with the vaccinations and inoculations and party like it's 1599.
The line for me is always connected to whether one's ignorance can directly impact my life. The 9/11 truthers can not. The Birthers can not. The anti-Vaccers absolutely can and endanger lives in real terms. If you don't wish to vaccinate your child, then don't. Just make sure your child never comes outside for any reason or comes into contact with the rest of the population. If you can guarantee that, then I have no further complaint.
But seeing as child imprisonment is still illegal...
Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is host of The Mo'Kelly Show on KFI AM640. The Mo'Kelly Report is a syndicated politics and entertainment journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and all commentary is welcome.