The purpose of a documentary film is usually to document true events or relay facts to its viewers in a well-researched manner. This is a memo that must have been missed when Andrew Wakefield, discredited medical doctor and instigator of the “vaccines cause autism” myth, was granted the resources to direct a documentary that only serves to perpetuate something that people in the modern world are curiously insistent on perpetuating, given the amount of times it’s been disproven. I guess some people will do just about anything to maintain a belief that everything you read online (except truther blogs and alternative science outlets) is a lie crafted by the secretly reptilian government and that they’re above it all.
Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe is, as I’m sure you all figured, an anti-vaxxer movie. And an “anti-vaxxer” is a person who is against vaccination because they believe that vaccines are a root of autism – especially the one that’s used to combat measles, mumps and rubella. They are frequently eluded by the notion that most human beings who take vaccines are, in fact, not autistic and that those who are have usually been that way since birth or due to environmental reasons. Sadly (if that’s the apt word), the interviews and out-of-context statistics displayed in Vaxxed do nothing to make anti-vaxxers look any bit smarter.
The movie delves into the dubious business that was said to take place in the world of science way after Wakefield had finished his brisk transition from scientist to conspiracy dipshit, as written by another anti-vaccination activist, Brian Hooker, in a paper he published in 2014. Hooker had supposedly overheard William Thompson, researcher at the Centers for Disease Control, confess to deliberately having left out the evidence of a “connection” between autism and vaccination in one of his studies. But Hooker’s paper is outdated and the CDC confirmed years ago, upon a more thorough investigation of the original test’s subjects, that no such evidence existed.
And no, absolutely none of this mattered very much as far as Wakefield and his producer/co-writer Dil Bigtree were evidently concerned – which is to say nothing of Wakefield’s own study from 1998, which was also quick to be invalidated both by subsequent studies and the revelation that Wakefield’s “evidence” of the MMR vaccine’s link with autism was fabricated. Not that this stopped vaccination rates from going down in the U.S. after the gobbledygook in question was spewed or Wakefield from continuing his research, ultimately leading to the making of this film. Are you starting to see yet why it is so often said you can’t win with these guys?
Large chunks to the film are devoted to phone calls between Brian Hooker and William Thompson, recorded for our listening displeasure without any consent from Thompson himself. We get interviews with individuals who either suffer from neurodevelopmental disorders themselves or know people who do. For all we know, these could just be random people that Wakefield grabbed off the street and interviewed about their condition, so that he could later use the clips out-of-context in his inane movie and pretend as if the MMR vaccine is to blame for these people’s disorders (don’t forget the dramatic music). Hey, why should I care if I’m wrong to make a claim like that? When has being wrong meant anything to anyone in the whimsical world of determined anti-vaxxers and conspiracy nuts?
At least the good folk at Tribeca Film Festival had the sense to ban this film from being screened (in what had otherwise been its world premiere) on the grounds that no-one should be allowed a platform to spread fear-mongering misinformation or potentially fool the more naïve attendees into trusting that which has been debunked again and again for several years – nay, decades.
Robert De Niro (of Shark Tale and Little Fockers fame) intially defended the film’s right to a screening, although he too eventually changed his stance. Knowing the way Wakefield’s mind works (it doesn’t), I don’t doubt that he will cite this ban as yet another sign that it’s all a big conspiracy and that Big Pharma is actively censoring people to hide the truth or whatever. The even sadder fact of the matter is that a sizeable portion of the less-evolved human population will unquestionably trust him on it.
I don’t know what it is. As hard as I attempt, I just don’t know what it is with conspiracy theorists and WANTING to believe things that are repeatedly proven false. I don’t know what kind of evidence would be enough for anti-vaxxers. The data that suggests vaccines do cause autism, for instance, is far less accurate than and far outweighed by the data that suggests they do not – and yet, the anti-vaxxers will run with the story that suits their narrative all the same. My theory is that, if we simply inject them with a vaccine that they think are a surefire cause for autism, they would persist in their beliefs even after discovering first-hand that the effect is non-existent.
It’s the same thing with flat-earthers and Creationists (see also my review of A Matter of Faith). I can live with the fact that both these groups are so staunchly certain about something that’s so easy to prove incorrect – the real mystery is how and why they so badly want to believe it. Like, okay, you think the Earth is flat. Sure, alright, good for you. But why? Why do you want to think that? What are you trying to prove? What would lying about the shape of the planet do to help the Illuminazis? Or anyone?
All of this serves as a pessimistic reminder about how futile it all is. We could drown these people in mountains worth of evidence and meticulous research, and their beliefs, no matter how obviously wrong they are even without the studies, would no doubt remain unchanged. So fine, you win. Whether or not you want to believe that MMR vaccination leads to autism is entirely up to you and absolutely none of my business. Mostly since it has no bearing on whether or not it’s true, but also since your refusal to take vaccines that will likely save you from death solely because you happen to be stubborn about believing in bullshit, well to me that’s just natural selection doing a bang-up cleansing job in our bleak modern times. Perhaps I do see why you believe these things after all.