Monday, June 21, 2010

NYT: Vaccine Critics = Tea Party?

The following mixes and matches several quite different groups, confounding people that represent various political views -- not a monolithic anti-government movement, but general skepticism:

The Very Angry Tea Party
By J.M. BERNSTEIN

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/the-very-angry-tea-party/

In a bracing and astringent essay in The New York Review of Books, pointedly titled "The Tea Party Jacobins," Mark Lilla argued that the hodge-podge list of animosities Tea party supporters mention fail to cohere into a body of political grievances in the conventional sense: they lack the connecting thread of achieving political power. It is not for the sake of acquiring political power that Tea Party activists demonstrate, rally and organize; rather, Lilla argues, the appeal is to "individual opinion, individual autonomy, and individual choice, all in the service of neutralizing, not using, political power." He calls Tea Party activists a "libertarian mob" since they proclaim the belief "that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone." Lilla cites as examples the growth in home schooling, and, amidst a mounting distrust in doctors and conventional medicine, growing numbers of parents refusing to have their children vaccinated, not to mention our resurgent passion for self-diagnosis, self-medication and home therapies.

This is an absurd simplification, a caricature of parents opposed to vaccination mandates. I don't agree with the anti-vaccine movement, but to group all vaccine skeptics with the Tea Party movement is absurd. There are left, right, and center individuals opposed to vaccine mandates for different reasons.

Most of the anti-vax and homeopathy people I know are on the moderate to far political left. They often complain about gov't vaccination requirements while also arguing for empirical evidence-based medical care. Pick and choose the science / gov't agency you trust, I suppose? Honestly, no political ideology is consistent in the messy reality of a republic.

In the middle of the political spectrum, there are those who are anti-vaccine mandate. There are libertarian arguments that any mandate on people is, necessarily, a limit on individual choice and free will. Yet, libertarians are not of one view on mandates: some support "opt-in" while others prefer "opt-out" provisions for vaccine mandates. Again, there is no one approach.

On the religious "conservative" right, refusing medical care, including vaccines, is based on interpretations of faiths. I have met Christians and Muslims who oppose injecting anything into blood. I don't understand the scriptural basis, but the point is that these people aren't basing their anti-vaccine position on politics alone, but on faith.

Simple generalizations about people are generally wrong. The New York Times columnists have generalized to the point of grouping people together who don't actually share political views.

The autism community is not monolithic. The vaccine skeptics are not monolithic. I might not agree with the vaccine movements, but I appreciate there is not one reason alone to be against mandates. The authors should reconsider their own biases and try to understand skepticism is not limited to Tea Party activists. A lot of people don't trust the government or science.

Again, I am not a vaccine skeptic, but I think this article was incomplete and unfair to people of all political views. Simplification and caricatures are the norm in media, though.

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