The Politics of Overly Paranoid Rob Lowe - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Politics of Overly Paranoid Rob Lowe

Mother does not always know best. The sudden and strange revolt against vaccinations sounds like the feminine answer to masculine preoccupations with black helicopters.

On cable television—notably, the viewing choice of Overly Paranoid Rob Lowe—Bill Maher, Robert Kennedy Jr., and others have spread the gospel according to Dr. Jenny McCarthy. Anti-vaccination activists blame shots for everything from AIDS to Alzheimer’s to Autism. The more dogmatic anti-vaxxers overlook the proven role of preventative medicine in avoiding polio, measles, diphtheria, and other pests considerably more injurious than a pin prick.

One anti-vaccination website offers a list of six—could they not stretch it to ten?—reasons not to vaccinate children. They include such case closers as “pharmaceutical companies can’t be trusted,” “ALL vaccines are loaded with chemicals and other poisons,” “you can always get vaccinated, but you can never undo a vaccination,” and “fully vaccinated children are the unhealthiest, most chronically ill children I know.” 

One might counter in kind that arguments utilizing ALL-CAPS dissuade more than persuade or that vaccination after infection doesn’t work out so well. The Greek word pharmakon translates as both poison and remedy. We see a similar phenomenon at work with the English word drugs, which means killer or lifesaver depending upon the context.

Surely a reflexive, the-government-hides-listening-devices-in-our-cheese approach to vaccines endangers children. But in certain extreme circumstances, and one senses this plays as the reason why Senator Rand Paul and Governor Chris Christie weighed in on behalf of parents seeking to opt out, the cure truly is worse than the disease.

Forcing vaccinations upon toddlers for sexually transmitted diseases appears creepy to all but creeps and vaccines derived from the cells of aborted fetuses surely pose ethical concerns for moms prone to birth instead of kill their offspring. Whereas the swine flu epidemic Gerald Ford warned about in 1976 killed one American, the vaccine issued in a state-run campaign killed dozens and afflicted hundreds with a debilitating disease. Mothers who know best maintain that government doesn’t know best.

And this paternalism, of the parents opting out and the politicians forcing in, certainly complicates the debate. The demagogue’s cliché of supporting this or that program “for the children” hits ears so often because it universally appeals. Everyone wants what’s best for minors who don’t know best or know at all. When parents or bureaucrats make decisions that harm children, expect a powder keg of emotions to explode among citizens. 

But the exceptions to beneficial medical advancements prove the general rule: Vaccinations, and antibiotics and other breakthroughs, give us longer, healthier lives.

Ironically, the historical case study that best buttresses the general point of the anti-vaxxers that one shouldn’t blindly defer to medical opinion undermines the specific point that medical advice on vaccinations remains flawed. In 1721, amidst a smallpox outbreak that killed one in seven Bostonians, clergyman Cotton Mather, inspired by his scholarship and the experience with the experimental medicine by an African slave, urged inoculation on the Olde Towne’s inhabitants. Local doctors and Benjamin Franklin’s publisher brother led a campaign of abuse against Mather, lampooning the quackery of infecting people with the disease to make them immune from it. “Cotton Mather,” one anonymous correspondent wrote. “You Dog, Dam you: I’ll inoculate you with this, with a Pox to you.” 

Biographers Ralph and Louise Boas report: “His independent fight for smallpox inoculation, which should have brought him glory, brought merely abuse and bitterness.” But after much resistance, much death eventually softened that resistance. Inoculation in the 18th century, like vaccination in the 21st, saved lives.

If the idea man behind the benighted Salem Witch Hunt could demonstrate enlightenment enough to press for inoculation three centuries ago, then surely hope exists to immunize ignorance regarding vaccinations today. 

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