I guess this story won’t die. After the huge kerfuffle with respect to the fraudumentary, Vaxxed, you’d think that I wouldn’t have to read anything where Robert De Niro talks vaccines – but alas, he is still pontificating on vaccine issues where he clearly is clueless.
In case you were on a trip to Ceti Alpha V, missing the whole Vaxxed/Tribeca Film Festival/Robert De Niro story, here’s a quick review:
- Mr. Andy Wakefield, one of the greatest modern scientific swindlers, makes a fake documentary about the so-called CDC whistleblower. He uses this to make unsupported claims that vaccines cause autism, which is overwhelmingly refuted by real science.
- Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival included the fraudumentary in its schedule of independent movies for the 2016 version of the festival.
- The internet, press, and other moviemakers ridicule De Niro, the film festival and Wakefield.
- Tribeca decides to pull the film.
So that should be the end of the story, right? Those of you who follow the anti-vaccination world understand that a story never really dies. It just becomes a zombie meme.
Robert De Niro talks vaccines
De Niro has decided to double down (I think this is the third time of doubling down, so he’s really into this) on the antivaccine trope. In an interview with Vulture, during the Cannes Film Festival, De Niro made it abundantly clear what he thought about vaccines and Vaxxed:
No, Mr. De Niro. It is harming people, by possibly convincing parents to not vaccinate their children against vaccine preventable diseases, like measles.
Some things were inaccurate? If it were 20% accurate – it wasn’t, the whole CDC issue has been convincingly refuted, and vaccines don’t cause autism – the 80% that’s inaccurate is based on lies, fraud, and basically unethical behavior on the part of Wakefield. You can read all about Wakefield’s fraud in articles by the investigative journalist, Brian Deer, here, here, and here.
And yes Wakefield was discredited by the medical establishment. Is that supposed to be a criticism of who investigated Wakefield’s fraud? No, it means that Wakefield’s actions were, from a completely unbiased investigation, unethical, illegal and fraudulent.
But let’s continue with De Niro’s rant:
Well, Robert De Niro finally says something accurate – he doesn’t understand the issue. De Niro is taking the bully pulpit because he’s one of those wealthy privileged white males and has a lot of power in the movie industry.
But is he an epidemiologist? Nope. Immunologist? Nope. Physician? Nope. Respected scientist and biomedical researcher? Nope. He doesn’t have a college education in film let alone any science.
He’s wrong on other points. Are vaccines big money for pharmaceutical companies? Maybe, but if Big Pharma were motivated strictly by greed, they’d get rid of vaccines.
The other fraudumentary he mentions, Trace Amounts, lacks any scientific basis and is basically a propaganda piece for the anti-vaccine crowd.
And vaccines are very well tested, usually with large-scale (sometimes with n greater than 1 million) epidemiological case-control studies. The studies are so large, so well controlled, that any significant event related to vaccines would appear above the background level in a population. We haven’t seen this, especially with respect to vaccines and autism.
Then he brings up the strawman argument of “penicillin.” The antibiotic has a very specific reason why it causes allergic reactions in people. It is known. It is physiologically plausible. And it has nothing to do with vaccines.
Then the alarming part of this interview:
So Robert De Niro wants to push his anti-vaccine tropes in his own documentary? If he’s working with Harvey Weinstein, a wealthy and powerful film producer, who also co-owns, with his brother, a large film studio, then you know this anti-vaccine “documentary” will have Big Hollywood production values and marketing push.
This scares me, because De Niro can package Wakefield’s lies into a beautiful documentary with anecdotes and heart-tugging stories that will convince thousands or millions of people to not vaccinate their children. He’ll try to convince people that the CDC is a tool of vaccine manufactures, something to which he alluded in his interview.
De Niro likes to claim that he his not anti-vaccine, it’s just that he wants safer vaccines. But this is just a feint by those who are anti-science – the sum total of his statements show that he buys into the anti-vaccine tropes and has no clue that vaccines are not related to autism.
When Robert De Niro talks vaccines – we should all be scared for the health of all of our children.