UPDATED 9/10/15: It seems that the anti-vaccine crowd has heard of this blog post and are now all up in a roar about it. They’re going as far as doxxing me on Facebook:
Sigh. Will they ever learn?
Unlike some of my colleagues, I’m not much for theatricality and deception. (Though I’ve heard that they are powerful weapons against the uninitiated.) When confronting antivaxxers, I like to be a little snarky, a little insolent, but always throw science and reason at them. There are some rules that I won’t break when arguing with antivax jerks.
First, I won’t “hit them where it hurts” and bring up their families, even if their family history is sure to get them riled up or even hurt them. It’s not fair. We all have relatives that we’d rather keep in the shadows, or things have happened in our lives that we would rather not look back on. Second, I don’t threaten to contact their employers. I did that one time and nothing happened. Then someone did it to me and caused a lot of trouble for me. (You would think that a health department wouldn’t give in to anti-vaccine demands?) Third, I don’t get into theological discussions. A lot of antivaxxers like to claim that God created a “perfect immune system” and that vaccines ruin that “perfection.” It’s too easy to remind them that, theologically speaking, ever since the “Fall of Man,” there hasn’t been anything perfect about our bodies.
I try to stick to science and reason. It’s a good strategy.
However, in the last few days, I have been enjoying a good, old-fashioned “goating” of an anti-vaccine Facebook page.
A “goating” occurs something like this:
- A Facebook page is created for some purpose. In this case, it was a page called “Troll-Free Vaccine Discussion.” It was a forum for anti-vaccine people to get together and discuss anti-vaccine stuff, like how to get out of vaccine requirements or how to counter scientific arguments for vaccination.
- A person who opposes the views of the group joins under a pseudonym or fake profile. In this case, a pro-vaccine person asked to join the “Troll-Free Vaccine Discussion” group. Under what circumstances they joined is not clear at this time.
- The infiltrator takes some time observing the group, perhaps even contributing to it. They will then gain the trust of the group’s administrator(s). With a lot of patience, our pro-vaccine person waited for the right time to befriend the anti-vaccine administrator(s). Some time later, the pro-vaccine person asked to be made an administrator of the group. (Or they were asked.)
- Armed with administrator privileges, the infiltrator blocks out all of the other administrators and they and their friends begin posting meme after meme about goats.
- The rest of the group’s members are then left in confusion as to what is going on. Sure, some of them try to fight back, but it’s to no avail. Their group has been taken over. In this case, the group was flooded with pro-vaccine people, all posting arguments for vaccination, goat memes, and shutting down any attempt by the anti-vaccine people to try and continue their echo chamber.
- After a few days of goating, the new administrator closes the group, leaving it a desolate wasteland of goat memes and scattered anti-vaccine people.
This is exactly what happened to this group, with a minor variant. In this case, the group was started as a “honeypot” for antivaxxers to join. Once enough of them joined, the goating began, leaving all the antivax members confused and scared… Scared because they were outed as antivaxxers. Remember, the group was supposed to be secret.
Anyway, a couple of mornings ago, I found an invitation from a friend to join the group and begin the goating. By the time I joined the group, the goating was already in full force:
As I mentioned before, the antivaxxers lost their collective minds. For example, this “nurse” showed up and tried to convince everyone that vaccines were evil because she herself had “basically interrupted sids” (sic):
You can click on her profile and see that she claims to have worked at a hospital, which is scary if true.
If you’re interested in how the goating stunt got started, back in 2012, a group of internet “trolls” goated the Facebook page of an “independent congressional candidate” who had it coming to her:
“From what I understand (and please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), it all began when a group of liberal trolls began trolling a 2012 independent congressional candidate by the name of Norma Jean Stevens who used an alias of “Samantha Adams” on Facebook. The trolling was well deserved as she was somewhat, er, shall we say unhinged? (Think anti-Semitic rants combined with a desire to rally teabaggers and overthrow the government.) It was soon discovered that Ms. Stevens/Adams had a fondness for goats. Hence, the goats were released and have been running rampant over deplorable Facebook pages ever since. (The Norma Jean Stevens fun has all but vanished from Facebook; if you’re interested, Craig Egan’s got some hilarious YouTube vids highlighting the insanity.)”
Here is one of those YouTube videos (contains harsh language):
And another one where she calls into a radio show (more harsh language):
Finally, “there are no terrorists” and we don’t deserve “neither liberty nor freedom”:
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.