These comments provide disturbing insight into what seems to be an evolving mindset.
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My last column, on RFK Jr.’s presidential run, generated quite a few responses, and they fit a pattern I’ve seen before. (Posted first as a substack, then as a story on WhoWhatWhy.)
Many agreed with what I’d said and wrote to thank me. Those people almost exclusively sent private notes. Several did post a short comment to the substack itself.
I also received a flurry of critical, angry, or insulting messages. Readers who feel that way typically post publicly. For a variety of reasons, we ended up closing the public comments on the substack and deleting those that were there.
That’s increasingly common on news and public affairs websites, where often only a certain demographic on one side of an issue weighs in, and where the content introduces a certain — how shall I say this? — undignified tenor that is disturbing to others. This phenomenon covers a range of issues. The COVID-19 and vaccine issue is no exception. As a result, many sites have simply discontinued comments altogether, while legacy brands like The New York Times and The Washington Post have heavy curation.
In any case, I want to share a smattering of these reactions below. I find they provide a fascinating insight into a certain and potentially evolving mindset. In the future, I will explore the broader phenomenon underlying the critical messages. I’m struck by how a particular segment of our society — including some among WhoWhatWhy’s readership — lashes out at anyone who says something they don’t like, but in their response they address neither the substance of the issue nor provide any useful information.
Some of these people tell me that I’m not an expert on vaccines, based on their opinions … as nonexperts themselves. Typically, they base their opinions on trust alone, since they haven’t the expertise to judge the evidence itself.
And how often do they try? When they read an assertion with a numbered footnote next to it, how often do they check to see if the source referenced actually supports the assertion?
Here’s an example: On page 28 of his book — The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health (Kindle version) — RFK Jr., makes this claim:
Dr. Fauci’s acolyte — CNN’s television doctor, Peter Hotez — published an article in a scientific journal calling for legislation to “expand federal hate crime protections” to make criticism of Dr. Fauci a felony. (14)
Read the article referenced by footnote 14. Hotez was not talking about mere “criticism.” He was talking about how scientists were being targeted by far-right extremists (some of whom are known to favor violence) — with various forms of intimidation, including stalking scientists to their homes. And he wanted “expanded protection mechanisms,” possibly extending “federal hate-crime protection” for these scientists.
Kennedy goes on to claim, in passing, that Hotez said,
vaccine skeptics should be snuffed out (15)
Here’s what the man actually said — only you wouldn’t know it unless you checked the article referenced by footnote 15:
An American anti vaccine movement is building and we need to take steps now to snuff it out.
Meaning snuff out the movement, not people.
In a future article, I’ll show you more of the surprises you get when you check footnotes. But for now let’s just consider the messages I received. In some cases, I offer a short reaction.
Bobby Kennedy, III (son of the presidential candidate)
Hey Russ, Everyone is allowed their own opinion but that Bannon story was straight up bullshit — completely made up. Maybe you should speak to him? He’s a lot more reasonable than you’d think.
RB: He is referring to the claim (originally from CBS’s Bob Costa) that Steve Bannon encouraged RFK Jr., to run. We will be following up on that story. I reached out to Bobby III and he clarified that he was referring to his father as “more reasonable than you’d think” — not to Bannon. So one can see how matters can and do get misconstrued in this confusing and fast-moving information ecosystem.
Robin Ramsey (of Lobster Magazine)
Thanks for this. Yes indeed, the anti-vaxxer thing is seriously weird; and that an apparently intelligent and decent man like RFK Jnr [sic] has swallowed [it] is weirder yet.
You have certainly gone deep, Mr. Baker. I’ve never seen anyone with their cranium inserted so far up an anatomically improbable orifice.
IMO, Your argument that he supports ridiculous and unfounded ideas that simply do not check out (in your opinion) is based on (1) Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps to Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did, and (2) And in a tweet he sent out on April 24, Kennedy implies Carlson was fired because he “told the truth about how greedy Pharma advertisers controlled TV news content,” as if there were no other reasons….
seems to me pretty weak arguments. Obviously Kennedy would be happy to tell you that there are many possible reasons why Carlson was fired. The other “even in Hitler’s Germany” is a bit out of context and should be more fully discussed.
I am a Pharmacist. I believed in the beneficial and necessity of Covid vaccines. I still believe the first round was necessary, even though the number of serious, life changing vaccine injuries is 1 in 10,000, when we were told 1 in a million. I now believe that the boosters were a waste of time but a gold mine for the companies. Even Fauci has partially admitted that. I also believe the mRNA technology is flawed.
Basically, as a Pharmacist, I am convinced that the vaccines were oversold. It would have been just fine if people who thought they needed a vaccine were able to get one, and the rest of us be left alone. The vaccine does not prevent spread, as you can still infect others after being vaccinated. Herd immunity can only be achieved via people who have had the disease, the vaccine cannot help us achieve that.
There is no way there would ever be a Trump / Kennedy ticket. Reaching out to Bannon’s crazy constituants [sic] is not a deal breaker.
RB: Mr. Johnson, apparently you missed what I said about Kennedy’s positions in the anti-vaccine movement — they represent a “striking and profound departure from evidence-based logic.” As to the rest of your point, there is much we don’t know about COVID-19 or the vaccines produced to address this health crisis in which millions have died. Health researchers (and journalists) have been looking at and continue to look at all possibilities. The problem is, those who are so sure they have the answers reject important work, and substitute their own preferred statistics — without credible evidence that theirs are right.
The bottom line is that our unwieldy collective response nevertheless may have ended up saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Discrediting a coordinated effort by most of the health care community is not in any way constructive. And misrepresenting that community as nefarious or fundamentally conspiring against the public interest is in itself nefarious and harmful. The fact is that responsible scientists, researchers, and others do not all agree on everything — but there is a right way and a wrong way to proceed.
It’s also worth pointing out that, when one compares death rates in well-vaccinated areas — versus sparsely vaccinated areas (largely pro-Trump counties) — the anti-vaxx position appears to have literally killed large numbers of people.
Hi Russ. Go deeper, please! I do hope you will listen to RFK Jr. He has a lot of very well researched information about our public health institutions and the ways they have been captured and corrupted by corporate interests. Once you grasp the extent of that dynamic it becomes easier to see the ways this plays out broadly to marginalize legitimate voices, and cement a false narrative about COVID vaccine safety, amongst many other things. RFK is standing up to all of that at significant personal risk. It is not like he is unaware of the costs he faces. You might ask why he would do that? Calling and courage come to mind.
RB: Mr. Steinerman, there are thousands of courageous people in this country, not just one. Many people take great personal risks. In fact, right now, I’m alienating a portion of our readership by standing up for what I believe is right — which happens to be different from what RFK Jr. believes. I would also point out, that there are many perks associated with what he has done. Among other things, it is unlikely he would even be able to mount a presidential campaign without the base he built around his positions on vaccines, to say nothing of his book sales, a large and growing salary, and so on. That candidacy and his positions on COVID-19 are also an implicit rebuke of thousands of heroes in the battle against this scourge. So please be more careful in ascribing who is heroic and who is not.
Gary “The Chaste” Smyth
Russ I hope you bring your journalistic analytical skill set to your further examinations of RFK Jr. So far, they are sorely missing here. Along with your take on the Ukraine fiasco you seem to have left your critical thinking skills lapse. Please try to catch up.
RB: Mr. Smyth, I’ve noticed in conversation and correspondence that a fair percentage of anti-vaxxers also insist that Vladimir Putin was “forced” to invade Ukraine by the nefarious actions of the Western establishment. This belief set is very clear, and, it seems to me, not reflective of careful study or an open mind. I’ve written already on the Ukraine issue and will continue to examine an evolving mindset on the Left that links up with groups on the Right who partially share a worldview on foreign affairs, health policy, and more.
Shilling for Pfizer at this point in the game, is pretty despicable and quite disgusting. The evidence is in, unless of course you’ve been buried under a boulder. The COVID jab doesn’t prevent contraction or transmission of the virus. And if that wasn’t enough, many suffered irreparable adverse reactions. But I digress, as discussing the mobster run pharmaceutical industry is not the intention of this comment, which is to express my dissatisfaction with RFK, Jr. choosing to run as [a] candidate within the corrupt political duopoly and specifically in the irredeemable Democratic Party. What he should be doing is running as an “Independent” and siphoning as many votes as he can from the crooked “Unaparty.” In that way, he’d actually be a threat to the status quo. In fact, if he’s legit how could RFK, Jr. do anything different as he appears to understand that the national security state controls the Republican and Democratic Party, the mainstream media news, and even the unfortunate circumstances leading to the assassination of his dad and uncle.
RB: Ms. Ruse, it’s interesting how many people read that I agree with RFK Jr. on the national security state, yet gloss over that and jump right to calling me names. One doesn’t have to agree that vaccines are fundamentally dangerous to be familiar with great power history, the military-industrial complex, and the like. Also, like everything else, the pharmaceutical industry is a mixed bag, with many horrendous practices combined with the production of life-saving drugs. That’s the way things are most of the time.
Well, this was disappointing. Like any good journalist I’m dubious when it comes to the topic of a Kennedy but, Russ’s polite assessment of RFK’s position on vaccines is a naked character assassination of a man of enormous intellect and integrity. Bob Kennedy isn’t just a nightmare for pharmaceutical companies, he’s also despised by corporate polluters whom [sic] also contribute massively to the health decline of American society. I’m sixty-five and have never seen a person my age on the autism spectrum. It is known, pharmaceutical companies threatened to stop making vaccines in the eighties, due to high amount of injuries, proven in courts of law. The government took away the bottom line risk by creating the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, leaving the public at the whim and peril of greed driven corporations. My daughter acquired severe arthritis at age 24, which is noted as a potential health risk of a damn vaccine she received. President Reagan asked an assembly of high level pharma executives “why don’t you just make them safe?” He was told “because we can’t.” So Russ, you have insulted the intelligence of many readers, who have done our own due diligence regarding this terrible epidemic which is only intensifying in our country.
RB: Mr. Murphy, I am well aware that vaccines have side effects. And I’m sorry about your daughter’s arthritis. It is a known side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, but so far that complication seems to be rare.
Regarding your comment on autism, you should not dismiss the possibility that autism has been around longer than vaccines, and was often confused with “mental retardation.” Dr. Bonnie Evans of King’s College, London described the “phenomenal increase in diagnoses of autism since the 1960s … [that] rose after institutions for the ‘mentally retarded’ were closed down in the 1960s and children were integrated into new educational and social settings.” Furthermore, multiple studies have shown no association between any vaccines and autism.
Dr. Germ Scary
Your article posted about RFK jr.’s “dangerous vaccine logic” sources a CDC study to prove RFK was wrong. That’s no different than posting a CIA source to debunk the JFK assassination “conspiracy theory”. Are you THAT stupid or THAT full of shit? Which one is it?
RB: Dr. Scary, perhaps there is a third possibility? Or even a fourth one?
I will only comment in general terms about RFK Jr.’s take on vaccines: As an American, he has a right to be wrong. At this point in time, vaccines are elective, so a political candidate’s opinion is just that – an opinion. The people’s right to avail themselves or not is a decision that remains with the people, so I don’t believe it should factor into the worthiness of a candidate to run for office. I do, however, fervently believe that two impeachments and inciting sedition should disqualify anyone from running for any office whatsoever. The old adage that “in America, anyone can be President” has been taken entirely too far.
RB: Mr. McLennon, everyone “has a right to be wrong,” but generally speaking, the more wrong one is, and the more significant the wrongs, the more likely we are to judge whether a person should hold power. That’s what my article was about.
Russ Baker’s opinion piece about Bobby Kennedy is total bilge. There is no way his opinion is based on neutral information and certainly anything resembling facts. Anyone can read the history of vaccination and the current history from 1986 forward and not see the deception and corruption. All I can conclude is that your publication has reason to participate in the lies that Bobby Kennedy is trying to expose. Shame on you and all other main stream media outlets. You and they undermine democracy and the future of our country as a democracy. Lies are unbecoming. At a minimum Mr Baker did not do any real research and that is also unforgivable.
RB: The problem is, Ms. Blossom, I did plenty of research, and very quickly found that many of the things the anti-vaccine movement cites don’t check out.
Mary Ann Caton
I would also challenge you to find any errors of fact in RFK, Jr.’s book on Fauci and Gates. It’s an easy thing to go for an ad hominem attack, but quite another to find errors. The fact that Kennedy has asked for safety reviews of all modern vaccines is hardly the same as being a vaccine “denier.” And that makes me curious: to what do you attribute the huge percentage of chronic illness in the U.S. that began growing in the 1990s? It’s more than just overweight children (most likely attributable to eating processed foods); there is also an epidemic of neurological disorders like autism, currently occurring in 1 out of every 34 or so children. Why do so many kids have eczema, so much so that Pharma now offers drugs to treat it. Do you think it a bad idea to begin an honest and thoughtful inquiry into why Americans are so unhealthy?
RB: Ms. Caton, I expect to address all of these issues in the near future. By the way, I noted your comments in support of ivermectin on the FLCCC substack. When discussing claims about ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19, one should provide people with the larger context on this issue: There are uncertainties regarding its effectiveness. Many studies on ivermectin have been discredited because of “malfeasance” or “concerns about quality.”
The venerated New England Journal of Medicine reported a very large clinical trial in which ivermectin did not prove effective in treating COVID-19. I don’t necessarily believe everything I read, but at the same time I’m concerned about those who dismiss legitimate studies that don’t support ivermectin — without providing a meaningful rebuttal that actually checks out. It’s the certainty that seems inappropriate at this stage.