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The Intersection of Anti-Vaxxers and the Holocaust

Robert Franklin

Posted on April 15, 2019 11:52

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Sometimes, two completely unrelated things just come together in stark defiance of reason. This is one of those times.

Last week saw the highest weekly spike in measles cases in 2019. An additional 90 cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 555 across 20 states. It's only April, and already 2019 is challenging 2014 for the "Most Cases in a Single Year Since Eradication" championship belt.

Only 112 cases to go.

Despite the looming existential threat, anti-vaxxers are still anti-vaxxing, taking their discredited wisdom to social media and playdates and any opportunity in between. Those of us who understand that Andrew Wakefield's paper was discredited to the point of ruin mercilessly criticize and take action against parents who decide to leave their children vulnerable to diseases that have killed tens of millions, and rightfully so.

Perhaps it's because anti-vaxxers are regularly on the receiving end of public backlash and condemnation that some have decided to bogart on the most recognizable symbols of struggle and persecution in history.

Many anti-vaxxers have started appearing in public with a yellow Star of David and the Hebrew-stylized words "No Vax" replacing "Jude" in the center. One prominent example is Del Bigtree, CEO of anti-vaccination group ICAN, who wore one at a recent anti-vaccination rally in Austin, Texas.

He appeared to speak directly to the Hassidic Jewish communities of Rockland County, New York, where parents have outright refused to vaccinate their children. He quoted "First They Came," a Holocaust-era poem by Rev. Martin Niemoller, then proceeded to rail against the measures taken in Rockland County to bar unvaccinated children from public areas because of a measles outbreak.

"How will we know if you're not vaccinated?" he mocked. "How will we know to arrest you? Maybe we'll do it the same way we did last time. So for you, all the Hassidic Jews in New York, who never thought this moment would come, I stand with you! I stand for your religious convictions. We will let you believe in your God."

Bigtree then, theatrically, pinned the star to his lapel.

Bigtree, and others, are likening the ideological struggle of the anti-vaccine movement to the horrors of the Holocaust, which are obviously in no way similar. In one, reckless and misinformed parents are placing their recklessness and misinformation above public welfare and are being rightfully fought against for it. In the other, a group of people, whose crime was merely existing, were subjugated by a tyrannical racist as a precursor to genocide.

Even a clear-cut example couldn't more clearly point out how dissimilar these two concepts are.

Poland's Auschwitz Memorial and Museum called Bigtree's dramatics at the Austin rally "a symptom of intellectual and moral degeneration." Bigtree was also criticized by the Anti-Defamation League, who noted groups like ICAN "should be able to assert their ideas without trivializing the memory of the six million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust."

But it's not like Del Bigtree and others are out of their element here. Trivialization of tragedy is an integral part of the anti-vaccine movement.

Robert Franklin

Posted on April 15, 2019 11:52

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