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#CDCTruth protest 2016: Harassing CDC employees in the service of antivaccine pseudoscience [Respectful Insolence]

Monday, October 17, 2016 0:25
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I noticed the other day that I haven’t been visiting the merry band of antivaccine activists and bloggers over at their very own wretched hive of scum and quackery, Age of Autism, nearly as much as I used to. I have mentioned them in passing a couple of times recently, but nothing caught my attention sufficiently to be worth applying a bit of the old Insolence, Respectful or not-so-Respectful. Part of that has been intentional, as I no longer like to give them any more attention than I need to. Part of it was unintentional and more because, quite frankly, AoA has been mighty boring lately. I mean, sure, I’ve noted when they have supported Andrew Wakefield’s propaganda “documentary” VAXXED, which, unsurprisingly, they do with great gusto, but with much of the nuttiest antivaccine rhetoric these days coming from the VAXXED crew itself there has been less of a need to check into AoA as regularly. Then, with the rise of Facebook and Twitter as an organizing force for antivaccine activists, AoA just seems quaint by comparison.

Oddly enough, it was the VAXXED crew who got me to notice AoA again. Remember how, around this time last year, Andrew Wakefield’s groupies and believers in the “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory descended on Atlanta with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Nation of Islam to embarrass themselves with a puny “protest” at the CDC that they called the #CDCTruth Rally? Well, they’re at it again, only a couple of weeks earlier than last year? To be honest, unlike the case last year, this year I barely noticed, even though the #CDCtruth hashtag has been resurrected on Twitter, and the VAXXED Periscope account has been busy.with a bunch of videos of the event, including Del Bigtree spewing the same antivaccine nonsense he’s been spewing nonstop since the documentary was released.

I’m not going to subject myself to all the videos in order to deconstruct things I’ve heard and written about many times before. I’m just not in the mood, and I wrote a fairly long post for my not-so-super-secret other blog, meaning time is short. Instead, let me just show you something about this incident that tells you a lot about what you need to know about the antivaccine “activists” behind this protest. Last year, on the Friday of the protest, I was amused at how some of the protesters latched on to a poor guy just trying to do his job power washing a wall near where some of the protesters were standing as being a “spy” sent to keep an eye on them by the nefarious powers at the CDC. It was something to laugh at and illustrated the level of paranoia and the ridiculousness of antivaccine conspiracy theories. This time around, it’s something equally silly, but darker, as we see in a post on AoA entitled Vaccine Injury Community Seeks Identity of CDC Employee Who Used Rude Gesture. Basically, someone (and it’s not clear if it was even a CDC employee) flipped off some protesters:

On Friday, October 14th, families of vaccine injured children, and those concerned with vaccine safety, gathered outside the CDC in Atlanta to protest. Families were also there to express their distress at the new draconian rules being proposed by the CDC that will give them the power to detain, and coerce medical treatment for, anyone they suspect is ill or could become ill. The agency has failed to respond to more than a decade of charges of fraud and abuse of power in the epidemic of vaccine injuries being reported.

Protesters reported that CDC employees walking through the protest said to the parents:

“Get out of my way, stupid idiots. Some people have real jobs.”

And another CDC employee responding to a chant of “stop killing our babies,” said, “Your babies keep us employed.” (video of the report here.)

Finally this man (see photo and video) responded to a woman holding a sign and trying to talk to him about her son’s MMR induced stroke with the following gesture.

Here’s a video:

Imagine that. CDC employees don’t take kindly to being yelled at, harassed o their way to work, and called baby killers. Who’d have thought it?

So let’s back up. There was a protester, identified as Mace’s Mom (Kerra Icansketchu–whether that’s her real last name or not, I don’t know) speaking loudly and condescendingly to this man whoever he is, with cloyingly phony politeness and continuing to basically yell at him even after he told her repeatedly and pointedly, “Go away.” So, failing to get Icansketchu to leave him alone one way, the man tried another way. He flipped her the bird. Icansketchu, of course, persisted and escalated because, of course she did, making claims about, for example, how “her girlfriend’s babies are all dead from vaccines” and bragging about working with an MIT researcher. As an aside, I can only assume that researcher must be Stephanie Seneff (a woman who has claimed that half of all children will be autistic by 2025 and blames autism on vaccines and GMOs), as I’m unaware of any other antivaccine “researchers” at MIT.

Granted, personally, cranking up the old middle finger is not the approach that I would have used or recommended, although if I were in a very bad mood I can’t completely state without a doubt that I would never have succumbed to my baser instincts when cornered by a protester like this. Even leaving aside the fact that the woman in front of this man was harassing him about vaccines and blaming him for killing babies, thinking about when I’ve been approached in the street by aggressive protesters or panhandlers or people selling things or anyone else with whom I did not want to engage at the moment, I fully understand this man’s reaction and even sympathize with it. He was no doubt experiencing a classic “fight or flight” response—and he couldn’t flee right away, as he appeared to be waiting for the light to change. I do, of course, consider it to have been unwise of him to have succumbed to the temptation, not because the woman didn’t deserve to be told off in no uncertain terms, but because I’d be afraid of the protesters in the vicinity potentially getting more confrontational. Basically, I wouldn’t want to provoke them further. Consequently, my preferred approach would have probably been to stare at my iPhone and refuse to make eye contact until I could get away from this woman.

Now here’s the disturbing part that illustrates the preferred tactic of antivaccine activists:

The CDC has been contacted in order to confirm the identity of their employee, and to respond to the reports by parents. This article will be updated to reflect the response of the agency.

And this note, which looks as though it were added later, by “Kim,” presumably Kim Stagliano:

There is speculation as to who is this person. We will not publish comments that guess if “this is he,” or “this is what I read on FB” about someone who could have been home with a head cold and not at work at the CDC at all. Also, if we do learn his identity, we’ll offer him a change to tell us his side of the story, including what provoked him to flip off a protester. We live in a world where many are quick to jump to conclusions, road rage is everywhere and people can be hurt. I spend much of my time teaching martial arts and self defense to men and women. The safest choice is not to engage. I do want to know what happened here.

Notice how Kim is pretending to take the high road. I call BS. The real reason why AoA wants the identity of this man, whoever he is (and, again, it’s not even clear that he is an employee of the CDC), is to punish him, either through his employer or through publicizing who he is, so that he can be located and harassed by antivaccine activists. Make no mistake about it. This is their real aim here, and all that high-sounding verbiage about “offering him a chance to tell us his side of the story” is just cover. After all, the video makes it very, very clear why this man flipped the protester off. She wouldn’t get out of his face when he made it crystal clear that he had no desire to speak with her.

The funny thing is, even some of the commenters at AoA did not react well to this post. For instance, Linda1 says:

What does the person on the street owe a protestor? The video clearly shows this man trying to walk around the protestor and then when he’s waiting for the light to change to cross the street, she gets in his face and demands his attention. Three times he quietly asks her to “go away” and she doesn’t stop, doesn’t respect his three requests. Finally, when she fails to engage him, she retaliates by telling him that she’s going to take his picture. That’s when the finger goes up and while I think it would have been better if he controlled himself and didn’t respond to her provocation, I don’t blame his reaction to it. She was clearly pushing his buttons.

The CDC has 15,000 employees. All of them do not work in the Immunization Safety Branch. We do not do our movement any favors when we are aggressive with people who just happen to be employees. If you want to get in DeStefano or Boyle’s face, I have no problem with that. They deserve it. But this guy was just trying to cross the street. He had no obligation to talk to or listen to anyone.


And Kathy:

According to some CDC employees, they all wear badges while out and about. So, he is not a CDC employee. Further, this CDC employee told me that the rally protesters were blocking people’s paths, including this guy’s, accosting them verbally, preventing them from going to lunch. They may be charges filed against the rally sponsors.

And more sanity from Bayareamom:

What little I saw when viewing that short video was all I needed to see. That woman, while ‘attempting’ to appear polite w/her protest, was clearly in this man’s face. She was standing in his personal space and simply would not let up. While I did not note that he quietly asked her to stop, MY nerves would have been shot if I had been in his shoes.

This mom had absolutely no idea who this man was/is and EVEN if he was a CDC employee, this does not mean that he works in the Immunization Branch. And even if he did, it wouldn’t mean he is someone who has any sort of authority re the scandal that is ongoing re Thompson, OR have had anything to do with the MMR fraudulent research issue.

When I told my husband about this event and what had transpired w/this man and this mom, he looked at me and said that she’s lucky she didn’t get in HIS face if that had been him. My husband’s the type of guy that just wants to do his business and not be hassled by anyone trying to sell him something, whether it’s Girl Scout cookies, a newspaper, or a petition to be signed. He wants to be left alone.

And back to Linda1:

“…you cannot resort to some of the same sort of crass behavior we all complain about w/folks on the other side of the fence, and then resort to same, on our side.”

Exactly right. We complain about being bullied. This guy was bullied, shown on our side’s video that is now all over the internet.

Of course, you can’t have an antivaccine discussion group without Godwin, and here’s this thread’s obligatory Nazi reference, courtesy of DaWei:

The mother shown has a vaccine injured child who is injured because of work done IN the CDC complex. She has EVERY RIGHT to protest. EVERY RIGHT to ‘get in the face’ of her aggressor. If the man in the photo was headed into the CDC complex or coming out of it, he is affiliated with the CDC. Please do not demean people’s efforts who are doing something for YOU (whether you acknowledge it or not), while you sit at home and review your ‘Miss Manners’ checklist for protest etiquette. I’m sure protesting at the entrance to Auschwitz would have been something you found equally distasteful and disruptive to the workforce.

Thank you, DaWei. I can now rest easy, knowing that the universe is behaving the way it’s always behaved. If no one had brought up Auschwitz, Hitler, or the Nazis in this AoA thread, I would have wondered if perhaps this were an episode of Timeless, such as the pilot where time travelers made a change in history and one of them came back to find something in her life changed.

One wonders how many employees “confronted” by #CDCTruth protesters actually work for the Immunization Branch—or even the CDC. I also wonder if the CDC is providing training to its employees on how to deal with protests and situations like this. After all, Kerra Icansketchu was clearly trying to provoke a reaction. Unfortunately she succeeded. Amusingly, though, the merry band of antivaccine loons at AoA are so ensconced in their own little fact- and science-free bubble that what they see when they watch this video is not what most people see. Most people will sympathize with the man cornered at a traffic light by a raving woman getting in his face and threatening to take his picture for what can’t be a good purpose. Not so amusingly, unfortunately, their delusion is leading them to try to find this man so that he can be targeted for harassment and made an example of. Here’s hoping they don’t find him.


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