Recently, a longtime antivaccine activist likened the reaction of vaccine advocates to getting the COVID-19 vaccine to an orgasm (a “v-gasm”) and the vaccine to religion. What does this say about antivaccine thinking, or is this just a really confused analogy?
I debated whether to write about this or not, for the simple reason that I always wonder if it’s a good idea to give such fringe, “out-there” posts a boost, even as modest a boost as this blog provides, even while commenting negatively on an idea. However, when I came across the post and the idea being promoted, I was just so struck at how it resonates with previous antivaccine posts that I deconstructed long before the pandemic began that I thought it was worth a brief mention, even at the risk of readers reacting with a hearty, “Why did you waste your time on this?” I’m referring to a recent post that I inadvertently stumbled across on that loony antivax conspiracy site that’s even loonier than the average antivax conspiracy site, BolenReport entitled Was the V-Gasm Good for You?, complete with a photo of a woman apparently in the throes of an orgasm.
BolenReport, you might remember, is the blog and website run by Patrick “Tim” Bolen, an antivaxxer who got his start as a promoter of Hulda Clark‘s cancer quackery way back in the day. Some of you might remember Hulda Clark. She claimed that all cancer was due to a liver fluke and that her “zapper” (which looked suspiciously like a Scientology E-meter) was the cure. For those of you who don’t remember her, here’s what she said back in the day (as in 16+ years ago) in her book The Cure for All Cancers:
All cancers are alike. They are all caused by a parasite. A single parasite! It is the human intestinal fluke. And if you kill this parasite, the cancer stops immediately. The tissue becomes normal again. In order to get cancer, you must have this parasite…
This parasite typically lives in the intestine where it might do little harm, causing only colitis, Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome, or perhaps nothing at all. But if it invades a different organ, like the uterus, kidneys or liver, it does a great deal of harm. If it establishes itself in the liver, it causes cancer! It only establishes itself in the liver of some people. These people have propyl alcohol in their body. All cancer patients (100%) have both propyl alcohol and the intestinal fluke in their livers. The solvent propyl alcohol is responsible for letting the fluke establish itself in the liver. In order to get cancer, you must have both the parasite and propyl alcohol in your body.”
You get the idea. Anyway, Bolen used to be known as Hulda Clark’s bulldog, as he would attack and issue legal threats against anyone who had the temerity to question her claims to be able to cure all cancers (and HIV/AIDS, too…no, make that all diseases) with her little E-meter Zapper. As for Tim Bolen, all you really need to know about him was gloriously described by Australian skeptic Pete Bowditch when he documented Bolen’s antics dating back to the 1990s and posted a link to a hilarious video of Bolen trying to dodge answering where his address is. In any event, after Hulda Clark’s death, Bolen rebranded his website to be primarily an antivaccine conspiracy site, and a while back he was joined by an expat from that retched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery, Age of Autism, named Kent Heckenlively. You remember Kent, don’t you? I first encountered him when he was a member of the merry band of pseudoscience-worshiping antivaccine warriors over at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism. What attracted my attention was how what he did to his daughter to try to “cure” her of her autism opened my eyes wider to the lengths to which antivaccine parents will go and how far into quackery they will delve in order to “save” their child. In Heckenlively’s case, he hit is daughter’s grandparents up for $15,000 to take her to a dubious stem cell clinic in Costa Rica for “stem cell” injections directly into her cerebrospinal fluid. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work. For some reason, he left AoA a few years back and landed on BolenReport. It was not a step up. It wasn’t even a lateral move.
Kent was the author of the V-gasm post. Get a load of this. First, he has to land a little swipe against teachers:
It’s really been tough holding my tongue at work this past week as my fellow science teachers have been driven into a state of ecstasy at the prospect of getting their COVID-19 vaccine.
This is how our teacher’s union is getting it done. Apparently, there’s a “code” that teachers in my district can get, then they can make an appointment at the Oakland Coliseum for their drive-by injection.
Remember, these are California public school teachers, the kind of people that if Donald Trump was lying in the middle of the street, they’d push the pedal to the metal of their Prius in order to run him over, then back up, rinse and repeat.
Now, do my fellow teachers worry about “equity,” or is it simply just a mad dash by a bunch of panicked twenty and thirty-somethings who were never going to come down with any complications if they got COVID? You know the answer.
Personally, I have no problem with teachers being one of the groups next in line after frontline healthcare workers, the elderly, and those with serious comorbidities. After all, there is a huge push to open the schools (much of it for good reasons, although COVID-19 deniers love to point to schools going virtual as massive overkill, because, you know, to them COVID-19 isn’t dangerous and isn’t spread in schools, meaning that schools should reopen. Obviously, the issue is a bit more complicated in that the risk might not be as high as previously feared, but it’s likely not nearly as low as the “don’t worry, be happy, open everything” COVID-19 crank contingent likes to portray it, and there are real consequences for children’s learning and mental health from keeping schools virtual. Of course, Heckenlively himself is a teacher; so one wonders if he’s one of those eligible for the vaccine, not that he’d ever take it given how antivax he is.
Here’s the key part, though, where he introduces the “v-gasm”:
That’s why I’ve coined this new expression, “the v-gasm.”
It’s like your traditional orgasm and also involves a prick entering your body, but it’s not the pleasurable kind. And yet, it is the sacred sacrament of the church of science.
And yet, they’re all now scheduled to get their shot this week and experience the inevitable “v-gasm,” which comes when you believe that you’ve been saved as if the Big Pharma gods are Jesus Christ, Himself.
I must admit that my first reaction to Mr. Heckenlively’s “v-gasm” was laughter. It’s just so foolish, and he can’t seem to make up his mind what metaphor he wants to use. Moreover, he soon veers into antivax tropes about the COVID-19 vaccines, including the claim that RNA can cause long term problems (it can’t) and that the vaccine causes “pathogenic priming,” a term generally only used by antivaxxers (indeed, it was coined by James Lyons-Weiler) to describe a phenomenon called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). ADE describes a phenomenon observed with some vaccines in which vaccination can result in a second infection being much more serious than the first. It’s thought to result from the binding of suboptimal antibodies that result in the virus being able to get into cells easier. When COVID-19 vaccines were being developed, ADE was a concern, and a not unreasonable one, but large phase 3 trials did not report it, and it hasn’t been demonstrated after tens of millions of doses having been administered. Basically, it’s a non-issue. Then, of course, Heckenlively also invokes the bogus claim that mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines are not really vaccines at all. (They most definitely are.)
Then, of course, he cries persecution:
When I mentioned this to a half-way sane friend of mine they asked, “Kent, aren’t you going to try to convince them not to get it?”
I thought for a moment and recalled what happened at school when I published my first book, PLAGUE, and in my naivete, mentioned it at a staff meeting and asked the Sunshine Committee if maybe they could have a little celebration for me like they do for teachers getting married, having a baby, or even earning an advanced degree.
For only the second time in my life, I was brought into the principal’s office and reprimanded.
With a dose of petulance:
“Ah, I think I’m just going to let them get it,” I replied. “Then maybe next year there will be a lot more new science teachers.”
Nice, Ken. A persecution complex and contempt for his fellow teachers. No wonder they like him so much. Yes, frighteningly, Mr. Heckenlively is a science teacher.
But back to his concept of “v-gasm.” Notice something about the “v-gasm.” You might not have noticed, but I did: “It’s like your traditional orgasm and also involves a prick entering your body, but it’s not the pleasurable kind.” Is there a kind of orgasm that’s not pleasurable? See what I mean about how confused Mr. Heckenlively is?