The corridors of the Statehouse were abuzz Tuesday. Seems that all and sundry were talking about the appearance of a real live Kennedy — RFK, Jr. to be precise. He was in Montpelier to testify about the evils of vaccines and the necessity for parental choice as the last line of defense against the predations of Big Pharma and the corrupt regulators in the industry’s pocket, all conspiring to strap ’em down and shoot ’em up.
I believe that’s the mission statement of the Centers for Disease Control. You know, the secret one they chant before their confidential off-site meetings with their Big Pharma masters. Yeah, them.
But I digress. Kennedy, a widely respected environmental activist turned vaccine truther crank, testified before the House Health Care Committee and also held a media briefing. Both attracted overflow crowds. I contented myself with a quiet afternoon at House Government Operations, listening to embattled liquor control chief Mike Hogan defend his honor. Well, not really, but more on that another time.
I decided it wasn’t worth the effort to cram myself into the Son Of A Great Man’s presence because when I heard he was coming to Vermont, I did some reading to find out what he was going to say.
It didn’t take long to conclude that he had nothing worthwhile to contribute. His message is a real mixed bag. He professes to be pro-vaccine, but he rails against the entire system that regulates vaccines. The CDC, he says, is nothing more than a “sock puppet” of Big Pharma. He cites no particular evidence for this, other than the expanding roster of suggested vaccinations. Which might possibly be driven by medical advances rather than a Pharma/CDC/AMA/Everybody But Me cabal, but Kennedy has taken the Truther Road.
His only tangible argument against vaccines is about thimerasol, a preservative that contains a tiny amount of mercury. He claims a connection between thimerasol and autism, which has been debunked by medical research. Besides, there’s a little problem with his reasoning: thimerasol was removed from most early vaccines about 15 years ago. And since then, the autism rate has continued to rise. Which leads me to conclude that thimerasol isn’t the problem.
Oh, did I mention that there’s more mercury in seafood than there is in the one remaining vaccine? And that thimerasol contains a type of mercury that doesn’t have the neurotoxic properties of straight-up mercury?
So I didn’t feel any need to hear him in person. I’d read enough about him beforehand.
Also, I should say that although there was a lot of buzz in the building, a lot of curiosity over the sudden appearance of a Kennedy in our midst, there was little or no interest in his message. The lawmakers I talked to were unmoved by his presence.
I’m sure it gave his local allies a feel-good moment, and it generated a brief burst of media coverage. (Channel 5 gave it a good 30 secods on their 11:00 news. I blinked and almost missed it.) But did it change any minds in the Statehouse? I doubt it.