There is a reason I and others refer to the anti-vaccination movement as fundamentalists and extremists. Put simply, they do go to what we would perceive as extreme lengths to further the reach and the defense of their beliefs.
One thing I found out immediately when I discovered the Australian Vaccination Network, six years ago, was that they subsist on cruelty and hate. And the hatred appears to stem from the fact that they are in some perverse sense jealous of families who have had babies and children die from a vaccine preventable disease. These families have real stories to tell their communities, and they almost always do tell their painful story so others may be spared the same fate. These stories are not just mere anecdotes, or reckons; these children have died from real, diagnosed illnesses, from real pathogens which kill. Anti-vaccinationists hate this. Anti-vaccinationists don’t have real stories to tell. They rely on fallacious reasoning and lies about imagined vaccine victims to bolster their beliefs. Anti-vaccinationists hate this, and they take it out on these families.
There are many ways in which the anti-vaccination movement vilifies grieving parents. They attempt to diminish the seriousness of the particular pathogen; they deny the diagnosis which caused the death; they blame vaccination given at birth (Hepatitis B); they claim the baby wasn’t breastfed; they blame vaccines the mother received during pregnancy; they blame other medication the mother may have taken; they claim the baby’s death was a mere anecdote from which no conclusions can be drawn; they privately message the parents under the guise of altruism which turns venomous; they ring the grieving parents directly and tell them their vaccine advocacy will kill children; they troll the internet where they know their comments will be seen so as to inflict hurt; and they jump onto memorial pages to abuse the parents directly. This list is not extensive.
I want to include a list of just some examples of the above. This list of screenshots is literally a fraction of what I have. Many of the screenshots are from 2009-12 unless otherwise noted. Many URLs from the original posts are gone as the comments were made by the Australian Vaccination Network troll known as Johanna Holland/Nicole Johnson. The Holland accounts have all been disabled. The Johnson accounts are very active on Facebook and on Twitter. This troll has been protected on AVN fora for many years by Meryl Dorey and her admins. So, I’m not going to link to sources of the comments. They aren’t there any more.
This first example is from a now defunct troll account on Twitter; this is the same person who is now freely posting on all AVN fora, and interacting with Meryl Dorey, AVN fans and supporters. The troll refers to the McCafferys as “media whores” and “hateful people”. From November 2014:
In 2011 the anonymous troll calls the McCafferys “liars”:
It has some choice things to say about me, and Dana:
The troll claims that Dana’s memorial page was set up for vengeance, by the McCafferys:
I’m including this one to show how utterly awful this person is; and, by default, so is Meryl Dorey and her cult. This is the standard they accept:
The following are from YouTube comments sections. They are all now defunct. This is the same troll as all of the above. Here it claims that the McCafferys incite hatred:
It claims that the McCafferys are liars who blame the unvaccinated for Dana’s death. They have never done this:
The anonymous troll claims that the McCafferys have sought retribution in Dana’s name:
This is one of the troll’s most insidiously despicable acts. It commented on Meryl Dorey’s blog using Dana’s name, and my surname. Who impersonates a deceased infant? Meryl Dorey steadfastly refused to remove the comment from her blog for months. It eventually disappeared:
Kerry Baker was a registered nurse who emailed the McCafferys via Dana’s website. As they do, Baker the anti-vaccine activist stated she was “contacting you as a concerned parent”. It didn’t take long for the conspiracy accusations to fly. She accused the McCafferys of being paid, and claimed that they will be responsible for more deaths:
Baker was investigated by AHPRA for her actions and had findings handed down against her. So, if you see a nurse or midwife making anti-vaccine comments online, then, report them. It will be taken seriously.
Judy Wilyman is a PhD student in public vaccination policy at the University of Wollongong. In 2012 Wilyman argued that Dana’s death was merely an anecdote which should not affect public health policy:
These programs have been promoting the whooping cough vaccine on anecdotal evidence (in particular ,Dana McCaffery’s death) and the mantra of ‘seeing sick babies gasping for air’.
Wilyman also insinuated strongly that the McCafferys were undertaking their immunisation advocacy because they were receiving rewards. From Meryl Dorey’s blog comments. The University of Wollongong never did get back to me about this set of claims from one of their students. It must have been the overwhelming pride holding them back:
Little Kailis Smith died in 2011 from whooping cough. The Smiths were also fair game in Holland’s eyes. This comment was made whilst Kailis was in hospital fighting for his life. Note how the troll accuses the Hep B shot of being the culprit, not the pathogen. It also accuses Rosalind of blaming others. She did nothing of the sort:
In 2010 Michael Kokegei died from chicken pox. His father, Chris, went on television to warn parents of the serious possible outcomes from what the community usually believes is a benign illness. A post was made on the AVN page regarding the segment. The AVN responded with mockery. A child died. The AVN had a laugh:
But that wasn’t the end of it. As I wrote earlier, Chris received a phone call from a representative of the AVN, who had an American accent. And Chris was told of the harm he was doing by advocating for immunisation:
Only recently, little Riley Hughes died from whooping cough. Riley’s Mum and Dad immediately set about on an information campaign. And they’ve had immediate success, working with the McCafferys to ensure maternal Pertussis boosters are rolled out across the country. But, where we see selflessness and altruism which is the hallmark of all of these parents, anti-vaccinationists see targets.
Cate Andrews (Uebergang) is a chiropractor who operates the manipulating business Life Chiropractic Goondiwindi. Andrews immediately got onto the AVN Facebook page to start sowing doubt about Riley’s death:
Richard Dean is another chiropractor who currently studies in France. He jumped into the comments section of the Daily Telegraph to voice his opinions about the real reason Riley died. It was breastfeeding issues and the like:
Riley’s Mum replied, which only further provoked the chiropractor:
The AVN’s resident troll, Holland/Johnson, also attempted to whip up a frenzy on the AVN page:
This comment is from New England, US crackpot Cynthia Maurer. Maurer left this despicable, cruel comment on Riley’s memorial page the day after it started:
Strong supporter of the AVN, Rixta Francis, has written a blog post which is as wrong as it is awful. The March 26 post which rounds off by calling the whooping cough immunisation “crimes against humanity”, also contains this execrable claim:
Monique Grobbin, of Brisbane, featured in the Sunday Telegraph today due to her extraordinary flippant callousness. Grobbin delights in carrying out precisely the same act as that horrid act perpetrated by the anti-vaccine nurse, Kerry Baker, above:
On The Today Show Facebook page we saw the usual accusations. Here is a denial that whooping cough really kills, from alternative health therapist Lulu Langford:
Wendy Hillier-Bull presents the offensive, repugnant dead baby competition which is their trump card:
Daisy Marskell is related to AVN committee member Kaye Payne (Marskell). You can see the pride in their concern trolling. You can smell it:
And this brings us back to Judy Wilyman. Proving the University of Wollongong has the courage to stand behind its students who belittle the deaths of babies for ideological point-scoring, Wilyman repeats the anecdote claim about Riley which she made about Dana:
There’s a reason I decided to write up this compilation today. It’s because some courageous, anonymous troll decided to post onto Dana’s Facebook page, and onto Riley’s memorial Facebook page. The same comments were posted on both pages:
The troll page has been deleted. Courageous and anonymous.
There is one thing I really want to make clear in closing. All of these anti-vaccine trolls, and the anti-vaccine acolytes, and the anti-vaccine grunts, are all following the lead of Meryl Dorey, who has been doing this sort of thing for twenty years, and almost getting away with it until the last six years.
This is Dorey in 1997, from my earlier blog post, unrestrained by the public eye, heaping scorn at will, and barging into areas unwelcome, attempting to access details of confidential medical records:
On April 30 2010 Dorey uttered the word “supposedly”, which would rightly come to haunt her. That simple word would be her albatross of callousness. And, as you’ve seen above, others followed her:
Dorey also attempted to access details of confidential medical records when Dana died. From my earlier post:
On the day before Dana’s funeral, in March 2009, Meryl Dorey rang the Director of Public Health at the then North Coast Area Health Service, contending that Dana did not die from Pertussis. She even had the temerity to claim that the Director had lied to the McCafferys about the content of that phone conversation, and that it was in fact the Director who was the real person harassing the McCafferys.
Let’s remember that Dorey made her intent clear to her followers in 2009:
So, when we look at all of the shocking behaviour, and the cruelty, and the callousness of the trolls, and the anti-vaccinationists, and the University of Wollongong PhD student, and the chiropractors who have attempted to hide their identities in the last fortnight; just remember who enabled them. Remember who holds the giant dog-whistle, telling them it’s okay to attack grieving families. It’s Meryl Dorey and her cabal of narcissists. And it’s anyone who treats these repugnant ghouls with respect and kid gloves.
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This article was originally published here and has been republished with full permission.