Anti-vax motto: Don’t be Happy, Worry!


In your life expect some trouble
When you worry you make it double

The lyrics come from the 1988 Bobby McFerrin hit Don’t Worry, Be Happy, but the phrase originated with Indian mystic Meyer Baba as a meditation on the power of positive thinking.

According to Baba:

Say to yourself ‘I am meant to be happy, to make others happy’ and gradually you do become happy yourself and make others so too. Don’t suggest to your mind ‘I am tired, haggard, depressed.’ That will make you feel worse. Always say ‘All is well and beautiful. I will be happy.

Anti-vaccine advocacy, in contrast, is a meditation on the power of negative thinking. Don’t be Happy, Worry!

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Anti-vaccine advocacy is a meditation on the power of negative thinking.[/pullquote]

Don’t be happy that vaccine preventable diseases have been nearly eradicated; worry that there is a secret price to be paid.

Don’t be happy that vaccines allow children to develop immunity to a disease without having to survive it first; worry that vaccines are a plot to enrich drug companies at your expense.

Don’t be happy that it is the rare parent faced with burying a child who died of an infectious disease; worry that vaccines are a conspiracy to give your children autism … or auto-immune diseases … or cancer.

Don’t enjoy your good fortune to live in a time and place that can protect children; worry that you are being tricked into harming them.

Anti-vaxxers are united by fear and debilitating, chronic anxiety.

It’s not cynicism. It takes more than cynicism to conjure a giant conspiracy involving nearly all the doctors, scientists and public health officials in the world. It’s not skepticism. Skepticism demands proof; it doesn’t insist that every possible proof is inadequate.

It’s deep, disabling paranoia.

As Will Saletan noted in his explanation of conspiracy theories:

They tell themselves that they’re the ones who see the lies, and the rest of us are sheep.

But the truth is that they are in a state of chronic anxiety, convinced that they must constantly be on their guard against manipulation by “elites.”

He continues:

The strongest predictor of general belief in conspiracies … was “lack of trust.”

The common thread … is a perception of bad character. More broadly, it’s a tendency to focus on intention and agency, rather than randomness or causal complexity…

The rise in cases of autism is a complex, and as yet unexplained, phenomenon. But it is perversely more comforting for anti-vaxxers to believe that it is deliberately being caused by Big Pharma: It’s thimerosol! No, it’s aluminum! No, it’s some as yet unidentified toxin. Anything, in other words, besides acknowledging that it is random and there is nothing they can do to prevent it.

The more you see the world this way — full of malice and planning instead of circumstance and coincidence — the more likely you are to accept conspiracy theories of all kinds…

It’s hard to imagine anything more malicious than a giant conspiracy involving every major drug company, aided and abetted by all physicians and scientists IN THE WHOLE WORLD, plus the US government, pushing useless injections on innocent infants in order to deliberately poison them.

Anti-vaxxers can’t be happy because they are worried that drug companies are making money at their expense. It seems never to occur to them to do the math.

For example, the cost of two doses of MMR to prevent measles (and mumps and rubella) is $40.44/person. The cost of letting measles run rampant is $4785/person. Big Pharma and Big Medicine make money when people are sick, not when they are well.

No matter. Anti-vaxxers have a reflexive fear of elites, and for them, anyone who has an advanced science education is an elite. They feel small and powerless in the world of hospitals and corporations. To manage that fear, they have concluded that elites are plotting against them. They tell themselves that they’re the ones who understand, and the rest of us are sheeple.

They look at the massive success of vaccines in preventing deadly childhood illnesses and paradoxically conclude: Don’t be Happy, Worry!