Yesterday’s post was a comment on potentially deep cultural changes that might affect us due to the sharp clash between an anti-vaccination movement and the rest of us. Here’s another take on that.
About 10 of you sent me the Jimmy Kimmel video from his February 27 show. I resisted watching it for a while, but finally broke down this morning. Here it is, and there are a couple of parts that are really funny, especially the Breaking Bad references (I also am only through the end of season 2), but it is more complex and disturbing than you may realize.
Kimmel is a brilliant comedian, although his style and delivery have never captivated me. Clearly drawing from anger and disgust, he belittles the anti-vaccine movement and parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. He is not invoking mere risibility.
As you know, I advocate vaccination. But since staring this blog, I have had to confront in myself the source of my anger at anti-vaccinators. I am a trained scientist like the doctors in this video, and formerly thought that folks just understood a need for vaccines and the power and liberation they bring to modern life. Alas, I was completely wrong.
If I adopt a mentality that I “know” what’s right and the anti-vaccinators are know-nothing fools, exactly what Jimmy Kimmel implies, I can laugh along. But Kimmel is very harsh: he wants you to think the anti-vaccine movement is made up of “fucking idiots.” And that’s where it stops being funny.
Really, this is an assault, a frontal assault, that will entrench the anti-vaccine movement more than change it. The belittling jokes create a greater divide from the rest of society. I am very sympathetic to those who might perceive this as an elite class jamming these policies down their throats. The response is to immediately pull back and retrench, because the joke is actually a threat. For someone, perhaps irrationally, perhaps being ignorant of science, who believes that any vaccine can deliver a horrible autism-inducing side effect to their child, there is no other reflex. It is fight or flight.
And really, modern medicine is its own worst enemy about side effects. Our everyday news and advertising media train us to know that modern medicines have powerful side effects. The FDA requires pharmaceutical companies to do this due to a “truth-in-advertising” policy, and Jeff Foxworthy, a much more approachable comic than Jimmy Kimmel, puts his finger on that fear-induced pulse. He’s not belittling, he’s sympathetic:
To all my friends in low places, gone are the days of Campho-Phenique. It’s a lot more complex and baffling world out there, but with some fact checking and reasoning, we can overcome and then make jokes about Jimmy Kimmel.