Conservative friends of mine would like to pretend that the Michele Bachmann’s of their party don’t exist, that the VFW and country club segment of the party is in control. They’re not. The wing nuts run the show, and while it’s no secret that they are anti-science when it suits them politically, it’s even more appalling when their words show no understanding of science or public health.
The current example is Bachmann’s idiotic comments on the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine. Bachmann was trying to score points against fellow but competing wacko Rick Perry, governor of Texas. Perry did a very non-conservative thing a few years ago: he signed an executive order making the HPV vaccine a school registration requirement. There was lots of debate at the time about the process: how much did the pharmaceutical industry vs. public health experts influence his decision, was it done democratically enough, why wasn’t he behaving like a “proper” conservative? All of these are fair game in the Tea Party’s little get-togethers. But Perry’s lack of right-wing cred wasn’t what drove her attack. She called the vaccine, “a very dangerous drug…that could lead to mental retardation.”
That claim immediately drew a barrage of criticism from the medical profession and even from Bachmann sympathisers on the right, forcing her to backtrack slightly. She told a conservative talkshow: “I have no idea. I am not a doctor, I’m not a scientist, I’m not a physician. All I was doing is reporting what this woman told me at the debate.”
But Bachmann appears to have badly overplayed her hand by then telling NBC television: “I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter,” said Bachmann. “It can have very dangerous side effects.”
“I was only reporting what this woman told me…”. There’s a scientific argument for you. Here she is, on a major public platform, an major force in American politics though it nauseates me to admit it, and she is making public health statements based on the “well, some dude said…” argument.
My cynical side tells me she knew exactly what she was saying. She wasn’t just uttering harmful, idiotic drivel, but placing a message: Big Government public health officials, especially when dealing with sexuality, are the enemy, and their fancy science is irrelevant.