Believe it or not, I can’t watch everything on TV and read everything on the internet. So it wasn’t until yesterday — and last night in particular — that I was able to read much about Michele Bachmann and her interesting thoughts about Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. As you know, I have a part-time gig gathering health-care news. I’ve been reading about Gardasil for years now, and I’m well-aware of the debate, such as it is, about the vaccine against human papillomaviruses 6, 11, 16 and 18, which are the culprit in most cases of cervical, anal and other cancers of the down-there regions.
Early work on HPV vaccines was done in Australia, and the doctor credited with being the original discoverer is a national hero, decorated with Medal of Freedom-type laurels in his homeland. I get the feeling that under a President Bachmann, he’d be clapped in leg irons and shipped to Gitmo for crimes against humanity. That’ll teach the inventor of the Slut Shot.
That’s what lots of social conservatives call it; I believe the term was coined by an anti-vaccine activist, Barbara Loe Fisher. She has a blog (but of course) called Vaccine Awakening. Here’s the entry on the top of it today, from a few days ago, just to give you a sense of the tone:
Vaccine Wake Up Call for Parents: Your Children Are Being Taken
Every mother has had the nightmare. We dream our child, who we love more than we thought we could love anyone, has been taken away by strangers and cannot be found. The cold fear rises up from our stomach into our throats as we search, endlessly, to find the child we would give up our own life to protect from harm.
Whew. To be fair, I think Fisher is against pretty much all vaccines, especially the childhood ones that have never proven to be linked to autism and other complications. But her charming turn of phrase on the Slut Shot is all social conservatives like Bachmann need, really. There was a story in the New Yorker a few weeks back, about Bachmann and the alternate history she believes, all that stuff about the founding fathers and their tireless work to end slavery, and how she can use a few dog-whistle phrases that catch the ears of her fellow travelers:
I’m a mom, and I’m a mom of three [daughters]. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done.
Innocent 12-year-olds forced to have a government injection! That’s not a dog whistle, that’s a klaxon. Your innocent 12-year-old will have her arm stripped naked and readied for the long, hard government injector. She’ll turn her head away, her lip will tremble, but there’s no stopping the relentless spike. And then, with a gasp and a tear, the tender flesh yielded and the burning poison poured into her body…
And if you don’t get the undertone of sweet virgins receiving hot vaccine injections, “government” is in there, too. Big bad government, everyone’s favorite boogieman. (I’ve reached a point now that as soon as I hear the phrase “government schools” in a conversation, I flip a switch in my brain, adopt a half-smile and remember an urgent appointment on the other side of the room.)
But it’s the sex angle that flips their switches; if this were a vaccine against a virus that causes liver cancer, no matter how much money Rick Perry got from its manufacturer, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Because, you see, there’s a perfectly good preventative against cervical cancer already. It’s called an aspirin. Hold it between your knees until your wedding night (to another aspirin-clencher), and there’s no need for any of that nonsense. See? Problem solved.
It wasn’t until I saw this clip from the Daily Show that I fully grasped the existential weirdness of the event where Bachmann made her comments. I think it’s safe to say that her remarks were fully in keeping with the tone of the CNN debate. No, “debate.” The national anthem? Are you kidding me?
As I have related here before, I was there when CNN was launched, June 1, 1980. I toured the facility with Ted Turner himself. The question asked by every reporter there, in one form or another, was “how on earth will you fill 24 hours a day with news?” I guess the answer is both “you won’t” and “with this.”
Back to Gardasil. Just once, I’d like to see this group of Republicans, whom you’d think would have learned something from the past few years of wide stances and Appalachian Trail hikes, acknowledge some simple reality about human sexuality. Just once I’d like to see some brave conservative say out loud, “You know, maybe cervical cancer is too high a price to pay for sleeping with the wrong person. And now we have this vaccine.” The thing is, I’m sure many are saying it. I’m sure millions have had their daughters vaccinated, and perhaps one day even their sons. They just can’t talk about it, because y’know, SLUT SHOT.
OK, time to get the day under way. A little bloggage:
Neil Steinberg: Let’s take these lunatics seriously. Not a bad idea.
Haven’t checked in with Jon Carroll for a while. What’s he up to? Still bringing the silly as well as silly can be brought. A few thoughts on shoe-selling copy.
And if you’re not a comments reader, you should know we heard from Alex yesterday afternoon, and he is fine, but finds it hard to type with a clothespin on his finger, but he appreciates all our well-wishing. Here’s wishing him some more wellness, and y’all, a happy Wednesday.