Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Hannah Gadsby has a message for anti-vaxxers
In "Douglas," the Australian comedian opens up about her autism diagnosis.
- In her new Netflix special, "Douglas," comedian Hannah Gadsby targets anti-vaxxers.
- Diagnosed with autism four years ago, Gadsby discusses the dangers of believing vaccinations cause autism.
- Some high-profile anti-vax activists use their platform in order to sell supplements and books.
Hannah Gadsby couldn't understand why people kept telling her she might have autism. She believed the developmental disorder mostly applied to young boys. Then the Australian comedian was diagnosed with autism and ADHD four years ago, fitting a lot of pieces into the puzzle of her life, including her response to constant noise and motion while on stage and the feeling of being sober in a room full of drunk people (or vice-versa) all of the time.
The diagnosis came shortly after her comedy special, "Nanette," was receiving critical praise around the planet. Growing up lesbian in a conservative Tasmanian community, "Nanette" is a powerful social commentary merging with raw storytelling. Her emotional roller coaster makes it difficult to distinguish tears from laughter or despair. That's the point.
After considering quitting comedy, Gadsby returned with "Douglas." As with "Nanette," it's difficult to label it comedy. Pure and simple, Gadsby is a masterful storyteller. While she touches upon a number of issues in her latest special—the pouch of Douglas, patriarchy, Renaissance art—grappling with autism and, specifically, anti-vaxxers, is the highlight.
Anti-vax rhetoric is thriving during this pandemic; its trajectory had already been rising. A Gallup poll from January found the number of American adults that believe vaccinating their children is "extremely or very important" dropped 10 percentage points from 2001. This is still a far cry from a suspect survey by an osteopathic group claiming 45 percent of adults are vaccine-hesitant. Still, the number is moving in the wrong direction.
How Hannah Gadsby's High-Functioning Autism Works | Netflix Is A Joke
In a scathing yet hilarious indictment of the anti-vax movement, Gadsby says activists are highly organized and coordinated. They're also prone to "willfully manipulate statistics," as the osteopathic study proves. This doesn't change the fact that anti-vaxxers are woefully outnumbered, however loud social media seems. Tragically, the loudest voice in the room gets taken seriously, sometimes.
After discussing her autism diagnosis, Gadsby begins the skit.
"Do you know what causes autism? No, you f***ing don't. If you honestly think you do, your confidence is making you stupid."
She's aware anti-vaxxers are likely in the room. Her core demographic is wealthy, entitled white women, which is "a Venn diagram with a lot of crossover." Gadsby holds no hope in changing minds, because that's not how closed minds work: "They don't work; they're closed for business."
She then pretends vaccines cause autism, although "pretending is not science." She's not upset about being on the spectrum. That doesn't mean having autism is easy; quite the contrary. It's difficult to always be the odd one out. That said, Gadsby brilliantly advocates for autism.
"As difficult as this life is, it's nice to have a life. And it's particularly nice to have this life in a world without polio. Polio is bad, and that is a fact, not a feeling."
Text on a screen will never compare to Gadsby's delivery: the crescendo of "polio," the playful yet serious expression on her face when delivering this information. Her critique doesn't stop there.
"I would rather have autism than be a sociopath like you."
Tough statement, which she qualifies. Believing your child is more important than all other children means you're not playing for the team. You've wrapped yourself up so tightly in a belief system that self-righteousness has become your creed. Far from being a posture on Twitter, this mindset has real-world consequences.
First, there's the economic angle. Discredited physician Andrew Wakefield, who was paid to falsify data in his infamous measles vaccine-autism study, filed a patent for a single-jab measles vaccine as the same time he was decrying vaccines. His objective appears to have been financial from day one.
Protesters hold banners against the 5G technology and vaccines as others shout slogans during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament in Sofia on May 14, 2020.
Photo by Nikolay Doychinov/AFP via Getty Images
Wakefield isn't the only opportunist. Osteopath Joseph Mercola's net worth has grown to over $100 million as he promotes his products to anti-vaxxers. Then there's Judy Mikovits, the subject of the discredited film, "Plandemic," whose book became a bestseller after the film's release. Her book was published by a house whose sole focus is promoting anti-vaccination rhetoric.
Second, the health consequences. As Gadsby says, anti-vaxxers are coordinated. Two case studies: Samoa and Orthodox Judaism.
Recently anti-vax rhetoric has rooted in Samoa. The result: over 4,000 children were infected with measles last fall. At least 70 died. An anti-vax advocate promoted the use of papaya leaf for treating measles; he was later arrested. The situation was so bad, the Samoan government declared a state of emergency and banned children under the age of 17 from gathering publicly.
Anti-vax rhetoric also hit Orthodox Jewish communities hard last year. In March, 2019 over 275 cases of measles were confirmed in New York state. The funding for this effort was provided by a wealthy Manhattan couple that has donated over $3 million to anti-vax organizations. One group is Informed Consent Action Network, an anti-vax organization run by a former television producer that specifically targets Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County.
"Douglas" is a masterful piece of common sense propaganda. Gadsby is ready for the vitriol certain to come her way for exposing the public to basic science. She snacks on hate. Following that statement, she stares out into the crowd to ask if they understand why she would eat the bluster of haters. Her response is priceless.
"It builds immunity; it's called microdosing. Your hate is my vaccine."
A slight pause.
"What are you going to do? I already have autism."
A cave in France contains man’s earliest-known structures that had to be built by Neanderthals who were believed to be incapable of such things.
In a French cave deep underground, scientists have discovered what appear to be 176,000-year-old man-made structures. That's 150,000 years earlier than any that have been discovered anywhere before. And they could only have been built by Neanderthals, people who were never before considered capable of such a thing.
Water may be far more abundant on the lunar surface than previously thought.
- Scientists have long thought that water exists on the lunar surface, but it wasn't until 2018 that ice was first discovered on the moon.
- A study published Monday used NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy to confirm the presence of molecular water..
- A second study suggests that shadowy regions on the lunar surface may also contain more ice than previously thought.
Credits: NASA/Daniel Rutter<p>Still, it's not as if the moon is dripping wet. The observations suggest that a cubic meter of the lunar surface (in the Clavius crater site, at least) contains water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million. That's roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water. In comparison, the same plot of land in the Sahara desert contains about 100 times more water.</p><p>But a second study suggests other parts of the lunar surface also contain water — and potentially lots of it. Also publishing their findings in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-1198-9#_blank" target="_blank">Nature Astronomy</a> on Monday, the researchers used the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to study "cold traps" near the moon's polar regions. These areas of the lunar surface are permanently covered in shadows. In fact, about 0.15 percent of the lunar surface is permanently shadowed, and it's here that water could remain frozen for millions of years.</p><p>Some of these permanently shadowed regions are huge, extending more than a kilometer wide. But others span just 1 cm. These smaller "micro cold traps" are much more abundant than previously thought, and they're spread out across more regions of the lunar surface, according to the new research.</p>
Credit: dottedyeti via AdobeStock<p>Still, the second study didn't confirm that ice is embedded in micro cold traps. But if there is, it would mean that water would be much more accessible to astronauts, considering they wouldn't have to travel into deep, shadowy craters to extract water.</p><p>Greater accessibility to water would not only make it easier for astronauts to get drinking water, but could also enable them to generate rocket fuel and power.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Water is a valuable resource, for both scientific purposes and for use by our explorers," said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in the advanced exploration systems division for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, in a statement. "If we can use the resources at the Moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries."</p>