Michele Bachmann moves to the left (on crazy conspiracy theories)

The suddenly flailing 2012 candidate adopts the popular liberal myth that injections are dangerous

Topics: Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., War Room, 2012 Elections, Autism, Republican Party, Rick Perry,

Michele Bachmann moves to the left (on crazy conspiracy theories)In a Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 photo, Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., delivers the Republican response to the speech by President Barack Obama to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington. Starting this weekend, Bachmann plans to campaign almost exclusively in Iowa as she tries to reassert herself in a race that's become a two-candidate contest between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)(Credit: Cliff Owen)

Michele Bachmann said that the HPV vaccine makes babies “retarded.” This is easily the dumbest, most irresponsible and inflammatory comment she’s made in years. It began at Monday’s debate, when she attacked Rick Perry for his now infamous decision to require that girls receive the vaccine. “Little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don’t get a mulligan.”

She accused Perry of only supporting the policy for money:

What I’m saying is that it’s wrong for a drug company, because the governor’s former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?

She got worse after the debate, on Fox and the “Today” show, when she said an unnamed mother told her that her daughter became “retarded” after receiving the vaccine.

Obviously there are no cases of kids becoming “retarded” after receiving the HPV vaccine. I am pretty sure Bachmann meant to reference the popular myth that vaccines (usually the common MMR vaccine) cause autism, but she got confused.

So she either repeated some hearsay some random person told her as factual at a nationally televised presidential debate and then twice more on television because she’s an imbecile, or she is cannily reaching out to the sizable number of paranoid parents with misguided concerns about vaccines. She has a very good ear for the sort of scary story people half-hear on the news or get the gist of third-hand from a friend — her first school board run was built on horrible tales of what the government was secretly doing to your children.

So, in that sense, this is completely unsurprising. Bachmann is an avowed enemy of science, running to represent a party that of late has decided that scientists are untrustworthy liberals. She has a long history of parroting conspiracy theories and believing and repeating anything she hears or reads that reflects her biases.

But this isn’t your typical right-wing conspiracy theory, about climate scientists plotting to destroy capitalism, or the U.N. using bike-share programs to institute a world government. This, this is a liberal conspiracy theory.

The “vaccines cause autism” lie is as liberal as conspiracy theories get. Crunchy coastal elites, panicky about the health of their babies in a world full of “toxins,” are the ones not getting their kids vaccinated these days, because of something they read on the Internet (or saw on “Oprah”). The story has traction in part because it’s anti-corporate. It insinuates collusion between the government and those damned pharmaceutical companies that are only out for profit. (The scientists, too, are in the pockets of big pharma!) This stuff doesn’t get much play on the right, because it doesn’t tap into the foundational myths of the conservative movement or play on their tribal fears. Right-wingers are more concerned about their babies being exposed to the mental toxins of liberal indoctrination than, say, mercury.

You Might Also Like

This is why Ace of Spades is mocking her. It’s why Rush Limbaugh said she “jumped the shark.” It’s why the Corner featured multiple posts strongly decrying Bachmann’s “dangerous flirtation with the anti-vaccine movement.” Conservatives oppose giving girls the HPV vaccine because they want premarital sex to have (potentially deadly) consequences, not because they think vaccines are inherently dangerous.

But vaccine panic is big. It’s specifically big with mothers. With Rick Perry sucking up Bachmann’s support, she needs to branch out a bit. This is her version of “moving to the center.” Michele Bachmann moderates her message by adding liberal conspiracy theories to her repertoire.

What is actually funny is that Perry only ever did the right thing in the first place for the wrong reasons. Everything Bachmann said about the Gardasil deal being an example of crony politics is totally true! A drug company hired Perry’s former chief of staff to lobby him to do something that would make them money. But sometimes the special interests looking to maximize their profit are maximizing their profit by doing something good. (Like, say, Internet companies fighting for net neutrality.) The lesson here is that Planned Parenthood should give Rick Perry a couple thousand dollars and watch him turn pro-choice.

So Bachmann, in going after Perry for coziness with industry lobbyists while also latching on to vaccine toxin panic, is now the Republican Party’s most liberal 2012 candidate. (She did already go after Obama on the African-American unemployment rate. Maybe she’s been a leftist this whole time!)

Alex Pareene
Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>