No, Jill Stein, WiFi Isn't Cooking Our Children's Brainzzzz
Greetings once more, dear readers! It's that time of the week for the Snake Oil Bulletin!
This week we continue our ongoing theme of examining the anti-science beliefs of the various frontrunners and also-rans of this three-ring election cycle. Originally we were planning to look at Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and his beliefs on mandatory vaccines (spoiler: he no like), but Green Party Jill Stein made the ill-advised decision speak into a microphone again, and as it was last time, the result was terrible for science.
Did we mention that Jill Stein is scared of thimerosal and believes WiFi is dangerous?
Last week, we discussed Jill Stein's deeply troubling ideas about science, and her seeming commitment to pandering to the anti-vaccine movement despite her legitimate doctor qualifications. Why, Jill Stein, whyyyyyyy? You had almost three decades as a distinguished physician and researcher under your belt. By qualifications alone you should be the most scientifically literate person on the national scene, but at this point you're one debate tangent away from going Full Kucinich. Your party platform calls for national recognition of homeopathy, naturopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine, you gave an interview in the Washington Post that copied language almost word-for-word from Jenny McCarthy. What is happening to you, Jill? Next you're going to tell us that thimerosal in vaccines is a health risk and OH WAIT YOU DID THAT.
Did we forget to mention that thimerosal thingy last week? The second part of Jill Stein's rant in the Washington Post was a parade of anti-vax dogwhistles that we somehow neglected. Let's digest this juicy red meat, shall we?
As a medical doctor, there was a time where I looked very closely at those issues, and not all those issues were completely resolved... There were concerns among physicians about what the vaccination schedule meant, the toxic substances like mercury which used to be rampant in vaccines. There were real questions that needed to be addressed. I think some of them at least have been addressed. I don’t know if all of them have been addressed.
This shit again? It never freaking ends.
Thing the first, spacing out your baby's vaccine schedule is vaccine-denial-lite. It has no demonstrated benefit to baby's health, and in fact puts your child at greater risk of infection. The spaced out vaccine schedule is a well-known ploy among anti-vaxxers to delay their baby's shots over and over in the hopes of wearing down the pediatrician's patience and getting around school requirements. The concept was pioneered by anti-vaccine not-a-researcher (shock) Dr. Robert Sears, a man who admits that he completely made-up his "alternative schedule" out of thin air, so fuck that noise.
Thing the second, thimerosal is the mercury that anti-vaxxers obsess over and to which Jill Stein is alluding. Anti-vaccine hysteria over the substance led to its almost complete phasing out as a vaccine preservative in the 1990s, a decision that the FDA later ruled had no basis in science but was solely due to public hysteria. Even today, anti-vaxxers whinge about mercury in vaccines, completely oblivious to the fact that there is more than one kind of mercury, and even more oblivious to the fact that they ingest more mercury in a tuna sandwich than in multiple doses of vaccines.
Once again, we find Stein reading directly from the anti-vaccine playbook. She may not be on the team, but it's mighty irritating that she keeps stealing their plays.
We could dismiss Stein's anti-vaccine and anti-science pandering as simply a cynical ploy to attract voters -- strangely enough we'd be more comfortable with that, in fact. The Green Party has never had a great base from which to pull votes, and branching out to the fringier elements of your movement has done wonders for the Republicans, so why not the Greens? So long as Stein didn't actually believe the rhetoric she's using, we would have no reason to think she'd make bad policy once she got into office.
Yet it's REALLY hard for us to believe that Stein is a skeptical cynic when, not even a few days after we posted our last Bulletin, she whirled around and claimed that WiFi is hazardous to children.
Stein starts off the talk with a rant about the dagnab kids spending too much time in front of the teevee, a sentiment which would not be out of place coming from your neighborhood's resident Ole Crotchety. "Git off m'lawn!" Ole Crotchety would say, "An' take yer Zunes 'n yer Bings 'n yer Atari Jaguars witcha! [hock, p'ting]"
We could dismiss this as your standard issue old fart complaining about the technos if it weren't for Stein's response to a follow-up question in which an audience member asked her "What about the wireless?" Quoth Stein:
We should not be subjecting kids’ brains especially to that. And, you know, we don’t follow that issue in this country, but in Europe where they do, they have good precautions around wireless, maybe not good enough, because it’s very hard to study this stuff. We make guinea pigs out of whole populations and then we discover how many die. And this is like the paradigm for how public health works in this country and it’s outrageous, you know.
W-wha? Somehow Stein links this to corporate influence of regulatory agencies and pharmaceuticals and THE MONSANTO and we really lost her train of thought at this point.
This anti-WiFi What The Fuckery took place at a town hall happily trumpeted by a group called Safe Tech for Schools, a fringe group whose web presence can't go two sentences without decrying the dangers of microwave radiation. STFS also believes that cell phones cause brain cancer (they don't), but their main focus seems to be on WiFi poisoning, the fictitious disease we've discussed before. All available research on the matter points to the reality that WiFi has no effects on people, even people who claim to be sensitive to EMFs. People who claim this "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" have not been able to back up their symptoms in lab tests. In fact, the people who claim to suffer from this condition can't even detect when EMFs are present. It's a made-up disease, and its propagation as a real thing led to one mother denying her daughter's very obvious diabetes and caused her to blame WiFi for her daughter's suicide.
The fact is that WiFi can't hurt you. Dan Broadbent from A Science Enthusiast breaks down why it is that non-ionizing radiation like microwaves can't do much more than heat your Hot Pocket. Is your child's brain a Hot Pocket? No. Are you putting your baby in the microwave oven? We would hope no but you do you, girlfriend. (Do not do you.) Assuming the answer is no, radiation from WiFi routers is not hurting you.
Stein knows the science on this issue. She can't NOT. The Green's entire outreach program is centered on a robust social media campaign that could not exist without WiFi. Either Stein believes that she is damaging her brain and her supporters' brains, or she is once again pandering to an anti-science fringe in a quest to come across as crazy as Donald Trump, the King Shit of the Pseudoscience Fuck Mountain.
If Stein honestly believes that WiFi is dangerous, we believe she is nuts. If she doesn't believe but is pretending to in order to court lunatic votes, we believe she is cynical. Neither one bodes well for science.