The Anti-Vax Movement And Tribeca Festival

The history of the anti-vax movement begins around 1998 with a paper published by The Lancet about an experiment conducted by Andrew Wakefield and others concerning the effectiveness of the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination.

The scientists studied several children with autism and other mental disabilities and came up with one common denominator – the MMR vaccine.

The conclusion recommended in their research: Vaccinate your children with separate measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines rather than the combined MMR vaccine.

When asked, Wakefield himself will tell you that he is not anti-vaccination, but a proponent of stricter regulatory oversight for vaccines. He believes that while children should be vaccinated against various diseases, vaccination schedules shouldn’t be considered a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

After Sunday Times’ Brian Deer purportedly found documents that implied Wakefield and others had manipulated data and mishandled the children being tested, Wakefield was stripped of his medical license.

Watch the Vaxxed Trailer 

Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe

Fast forward to 2016: The Wakefield-directed documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe slated to be shown at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival is suddenly withdrawn.

De Niro himself had this to say on the Tribeca Facebook page, regarding the reversal of his decision:

My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal… But after viewing it [with people] from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.

In a contrary statement to De Niro’s, Wakefield believes “the whole principle of filmmaking and showing films is that it’s up to the audience to judge whether, in their opinion, it advances science or not.”

 

Vaxxed alleges that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) committed fraud. The CDC knew that vaccines were causing autism and subsequently covered it up, lied to Congress, and silenced dissenters.

Cinema Libre, the film’s distributor, affirms that Vaxxed tackles “a major issue, which is the suppression of the medical data by a governmental agency that may very well be contributing to a significant health crisis.”

Wakefield: A Fraud And A Fear Monger?

Supporters of the film’s retraction had been questioning Wakefield’s credentials and the information he gathered from Dr. William Thompson, a CDC whistleblower.

Critics of the film accused Wakefield of “publish[ing] a fraudulent study, suggesting a link [between vaccines and autism].” Furthermore they referred to the film as“propaganda on a thoroughly debunked theory that has created a worldwide public health crisis.”

Lyn Niemann, a Media and Communications Consultant for Farmhaus Creative, and former collaborator with Tribeca, believes the withdrawal of the film was a responsible move because “the film was chosen for content alone, but then later rejected when it was revealed that sound documentary procedures might not have been practiced.” Though Niemann believes the vaccination discussion is important, she explains,  “Tribeca was protecting its brand by not showing a ‘documentary,’ which was later discovered to have been made by someone exposed for fraudulent science, to the extent that he lost his medical license.”

Wakefield: A Victim of Censorship and Conspiracy?

Wakefield’s defenders  came out swinging in no small part by distributing a petition to reinstate the film. It has amassed over 32,000 signatures at the time of this writing.

In an interview, Wakefield defended the attacks on his documentary’s fact-finding and vetting processes, stating:

Dr. Thompson provided to Brian Hooker, me, to his whistleblower lawyer, and Congressman Bill Posey, all of the documents relevant to the study. … These documents included all of the analyses… all of the drafts… all of the data outputs… all of the internal emails… all of the meeting minutes… and, of course, the [actual first paper the CDC published, but covered up itself.

But the producer of Vaxxed Del Bigtree has noted that Wakefield specifically studied the triple MMR vaccine rather than the separate measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines. Furthermore, the research team of the paper written by Wakefield, et. al. “admitted that more studies needed to be done before coming to a definitive conclusion.”

Another presumed reason the film was pulled – potential loss of sponsorship funding and/or pressure from the pharmaceutical industry. According to Wakefield, De Niro and Tribeca have now experienced some of the pressures he’s felt for the last 20 years.

“Out of the shadows emerge people who put the screws to De Niro. … [De Niro] has been taught a lesson. Don’t go up against the medical cartel,” writes investigative reporter Jon Rappoport.

Adds Paula Landry, a filmmaker with IdeaBlizzard Productions, “Pulling the film from the Tribeca Festival proved to be a ‘nod to big pharma and big media’,” as well as an attempt to “not offend current and potential future sponsors.”

And rather than airing the full 13-minute interview with Bigtree, ABC News reduced its interview with the film’s producer to a five-second snippet.

Understandably, Wakefield worries about the potential ramifications of having Vaxxed pulled from Tribeca. “You potentially harm or destroy the careers of everyone involved in the film, because they lose credibility.”

We may never know exactly what happened at Tribeca. Was De Niro hassled by big pharma and big media? Money does talk. Or was the film simply pulled because of the prevailing scientific viewpoints? There is a convincing case for that as well.

What we do know is that the debate surrounding vaccinations rages on and is once again rising up into the mainstream consciousness due to the controversial film’s omission from the Tribeca Film Festival.

Find out more about the film’s theatrical release.

VAXXED: the ABC News interview that Big Pharma didn’t want you to see:

 

Thomas Wallingford is a freelance writer, author, and former mental health counselor. He has written for several websites and publications, including 303 Magazine and HelpMeBro.com.

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