A Working Theory About Why D-List Celebrities Become Anti-Vaccination Nuts

by evanmcmurry

The Colonel Drew Nilsen raises an interesting question with regards to Rob Schneider’s dabbling in the anti-vaccination movement: what is it about the anti-vaccination crusade that so reliably draws D-list celebrities?

I can hazard a guess on this. When was the last time you heard about Rob Schneider? Thought so. Seth Mnookin, the one-man anti-anti-vaccine crusader, points out that Schneider’s new show got a total of one review, which called it the worst thing on TV. You, like me, probably didn’t even know it existed. You do now.

Ditto Jenny McCarthy, who is inarguably more successful as an anti-vaccine semi-philanthropist than she ever was as an actress or model. If it weren’t for her role disseminating anti-vaccination theories, the only time we’d hear about JM is when she accidentally sends nude photos of herself to her son’s dentist.

This is the prime advantage of fringe theories,like “vaccinations cause autism”: they have nowhere to go but up. If anti-vaccine crusaders reach 100 people and convince 1, they don’t see that as a 99% failure: they see it instead as one person more who believes them than did before. That’s a victory. Rob Schneider’s rant may be ubiquitously criticized, but if he reaches only 10 people who change their minds about vaccinations, he wins. Sure enough, despite the fact that the anti-vaccine movement has been pilloried for years now, it’s made steady gains in the public consciousness, because its threshold for victory is so low that it can count as growth what a mainstream movement would see as stagnation.

Likewise, Rob Schneider need only reach a few people to reassert his place in the popular consciousness. He doesn’t have to be Ryan Gosling, he just needs to be mentioned a couple times a month, and he becomes a viable public figure again, certainly enough that he’ll start getting invites and such. All of a sudden, you’ll have been “hearing about Rob Schneider a lot lately”; most people won’t even know why.

I’m not saying Schneider is joining the anti-vaccine movement as a career move; I’m saying that to the extent that the goals of Rob Schneider and the goals of the anti-vaccine movement—i.e., incremental exposure—are coincident, the two have nothing to lose by combining forces.