The latest from the world of antivax has gone a step beyond the infamous pox parties, in which people gather around person infected with chicken pox and purposely infect their children. The most recent--and illegal--move among this population is to send pox-infected items, such as lollipops, saliva, and clothing, through the mail. This is, as one person has noted on a Facebook page for people seeking to do it, a federal offense. It is bioterrorism of the most mindless, insane kind, one with no ill-intended target. One in which a plain-looking envelope could be a vector for illness across the landscape, and not only chicken pox. It seems that some people on the page also were seeking measles, mumps, and rubella by mail.
Who are these members of our society who are having the chicken pox parties, some of whom send pox-infected items through the mail? As I noted, they have a Facebook page. The page is now private, but the list of page members is still accessible, as are many of the Facebook profiles of the people on it. (ETA: The video report from CBS5 News available here shows some actual shots of the Facebook page. What they say is astonishing. They also interview women who are guilty of having done this).
Who are they? This small, self-selected population of extremists offers an excellent opportunity to try to figure that out. There are
But the remainder are women. First, the group has Admins. They are three women, Dani, whose work involves photographing children; Evangeline, who appears to have scrubbed her Facebook profile; and Caitlin, a waitress at a diner in Illinois. Information about them is easy to find, as was their admin status for this page.
Then there are the page members. Angel is a nursing student. Elizabeth is an intactivist. Adelene is a member of the antivax Canary Party. Some are Christian Republicans, some are libertarians. Some are avowed atheists, others crunchy granola moms, at least one is a pagan. Only a handful of them appear to be familiar with Facebook privacy settings to some extent--although even their walls are still available--and there is still Google of course, which allowed me to determine that Gwendolyn may be a mental health advocate and poet or a writer and editor. Some like--as in Like--Pizza Hut. Many are into baby wearing and co-sleeping. Most of these women appear to be married to men, and at least one is married to a woman.
Stacie is a nanny. Carolyn specializes in birth photography. Sharalyn was an RN but now works at a publisher. Katie is a breastfeeding activist. Elizabeth and Tammy are pharmacy techs. Jennifer is a Navy wife who does not like vaccinations but is "pro-foreskin." Caitlin is a waitress. Melissa works at a hotel/resort. Monica works at a travel center. Michelle is a math teacher.
They are from all over the United States--Kansas, Wisconsin, California, Delaware, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Pennsylvania.
It's a hugely disparate group in terms of standard measures of belief and behavior, these people who "like" the idea of sending contagion through the U.S. mail. Many of them work in public-contact professions, serving food, administering medications and healthcare. Some work directly with families of small children. They solicit or are interested in soliciting an infectious agent through the mail or in purposely exposing themselves and their children to chicken pox, and they work in healthcare, with the public, in teaching, with children. This is disgraceful and unethical...and illegal.
What is their demographic? Almost all appear to be mothers of young children. Very few list education beyond high school on their Facebook pages. They almost all appear to be non-Hispanic Caucasian, as the U.S. Census would say. Young, white, female, high-school education, mothers of young children. I can't speak specifically to socioeconomic status, as Facebook doesn't elicit that information, but most seem to fall into the middle class.
Not one of them, by inference, seems to have considered the repercussions of this behavior. Why would they? They cannot or refuse to grasp or care about the repercussions--personal and societal--of choosing not to vaccinate, so why would they care if their contagion-packed envelope of pox fell into the wrong hands, were misdelivered and opened by someone other than the intended recipient, shed virus particles all over other people's mail?
The level of insouciance here as a trump to common sense, the willingness to endanger total strangers for the sake of a self-righteous and selfish stance...these factors cross religion, politics, and profession for these women. This combination of traits, something I've thought of as the Me! Mine! Mommy! phenotype, appears to be the common thread among them, the trait that makes them susceptible to and willing to believe the antivax propaganda that crusaders and snake oil peddlers are selling.
So, does this Facebook group represent the demographic of the antivax movement? White, young, middle-class mothers with a high-school education, an overdeveloped sense of self righteousness and the importance of Self, and an underdeveloped common sense or community sense? Take out "middle class," and I've just described the queen of the movement, Jenny McCarthy. Do they see themselves in her? And if it's true, what--if anything--can we do with that information?
ETA: Thanks to a commenter below, I bethought me to look at Facebook and around the Web for more information and links about pox parties. Here's a sampling: