Book review: Escaping the Rabbit Hole

Merriam-Webster defines conspiracy theory as “a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators”. They also define denial as “refusal to admit the truth or reality of something”. Conspiracy theorists have an upper hand as the ideas they submit are difficult for a layman to disprove. They do a great job of throwing a monkey wrench of confusion into topics to feed their ignorance, arrogance, and desire to get views on their inane YouTube videos.

An insidious and utterly baseless conspiracy theory that both general society and the Jewish community is struggling with is anti-vaccination. The preposterous notion that vaccinations are the cause of autism was championed by a doctor, who has since been striped of his license due to professional maleficence.

In Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect (Skyhorse Publishing 978-1510735804), science writer and investigator Mick West has written a gem of a book that shows the reader how do deal with conspiracy theorists.

West notes that these conspiracy theories are a significant problem. They hurt individuals by affecting their life choices, including money, health, and social interactions. Nothing manifests that more than the current trend of anti-vaccinations proponents spreading their misrepresentations through the Jewish community.

The conspiracy theories West details are chemtrails, 9/11, false flags, and flat earth. While the book doesn’t discuss vaccinations, the techniques and strategies he explains are the same for the other theories detailed.

Part one of the book details many of his effective debunking techniques, while part two provides an in-depth response to the 4 conspiracy theories.

For many conspiracy theories, there’s no threat to life per se. Take the notion of a flat earth, its proponents may be scientifically mistaken, but since they are not civil engineers, no one is getting hurt.

Contrast that with those who advocate against vaccinations. Vaccines are perhaps the greatest public health discovery in history. Countless lives have been saved, and immeasurable people saved from lives of disability. Ask millennials their thoughts on iron lung, and they’ll think it’s a rock group. The polio vaccine made paralyzed kids and iron lungs a sad distant memories of the past.

The science and efficacy of vaccinations has been proven well beyond a reasonable doubt. The anti-vaccination cabal are therefore a most serious danger to themselves and others, including infants, elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Their utter ignorance of science and medicine are only eclipsed by their arrogance and closemindedness in discussing the topic with those who actually have deep expertise in the areas.

As to vaccinations, it’s important that people read a book like this to know how to defend themselves against the danger and ignorance of the anti-vaccination proponents. The anti-vaccination cabal are masters at making slick, albeit scientifically unsound YouTube videos, in addition to misrepresenting scientific data, spreading falsehood, and much more. They will often use memes with bad data, or silly slogans to make their point.

Anti-vaccination proponents use vaccinations as a convenient way to explain away issues such as autism and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and more. The medical community is struggling to find answers to these maladies, and blaming them on vaccinations is an overly simplistic, and in fact a rather cruel method to answer highly complex medical maladies.

Leading poskim such as Rabbi Asher Weiss have been quite vocal that vaccinations are required. Rabbi J. David Bleich makes it eminently clear when he writes that vaccinations of one’s children is unquestionably a parental responsibility.

It’s 2019 and that the anti-vaccination proponents are putting lives at risk is utterly disgraceful. The fact that people in our community not only believe that vaccinations are inherently harmful, but actively promote non-vaccination is reprehensible. The ridiculousness of the anti-vaccination movement must be counteracted. In Escaping the Rabbit Hole, you can find out how.

About the Author
Senior information security and risk management professional. I speak at industry conferences, and write on information security, social media, privacy and technology. My book reviews are on information security, privacy, technology, and risk management. Here for Times of Israel, book reviews on religion and philosophy.
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