Film festivals don't usually generate a lot of controversy, at least not outside of the entertainment pages. But this year, one entrant in the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York generated a firestorm.
The film in question is a documentary called "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe." It's a scathing indictment of the vaccine industry. It exposes fraud and corruption at the very highest levels of our so-called public health system — the CDC.
It was directed by Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who first suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. It contains phone conversations with a CDC scientist turned whistleblower describing rampant fraud and a full-on coverup. And the story of its short career as a Tribeca candidate shows the reach of Big Pharma's tentacles and the length it will go to in order to silence dissent.
And now for full disclosure on my part…
At the risk of alienating some of you, I have to say that in the past I've had very mixed emotions on the topic of vaccines — at least some of them.
I firmly believe that today's vaccine industry is nothing more than a moneymaking scheme. I believe that Big Pharma has no regard for our health or the harm their products, especially vaccines, may cause. I find the "vaccine for every disease" push terrifying, particularly when it's backed up by legal mandates. And the calls for those who don't vaccinate to actually be punished frighten me even more.
On the other hand, I had parents who grew up when polio and diphtheria were very real and threatening diseases. I'm inclined to think that vaccination for the most dangerous and deadly diseases isn't necessarily a bad thing. However I don't believe that any of us should be compelled by law to subject ourselves or our children to vaccines of any kind. And I believe that some of the vaccines we're currently using are much more dangerous than the risk of the diseases they're supposed to prevent.
The story of Dr. Wakefield, his documentary, and of the whistleblower you never heard of, chills me to the bone.
The documentary Big Pharma doesn't want you to see
"The really sad thing is the amount of doctors I've spoken to who say to me, 'Del, I know that vaccines are causing autism but I won't say it on camera because the pharmaceutical industry will destroy my career just like they did to Andy Wakefield.'"
– Del Bigtree, Producer of "Vaxxed: From Coverup to Catastrophe"
In a nutshell, the film says that there is a very real link between autism and the MMR vaccine. It further alleges that the CDC is very aware of this link and is covering it up. That the CDC has redacted data and fudged the numbers to make the vaccine look much safer than it is. This is something that many of us have long suspected.
What's shocking about this documentary is that the person making these allegations isn't the parent of an autistic child. He's not an anti-vaccine activist. He's not anyone you'd expect to make this type of claim. Instead he's a senior CDC scientist. And he tells the chilling story of how he and other researchers knowingly and willingly falsified the data on the definitive study used to "debunk" the vaccine-autism connection — that they simply threw away data which showed the MMR vaccine can and does cause autism.
He tells us that CDC policy is that they would never, ever "come down on the side that vaccines cause autism," and were willing to go to any lengths to bury the connection.
This, to me, is truly frightening. Dr. Andrew Wakefield proposed the connection back in the 90's. He had the research to back it up. He even showed why it happened. And he didn't even suggest that we stop vaccinating — instead, he felt that we should unbundle the measles shot from the MMR vaccine and develop a safer measles immunization.
What happened? His career was systematically destroyed. Years later, the eleven other authors of his study reneged. His research was called into question. He lost his medical license. He left his home country because of the pressure. And today, though he still works tirelessly for the cause of autism, he's a pariah in the medical world.
Behold the power of Big Pharma.
Today we have a senior CDC scientist risking the same fate. He's here to tell us that not only was Dr. Wakefield right, the situation is even worse than he imagined. Because the CDC, which should be the ultimate guardian of public health, is complicit.
His name is Dr. William Thompson. He came forward with his allegations back in 2014, but you've probably never heard of him. He testified before Congress last summer, but you probably didn't hear about that either. That's because the mainstream media buried his story. The few stories that did appear tied to paint him as a crank — without success.
His message is real, and it's not one that Big Pharma wants us to hear. That's why it was so shocking when it was announced that "Vaxxed" would debut at the Tribeca festival. As it turns out, the inclusion of "Vaxxed" was due to the influence of film icon Robert De Niro, one of the cofounders of the festival. Mr. De Niro has an autistic child, and said he hoped that the documentary would spur discussion of the issue.
Boy did it ever.
Big Pharma even threatened Robert De Niro?
With the announcement of the screening, the internet exploded with outrage. Mainstream news sites raked up the original controversy about Dr. Wakefield, who directed the film.
They attacked the reputation of the middleman whom the whistleblower was talking to — and completely ignored the information he was presenting. And over and over, they kept repeating that the MMR/autism link had been debunked, even as a whistleblower was telling them the study was faked.
Website comment sections were filled with vitriol from pro-vaccine readers, the like of which hasn't been seen since the Disneyland measles "epidemic." Four days before it was due to be shown, Robert De Niro announced that he'd changed his mind. He didn't think "Vaxxed" would promote discussion after all. The film was being pulled from the festival.
That's some great damage control from Big Pharma.
Unfortunately for them, it seems to have backfired. Rather than being seen only at the festival, "Vaxxed" now gets a theatrical release. It's a limited release, but it still means it will be seen by a much larger audience than it would have at Tribeca. And it has spurred discussion — discussion which might never have happened if it's premier hadn't been so controversial.
Want to see exactly what's being covered up?
You can see "Vaxxed" right now at the Angelika Film Center in New York. The filmmakers are hoping for nation-wide showings eventually, followed by a DVD version. You can sign up for alerts on the official website to find out when it will be showing in your area. Meanwhile, we'll just have to wait.