How Anti-Vaccination Movements Pull Parents In
When Daiva and Eva were starting their investigation into activism against measles vaccination, another team of journalists also set off to explore this movement in other parts of Europe. Anna Nordbeck and Malin Olofsson started investigating the Scandinavian anti-vaccination movement in 2019, and this led the team all the way to the US, where influential leaders of the movement create movies, tour the country, and teach similar movements abroad about pulling parents in and drawing them into the world of conspiracies. The Inoculation’s team called Malin Olofsson to hear more about the Swedish team’s findings.
The Vaccinkrigarna documentary is available from SVT in Swedish.
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Malin Oloffson 0:08
Spider webs. It's not like an organisation with typical boss in heroes, stuff like that. And that's why it's hard to investigate is spreading like all over and what we could see being inside and movement was really talked to them about the strategies because they have very clear strategies, how to reach people how to talk to them, not push parents too hard, and from the start, just find a common topic, and then they slowly move them into this
Eva Schaper 0:46
Hi, welcome to the inoculation. My name is Eva Schaper, and today we're going to try and find out how parents go from using their right to be informed about their children's health to becoming anti vaxxers.
Daiva Repeckaite 0:59
Hi, I'm Daiva Repeckaite. And we just heard from Malin Olofsson, who spent months undercover reporting on the anti vaccination movement for a TV channel in Sweden. The documentary is currently not available outside of Sweden. So we thought we'll bring you a summary from Marlin herself, as it was such an outstanding project.
Eva Schaper 1:20
Yes, how long was Molly undercover it was quite a long time, wasn't it?
Daiva Repeckaite 1:25
It was over one year.
Eva Schaper 1:27
And what I also thought was especially interesting about her project was that Marlin started her investigation before Corona hit. So she has a lot of insight on how let's just call them more traditional anti Vax groups are linked to anti Corona anti vaxxers. Their reporting also took them to the United States, where they interviewed a number of leading figures in the US anti vaccine. We're not naming any of these figures, or any of these false theories to avoid spreading them any
Daiva Repeckaite 2:02
further. But we can say that some of them are pretty famous. Yes, I
Eva Schaper 2:06
think that's true.
Daiva Repeckaite 2:07
We'll drop a link in the show notes. And if you speak Swedish, you can check out the documentary. It's called vaccine three, Ghana,
Eva Schaper 2:14
did they just focus on COVID? vaccination?
Daiva Repeckaite 2:17
No, just like us, they started with measles.
Eva Schaper 2:20
So here's Malin, on how it all began.
Malin Oloffson 2:23
It all started with that I moved to Berlin with a two week old baby and there was an outbreak of measles. And I couldn't vaccinate him until he was older. I was scared. And I was starting to look around and see that people started to protest against vaccines. And this had, they didn't vaccinate the kid. And that made me wonder what is going on? What is this movement about?
Daiva Repeckaite 2:48
Malins observation came at a time when measles a childhood illness that seemed under control was coming roaring back
Malin Oloffson 2:55
at the same time, we also had a journalistic discussion with the Swedish television, because of we saw that the health organisation world health or the organisation saying that it's one of the top 10 threats against human health. So these two combined, we decided to look at how, what is going on in Sweden? Is it moving there as well is Does it even exist? I mean, we still have a high vaccination rate. This was way before the pandemic. And so we this was all about the child illnesses and the vaccinations and the child programme.
Daiva Repeckaite 3:36
So Malin and the Swedish broadcaster did some research before they started their investigation,
Malin Oloffson 3:42
when we decided we really want to look deeper into it, we did a lot of online research. And to figure out how do these people talk? Where are they and who are they and who are the main people there? And what do the main people say? And then when we did that mapping, we understood that they're super sceptical against journalists. And we didn't want to go undercover infiltrate from the very start, we, you have to have very strong reasons as a journalist to do that. So it was a big discussion, how we will do it, before we decided that we see that it's no other options. If we want to do this really good. And to get to know them and not only speak about them, we really want to understand their motivation and what is driving them and their strategies and how do they work? And why are they against vaccines? Because these people are against all vaccines, not like so today, they're against the vaccine against COVID-19 Also, of course, so then we decided we have to go undercover. And so then we had to create fake profiles. files, these social media groups, especially Facebook, we saw they were super active there. That time now they've been moving a little bit to different ones when Facebook having some rules. And then we also want to meet them in person. So we have to make fake profiles and realised as well. So that's how we started. And then we started to contact. The main people that we saw we saw especially it was the lady, we are speaking lady living in, in Finland. And she, she's a stay at home mom with five kids. And she is a very strong anti Vaxxer. And she is the person that everyone refers to when it comes to the facts. And so she's had lectures, and her videos are everywhere. And if you contact a group that Facebook, let's say, then very quickly, you got appointed to listen to her lectures. So we have she has a lot of power in the Scandinavian movement, I should say.
Eva Schaper 6:12
The Swedish team also reached out to some of the biggest names in the US American antivax movement. And remember, we're still talking about pre COVID times Malin looked at how the US anti Vax movement and their big selling films found an audience in Sweden.
Malin Oloffson 6:29
And there's a lot of parents stock talking about how their kids got ill from vaccines, even if there is no initial evidence about this. This is a movement now that backs this like a bust. You're touring around the show, showing the film's people coming to their it's like a really strong community with anti Vaxxer parents. So we started to understand that they have so much influence on the Swedish arena for anti vaccination information. So we contacted them as well.
Daiva Repeckaite 7:10
And as Malin and her team progressed in their reporting, they found that the Scandinavian anti Vax movement, and the lead figure, a person she refers to, as Linda, in the interview, rely on emotional messages to win over worried parents.
Malin Oloffson 7:25
These things that there's a lot of parents in there is very strong, they use a lot of emotions. I mean, their facts are pretty weak, but they can make them look very scientifical. But if you start to really investigate them, you see that it's not science behind it's our anti vaxxers Screw reports or something like that, or parents own reporting, and they use the makes nice graphs and so on. But the strongest way of communicating and reaching people is to use emotional arguments like you don't want your kid to get hurt. Look at look at all these kids here. And do you want your kid to be ill? Like this kids, and okay, they should not vaccinate and parents tends to listen to other parents. I mean, I've been in lectures with the this Linda Collison that we're showing in the film, and the other parents in this audience telling me like, I really trust Linda so much, because she's a mom, she's not a doctor, she's a mom, and she wants the very best for her own kids and for my kids. And that's quite interesting how you actually can trust just a pair of parents more than a doctor in this case. And but they use these things, and they're very warm. And a lot of people are looking for an answer what, as I said, What's wrong with my kid? And then there's always a very simple answer in the anti Vax movement is the vaccine, you should be angry at the pharmaceutical companies. And I totally understand that I mean, if you if your kid is having a hard time and yourself or having a hard time, it's nice to have something to be angry at. If you haven't got an answer from the healthcare or the hospitals, or there is some kind of like some parents that were their kids and died when they were babies, you know, this sudden death. And there's the science a little bit vague there. We don't really know why babies can die like that when they're so small. And then here's the answer. And then you can get all your frustration and anger and to work something and that helps people I see this very hard situations because their pain, their grief and this or that's real, you know, and that's all problem when it comes to this because there's so hard to criticise, you're not allowed in this movement, even if you're within it, you're not allowed to ask critical questions at all. Because it seems like if you do that, it seems like you're actually criticising people's pain somehow and their grief.
Eva Schaper 10:19
Marlin also told us that members of the US anti Vax groups, taught Swedish groups how to communicate their message
Malin Oloffson 10:27
in the US they had person was working with it, how to communicate and she, she knows all those things. She specialised in that in the movement. And then she's spreading that to other people how to communicate and how to you so it's, it's, it's very well build organisation in that way.
Daiva Repeckaite 10:51
The corona pandemic is pushing more people to listen to Unbeliev anti Vax groups. Here's what Marlin told us,
Malin Oloffson 10:58
many more people now being against this vaccine against COVID-19. And different versions of it. But those that were against the child vaccines are absolutely against this vaccine as well. So their movement is growing a lot. And they're saying that themselves because we were pretty much getting out of the infiltration and in the editing phase, and when pandemic really broke out, but we still had time to interview them about it. And there was a big denial that it even existed, it was this Bill Gates conspiracy, that we're all going to get shipped with the vaccine and corona doesn't exist. And it's a way I mean, it's a lot of conspiracy theories that people will be controlled somehow this is a disease or a way of trying to control people. So they're absolutely against this vaccine as well. And there, they also have a long background. So now when they get more and more people in it, they can train them how to work and how to communicate and how to. So they are in the middle of this new anti vaxxers that we see.
Eva Schaper 12:20
And we've also seen time and time again, how believing in anti Vax theories can lead people to believe in other conspiracy theories,
Malin Oloffson 12:29
as we saw in the investigation with Jade was like how, and this Finnish Swedish person how she was actually pulling people into our kind of conspiracy theories through the anti vaccine questions. So parents meeting her only about what should I do with my kid bill, after a while getting to a lot of other questions like, how did the Holocaust actually happened, and who is controlling the world New World Order, the Jews are controlling everything, and they want to make us ill through vaccines. So we are easier to control, and then even kill us like that. And those questions, and also the bank systems and 5g and all those things that requite familiar with today, because of the anti vaccine movement due to the pandemic. She was already back then also into she said, If I only open one door to the parents, they will slowly open so many other doors and get this other information. But I feel like she's not telling this to everyone her way of looking at the Holocaust, for example. So for us, it was important to show who she is to all these parents listening to her. So they should be a little bit critical because she doesn't believe in any science.
Daiva Repeckaite 14:05
Going into cover allowed Malin to see how the movement pulls people in,
Malin Oloffson 14:10
and we will interchange things. But we had one set of Open Camera we said it was like vaccine critical movie we're going to do. And then on the other hand, I also realised that when she that huge camera was off, she started to have another conversation with me, because I was just alone and pretend pretending to want to know what to do with my kid. And I was pregnant at the time and so on. And I said I'm moving from Berlin to Sweden, which was true. And in Berlin it's so much more open I can speak and I can find out a parents in Sweden is much more difficult. How should I prepare myself for my move and still be able to have this critical views of of vaccinations? That was my role? So contacted that up front person then in, in Scandinavia. And then. So then we said that we're going to film this. We're seeing critical movie about the moment me. So I could meet all these anti vaxxers. That's how we got a real camera in there. So, but then she was having this other side conversation. So I started to have a hidden camera. And that was exactly what happened. She started to have very racist opinions. And she was believing in this new world order where the Jews are controlling the world. And that whole because she was sceptical how the Holocaust was really happened and so on. She moved, but she moved from the other side was in Germany, I met some like races or like Nazi background, people who actually move from there to anti Vax, and but she moved from anti Vax to there. And now she was saying to me, like, yeah, it doesn't really matter. If you open the door, she came to this point, there was just, I just want to open the door like it can be an anti Vaxxer he can be the bank system you can be 5g can be and the Holocaust, and then you just open there are 911, she said, and then you will get all the other things. I think through the anti Vax movement, she met a lot of conspiracy theorists. And then she started to get deeper and deeper into that. And now she's doing the same to other parents. She wants to open the anti Vaxxer door. But then she wants them to say that you can open more doors.
Eva Schaper 16:38
This documentary was eye opening for a number of viewers.
Malin Oloffson 16:41
Yeah, that's for some of the response because it's like thank you for showing us what they are actually talking about behind the when they're on the stage talking about vaccine and showing us that. And they don't believe in science at all. I mean, in Linda's case, she thought it was good if they're not in deception and as all so for her it's very easy to be against vaccines, because she doesn't even read the reports and saying that they work or anything because they're just correct, she say so. And that's also coming back to what we see now it feels like the end to be against vaccines. Now during the pandemic is like an identity thing also, like, this is me and don't I don't believe in that. And we have a community the community feeling is quite important, I think, and that you feel you have a common thread somehow and then you come together. And then we also already then 2019 When we started how broad this group is how homoeopathic people go together with some kind of people having interest or think that the Nasus could have done something right. And this is quite interesting. And I also been to meetings where find the super kind parents like being so scared about the kids like, I want this very best for them and living supernatural and also like no plastic nothing. And then they listen to a hardcore person denying in Germany, for example, who is a right wing populist, but they don't know, because I hadn't really searched this person is four. So it's quite interesting. We have to be more critical about the information we get, I think.
Eva Schaper 18:45
But Malin also found important difference between, let's say classical, anti vaxxers and anti Corona demonstrations.
Malin Oloffson 18:53
Also, when it's grownups now taking a stand against the shots, it's a different thing than parents being scared for the vaccine the babies because parents are very vulnerable in that situation, and they're easily easy to convince but I think today when the grownups are making this decision is something about something else. Especially, I mean, there's a lot of people I think not taking the vaccine not being doing a big fuss about it is just their personal choice. And then those people are that are out loud and gathering in groups of protesting there because I think those people that I know that hadn't taken the the shop for COVID-19 They they are not against child vaccines, so they're not like anti vaxxers like that. I'm just sceptical against this one.
Daiva Repeckaite 19:57
Also, Molly never saw physical violence.
Eva Schaper 20:00
When you were talking about the the childhood vaccine anti vaxxers was the same use of violence that we see within the COVID demonstrations I've
Malin Oloffson 20:10
no, it's not like it's like that it's more emotional. You convince parents by emotions I think you scare away parents by being violent. So this is different people are different strategies for most things.
Daiva Repeckaite 20:27
Wow, this was really super interesting. Yeah, there
Eva Schaper 20:29
was a lot of things that we had read about but listening to somebody talk about it who experienced these things firsthand was something completely different. So but now that you saw the movie and you speak Swedish can other people outside of Sweden watch it
Daiva Repeckaite 20:42
at the moment? It's not available internationally
Eva Schaper 20:54
you've been listening to The Inoculation podcast about vaccine disinformation and society with me, Eva Schaper
Daiva Repeckaite 21:01
and me diabetic educator. Our ongoing investigation is supported by IG for you stay in touch with us by subscribing to our newsletter. You can find the link on www the inoculation.com.
Eva Schaper 21:13
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai