Shiva Ayyadurai: Antivaxxer for Senate - 2019-10-25
I try to stay away from politics, but it's a simple fact that government policy and science intermingle. If a political candidate builds a platform based denial of science then I think it's Team Science's responsibility to call them out on it. Furthermore, I think it's the responsibility of political parties to refuse to let candidates run on their ticket if they deny basic scientific facts. That brings me to Shiva Ayyadurai, who is seeking the GOP nomination for the 2020 United States Senate election in Massachusetts. Ayyadurai ran as an independent in 2018, and was able to bring in 90,000 votes. While that's only 3.4% of the popular vote, that's not nothing for an independent. Ayyadurai out-raised his Republican opponent by over 3 million dollars. The way I see it, he could have a realistic chance at winning the GOP nomination. The problem is that Shiva Ayyadurai is not only a blatant antivaxxer, but preaches science denial to others in his "lectures". He's able to fill entire yoga studios, because of course he would give his antivaxx lectures in yoga studios, with people who want to hear him preach his antivax nonsense. So it's worth at least taking him somewhat seriously. After watching his "lectures" on YouTube, I feel perfectly comfortable saying that he has no business being on any party's ticket and it's in the GOP's best interest to kick him to a curb.
Ayyadurai is an interesting antivaxxer, in that his lectures are uniquely boring. His lectures follow much of the same format as a college lecture. Most of the time I don't have to work very hard to find the places where science deniers say stuff that is whack. Often it's a matter of what to leave out, and this is where Ayyadurai differs. I usually watch these things just before going to bed, and I tried to get through his entire lecture for more than a week. My record was 20 minutes-in before zonking out. Actually, his lectures are less like a university and more like Unisom. He spouts the same ridiculous antivaxxer talking points as Del BigTree and Andrew Wakefield, he's just able to cover up his radical antivax viewpoints with his concerned-neutral-sounding-professor act.
His rhetorical strategy is pretty simple, and it's got a long history among antivaxxers; he just pulls it off better. And by "better" I mean "worse". First he uses his legitimate academic credentials, business background, and his claim that he invented email as reasons why he should be taken seriously. Then he attacks academia as being a hivemind that only allows certain types of thought. After all that he takes on the role of the science professor and breaks down slightly-below-MCAT-level biology for the audience who either never learned it or doesn't remember it. This is an important rhetorical tool because it makes his audience feel as though they understand the science behind vaccines and the immune system. That way they can then see both sides of the "debate" around vaccines as Ayyadurai explains it to them. Even though the vaccine "debate" only exists in the mind of the antivaxxers. That's when Ayyadurai can easily slip the most common antivax zombie lies in without them seeming really out of place to the unaware audience. So I'm going to show why Ayyadurai isn't credible, and doesn't understand academia or vaccines.
Shiva Ayyadurai is an antivaxxer