Mike Stenhouse has a talent for finding any cause he can to make himself look important, most recently band-wagoning onto the 38 Studios debacle, and is the Gomer Pyle of the Rhode Island right wing. Whenever I see the Stenhouse name appear in the headlines, I know to lower my expectations by an average of .190 and pull out the tin foil hat.
For those of you just tuning in, Stenhouse has a long record in trafficking in racism, sexism, and just plain stupid. He is the champion of astro-turfed fake populism that promotes a rich man’s agenda, with private funders who talk a big game but are not brave enough to show their faces in public, leaving us instead to deal with this pompous has-been and a select few frothing-at-the-mouth Know-Nothings who are so revved up they should not be allowed near sharp objects, along with a great majority of good-intentioned people who sadly do not realize they have been played by a con man.
There was the time that he claimed HUD was Stalinism, a lunatic bit that was really about making sure those brown people from Spanish are not allowed to afford decent living conditions. Or the time he said Rhode Island had outlawed light bulbs, which really was about him denying climate change. In moments of desperation when I loose hope, I have to simply remind myself that Mike Stenhouse exists and moronic statements fall from his mouth like sand in an hourglass.
Now we have Mike out on the trail again, promoting a notion that is as stupefying as it is dangerous. Apparently Mr. Swing-and-a-Miss is revving up parents by trying to encourage them to not get the HPV vaccination for their kids, insisting that inoculation against cancer-causing genital warts will bring about all sorts of huge side effects and infringes on religious/personal autonomy. Of course, when you ask Mr. Stenhouse about that ultimate issue of medical freedom, abortion, he has no problem signing his name to petitions calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Apparently Mike wants government so small it can fit inside a woman’s tumor-encrusted cervix. That also would mean that someone affiliated with his whacked-out agenda is getting some action, but I digress.
Is there something wrong with the HPV vaccine? The CDC says 8 percent or fewer people who are vaccinated with Gardasil experience side effects. By contrast, the American Cancer Society says that 4,100 women will die from cervical cancer in 2015 out of the estimated 12,900 diagnosed with it. Likewise, HPV is one of the most common-occuring STIs known to medicine. Not being a woman, I am personally unclear about how it would feel to have tumors growing on that particular part of my anatomy, but I highly doubt it is like walking in a quiet green meadow (a space akin perhaps to outfield when Mr. Stenhouse takes the plate).
The anti-vaccine crowd has existed for some time now on the fringes of the internet, populated by hoaxers, hucksters, and a Kennedy. Yes, they are the gift that just keeps on giving, for it was that doofus Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. that began the whole idiocy about children’s booster shots causing autism with an over-wrought and under-thought article for Rolling Stone (they don’t, and the original doctor that proposed that theory was later stripped of his medical license in the UK). How a washed-up and perpetually silly GOP prima donna ended up in the same clique as the one of the Cape Cod Commissars is anyone’s guess, but it becomes obvious as the days go by that Kennedy and Stenhouse need the attention or they might be forced to do the unthinkable and get real jobs.
The fact I even have to write about this topic is probably leaving my editor befuddled. I can hear Bob Plain now, “what in the name of good gravy do RIFuture readers care about this fool?” I keep looking at the MOVE TO TRASH button longingly as I write this. But here’s the rub: Stenhouse has people falling for this nonsense! There is a group of parents who are actually saying NO to the vaccine just as the school year is beginning and those hormone-addled teens at risk for infection begin to mix and mingle in the hallowed halls of education. And while I do think that Tea Partiers have been a tumor on the body politic, I certainly would not wish cervical cancer on their daughters. And I am likewise all in favor of religious liberty, I think it’s totally wrong that France forbids Muslim women from wearing the hijab. But this is not an issue of religious liberty, it is a con.
I have listened to Stenhouse give an interview on B101, a veritable ode to obnoxious self-importance and false panic that is going to result in kids being put at risk for a chronic illness that cannot be cured. He begins with a lot of obfuscation and nonsense about the issue being ‘very complicated’ and that the vaccine causes more trouble than genital warts, both of which are demonstrably untrue. “Why should Rhode Island be just the second state in the nation to mandate this and why should we have been the only one to have done it by executive fiat?” Batten down the hatches, Gina Raimondo’s apparatchiks arrive at midnight! The Block Island Gulag nears completion as we speak! We get conspiracy theories about the CDC, who historically are too underfunded to do much of anything, the argument that an STI has nothing to do with sexually-active teens, and even a segue into teacher union bashing and advocacy for home schooling.
Mike wanders way into right field when he compares poor Sen. Josh Miller, who is in fact Jewish, to a Nazi, a not-so-subliminal message that brings to mind Mr. Burns ordering “Smithers, release the hounds“. I knew B101 broadcast the golden oldies, but I had no idea they also gave airtime to 1950’s-era John Birch Society soap operas. Next thing you know, Stenhouse will be rambling on incoherently about fluoride in the water supply and how Keynesian economics are a Commie plot while TC and Kristen get a traffic report. Why no one is going after the radio station’s broadcasting license after spreading false information about a communicable illness to the public and promoting violence toward an elected official is itself a small scandal.
The HPV virus is not like pubic lice or gonorrhea, it lasts for the rest of your life and can result in cancer. If a woman infected with the virus goes into labor and delivers a baby through a cervix that has HPV warts on it, the baby can be blinded. If the newborn comes into contact with the warts in utero, they can risk of blood infection and suffocation caused by warts forming in the air passage. You want the freedom to inflict this on infants? Stay classy, Stenhouse.
In all likelihood, Mike has discovered the cause of vaccines after making a fool of himself protesting the Affordable Care Act. And into the mix he has pulled people who would otherwise vomit if they knew his wretched agenda, folks who are also going completely nuts for Bernie Sanders and were counter-protesting the anti-choice rally a few weeks ago my colleague Steve Ahlquist covered. This thing has grown some serious legs and is making people who usually would make sane decisions team up with the perfect example of the village idiot.
So I am not writing this as a report on Mike Stenhouse as much as a public safety bulletin.
The young women of this generation are being given the opportunity to once and for all be nearly rid of the pain caused by cervical cancer. The underlying logic of the opposition to Gardasil is not liberty, it boils down to the usual nonsense about pre-marital sex and whether women should have control over their own bodies. Even if you are a parent who is trying to encourage chastity until marriage, you should get your daughter vaccinated, one cannot be certain that a rapist wears a condom. And considering that 1 in 4 women in college experience some form of sexual assault before graduation, this is a real issue to take into consideration, not false-flag alarmist drivel. As for qualms about personal autonomy and government over-reach, I agree that those things exist, but not in this instance. I am all in favor of a public discussion of reducing the Pentagon budget and closing eight or nine hundred of the foreign bases that make up our tottering imperial footprint, especially considering that we could clothe and feed the homeless while giving free college tuition to everyone if we spent our money on sensible things. But mandatory mass-innoculation against potentially fatal illnesses is part and parcel of a responsible social safety net. The people who say otherwise are those who need the wider population sick and distracted so they cannot properly participate in our democracy and raise these real concerns. Thankfully, Rhode Island has a high percentage of inoculations caused by the fact that, lucky for us, Stenhouse’s brand of idiocy is not as contagious as HPV. We can be proud of that fact and should encourage that trend to continue.
Stenhouse may have repackaged this to sound like ‘freedom’, but cervical cancer is not liberating. It is a painful, sad illness that takes too many women at too young an age. No woman deserves a potentially lethal illness because they have sex outside of marriage. If Mike Stenhouse wants genital warts, more power to him, I will pay good money to see that snuff film. I will even volunteer the labor to film and edit it for free, putting my Film Studies BA to a good public use. But he has no right to insist others, particularly minor children, be made susceptible simply because he needs to score a few political points. So talk to your friends, share this story with vaccine opponents, encourage young women to get vaccinated, and let’s make Stenhouse strike out here as badly as he did in the big leagues.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Following the publication of this story, some readers have come forward and argued that the human papilloma virus clears up. This is a true statement, genital warts can clear up on their own. However, as with every other virus known to man, once it is in your body, it does not go away. If one’s immunity were to weaken, it could result in a recurrence of warts. It also does not serve as a guarantee that the virus will not cause cancer at a later date. The CDC recommends everyone get vaccinated to avoid this disease.