Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jim Carrey's The Bad Tweet

Did you learn nothing from this movie, Jim?
[Update 7/2/15 at 6:30pm: Jim Carrey has removed the tweets mentioned below and replaced them with text-only tweets. He has not tweeted any apologies.]
Oh, Jim Carrey. Not content to be a fool on screen, you decide to (continue) to be a fool on Twitter. After the passage and signing of California's SB277, a new law that removes non-medical exemptions to school immunization requirements, Carrey went on a bit of a rant on Twitter, declaring the law fascist (it's not), playing the Pharma Shill Gambit, the toxin gambit, and, like so many other anti-vaccine activists, declaring he's not anti-vaccine. In short, he's just following the anti-vaccine handbook. But he wasn't content to keep it to just being mildly unhinged. But I'll get to that in a bit.

I first became aware of Carrey's anti-vaccine nonsense back in 2009, when Carrey was with anti-vaccine spokesperson Jenny McCarthy. For a while, Phil Plait, aka the Bad Astronomer, had occasionally written about the anti-vaccine movement. Like clockwork, anti-vaccine activists would show up in the comments spouting the same tired tropes over and over. It prompted me to write up a summary addressing the more common myths around vaccines. It's helped some learn the truth and facts about vaccines and exposed many of the lies told about them.

Apparently Jim Carrey didn't bother reading it, or, if he did, he didn't learn a thing. So what has he done this time around that went beyond merely making a fool of himself and showed that he is an opportunistic and insensitive ass that doesn't really care about those affected by autism?

In his crusade to villify vaccines and scare parents away from protecting their children, he posted a series of photos, railing about "toxins" in vaccines. He suggests that the photos show what the future may hold for California, now that SB277 is law. For instance, there's this tweet:


The tweet reads, "TOXIN FREE VACCINES, A REASONABLE REQUEST!" (all caps in the original), with a link to a PDF advertising Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s book on thimerosal.

Then there's this tweet:

Again, SHOUTING makes you sound more reasonable.
Similar to his other tweet, the text reads, "This could be the face of California's future. TOXIN FREE VACCINES, A REASONABLE REQUEST!". And once again, he includes a link to the advertisement for Kennedy's book.

And then there's this tweet:

Maybe a trillion dollars would also buy a therapist for Jim.
This one doesn't include a link, but there's still some shouting about being reasonable, as he writes, "A trillion dollars buys a lot of expert opinions. Will it buy you? TOXIN FREE VACCINES, A REASONABLE REQUEST!". [Edited to add: As I was writing this, it appears that a complaint was lodged to Twitter and the photo was removed at the request of the copyright holder.]

The theme running through these three tweets is that the photos, according to Carrey's insinuation, are all of children that are "vaccine damaged". The motive is pretty plain: scare people away from vaccines. Make them think that this could be what happens to your child if you vaccinate them.

There's just one problem. None of the photos have anything to do with vaccines.

That first photo? It's from Shutterstock, copyrighted by Pixel Memoirs, and has been used in numerous places around the web:

The second photo is apparently another stock photo that's been in use since at least 2009. It, too, is all over the internet, used in various stories, many having to do with frustration or parenting:

Then there's the third photo. That one's not a stock photo. It's a still from a video segment used in news stories about a boy named Alex Echols, who has tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). I was alerted to Jim Carrey's tweet by Alex's aunt, Elizabeth Welch, who was justifiably upset with Carrey's cynical exploitation of the picture of Alex during one of his TSC episodes. TSC is a genetic disorder caused by mutations in at least one of two genes (TSC1, TSC2). It leads to tissue growths in various organs of the body, but most commonly the brain and kidneys. Symptoms can include seizures, cognitive impairment, and behavioral problems. It is also one of the known causes of autism spectrum disorder. Alex, indeed, has also been diagnosed with autism.

And just like the pictures exploited by Jim Carrey to promote his anti-vaccine message, Alex's TSC has nothing to do with vaccines. Tuberous sclerosis isn't caused by immunizations. He was diagnosed when he was only six weeks old in 2001. He has rather severe self-injurious behaviors. It is so bad, in fact, that his parents are not able to provide the care he needs to prevent serious injury. They made the very difficult decision to place him in a home. According to Ms. Welch, the original video from which the photo is drawn was made to raise awareness of tuberous sclerosis. Yet here Carrey used it out of context to promote his own message.

Jim Carrey owes this family a huge apology for exploiting their child by using his image without their permission to promote his anti-vaccine agenda. Carrey has shown that he is an incredibly insensitive and callous ass with no care about how his actions will affect others.

There is also an article about this on BuzzFeed by Virginia Hughes.


  1. thank you for taking the time to do this, Todd. I was too irate.

  2. Thank you for writing this. Sharing!

  3. Thank you for bringing awareness for TSC and of Carrey's awful behavior.


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