It was earlier in the pandemic that feminist author Dr. Naomi Wolf's words caught my eye. Referring to children having to wear Covid-19 face masks, she tweeted:
Terrifying; children now don't have the human reflex that they when you smile at them they smile back. - Naomi Wolf
There was no scientific basis for her statement that children's lower jaws were hanging slack and loose as a result of daily mask-wearing. In fact, anecdotally the kids at my kids' schools seem barely to notice their masks, chattering and laughing away in them without half of the stress they seem to cause to adults. But Dr. Wolf was determined to be anti-mask, so she didn't let the truth stand in the way of what looked like a striking statement about their negative effects.
Since then, she's gone further. Dr. Wolf has recently posted a wide variety of anti-vaccination misinformation on Twitter, including stating that vaccines were "a software platform that can receive uploads", that vaccines could result in an ability to time travel (what?!) and that top Covid adviser Dr Fauci was akin to Satan. She also suggested that sewage (urine and feces) from vaccinated people be kept separate from that of unvaccinated people in the sewage systems, for fear there would be an impact on non-vaccinated people through drinking water.
She also said to a US congressional committee that to begin a system of vaccine passports for travel would, in effect, set off a series of events that could (based on her knowledge of history) result in genocides. However, given that she had a book pulled before its release in 2019 due to misunderstanding history, it feels a bit strange to put too much reliance on her words.
Dr. Wolf's ranting statements sound like the ramblings of a mad person, but she had a lot of followers (140,000 or so), she had the authority of her Doctor title, and to peddle an anti-vaccine message in such an overtly inflammatory way is certainly likely to be dangerous to the vaccination cause. Steve Silberman, the author and historian of autism, said: “I’ve been reading vile anti-vaccine propaganda for 20 years, and Wolf’s claims were as out-there and delusional as I’ve ever seen.”
Although some people have accused Twitter of stifling free speech by banning Dr. Wolf's account, Twitter states that it has banned her permanently, with no right of appeal and this move has been welcomed by a lot of people. And besides, Dr. Wolf helps to run a website called the Daily Clout, aimed at making legislation easier to understand. Her anti-vaccination discussions can still be seen there for anyone who wants to seek them out.
Hopefully, though, not many people will.