Never gonna vaccinate, never gonna get that shot

By Phil Plait | October 7, 2008 5:00 pm

I don’t know if this is real or not — the audio and video are poor enough that it could be faked — but I’m not sure I care.

For those of you who are terminally unhip, read this.

And given how huge this meme is, you’d think Ms. McCarthy would have herd immunity by now. Oh well; you can’t vaccinate against dumbosity.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Humor

Comments (24)

  1. I don’t get it. Probably partly due to my difficulty understanding what she’s saying. Can someone explain, please?

  2. Justin

    I think she’s reading a joke email in which someone managed to insert a line from the rickroll song without her noticing. I guess it’s kind of funny that she didn’t catch it.

  3. Ido

    I honestly didn’t get it, and I watched it four times. The audio is indeed poor.

  4. Justin Wagner

    Off topic, but it looks like CBS has requested 6 more scripts for The Mentalist:

  5. Nicole

    Oh I hope that is real because if it is, it’s genius!

  6. Liam

    Wow Justin, I was certain that link wasn’t really gonna lead to the promised page…

  7. Here, these are a portion of the lyrics to the Rick Astley song (From

    Never gonna give you up
    Never gonna let you down
    Never gonna run around and desert you
    Never gonna make you cry
    Never gonna say goodbye
    Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

    Now, watch the video again and listen to the text of the email she reads.


  8. quasidog

    Sigh … I get the antivax angle here …. but … what exactly am I supposed to be joining in and ridiculing here? (in a pack mentality style, which isn’t going to do anything but make other high brows laugh?) God I am sick of smart people ridiculing others. It is weak and serves no purpose, other than to make you look self righteous and desperate to fit in. Yeah, her words are stupid, she is wrong, but can’t you declare her wrong, like a smart adult? Give up on the ‘high school’ style ridicule.

  9. Thomas Siefert

    A bit low considering the context, but it did remind of an episode of Brisco County Jr. when he gives an eulogy at a funeral:

    When I find myself in times of trouble,
    I say, ‘Boy, you gotta carry that weight.’
    I am he, you are, you are me.
    We’re all together, speaking words of wisdom.
    Come together, right now. Amen.”

  10. What do you mean you can’t vaccinate against dumbosity? Of course you can! You do it by teaching skeptical thinking and the scientific method!

  11. Tim G

    I don’t think there’s a problem with readers being terminally unhip. It’s just that some aren’t too familiar with American internet culture, which may be a good thing. The poor audio quality doesn’t help non-native English speakers either so here’s a rush transcript:

    Amanda from [unintelligible] says, “I am a single mother” [unintelligible] “my son has been diagnosed with autism since he was three [years of age] and I would love [unintelligible] to the best of my abilities…I was wondering if you have any tips on how I can never give up on him and never let him down. At one point I even considered deserting him.”

    Wow wow wow you know oohh this one [unintelligible] my spine.

    If you don’t know what Rickrolling is, click on the link Phil provided.

  12. TheProbe

    What do you mean you can’t vaccinate against dumbosity? Of course you can! You do it by teaching skeptical thinking and the scientific method!

    Wrong. They have been vaccinated against catching a clue.

  13. Bobwick

    “Wow wow wow you know oohh this one [unintelligible] my spine.”

    It’s “this one sends a chill up my spine”.

  14. That is worse than McCain’s hair transplant joke! McCarthy is badly mistaken about vaccination, and quite probably not too bright/curious in general. But a prank email like this is not the best way to demonstrate her “dumbosity”, because it is a perfectly plausible email in its own right. If you want to joke like that, you had better use the literal lyrics. If you want to see how it is done, search for “Brass Eye” and “cake” in YouTube.

  15. The people above are right in saying that this isn’t the best way to “demonstrate her dumbosity,” but this is not the only way that people have tried to dismiss her unfounded claims. Taken in isolation, the joke email is unethical, but is hilarious in the context of everything else that has gone into criticizing her pseudoscientific ideas.

  16. Ken

    This latest anti-innoculation wave is a re-manifestation of what is basically a theme that recurs every generation or two.

    Back in the Gerald Ford (I think it was) Administration there was a major flu pandemic scare and they decided NOT to go with a national preventative innoculation campaign because of some tiny correlation between the innoculations and follow-on symptoms. The Administration recognized that the correlation was NOT a cause-effect relationship. However, they also knew based on historical statistical studies that some percentage of the group getting shots would experience some set of post-innoculation symptoms, AND, that this group would associate a causal relationship between the innoculation & follow-on symptom.

    In other words, ignorance of medical facts & other uncertainties (along with mistrust of a generally woefully inefficient & corrupt government infrastructre) would lead a lot of decent people to make a wrong conclusion–with very adverse consequences once the negative publicity began.

    I’m pretty sure that anecdote came from: “Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It,” by Gina Kolata

    This same human trait to associate causality to coincidence and correlations having unrelated underlying factors also underlies a lot of other superstitions & beliefs in pseudo-science & the like. Of course, innocent ignorance is an underlying factor as is that other negative generally common human trait–an unwillingness to admit (to ourselves, much less anyone else) that were were duped (even by ourselves), which makes many of us overly receptive to wrong/unscrupulous reinforcement of wrongheaded beliefs. For [too] many, its often easier to pretend than think & move on.

  17. Irishman

    Rickrolling is dumb anyway. Trying to be subtle and then patting yourself on the back for getting over on someone who doesn’s recognize it is lame. If you’re successfully subtle, then of course the person didn’t catch it. If it’s obvious, then you aren’t particularly skilled at subtlty.

    Maybe Jenny McCarthy is the biggest buffoon in the world, but Rickrolling is still dumb. Grow a brain.

  18. Ed Hominin


    You are pretty good with the insults but answer me this – what is causing the sudden increases in autism? Why are you against finding out what is causing it? Are you anti-science or something? Or is it not left-wing enough for you?

  19. Ed Hominin: do your research. Doctors are getting better at diagnosing disorders along the autism spectrum. There isn’t more autism, we’re just finding it better now.

    This isn’t a left/right wing issue. RFK Jr. is a huge proponent of antivaxx garbage, and he’s left wing.

  20. Ed,

    One, Phil isn’t the kind of Doctor to be out finding the cause and a cure, though I’m pretty sure he fully supports doing so. I fully support doing so. I do, however, recommend that once a dead end is reached, to abandon that path for something more promising.

    Two, we might not know what causes autism, but we do know several things that do not. Vaccinations do not. Thimerosal does not. These have been investigated, found to not be the cause and dismissed. They are a dead end for research and should be left behind while other more promising leads are followed.

    Three, what sudden increase in autism? I know of a steady increase, not sudden, in the ability to detect and thus the reporting of autism. There was nothing sudden about it. Perhaps you’ve only become suddenly aware. That’s different. I don’t think there is an increase in incidence at all, though.

    Certainly, if you find yourself on a dead end path, realize it, and choose to go back to a more promising path, you are being responsible and ethical. A great number of well done studies have dismissed the link between autism and childhood vaccinations. Shouldn’t we be spending our money in other areas, then?

    Shouldn’t we provide the best medicine and science for our society and not the misguiding ravings of some celeb-du jour?

    This is why we need to teach our children how science works, why it works, and why, in the long run, its results can be trusted. Until we teach our children well they will fall prey to vacuous accusations, poorly performed drug testing, and general idiocy. Meanwhile, we have people that can’t tell you how long a year is or whether the Sun goes around the Earth, or the Earth around the Sun. If they cannot understand simple science facts, how can we trust the general populous to understand complex theory – and to make intelligent decisions on whether to vaccinate their children or not.

    This isn’t a left/right issue. This is a smart/dumb decision. Choose the smart.

    John B. Sandlin

  21. quasidog

    To concur with ‘Irishman’ .. Rickrolling was popular amongst teenage nerds …. 5 years ago …

    It’s childish, old hat, and not funny. No it really is not funny. Where is the funny part ? It might have been funny if I was in high school 5 years ago, when it was new, and less lame, and I was an idiot kid.

    So when a so called smart adults do it now (or join in and laugh at it ) … isn’t that just completely lame on various levels ? If you can’t defend science by using science and clear intelligent and respectful arguments …… well, it is weak as piss and says a lot about a persons character.

  22. @quasidog: I have to say I never found the Rick Rolling actually amusing. Nor do I understand why anyone does. I like the song well enough that I recognized the lyrics in the email message McCarthy read. Still, it’s a pointless meme as far as I’m concerned.

    People post stupid false links all the time, what is special about “Never Gonna Let You Down” that gives it cachet? Why is providing a misleading playback of Rick Astley so socially critical as opposed to, say, a video of ducks with wheels? I just don’t understand why this meme has any weight.

    Anyone ever pulls it on me, laughs and says “You been Rick Rolled,” I’ll answer, “Yah, so? And your point?” Because it’s pointless.


  23. Tim G

    I will give the prankster marginal credit for creating a covert Rickroll.

  24. I know you don’t tackle this issue very often but several other skeptics and I have just created a new website, which we hope will become a kind of one-stop-shopping for refuting the anti-vaccination claims of Jenny McCarthy. The site is:

    And while a lot of work still needs to be done and we’ve still got logo issues, given your large readership, I was hoping you’d consider including it on your blog. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.



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