Surely you’ve heard a few times this month that Robert De Niro deselecting Andrew Wakefield’s movie VAXXED at Tribeca was the best thing that could have ever have happened to it. Even though De Niro was kicking himself for his knee-jerk reaction on the Today Show last week in the greatest six-and-half-minute interview of all time, no one can deny that this has turned into quite the phenomenon.
I’m not going to lie– I was momentarily devastated when I saw the news that it was pulled three weeks ago. “Pharma wins again,” I thought. “No surprise there.” I figured that the two-day ride that the movie had at the top of Facebook’s trending news was over; VAXXED would disappear into oblivion without anyone outside of our circle ever seeing it.
But I was wrong. It turns out that the act of yanking VAXXED from Tribeca, and all of the praise from the media that came along with it, catapulted VAXXED from being a film festival selection that only our side and their side was talking about and launched it into the stratosphere of being worldwide news.
And this made me laugh. I have seen Andy Wakefield’s name– or a reference to him as a debunked author of a fraudulent paper– in mainstream media articles one after another, day after day, since 2011. It was never-ending. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be him and have his name used as a scapegoat in every pharmaceutical PR piece posing as journalism.
And that is exactly mainstream media’s self-made problem that came from crapping on Wakefield each time they were hired to write about parents who refuse to sign off on the flu vaccine or Gardasil:
In their attempt to make Wakefield a despised household name over the last half-decade, the media created a situation for themselves where they couldn’t not write about his movie being selected for Tribeca or its subsequent deselection.
They had no choice. They breathed life into this monster PR machine whose job it was to chew him up and spit him out, so quietly ignoring his little 90-minute government movie while it withered at an indy film fest where only 120 people would have seen it wasn’t going to be an option on their table.
Anyone else in the entire world– literally, any one single person other than Andy Wakefield– could have made this movie and had it shown at Tribeca and the media wouldn’t have made a peep. This person could have put it on Netflix; they could have driven it all over the country and hosted Q&As. The Greater Good, Bought, Trace Amounts: all incredibly informative movies that got nada in the media.
But Andy Wakefield? Well, shit. Their hands were tied. How could they justify trashing him for the past five years and continue to trash him in the future and yet not use their public channels to trash his movie? Yes, it must be trashed. Trashed over and over. Trashed by pharma mouthpiece pediatricians who cause autism in children every day of the week. Trashed until it took on a life of its own and suddenly random news outlets like The Hollywood Reporter were writing the name “Andrew Wakefield” for the first time in their history, causing people who have never read a Forbes piece about the evil doctor to start wondering what the big deal is about his movie.
But of course, what’s happened is more than just the media getting caught standing around with their dicks in their hands. The deselection from Tribeca– and its subsequent deselection from the Houston film festival– had the added ingredient of stinking of government censorship. Was it the Rosenthal family’s relationship with the CDC? Did the Houston mayor overstep– and especially eff up in having his office confirm in writing that he tried to have the movie pulled? Is “the listserve” that congratulated themselves for a job well done in getting it axed from Tribeca really our government in disguise?
And that whiff of “We want to control what you see” is exactly what has brought the Streisand effect to VAXXED. Thirteen years ago Barbra Streisand wanted an aerial photo of the receding California coastline that included the back of her Malibu home in it to be removed from a collection of 12,000 photographs. In all of its existence, the picture had only been downloaded six times– including twice by Streisand’s lawyers. After she sued to have it removed there were 420,000 visits to the website to see her home in just one month.
In 2013 a Galaxy Samsung user made a video that showed that his phone battery had spontaneously caught fire because Samsung wanted proof before honoring their warranty. For a freaking little phone battery. So the guy uploaded the video to YouTube, which Samsung demanded he remove before settling with him. They also demanded that he never upload anything similar, plus keep the terms of their settlement confidential. Instead he uploaded their settlement agreement to his site and it got 1.2 millions views in a week.
It’s the Streisand effect. People will want to see exactly the thing you are trying to keep them from seeing. When will they learn? So here we are now with VAXXED. The movie grossed $28,399 in its first three days while being shown on only one screen at only one theater in the nation. At $14.50 per ticket that’s almost 2,000 people filing into the Angelika in only 3 days. Now its one-week run in NYC has been extended to three weeks, and it started playing at multiple theaters in Los Angeles yesterday. I guarantee you it will be playing in Chicago soon and will be right back in Houston where it will be a smashing success.
A Google search for two words — “VAXXED” and “movie”– now brings up half a million hits. The #1 movie out of the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016– according to NYC’s Timeout magazine– is All This Panic. Go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait. How many hits did you get? Not even 1/10 of what VAXXED is getting. Why not? No Streisand effect.
So, thanks CDC and all of your multiple masks that you hide behind. Thanks, Jane Rosenthal for being such an uptight control freak. Thanks Mayor Turner for all of the Texas media coverage. If MMR rates plummet and the media starts blaming Dr. Wakefield’s movie I hope you think of Barbra Streisand and all of the unintended consequences of your attempts to tell the American public what they can and cannot see.