Win for Internet Crusaders Against Anti-Vax: State Farm Drops Rob Schneider
I’d just like to say, I called it first! I knew early on that Chow Babe, Food Hunk, Science Babe, and other anti-pseudoscience Facebook communities were not only providing entertainment, they were crusaders of the internet, wielding powerful weapons in the form of evidence and persistence against dangerous pseudoscience. The groups don’t merely exist to point out the absurdity of Food Babe campaigns against harmless food additives, and the misleading ploys of Vandana Shiva. In their first tangible victory, these and other Facebook groups collaborated to successfully convince State Farm Insurance to drop Rob Schneider as spokesman. I was thrilled to read the PR Week news here. This piece explicitly gave credit to the Facebook groups I’ve always endorsed.
To recap: State Farm had recently hired Rob Schneider to revive his SNL “Richmeister” character to sell insurance. The problem was that Rob Schneider is a vocal anti-vaccination proponent. He has been outspoken on his belief that vaccines and autism are linked, even narrating an anti-vax video for none other than the Health Ranger.
Our dependable internet crusaders could not sit back idly. After all, State Farm offers health insurance, and it is indisputable that the best way to prevent vaccine-preventable-disease outbreaks is to vaccinate. Indeed, following National Immunization Month in August, State Farm seemingly unknowingly hired an anti-vaccination champion as their figurehead. After days of work and strategizing, on Friday, September 19th at 10 am EST, Chow Babe, Science Babe, and Food Hunk, along with several other hardworking Facebook group administrators, launched a campaign asking Rob Schneider to publicly deem his anti-vaccine stance an opinion and not fact. Because Schneider chose to stand his ground, State Farm cancelled his contract on September 22nd, pulling the Richmeister ads.
This is what Mr. Schneider had to say:
I commend you, internet crusaders, for protecting the children of America and standing up for evidence-based stances. I also commend State Farm for seeing their error. This truly demonstrates this company’s integrity, and I’m happy to be a long-time customer. Like I said, along with Chow Babe, Science Babe, and Food Hunk, several other groups and their followers were integral to the success of this campaign. I encourage all Grounded Parents followers to read the combined statement from Chow Babe and other groups. Here, there is also a listing of all the pages that made this success possible. This is how social media can make a difference. I have my eye on these groups. I’m sure we’ll see more of their activism making waves in the near future.
I have mixed feelings about this. It never sits well with me when people get fired because of their point of view — no matter how stupid or offensive. I do understand that this isn’t a free speech issue. State Farm can hire or fire whomever it likes. I just don’t think it ever moves the conversation forward. And perhaps there is no moving the conversation forward with rabid anti-vaxxers. I don’t know.
Jenny – I think the whole group I am commending here agrees with you. Their original intent (I believe) was to have Rob Schneider make some sort of statement that his statements on vaccination are based on conjecture and not scientific consensus. The campaign did end up with a lot of participants flooding State Farm on social media. I think State Farm was not originally aware of the conflict at hand when they brought Schneider on board. As a company offering health insurance, I suspect that they couldn’t reconcile with a spokesman with such outspoken anti-vax stance.
You definitely said that above — that the goal was to make him say that it was his opinion — but of course he’d never cop to that. The anti-vax community thinks our scientific studies are corrupted by corporate interests and not to be trusted. They think the evidence is on their side.
The other thing that’s tough for me is that comedians and personalities like Schneider are not exactly known for their intellectual rigor. That’s not to say they’re not smart but not perhaps not exactly committed to rigorous scholarship. And so many Hollywood celebs are woo crazies too. State Farm didn’t hire Schneider for his opinions. They hired him because he’s a personality. Again, he doesn’t have a right to the job or anything. I’m just not that psyched he got fired.