(Trigger warning*: This post involves violence against a small child and an infuriating lack of humility. You should not continue if you don't want to read about violence against children.)
*(Edit: Sigh. I know. See my post on "trigger warning.")
I try very hard to have a sympathetic view of conspiracy theorists. I understand that the people who look for patterns, for "the real story," for "what they're not telling us," etc. are trying to deal with feelings of helplessness and self-doubt. I understand just wanting to have someone agree with you, the rose-coloured glasses that can follow when it finally happens, and a tendency to accept what you might normally turn away from. I understand how skepticism can run amok. Normally conspiracy theories, while sad for those who believe them, are harmless to others - a feeling of "knowing" that the Olympics, or a political scandal on the front page is really a cover-up, for instance, doesn't do much more than support the idea of a pattern where there isn't one.
But sometimes conspiracy theorists go beyond simple narcissism, turning tragedies away from victims and recovery toward self-serving stories about the world. Examples are the crying of "false flag" at the Boston Marathon bombings and Sandy Hook shooting.
Founded on personal tragedy, a misunderstanding of medical science, and a story that sounds an awful lot like the cover-ups conspiracy theorists pride themselves on busting, the anti-vaccination movement is probably the conspiracy theory that's done the most widespread harm. Its proponents actively work to convince parents to boycott childhood vaccines with devastating results. Frightened people looking for patterns inflict the cost of their beliefs on their kids and other medically vulnerable people. Pairing this malignant movement with new tragedy is a recipe for disaster.
In their intervention in the case of the murder of 12-week old Ja'Nayjah Sanders by her non-custodial father, the anti-vaccination movement has crossed a new line.
Ja'Nayjah was beaten to death by her father, who was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder. Ja'Navjah's mother, Shamarrie Kittle, in her grief, was vulnerable to activists the anti-vaccination site VacTruth, who claim that Ja'Navjah's skull fractures were the result of routine two-month vaccinations. Kittle became convinced of VacTruth's claims and is now lobbying to have the murderer of her daughter acquitted and freed.
You can read the details of the case, compiled here. They're horrifying. Her surgeons have no doubt that John Sanders beat his daughter with or against something to inflict the brain injuries she sustained. That anyone would try to pardon someone who would act like this goes beyond the boundaries of what's acceptable. To convince her mother to pardon him is horrifying. To do it in order to prop up, knowingly or not, a self-serving belief system is simply evil.