This article delves into the misleading rhetoric and tactics employed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine activist and presidential candidate. Kennedy has been known to use a method called “data dumping” where he overwhelms listeners with a barrage of numbers, acronyms, and methodologies to falsely suggest that vaccine injuries are widespread. The New York Times analyzed numerous interviews and found that Kennedy often uses these rhetorical devices to spread misinformation on topics like vaccines, 5G technology, and global farming.
One of Kennedy’s tactics, “data dumping,” involves presenting a lot of data in a short span, making it difficult for listeners to fact-check or understand. He has used this technique to misrepresent studies and make false claims about vaccine injuries. Another strategy he employs is “semantic switching,” where he plays with the meaning of words to align his beliefs with mainstream thinking. For instance, he has repeatedly and falsely claimed that vaccines are not tested using placebo trials.
Kennedy also positions himself as a “reluctant leader,” suggesting that he was unwillingly thrust into the role of an anti-vaccine activist. This tactic is common among conspiracy theorists, portraying themselves as underdogs fighting against a larger evil. Furthermore, Kennedy often alludes to a mysterious “they,” hinting at a concealed group orchestrating cover-ups. He has also woven intricate webs of conspiracy theories, linking figures like Bill Gates to various global plots.
The article emphasizes that many of Kennedy’s claims are not based on factual evidence. For instance, he has falsely stated that children are mandated to receive 72 vaccines, when in reality, the CDC recommends about 17 vaccines over 18 years. Experts have criticized Kennedy for his misleading statements, noting that his goal seems to be to instill fear and doubt about vaccines.
In conclusion, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. employs a range of rhetorical devices to spread misleading ideas, particularly about vaccines. His tactics, from data dumping to semantic switching, are designed to confuse and mislead listeners, emphasizing the importance of fact-checking and critical thinking.
Citation: Thompson, Stuart A. “How Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Sells Misleading Ideas.” The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/12/technology/robert-f-kennedy-jr-antivaccine-rhetoric.html.