In response to the recent measles outbreak in Washington and Oregon, a Portland marketing company has started a satirical anti-vaccination lifestyle blog, with sales from merchandise going toward a vaccination advocacy campaign.
Unvaccinated Life, run by local firm Borders Perrin Norranders, posts fictional opinion pieces with titles like "Putting the 'Me' in Measles" and "I'm Sick of Scientists Acting Like Their Peers Are Better Than Mine." The site launched on Feb. 28 and sells over a dozen products, including shirts and phone cases emblazoned with the slogan "Unvaccination is Contagious." Profits from sales go to the United Nations' Shot at Life campaign.
Most of the site is written by BPN Executive Creative Director Rob Thompson and copywriter David Azrael, though the articles are published under multiple pseudonyms from a fake name generator. When the site first went live, anti-vaxxer readers frequently mistook Unvaccinated Life as sincere.
"We thought we had made things that were obviously satirical," says Thompson. "But we were getting comments that told us that too many people didn't know that it was a joke."
The website has since upped the absurdity of its material, and now includes a disclaimer announcing the project's satirical intentions at the bottom of its "About Us" page: "Growing up, we were told that there are no stupid questions. We still believe this, which is why we question everything—including, the settled scientific consensus."
Now, the site's main hurdle is getting around Facebook and Instagram's recent crackdown on anti-vaxxer content, which effectively prohibits Unvaccinated Life from selling their merch directly through social media.
Despite the site's Onion-like headlines, BPN Executive Creative Director Rob Thompson says his intent isn't to mock.
"We're not actually telling anyone what to do," he says. "We're just sort of holding up a mirror to the tone and the language that the anti-vaccination movement is using."