Respectful Insolence

The “pharma shill” gambit

i-e7a12c3d2598161273c9ed31d61fe694-ClassicInsolence.jpgIt was a late night in the O.R. last night; so I didn’t get to spend my usual quality blogging time. However, it occurred to me. In honor of being called a “pharma moron” on Whale.to, coupled with all the antivaccination lunacy that’s been infesting the comments of this blog, only to be tirelessly countered by certain regulars here, I thought I’d repost a blast from the past that I somehow missed reposting when I was on vacation last month. Yes, it’s my piece about the “pharma shill” gambit. It appeared originally on August 11, 2005. I think its reappearance now is particularly appropriate, don’t you? And don’t forget to join us back here tomorrow for Your Friday Dose of Woo (that is, if I don’t have another late night in the O.R. tomorrow as well.)

I get the impression from the rapidly decreasing number of comments being posted here that the Hitler zombie might–just might–have overstayed his welcome. (Either that, or everyone agrees with me so much that they don’t see the need to comment; a conclusion I find highly unlikely.) It’s probably not surprising that people might tire quickly of the Hitler zombie, given that (1) he’s a walking rotting corpse and thus doesn’t smell too good and leaves a mess wherever he goes; (2) he has a propensity to eat brains, which is not generally welcome in polite company such as this blog, and he has really lousy table manners to boot; (3) he incites incredibly idiotic, overblown rhetoric, which annoys the hell out of critical thinkers like me and (I hope) my readers; and (4) he’s Hitler, fer cryin’ out loud. Even so, after rebutting a defender of Harry Belafonte, I was still half-tempted to write one more sequel, entitled something like “The Hitler zombie and those who love him,” à la Jerry Springer meets Shaun of the Dead. Fortunately for all, a rare good sense of restraint stayed my hand.

It’s time to move back to other entertaining (I hope) pastures.

I’ve mentioned before that I cut my skeptical teeth, so to speak, on Usenet, that vast untamed and largely unmoderated territory full of tens of thousands of discussion newsgroups which used to be a lot more active before the rise of the World Wide Web and then later blogs. It started out with combatting Holocaust denial and then branched out into more general skepticism, particularly about the claims of creationists and alties (please read my disclaimer about “alties in the link). After I began to participate in the debates in the main newsgroup where alternative medicine is discussed, misc.health.alternative, it didn’t take me long to encounter a favorite tactic of alties who were not happy with one who insists on evidence-based medicine and who therefore questions claims that are obviously not based in valid science: the “pharma shill” gambit. This is a technique of ad hominem attack in which an altie, offended by your questioning of his/her favorite herb, colon or liver flush technique, zapper, or cancer “cure,” tries to “poison the well” by implying or outright stating you must be in the pay of a pharmaceutical company, hired for nefarious purposes.

Since I entered the blogosphere, I’ve only occasionally checked back at my old stomping ground, mainly because blogging is so much less constraining than posting to Usenet, where mostly I used to respond to the posts of others, rather than writing about what I wanted to write about. A couple of weeks ago, though, out of curiosity I checked back and found this interesting little tidbit from a poster calling himself PeterB that demonstrated such a perfect example of the “pharma shill” gambit that I had to comment about it:

To : All participants and readers of misc.health.alternative + other health-related newsgroups

Please be aware that many comments and responses posted to this forum are not those of casual posters interested in an honest exchange. A number of individuals with ties to industry are engaging an effort to shape public sentiment about the risks of mainstream medicine while denigrating the benefits and validity of natural medicine. I refer to these individuals broadly as “Pharma Bloggers”(*). Pharma Bloggers on usenet don’t promote a specific company or product, as might be the case with standard “blogging” on a weblog. Most of these people are likely to have an association with a PR campaign whose “blogging” efforts are underwritten by the media and marketing groups of industry. They are not difficult to identify due to specific patterns of behaviour in posting.

Here are a few points to remember while participating in usenet newsgroups:

1. Pharma Bloggers on usenet use intimidation, mockery, and insults to silence those who express belief or interest in natural medicine.

2. Pharma Bloggers on usenet attack those who question the effectiveness of mainstream medicine and defend disease-management “healthcare” as the only viable form of medicine.

3. Pharma Bloggers on usenet post the majority of their responses simply to bury the comments of others; they also strive obsessively to have the last word.

4. Pharma Bloggers on usenet are much faster at posting than casual participants; they almost always respond first to a new thread, question, or observation.

5. Pharma Bloggers on usenet use multiple “bloggers” in a swap-&-relay fashion to create an aura of the “consensus view” in an effort to isolate posters who question the value of mainstream medicine. You will see this tactic used more often than any other.

Tip: If you find yourself reading a response that is unusually dramatic in tone, or inexplicably vicious toward other posters, and if that response is a defense of mainstream medicine, you can be sure you have stumbled upon a “Pharma Blogger.” Unfortunately, there are more of these individuals posting to usenet on a daily basis than virtually anyone else, which is why I am posting this alert. If you find it odd that so few people on health-related usenet newsgroups are expressing an interest in natural medicine, it isn’t because they aren’t there, it’s because they have been intimidated into silence. The Pharma Bloggers have over-run the various newsgroups with their industrial brand of dogma, mockery, and ridicule. Many casual posters are simply frightened away. That’s one of the goals of Pharma Blogging.

(*) Pharma Blogger: An individual who uses the Internet to: 1) promote and defend maintstream medicine while denigrating natural medicine approaches; 2) attack others who express a preference for natural medicine, or who question the value of mainstream medicine; and 3) cite a variety of “junk medical science” funded by industry for the purpose of establishing markets for marginally effective, and often dangerous, medical products and devices.

PeterB

Ooh, boy. See what I had to deal with? First, let me just mention that I realize that astroturf campaigns do exist, but, quite frankly, die-hard Usenet alties like PeterB tend to be interested in such Internet PR efforts only as a means of smearing those who criticize them for their claims or who have the temerity to ask them to provide scientific studies to back up their assertions. To them, everyone who questions them is probably part of an astroturf campaign. It goes with the conspiracy-mongering proclivities so common among cranks.

This sort of obvious pre-emptive ad hominem attack would be utterly laughable if it were not so common. I sometimes get the impression that PeterB and his compatriots must think that there are hordes of “pharma shills” sitting behind banks of computers (remember the claim “more of these individuals posting to Usenet than anyone else”), waiting to pounce the instant anyone like PeterB starts posting critiques of big pharma or praising herbal “cures.” (Yes, that they seem to think they are worth that sort of effort implies PeterB and others like them do seem to have an inflated view of their own importance.) My usual first response to such gambits tends to be facetious and runs along the lines of asking, “Where do I sign up to become a pharma shill? How do I get me a piece of that action? After all, why should I waste my time seeing patients and working like a dog to do science, publish papers, and write grants and then only having a couple of hours in the evenings to blog, when I could make big bucks ruthlessly mocking online dissent against big pharma full time while sitting back in my pajamas and sipping a big mug of coffee? Count me in!” (Expect to see my words posted somewhere out of context to make it seem as though I was being serious about this.)

However, facetiousness usually just infuriates people like PeterB to new heights of “pharma shill” accusations. At that point, it’s time to try to be rational, hard as it may be in the face of such provocation, but I try. First, a lot of this smear tends to be a case of projection, of the pot calling the kettle black. For example, #1, #2, and #3 are more typical of Usenet alties than of anyone who questions altie claims. Indeed, the denizens of misc.health.alternative who are most pro-alternative medicine tend to react quite defensively to questioning of their assertions. They are often like a group of Cyber Sisters, except that they are comprised of both men and women, ruthlessly descending upon anyone who questions the dogma of their favorite alternative medicine, criticizes their behavior, or suggests that maybe, just maybe, conventional medicine might have value. (No, those on “our size” are not entirely innocent, but in my experience the alties tend to be quicker with the ad hominem.) One reason for this, I suspect, is that many of them are also active on moderated groups such as CureZone.com, where anyone questioning the alt-med treatment du jour too long or too vigorously will be banned from the discussion groups, thus providing a nice, safe, cuddly environment, where never is heard a discouraging word. #4 and #5 are clearly designed to imply that the so-called “Pharma Bloggers” either don’t have a regular job (why else would they have so much time?) or that they are working for big pharma. Of course, they never provide any evidence to support their accusations. In fact, they almost never provide even any reasoning to support their accusations more substantive than variations on “he’s criticizing alternative medicine a lot so he must be a pharma shill.”

The “pharma shill” gambit, like other varieties of ad hominem or well-poisoning rhetoric, conveniently frees alties from having to argue for their favorite remedies on the science and clinical studies supporting them (which in most cases tend to be badly designed or nonexistent). It’s a technique that’s not just limited to alties, either. Anti-vaccination cranks and mercury/autism conspiracy theorists like it too. As Skeptico pointed out, even if a newsgroup denizen were a pharma shill, that wouldn’t necessarily invalidate his argument. Yes, in the case of a true “shill” who does not reveal that he works for a pharmaceutical company and pretends to be “objective,” it is quite appropriate to “out” that person. (Note that I have yet ever to observe such a person in action, which tells me that they are probably a lot less common than alties like to claim.) Even in the case of a real shill, however, this sort of “outing” is not a refutation of that person’s arguments; it merely serves to increase appropriately the level of skepticism about what that person is saying. Such an “outing” still leaves the task of actually using evidence, logic, and sound arguments to refute what that person is saying, something alties rarely even attempt to do. It’s far easier to fling the accusation of “pharma shill” about and see if they can get it to stick, as PeterB and his ilk do.

Comments

  1. #1 anonimouse
    September 28, 2006

    Actually, if I could get paid to insult trolls like Common Sue and John Best while smacking them down their pointless arguments, that would rock. That’s be a better use of Big Pharma’s money than mousepads and cool pens. (but not the dinners or trips; those have to stay)

  2. #2 Bronze Dog
    September 28, 2006

    Happiness is doing what you love… for money. Too bad I do it for free.

  3. #3 Melissa
    September 28, 2006

    I have a friend who used to say, with tongue firmly in cheek of course, “I keep waiting for the Great Jewish Conspiracy to contact me and tell me what I’m supposed to be doing…” Sounds like a similar case.

    Wonder if Big Pharma is currently recruiting shills, and how much do they pay? Is it per hour, salary, or straight commission? Do they have health insurance benefits? How ’bout dental?

    I think anonimouse and Bronze Dog ought to be getting combat pay.

  4. #4 HCN
    September 28, 2006

    There is a reason that I classify the cost of internet service in Quicken as “entertainment”.

  5. #5 Blake Stacey
    September 28, 2006

    Big Pharma shills probably get paid a whole lot more than Big Physics shills; all we American Physical Society minions get to do is silence the occasional free energy crank. Oh, sometimes we get to type long screeds attacking “other ways of knowing”, but we just don’t have the glamour that you Big Pharma folks simply radiate.

  6. #6 Michele
    September 28, 2006

    I’m with you, I want that job. Although I suspect it would become depressing after awhile. None of the alties seem to tire of their continual unsupported rants.
    There a place for alternative therapy. I use accupuncture to control my allergies, for me it works better than the medication did. That said, when I have a full blown asthma attack, I reach for the albuterol.

  7. #7 Hyperion
    September 28, 2006

    I don’t know, I think we should all come clean and admit that those free pens were just too tempting to resist. Of course, as I sit at a desk and use a computer, the only thing I use pharma pens for is writing a little note to remind myself that I need to buy more toilet paper and/or beer on the way home, but they’re so bright and colorful and hypnotizing, once you’ve used ‘em once, you’re hooked…and who wouldn’t shill for something that reminds them of wiping their nether regions?

  8. #8 Calli Arcale
    September 28, 2006

    I’ve never been accused of being a Pharma Shill (although it’s come close), but I have been accused of being on the government’s payroll, usually as a pawn of NASA, for believing things like the Face on Mars to be natural features.

    Of course, there is another strategem that is used by those who’ve realized how dumb the “shill” strategem really sounds. It’s the “brainwashed sheep” strategem. If you’re not in their employ, then clearly you’re brainwashed by their propaganda. The worst part is that most of them use this strategem as if they were being generous! “It’s not your fault you can’t see the light. You’ve been blinded by the .”

  9. #9 David Harmon
    September 28, 2006

    Orac: “(4) he’s Hitler, fer cryin’ out loud. ”

    Ad hominem! ;-) :-) :-)

    But yeah, projection and delusions of persecution are par for the course with all the various “denier” types.

  10. #10 David Wright
    September 28, 2006

    What’s particularly amusing is that PeterB himself (Orac’s bad example) often falls foul of his own rule #4 — he sometimes responds extremely quickly. What’s doubly amusing is that he primarily posts during the day. Which does make one wonder what sort of job he has. In fact, his behavior sometimes suggests that he works for one of those supplement companies that brags about how they use “food form” vitamins or something of the sort. He’s real big on those.

    Oh, and he has accused me of being a “pharma blogger,” a singularly stupid term that he invented and of which he is totally enamored, no matter how many times someone points out to him that it makes no sense. He’s still posting his little screed every month or so, by the way.

    By the way, I think there is one genuine shill haunting the newsgroups. He posts under the name of “Kent Ross” or some variation, and his job is apparently to beat the bushes for clients for some bunch of ambulance chasers who specialize in class-action medical lawsuits.

  11. #11 SkookumPlanet
    September 29, 2006

    [Gasp! This is even wordier than my usual, but I barely had time to get the draft done. I hope the words aren't a chore, the length is automatically one, and that it helps somebody.]

    I wrote a very long comment for your Dawn Winkler topic. It was a blunt psychological analysis of Common Sense, followed by a long description of two SciAm global warming blog posts and an invitation to check them out The blogger, a SciAm editor, had solicited GW skeptics to explain what made them skeptical. I got involved in the 300 ensuing comments. The connection at Orac’s was to show Common Sense and the other antivacs an area of science, completely unconnected with vaccines and medicine, where skeptics were using the same tactics they were. Only this time the skeptics were working for the establishment. They were acting out a script created by high-paid psychomarketing experts financed by an oil company.

    I finally admitted the psychological undressing was so personal the angry responses would overwhelm any other idea in it. Also, all that work and still the connection between the two halves was not….flowing. I hadn’t the energy to do the work the connection needed.

    The idea is relevant here, and I still think perhaps instructive for the anti-vax people. However, something like that needs to be presented in non-competitive environment. There’s a long history between these groups [I know nothing about] and almost anything presented to them here would be intuitively understood as a competitive tactic and so be resisted in order to “win”.
    .
    ______________________________________

    I would like to say something to the antivaxers who are reading this. To do so I will have to take an approach as I did in the comment I discarded, something I have very rarely done in 100s of comments. I have to focus my discussion on a specific person.

    Late addendum, about me. I’ve added this because of the audience I’m addressing. As vaguely as I can — I come from a family of attorneys but, fortunately, I’m not one. One of these family members has had more interaction with the pharmaceutical industry than anyone here unless they work in it. This person conceives of this part of their life’s work as keeping Big Pharma honest. Big pharma doesn’t like my relative. I’ve heard a few privileged horror stories, the kind locked up in settlement agreements. This person’s description of Big Pharma: “It’s the most dishonest industry I’ve come across in any way in my work.” I trust this person’s honesty, analytical intelligence, and with my life. This person knows about the inside, doesn’t yak any crap, and likely’s does more for your cause in a case than you all will in your lives put together. This person messes with Big Pharma all the time. And almost always wins.

    First, about me. I’m not a scientist, no connection to anything about health [just my own], and got no dog in this fight. I’m a writer, with a varied media background. I’m an ex-journalist. Journalists can’t write about anything without some sort of proof. [Real journalists, not the fake ones who lie about what they're doing. Like Fox news.] And, over years of work, through chasing down all sorts of things that sound good but don’t pan out, most journalists come to realize that one of the tip-offs to manufactured material put into public play is the lack of evidence. Even if what you’re following up is just rumor, if it’s real, there usually is verifiable info in the rumor.

    If you go searching, you’ll find 250 of my comments on Scienceblogs in the last 6-7 months. I’ll point to some below.

    I’m on a mission. Around 80%, maybe 90% of these are about a single subject, a kind of seminar — “Media Literacy and Manipulation for Scientists”, subtitled “Psychomarketing Social Change for Skeptics”. I’m trying to give bloggers and readers here some tools to recognize the types of anti-PR campaigns PeterB and the antivaxers are discussing, and some ideas about dos and don’ts of effectively countering them. I’ll leave it to others to evaluate whether PeterB or I know more about the topic, but, just based on this one post of his, my position is I’m actually doing, sincerely and effectively, what PeterB is only pretending to do. [Apparently we both have archival text that can be compared.] I try to stick to evo/ID and global warming as in both scientists were caught flat-footed by well-financed, communication-savvy, political opposition and I’m familiar with the science. But examples abound everywhere.

    And that’s immediately what I picked up about PeterB’s post. He’s right, basically. Such campaigns do exist, they can be very sophisticated, and my two subjects on Sciblogs are examples. I provide my evidence through analysis, lots of repetitive analysis on many score iterations of content. Why is this “evidence” thing so important?

    The professional anti-PR campaigns are very slick, and use tools based upon scientific knowledge and it’s applications, things like visual processing, branding, information theory, message discipline, hyperbolic time discounting, push polls, memetics, risk perception, positioning, MTV’s ethnography studies, psychology of perception, semiotics, ambiguity aversion, evolutionary economics, neurobiology, information contagion, primatology, reward processing, pupilometers, cognitive science, viral marketing, neuroethics, game theory, evolutionary psychology, data mining, neuromarketing, and fMRI, and much more that, almost certainly, none of you have ever heard about.

    How are you ever going to protect yourself if you aren’t interested in an evidentiary method for discriminating truth from BS? If PeterB were actually up against a professional campaign, he would be turned into an alternating whimpering then hysterical pretzel. These type of operations can screw up entire industries and spend millions a year on the very best professionals at doing this. I do not exaggerate — PeterB hasn’t enough imagination to understand what would happen to him up against the real thing. They would find him, his job, his family, his friends, his entire life, turn it and their needs over to a shrink, or a team of them, get a back an operations plan, then follow it to squash the gnat.

    And, in the process they’d make him look like a dishonest, manipulating, amoral SOB. You would have to be thoroughly versed in evidentiary analysis and use it for workdays of time to figure out none of it was true. Even on a more mundane level, even with what kind of food or car to buy — how does one protect oneself from hucksters?

    I’m highly confident that we’re about to see America’s public decision making inundated with attempts by numerous moneyed interests to shape the way American’s perceive reality. Let me be clear, change the way Americans perceive reality without American’s ever realizing that it’s being changed. I mean YOU won’t realize it. No conspiracy theory BS and subliminal messages BS. No, this is science, it’s used now, I discuss it, and I only know tiny bits.

    Several successful role-model campaigns now exist. You’re all in big trouble if it comes down. Our country’s not prepared for this, and the U.S. is in frighteningly real danger of becoming a nation of voters living in a fantasyland, completely disconnected from the rest of the world. But reality bites back. If such goes on long enough, America will come out the other side a second-rate country evermore. Seems impossible, but it’s not.

    PeterB has done something really despicable. He’s lazy.

    I’ll accept the existence of pharma shills and negative psychomarketing campaigns. But PeterB doesn’t know jack shit about them. Nada. Because he’s lazy. First, he presents no type of evidence, not even anecdotal. Such evidence exists, somewhere. Second, if what he says is true, then given what we learn about him he’s a self-absorbed something or other. He has a responsibility to do something about this, and he’s not.

    [I'm the counter example. Last Feb I found myself with knowledge akin to PeterBs [but real] in a really important area, environmental politics — the left — scientists, where virtually everyone was focused on the wrong thing. It was, still is, a slow-motion political train wreck. Nobody was showing them the real playing field. I never made a decision to start my project, it was so obviously important as was my responsibility. So far it’s about 350 comments on 280+ blog posts running, God knows, 500+ double-spaced pages in 8 months.]

    PeterB is pissed. He’s got a decent analytical, pattern-recognizing mind and he’s picked up a potentially major pattern [just like me] and then he STOPPED. Ya see? He doesn’t give a RAT’S ASS about this. If what he says is true, it’s huge. And he’s has not a single shred of evidence. He can’t be bothered with finding any. He’s got more important things to do.

    Let me try this another way. He obviously cares about alternative medicine. On Usenet. He thinks he’s found a negative-PR campaign. He’s got a good theory. Then. He abandons it. Each of us, everybody reading this, has a responsibility, to themselves and their communities, to act in the best interests of all. PeterB doesn’t give a shit about anyone on these threads. If he did, he would do something, almost anything, beyond just throw up an accusatory, unsupported conspiracy! This is HUGE. If true, this would be the best weapon, best marketing tool, best any-and-everything-political the alternative health community could have. HE TAKES THE ULTIMATE WEAPON AGAINST THE PHARM-BLOG CAMPAIGN HE OBVIOUSLY DETESTS and drops the ball. He takes a dump and disappears.

    I’ve seen nothing else of his, so how do I know correct? It’s in his content, it’s all there. If he had the goods, if he actually knew something, it would be in there. In some fashion. Even if not mentioned directly, it would be in the interrelationships, the language. He’s bright and capable enough to set it up and express it, so he’s bright enough to understand every ounce of evidence woven into his assertions is like gold. But there is none.

    He’s lazy. He has no sense of social responsibility. He simply wants to be left alone to yak with who he chooses. End of story.

    That’s the very obvious psychological transaction going on. Now let me discuss the content of the post, the text, thinking like a journalist.

    First of all, he’s put together a host of fairly well-done but obviously amateurish, psychomarketing/rhetorical language to attack this pharma people. They aren’t logical arguments. They aren’t evidence. This is the way the sleaziest elements accomplish goals, the used car salesman, the phony religious crusader, to power-by-any-means politicians, to an oil company obsessed with bottomline to the point of taking enormous risks with billions of peoples lives, and the lives of their grandchildren without asking anybody. This is a big sign that there are problems. Emotional, manipulative rhetoric instead of coherent logical argument.

    I’ll ask you this, give you this, really. The only way to avoid getting sucked in by your own people, more accurately someone pretending to be your own people, is to ignore the warm fuzzies you get cause, yeah, he’s right! Every side, every field, everywhere has real and emotional crooks embedded in them. You gotta be able to put aside, momentarily, the battle, and look at the content objectively.

    Second, there’s no evidence. His idea sounds good. It certainly ties together lots of strands. It is nearly certain such campaigns exist. But, there is not a single piece of reality in it. Nothing. It’s all hypothetical. No examples. No campaign, even long gone, identified No people IDed. Nothing. Not a single thingyou could use, like a journalist would, to start an investigation. No search term for Google.

    Third, another tool for analyzing these things is to slightly shift the context and see what happens. Does it still make sense in a different environment? Older, younger , different sex, later, earlier? Here, I’ll shift it from the impersonal to the personal. What if he wrote the same thing, but used the names of actual people? Do you understand what that means and why he would never, or should never, do that? It’s slander. Slander is something that is thoroughly dishonest, specifically designed to injure individual human beings, and opens the slanderer to years, even decades, of a hell that’s hard to conceive of unless you’ve been close to a defendant in a major personal tort. And, while complicated, slander can be simplified to — you are safe if you can prove it. To prove something in a court of law you need evidence.

    This shift I did then exposes another rhetorical trick. That is, you take material that you have no proof of, material that attacks the credibility, motivation, etc. of your opponent, material that could cause you actual, real life, serious repercussions [because its a form of public lie] and just shift it to the unidentifiable group. The “they”.

    Four, finally. There’s a legitimate, reasonable simple, alternative to explain the pattern he’s picked found and amplified. The key here is he doesn’t reference it. One can differentiat those engaged in an exchange-of-ideas debate looking for truth or accomodation and those only interested in scoring points, The truthseeker acknowledges the other side’s arguments and adressess them somehow. The point-scorer only mentions what he can triumph over and ignores all else. Omissions like these can be a way to differentiate psychomarketing campaigns from real issue debates.
    .

    PeterB is probably an OK guy, but he’s really frustrated and I sympathize. But he’s chosen to deal with that frustration in an extremely negative, destructive, damaging way. I could probably come up with ten good, positive alternatives in 10 minutes. What he’s done is voluntarily turned himself into something that functions exactly the oil-moneyed ex-scientists who lie about the science of global warming and the ========== of the Discovery Institute that spend their entire workday dreaming up new lies about science to feed their vast ignorant audience so Jesus will be brought into science. PeterBs doing the same thing.

    He’s not interested in knowing if what he says IS TRUE. Anywhere. Show me. It’s all a temper tantrum. He’s pissed off and he’s going to make HIMSELF feel good by striking out at the source of his frustration. It’s a vindictive, mean-spirited meltdown. And the manner he does it makes it a calculated lie TO YOU. He’s not lying to the Pharma-crowd, but to you. YOU.

    And, as a reminder, he can get off his butt and educate all these “intimidated” users, give them weapons and ammunition to fight back, actually do something effective against the evil forces he condemns. I did it. I’m proof PeterB can do it. And I put myself on record [too much so many would say]. PeterB? Not a chance. What he wrote there is certain evidence he hasn’t enough self-respect, and respect for others to lift a finger.

    One last, personal item, an additional moral issue with PeterB and I’ll guess this applies to nearly all of you if you follow his Pharma shills without evidence approach. None of you have thought about the impact this has on the people who actually are trying to wrestle with shills, one’s that are so sophisticated and smart and paid so much they do it openly, not on Usenet, for chrissakes, but on the pages of WaPo, NYT, WSJ, networks, and before Congressional committees, the ones that have million dollar agendas, TV production studios, and persuasion industry handlers to train, prep, image, and ____ them. I’ve bumped into some a little bit, but I challenge you to spend two weeks reading Deltoid when there’s big global warming mews happening.

    PeterB-type shrill but shallow shill shouting may not be baseless, that’s not the point. His failure to produce anything more substantial than phantoms is the functional equivalent of crying wolf nationally. He and his personal war are insignificant, but multiplied by the thousands takes a toll. It diminishes the charge when it’s needed to hobble the really bad guys in the really important battles. This cry wolf can turn something real and dangerous into a cliche in the minds of the public. It’s happened many times.

    To be an ethical person it’s mandatory one consider the broad repercussions of one’s works. As important as the antivax battle is to you, how does it compare to global warming? Battles are being waged, right now, with stakes so high that if enough goes wrong, long enough the ensuing social disaster’s desperate society will laugh anti vaccination off the agenda for decades. Actions have consequences.

    The faction in control of our country quite openly, I’ll exaggerate to create a future scenario, believes people like you should be socially and legally sanctioned to prevent any damage to Big Pharma in any way, and believe Big Pharma should write the nation’s med law because Pharma is the expert. It’s not much of a stretch to see this faction, on a scale from metaphorical to real, chaining and gagging you, then turning your kids into pincushions. Without recourse. Actions have consequences.
    .

    I’m not going to bore everyone, nor have I the time, to take PeterB’s text apart phrase by phrase. But I’ve done it before with someone who’s approach is roughly like PeterB’s. See wikipedi in links below.
    .
    .
    Links
    Here are some briefly annotated examples of my work, a tiny sliver. Make your own decisions about me.
    ____________________________________________________________

    ….So-called Truthteller
    Wikipedia User:Skookumplanet
    Here’s why evidentiary analysis is important. I spent weeks taking apart these two paragraphs from a creationist, and not because I was interested in winning. Depending on criteria I found 3x, or 9x lies in just over 200 words. If your trace him out, try his user page, he dumped a flood a similarly densely dishonest material. Is it lest dishonest just because he didn’t vet it? You’ll also see my critique of PeterB has nothing to do with pharamavax.

    Led to War by Proximity Soundbites
    [http://scienceblogs[dot]com/intersection/2006/04/nordhaus_shellenberger_make_a[dot]php#comment-64018]
    I have several here, but you’re encouraged to forget about me and focus on the thread. This is a thread of people talking about and the blog topic is about two guys who’s life works is about — countering an absolutely real [no one doubts it] campaign that peterb alludes to, spending 12 million a year. the energy biz has resource — cash, valuable product, international reach, political connections — Big Pharma will only be able to dream about. With little effort you can find many months worth of these commenters on GW blogs and see the thought, physical effort, and mental effort reflecting their concerns. This thread discusses tactics and strategies and if there are similar antivax threads, comparing the comparative levels of authenticity and thinking might be profitable. I think reading the entire thread, start to end, is worthwhile, if not for the subject, then the quality of the commenters [not including me]. And per my discussions above, my Evidence Project.

    Recognizing Negative Psychomarketing campaigns
    [http://scienceblogs[dot]com/aetiology/2006/09/do_rethinkers_ever_have_a_poin[dot]php#comment-215511]
    I don’t really participate here, just supply some hopefully relevant info. Compare my post there with PeterB’s above

    Rise of the Feather Dragons
    [http://scienceblogs[dot]com/grrlscientist/2006/06/the_rise_of_the_feathered_drag_1[dot]php#comment-116860]
    Here’s me letting go, venting on the opposition. It’s an evidentiary analysis where there are no “facts” per se and as close as I get to nasty. [ invite you to consider for awhile, if this approach is more effective than yours.

    "Tumbler"
    [http://scienceblogs[dot]com/pharyngula/2006/06/ann_coulter_no_evidence_for_ev[dot]php]
    I have a number in this long thread but search on Tumbler. Here’s a completely opposite approach to the “enemy” than I seen here by antivaxers, a some on the other side.

    ____________________________________________________________
    If there are any really masochistic people out there, I’d be willing to talk about the alternative explanation PeterB ignores. And I could make an attempt to explain what I think, on admittedly little data, the antivax folks misunderstand about the other side. These might be highly overlapping areas, I haven’t written anything, so I’m not certain yet. It won’t be a prompt response though. What I <>can’t talk about is pharmavax because I don’t know. I intuit that the other side might approach the antivaxers a bit differently, too.

    Remember, I got no dog in this fight. I didn’t even know there was a fight. I’m commenting at sciblogs because science, all of science, is under direct threat, it doesn’t know how to respond, and every single one of us, and all our descendants, for centuries maybe, will be personally, perhaps hideously, damaged if science loses the coming battle.

    Look around you right now, wherever you are, and start mentally erasing every physical object derived from 20th century scientific knowledge. Go ahead, do a few, they’re easy to find. Not pretty, is it. There really are groups in this country whose interests will be served this way, and to succeed they will have to sell Americans lies as reality. The tools they use much more sophisticated than the tools you guys are talking about here, way beyond, and they’ve got the ability and means to use them. Now, I do got a dog in that fight.

  12. #12 Coin
    October 2, 2006

    Geez, I WISH you could get a paycheck just for hanging around on the internet and explaining that modern medicine and biology more or less works. That would be an awesome job. But last I checked you could only get that kind of cash by claiming horribly toxic industrial chemicals are good for the environment, or denying anthropogenic climate change.

    Well, and I have it on good authority you can also get pretty good money astroturfing for the video game companies, and the job qualifications aren’t as high. But those guys seriously work you to the bone. You’re apparently supposed to keep up tens of fake personas on a variety of sites all the time. It would be easier to just go with a real job.

    Either way, it appears that somehow it’s become possible to get money for spreading lies, but not truth. This sucks.

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