Respectful Insolence

Wow.

I just saw something that utterly stunned me over at that house organ of the mercury militia and antivaccinationists everywhere Age of Autism. It’s an example of hypocrisy so blatant that it stuns even me, someone who’s been following the whole pseudoscientific “vaccines cause autism” movement for over three years now. It started with this headline:

DR. OFFIT’S CONFLICT OF INTEREST SHOULD DISALLOW HIM FROM COMMENTING

Then, when The Probe quite reasonably points out in the comments:

Kim, since you are so concerned about conflicts of interest that you are willing to deny Dr. Offitt his right of free speech and press, I assume that you support the idea that any parent who is a claimant in the Omnibus Class Action should hold their comments, as they, too, have a conflict of interest.

Kim replies:

The reporter should at least mention Dr. Offit’s financial interest in vaccines along with his title at CHOP. If a parent involved in a legal case chooses to discuss it in a forum like this that’s their right too.

Dr. Offit is certainly allowed to have freedom of speech. He can write books, articles, get his quotes plastered in every paper in America. We plan to add the information that tends to be missing, however.

But wait a minute. What was the title of Kim’s post again? Oh, yeah, it was this:

DR. OFFIT’S CONFLICT OF INTEREST SHOULD DISALLOW HIM FROM COMMENTING

Nice to catch Kim lying so blatantly about what she clearly meant from the title.

In any case, I do so love the quote from Dr. Offit that so irritated the not-so-merry band of antivaccinationists over at AoA:

I think that what’s so endearing to me about the anti-vaccine people is they’re perfectly willing to go from one hypothesis to the next without a backward glance.

This is so true. Antivaccinationists are, if nothing else, very–shall we say?–flexible about what hypotheses of autism causation they will accept. The only absolute requirement they have for such hypotheses, of course, is that the hypothesis must somehow blame vaccines for autism, no matter how tangentially. Anything else is negotiable, as the Hannah Poling case taught us. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous or scientifically implausible (remember the Geiers’ “testosterone sheets” and mercury, for example) or how many high quality studies refute it (the concept that mercury in the thimerosal preservative that used to be in most childhood vaccines, for example), as long as the hypothesis somehow blames vaccines for autism, antivaccinationists will credulously gobble it up. It doesn’t even matter if the hypotheses they champion are mutually contradictory. To them, as long as a hypothesis somehow allows them to blame vaccines for autism, it’s all good.

What’s really scary, though, are some of the comments. For example, a commenter named Craig Willoughby issued what is in essence a call for violence against Dr. Offit:

This man makes me sick. I cannot describe to you how angry I am right now. My autistic child is very ill right now because of this man and his willingness to do anything for his blood money. And the rest of America (except for those of us who know the truth) go on blithely as if nothing was ever wrong or give this demon praises (PRAISES!) for the “contribution to the safety of our children.”

Prison will be too good for him. I think that if and when this all finally comes crashing down, I think that the government should give this sick and twisted individual to the parents of the children he so willingly destroyed.

Whatever you may think of Dr. Offit, even if you believe that vaccines somehow cause autism, can we all agree that calls for violence against him are beyond the pale in civilized debate and that Mr. Willoughby has descended into truly vile, frightening rhetoric?

I fear for Dr. Offit and his family, given this degree of hatred directed against him by antivaccinationists.

Comments

  1. #1 zinnia
    May 12, 2008

    Scary indeed. I wonder if Dr. Offit has invested in some kind of personal security service yet, not unlike what some physicians who perform abortions have had to do?

  2. #2 khefera
    May 12, 2008

    just a niggling, but crucial point in the whole back and forth, but freedom of speech only applies to government actions curtailing your speech. any group or private blog can curtail pretty much whatever they want.

  3. #3 Landru
    May 12, 2008

    Nothing niggling about it. It’s the one grailish response to those who pound us over the head about freedom of speech.

    But not particularly relevant here. The point is about AoA’s hypocrisy and Kim’s disingenuity.

  4. #4 wfjag
    May 12, 2008

    Interestingly, in response to Craig’s comment, another commentator quoted the poem Invictus. I wonder if either of them know that that was the favorite poem of Huey P. Long? Or, that Long was killed by shots fired by a M.D.?(See T. Harry Williams’ biography “Huey P. Long”).

  5. #5 Ms. Clark
    May 12, 2008

    What I found amazing is how Kim Stagliano, apparently speaking for all those “editors” and contributors on the AoA clown blog, came out and admitted that they are all, in fact, “antivaccine.”

    The same reaction was found on the Evidence of Harm Yahoo! group where Dr. Offit’s comment was accepted as a comment about all of the “parents” who believe in the vaccine hypothesis.

    Lenny Schafer seemed to be agreeing, that Offit’s statement applied to all of them.

    Which would logically mean that Lenny’s is finally admitting that they are all “antivaccine”, *not* “pro safe-vaccine”. They identify themselves as “antivaccine” privately, but usually in public they will only say that they want “better vaccines” or “green vaccines”.

    If they weren’t truly antivaccine, then maybe Li’l Kim’s blog would have said,

    “Gosh isn’t it awful how Dr. Offit has no sympathy for antivaccine people. We who are not antivaccine but are rather for *safer* vaccines don’t agree with the extremist antiaxers either. We wish they would go away from autism because they are so extreme and we don’t want to be confused with those holding their ridiculous and ignorant anti-science attitude.”

    But no, the AoA irregulars got all huffy and even started threatening physical harm because of a very mild rebuke from a doctor that they felt personally attacked by.

    Hysterical.

  6. #6 DLC
    May 12, 2008

    So, Dr Offit apparently came and said :”Come, let us reason together” and was harangued for his effort ?
    I don’t follow AoA, and I don’t read the other Autism Crank websites so I am not fully informed on the specifics.
    However, I note that it is not at all unusual for fanatics to scream down whoever disagrees with them, however politely the
    dissent is phrased.

  7. #7 Regan
    May 12, 2008

    Given the amount of vitriol,innuendo and garden-variety rudeness sent in the direction of pediatricians, agencies, western medicine, and those who see the scientific evidence going in a different direction than some currently popular hypothesis among certain groups, I can see Dr. Offit indulging in a little turnabout, maybe out of fatigue more than anything; as invectives go, “endearing” is pretty tame.

  8. #8 BA
    May 12, 2008

    Dr. Offit works in West Philly. Antivaccinationist parents are probably not the most likely source of harm. Scary nonetheless.

  9. #9 John Best
    May 12, 2008

    What’s vexing here is AOA supporting Kathleen Seidel but coming out against Offitt. One would think they would be viewed as equally evil.

  10. #10 Harrison
    May 13, 2008

    What I find sad and dismaying is that the most strident of the anti-vacciners is that they seem to be thin-skinned and have hair trigger tempers. Strongly disagreeing is one thing, but threatening violence is quite another.

    I work in a local health department in immunizations, and I can be quite confident in saying that 1) we are not in an evil conspiracy with Big Pharma; and 2) we honestly want to help keep children safe and healthy–otherwise, why would we be in the work we’re in (trust me, it ain’t about getting rich)?

    If we get frustrated, it’s because of the misinformation and the tendency of what I call “appeal to celebrity”—if Jenny McCarthy says it, it must be true! She has an autistic child and besides, she did a lot of Internet research!

    Well, there are people in health professions who have autistic children AND a clinical background–are they less credible? Are they of ill intent? No. They, like all parents, want their children to be healthy and happy.

    I just get tired of hearing many of the anti-vacciners demonizing their “opponents”. We are not your enemy. The enemies are ignorance, fear and those diseases out there–and they are out there.

  11. #11 Harrison
    May 13, 2008

    Oops. I also find sad and dismaying the way I constructed that first sentence–please ignore the phrase “is that they”.

  12. #12 TheProbe
    May 13, 2008

    WOW! To be cited by RI….

    Here is my response to Kim’s comments:

    “Kim, you wrote and entitled this article “DR. OFFIT’S CONFLICT OF INTEREST SHOULD DISALLOW HIM FROM COMMENTING”, which clearly and unambiguously states that Dr. Offitt should be silenced. How can you reconcile that with:

    “The reporter should at least mention Dr. Offit’s financial interest in vaccines along with his title at CHOP. If a parent involved in a legal case chooses to discuss it in a forum like this that’s their right too.

    Dr. Offit is certainly allowed to have freedom of speech. He can write books, articles, get his quotes plastered in every paper in America. We plan to add the information that tends to be missing, however.”

    What compounds your logical problems is the fact that you are now complaining that the author of the article, and NOT Dr. Offitt, left out something.

    Are you saying that because the reporter did a poor job, Dr. Offitt should be silenced?

    BTW, this is a classic reason why newspaper articles, journalists of all stripes, etc. should not be relied upon for medical information.”

  13. #13 Inquisitive Raven
    May 13, 2008

    What’s vexing here is AOA supporting Kathleen Seidel but coming out against Offitt. One would think they would be viewed as equally evil.

    Why John Boy, don’t you realize that the support of Kathleen Seidel is purely self-interest? If Shoemaker had gotten away with his subpoena, the people on your side could be subjected to the same kind of harassment. Did you miss Orac’s Open letter to David Kirby and Dan Olmstead? He spells it out right there. Twit.

  14. #14 Walleye
    May 14, 2008

    I sympathize with John Best. His “commrades” have turned out to be a truckload of maroons.

  15. #15 TheProbe
    May 14, 2008

    Walleye said: “I sympathize with John Best. His “commrades” have turned out to be a truckload of maroons.”

    Sympathize even more. Best is so out of it that he does not even realize that. Remember, his car sports a bumper sticker saying “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Use”.

  16. #16 Nate's Dad
    May 14, 2008

    Where in his statement does he mention violence against Dr. Offit? It may be implied, yes, but no where in there does he mention anything about performing violence. It’s not like he called for Dr. Offit to be shot, like one of your frequent readers did when mentioning the people who believe that there is a vaccine-autism connection. You mention pot calling the kettle black?

    Additionally, he has a constitutional right to speak his views. Again, while there is an implication of violence, no actual violence was actually mentioned. Big difference.

  17. #17 Orac
    May 14, 2008

    It maybe implied, yes, but no where in there does he mention anything about
    performing violence. It’s not like he called for Dr. Offit to be shot, like one of your frequent readers did when mentioning the people who believe that there is a vaccine-autism connection

    Who and exact quote, please? I can’t always read every comment in detail; sometimes when there are a lot of them I just skim quickly.

    By the way, the same person commented further:

    My most fervent wish right now is that For-profit Offit falls into my hands. He and I would have a nice, long “talk.” I don’t pray for this, well, because I don’t pray for anything anymore. Hard to pray when there’s no one listening.

    The meaning of his two statements, taken together, is quite clear to me.

  18. #18 Nate's Dad
    May 14, 2008

    It wasn’t on this site, but he is a regular visitor here. AutismNewsBeat mentions on his site “Olmsted is editor of AgeOfAutism.com, an online water cooler where dim-witted sociopaths and shrieking Chicken Little’s compare conspiracy theories and cheer on declining vaccination rates. Without First Amendment protections, these fools would have have been lined up and shot around the time thimerosal disappeared from scheduled childhood vaccines, or roughly six years ago.”

    You are also taking Mr. Willoughby’s comments out of context. From my understanding, he was quite upset because his son had received and intestinal blockage. I would be upset too. Again, he merely implies violence in his statement against Dr. Offit. He does not actually speak of any type of physical violence. There is a huge difference.

  19. #19 HCN
    May 14, 2008

    Nate’s Dad wrote: “You are also taking Mr. Willoughby’s comments out of context.”

    And you are doing the same for the ANB’s remarks. It was a posting about a vaccine lawyer trying to shut down Kathleen Seidel’s blog through subpeona. He was saying that in a place without 1st Amendment rights, that is what would happen to them. He was not shoot them! Big difference.

    Noticed how you did not link to it:
    http://autism-news-beat.com/?p=48

    Which says:
    “Shoemaker, who is currently representing Rev. and Mr. Lisa Sykes in a vaccine-related action against Bayer, is apparently unhappy with Seidel’s sleuthing, so he subpoenaed her work product, financial records, and even inquired about her religious beliefs.”

    Then he quotes Orac:
    “Given that this subpoena is clearly an obvious attempt to silence Kathleen or, at the very least, punish her for her criticisms of Clifford Shoemaker and his activities, I am appealing to both of you to use your influence and position in the autism biomedical movement to protest this shameless action by Mr. Shoemaker. I am urging you to speak out against legal intimidation and thuggery and for the First Amendment right of the media, including bloggers, of freedom of speech.”

    And then you seemed to have left off the first sentence of the paragraph you quoted:
    “So far only silence from Kirby and Olmsted. Olmsted is editor of AgeOfAutism.com, an online water cooler where dim-witted sociopaths and shrieking Chicken Little’s compare conspiracy theories and cheer on declining vaccination rates. Without First Amendment protections, these fools would have have been lined up and shot around the time thimerosal disappeared from scheduled childhood vaccines, or roughly six years ago.”

    So where in that did ANB actually advocate that he thinks that their free speech be taken away, or that they be silenced with violence?

  20. #20 HCN
    May 14, 2008

    Aagh… where I say “He was not shoot them!”, I really meant to say “He was not saying to shoot them!”.

    Never mind… But Nate’s Dad was quoting out of context.

    Pot, meet kettle.

  21. #21 Nate's Dad
    May 14, 2008

    HCN, there is a distinct difference between spoken (or in this case written) violence and implied violence. ANB said that they “should have been shot.” Mr. Willoughby said “turn him over to the parents” and “he and I would have a nice “talk.”” Do you see the difference? I was not quoting him out of context; I was using his quote to show you the distinction between the two.

    While ANB may not have said he would shoot them, saying that they should have been shot is walking a fine line. Mr. Willoughby never spoke of violence. It could be possible that he wants to have Dr. Offit be turned over to the parents so they can all have a tea party. He may actually want to talk to Dr. Offit. Yes, the tone of his post implies otherwise, but it’s just that; an implication.

    Anyhow, I felt that I should point out the slight fallacy in the post. Especially after reading some of Mr. Willoughby’s other posts, he was understandably upset. Does that make his comment right? Maybe not, but he has the right to say it.

  22. #22 HCN
    May 14, 2008

    You are being an idiot… ADN did NOT say “should have been shot.” How can you even claim that when I posted the URL and the full quote? He said “Without First Amendment protections, these fools would have have been lined up and shot around the time thimerosal disappeared from scheduled childhood vaccines, or roughly six years ago.”

    He was saying that Kirby and Olmsted should denounce Shoemaker’s attempt to silence Seidel and protect 1st Amendment rights (which they sort of did http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/04/david_kirby_and_dan_olmsted_respond_rega.php ). Because without those rights they would have been rounded up… much like what happens in certain countries (which is happened to my high school chemistry teacher, Ray Dragseth in the hands of the Noriega regime… oh, by the way, did I mention I lived in a place where that stuff actually happened? Once in a while a in Omar Trujillo’s time a person without a head would be found dumped somewhere).

    That is a far cry from advocationg violence towards them. If you are having trouble with the understanding what he wrote, perhaps this might help:
    http://onlineacademy.org/modules/a303/index.html

  23. #23 Nate's Dad
    May 14, 2008

    I am in no way implying that he was advocating violence. I was trying to show you the difference between 2 disparaging comments. I was also trying to prove a point and say that Mr. Willoughby’s comments were also not advocating violence. But, feel free to continue being obtuse; you have that right as well. I can see why so many people call this a hate site.

  24. #24 HCN
    May 14, 2008

    Oh, good grief.

    Well, unlike some other sites the comments are very seldom moderated. What you said will remain, in all its confused glory.

  25. #25 Joseph
    May 14, 2008

    I am in no way implying that he was advocating violence.

    Ah, but you did do that, Nate’s dad. You said that ANB had stated Kirby and Olmsted should be shot. You said that in two separate comments here, which are perfectly clear. I can only assume you are being deliberately dishonest, since it’s clear to anyone who reads the original quote that nothing of the sort was said.

  26. #26 vlad
    May 14, 2008

    “He and I would have a nice, long “talk.”” The idiots use of quotation marks around the word talk makes it very clear as to his intent. Saying that someone should die (quite violently) and intending to “talk” (not quotation marks) to them is not implied.

  27. #27 AutismNewsBeat
    May 14, 2008

    Nate’s Dad:

    “Would” is a conditional tense verb that signifies a hypothetical action. Example: If I was Nate’s Dad, I would be more honest when I comment at Respectful Insolence.

    “Should” is the future subjunctive, most commonly used to make recommendations or give advice. Example: “You should learn elementary parts of speech if you want to be taken seriously at Respectful Insolence.”

    Hope this clears things up for you.

  28. #28 Craig
    May 14, 2008

    ANB, or rather, Ken. Here you are speaking of honesty, he of oh so many names. Perhaps you should learn the meaning of that word before you speak, well, anywhere but here where small minded fools like you gather together and pat each other on the back thinking you are all so “clever.”

    Nate’s Dad was quite correct. Perhaps you should all look at the full posts that were taken out of context before you make such judgements as to who is being dangerous and who isn’t (I.E. For-Profit Offit = dangerous, father upset = blowing off steam). It happened that my son had an intestinal blockage and I was quite upset, and For-Profit Offit’s patronizing statement was the straw that broke the camel’s back, especially when I had to deal the entire weekend with condescending doctors just like him.

    I would be offended by all of this, truly, if you people were not so damned funny.

  29. #29 HCN
    May 14, 2008

    Egads, the illiterati have spun their best with “Nate’s Dad was quite correct. Perhaps you should all look at the full posts that were taken out of context before you make such judgements as to who is being dangerous and who isn’t”

    Yikes!… perhaps Craig missed Nate’s Dad doing the selective quoting, and even the difference between these two words; should would.

  30. #30 AutismNewsBeat
    May 14, 2008

    Craig is typical of the anti-vax mindset. He starts with a preconceived notion (vaccines cause autism), then he cherry picks quotes to prove that he’s right. When things don’t go as planned (should and would are different words! Oh no!), he changes the subject and hopes nobody will notice.

    Thanks for the laugh, Craig!

  31. #31 Craig
    May 15, 2008

    Oy! Ken, you don’t see how hypocritical your statement is? Orac cherry picks MY quotes without the full context of them and you claim that I cherry picked quotes? I didn’t have a single quote in my post. Was I talking about the difference between 2 words? Nope, not at all. I was saying that Nate’s Dad was correct in saying that perhaps you should look at the whole story instead of cherry picking quotes. I was clarifying my statements and defending myself (something that Nate’s Dad was also doing; he happens to be a friend of mine who ran across this blog and let me know about it). And lastly, I was speaking of your lack of honesty, Ken or AutismNewsBeat or MidwestDad or HeraldBlog. Typical of the “pro-vaxx” crowd.

    Pot…Kettle…Black….hypocrit.

  32. #32 Orac
    May 15, 2008

    I cherry-picked nothing.

    Also, I included links to the specific comments you made, so that any interested reader could see the entire context of what you said (which, I might add, is better than I see antivaccinationists doing most of the time when they cite hostile sources).

    No, your meaning was crystal clear. Whether you were serious enough to actually go through with your insinuations of violence if Dr. Offit were ever unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of you and other parents, I doubt, and I’m pretty sure you were just blowing off steam (although whenever I see language like that I’m never entirely sure). However, there is no doubt that you were using violent rhetoric couched in weasel-words against Dr. Offit. Your excuses for denying that this was the case are unconvincing.

  33. #33 John Best
    May 15, 2008

    You guys would have no trouble supporting the execution of Joseph Mengele. What’s the difference between Mengele and Offitt who kills babies with his vaccines?

    For that matter, what’s the difference between Mengele and every pediatrician who shot mercury into babies since 1931 when it was never tested for safety?

  34. #34 James W
    May 16, 2008

    John:

    even apart from the fact that the evidence simply does not support the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism… (yes, yes, we know, you don’t believe that) – you make a big assumption that we all here would support the death penalty even someone as evil as Mengele. Some may, perhaps, but not all.

    A quesion for you: would you have supported the death penalty for Dr Mengele? And a follow-up: given your comparison above, can we extrapolate from this that you yourself believe Paul Offit should be killed?

    Just curious.

  35. #35 Skwee
    May 18, 2008

    You guys would have no trouble supporting the execution of Joseph Mengele. What’s the difference between Mengele and Offitt who kills babies with his vaccines?

    You’re just making this up as you go along, aren’t you? Even if the vaccine/autism hypothesis had not been thoroughly shredded & left in the dust, I was under the impression that autism is not deadly.

    As a side note, I recall Orac’s justification for banning Johnny (then Fore Sam) was his comment about horsewhipping Kathleen Siedel. Just thought he should know that.

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