Antivaccinationists in strange places

I just can’t escape them. Even when I want to, even when I’d like to take a break, they’re there.

The anti-vaccine nutcases.

This time around, they showed up at, of all places, Netroots Nation, where the deceptively named National Vaccine Information Center, an explicitly antivaccination group that spreads nothing but lies, set up a booth. Fortunately, the reaction to this incursion was not positive, but it just goes to show that these groups are trying to insinuate themselves anywhere they can.


  1. #1 Antonio
    July 30, 2008

    Care to elucidate the reactions the booth received? I’m curious.

  2. #2 hmmm
    July 30, 2008

    Looking at their booth, why am I reminded of scientologists?

  3. #3 Niobe
    July 30, 2008

    You’re telling me. Yesterday I was looking at the blogging on peer review website, and it lead me to a site that claimed that sham acupuncture isn’t possible but that acupuncture is so powerful it doesn’t matter which meridians are punctured. Of course in the sidebar they had an article “Vaccines: A double edged sword”. People tried to inject reason in the comment section and the very first antivaxxer replied with “who are you paid by”. They’re a pitiful parody of themselves and it would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.

    I wonder who’s accepting the submissions over at

  4. #4 Orac
    July 30, 2008

    Actually, I wasn’t at Netroots Nation. (The politics are way left of my general centrist bent.) Reports suggest a marked…lack of enthusiam–fortunately.

  5. #5 Mariah
    July 30, 2008

    There was some “feedback” about them here:

    Troll Booth

    And here: Travesty!

  6. #6 Interrobang
    July 30, 2008

    The politics are way left of my general centrist bent.

    Speaking as someone who isn’t American, the sad thing is, you think left-leaning Democrats aren’t centrists. If you’re in the current “centre,” that makes you a right-winger by any analysis — which is funny, because I generally agree with you. Are you Golden Meaning yourself?

  7. #7 Orac
    July 30, 2008

    You realize, of course, that few things I read on blogs irritate me more than the “by any real definition of left and right you’re a right winger.” Bora over at A Blog Around the Clock in particular irritates me with this gambit. Just a comment

    And why be surprised that you agree with me most of the time? Even if by your definition I’m a conservative, most conservatives are not raging idiots. Could it be that you have a bit of a bias here?

  8. #8 MartinM
    July 30, 2008

    You realize, of course, that few things I read on blogs irritate me more than the “by any real definition of left and right you’re a right winger.”

    How about “by any globally relevant definition,” then? I’m sure most people would be quite happy to concede that the US has a political left, in much the same way that a researcher at Vostok Station might consider -15degC to be rather pleasant 😛

  9. #9 Ranson
    July 30, 2008

    I think what Orac’s getting at is that, in U.S. political tems, he is a centrist. Why the hell should it matter to him if he’s considered a conservative elsewhere? There is no “globally relevant” definition of left and right, becaue I know of no global elections or candidates. Global issues, yes, but alignments there are usually by common interest, not name. Who cares if “Uncle Bob’s Ultra-Green Fundamental Workers’ Party” is considered to be right-wing and reactionary on the world stage? Policy means more than name.

    I get sick of it, too. Besides, this also assumes that the U.S. standards are not politcally relevant anywhere else. Given how much global policy is influenced by the U.S., for better or worse, our standards should at least average in. Just because our entire public policy scale is to the “right” of the average doesn’t make the argument relevant; in fact, I think it turns into a huge “No True Scotsman”, and frankly, it’s annoying.

  10. #10 RJ
    July 30, 2008

    ….And there, sitting at the top in full view on the NVIC web page:

    The tab marked LAWYER REFERAL

    Geee. How big of a role do you think ambulance chasers have with this ‘organization’?

  11. #11 HCN
    July 30, 2008

    At the second link provided by Mariah, there is a comment where they notice that on the board of NVIC is Cliff Shoemaker and that he is a lawyer:

    We all know Cliffy from his trying to deal with the fact that a mere “mother and housewife” can find so much information (neglecting that she is a librarian with a MS from Columbia Univ.):

  12. #12 Mary Parsons
    July 30, 2008

    Shaheen Lakhan is part of GNIF and Brainblogger.

    He co-authored Nutritional therapies for mental health disorders (pdf) in one of the pay-to-publish journals that is popuar with supplement manufacturers who want to publish their research and people with a particular agenda.

    Bipolar disorder can be attributed to food allergies and caffeine. A report in Med Hypotheses is relied upon for evidence that magnesium can clear severe depression in less than 7 days for most of the participants. Rimland is cited to support the relationship between plasma levels of Vitamin C and the prevention/treatment of autism.

    In the conclusion, they really start to express themselves. Evil pharma conspiracy etc., no valuable patents etc. Then:

    There is tremendous resistance to using supplements as treatments from clinicians, mostly due to their lack of knowledge on the subject. Others rather use prescription drugs that the drug companies and the FDA researches, monitors and recalls if necessary. However, for some patients, prescription drugs do not have the efficacy of nutritional supplements and they sometimes have far more dangerous side effects. So for clinicians to avoid these supplement therapies because of a lack of knowledge and unwillingness to use treatments not backed by drug companies and the FDA, they are compromising their patients’ recovery due to their own laziness or selfishness.

    Brainblogger is very odd – it has some very good people who blog there from time to time but also some who are a cause for concern.

  13. #13 Dangerous Bacon
    July 30, 2008

    “I think what Orac’s getting at is that, in U.S. political tems, he is a centrist. Why the hell should it matter to him if he’s considered a conservative elsewhere?”

    This goes along with non-American posters wondering why Americans are fussing about high gasoline prices (“when _we_ pay so much _more_”).

    So what? When our prices jump 33% or more it doesn’t matter to us what the price at the pump is in France.

    In political terms, maybe Bernie Sanders (Vermont’s socialist rep in Congress) is considered to the right of the Neanderthals in Sweden. Who cares?

  14. #14 DLC
    July 30, 2008

    I have to wonder who’s funding all these anti-vax websites, public presentations and so on. Rather hard to believe it’s just people tossing in their 20 bucks here and there.

    As for the political comments
    No True Leftist . . . No True Scotsman. . . not much difference is there ? And, “Globally Relevant” ?
    Was the United States somehow lifted off the globe ?
    Perhaps one of you Europeans would like to explain what the differences are between your “left” and ours ?
    I’d like to know.

  15. #15 Prometheus
    July 31, 2008

    Western Europe population (June 2008 est): 368 million
    EU population (June 2008 est): 491 million
    US population (June 2008 est): 304 million

    I’d say that by any globally relevant measure, what counts as “right wing” or “left wing” in the US is as valid as what counts for “right wing” or “left wing” in Europe. Attempts to make Europe or the UK the “preferred frame of reference” are as futile as trying to claim a preferred frame of reference under general or special relativity.

    Personally, I found it curious that the NVIC – which is most popular among US extreme right-wing groups (which would, naturally, be off-the-scale-right-wing in most of the EU) – had a booth at a meeting of what is undeniably a left-of-center-in-the-US group.

    No wonder they were greeting with a lack of interest. It would be like having a booth for the Branch Davidians at a Unitarian Convention.

    Even more interesting is the rise of similar anti-vaccination (anti-science and anti-reason?) groups in the UK and – from what I hear – in the rest of the EU as well. Poland has a lively “intelligent design” group going, as well, from what I’ve seen. Add in the rising Muslim population in most of the EU coutries and it may be that Europe is about to experience its own “lurch to the right”?

    I hope not, for all our sakes.


  16. #16 sophia8
    July 31, 2008

    Is there a name for the tactic that HerdRebel deploys in the comments for that Brainblogger article?
    S/he presents no less than 133 references to cases or studies that ‘prove’ vaccine damage, virtually all of them dating from over 15 or twenty years ago and most having been debunked already; HR then says triumphantly “Refute these!”. When nobody can find the time/energy to trawl through libraries and archives to disprove each and every one of them, HR will then spread the list all over the internet, claiming that pro-vaccinators couldn’t refute them.
    We really do need a comprehensive vaccination FAQs site to counter this kind of stuff. However, running it will be a full-time job for somebody who’s professionally qualified; so who is going to pay for it? Oh, wait, let’s just ask Big Pharma to increase our paychecks…..

  17. #17 Mary Parsons
    July 31, 2008

    Sophia8 wrote:

    We really do need a comprehensive vaccination FAQs site to counter this kind of stuff.

    I agree. The information exists in bits and pieces on all sorts of blogs so people are wasting valuable time and energy by repeating the rebuttal or discussions.

  18. #18 Paul
    July 31, 2008

    Mary and Sophia, I couldn’t agree more.

    In fact I already made the same point on one of Orac’s previous posts

    Blogs are excellent as far as they go but to really combat these claims a stable, easily searched website is what’s needed. The same applies to any response to anti-scientific lobbies. Such a website could also provide the nucleus for a more organized campaign should one be necessary.

  19. #19 Mary Parsons
    July 31, 2008

    Does anyone have the feeling as to whether we need to ask Orac for a specific thread where this can be discussed? Or a feeling for a natural venue such as Rational Wiki (I’m not familiar with it but saw it mentioned on Denialism and Science Based Medicine)?

  20. #20 Phoenix Woman
    July 31, 2008

    Paul, Sophia, Mary:

    YES! We need a site (make that sites) that we can all link to so that when people Google “autism vaccines” or “toxic vaccines” or “mercury vaccines”, the first twenty or so search results aren’t all woo pages.

    This is probably the single most cost-effective thing we could do on ScienceBlogs: Get all of the SBers, at least in the bioscience areas, to put links to the same handful of legit sites addressing the woo in their sidebars.

  21. #21 Mary Parsons
    August 16, 2008

    It is pretty irritating to see that University Reviews has listed Brain Blogger and Ginger Taylor in the top 100 Mental Health and Psychology blogs. Left Brain/Right Brain is a surprising omission. It seems as if the people who compiled this list were concerned with ‘balance’ in controversial areas rather than quality.

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