Respectful Insolence

Over the weekend, I saw a rather fascinating post by Sullivan entitled A Sense of Civil Discourse. The reason I found it so fascinating is because what was quoted in it utterly destroyed my irony meter yet again, leaving it nothing but a molten, gooey mess still bubbling and hissing in my office. Apparently last week, Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted, authors of the distillation of all the craziness that is the blog Age of Autism into book form under the same title, The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic, did a radio interview on the Leonard Lopate Show. During the interview, in response to a question about being “attacked,” Mr. Blaxill responded:

We get attacked on a regular basis. I think we have become accustomed to that. I think that one things we really need to recover in this debate is a sense of civil discourse.

See why my irony meter exploded? (Mr. Blaxill will be receiving a bill for replacing it.)

Apparently, Mr. Blaxill’s definition of a “civil discourse” is quite different from mine (or anyone else’s, for that matter), at least if the blog to which he contributes is any indication. Remember, AoA is the same blog that has relentlessly attacked Dr. Paul Offit, calling him things such as a “hired gun and “a quote machine for hire,” a “false prophet,” feeder of a “hungry lie” (actually, the “lie’s public chef“), a “fox in a henhouse,” and a “biostitute.” Meanwhile, on the Amazon.com page for Dr. Offit’s upcoming book Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All (which I’ve gotten to read part of pre-release, by the way; it’s really good), anti-vaccine activists have already tagged Offit’s book with terms like “vaccine paid shill,” “anti-science propaganda” (talk about a lack of self-awareness!), “pharma-funded,” “unjust to vaccine injured,” and “industry spokesman.” Never mind that the book won’t be released until January and there’s no way that any of these Blaxill sympathizers could possibly have read it yet. That doesn’t stop them from descending on the customer comments section for Offit’s yet-to-be-released book with venom and idiocy.

Some examples:

  • Amy Carson: “Offitt’s book should really be titled: Deadly Money Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens His Vaccine Profits…”
  • Maureen E. Meleck: “Buy Offit’s new book if you need: toilet paper, a door stopper, to make a paper mache pig, kleenex (not gentle though for the nose either), to start your barbecue going, paper for the new puppy, a Christmas present for your biggest enemy, trash paper for your waste basket. Just don’t read it. It’s fantasy. Offit wants to be a big movie star.”
  • Mrs. Lhg Files: “A more impartial opinion would be obtained ,asking the local butchers shop about the benefits of vegetarianism, than reading any of Offits offers on how to boost his personal wealth through death and destruction of the most vulnerable members of society world wide… hope he rots and his wealth brings his family and anyone who touches a penny of OFFIT, nothing but the death and destruction he has manifested with his greed.”
  • Ginger Taylor (her blog here; an example of her typical behavior here): “However, Pharmas 30 billion dollar per year vaccine market will turn into a 5 billion dollar vaccine market, with almost no room for growth… And Offits Proffits for his rota virus vaccine will go down the drain. Gotta keep people terrified of disease and get them to hate anyone who questions giving 100 shots to kids… because they have more doses to add to the schedule! Does Offit get a bonus from Merck when the CDC schedule hits 100 doses of vaccine? I wonder.”

Somehow, these sorts of comments are not my definition of “promoting civil discourse.” Will Mr. Blaxill speak out against such behavior and such nasty ad hominem attacks? If he wants a “civil discourse,” will he try to bring it about by example? Somehow, I doubt it. Civility is something Blaxill demands of his opponents while ignoring his allies, because persuading defenders of science to be “civil” leaves the field open for his allies at AoA and in the anti-vaccine blogosphere to get vicious and nasty. Meanwhile, Blaxill can appear to stay “above the fray” by calling for civility.

Remember, AoA is also the same blog that last Thanksgiving posted a Photoshopped picture so offensive that it even outraged some of its regular commenters, and that’s really, really hard to do. Basically, AoA Photoshopped the faces of Paul Offit, Steve Novella, Trine Tsouderos, Amy Wallace, Paul Insel, and Alison Singer into a picture of a Thanksgiving feast where the main course was a baby. (Yes, I’m still disappointed that the unnamed Photoshop hack failed to include my face in the picture.) In light of his recent call for civility on the radio, I’m sure that Mr. Blaxill was so alarmed by the viciousness of this attack and the inappropriateness of the imagery used that he immediately remonstrated with the AoA flak who posted it, right?

Wrong. Here’s what Blaxill wrote in the comments, as documented by Sullivan:

The response this has gotten is certainly interesting. And while I have a certain sympathy for those who argue against ad hominem attacks (we need less name-calling and a more civil discourse on all the issues surrounding autism), I think we all need to recognize this is a CARTOON. And the apt metaphor on the table (pun intended) is that while the medical industry feasts off its excesses, pays off scientists for exercises in misdirection, and pays toadies in the media for hit jobs on those who dissent, real children’s lives are consumed.

For our friends who object, I’m not sure I would have chosen the image of the baby myself, but chill out for a bit folks: We’re a blog, for Chrissakes; it’s our job to be edgy. At the same time, all the faux outrage is more than a bit hypocritical; frankly, anything that makes the wackosphere vibrate with new forms of silliness is fine by me. Seriously, though, something is happning to a generation of children and Michael Specter gets a free pass to call us nutjobs and denialists.

This is Orwell incarnate, you can’t make this stuff.

Somehow, Mr. Blaxill’s reaction to another AoA blogger portraying enemies as baby-eating cannibals by excusing it as being a “CARTOON,” calling it “edgy,” and labeling the targets of the smear paid off scientists and “toadies in the media” do not fit within my definition of “promoting civil discourse. Neither was the reaction of most of the commenters there, as I documented when I first blogged about this.” Even Blaxill’s co-author Dan Olmsted (who is the frikkin’ editor of AoA, by the way) sat by and let this be published. Will Mr. Blaxill now speak out against such behavior?

“Orwell incarnate”? Well, yes, but not in the way that Blaxill thinks. Rather, the term “Orwellian” fits AoA to a T in how its bloggers can twist language to use against its perceived enemies.

Then there is the history of attacks on journalists, bloggers, and anyone else who has the temerity to criticize Generation Rescue, the anti-vaccine movement, or AoA. These include Chris Mooney, Amy Wallace, and Trine Tsouderos, among others. Generation Rescue’s leader J.B. Handley, for instance, wrote an attack consisting of pure misogyny against Amy Wallace depicting her as having had a date rape drug (the term J.B. used was “rufie”) slipped to her by Paul Offit. Meanwhile, AoA’s resident attack poodle, a kid who’s clearly trying to be J.B. Handley when he grows up, Jake Crosby, has launched a conspiracy mongering attacks on Paul Offit, an attack Brian Deer that is nothing more than making fun of his pictures on his website to paint him as a narcissist , accusations against Amy Wallace of being a pharma shill, along with Adam Bly, Chris Mooney, and anyone whom Jake sees promoting actual science, as in refuting the scientifically discredited view that vaccines cause autism. Jake’s even gone so far as to try to tie a “good friend of the blog” to having undisclosed big pharma ties using tried-and-not-true conspiracy theory techniques that would make Jeff Rense or Alex Jones blush.

Somehow, I would take Mr. Blaxill’s call for “a more civil discourse” much more seriously than I do (which is not seriously at all) if he actually practiced what he preached and tried to persuade his fellow AoA bloggers to do the same. To paraphrase Jesus, the anti-vaccine movement of which Mr. Blaxill is a prominent part needs to remove the plank from its own eye before looking for the speck in its neighbor’s eye. Mr. Blaxill could contribute to that effort either by speaking out against the rampant incivility–nay, utter nastiness–on his side or at least dissassociating himself from it. He has done neither. Neither has Dan Olmsted. Nor will they, I predict. Rather, Blaxill has instead defended portraying Generation Rescue’s opponents as baby-eating cannibals and remained silent when J.B. Handley and Jake Crosby have lashed out at their enemies, real and perceived, thus giving his tacit support to such incivility. He hasn’t said anything about the penchant that AoA regular and guest bloggers have for comparing anyone who criticizes vaccine/autism pseudoscience to Nazis, which is a favored tactic used to demonize those who stand against the anti-vaccine movement and its pseudoscience that endangers children.

Civility, Mr. Blaxill. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Finally, I can’t help but note in closing that the call for “playing nice” from Mark Blaxill and other anti-vaccine zealots is always one-sided. They demand respect and “civility,” but they give none at all to scientists who don’t buy into their beliefs, even ones who try to act with the civility and respect they say they want. “Civility” and “respect” are not one-way streets.

Comments

  1. #1 Broken Link
    October 11, 2010

    It’s a good thing that the irony meter, being a effective visual image, but a totally imaginary construct, has no cash value. Because I don’t think that Mark Blaxill will be able to afford your bill out of his profits from the book “Age of Autism”, now mired at #18,411 in Books at Amazon.

    And on another note, I clicked on Mark Blaxill’s LinkedIn profile to find – to my horror – that we are connected at the 3rd degree. Strangely enough, he doesn’t mention his autism literary activities in this profile.

  2. #2 OracisaQuack
    October 11, 2010

    Hmmm…

    But the Nazi reference from the video parody of the movie “Downfall” was ok.

    Damnit, Orac…you now owe me a new hypocrisy meter

  3. #3 Lynn Wilhelm
    October 11, 2010

    Orac, did you hear the NPR report today about vaccines. Steve Inskeep’s intro definitely implied lots of concerns about vaccines. The intro isn’t shown in this transcript, but maybe it will be in the audio after 9 am.

    I’m really disappointed in this report–the audio really sounded doubtful about vaccines, the experts sounded not so. The mothers with doubts got top billing. I swear I even heard someone ask if a 6 year old should even get a flut vaccine. Can’t find it in the transcript, though. I’ll listen to the audio.

  4. #4 Lynn Wilhelm
    October 11, 2010

    Orac, did you hear the NPR report today about vaccines. Steve Inskeep’s intro definitely implied lots of concerns about vaccines. The intro isn’t shown in this transcript, but maybe it will be in the audio after 9 am.

    I’m really disappointed in this report–the audio really sounded doubtful about vaccines, the experts sounded not so. The mothers with doubts got top billing. I swear I even heard someone ask if a 6 year old should even get a flut vaccine. Can’t find it in the transcript, though. I’ll listen to the audio.
    Here’s the link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130433634

  5. #5 Lynn Wilhelm
    October 11, 2010

    Sorry about the double post. I don’t know how it went twice–I thought stopped the first when I realized I hadn’t even put in my name/email. The second has the link.

  6. #6 Paul Browne
    October 11, 2010

    OracisaQuack #2 – I think you’ll find that Orac isn’t the one calling for “civil discourse”, I suspect he’d be content with a reality/science based discourse.

    Also I notice that in this debate the actual harassment and threats do appear to be coming only from one side…yours!

  7. #7 FreeSpeaker
    October 11, 2010

    You glossed over the fact that Olmsted, who was sitting next to Blaxill during the interview IS and editor of AoA, and, as such, has the ability to ensure a more civil discourse.

    However, Olmsted sat silently there, and did not utter w word.

    The attack drones of the AoA Collective attack any writer who posts anything that they disagree with. The writer of a recent SciAm article has been viciously attacked by them.

    We will not see them reform anytime soon. What I find amazing is that they do not try to cultivate journalists, and, instead, attack them.

  8. #8 Scottynuke
    October 11, 2010

    Wow… Just did a quick Google on Nancy Shute, the reporter for that NPR piece. I’m really surprised a “science journalist” would even mildly parrot the “too many, too soon” crap, or use the strawman of “less than 100% immunity.”

    Shameful, and deserving of some RI, IMHO.

  9. #9 Calli Arcale
    October 11, 2010

    We get attacked on a regular basis. I think we have become accustomed to that. I think that one things we really need to recover in this debate is a sense of civil discourse.

    This reminds me very much of my three-year-old. We’re trying to wean her off from temper tantrums. So when she’s thrashing and hollering about not getting her way, we tell her that it’s because she wasn’t behaving, or that she needs to calm down. Then, while still screaming, she’ll say “I want to behave! I want to calm down!” This will go on for several minutes before she figures out that we’re not backing down and that she will have to actually *do* it.

    Civil discourse on vaccines? Sure! We’d love that! We welcome that! Now, do it, Blaxill. It would be very refreshing.

  10. #10 MikeMa
    October 11, 2010

    FreeSpeaker,

    What I find amazing is that they do not try to cultivate journalists

    Every journalist worth his quill pen recognizes that AoA and it’s anti-science, anti-reason message is bogus. Those attacks must continue or the whole premise of AoA will sink back to the mud from which it rose.

  11. #11 Sid Offit
    October 11, 2010

    which I’ve gotten to read part of pre-release, by the way; it’s really good)

    Orac has special access to Dr. Paul Offit. I’m consumed with envy.

  12. #12 Dangerous Bacon
    October 11, 2010

    “Orac has special access to Dr. Paul Offit. I’m consumed with envy.”

    It’s part of the Conspiracy, Sid.

  13. #13 triskelethecat
    October 11, 2010

    Or maybe, silly Sid, Orac (and his alter ego) is known to be a blogger who knows about vaccines and the publisher sent him the pre-release.

    Actually, I’m jealous. I would love to read this pre-release. Oh, well, guess I’ll just have to pre-order it for my Nook when it’s available and know I will get it downloaded on publication day. Now I just have to be patient till February.

  14. #14 MikeMa
    October 11, 2010

    CNN is reporting on an article in Pediatrics on a link between jaundice and autism. No mention of vaccines anywhere.

    Another blow for real science against mommy science. Yeah!

  15. #15 Denice Walter
    October 11, 2010

    I know “S”, a young, new grad,( *not* a client ) -in medical technology- who is currently in a job search and concerned about how his internet presence might influence prospective employers. I googled his name and found rather harmless stuff ( and a really attractive photo of him) on Twitter, FaceBook, MyLife, some HS announcements, etc. I reassured him that it looks good: nothing worrisome. Then, on a lark, I googled *another* young man who frequently comments here : quite another story. I’m trying to imagine what a prospective employer would think. Suppose if when checking out “S”, I found alt med essays ( or to be entirely neutral, suppose it had been a particular *political* slant, left *or* right) and argumentation, I don’t think I’d have the same positive feeling that I have now.

  16. #16 Lawrence
    October 11, 2010

    That’s the issue most people don’t realize when they go on these “screeds” on social media sites. They are open to the public & many/most employers do a pretty thorough search online regarding their applicants, just to make sure there isn’t anything bad (ticking time bomb) hanging out there.

  17. #17 JohnV
    October 11, 2010

    @OracisaQuack

    If you think the various downfall parodies are actually making Nazi comparisons then your stupidity is quite impressive, even for a pro-disease quack.

  18. #18 ababa
    October 11, 2010

    I think I need to buy me some stock in the Irony Meter Company. The more science stacks up on them the more the crazy piles up and they seem to lack the ability to remember what they have said before.

  19. #19 Liz Ditz
    October 11, 2010

    Somewhat off topic:

    Dr. Offit’s Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All is due out February 1 2011.

    Seth Mnookin’s The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear is due out January 11, 2011.

    A tagline used to promote Blaxill & Olmstead’s book (which was released Sept. 14 2010) was The World Changes in September. Well, not so much….but January and February promise to be interesting. Especially on the civility front.

  20. #20 Tom
    October 11, 2010

    A couple of times, a comment of mine at AoA has gone through in which I have described how MY OWN WIFE has referred to me as Nazi, bastard, etc. because I don’t agree with the vaccine-causation theory. And the AoA-ers gleefully piled on and sided with her. “Your wife sounds like a smart cookie” is one response I think I shall always remember.

    Luckily, my wife has since taken a few steps away from AoA herself and has dialed the rhetoric way back. So c’mon AoA-ers — if she can do it, maybe you can too!

  21. #21 Pablo
    October 11, 2010

    Tom – I hope the makeup sex made it worth it.

  22. #22 Loden Pantz
    October 11, 2010

    By the way, Pope Joey Ratz wants civil discourse on the issue of child rape.

  23. #23 Bronze Dog
    October 11, 2010

    So… that Downfall parody I watched a while back was comparing HD-DVD format to Nazism?

  24. #24 Wren
    October 11, 2010

    I’m suddenly seeing a lot of Facebook links to stories of the flu vaccine being banned for children. True or false? I haven’t had the time to really look into it tonight, but I need to know whether to respond because confusing info is out there or just trim my friends list.

  25. #25 Parse
    October 11, 2010

    To such people, the only type of response that meets their standards of ‘civil discourse’ is, “Hmm, you know, I think you’re right.”

  26. #26 viggen
    October 11, 2010

    Somehow, I would take Mr. Blaxill’s call for “a more civil discourse” much more seriously than I do (which is not seriously at all) if he actually practiced what he preached and tried to persuade his fellow AoA bloggers to do the same.

    Nice post Orac.

    I think this strategy is employed much too commonly by almost anyone with a cause in the U.S.. I’ve seen it employed by hard-core Democrats and Republicans alike beyond merely the fringe. People seem to confuse ad hominem for “passionate” argument and are willing to turn a blind eye to it when it’s favorable to their cause, but retreat to the mountain top and claim such treatment is “bad form” when they find it directed at what they support. I’ve also found that they get touchy if it’s ever pointed out to them that this approach is uneven. I think people frequently want to believe that they’re being even-handed, but are so deeply immersed in “X” cause that they simply don’t have a context with which to measure exactly how far toward an extreme they’ve drifted. I think a lot of people become extremists because they’ve insulated themselves from being able to measure what the spectrum looks like around them.

    You might think of this as a sort of extremist event horizon: an observer in flat space thinks time has stopped near the event horizon… while the observer at the event horizon considers time to be passing normally and would be convinced that space is locally flat even though it’s much more deeply curved than elsewhere given some persistence length. The observer at the event horizon doesn’t even necessarily know “click, I’ve gone too far.”

    Blaxill is near an event horizon of stupid, but hasn’t managed to get himself spaghettified yet.

  27. #27 Chris
    October 11, 2010

    Wren:

    I’m suddenly seeing a lot of Facebook links to stories of the flu vaccine being banned for children. True or false?

    Which country? In the USA the answer is: CDC recommends that all children 6 months and older get a flu vaccine.

  28. #28 Matthew Cline
    October 11, 2010

    @viggen:

    I’ve seen it employed by hard-core Democrats and Republicans alike beyond merely the fringe. … I think people frequently want to believe that they’re being even-handed, but are so deeply immersed in “X” cause that they simply don’t have a context with which to measure exactly how far toward an extreme they’ve drifted.

    Another possibility: They are evil, so They deserve anything thrown at Them. However, We are the good guys, so any insults thrown at Us are bad, and furthermore demonstrate just how evil They are.

  29. #29 Matthew Cline
    October 11, 2010

    @triskelethecat:

    Or maybe, silly Sid, Orac (and his alter ego) is known to be a blogger who knows about vaccines and the publisher sent him the pre-release.

    Don’t be absurd. It’s obvious that Orac is well known to our reptilian overlords, and they sent him the pre-release.

  30. #30 squirrelelite
    October 11, 2010

    Wren and Chris,

    I think that is based on one vaccine version by a specific manufacturer (I think it was in Australia) that showed an unusually high number of fevers (and related seizures) in young children.

    That version was withdrawn in Australia pending investigation and the equivalent U.S. version by the same manufacturer is not recommended for children aged about 0-6 years.

    However, other flu vaccines are still recommended for those children as Chris stated.

  31. #31 Prometheus
    October 11, 2010

    If Mark Blaxill’s idea of “civil discourse” is the sort of language he uses when talking about the “opposition” (which, I assume, includes Orac and me), then the only thing preventing such “civility” is the reluctance on the part of those on our “side” to sink to those depths.

    Just looking at what Mr. Blaxill has said – since he is the one deploring the lack of “civility” – shows that he has repeatedly accused those who disagree with him of arrogance, corruption, lying, conspiracy, cover-ups and even criminal acts. If you add in the other players in his “vaccines/mercury-cause-autism” folie à deux, civility is the last thing that comes to mind.

    The stupendous hypocrisy of Mr. Blaxill accusing anyone of incivil discourse is demonstrated by his “rebuttal” to criticisms of the Holmes et al baby hair mercury study, which he titled “Sound and fury, signifying nothing.” [Int. J. Toxicol. 2004, 23(4):276-277] If he can’t reply in a civil fashion to scientific critiques of a study (which was, as I have repeatedly shown, poorly designed and bizarrely interpreted), what chance is there that he will engage less erudite disagreements with civility?

    No, what I think Mr. Blaxill wants is for us – the people who challenge him to provide a shred of data supporting his claims – to stop being “uncivil” [translation: "asking for data"] and engage in a “civil discourse” [translation: "shut up and stop disagreeing with him"]. He, of course, will consider himself free to be as uncivil as he feels the situation warrants, which generally appears to quite uncivil, indeed.

    I don’t expect that Mr. Blaxill is planning any dramatic changes in his style of interaction, so his talk of “civil discourse” means nothing. As for myself, I will continue to engage this topic with the same level of civility (or lack thereof) as I have before, unless and until Mr. Blaxill manages to raise his level of discourse up to my current level. I’m not sure that Mr. Blaxill is up to the challenge, but he should at least give it a try, seeing that he was the one complaining about the lack of civility.

    Prometheus

  32. #32 MikeMa
    October 11, 2010

    Blaxill’s disingenuous call for civility serves as a flag for his side. Just by asking he places, in his own mind at least, his discourse in the realm of civility without having to exercise himself to earn it.

  33. #33 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 11, 2010

    I have yet to see even one Downfall parody where the intent is to suggest that the targets of the parody subscribe to Nazi ideology, certainly not the one Orac linked to regarding the antivax militia. Only the most simplistic (or deliberately obtuse) reading could be so literal.

    Downfall does not spend its 156 minute running time exploring the point “They’re Nazis”; it instead documents how the grandiose ambitions of the Third Reich, the supposed “thousand-year Reich”, are falling apart as their fundamental hollowness is exposed. When public figures are mocked by a Downfall parody it is a commentary on their grandiose ambitions and those ambitions being doomed, not something as facile as “OMG he’s saying they’re Nazis.”

  34. #34 Tacroy
    October 12, 2010

    I have to ask, Antaeus – does that post make you a Nazi Nazi? :)

  35. #35 flim
    October 12, 2010

    The anti vax loons don’t just have an impact on nice middle class white folks, who have access to clean water, sanitation and first world health care, their evil influence is spreading to countries where vaccination is even more vital and poor non-white children are paying with their lives.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/11/vaccination
    -fears-developing-world-deaths

  36. #36 g724
    October 12, 2010

    I’m downright amused to see y’all trying to use reason and rationalism to try to analyze and argue with the anti-vax loons (and YECs and suchlike).

    That’s how progressives lose elections and rationalists lose public policy debates over science. You’re busy explaining away, and the opposition comes up with a pithy emotionalism that steals the spotlight and wins.

    By and large you’re dealing with people who aren’t very smart, and/or who are slightly paranoid (e.g. the idea that God uses C14 and the red shift to tempt people to sin, is paranoid projection), and who have little to no insight into the workings of their own minds.

    The way to deal with anti-vaxers, creationists, etc., is with ridicule and social opprobrium, often taking a “parental” tone.

    For example,

    “I thought you were smarter than that.”

    “Stop throwing a tantrum when you don’t get your way.”

    “That’s a lie!”

    It’s OK to use some “adult language” where needed:

    “You don’t really believe that horse s—, do you?”

    And it’s OK to use nationalistic tribalism as an axis of comparison:

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” (speaking to a local Board of Ed), “what you just heard from the preceding speaker is horse manure, and it’s why Europe and Asia are beating us at every opportunity.”

    Also use words such as “crank,” “quack,” and “wacko,” for example, “Oh come on, you don’t believe what that quack had to say, do you?”

    The goals here are:

    a) Shut them up.
    b) Goad them into saying something that sabotages their own position.
    c) Make them socially unacceptable.
    d) Marginalize them socially.

    Once you marginalize them, close ranks behind them and keep them out.

    This may sound Machiavellian or un-PC or whatever, but it works.

    Or you can keep trying to “explain” until you’re blue in the face, while the wackos keep teaching their kids that the Earth is 6,000 years old, the other wackos move ever further from the germ theory of disease, and the stats for measles and whooping cough continue to rise.

    BTW, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse: geocentric astronomy is making a comeback and gathering steam:

    http://www.talk2action.org/story/2010/9/12/18017/5649

    http://www.talk2action.org/story/2007/2/16/182146/521

    How long before politicians have to espouse this crap in order to win votes?

  37. #37 Wren
    October 12, 2010

    Thanks Chris and Squirrelelite. The claims I’m seeing start out with the Australian one, but are now claiming all of Europe as well, but that the CDC is forcing children to have the same shot anyway. I think those people need to just be trimmed from my Facebook friends list. I’m in the UK and I know it’s not an issue here.

  38. #38 Broken Link
    October 12, 2010

    I think that Mark Blaxill thinks the following way:

    1. Our position that autism is caused by mercury or vaccines is correct.

    2. Any slight incivility on our side is excused because we are fighting against such a huge opponent, and we have to get our points made anyway anyhow.

    3. If the commentators on AoA are uncivil, it’s because they are the victims, dammit, and they should be expected to need to let off steam.

  39. #39 mikerattlesnake
    October 12, 2010

    @33

    and sometimes it’s just an absurd juxtaposition of incongruous imagery (hitler finding out about Conan’s tonight show gig getting cancelled, for instance). I don’t expect the moron troll to understand that sort of nuance though.

  40. #40 stripey_cat
    October 12, 2010

    This is beginning to sound eerily like the criticisms of New Atheists for incivility! A lot of people with extreme, irrational beliefs seem to hear any disagreement as automatically uncivil.

  41. #41 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 12, 2010

    g724, the problem I see with the approach you describe is that it can be used equally well by those who are in the right and those who are in the wrong. In fact anti-vaxxers are quite adept at using the tactics you espouse.

  42. #42 g724
    October 13, 2010

    Anataeus, #41: Are you going to bring boxing gloves to a gunfight?

    Listen up, people, it’s time to get real about this, because nature doesn’t give a flying hoot what any of us think is an “appropriate” way to run a campaign or a public debate.

    You’re dealing with three categories:

    One, the leaders: ideological s— stirrers, who are fanatics and rabble rousers, whose whole game is based on selling their BS to the masses. You’re not going to get them to change any more than you’re going to get piranhas to stop biting.

    Two, the followers, who are basically stupid and/or delusional. (It’s OK to say so out loud because you’re probably thinking it even if you don’t say it.) Have you ever talked with a young-Earth creationist for example? These people’s minds are closed so tight it would take a hydraulic ram to pry them open. Don’t even waste your time on ‘em, natural selection will save you the trouble.

    Three, the huge mass of undecided people who for the most part make decisions on the basis of emotions, in accord with what they hear from their friends and others around them. This is the audience you need to reach. And you’re not going to do it with explanations alone. You have to deal with the emotional environment in which they live.

    The meme transmission path is from the leaders to the followers, who then spread the BS to their friends among the undecided.

    First order of business is to shut down that transmission path. The way to do it is by stigmatizing the followers: make them taboo, unclean, off-limits. Use whatever emotional hooks are needed. This will take them out of the undecideds’ social ecosystem.

    And then you can explain the science to the undecideds in a calm tone of voice, and stand a chance of making progress on this.

    Otherwise, you’ll keep losing, and more diseases will make a resurgence.

    Today it’s measles and whooping cough, what’ll it be tomorrow?

    How ’bout we agree on a sentinel disease as a threshold on which to decide that the current approach has failed and it’s time to go to war?

    Like this: If disease X comes back, or there are more than Y number of cases in a year, it’s time to stop being tame pussycats about this and turn into lions & tigers (and bears, oh my!). Which disease will it be?

    How’bout POLIO, eh? Let’s set a number and stick to it. How many paralyzed kids on respirators in the US, in one year, before you’re willing to “go there”…?

  43. #43 augustine
    October 14, 2010

    g724,
    you should be the leader of the forces. You’re brave and the other ones are all cowards. YOu really say what you mean.

    Think about it. If the Jews, I mean antivaxxers, win. Then the world will be lost to the same diseases that killed the dinosaurs and bigfoot, and the characters of ‘ice age”.

    You could be really, really powerful. You might could own the intranet if this all works out for you.

  44. #44 Julian Frost
    October 14, 2010

    g274,
    Stigmatizing people by calling them names can backfire.
    Badly.
    One of my debating rules of thumb is to look at who is the first side to resort to personal attacks. I treat that as a sign that that side has weak arguments and can’t win on the facts. The reason we are polite within reason is that we are trying to win over the undecideds. Mocking people, even loons like Dorey, can damage your argument. We stick to the facts because we know that the truth will always win out.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!