Respectful Insolence

J.B. Handley surprises…partially

I’m pretty hard on anti-vaccine activists. I know that. One in particular provokes my ire because of his particular brand of loutishness, intimidation, and stupidity. I’m talking about, of course, J.B. Handley, founder of Generation Rescue and blogger at its propaganda arm Age of Autism. As much as JB and I detest each other though, on rare occasions (of which this appears to be the first) I’m forced to admit that JB actually did something right.

Five months ago, JB wrote a hilarious bit of detection work in which he concluded that a blogger by the ‘nym of Sullivan was, in reality, Dr. Paul Offit’s wife Bonnie. The twists and turns of bizarre logic he used to come to this conclusion were so hilarious that he inadvertently created a new Internet meme for a time: I am Bonnie Offit. In his original post, he challenged Sullivan thusly:

Bonnie Offit, or Sullivan for that matter, I have a simple offer:
If you can produce a dad with a child with autism with a remarkable grasp of the medical and scientific literature who blogs under the name Sullivan, a man who has an inordinate grasp of the details of your husband’s patents, lawsuits, published studies, and web habits, I will make sure that the pauloffit.com website is given to you and your husband for good.

In fact, if you can produce this father, I promise to never, ever publicly write about or utter the name “Paul Offit” again.

I’m waiting, Bonnie, and I have a funny feeling I will be waiting a very long time.


Well, two days ago, Sullivan “outed” himself, revealing himself to be Matt Carey, the father of an autistic child and one and the same as Sullivan. As a result multiple bloggers, including me, challenged JB to put up or shut up, to make good on his pledge. None of us really expected that he would. Indeed, the comments of our posts were mostly filled with people wondering what excuse JB would use to weasel out of it.

That’s why we were all surprised by JB’s post this morning at AoA:

In a previous post, I speculated that Sullivan was actually Bonnie Offit, wife of a not-to-be-mentioned vaccine millionaire. Mr. Carey’s personal outing of himself renders my speculation incorrect.

As many ravenous members of the dark side I’m sure have mentioned, I also made a simple promise that if Sullivan was NOT Bonnie Offit, I would not utter said name of said leader of the Dark Side.

I also offered to give up the website www.pauloffit.com

Apparently, Mr. Carey is a parent of a child with autism. Matt, if you’re reading this, note that I really have no interest in writing about or attacking other parents, and you can expect similar treatment. My enemies are the AAP, CDC, and the vaccine makers themselves, as well as their well-paid minions. Since you don’t appear to be in any of those camps and have a kid just like me, I don’t have the heart.

Later, he states:

‘Nuff said, in the world I live in, a deal’s a deal, even if you took five months to get here. Just email me, plenty on the dark side know how to find me, and we can work out the details.

I was floored. On the other hand, it makes a sort of sense. Despite the amount of misinformation, intimidation, threats, and bullying that eminate from JB on a regular basis, I sense he does think of himself as a man of his word, although I’d be willing to bet that if Matt were not a father of an autistic child JB would have found a way out of honoring his ill-considered pledge. If you’re an enemy, anything goes; if not, well, the embarrassment and shame that would come from having defenders of science-based medicine reminding him of a broken pledge would have been just too much.

One thing I noticed, though. While JB is to be commended for agreeing to turn over the domain pauloffit.com as part of honoring his pledge, even as he honors one part of his pledge, he’s not completely honoring his entire pledge. Remember, he said, “I promise to never, ever publicly write about or utter the name ‘Paul Offit’ again.” From a strictly legalistic, pedantic point of view, I suppose JB could say he’s honoring his pledge simply by not mentioning Dr. Offit’s actual name, even though he’s continuing to slime him as a “ot-to-be-mentioned vaccine millionaire” and “leader of the Dark Side.”

Sorry, Mr. Handley. That might be honoring the letter of the agreement, but it’s sure as hell not honoring its spirit. Apparently honor only goes so far with you when it comes to Dr. Offit. Still, JB’s definitely doing much better than the AoA sycophants, toadies, and lackies in the comments, one of whom wrote:

JB — you have no hard proof that Matt Carey is Sullivan. If the ID of an anonymous internet blogger could be proven, our Deer friend Rebecca (aka Becky) Fisher would have been outed long ago.

However, if you insist on taking Carey at his word (which is more than he has ever done for us), you said you’d give up the website www.pauloffit.com, but you did NOT state who you’d give it up to. Certainly not Matt Carey or anyone defending the vaccine program. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of advocates of safer vaccines who would be willing to take over, pay for and host www.pauloffit.com right after you give it up.

As for never saying Offit’s name again, that’s easy enough. Simply refer to him as Dr. Proffit. There should be no confusion about who you’re referring to.

Stay classy, AoA minions. Stay classy. Even on the rare occasion when your Dear Leader is trying to do the right thing (even though he can’t resist getting another dig in at Paul Offit), you try to undermine him.

ADDENDUM: More comments from AoA minions follow. Gotta love how some of them seem to have less sense of honor than apparently JB does (assuming he goes through with his deal and stops his “not-pology”-like mentions of Dr. Offit à la Valdemort as “he who must not be named” or “you know who.” Check it out. First, we have someone going by the ‘nym “face the music”:

www.pauloffit.com is listed near the top of page one when “paul offit” is typed into the google search. That’s worth a lot of hits as you know if you follow the stats on the site.

When you weigh the morality of breaking a deal with the devil vs. the morality of allowing many, many more parents to be given Paul Offit’s propaganda, what’s more moral? Proving to a scoundrel you’re good on your word or protecting children?

Using the truth about Paul Offit as a bargaining chip seems immoral to me. It’s too late to undo that decision, but it’s not too late to do the right thing by the people visiting your website.

In fairness to the thousands who will continue to go to www.pauloffit.com, you should renege on the deal and face the music of another angry article from Matt Carey calling you a liar. Better that than even one child’s brain being damaged (or life ended) as the result of a parent being propagandized on the website that you started.

Then there’s “pass the popcorn”:

“If you can produce a dad with a child with autism with a remarkable grasp of the medical and scientific literature who blogs under the name Sullivan”

Such a person has not been produced. The person who blogs as Sullivan has not demostrated a remarkable grasp of the medical and scientific literature. In fact, he has no grasp of the medical and scientific literature as it pertains to the vaccine/autism link. The proof is all over the LBRB website.

Uh, no. Matt’s understanding of the medical and scientific literature far surpasses JB’s.

In all fairness, one commenter does seem to get part of it, sort of:

“I think it’s a simple way to demonstrate courage, conviction, and integrity in the things you write.” [JB referring to blogging under one's real name.]

It also invites those who have a looser interpretation of morals and/or reality to take unnecessary, unsubstantiated and sometime unnerving pot shots at someone’s private life.

With some taking an almost virtual jihad-ist position against anyone who questions the dogma, privacy seems prudent.

Indeed. One wonders whether JB feels similarly about the many pseudonymous commenters on the AoA blog itself! Personally, I would point out to JB that I blog under my own name elsewhere and have even criticized him there. He never, ever shows up there, but if I post the same version of the post here, frequently he does. Clearly, JB much prefers addressing the pseudonym (and whining about it) than addressing me directly. I wonder why…

Comments

  1. #1 René Najera
    April 29, 2011

    They’re not “anti-vaccine” anymore, apparently. They’re “safer vaccine advocates”, and anyone opposing them must, by their logic, be “pro-more-dangerous vaccine promoters” or some nonsence.

    Anyway, I owe Sullivan a Benjamin to an autism foundation of his choice, being as how JB didn’t shift the goalposts. Though I could argue that he did if he refers to Dr. Offit as “Dr. Proffit”, “he who shall not be named”, etc.

  2. #2 Denice Walter
    April 29, 2011

    Disclaimer: In my earlier comment @ YFDoW, when I described my parody of a Sheridan play (“The School for Sceptics”), I did not in *any* way wish to imply that the viciously back-biting adversaries of the said Sceptics -i.e. the “Scandal-mongers”- were meant to represent AoA. While *do* they meet at Stone House in Rumours’ Mills, and there *is* a Dr Snake, a Mr Switch, and a Mrs Pander : any resemblences are purely coincidental and solely in the mind of the reader.

  3. #3 MartinM
    April 29, 2011

    From a strictly legalistic, pedantic point of view, I suppose JB could say he’s honoring his pledge simply by not mentioning Dr. Offit’s actual name, even though he’s continuing to slime him as a “ot-to-be-mentioned vaccine millionaire” and “leader of the Dark Side.”

    Not sure you could, actually. “[N]ever, ever publically write about” doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room, and the suggestion that the subject of that clause was the name ‘Paul Offit’ rather than the person streches credibility to – frankly beyond – breaking point.

  4. #4 Scott Cunningham
    April 29, 2011

    Alright, I’ll play fair too. JB made a wild screed-laden conspiracy theory about Sullivan being Bonnie Offit. JB backed off of said conspiracy theory when proven wrong. JB has therefore conducted himself better than the birthers.

    The stuff about vaccines remains another unsupported conspiracy theory, though, and that Wakefield guy they hang out with is a chisler of a charlatan and exploiting them.

  5. #5 rtcontracting
    April 29, 2011

    JB should be given due credit for publicly stating that he was wrong and living up to his promise to give up pauloffit.com. I like that he did it with a sense of humor with his (Just Kidding) remark. I think that you could take the “said name of said leader of the Dark Side.” as a bit of humor in itself.

    In any case, he is giving up a pretty valuable piece of treasure and publicly eating humble pie.

  6. #6 Agent Smith
    April 29, 2011

    Who the hell refers to their intellectual opposition as the “dark side”? Is this a grown ass man or are we back in the 2nd grade?

  7. #7 The Christian Cynic
    April 29, 2011

    Unsurprising to see a lack of reading comprehension at AoA, since JB clearly said:

    I will make sure that the pauloffit.com website is given to you [Bonnie Offit] and your husband for good. [emphasis mine]

    So no, it couldn’t be given to just anyone.

    Also, I think JB is clearly going against what he explicitly said by writing about Offit:

    In fact, if you can produce this father, I promise to never, ever publicly write about…”Paul Offit” again.

    It isn’t just enough to stop using the name; JB should stop writing about Offit altogether if he’s really a man of his words.

    [None of the above, of course, should be a surprise to anyone.]

  8. #8 shawmutt
    April 29, 2011

    It’s like dealing with a child, it really is. “I lost. There, happy now…Mr. Poopypants!”

  9. #9 jre
    April 29, 2011

    Take a deep breath.
    Do not be hasty either in condemning or applauding J.B. Handley.

    If he closes the deal with Matt Carey, transfers ownership of the domain pauloffit.com to the Offits, and thereafter scrupulously avoids further mention of Offit in any form, he deserves praise as a man of his word.

    If he does not, he’s a weasel.

    But it all hinges on good faith between Handley and Carey. Don’t let’s screw it up.

  10. #10 Arren
    April 29, 2011

    Is this a grown ass man or are we back in the 2nd grade?

    The “ass” part sounds about right — dunno about the rest.

  11. #11 ChrisKid
    April 29, 2011

    Well, waddaya know! Given this unexpected turn of events, I’m willing to give Mr. Handley the benefit of the doubt. I really thought he’d find some way to shift this, but so far it seems he’s playing (mostly, at least) fair. I’ll give him credit for what he’s done and not worry too much right now about the rest.

  12. #12 shawna.burt
    April 30, 2011

    I gotta give him points for keeping his word.

  13. #13 James Gavin
    April 30, 2011

    “…our

    Deer

    friend Rebecca (aka Becky) Fisher would have been outed long ago”

    I admit that I may be over-reaching… but are they intimating that (the lovably potty-mouthed) Becky is, infact, (Brian) Deer? Or can they just not spell Dear…

  14. #14 Rebecca Fisher
    May 1, 2011

    @James Gavin – They are indeed suggesting that. It’s been mentioned a few times before by the green ink tendency / lunatic fringe. I have no idea how they thought that one up.

    However, if they want to give me a prize for investigative journalism* too, that would be very nice. :-)

    Kind regards,

    Becky

    *Are there any journalistic awards for creative swearing? (Other than the Rory – http://bit.ly/mKc6oa )

  15. #15 James Gavin
    May 1, 2011

    @Rebecca Fisher:

    Thank you for clearing that up – it really should’ve gotten to the point where this kind of thing no longer surprises me…

    (As an aside, I’ve always considered the entirety of the antivax movement to be the lunatic fringe).

  16. #16 lilady
    May 1, 2011

    Finally, Jake Crosby has posted an article on the recent Wakefield meeting at Brandeis…he sent a letter to the Brandeis “Hoot” Magazine protesting the reporting of the meeting that Jake organized. The letter is a whiny complaint that no one from mainstream medicine or any of the professors that Jake contacted had any interest in sharing the stage with Wakefield. Welcome to the real world Jake…where real journalists actually write articles that don’t skew the facts and don’t suck up to Age of Autism’s heroes.

    I’m imagining that J.B. had a conversation with Jake about promoting Wakefield so that meetings are well attended by the adoring fringe anti-vax crowd. So….J.B. made the arrangements for Wakefield’s next informational meeting in Texas and contacted the NY Times….to show Jake how to effectively promote their one-trick-pony act.

    Um Jake, I’d look for a different mentor.

  17. #17 dt
    May 2, 2011

    Love this quote from Wakefield when asked in the BBC interview about his paranoia and perceived persecution by the “medical establishment”:

    “They [the medical establishment] are orthopedic surgeons, they are gynecologists; they have no knowledge of vaccines”

    So speaks the surgeon who pretends to be an expert in vaccines and in childhood neurological disorders.

    LOL.

  18. #18 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    May 2, 2011

    Rebecca:

    “*Are there any journalistic awards for creative swearing?”

    Dunno about that but we should put our heads together and design a course in it! ;)

  19. #19 Andrew
    May 12, 2011

    Handley has reneged on his promises – big surprise (see link)

  20. #20 JB Handley
    May 14, 2011

    Sent to Todd W.:

    Todd:

    Dr. Offit is lying, as usual. On may 3rd, Dr. Offit received an email from register.com offering the transfer of the site to him. After 72 hours, Dr. Offit had not claimed it and the site was available to anyone to register. The email where the register.com transfer was sent was provided to me by Matt Carey, who directed me here to find it:

    http://www.paul-offit.com

    I even sent Mr. Carey a note on May 6th advising him of that and offering to interview him for AoA, in the spirit of closing the gap between us, to which he has never responded, here’s the contents of that email:

    Just an fyi that pauloffit.com was unlocked and an email sent to Dr. Offit making it available to him was sent Tuesday afternoon this week. Case closed. The offer stands for an interview to be posted at AoA, thanks, JB

    Someone is lying to you, JB Handley

  21. #21 Andrew
    May 14, 2011

    I didn’t break my promise to return your car – I left it unlocked on the street, so it’s your own fault that someone took it.

  22. #22 Do'C
    May 14, 2011

    What happened to “in the world I live in, a deal’s a deal” JB?

    “I will make sure that the pauloffit.com website is given to you and your husband for good.”

    ’nuff said.

  23. #23 Orac
    May 14, 2011

    My thought exactly.

    I take back all those borderline nice things I said about Mr. Handley.

  24. #24 Do'C
    May 14, 2011

    Sorry, broken tag.

    Should have read

    “I will make sure that the pauloffit.com website is given to you and your husband for good.”

    now ’nuff said.

  25. #25 Dedj
    May 14, 2011

    “I will make sure that the pauloffit.com website is given to you and your husband for good. ”

    This was the original offer.

    Unlocking the site so that anyone could register it, and leaving it up to the recipient of the offer to take time time out of his busy schedule to respond to what would – to all intents and purposes – appear to be a spam email, is not fulfilling this offer.

    The method taken just happens to be the one most likely to have resulted in the blatantly foreseeable denial of the domain name to Dr Offit, whilst placing the apparent fault onto Dr Offit.

    No effort appears to have been expended in making sufficient contact with Dr Offit prior to releasing the domain name, to ensure that Dr Offit was sufficiently aware that he would be recieving an email that would likely have otherwise been junked straight away by his (likely ironclad) spam filter.

    No effort appears to have been made to ensure Dr Offit even had a Register.com account that the domain could even have potentially been transferred to.

    This falls woefully short of ‘making sure’. Merely releasing the domain name is not enough. The deal was to ensure transfer. No reasonable attempt was made at ensuring Dr Offit was prepared for this. Mr Handley can thus be regarded as having made no effort to live up to his deal.

    In the context of this utterly broken promise:

    “I would not utter said name of said leader of the Dark Side”

    , it would be utterly reasonable to expect someone to suggest that Mr Handley took the course of action that he did with the intent and expectation that Dr Offit would be unable to follow it up within the time frame, even assuming he ever became aware of the original email.

    As such, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that Mr Handley course of action was a willfull and intentional attempt at avoiding transfer, as he knew, or should have known, that a limited timeframe would apply.

    Mr Handley can thusly be reasonably be said to have either deliberatly reneged on his deal in the most roundabout way possible, or he could reasonably be said to have done it in the most deficient way possible, leaving the blame for the failed transfer his and his alone.

    There is certainly no support for the statement that Dr Offit has lied.

    Mr Handleys course of action is insufficient to be classed as fulfilling the deal. Merely dumping the domain name on Dr Offit and leaving it up to Dr Offit to sort out was not the deal, nor can it be reasonably seen as being so.

    Case closed.

  26. #26 Chris
    May 14, 2011

    Mr. Handley, only you can fix this. Go and make sure that the website is handed over to Dr. Offit. Make sure the emails get through, and that no one else hijacks the website.

    No more excuses, because it just makes you look worse.

  27. #27 Orac
    May 14, 2011

    One wonders if Mr. Handley ever really planned on keeping his word. If he were sincere, I would have expected him not to unlock the domain until after receiving an acknowledgement from Dr. Offit that he had received the appropriate unlock code.

    Either that, or Mr. Handley is incompetent.

    So, my readers, take your pick: Mr. Handley has shown himself to be either insincere or incompetent. There really isn’t a third choice. Well, maybe there is. Perhaps he is both.

    Personally, my interpretation is that Mr. Handley chose this method to try to turn over the domain to Dr. Offit because he knew that it would have the maximal likelihood of failing and thus giving him the excuse he craved to renege on the deal.

    Mr. Handley, only you can prove that you are not a man without honor, and the only way to do it is to make this right by personally intervening and making damned sure that Dr. Offit gets the domain name. Have your lawyer contact his lawyer if your hatred of Dr. Offit is so great that you can’t stand the thought of dealing with him personally.

  28. #28 Chris
    May 14, 2011

    Also, exactly who posted the picture of the Disney “Sullivan”, which made it looked like the domain had been transferred. It must have been the same person who posted the libelous form with another Disney character from the same referenced movie.

  29. #29 Aletheia
    May 14, 2011

    Translation of J.B. Handley’s statement:

    I, J. B. Handley, promised to put U. S. bearer bonds directly into the hands of Bonnie Offit and her husband.

    Here’s what I actually did:

    1. I put the bearer bonds in an open, unsecured location.
    2. I did not communicate directly with Dr. Offit on my letterhead, in a conversation, or any other way in which Dr. Offit and I would have a two-way conversation.
    3. I instructed a third, corporate party to leave a note in Paul Offit’s business inbox as to the location of the bonds. The note was NOT on my personal letterhead, but on the generic letterhead of the third party. It’s kind of like getting a personal message on a coupon from McDonald’s.
    4. I told other people about the location of the bonds, and indicated if Offit hadn’t retrieved the bonds after 72 hours, anybody else was free to pick them up.

    See? I fulfilled my promise. It’s not my fault that Dr. Offit didn’t read the message printed on the McDonald’s coupon from the third, corporate party. He should have known it was from me. He should have known to get right to the unsecured location.

  30. #30 Mend A Relationship
    September 18, 2011

    I agree with you on one thing, I also don’t like ant vaccine activists.

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