Respectful Insolence

It’s not infrequent that I come under fire from antivaccinationists for, ironically enough, calling them antivaccinationists. “Oh, no,” they protest, “I’m not antivaccine. How dare you call me that? I’m actually a vaccine safety advocate.” Of course, when you probe more closely and ask a few questions, almost inevitably you’ll find that in reality they believe that no vaccine is safe, no way, no how, making the difference between their view of vaccine safety and being antivaccine a distinction without a real difference. Actually, it’s more a delusion on the part of antivaccinationists, because any reasonable person who looks carefully at their views will see that there is often no vaccine under any circumstance whose use these “vaccine safety activists” will support. No matter how much you probe, you’ll have a hard time getting them to support the use of any vaccine ever. Why?

Because in reality they’re antivaccine, that’s why.

What’s often particularly revealing are the analogies that antivaccinationists will use to describe vaccines and the effects they believe them to be causing. In particular, the most common myth over the last fifteen years or so that’s been driving the fear of vaccines among the antivaccine movement is the now scientifically discredited hypothesis that childhood vaccines (or the thimerosal preservative that used to be in childhood vaccines — or both) cause or predispose infants and children to developing autism. In fact, I can’t remember having encountered a single antivaccinationist active over the last several years who hasn’t strongly believed that vaccines cause, contribute, or predispose to autism. Arguably, the key to the entire modern antivaccine movement is the concept that there is an “autism epidemic” due to — you guessed it — vaccines. It is not my purpose in this particular post to refute that concept given how often I’ve written about the issue before. Suffice it to say that issues such as the broadening of the diagnostic criteria for autism and autism spectrum disorders, diagnostic substitution, increased screening and awareness, and other factors quite likely account for much, if not all of the current apparent increase in autism and ASD prevalence. Indeed, when the CDC announced that autism prevalence is now one in 88, antivaccinationists went wild, pointing to it as “evidence” that there is an autism epidemic.

The analogies used in the wake of that report are most revealing, as you will see, and support the contention that, all their denials that they are antivaccine notwithstanding, “antivaccine” describes such denialists almost perfectly.

The first metaphor I encountered when I first became interested in the vaccine-autism manufactroversy was the “autism tsunami.” That metaphor clearly became popular in early 2005 in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami that in December 2004 killed over 200,000 people. References to the “autism tsunami” are many, as any quick Google search will tell you. It’s a metaphor that antivaccinationists still use. For example, Ann Dachel, media editor for the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, did a post in December entitled Denying the Tsunami — L.A. Times, Meet New Jersey’s Autism Services Crisis. It’s become such a commonly used metaphor among antivaccinationists that even relatively mainstream sources without an antivaccine agenda sometimes use it, for instance in this article entitled simply The Autism Tsunami, or an article entitled Locals Prepare for ‘Tsunami’ of Adults with Autism, or even this press release from the University of Toledo entitled New autism center poised to meet ‘coming tsunami.’

Think about this for a moment. Antivaccinationists are likening autism to a huge wave that engulfs everything it hits and is capable of killing hundreds of thousands of people in a very short period of time. Leaving aside the deaths that tsunamis cause, the image is clearly meant to convey images of an implacable wave that overwhelms everything. That’s autism to antivaccinationists, and the image has seeped into the verbiage used by people who should know better, such as a director of a center of excellence in autism. And that’s arguably the least histrionic metaphor that antivaccinationists use.

April, it turns out, encompasses two anniversaries of tragic events. In the wake of the CDC report, which was released during the last week of March (no doubt in anticipation of April’s being Autism Awareness Month), the antivaccine movement has taken full advantage of the publicity and memories that these dates bring. For example, is anyone out there unaware that we recently passed the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic? There have been news stories, the rerelease of a 3D version of James Cameron’s Titanic, numerous documentaries on The History Channel and several other cable channels, and a new miniseries about the sinking of the Titanic by the creator of Downton Abbey.

Leave it to the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism and the equally cranky antivaccine blog Thinking Moms’ Revolution to liken autism (which they view as being caused by vaccines) as — you guessed it — being like the Titanic sinking. For instance, our old “friend” Jake Crosby wrote a post entitled The Titanic Wave of Autism: “You will lie there and drown!”, in which Jake uses the observation that his great-great-grandfather and mother were passengers on the Titanic and his great-great-grandfather died in the sinking as a jumping off point to write:

As with the Titanic, there are real lives at stake and inaction will cost more lives. There is a modern, manmade epidemic of titanic proportions largely caused by our vaccine program, which shields vaccine makers from personal injury litigation. We do not have anything to fear of challenging people like Seth Mnookin or Paul Offit at their speaking events around the country, only what the consequences of not challenging them will bring. As long as we do not, our nation will lie there and drown in its own complacency.

Meanwhile, over at the Thinking Moms’ Revolution, someone named Mountain Momma puts the lie to her blog’s name by writing a post entitled Abandoning ship:

As the mother of a child with vaccine injury and autism, my perspective is a little less cerebral:

I am standing on a pier surrounded by thousands of onlookers, oblivious of impending doom. I see my friends and family and their beautiful children board the ship and wave from the deck. I frantically push my way through the crowd screaming warnings, “Get off the ship. It’s not safe. PLEASE get off the boat.” The crowd is loud; they can’t hear me. I know there aren’t enough lifeboats. I know the ship is going down. I know there will be casualties. My loved ones blow kisses as the confetti drops and the band plays on. With a crack of a bottle, the ship sets sail.

This is how it feels to me when I try to tell the people I love about vaccine damage. No matter what has happened to my child, no matter what my personal experience has taught me, I am only one tiny voice in a very loud crowd – a crowd that has only heard of the grandeur of this magnificent voyage. They believe they have boarded an unsinkable ship.

So let’s see: Vaccines and autism are like the sinking of a ship in which 1,500 people died. And this isn’t antivaccine? I call bullshit.

But even that’s not the worst of it. On April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, with heavy casualties. A massive explosion due to a truck bomb devastated the building, killing 168 people, including children in the daycare center in the building. It wasn’t long before Timothy McVeigh was arrested for the crime. Ultimately, he was executed for his terrorist act.

I bet you can predict what’s coming.

That’s right, over at everybody’s favorite antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, Kim Stagliano makes a most offensive comparison in a post entitled April Is Not OK, in which she notes that April is Autism Awareness Month and uses this most horrific April event as a metaphor for the “autism tsunami” or the “autism Titanic.” Yes, now we have the autism Oklahoma City bombing:

Our government has sat by and calculated how to sugarcoat the unfolding catastrophe that is swallowing families as greedily as the brick and mortar crushed so many in Oklahoma on that terrible day. Autism rates have skyrocketed from 1 in 250 just a few years ago to at least 1 in 88 today. 1 in 54 boys.

If you are a woman of childbearing years you should be quaking in your boots. Autism takes the entire family like a bomb. Nothing is ever the same even where there is joy and happiness. NOTHING is ever the same.

There are Tim McVeighs behind this epidemic. They hide in high places. We’ve elected them. They work in the media. They are physicians. They create laws and medical edicts you must follow. They set policy. They know.

They loaded the truck and haven’t taken their foot off the gas pedal yet.

This is a woman who oh-so-piously denies oh-so-self-righteously that she is “antivaccine.” Yet she likens what she views as vaccine-induced autism to what was, at least before the September 11 terrorist attacks, the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil. I also must admit that I am pleasantly surprised that I have yet to see antivaccinationists use the September 11 attacks as a metaphor for “vaccine-induced autism,” but it’s probably just because I’ve been lucky enough to avoid it and not sufficiently persistent on Google not to have encountered it yet. I don’t plan on looking hard. Be that as it may, I have to call bullshit again. There’s no other word to describe Stagliano’s claim that she is pro-safety and not antivaccine. Come to think of it, that’s true of nearly every antivaccine activist I’ve encountered.

Indeed, just yesterday, the antivaccine crank blog AoA demonstrated to me yet again why I am correct in referring to it as the antivaccine crank blog when it published a post by Cathy Jameson entitled Trifecta! In this post, Jameson notes that this week (April 21 to 28) is National Infant Immunization Week. Now, to most people, NIIW is something entirely uncontroversial, as well it should be. Vaccines are arguably the single greatest development of modern, science-based medicine in that they have arguably saved more lives and prevented more morbidity than any single intervention devised by human minds. Not to Jameson. To her, vaccines are pure evil and to be feared:

That’s okay. The CDC still gets to pat themselves on the back this week. The second half of their “celebration” is all about them as they “…celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and their partners in promoting healthy communities…” Hmmmm. Vax programs and their partners? Partners in what, crime? Or partners like you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours? Here’s how this plays out in my head: We (the vax promoting people) will grab and stab the baby and then pawn lil Johnny off to you (the partners) when he falls ill from the vaccines we pump into him. We’ll then send sick, distressed lil Johnny to your practice so you can write script after script after script that we endorse. We’ll both make money here, there and everywhere! Just don’t tell Unsuspecting Mumsy what’s really going on. And, never tell her that the 1 in a million adverse reactions is really more like 1 in 88.

Why on God’s green earth did it become common place to take healthy infants and inject them with rounds and rounds of vaccines? After all these years I am still trying to figure out the logical behind that practice. It doesn’t make sense when other natural preventative practices can help boost the immune system quite nicely. But, that’s not what the CDC is promoting.

Yes, because all those “natural preventative practices” worked so well against vaccine-preventable diseases and it took vaccines to cause their incidence to plummet. Of course, this is the same woman who has been known to liken vaccination to a “medical assault” and a “criminal act.

So let me see. Antivaccinationists get very indignant when it is pointed out to them that they are, in fact, antivaccinationists. This characterization bothers them because they perceive themselves as somehow being “pro-safety” or “vaccine safety activists.” Oh, sure, a few of them openly proclaim themselves antivacicne, but most of them appear not to, mainly because at some level they must realize that most people don’t think that being antivaccine is a good thing. Yet, each and every day, they belie that claim not to be antivaccine by using as their favorite metaphors for vaccination and the health problems they believe it to cause a tsunami, the Titanic, or the Oklahoma City bombing, while lamenting that there is such a think as NIIW. I’ve even started finding references to autism being a “plague.” I suppose I should be grateful that they don’t use Holocaust analogies.

Oh, wait. I spoke too soon.

“Vaccine safety activists” or antivaccine activists? I think the answer is obvious, which is why I call…well, you know what I call when I see an antivaccinationist claiming she is “not antivaccine.”

Comments

  1. #1 Grant
    April 23, 2012

    “Antivaccinationists get very indignant when it is pointed out to them that they are, in fact, antivaccinationists.”

    On that note, a local group (IAS.org.nz) has in their Constitution, part 3 ‘Beliefs’: “c). We are for information choice about immunisation; we are not anti-vaccine.” The articles offered on their website consistently oppose vaccines. In a spirit of jest, it makes me wonder if they should be challenged for breaching their own constitution by being anti-vaccine! By way of example, currently the IAS are throwing brickbats at a current affairs program that, in my opinion, did a pretty good job of showing both sides of people’s views to the annual influenza vaccination program that is underway at the moment in New Zealand. (That is, without just being nasty to people in the ‘general public’ who have come to errant conclusions about the vaccine – it’s a hard thing to do well IMO.) Of course, the IAS are only opposing ‘pro-vaccine’ statements.

    Now I have to go and reply to someone who looks to have read the IAS ‘concerns’ on my blog. Sometimes I wonder why I make the effort, given the time it takes… then I wonder how you, Orac, do it every night! :-)

  2. #2 Anon
    April 23, 2012

    Twin studies show that autism is not 100% genetic. Of the 11-45% that’s not genetic, how much is caused by what?

    How much ‘the environment’?
    How much ‘the (potentially) autistic child’s own choices and actions?’
    How much ‘the parenting’

    Nobody dares to put numbers in that huge gap left by genetics.

  3. #3 Anj
    April 23, 2012

    I read Crosby’s piece. The use of the Titanic to draw page views based on a key word was blatant. The writing was painfully bad as well.

    If there are any other famous anniversaries of disasters this year, I wonder how many more “Autism Is Like ____” we are going to see.

  4. #4 Michael Hughes
    April 23, 2012

    I can’t wait to see them tie it in to the Mayan Calendar Doomsday prophesies shite.

  5. #5 Julian Frost
    April 23, 2012

    @Anon:

    Twin studies show that autism is not 100% genetic. Of the 11-45% that’s not genetic, how much is caused by what?

    If we’re talking vaccinations, 0%. This question has been looked at repeatedly with large scale studies. One study from Denmark looked at over half a million children (literally) and found no difference in the autism rates of the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

  6. #6 meg
    April 23, 2012

    @anon
    can you please provide details of the studies you mention? We wouldn’t want to think you’re making it up.

  7. #7 Science Mom
    April 23, 2012

    How much ‘the environment’?
    How much ‘the (potentially) autistic child’s own choices and actions?’
    How much ‘the parenting’

    Nobody dares to put numbers in that huge gap left by genetics.

    WTF are you even talking about? How does parenting and the autist make them autistic? As to “nobody dares”, why do you think that research is being conducted?

  8. #8 MI Dawn
    April 23, 2012

    Someone please, please, please tell me “anon” is a poe.

    He/she can’t have SERIOUSLY written
    …How much ‘the (potentially) autistic child’s own choices and actions?’
    How much ‘the parenting’

    I mean – I have no words. This is too heinous to even comment about.

    The “child’s own choices and actions”? THE CHILD’s????

    And I thought we got rid of the parenting stuff when “refrigerator mom” was discredited.

  9. #9 ThickSantorum
    April 23, 2012

    Is anyone even claiming that it’s 100% genetic? Other than that guy made of dry plant stocks?

  10. #10 Daniel
    April 23, 2012

    I can somehow understand where “Mountain Momma” is coming from…

    I frantically push my way through the crowd screaming warnings, “Get off the ship. It’s not safe. PLEASE get off the boat.” The crowd is loud; they can’t hear me. I know there aren’t enough lifeboats. I know the ship is going down.

    …and it is a very common position: “Vaccination can have side-effects, so it’s safer to do nothing”. The misconception is, of course, that doing nothing also has side-effects, namely leaving one (or the child) susceptible to diseases. “Sin of omission”, one could say.

    So in reality (well, still with way overblown risks, but relatively speaking), Mountain Momma’s metaphor would have to be:

    I know the boat is not (100%) safe. I know there will be casualties. But I also know that my city will be blown away by a hydrogen bomb. Doing nothing is not safer than getting on the boat.

    Silly and way exaggerated, I know. But in my defense, I didn’t start with that sort of rhetoric.

  11. #11 Marry Me, Mindy
    April 23, 2012

    Is anyone even claiming that it’s 100% genetic?

    I have no idea what “100% genetic” means.

    Is hair “100%” genetic? Yet, identical twins that are just born will have differences in their hair, for example.

    I think equal genes must lead to exactly the same outcomes is overly simplistic. I could easily see how very small differences at the molecular level at any point during the process could be enough to alter the expression of a phenotype. Maybe it’s not just the actual gene, but also an issue of conformation at a specific time? If that is the case, then phase space theory is going to be in charge.

  12. #12 Poe2Go
    April 23, 2012

    Being vaccinated is like being on the Titanic, only good news, you’re wearing a seat belt as you are driving a truck full of explosives around the deck and you’ve got to keep driving above 50 mph or you will never get to the capital where 1 in 88 are picked as tribute and if you take your seatbelt off, you sister Prim will get chosen to be autistic in the reaping and you’ll be so depressed that you will tell Osama bin Llama and the Nazis where the New York is and they’ll flying the Luftwaffe into the Statue of Liberty which will then topple over and cause a tsunami that will topple the World Trade Center. And you shoot an arrow at the apple in Hitler’s mouth. So….get you vaccines?

  13. #13 Anon
    April 23, 2012

    No Julian of course we’re not talking vaccinations, that’s not even a millionth of a percent.

    Mindy please tell me more?

  14. #14 Science Mom
    April 23, 2012

    Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick has anyone seen the photo Stagliano uses for her teeth-gnashing post comparing the Oklahoma City bombing with autism? The woman is truly vile.

  15. #15 Lawrence
    April 23, 2012

    @Science Mom – did your expect anything less than that from AoA?

  16. #16 matt
    April 23, 2012

    What are these people going to do in about 10 years when data starts coming out that shows that non-vaccinated children also have a similar incidence of autism?

  17. #17 JohnV
    April 23, 2012

    @anon

    Can you give us the PMIDs of the twin studies?

    @Kim Stagliano, Ph.D. in Genetics:

    “woman of childbearing years you should be quaking in your boots.”

    Apparently what, fathers shouldn’t give a shit about their kids and autism?

  18. #18 Anon
    April 23, 2012

    JohnV: 22139918, but that’s not the actual question, is it?

    If you think option 2, How much ‘the (potentially) autistic child’s own choices and actions?’ is wrong do you even know what PDD stands for?

  19. #19 machintelligence
    April 23, 2012

    *trying not to sound sexist (and failing miserably)*
    Cathy Jameson — an excellent source for old wives’ tales.

  20. #20 Anon
    April 23, 2012

    JohnV: 22139918

  21. #21 Anon
    April 23, 2012

    Sorry JohnV, can’t give you anything, censorship :/

    http://pastebin.com/ShTzyAWd

  22. #22 MikeMa
    April 23, 2012

    The good news in the “I’m not anti-vaccine” lie is that the liars recognize the falling stock in the pure ant-vax approach. Every outbreak of vaccine preventable disease, every death makes that anti-vaccine cesspool harder to live in without another excuse.

  23. #23 Julian Frost
    April 23, 2012

    Matt:

    What are these people going to do in about 10 years when data starts coming out that shows that non-vaccinated children also have a similar incidence of autism?

    The data that non vaccinated children have the same chance of developing autism as the vaccinated has been there for literally years. These people covered their ears and shouted “LALALA! I can’t hear you! It IS the vaccines!” In short, they closed their ears and their minds. They will continue to do that.
    @Anon: apologies about that. Usually, environment is just shorthand for “vaccinesdidit!” Hence my response.

  24. #24 Sarah
    April 23, 2012

    Families ‘engulfed by’ or ‘swallowed up by’ a tidal wave of autism is a pretty odd metaphor, when you think about it.

    There’s autism in my family, but in what sense could we be said to be ‘engulfed’ by it or ‘swallowed up’ by it?

    It can be grim at times, and odd, and frustrating.

    But the abyss it aint.

  25. #25 a-non
    April 23, 2012

    I have a personal connection to victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. The idea that someone would equate immunization programs with that horrific event disgusts me on so many levels. Does Kim Stagliano really think that doctors and pharmaceutical companies are the equivalent of domestic terrorists?

    I made a longer post about this on AoA, but I have no expectation that it will see the light of day. And perhaps for my sake, it’s probably better that way, because I’m not nearly as kind.

  26. #26 Autismum
    April 23, 2012

    #14
    @Science Mom
    You’re right. That is an appalling image to use (esp with its overtones of the whole idea of autism is something to be “recovered from” or that a person is “trapped” within). They know no shame.

    It was the plague thing that got to me,though. Mainly because it was being bandied about by a Catholic blog. How many biblical plagues weren’t some kind of mass punishment for evil/sin/whatever?

  27. #27 Science Mom
    April 23, 2012

    Does Kim Stagliano really think that doctors and pharmaceutical companies are the equivalent of domestic terrorists?

    a-non, yes yes she does in her fevered imaginings that she is the ultimate victim. We are talking about a woman who trashed her own sister-in-law and published blatant lies about her and events surrounding her wedding so Stagliano could present herself (using her children’s autism of course) as a victim of yet another outlandish slight against her. Nothing is too hyperbolic, repugnant and vile for her.

  28. #28 JGC
    April 23, 2012

    I know it’s a bit hard to credit, but from all indications Kim Stagliano does believe that doctors and pharmaceutical companies are the moral equivalent of domestic terrorists.

    But that’s only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: the rest of the week they’re the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany…

  29. #29 Denice Walter
    April 23, 2012

    Silently, the rain washes the withering remains of the blossoms from the flowering trees and I think that perhaps I might feel better if I took a walk upon the great, dark cliffs and peered into the dense fog that arises from the cold, swirling waters far below….

    Oh hello. Sorry about that. It just happens sometimes whenever I’m morose. (-btw- there really *are* dropping blossoms, cliffs, rain et al, around here). And reading the material I do, should I expect to feel anyway other than depressed? However, understanding how our adverseries think may perhaps lead to our own enlightenment.

    Because I follow the musings of the martyrs ( @ AoA, TMR), I notice that certain styles of hyperbole come and go like trends in a fashion magazine: the recent metaphors almost sound like a ‘Can you top this?’ contest. What I find intriguing is how we’ve gone from “tsumani”- the brute force of nature itself- to terrorists and mass murderers, people deliberating harming their fellows. Earlier, many of them were just engaging in a drawn-out *recitative* about their daily travailles and miseries. ( continued)

  30. #30 Denice Walter
    April 23, 2012

    I sometimes think that writing serves as a substitute for therapy for many of these mothers…however, unlike group therapy, they re-inforce each others’ *unrealistic* ideas as well as their own whimsy-based hypothesising. Interestingly, they externalise blame for their woes similarly to the way in which they succinctly and finally attribute autism to external malevolent forces. So, the photo that develops remains black-and-white, free of subtlety and articulated shadings**. Thus if your opponent is so horrible- evil incarnate- how can you yourself be anything but good? Perhaps this serves to assuage guilt: for after all, didn’t they themselves hand over that innocent baby to be vaccinated?*** They need to see themselves as sacrosanct and above suspicion.

    An additional consideration is that of secondary gain- there can be advantage in illness or catastrophe- people feel sorry for you and praise your self-less devotion and steadfast love. Obviously this contributes to self-esteem: the victim becomes a warrior, perhaps even a conquerer. Many of those who write @ AoA use this as an avenue to fame: they write books, appear at festivals of St Andy, give lectures and appear on television. ( Ms Stagliano has two books for sale: although both are probably fictional, only one is labelled as such/ note that several luminaries of AoA will appear at AutismOne).

    As the axe grinding and wheel spinning goes on, I expect that we’ll be treated to literary excess beyond our wildest dreams. I would be entirely entertained if I were not aware that many rather young women as merely wasting their time and effort on a cause that was never anything but lost.

    ** to be fair, the Professor @ TMR opines that perhaps our opponents are decent, mis-guided people.
    *** another lovely effect of the vaccines-autism theory.

  31. #31 AllieP
    April 23, 2012

    I find it so odd whenever Kim S.’s name comes up in these discussions. I know that nowadays she’s big guns over at AoA and wrote a memoir about her experiences as an autism mom and such, but ten years ago, I knew her quite well as a fellow aspiring novelist, exchanging contacts and market information and stories from our time in the trenches trying to find agents and publishers.

    I remember once, when she received what I thought was a very nice rejection from a top agent regarding a novel she’d written about pregnancy, where the agent stated she didn’t think she could passionately champion the project as she had no interest in pregnancy or babies herself and perhaps Kim would be better off seeking someone who had more interest in that subject, Kim went on a multi-day tirade about what kind of horrible person this agent must be to “hate babies.” When, several years later, the agent got pregnant, Kim started up again about the agent’s “lies.”

    (This is why most agents just send form letters.)

    It seems to me from seeing her behavior in both venues that she is the kind of person who will never attribute to any other cause what can be instead imagined as supreme malice. A simple “no thanks” for a novel (I’ve got hundreds) is no less than a personal attack on Kim’s life choices. Her search to find scientists and pharmacy companies to blame for the other bad things that have happened in her life seem similar to me.

    I know her situation must be supremely difficult and I cannot imagine the suffering she and her family have experienced with all the challenges of having three autistic children. But I understand now why she left our group (which would write off rejection letters as part of the biz and not something to get worked up over) for a group that was more sympathetic to her “they’re all out to get me” message.

  32. #32 missmayinga
    April 23, 2012

    @Denice Walter
    I agree about the “anti-vax kvetching as therapy” theory. The problem with it (other than the anti-vax bit, obviously) is that it doesn’t actually do anything to help them heal, or accept their situation. Rather, by giving them a villain to blame, and convincing them that their child’s autism is an unfair plight that was inflicted on them, it keeps them constantly focused on how awful their situation is, and how evil the doctors are. There’s a certain fun to be had in self-righteous outrage, but it only works if you’ve got someone to blame for your situation – otherwise, you eventually have to move on. With AoA (and the antivax world in general) being such echo chambers, it’s basically impossible for them to move on, or give up their outrage. The anti-vax world provides constant reinforcement for their ideas, and a constant stream of new “offenses” for them to feel angry about. And then, their ideas reaffirmed, they go out and write their own rants, which inspire a new crowd of anti-vaxers, and so on and so forth. Basically it’s a horrible perpetual motion machine fuelled by stress and misplaced self-righteousness.

  33. #33 palindrom
    April 23, 2012

    AllieP @28 (and the many lurkers).

    I’ve known people with similar personalities — they think that they their many problems are entirely due to other people treating them poorly — “Poor me! I did nothing wrong!” — but, it’s obvious to everyone else that they’re a “Major Payne-Diaz” (as the Car Talk people have it) and that they bring it all on themselves because of their terrible attitude (e.g., pathological inflexibility, lack of empathy, and so on).

    Does any DMS-IV hound know if this is what’s called Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

  34. #34 Denice Walter
    April 23, 2012

    @ missmayinga:

    Sure. While many people who need medication choose instead to self-medicate, others who might really benefit from therapy select easier, self-serving, like-minded groups that *keep them exactly where they already are*!

    I do actually feel sorry for these people who I believe were initially mis-guided by alt med prevarication: woo-meisters set their sites on those dis-gruntled with SBM.

    Here’s the big problem for me: if I write about them it might seem as though I am one big mean girl pointing out their flaws or that I am indeed a deeply entrenched pharma shill merely at work. There is other motivation: I feel that although these women are mis-guided and indeed hurt by life circumstances, they manage to achieve a measure of sympathy and solidarity from other mothers and may thus influence people way from reality and SBM. Sometimes peer influence trumps advice from authorities- who are regularly castigated as being villanous-btw- they sure have a lot of *betes noires* @ AoA ( and even a *bete bleue*- i.e. Sullivan).

  35. #35 lilady
    April 23, 2012

    “Suffice it to say that issues such as the broadening of the diagnostic criteria for autism and autism spectrum disorders, diagnostic substitution, increased screening and awareness, and other factors quite likely account for much, if not all of the current apparent increase in autism and ASD prevalence.”

    *Diagnostic Substitution* is what members of the COH (Committee on The Handicapped) did frequently ~ late 1970s-early 1980, when I served as the designated “Parent of a Handicapped Child” on my school district’s COH. We didn’t have the *ASD* educational designation, so we would avoid the *Mildly Mentally Retarded* certification in favor of the *Learning Disabled* certification. I had a huge group of parent/advocate colleagues who also served on other COHs in various capacities…some actually were special education teachers, psychologists, social workers and learning specialists and served on the COH in the school districts that employed them. We all participated in this “diagnostic substitution”. There shouldn’t be, at this point, any need to point out that reviewing school records to determine eligibility for special educational services and using school records only, to explain the autism *epidemic* or autism *tsunami* is ridiculous.

    Back then, parents felt that mental retardation was a stigmatizing label. Many parents of young children would actually fight educational certification…yet their children needed the specialized services. So we played the game then…and never classified a child as being mildly mentally retarded, when they first entered the school system. Further down the line, children would be reclassified to reflect their actual level of intellectual impairment.

  36. #36 Composer99
    April 23, 2012

    It doesn’t make sense when other natural preventative practices can help boost the immune system quite nicely.

    Phrases such as this betray the writer’s ignorance of physiology (Cathy Jameson in this particular case).

    As has been doubtless pointed out time and again (both here and and at venues such as Age of Autism, although efforts in the latter case are apparently made in vain), immune system function is not a simple progression from bad to good to better.

    The varying, wobbly nature of organism functions (including the immune system) and the constraints they operate within when they are operating effectively often seem to be overlooked by purveyors of alt-med and in anti-science activists (such as anti-vaccinationists).

  37. #37 lilady
    April 23, 2012

    @ palindrom: According to the DSM-IV-TR 30.81 Diagnostic Criteria for narcissistic personality disorder:

    http://ve7kfm.com/DSM4NPD.pdf

    I see some of the elements of that disorder with the journalists at AoA, but I have another special classification system for them and their articles

    -Pity Me…my life has been ruined and, I cannot move on since my child was diagnosed as being on “the spectrum”.

    -Why Me and Why Me/Religion Variant…I’m a good person, so why did THIS (my child), happen to me.

    -Martyr Me…I care for my child, not for the sake of caring (and loving), but because I achieve martyrdom.

    -Angry Me…I’ll stay in this state of blazing white anger forever. It justifies why I can lash out at my child(ren), the world of science and individuals who are not in lockstep with the group-think at AoA.

  38. #38 Dangerous Bacon
    April 23, 2012

    The Titanic is actually a good metaphor for the antivax movement.

    Many times now their claims about vaccine dangers have crashed into icebergs of contrary evidence and sank.

    And the woman aboard ship screaming “Danger! Danger! We’re sinking!!!” is actually riding the Staten Island Ferry, and the rest of the passengers are growing tired of hearing her doomsday alarms. “It’s not 100% safe! You can swim to Manhattan, it’s not so bad!”

    Yeah, right.

  39. #39 missmayinga
    April 23, 2012

    In fact, I can’t remember having encountered a single antivaccinationist active over the last several years who hasn’t strongly believed that vaccines cause, contribute, or predispose to autism.
    To be fair, Orac, I think I remember seeing a bit of backpedaling on the autism issue back when the Lancet first retracted Wakefield’s paper. That was during my days (well, day really, since my account was banned within the first 2 posts I made) trolling the Mothering Dot Com forums, and I remember seeing a few threads along the lines of “Why are the vaxxers acting like this undermines our arguement? We’re not anti-vax because of autism, we’re anti-vax because of the toxins/the mercury/a fundamental misunderstanding of microbiology and the immune system! Why won’t they address that?”

  40. #40 Calli Arcale
    April 23, 2012

    Composer99:

    The varying, wobbly nature of organism functions

    This reminds me, unavoidably, of the Doctor Who episode “Blink”:

    “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff.”

    So our immune systems are wibbly-wobbly now. :-D I cannot unthink this.

  41. #41 lilady
    April 23, 2012

    Anne Dachel, Media Director at AoA wrote this article linking all sorts of disasters to the prevalence of autism:

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2010/06/iacc-head-dr-tom-insel-talks-about-autism-at-mitdec-2009.html

    “I think of the autism epidemic on a par with other national emergencies like the San Francisco earthquake, Pearl Harbor, and the World Trade Center Bombing. In many ways, it’s worse. In those other crises, we understood what happened and we could take action. With autism, no one can tell us anything.”

    And this,

    “If I were in that audience, my question would be, When are you going to alert the American people to the tsunami that’s coming?”

  42. #42 missmayinga
    April 23, 2012

    @lilady
    The World Trade Center? Seriously? They’re comparing this to the World Trade Center? Classy.

  43. #43 lilady
    April 23, 2012

    @ Orac:

    “I suppose I should be grateful that they don’t use Holocaust analogies.”

    Oh yes they do…remember this?

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/08/the_hitler_zombie_smells_thimerosal_1.php

    “Mr. Blaxill then wrote this letter to Time Magazine, likening autism to a “silent holocaust,” an analogy that Dr. Mercola echoed on his own website, also likening it to “pharmaceutical terrorism.” The “silent holocaust” analogy spread, and was soon found in a number of publications by organizations that claimed that autism was caused by the mercury in thimerosal.”

  44. #44 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 23, 2012

    missmayinga – to be fair, the phrase is “World Trade Center Bombing”, which happened well before 2001. At least, I hope that is what was meant.

  45. #45 Liz Ditz
    April 23, 2012

    Denice @27

    I admire your fortitude. I had to read through TMR for an assignment last week, and really found it hard going. The combination of autism hatred, science denial, magical thinking and a sort of high-school clique atmosphere was… well, it was difficult.

    Palindrom @30

    “Major Payne-Diaz” (as the Car Talk people have it)

    I needed that phrase!

    Missmayinga @37 Re anti-vaxxers backing down: my experience of advocating for California’s AB2109 leads me to say: nope, not a bit. The goalposts have moved, and moved again; they might as well be on wheels. Autism and other conditions are “vaccine injury” period. The mechanism of injury doesn’t have to be proved/make sense, it just is. If you question that, according to anti-vaxxer Curt Lindeman, you are “evil”.

  46. #46 Denice Walter
    April 23, 2012

    @ Liz Ditz:

    While I certainly thank you for your gracious words, I truly believe that my *fortitude* is merely a tolerance for vast quantities of nonsense inherited from my hard-as$ed ancestors who adeptly used it to advantage in the world of business.

    As if to illustrate my expressed concerns above, today @ TMR, (la) Mamacita writes about her own efforts at proselytisation while at the doctor’s: it was ‘not by chance’ was her appointment was changed so that she might encounter a young mother who was already “worried” about vaccines. And it seems that they had both read the same alt med gospel about over-cleanliness- further proof that their meeting was indeed ordained in heaven. She’s on a mission against SB dis-information it would appear.

    Fortunately for me, I have to now address the slightly happier topic of investments that we frequently discuss over spicey ethnic cuisines: for some unknown reason, the food and discourse seem to go together.

  47. #47 Michelle Parsons
    April 23, 2012

    I Am Anti-Vaccine…call me an Antivaccionist All You Care To…I am not offended in the least…I am Proud of my stance!

  48. #48 lilady
    April 23, 2012

    “I Am Anti-Vaccine…call me an Antivaccionist All You Care To…I am not offended in the least…I am Proud of my stance!”

    I Am Anti-Vaccine…call me an Antivaccionist All You Care To…I am not offended in the least…I am Proud of my IGNORANCE”

    -FTFY

  49. #49 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    April 23, 2012

    On another discussion board Michelle Parsons claims to be a “health care professional”:

    Michelle Parsons
    August 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I also am a health care professional with 3 totally un vaccinated children, (20, 17 and 16 next month), who will remain so, I have seen the damage and carnage of mass childhood vaccination chalked up to SIDS or simply Unknown Death…I have seen and worked with the Vaccine Brain Injured….”Well Meaning Parents”??? Stop with the condescending speech…we KNOW what we are doing and it is the BEST thing any parent can do for their children…NOT VACCINATING THEM WITH DEADLY NEURO-TOXINS.

    So Michelle, are you a chiropractor? A homeopath? A reiki master? What education do you possess that allows you to know better than science?

    You are an ignorant, selfish bad parent and a miserable member of the community.

  50. #50 Autismum
    April 23, 2012

    #40
    The holocaust allusion is almost as old as autism (as a defined condition) itself. Bettelheim was comparing autistic children to concentration camp inmates and their parents (in particular their icy cold mothers) as guards – imagery he used in the desperate “The Empty Fortress.”
    PS
    Thanks Liz for promoting Autismum and everyone who’s voted for me. Diolch xx

  51. #51 papango
    April 23, 2012

    @lilady 32

    Even further back than that, families may have been worried about what would happen to children labelled ‘retarded’. My mother was a very odd child, she didn’t talk and prefered to hang around with the cows(they lived on a farm) and read than with other kids. Her mother, my grandmother, was very worried that teachers or doctors might say she was ‘retarded’ and try to put her in an institution. She and my grandfather decided that if anyone tried they would send my mother to stay with relatives on an even more isolated farm, where she could be outside and hang around with cows and sheep and be happy, rather than have her put in a hospital. I think if they were parents today they would have taken her to a doctor, found out she was very bright, but also very mildly something or rather (or maybe she was just an odd little kid) and not had all that worry.

  52. #52 lilady
    April 23, 2012

    @ Marc:

    I’m wondering if this is the “Michelle Parsons” who posted here:

    http://www.facebook.com/staradvertiser/posts/131338500284302

    C’mon back Michelle…Marc and I are waiting for you.

  53. #53 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    April 23, 2012

    @lil,

    Her anti-vax pollution is all over the web. She usually uses the name Michelle Tarpening Parsons. There’s a particularly odious comment in a Pittsburgh newspaper about a (hero!) pediatrician who refuses to accept unvaccinated children as patients.

    Let me say it again: she’s an ignorant, selfish, bad parent and miserable neighbor.

  54. #54 Chris
    April 23, 2012

    Does Ms. Parsons use something other than random capitalization in her arguments? Has she made one cogent comment?

  55. #55 Shay
    April 23, 2012

    Chris, for some people, random capitalization (or use of all caps) has become a substitute for logic.

    (I have opposable thumbs, hear me roar).

  56. #56 Chris
    April 23, 2012

    It must be the same logic where random insults are a substitute for evidence.

  57. #57 Narad
    April 23, 2012

    So Michelle, are you a chiropractor? A homeopath? A reiki master? What education do you possess that allows you to know better than science?

    Michelle Tarpening Parsons, who this is, has claimed to be an RN and an ER nurse in California.

  58. #58 Narad
    April 23, 2012

    Oh, and she apparently has at least one her kids plying the family antivax-comment trade as well.

  59. #59 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    April 23, 2012

    @Narad,

    Yeah, I saw her claim to be an RN. If so, what a colossal waste of time, money and education. I hope she doesn’t work anywhere near or with children or is in any position whatsoever to counsel or advise parents.

    lilady, can you shine your batsignal and find out the truth? (Like you did about that other nurse who was on meth?)

    Michelle Parsons claims both her parents were MDs. If so, I wonder if they were both as deluded as she is.

    She also claims on one discussion board to have three children, yet on another board at the exact same time she said she has four children.

  60. #60 lilady
    April 23, 2012

    @ Autismum: I see your blog is in the #3 slot…congratulations!

    @ papango: Children, like my son, who was profoundly mentally retarded, never had the opportunity, to attend a school program…prior to 1975:

    http://www.scn.org/~bk269/94-142.html

    And, in 1977, before the Federal regulations implemented Early Intervention services, I petitioned Family Court in my County for funding his infant stimulation program:

    https://www.firstsigns.org/treatment/EI.htm

    It would be hard for anyone to determine if your mom was mildly intellectually impaired…or if she had a learning disability…or was on the “spectrum”…or she just enjoyed the company of animals, rather than her peer group. Girls are especially b*tchy, when it comes to anyone who is perceived as *different* :-)

  61. #61 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    April 23, 2012

    There’s no Michelle Parsons listed as an RN in California, according to this database:

    http://www.rn.ca.gov/index.shtml

    Is there somewhere else to look?

  62. #62 Science Mom
    April 23, 2012

    I Am Anti-Vaccine…call me an Antivaccionist All You Care To…I am not offended in the least…I am Proud of my stance!

    I don’t know; all I can think of when I see something like this are exclamations along the lines of, “I’m proud to be an Amurkin.” or “I have genital herpes and I’m damn proud of it.”

    Michelle is just so precious isn’t she?

  63. #63 lilady
    April 23, 2012

    Recently, *Michelle Tarpening Parsons* was posting on Sid Offal’s and the NVIC’s Facebook pages, claiming to be a registered nurse working in a California E.R;

    I checked this website for registered nurse licensing for Michelle Parsons and Michelle Tarpening…neither one is listed as being currently licensed:

    http://www2.dca.ca.gov/pls/wllpub/wllqryna$lcev2.startup?p_qte_code=RN&p_qte_pgm_code=7800

    *Whose picture is on Michelle Tarpenings Facebook page?

    C’mon back Michelle, so I can tell you, you’re full of it.

  64. #64 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    April 23, 2012

    @lilady,

    That’s probably her son, one of her three (or four) kids. Her two (hot) daughters are pictured on her main Facebook page. So where’s kid #4?

    @Narad: where did you see one of her kids doing the anti-vax thing?

  65. #65 Candy
    April 23, 2012

    Michelle Tarpening Parsons’s page says she studied Neuro-Reflex Concentration in Fresno City. I Googled it rather perfunctorily and came up with nothing. Anyone want to tell this layperson what that is? Is it this? http://hol-solutions.com/Neuroreflex.html

  66. #66 lilady
    April 23, 2012

    “Michelle” will be moving to Hawaii after her child graduates high school, 2013:

    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.219565048054699.65788.218260101518527&type=1

    “Michelle” has also posted about spending summers in Hawaii, when she was younger. (I also checked to see if she is licensed as a registered nurse in Hawaii…she isn’t.)

    Michelle, you’re “full of it”.

  67. #67 Candy
    April 23, 2012

    Looks like Michelle is a Ron Paul supporter, too. Why doesn’t that surprise me?

  68. #68 Science Mom
    April 23, 2012

    Michelle Tarpening Parsons’s page says she studied Neuro-Reflex Concentration in Fresno City. I Googled it rather perfunctorily and came up with nothing. Anyone want to tell this layperson what that is? Is it this?

    @ Candy, it looks like woo bullshit that is a different technique depending upon the charlatan’s persuasion. It’s for people too dumb and/or lazy to attend a proper, accredited physical therapy or occupational therapy programme.

  69. #69 Narad
    April 23, 2012

    @Narad: where did you see one of her kids doing the anti-vax thing?

    There were some odd exchanges at the “Vaccinate Your Baby” Facebook page that you can find if you’re really interested. Unless any of the junior Parsonses show up, I’ll leave it at that.

  70. #70 Candy
    April 23, 2012

    @ Science Mom – Thanks! I noticed the quack Miranda warning at the bottom of all pages. Even though the name of Michelle’s “training” and the Neuroflex training weren’t exactly the same, I figured they about had to be in the same ballpark.

  71. #71 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    April 23, 2012

    I think we’ve frightened off all members of the Parsons family, including all future (and hopefully vaccinated) generations.

    I’ve only been here for a few months but that seems to happen quite often. Someone will post something either outrageous or angry or misguided or just plain lunatic, and then disappear rather than engage to defend/explain/argue their views.

    Sometimes you can’t even buy an argument (“…will that be five minutes or the full half-hour?”)

  72. #72 Denice Walter
    April 23, 2012

    @ Marc Stephens Is Insane:

    I imagine that the lengths of time the vexatious ones stay are (probably) normally distributed:
    at one extreme, it’s a hit and run- wham, bam, thank you, etc-
    the most usual examples stay and b#tch for a few days and
    those at the other tail, _never_ leave.

    Well, maybe they *do* actually leave, it just *seems* like they’re here *forever*.

  73. #73 adelady
    April 24, 2012

    So a mother of 2 adult daughters is proud, proud!, that they’re not vaccinated ….. against rubella.

    So they’re not just endangering everyone around them, they’re endangering those precious yet-to-be-born grandchildren. Hopefully, they’ll marry someone who’ll whisk them off to an isolated mountaintop for a few months when a baby’s on the way.

  74. #74 Kathy
    April 24, 2012

    Great blog. Have you heard the new one, that unvaxed kids are immune-intact? Sigh.

  75. #75 Darwy
    April 24, 2012

    I’ve gone a few rounds with Michelle on VYB and some of the other pro-vax pages, and I’ve traded barbs with her on Huffpo.

    Quite simply, she’s an idiot. Scientifically ignorant.

  76. #76 Roger Kulp
    April 24, 2012

    I thought I’d share this little gem that darkened my inbox the other day.

    http://www.picktainment.com/blog/2012/04/autism-the-real-story-needs-to-be-told/

  77. #77 qwerty
    April 24, 2012

    Orac,

    My first time commenting on your blog.

    Couldn’t agree more with your post. I happened upon Kim’s article on AOA the other day and found myself sitting there fuming that she would use such shameless rhetoric (I knew nothing of her background). Kim seemed oblivious to the fact that her rabid anti-government sentiment and blind willingness to harm others by promoting an anti-vaccine agenda would’ve probably resonated with McVeigh. I posted a few comments (always trying to remain respectful and keep an open dialog with other posters) — needless to say, all hell broke loose. The level of hatred and outright disrespect for the faintest whiff of real science was remarkable. Not all was bad however. There were a few nice exchanges with some concerned parents, and I enjoyed my interactions with them.

  78. #78 g724
    April 25, 2012

    Poe2go @ 12 is right on target: post that kind of schizophrenic word-salad on the anti-vax sites in large quantities, under various pseudonyms, and clog up the sites with it until it appears that a large fraction of the members are downright wacko. This will seriously turn off undecideds who check out those sites. Poe2go’s comment is an excellent template for this tactic, but you can easily make up your own by inserting random words into sentences and then going on digressive riffs about the random words. Be sure to Capitalize occasional Nouns and Verbs as well.

    Really: listen up folks, the way to fight this crap is NOT by “patiently explaining” to people who are already way past being persuaded that the Earth isn’t flat. You may as well be talking to rocks (healing crystals?:-). The way to fight it is by sabotaging the anti-vaxers with crazy stuff that drives away undecideds. The way to fight it is with emotional narratives that undermine the ones that the anti-vaxers are pushing.

    Re. Matt @ 16: What will the anti-vaxers do after enough data come in that unvaxed kids have the same autism prevalence as vaxed kids? Simple: they will blame the autism on the vaccinations that mothers and fathers got when they were kids, that “damaged their DNA!” and “warped their chromosomes!” and so on. (Remember the old claim that LSD caused chromosome damage? That kind of scare tactic used to work, it may still.)

    Denise @ 26 and others: Yes, the hyperbole contest. So we should sneak into the anti-vax blogs and compare vaccines to the 9/11 attacks, complete with lots of weeping & wailing to make it “interesting.” And of course lots of embedded 9/11 CT, for example, “Just as Dick Cheney piloted those planes into the WTC by remote control, vaccine-pushers pilot their deadly shots into our children!” That kind of stuff also drives away undecideds.

  79. #79 Denice Walter
    April 25, 2012

    @ qwerty:

    I like your work @ AoA: I was rather surprised that they allowed you to respond several times- they’re usually quick to moderate commenters who dis-agree with their agenda.

    If you want to see “rabid anti-government sentiment and blind willingness to harm others” in action on a grander scale ( anti-vax plus), I suggest you peruse Natural News and the Progressive Radio Network.

    At any rate, welcome aboard!

    @ g724:

    Altho’you idea is tempting I would not myself comment @ sites like AoA because they would then have the e-mail I use. At least one AoA contributer has done ( how shall I say it?) ‘not very nice things’ to some of our own.

  80. #80 CS
    April 25, 2012

    Sigh. I don’t think I will ever understand the antivaccinationists. Or those that think having a child with autism is the end of the world. Yeah, there are days that it really sucks, and I’d much rather have a neuro-typical child had I been given the choice. But the end of the world? Not even close.

  81. #81 lilady
    April 25, 2012

    @ qwerty: Your posts on AoA are brilliant…but always “suspect”, because…

    You post about immunology…you’re an intellectual, never a *good* thing on that site.

    You have real *credentials* that are a threat to their set theory/theories.

    And…Tada!!…you don’t have a child on the “spectrum”.

    (Even posters who have children on the “spectrum”, but don’t believe in “the evil vaccines damaged my child theory”, are met with scorn and derision.)

  82. #82 qwerty
    April 25, 2012

    @ lilady — Thanks, I’m glad you liked my posts. I tried to take some time to write something that would be useful and informative, so I found it particularly irritating when some folks replied with what I call the “cut-and-paste” attack, which includes only scant original writing (usually the insult directed at me) followed by copied text, links to websites, videos, blogs and obscure “scientific” articles.

    I actually DO have a child that is quite severely autistic (approaching 4yrs old) and mentioned this on the AOA string of posts, but even that doesn’t seem to carry any street-cred with folks over there.

  83. #83 lilady
    April 25, 2012

    @ qwerty: Sorry, I did miss your reference to your son, but I had *trouble* going through all the vicious attacks on you and the unwarranted support of Stagmom, and her analogous comparison of autism with the Oklahoma terrorist attack.

    I too, have (had) a developmentally disabled child who died, June 2004. My child had a rare genetic disorder that resulted in profound and multiple physical, intellectual and medical impairments with pronounced autistic-like behaviors. No, I have not *mentioned* what that disorder is, in order to protect my anonymity and his…and because I have written extensively about him…under my real name. (Orac and a few of the RI regulars know me and know what genetic disorder my son was born with.)

    When my son was one-year-old, I was taught by developmental specialists how to implement a behavior modification program (a forerunner of ABA), in order to eliminate his self-injurious and self-stimulatory behaviors. (Hershey’s chocolate syrup was his “reward”…that was “faded”, when effusive praise was provided.) It was the “breakthrough” that he needed to become a child who was happily engaged in play activities and engaged in the world about him.

    I know I’m going to enjoy your company here on RI…you’re my type of poster :-)

  84. #84 g724
    April 25, 2012

    Denise @ 76: The way to do it is to set up a fictitious email address. Speaking from experience working on research on extremist groups:

    Start by setting one up on your existing broadband provider: AT&T, Comcast, and the rest of ‘em give you five or more email addresses of your choice. Create a totally fictitious name and then an address that reflects that name e.g. John Doe and JDoe1234@.

    Next, get an address on a free service provider such as Yahoo or Hotmail or whatever. Since most of these ask for your “other” email address as proof of identity, give them the one on your broadband provider. They will send a confirmation email to that address giving you your starting password.

    Third, after about a week of using your new fictitious address in various places that let you sign up for comments, you can be sure it’s working, so then go in and delete the address you created on your broadband service. Typically they deactivate the address immediately and then take a month to free up that slot for re-use. This step ensures that your Yahoo or Hotmail address becomes un-traceable back to your broadband provider.

    Fourth, wait a month for the original fictitious name to completely purge from your broadband provider.

    Fifth: Now you’re home free to get onto the anti-vax boards and any other objectionable boards you want to go after, and make all manner of noise to make them look ridiculous and drive away the undecideds. Yeee-hawww, round ‘em up!

    Speaking of rounding ‘em up, you now have an untraceable email address for use in reporting illegal activities you may run across from time to time. If you run across anti-vaxers or others promoting illegal activities (such as sending contaminated material through the mail, some of the anti-vaxers do this with chickenpox-contaminated lolly pops and so on to “share natural immunity” and it’s a felony), you can safely turn ‘em in to the appropriate authorities without fear of retaliation. However, if you want to help law enforcement, the #1 rule is: “Observe and report ONLY, do NOT interact with persons-of-interest.” Any interaction you have with them can become cause for them to make an entrapment defense. So just take screenshots, copy the URLs, and send ‘em in to the appropriate authorities (typically the FBI and Postal Inspectors).

    One more note about LE support: if you ever run across kiddie porn online, you need to stop what you’re doing immediately, and call your local FBI office immediately (and use your real name), and they will instruct you about what to do at that point. If you don’t report it, you could become criminally liable for accessing it.

    That said, the option of simply going forth and making noise on anti-vax boards makes it all worthwhile. Every undecided you scare away from those boards, is one more family that will probably get their kids vaccinated. And that helps boost herd immunity and contribute to preventing outbreaks. So the work it takes to do this stuff translates directly to reduced risk of measles, whooping cough, and so on in the general population. That (plus the possibility to help catch criminals) makes it all worthwhile.

  85. #85 Antaeus Feldspar
    April 25, 2012

    Oh, not this from g724 again. I thought he’d finally bought a clue and given up this stupid “let’s win against the antivaxxers with an ethics-free dirty tricks campaign!!” No. We have an advantage that the antIvaxxers cannot match, which is that ours is the one that doesn’t need lies and distortions to support it. There are few stupider ideas anyone could come up with than “let’s do lots of dishonest things to counter the antivaxxers! Let’s post fake messages pretending to be crazy anti-vax conspiracy nuts!” Yeah, that’s a great idea. You know what happens if we do that? Any crazy anti-vax conspiracy crap that comes from anyone other than an established antivaxxer can be written off as “probably just a vaccine pusher up to dirty tricks again.” Yeah, g724, let’s give them plausible deniability; great idea! For the last time, stop with this crap! If you can’t defend science-based medicine with anything except dishonesty, it’s not because antivaxxers are such an unconquerable enemy, it’s because you aren’t up to the challenge; it’s no excuse for stooping.

  86. #86 Denice Walter
    April 25, 2012

    @ g724:

    Altho’ your plan has its charm- if you like black ops- I believe that *my* own strong point is that I use my education and experience to expose the blatant lies and posturing by those who rely upon pretense: I can’t do what I’m opposing.

    I could probably present myself in a way that might be more appealing to the average alt med-friendly person: I could talk about my (non-existent) children or play down-home girl-next-door but that’s not who I am. Like Antaeus says, we do have something that the woo-meisters don’t: a better grasp on how the real world works.

  87. #87 qwerty
    April 25, 2012

    @ lilady,

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story with me. I can relate to what you went through with behavior modification. My son’s chocolate syrup is pretzel sticks. He can spot them from a mile away and the mere mention of the word ‘pretzel’ elicits an abrupt about-face at a speed that is not otherwise seen from our sweet, but extremely uncoordinated, boy!

    I do feel in great company here at RI, so I’ll be seeing you around the halls. Besides, it seems my posts are no longer making it past the moderator at AoA :)

  88. #88 Liz Ditz
    April 25, 2012

    What Antaeus Feldspar said about g724 proposal.

    But it is useful to have an email address that can’t be traced back, for certain legitimate and ethical uses, just as it is useful to have a mail box at say the UPS store.

  89. #89 lilady
    April 25, 2012

    @qwerty: Your posts would be very welcome at Autismum’s website…and she has an adorable little boy…

    http://autismum.com/2012/04/19/5604/

    Pretzels, eh? My little guy never “got” that skill…so food was processed with yoghurt…hence the chocolate syrup on his tongue.

  90. #90 g724
    April 26, 2012

    Re. Antaeus at 82: Rational people are rationally persuaded. Irrational people (and also rational people) are irrationally persuaded. Do you have the faintest clue how advertising works? Don’t go saying it’s beneath you, because chances are you have a few major brands around your house too, where the generic store brands would be indistinguishable, but good packaging plus rationalization won the day.

    Empirical fact backed by peer-reviewed studies: Emotions decide and reason follows along with an explanation.

    Yes, I heartily endorse people trying to make the rational case to undecideds. But when dealing with hard-cores who are an overt threat to public health, any nonviolent tactic is legitimate. If the threat is unlawful behavior, you sic law enforcement on ‘em. If the threat is conveyed through lawful behavior such as speech, you go after it at whatever level is likely to work. And the blunt fact is, psychological warfare works.

    Sure they’ll try to claim that any contrary postings on their sites are the work of Nefarious Vax-Pushers and Big Pharma Spies (capitalize those nouns!;-) who want to make them look bad. They’ll do that anyway because they’re paranoid and that’s what paranoids do. But in the end, paranoia on the part of anti-vaxers only plays into our hands, because it turns up the conspiracy theory to 11 and turns off even more undecideds.

    It’s like dealing with drunk people who want to drive. Say whatever you have to say to get them to give you the keys. Really.

    I think it was Denise, at 83 (I can’t see the posts while in Preview mode): This isn’t Black Ops, it’s Gray Ops. Gray Ops are nonviolent. I don’t approve of Black Ops.

    Y’all need to pay closer attention to how hardball politics are played, or you’re going to lose, and lose, and lose some more. How do you like fighting creationists and other flat-Earthers in the 21st century? How do you like fighting for contraception in the 21st century? How’bout faith healing and power-placebo water and crystal magic and all the rest of it? Read up on what happens in the pediatric wards of Christian Science “hospitals,” and read up on dominionism, and the impact of home-schooling on science literacy, etc. etc. Do you think any of those wackos are the slightest bit deterred by propriety and politeness?

    Sure it’s not “nice.” But infectious diseases don’t care about your sense of propriety.

    The goal is to make anti-vaxism as socially unacceptable as public nose-picking, and then repeat the exercise on parental use of quack “healing” on their kids. But beyond that, the goal has to be to stop playing “defense” and go on the attack, and push all of these forms of pernicious irrationalism right off the far edge of the table and into the proverbial recycle-bin of history. If people want to believe silly things that are harmless, that’s their choice. But when they attempt to inflict quackery on their kids, or on the general public by becoming walking disease vectors, or write it into laws or public policies, that’s where we have to stand up, step in, roll up our sleeves, and fight.

  91. #91 Denice Walter
    April 26, 2012

    @ g724:

    ‘black ops’ was entirely tongue-in-cheek. I was going to instead say something jokingly about Mssrs Bond and Smiley.

    @ Liz:

    -btw- I do use an e-mail that originates from another person’s enterprise which was cheerfully donated for my activities.
    However, I don’t contribute at alt med/ woo blogs and so-called informational sites because I am an observer and must assiduously uphold a policy of non-interference with alien cultures whilst traipsing around their bizarre worlds. It’s different if they hand here.

  92. #92 DLC
    April 29, 2012

    “I’m not anti-vaccine, I’m pro-infectious diseases!”
    “I’m not anti-vaccine, I’m pro 100.0000% safe vaccine . . and only 100.000% safe. ”

  93. #93 Vicki
    April 29, 2012

    g724:

    There is a difference between appealing to emotion and lying. To put it simply: showing actual video of a child suffering from measles or pertussis, or an interview with grieving parents, appeals to emotion. You can do that without claiming that the vaccine is 100% effective, or lying about how many children died of pertussis last year. Remember: even one child dying needlessly in pain is too many.

  94. #94 Antaeus Feldspar
    April 29, 2012

    Re. Antaeus at 82: Rational people are rationally persuaded. Irrational people (and also rational people) are irrationally persuaded. Do you have the faintest clue how advertising works? Don’t go saying it’s beneath you, because chances are you have a few major brands around your house too, where the generic store brands would be indistinguishable, but good packaging plus rationalization won the day.

    Yes, I know how advertising works. If you claim you can’t see the difference between a toothpaste manufacturer hiring photogenic models to smile prettily for the camera and say “SoVeryWhite toothpaste gives me a gorgeous smile!!” and the same manufacturer hiring actors to go out on the streets pretending to be schizophrenic street people, instructing them to harass passers-by and scream about conspiracies while constantly mentioning the competitor’s brand, either you are stupid or you think we are.

    Empirical fact backed by peer-reviewed studies: Emotions decide and reason follows along with an explanation.

    That’s a drastic oversimplification that would make an anti-vaxxer proud, right up there with “If your children are vaccinated they don’t have to worry about catching anything from the unvaccinated so it’s no business of yours if I don’t vaccinate my kids.” The idea that the emotion of seeing some idiot babbling on about “Vaccines! Fluoride! 9/11! Kenyan birth certificate” will outweigh the rational knowledge that said person is only the idiot g274 conducting a smear propaganda campaign against antivaxxers as he suggested in public and in writing that we should all do is ridiculous.

    Yes, I heartily endorse people trying to make the rational case to undecideds. But when dealing with hard-cores who are an overt threat to public health, any nonviolent tactic is legitimate. If the threat is unlawful behavior, you sic law enforcement on ‘em. If the threat is conveyed through lawful behavior such as speech, you go after it at whatever level is likely to work. And the blunt fact is, psychological warfare works.

    Bull5hit. Psychological warfare doesn’t work when it’s so clumsily done that it’s likely to be exposed and backfire, and you are gently carressing exposing it right now. You are trying so hard to show how clever you are, you are doing the second least clever thing you could possibly do (the first is making this announcement, of this plan of yours to discredit antivaxxers, on Age of Autism.) “Any nonviolent tactic is legitimate”? Bull5hit. Even people you disagree with have rights, and they are rights that do not stop at “the right to not be subjected to violence.” If you show that you don’t understand that very simple principle, why would anyone think you understand the much more complicated subject of immunology.

    By the way, by asserting that “when dealing with hard-cores who are an overt threat to public health, any nonviolent tactic is legitimate”, do you realize that you’re endorsing the efforts of antivaxxers to try and jeopardize the jobs of Orac and Ren and others? Endorsing the slanderous lies that Tim Bolen tells about Stephen Barrett? Endorsing every antivaxxer who knowingly lies and pretends “Paul Offit wants every infant to be injected with 100,000 vaccines at once!!”? Endorsing those who Photoshopped the enemies of AoA as cannibals sitting down to a Thanksgiving feast of babies? Every one of those reprehensible acts was, in the eyes of its perpetrator, a nonviolent tactic for dealing with a hard-core who’s an overt threat to public health.

    Sure they’ll try to claim that any contrary postings on their sites are the work of Nefarious Vax-Pushers and Big Pharma Spies (capitalize those nouns!;-) who want to make them look bad. They’ll do that anyway because they’re paranoid and that’s what paranoids do. But in the end, paranoia on the part of anti-vaxers only plays into our hands, because it turns up the conspiracy theory to 11 and turns off even more undecideds.

    Unless, of course, they can point to comments that were posted on a public website where a Nefarious Vax-Pusher publicly announced an intention to make false posts to make them look bad. If undecideds aren’t turned off already by antivaxxer paranoia, do you really think they’re going to be turned off by antivaxxer paranoia that the antivaxxers can prove is justified by a publicly announced dirty-tricks campaign being conducted against them??

    I swear, some manchildren are still trying to live out their childhood dreams of being just like John Wayne, “The Duke,” because they never realized that all the black-and-white machismo that works so well on the screen doesn’t work like that in the real world. But this is the first time I’ve seen someone who’s apparently trying to live up to the childhood ideal of Joseph Goebbels.

  95. #95 lilady
    April 29, 2012

    g724: Why would you ever consider indulging in dirty tricks, when you have this forum and other forums to express your disgust with the drivel cranked out by notorious anti-vaccine websites?

    Just looking at the number of “hits” and actual posts that RI receives…and the number of times mass media journalists link to RI, should be proof enough that the scientific studies we refer to, have an impact within the science community and the larger popular media audience.

    Don’t forget we have science on our side and the decrease in vaccine-preventable diseases incidence and prevalence in a highly immunized population. We also have the results of outbreak investigations that show the unimmunized “index case” infects other unimmunized kids and adults.

  96. [...] ORAC Respectful Insolence April 23, 2012 [...]

  97. #97 novalox
    May 27, 2012

    @refusers

    Yawn, more pathetic spam from a anti-vax wingnut.

  98. #98 Michelle Parsons
    @trulyhealthyunvaxxedkids.com
    May 28, 2012

    You, the Pro-Vaxx shills will stop at nothing to TRY and make those of us who want CHOICE AND SAFETY SANS NEURO-TOXINS in caring for our children’s health out to be (“wingnuts” did you say?)…since when is being able to think and figure out, (for OURSELVES) what is best for OUR children a Mental Illness? Methinks the MANIC PHASE of the ANTI-CHOICE, PRO-VAXX Pharma-Brigade has hit FULL THROTTLE. I see an impending implosion for you and your easily lead followers on the horizon. Proceed with your silly Games…ENJOY. I will lean back and enjoy my marvelous, amazingly healthy and beautiful 100% vaccine-free children…btw…call me Anti-Vaxx or anything else you feel the need to in order to satisfy your manic state anytime you please, it does not offend me in any way, shape nor form, since I simply consider the source and take your “name-calling” to be a compliment. I, PERSONALLY AND PROUDLY, AM ANTI-VAXX…have been for over 30 years and will continue to be as such. Aloha Nui Loa, have a wonderful and Blessed evening.

  99. #99 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    May 28, 2012

    Michelle Parsons – I’m glad to hear that your children are healthy, despite being deprived of one of the most effective methods to prevent common dangerous diseases. I hope you never have occasion to regret your position.

    I do have to wonder what you mean by most of your post, and just what you think you’re observing.

  100. #100 Antaeus Feldspar
    May 28, 2012

    You, the Pro-Vaxx shills will stop at nothing to TRY and make those of us who want CHOICE AND SAFETY SANS NEURO-TOXINS in caring for our children’s health out to be (“wingnuts” did you say?)

    Michelle obviously came here because of The Refusers’ article which claimed there was a campaign by the readers of Respectful Insolence to post on antivax blogs, pretending to be antivax parents but deliberately acting crazy to make the antivaxxers look bad.

    There is actually a grain of truth to that, Michelle. We have one person who comes by regularly and sometimes proposes such action. What The Refusers DIDN’T tell you, Michelle – and this is something you can verify yourself, just by reading the comments – is that every time g724 (that one person) comes by and makes these proposals, the rest of us shoot his ideas down as stupid and unethical. If you read The Refusers article carefully, Michelle, you’ll see that every single one of the quotes which proposes this sort of action comes from one person: g724. The only quote which The Refusers present to make it look like someone agreed with g724 is taken out of context, and again, that’s something you can check for yourself.

    So The Refusers actually lied to you, Michelle. They said that this was a campaign being conducted by the readers of Respectful Insolence. In truth, it’s a campaign being proposed by one person and opposed by everyone else. Would you like to be judged by the most bone-headed move anyone on your antivax blogs ever proposed??

    We don’t even know that it’s true that “pro-vax troll” rather than “trolls” proposed this campaign: since we already know g724 is the kind of person who’d pretend to be supporting one cause in order to actually benefit the other side, who’s to say that the one person proposing this “pro-vax” campaign is actually pro-vax??

  101. #101 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    May 28, 2012

    No Michelle Tarpening Parsons has polluted this comment thread above.

    She’s lied to all of us about being a RN (see comments posted above from this April) and is a lousy mother and horrible neighbour.

    She studied some new-age crap and thinks that qualifies her as a “health care professional”. A lying horrible parent.

  102. #102 novalox
    May 28, 2012

    @michelle parsons

    Why should we believe a proven liar like you?

    You’re definitely not an RN, and even if you were, you would be a shame to all legitimate RNs.

  103. [...] to these suggestions by g724 were uniformly negative. For instance, Antaneus Feldspar writes in the comments (damn the new WordPress not letting me link right to the comment; you’ll have to search and [...]

  104. [...] to these suggestions by g724 were uniformly negative. For instance, Antaneus Feldspar writes in the comments (damn the new WordPress not letting me link right to the comment; you’ll have to search and [...]