Celebrities who support pseudoscience and quackery are worse than regular, run-of-the-mill believers because they have a much larger soapbox than any of us do. I have a pretty healthy blog traffic for a medical blog, but even I don’t reach more than maybe 10,000 people a day. Even at my not-so-super-secret other blog, we only reach four or five times that in a day on average. Compared to the millions that someone like, for example, Oprah Winfrey used to reach on a daily basis or that someone like Dr. Mehmet Oz reaches on a daily basis today, the reach of the entire science blogosphere is minuscule. That’s not to say that we don’t have an effect and that we don’t have influence, but most people don’t read science blogs, but they do watch TV, listen to the radio, and peruse Facebook, all of which can subject them to celebrity antivaccine messages.

Arguably, the first celebrity antivaccinationist (at least the first one who really became an activist) was Jenny McCarthy. True, you could make a case that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. preceded her with his infamous conspiracy- and pseudoscience-laden antivaccine manifesto Deadly Immunity. However, RFK, Jr. was nowhere near as famous as Jenny McCarthy. He didn’t declare himself a “father warrior” the way Jenny McCarthy declared herself a mother warrior after her son Evan was apparently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. RFK, Jr. didn’t take over an antivaccine organization the way Jenny McCarthy was invited to take over Generation Rescue, which was founded by our old friend J.B. Handley. Nor did RFK, Jr. lead an antivaccine march on Washington the way McCarthy did or give the yearly keynote for several years at the antivaccine quackfest known as AutismOne. True, RFK, Jr. did headline an antivaccine protest last year, but he’s at least seven years behind Ms. McCarthy on that score.

Fortunately, most antivaccine celebrities seem to be strictly B- and C-listers (or even D-listers). First there was Jenny McCarthy, and now there’s Rob Schneider, Jenna Elfman, Alicia Silverstone, Selma Blair, Kristin Cavallari, Bill Maher, and the like. There are even antivaccine politicians, such as Donald Trump; who has arguably become the most famous antivaccine loon in the world (although he hasn’t really been pushing his antivaccine message much since early in the 2016 campaign), Rand Paul; and, right in my own backyard, Patrick Colbeck, who is at least antivaccine-sympathetic. There are also director Robert Rodriguez and his wife Elizabeth Avellán. Rodriguez certainly isn’t a B list director. However, although it’s clear that Rodriguez and Avellán are great admirers of Andrew Wakefield, the most they’ve done has been to contribute a gushing blurb for Wakefield’s book Callous Disregard and to give the occasional quote about how meeting Wakefield changed their lives. It’s also true Jim Carrey, who at the time he was most active spewing antivaccine pseudoscience was an A-lister, but I rather suspect that his participation in antivaccine nonsense at the time derived from his romance with Jenny McCarthy, given that he hasn’t really said much about vaccines since the two of them broke up. No, I don’t think he isn’t still antivaccine, as I have seen news about him occasionally spewing antivaccine talking points on Twitter a couple of times. He just gave up activism.

That’s why I was very disappointed to see Robert De Niro reveal himself as the latest celebrity antivaccinationist. De Niro, of course, is anything but a B-lister or below. He’s one of Hollywood’s elite, an A+-lister through and through. He might even be the highest profile celebrity antivaxer yet.

Why do I say this? You might recall how last month pro-science advocates were shocked and dismayed to see that VAXXED: From Cover-up to Catastrophe, a rabidly antivaccine “documentary” directed by arguably the most famous icon of the antivaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield himself included in the list of films to be screened. Regular readers will recall that VAXXED recounts the “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory about William Thompson, the CDC scientist who accused his colleagues of covering up evidence that the MMR vaccine was associated with an increased risk of autism in African-American boys. It was a charge without evidence to back it up and without merit, so much so that even Thompson doesn’t appear to believe it.

After the media uproar caused by this announcement had built up to become a major distraction, Tribeca tried a disingenuous excuse for having included this film in its line up, complete with a Q&A afterward by Andrew Wakefield and his latest buddy in pseudoscience, Brian Hooker. It didn’t assuage anyone, and the increasing uproar finally lead Robert De Niro, one of the cofounders of the Tribeca Film Festival, to admit that he had bypassed the festival’s regular selection process for documentaries and added the film to the festival’s roster. Even though De Niro’s publicist released this admission in a typical Friday afternoon PR dump used to deliver embarrassing news, even that wasn’t enough. The next day, De Niro pulled the plug on VAXXED, leading to the usual cries of “Conspiracy!” from the usual suspects.

Yesterday, on the first day of the Tribeca Film Festival, Robert De Niro did an interview on Today in which he revealed more. Unfortunately, that more showed how far down the rabbit hole of antivaccine pseudoscience he has dived. Unfortunately, because he is the father of a son with autism, he was susceptible to the antivaccine narrative, and it appears that Andrew Wakefield and/or other antivaccinationists played De Niro and his wife (or De Niro’s wife and him) like the proverbial Stradivarius. Here’s the video:

It takes about 2:15 min. before the interviewers get to the “controversy.” First, De Niro is asked if he was surprised by the backlash. He demurs that he was shooting a movie and not really engaged, but he nonetheless defended it as “something people should see.”

Uh-oh.

De Niro also notes that there was a “backlash that I haven’t fully explored,” noting “but I will.” So why did he yank the film? He explains:

I didn’t want it to start affecting festival in ways that that I couldn’t see. But definitely there’s something to that movie and there’s another movie called Trace Amounts. And these movies have a lot of information about things that are happening with the CDC, the pharmaceutical companies, there’s a lot of things that are not said. I as a parent of a child who has autism am concerned. I want to know the truth, and I want to know the truth, and I’m not antivaccine. I want safe vaccines

Whoa. Stop right there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the many years that I’ve been countering antivaccine pseudoscience, it’s this. Whenever someone feels the need to assert that he’s “not antivaccine” and claims he is “pro-safe vaccine,” that person is antivaccine—or at least antivaccine-sympathetic. If he were not, he wouldn’t feel the the need to pre-emptively assert his purity, his state of not being “antivaccine.” All antivaccinationists seem to sense intuitively that it is not a good thing to be antivaccine, that the rest of society quite rightly views being antivaccine as a threat to public health. That’s why they are so quick to proclaim that they are “not antivaccine” and that they are only advocating “vaccine safety.” They might not realize that that’s what they’re doing, declaring their antivaccine views, but that’s what they are doing. Indeed, over the years, I’ve found that one of the most reliable indicators of antivaccine views is the denial that one is “antivaccine” followed by the assertion that one is only promoting “vaccine safety.” Thus it has ever been.

De Niro follows the script:

Some people can’t get a certain kind of shot, and they can die from it, from penicillin. So why should that not be with vaccines?

Ugh. De Niro appears to be laboring under the delusion that scientists haven’t asked these very same questions, investigated them, and found there to be no reason for concern. They’ve investigated the MMR many times and failed to find a link to autism.

If you don’t believe that De Niro is antivaccine, just consider what he says next. It’s pointed out to him that Andrew Wakefield has been discredited, and that is undeniably true. De Niro responds:

Even he, I’m not so sure about. At the end of the day, even him.

To me, anyone who thinks that Wakefield hasn’t been thoroughly discredited either doesn’t have a sufficient knowledge base to judge or doesn’t know Andrew Wakefield. Which is Robert De Niro? Who knows? I just know that he seems to think that Wakefield is anything other than the fraud he is. That’s plenty bad, man.

De Niro was not alone, however. He was with Jane Rosenthal, a film producer who co-founded the Tribeca Film Festival with De Niro. It was Rosenthal who added to De Niro’s explanation. In fact, Rosenthal admitted that it was not the sponsors who were unhappy about the inclusion of VAXXED in the Tribeca Film Festival, as one might have guessed. She actually took pains to point out that it wasn’t the donors who were threatening to pull out of the film festival. Rather, it was the filmmakers themselves who were complaining, as well they should have. Let’s just put it this way. If I were a documentary filmmaker who had spent years making a real documentary, perhaps going into debt to do it, and managed to get it accepted for screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, and I saw something like VAXXED being given a spot in Tribeca, I’d be seriously cheesed.

In fact, seeing this interview makes me even more cheesed. De Niro talks about how the “vaccine are dangerous” and how they’re dangerous to certain people who are more susceptible. The problem is, there’s no good evidence that vaccines, especially the MMR, cause autism or that there are babies who are “more susceptible” to the alleged effects of those evil vaccines. Not that reality inhibits De Niro from making these claims.

We learn at this point that De Niro’s wife, Grace Hightower, thinks she saw something change in their child after vaccinations. It is a story that we’ve heard time and time again. It’s also a story that remains singularly unconvincing, given the human tendency to confuse correlation with causation. In fact, De Niro even goes so far as to assert that there “is a link’ between vaccines and autism. As I’ve described so many times before, there is not. There isn’t even a whisk of a hit of a hint to link the MMR vaccine and autism. The idea that vaccines cause or contribute to autism is a failed hypothesis.

Not that any of that deters Robert De Niro from relating that his wife thinks that something “changed” in their son after being vaccinated. In fact, De Niro insists, against all evidence, that there’s “something there.” He even inists that “it’s not such a simple thing.”

Actually, it is. Vaccines do not cause autism. The interviewer even points that out, saying that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that there is no link between vaccines and autism. De Niro would have none of that, airily proclaiming that it’s “much more complicated than that.” He even says that there is definitely a link between vaccines and autism.

Except that there isn’t.

It’s even worse than that, however. The interviewers gently try to suggest that decreased MMR uptake leads to increased incidence of measles, which is undeniably true and a major reason why antivaccine beliefs harm children. Well, it’s undeniably true to everyone but people like Robert De Niro, who goes on about how vaccines are “dangerous” to certain people:

Nobody seems to want to address that, or they say they’ve addressed it and it’s a closed issue, because there are many people who will come out and say, no, it changed overnight. I saw what happened, and I should have done something but I didn’t. So there’s more to this than meets the eye.

De Niro is asked if that’s been his experience, and De Niro responds:

My wife says that, I don’t remember, my child is autistic and every kid is different. There’s something there. There’s something there that people aren’t addressing, and for me to get so upset here, today, on The Today Show, means there’s something there. All I wanted was for the movie to be seen, for people to make their own judgment, but you must see it. There are other films, also, just documents show, just simple things.

Does De Niro regret pulling the film? Yes. He says so. He even admits that he pulled it because he didn’t want the festival to be affected, bemoaning the “knee-jerk reaction.” He says on the one hand that he “doesn’t even want to ask” who they are” but then says, “but now I will ask.” To me that sounds a bit like ain implicit threat, meaning, “OK, you filmmakers who complained about VAXXED.” I’m going to find out who you are.” When someone like De Niro says he’s going to find out who you are, if you make your living making movies, it’s time to be worried. De Niro’s threat is followed up by a gentle reminder from the interviewers to De Niro that it’s scientific consensus that there’s no link between vaccines and autism, followed by a question, “Do you believe that’s not true?” Here’s where De Niro really lets is antivaccine freak flag fly:

I believe it’s much more complicated than that. It’s much more complicated than that. There is a link. They’re saying there isn’t, but there are certain things. The obvious one is thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, but there are other things. I don’t know. I’m not a scientist, but I know because I’ve seen so much reaction about…about…let’s just find out the truth. Let’s just find out the truth. I’m not antivaccine, as I say, but I’m pro-safe vaccine. Some people who cannot take the vaccine, and they have to be found out and warned. You give a kid a bunch of shots, and then something happens. Some parents are even in this documentary saying, “I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I talked to the doctor. He’s the doctor. I should listen. I didn’t. The next day…” Can you imagine how the parent feels?

When challenged on outbreaks due to decreased uptake of vaccines, De Niro says:

I don’t know if those statistics are accurate. I’m not the one to say. But there’s kind of a hysteria, a knee-jerk reaction. Let’s see. Everyone should have the choice to take the vaccines. Some places it’s becoming mandatory, but it benefits the big drug companies, funnily enough.

You know, despite apologetics for De Niro that I’ve read, I’m sorry, I know antivaccine. De Niro is antivaccine. Either that, or he’s doing a very good imitation of being antivaccine. Hell, I could play antivaccine Bingo! with this interview. It hits all the major antivaccine talking points, complete with the “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine’; I’m pro-safe vaccine.” De Niro states it word for word! He’s also wrong. This is a question that’s been asked and answered many times. Vaccines are not associated with autism. Scientists have already looked at this on multiple occasions.

How did De Niro become antivaccine? His is a story we’ve heard again and again. He has a son with autism, and it’s difficult for him to take care of him. The natural reaction is to ask, “How did this happen?” His wife, apparently, suffered the all too human failing of confusing correlation with causation, and De Niro bought into it too. Reading between the lines in this interview, I think De Niro wasn’t the one who “went antivax” first, but rather his wife Grace Hightower was. I’ve also heard a report from one of my readers that Hightower was seen talking to Andrew Wakefield on the set of one of her husband’s movies in Austin. Given that the director was Robert Rodriguez and that Rodriguez and his wife Elizabeth Avellán are very antivaccine, having contributed a gushing blurb to Wakefield’s book Callous Disregard, as I mentioned above, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was how Hightower and De Niro were indoctrinated. Then there’s this:

Woops. I guess Carrey is still antivaccine, after all. That’s him with Niro with RFK, Jr. and De Niro.

Elsewhere, there’s Alicia Silverstone:

So where and how did De Niro become antivaccine? Was it Rodriguez and his wife? Was it Jim Carrey? Was it Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.? Who knows? Hollywood is rife with antivaccine loons. Unfortunately, Robert De Niro has revealed himself to be just the latest in a long line of celebrity antivaccinationists. He walks the walk and talks the talk. He tried to help Andrew Wakefield out. Whether he did it at the behest of his wife or someone else, who knows, and, really, who cares? It doesn’t really matter much at this point. He did it just the same. The only good thing about this whole mess is that the media landscape has changed considerably since Jenny McCarthy first arose. Now, most news stories routinely refer to the “discredited” Andrew Wakefield and are less likely to engage in false balance, “tell both sides” interviews. Examples include articles about De Niro’s appearance by Anna Merlan and Maggie Fox. You could even see it here, where De Niro was asked point blank about the scientific consensus and forced to say that, although he’s not a scientist, but by damn he knows all those scientists are wrong because his wife saw “something change” in their son after vaccination and thinks vaccines probably caused his son’s autism.

Sadly, Robert De Niro has revealed himself to be antivaccine. He probably had hoped that no one would notice, that he’d be able to sneak Wakefield’s film into the Tribeca Film Festival to give it a boost without too much risk, scheduling it, as he did, on the last day of the festival and for only one screening. He miscalculated. The uproar forced him to backtrack, lest he damage the film festival he co-founded, and in his backtracking he was forced to declare himself as antivaccine, his denials notwithstanding. True, now he’s cleverly taking back his retraction, trying to have his cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, it’s working, as the majority of antivaccine coverage is resembling that of Mike Adams, who likens the whole situation to fascism and “medical totalitarianism,” painting De Niro as the victim of “mentally deranged vaccine fanatics who exercise no more cognitive rationality than a band of mind-numbed zombies on a bloodthirsty rampage.”

Depressingly, Robert De Niro is now at risk of becoming the new Jenny McCarthy. I know he’s doing this because he loves his son and wants to help him, but this is not the way. I only hope that he and his wife haven’t progressed to the next stage of antivaccine delusions: “Autism biomed.” He has, after all, already appeared at an Autism Speaks film premiere.

Comments

  1. #1 DLC
    Arizona
    April 14, 2016

    This story is already making it’s way around the social media fish-tank. I posted a link to your earlier article on this in response to someone else. No doubt I will be labelled a Pharma Shill for it, or perhaps even trolled for ban-able offenses. Oh well. I don’t really do social media, so I wouldn’t miss it.

  2. #2 fusilier
    April 14, 2016

    The local morning news, here in Indianapolis, reported on the story. They referred to “the long-discredited autism/vaccine connection claim,” and showed a short clip of Dr. Offit, with multiple peer-reviewed papers making up the background.

    Hope it works.

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  3. #3 Eddie Unwind
    April 14, 2016

    Quite a coincidence, isn’t it? The Deer Hunter.

  4. #4 Frequent Lurker
    April 14, 2016

    Today show should be ashamed of themselves. It’s to the point where they KNOW better than to bring this shit up on national television, and the “gentle” corrections don’t cut it. You gave him a platform in what you KNOW is nonsense so you could get ratings. You are culpable.

  5. #5 Murmur
    UK-ia
    April 14, 2016

    If we needed any further proof that actors should stick to talking about acting or on-set catering or somesuch, here we have it…

    Bobby, did you even study any science and maths at high school all those years ago?

  6. #6 Eric Lund
    April 14, 2016

    The movie quote I thought of on seeing the title was this one

    I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.

    That turned out to be Brando (playing a former boxer in On the Waterfront), not DeNiro, but it’s still appropriate. You could have had class, Robert. You could have been a contender. You could have been somebody, instead of an anti-vax loon, which is what you are, let’s face it.

  7. #7 LouV
    France
    April 14, 2016

    There is a link. They’re saying there isn’t, but there are certain things. The obvious one is thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, but there are other things.

    Aw, man, come on. Thimerosal, “obvious” ? Even though autism rates continued to raise even after it was banned in various countries some 15 years ago ?
    And let’s not forget that it is off topic when you are discussing a movie about MMR, which never contained thimerosal.
    One of my criteria for checking if a person has an antivaccine position (as opposed to genuinely worried by vaccine safety and able to bring constructive criticism) : they’re targetting vaccines much too broadly, instead of focusing on one specific question (X vaccine causing Y pathology). Talking about both MMR and thimerosal is characteristic of this attitude to me.

  8. #8 Orac
    April 14, 2016

    Oh, yeah. For sure. I realize there are people out there claiming that De Niro isn’t really antivaccine, but after watching the video a couple of times, pausing it on the second go-through to transcribe relevant passages, I’m convinced that he is. As Justice Potter Stewart once famously wrote of pornography, “…I know it when I see it,” and I know antivaccine tropes and views—and antivaccinationists in general—when I see them. De Niro is antivax. One of the “tells” is how he cites one ingredient but then leaves the door open for it being anything in the vaccines. No matter what it is, though, it’s always about all the vaccines. Hell, De Niro must be a fairly recent convert to the antivax cause, because he didn’t even use one of the favorite deflectors of antivaxers of experienced antivaxers, a reference to the “environmental factors” (translation: vaccines) as a cause of autism.

  9. #9 MI Dawn
    April 14, 2016

    Interestingly, the one thing science is aware that INCREASES the risk of autism in a child – advanced paternal age – is skated right over by De Niro. Guess he doesn’t want to think that his age at the conception of his son might have anything to do with it. (Not that Grace was extremely young, either).

  10. #10 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    April 14, 2016

    It’s truly a shame that DeNiro and his wife Grace Hightower have hitched their wagon to Wakefield and have chosen to go public about their son in this manner. They are perpetuating and legitimising the “autism is a tragedy” meme instead of using their cache to improve the lives of autistics. Where in Hades has DeNiro and his wife been the last several years that they think some massive fraud has been going on beneath everyones’ noses and it was brave, maverick, de-licenced doctor Wakefield who uncovered it and put it in a damn movie. It’s pathetic. If he thinks Vaxxed was a distraction from the Tribeca Film Festival, what does he think outing himself as a true believer in the vaccine-autism myth is going to do to his reputation.

  11. #11 Mrs Pointer
    April 14, 2016

    There was a rather interesting post on Celia Farber’s Truth Barrier blog a few days ago. It only lasted an hour or two before Farber deleted it (for obvious reasons), but this was long enough for it to be captured on Google’s cache. It consists of an email exchange between Wakefield and Grace Hightower (De Niro’s wife) between March 28 and April 1. Enjoy.

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:AGwxHITf9_8J:truthbarrier.com/2016/04/10/breaking-news-tribeca-gate-revealing-email-exchange-between-grace-deniro-and-andrew-wakefield/

  12. #12 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    April 14, 2016

    That is interesting Mrs Pointer. Here is a rather telling statement from St. Andy:

    Grace, whatever may have happened – and I guess I will never know – in truth my heart goes out to you and Bob. Not only has your family’s life been blighted by autism, but you have experienced some of the relentless and ruthless pressure that has been my life for as long as I can remember.

    Wakefraud disgusts me.

  13. #13 Angela
    April 14, 2016

    I died when I first saw the quote yesterday, “I’m not antivaccine. I want safe vaccines.” Do they give you a handbook of talking points when you join the anti-vaccine club? They all say the same thing.

    When I think about campaigning for safer vaccines, I think about the polio vaccine we now give in the US. We switched from the oral one because of the small chance of paralysis from the vaccine itself. Didn’t a father really push for this because his son was impacted? Now that’s doing something to improve vaccine safety.

  14. #14 LouV
    France
    April 14, 2016

    Didn’t a father really push for this because his son was impacted? Now that’s doing something to improve vaccine safety.

    Yep, that’s one of the examples I have in mind when I talk about “focusing on one specific question (X vaccine causing Y pathology)”. Not all grassroot criticism of vaccines has to be bad ; it’s unfortunate that anti-vaccine activists drown this kind of criticism, or jump on it and distort it out of proportion.

  15. #15 Michael J. Dochniak
    Iowa
    April 14, 2016

    @Orac,

    The phrase “antivaccine-sympathetic” was brilliant and softened the rhetoric.

    Please don’t turn into a raging bull, the word “antivaccine” was used 45 times in this article.

    New talking point:

    I’m not antivaccine-sympathetic, I’m pro-vaccine safety. 🙂

  16. #16 Chris Hickie
    April 14, 2016

    I know there’s a give and take between proper and over-reaction to anti-vaccine groups and people. Some of them are so loony that it’s very doubtful anyone would follow there advice. DeNiro was clearly AV yesterday. You call it exactly as it is, Orac. However two people I know (both medical) told me they didn’t feel he was truly being AV yesterday after seeing his interview on the Today show. Therein lies the danger. After Vaxxed was pulled from Tribeca, DeNiro could have simply shut up after his initial statement about Vaxxed being pulled after reviewing the film with “experts”. But DeNiro hasn’t shut up and I doubt he is going to. I think he’s smart enough not to be a screaming green-shirted megaphone maniac like McCarthy. DeNiro is also a real actor and can probably come across much more believably than McCarthy. This makes him a larger threat to vaccination rates and public health here in the US and also a source of redemption for the last scumbag in the world who deserves it–Wakefield–someone who I’d felt up until now held little sway in the US.

    There is no changing the minds of hardcore dyed-in-the-wool AVers like Wakefield, Sears, Gordon, the NVIC, Tenpenny, Wolfsons, Handley, Carey, McCarthy, etc, etc, etc. I add DeNiro to that list No chance at all. But that’s not where effort needs to be. Every 5 years is an effective “generation” of children we either see vaccinated adequately or not (5 years because that is when most CDC/AAP/ACIP recommended vaccines are given). The AV movement in the US has been gaining momentum in the US for the last 15 years, which is about 3 “generations”. It has now reached the point where California had to pass SB277 to shut down (we hope) parents electively not vaccinating their children. To me it is a sad state of affairs that these laws are needed, especially when groups like the AMA, AAFP and AAP need to stand together and call out these AVers as quacks and frauds and liars, as well as state the vaccines are safe, effective and protect against diseases that maim and kill. This has not happened and indeed, the AAP still provides safe harbor to Drs. Sears and Gordon (Gordon has already seized on DeNiros blatherings to further his own AV nonsense on Facebook yesterday, I’m sure Sears won’t be far behind).

    You know the rather dark surgical saying that “All bleeding eventually stops–one way or the other”, Orac. Well, vaccine rates will eventually come back up, one way or the other as well. If not because pro-vaccine groups finally come together and call out all this nonsense in one unified front, well, then because pertussis and measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases will continue to return with increased morbidity and mortality–to the point where parents learn the hard way (with children bearing the true brunt of the consequences) that vaccines work against diseases that are far, far,far worse than very rare side effect of vaccination.

  17. #17 Denice Walter
    April 14, 2016

    At AoA today:
    Dan wonders if perhaps this latest development may just be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s
    back ( or the crumb that makes the “cookie crumble” in his parlance).

    Yes. Right. I suppose that the entire corrupt superstructure of Vaccine Oligarchical Despotism shall come crashing down into a heap and children and flowers will blossom again.
    It’s Spring!

    I am going to read/ hear so much about De Niro at those various sinkholes of un-reason which I dutifully frequent .

    It’s appropriate that another actor enables Wakefield’s supporters in their pursuit of fantasy.

  18. #18 Delphine
    April 14, 2016

    Interestingly, the one thing science is aware that INCREASES the risk of autism in a child – advanced paternal age – is skated right over by De Niro. Guess he doesn’t want to think that his age at the conception of his son might have anything to do with it. (Not that Grace was extremely young, either).

    That would be painful to admit. Much easier to create external blame.

    Neither DeNiro nor Carrey graduated from high school. It’s truly breathtaking that they feel their beliefs supersede scientific evidence.

  19. #19 Denice Walter
    April 14, 2016

    @ Delphine:

    AFAIK there are three age variables that affect risk:
    – age of father, age of mother and if the age difference between father and mother is more than 10 years. All are true in this case.

    Funny about blaming things on external factors.

  20. #20 Michael J. Dochniak
    Iowa
    April 14, 2016

    Science Mom say (#12),

    Wakefraud disgusts me.

    MJD says,

    Wakeup encourages me.

    Another parent(s) questioning the possibility of a vaccine/autism connection.

    Robert De Niro (RDN) = Real Danger Now (RDN)

  21. #21 Orac
    April 14, 2016

    I’m not antivaccine-sympathetic, I’m pro-vaccine safety.

    Nah. You’re just antivax.

  22. #22 jrkrideau
    At the bottom of the lake (the bottom end that is)
    April 14, 2016

    #18 Delphine
    The lack of graduation from highschool may actually help them believe in the validity of their beliefs. (Feels like I’m stuttering_

    Things look simple when you don’t know the subject or have a feel for how long and complicated a process it can be to master a complicated subject. I’d suggest it’s a bit like Dunning-Kruger Syndrome.

    Darwin had a good take on it:

    “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
    Charles Darwin
    The Descent of Man

  23. #23 Denice Walter
    April 14, 2016

    I just realised that external attributions are fitting in anti-vax psychology BEYOND the personal, face-saving, ego preserving function of heightening self-esteem ( it wasn’t age or “bad” genes – but vaccines, doctors or a pharma plot- which caused autism)
    but also-
    how they explain vaccine realists’ ( SBM) motivations in terms of external rewards ( money, power, fame) rather than internal ones like using their intellectual ability, understanding of science, hard work, helping others, ‘doing the right thing’, being fair or realistic or caring about children-
    accepting those motives would require that they see value in the opposition and they CAN”T have that!
    so
    – Dr Offit is only in it for the big money
    -Orac is paid by the word ( no wonder he drives a Maserati
    Quarttroporte!)
    – Brian Deer is a “hit man” paid by corporate criminals
    – Orac’s minions are just lackeys scrounging about for the loose dollar, euro or pound thrown by Pharma
    – governmental agencies and courts are all in on the fix

    No one does it because they are being honest or want better outcomes. No one here is a Warrior or Freedom Fighter for Truth. A brave journalist fighting the power brokers, saving babies from certain doom.
    That’s their territory.

  24. #24 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    April 14, 2016

    MJD, if you look up to a man who calls autism a blight on the family, then you’re no better.

  25. #25 Denice Walter
    April 14, 2016

    I spoke too soon…
    one of Dan’s commenters compares
    Thompson’s relationship to Wakefield to
    Manning’s to Assange and
    Snowden’s to Greenwald.

    Good old Brave Maverick Journalist Andy.

  26. #26 Reality
    April 14, 2016

    A high school dropout who spent his life playing “Pretend” in Fantasyland thinks he knows more than doctors and scientists who outclass him intellectually six ways to Sunday?
    Why am I not surprised?

    Why anyone pays any mind to what these mimes and jugglers think is beyond me. They are here for our entertainment, not education.

    RDN merely proves something all New Yorkers know – there are a lot of hick rubes in NYC who can be gulled by any 2nd rate conman.

  27. #27 Mike Callahan
    Sacramento
    April 14, 2016

    Wakefield’s callous depiction of autistics as blights must feel profoundly insulting to anyone on the spectrum.

  28. #28 Kate
    London
    April 14, 2016

    I saw a nice snark on I think Twitter earlier today:

    “I’m not antivaccine, I just want safe vaccines” is the mating call of the antivaxxer.

    Still chortling at that one.

  29. #29 Julian Frost
    South Africa
    April 14, 2016

    @Mike Callahan:

    Wakefield’s callous depiction of autistics as blights must feel profoundly insulting to anyone on the spectrum.

    It is.

  30. #30 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    April 14, 2016

    Something else I noted elsewhere. You know all those autistic kids he featured in his film? Did they give permission or informed consent to be trotted out like tragic circus freaks? Don’t think so.

    But Bobby DeNiro and Grace Hightower have no problem with that being all blighted with an autistic kid and all.

  31. #31 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    April 14, 2016

    Mrs Pointer’s link at #11 tells an interesting story –

    “Doctor” Wakefield sends RDN and wife a secret link to the VAXXED video

    RDN shares the link with Jane Rosenthal (producer and cofounder of Tribeca) and she shared it with her sister Pam Rollins, MS Ed.D, and a real life autism researcher (note name was misspelled “Rawlings” the first time around in the link)

    VAXXED is pulled, “Doctor” Wakefield is upset.
    from the link –

    It seems to me that Rosenthal’s breach of confidentiality is a dismissible offense. We were assured there would be no consequence to her breach and clearly there was – one that amounts to defamation.

    So “Doctor” Wakefield shares this whole exchange with Farber (I’m guessing, because someone had to), Farber publishes, then pulls it an hour later.

    So why did “Doctor” Wakefield send to Farber, if he didn’t want it published? What will Rosenthal be dismissed from? Tune in tomorrow.

    Would someone pass the popcorn, please?

  32. #32 Dangerous Bacon
    April 14, 2016

    Though it comes as no great shock, another “celebrity” antivaxer, Alicia Silverstone is gushing over DeNiro’s Today Show performance, saying he “speaks from the heart”.

    Silverstone, whose acting career (if memory serves) cratered sometime around the 1980s, is one of those supermommies who knows the secret cause of infertility (tampons), advocates placenta-eating for new moms and also starred in a video showing her chewing up food that she then spat out and gave to her baby (“pre-mastication” is a honored traditional feeding technique, doncha know).

    Too bad she didn’t take it further and copy vultures and other creatures that vomit up food for their babies. All that extra digestion must be a good thing.

  33. #33 Dangerous Bacon
    April 14, 2016

    Actually, I see from Wikipedia that Silverstone’s heyday was in the 1990s, though she subsequently appeared in such major films as “Ass Backwards” and “Who Gets The Dog?”

    And she’s gotten awards.

    “In 2010, she was awarded a Voice Of Compassion Award by the Physician’s Committee For Responsible Medicine for “shining a spotlight on the powerful health benefits of a vegan diet.”

  34. #34 carbonUnit
    April 14, 2016

    Listening to the interview, it feels like he really hasn’t done his homework – like he’s years back in time, having picked up the old arguments. While I suspect that you may be right about him being anti-vaxx and just trying to appear reasonable, I wonder if he would be open to rational arguments? His comment about thimerosal was most illustrative and might represent an opening. I’d love to ask him what evidence would it take to change his mind?

    “If he could be turned he would become a powerful ally.” – D. Vader

  35. #35 Eric Lund
    April 14, 2016

    Denice@22: The anti-vax views of Offit, Orac, et al., are pure projection. Let us remember that Wakefield committed at least two distinct forms of misconduct in the 1998 Lancet paper:

    1. He had an undisclosed financial interest in the research, in that he was being paid by attorneys who were looking to sue manufacturers of the MMR vaccine.

    2. The research results he published in that paper turned out to be fabricated.

    Point number 1 is what they accuse us of when they say we accept money from Big Pharma to say what we do. Point number 2 is what they accuse the authors of the DiStefano et al. paper (the one Thompson has been complaining about) of doing by not reporting a statistically marginal association in a particular subgroup between vaccines and autism. That’s what projection is: accuse your opponents of the very things your side has engaged in, despite (or especially because of) the lack of evidence that your opponents have done these things. Most of us aren’t paid or funded by Big Pharma, and the ones who are dutifully report the fact in scientific publications. And even if Thompson’s allegations were taken at face value (which there is reason to believe they should not), the worst DiStefano et al. would be guilty of is honest scientific error. Honest scientific error is not a crime: if you have never been on the wrong side of a scientific controversy, you aren’t doing cutting edge research. Data fabrication, OTOH, is the one truly unforgivable sin in this business. If Wakefield were to submit a future paper claiming to show experimentally that the sky is blue, I would not trust his results, because I know his previous results cannot be trusted.

  36. #36 carbonUnit
    April 14, 2016

    The follow-up segment this morning did seem to address his misinformation, but still somehow felt weak. Where was whoever passes as their chief medical correspondent?
    http://www.today.com/video/robert-de-niro-s-today-interview-reignites-debate-over-autism-and-vaccines-665807939612

  37. #37 Reality
    April 14, 2016

    It’s not my industry but if I were an independent film maker I’d pay attention to these two facts:
    1) De Niro seems to think he has a right to hand select and force the inclusion of a film at the TFF, bypassing the normally required viewing and judgement by the selection committee.
    2) De Niro has issued what can only be described as a threat to film makers who objected to this inclusion by stating he doesn’t know who objected – “but now I will ask.”

    It seems De Niro considers the Tribeca FF as his personal fiefdom and he is the Absolute Ruler and Lord Of The Palace, above beyond any of the rules meant for the mere peasants and serfs.

    If I were a film maker I’d probably be looking for a different venue, or gathering like minds to create a more credible venue, as RDN has pretty much trashed the credibility of the Tribeca FF.

  38. #38 Orac
    April 14, 2016

    Well, in his admission a couple of weeks ago, he did say that he had never done this before, as if to emphasize to him that this film was so important that he was willing to do something he normally wouldn’t do, grease the wheels to get a film accepted to the Tribeca Film Festival.

    You are correct, however, that that part where De Niro said he didn’t know which filmmakers had complained but now he was going to ask and find out did come across as a threat.

    Meanwhile, over at AoA, the commenters seem to think that Jane Rosenthal was lying when she said that there were filmmakers with documentaries screening at Tribeca who had complained. They note that De Niro said he hadn’t heard about it in a way that seemed to all but call Rosenthal a liar, and speculated that that’s the reason why De Niro said he’d find out, because he didn’t believe her. Personally, I suspect that the reason De Niro didn’t hear about it is because he’s De Niro. No filmmaker submitting films to Tribeca would dare complain directly to De Niro about this when it was clear how emotionally invested he was, and Rosenthal probably didn’t want to tell him because she knew he’d react this way.

  39. #39 Politicalguineapig
    April 14, 2016

    DB: Interestingly enough, both actresses in Clueless, Silverstone’s big hit, ended up..clueless. The other actress has lately found fame as a rightwing spokesbot. (And oddly enough, Silverstone was not in the TV adaptation.)There must be some kind of curse or something on ’90s actresses: Gwyneth Paltrow and Melissa Joan Hart have also gone rather seriously loop de loo. (Although in Hart’s case, it might’ve been desperation, but her latest project’s not going to do her career any favors.) At this point, I’m just waiting for Meg Ryan to do something bizarre.

  40. #40 Old Rockin' Dave
    On the spectrum...
    April 14, 2016

    “Some places it’s becoming mandatory, but it benefits the big drug companies, funnily enough.”
    We keep hearing that, but it seems no one questions the assumptions underlying it.
    If millions of doses of vaccines are going to be given every year, only big companies have the resources to make them. Do they think that they can just pop into Phil’s Phriendly Pharmacy next door to the newsstand and ask for a single dose of, say, Varicella zoster vaccine, and the pharmacist is just going to mix it up in the back room?
    And of course there’s the horrifying fact that the vaccine makers actually turn a profit on it! Imagine, they make tens, hundreds, of millions of doses of vaccines and they’re not doing it for free! How dare they!
    Face it. You need a big company to make a lot of product and that product has to be paid for.

  41. #41 palindrom
    April 14, 2016

    Old Rockin’ Dave — Not only that, but as I understand it, a lot of the routine childhood vaccinations that the antivaxx crowd hates so much are not exactly big money makers. Far from it.

    That’s why the needed a vaccine court — such a marginal business couldn’t exist if it were subject to potentially catastrophic litigation costs awarded by sympathetic juries for rare adverse effects.

  42. #42 palindrom
    April 14, 2016
  43. #43 Liz Ditz
    Great State of California
    April 14, 2016

    Andy’s “blight” statement. How I loathe that man.

    This is from Leslie Waghorn’s recent post at The Scientific Parent, Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism But That’s Not The Point.

    The panel discussion being broadcast was teens and adults with autism and how federal funding could better support them. As the show closed, the moderator asked if anyone on the panel felt a vaccine had caused their autism.

    Silence.

    One teen panelist spoke up, “no, but it hurts that you would ask that question.”

    The moderator’s tone softened, he apologized and asked why. I’m going to paraphrase the boy’s response because it has been several years and for the life of me I have not been able to find a transcript of this event anywhere, which has driven me to madness. If anyone from C-SPAN reads this and knows the talk I’m referring to, please send me a transcript! The panelist’s response was incredibly moving and I wish I could give him credit for it and do his response justice.

    As I recall his response was, “because it makes me feel like I’m damaged or broken, when I’m not. I was born this way. My brain just works differently than most other people’s. When people talk about vaccines and autism it makes me feel like I’m not a person but a ‘bad result.’ It reminds me that no one wants a kid like me and parents will risk their kid’s lives and everyone else’s just to make sure their kid doesn’t turn out like me.”

    There was silence on the radio. By this time I’d pulled into our parking spot at home and sat in the car in silence as well. It was a moment of epiphany.

    Oh bleep, I thought. I’ve never thought of it like that.

    http://thescientificparent.org/vaccines-dont-cause-autism-but-thats-not-the-point/

  44. #44 Brian Deer
    April 14, 2016

    #11 @Mrs Pointer

    Thanks so much for that. Just classic Wakefield. With the “In truth and healing” and all his woes, and suggesting that Jane Rosenthal should be fired.

    I wish I had time to contextualise it. But Ms Hightower is gone, I’m afraid. He does such a number on these people. He’s been living off these mothers since he was fired for refusing to replicate his research in a blinded study.

  45. #45 Vincent Iannelli, MD
    April 14, 2016

    “The follow-up segment this morning did seem to address his misinformation, but still somehow felt weak. ”

    Ari Brown, MD did a great job. They should have given her a whole segment to speak though. It “felt weak” because most of the segment simply repeated DeNiro’s anti-vaccine statements.

  46. #46 Reality
    April 14, 2016

    #37 Orac –

    Yeah, I’m watching Rosenthal and I see only minimal support for RDN so I’d guess she probably is not interested in the issue and wishes it would go away and believes, like most folks, that medical matters are best left to the experts.

    I also think the objections weren’t so much from film makers but from the TFF org. folks – particularly the selection committee members who were getting raked over the coals at the beginning of this fiasco for something they didn’t do. (I know I was laughing at them for being gullible rubes taken in by a conman.) Those who actually run the show probably realized what a knife to the heart this type of thing could be to the TFF.

    I’d bet that by this time next year either De Niro or Rosenthal will have issued a statement explaining that they are “retiring” from the TFF to ‘use their time on other projects they deeply care about.’
    I’m betting it is De Niro that is forced out.

    In any event, RDN certainly deserves unrestricted ridicule and Respectful Insolence for his arrogant ignorance and promotion of dangerous pseudoscience provided by Wakefraud the conman.

  47. #47 MI Dawn
    April 14, 2016

    @palindrom: LOL! I had missed that one. I love the Onion. But I have to be careful who I share those articles with. I have several friends who don’t understand satire. (sigh….)

  48. #48 X
    April 14, 2016

    What a waste of an article.. Riddled with bias and bullshit. Why share this non sense blog? No expertise or credibility.
    Please STFU or keep bitching’ – either or

  49. #49 Michael J. Dochniak
    Iowa
    April 14, 2016

    Liz Ditz says (#42),

    Andy’s “blight” statement. How I loathe that man.

    MJD says,

    I’m not defending Andy’s statement but when scientific discoveries and interventions remove the word “disorder” from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), then there’s reason to celebrate.

    Most recently, researchers from the University of Iowa Health Care have shown that patients with autism have increased gene mutations that drive cancer, but lower rates of cancer

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160413120954.htm

    The Science Daily states the findings raise questions that might have implications for new ways of treating both cancer and ASD.

  50. #50 MI Dawn
    April 14, 2016

    My, X. What a coherent and intelligent comment! And from a first-time poster, too. I’m just so impressed, I’ve now seen the error of my ways and will no longer think Robert DeNiro is an uneducated person who doesn’t understand science.

  51. #51 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    April 14, 2016

    Wakeup encourages me.

    MJD, back-peddle much?

  52. […] Insolence, a very good science blog, also explores the Rodriguez- De Niro connection as a possible way that De Niro found his way into the anti-vaccination world. And The […]

  53. #53 Michael J. Dochniak
    Iowa
    April 14, 2016

    Science Mom says (#50),

    MJD, back-peddle much?

    MJD says,

    Isn’t it obvious, I’m often straddling the fence when it comes to vaccines and autism.

    What do Orac’s minions call people that are both antivaccine-sympathetic and pro-vaccine?

  54. #54 sadmar
    April 14, 2016

    Well damnit, the stuff I wrote here yesterday about De Niro maybe being just a sincere ‘vaccine agnostic’ was based on the quotes Anna Merlan pulled, and I didn’t have time to watch the frikkin Today video. But Orac has more than enough long quotes in context to establish that Bobby is spewing some seriously effed effluent.

    And all in all, imho Orac is pretty measured here, lamenting the threat to public health here, while retaining some understanding of how Hightower and De Niro have been played for suckers by Wakefield’s skill at preying on all to human weaknesses. I said that unless/until RDN does become the new Jenny McCarthy, the smart move is to not hit him with harsh ad hominem attacks than might drive him so far into the corner it could preclude any possibility he might someday take at least a steo or two back out. This is a time to blast the rhetoric, not the human being. Orac’s as far to the proper side of that line in the OP as I could ask him to be, being Orac and all. If RDN ever read this in toto (as opposed to cherry-picked pull quotes from some AoA-ish mediator) I think a lot of it might stick, maybe sunconsciously and latent… Assuming he’s reachable at all, and there’s nothing to be gained by assuming he’s not — unless/until he goes full Jenny over a suitable period of time. i doubt Orac could care what I think, but I’m calling a good job on this OP. I’d rewrite the headline to: “You talikn’ to me? Robert De Niro is the latest celebrity to spew antivaccinationist nonsense to the world” to avoid sticking him with a hard AV label, but, eh, I agree with Science Mom that it’s just a goddam shame, and it all makes me sad.

    carbonUnit quotes Vader “If he could be turned he would become a powerful ally.” I’d settle for just having him shut up to avoid a potentially powerful enemy. As far as possible openings to that go, i doubt a reasoned info dump on thimerisal would break the barrier, and contra to Science Mom, I’d put my chips on hoping he’s not a narcissist, doesn’t think his son is a blight, and if he could hear how ASD folks feel about Vaxxed uses images to go to the ‘trotted out like tragic circus freaks’ route, he might start looking a Andy a wee bit differently. Liz’s post shows some people just haven’t considered that, and a word from the not-broken-just-different can spark an epiphany. Then, if anything in that direction happened with RDN, such that he started to doubt the emotional truth of Vaxxed, he might open to reason on the mercury crapola.

    Regarding other comments in the thread: I think Lurker’s on the right track arguing Today could and should have done more, but it’s a celebrity show, and they’d be cutting off their own foot if they got a rep for being anything but soft with the A-listers – nobody would go on the show. The general audience that watches Today is going to catch the other side in other media forums, so it’s all about that larger firmament and the echoes, and it’s not that big a deal that one show gives him an easy ride one time. A bad job, but it gives Anna Merlan a platform she wouldn’t have gotten from her editor otherwise.

    If ‘Reality’ is suggesting documentary filmmakers will pass on Tribeca because RDN muscled Vaxxed onto the schedule, they won’t. They know SOP is that the programmers run the show, and the programmers will revolt if RDN tries anything like that again – as progarmmers suck up to the choice makers as much as the hopefuls suck up to programmers. (I see Reality’s newer post gets the dynamic…) i could be wrong, but I’d put the odds that De Niro was ignorant of Penny Lane’s open letter before withdrawing Vaxed at about zero, given the line in his statement about “reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team.” But Reality is absolutely right that “but now I will ask” will be read as a threat, and if anyone connected to Tribeca or De Niro so much as says ‘boo’ to Lane, the festival could wind up with an all-Gary-Null documentary slate next year, as no respectable documentarian would touch submitting there with a ten foot pole if RDN goes bullying ‘investigating’ in a crowd full of folks spending years working on documentary features with nothing more than one $20K grant and tons of sweat equity. I don’t know if ‘Reality’ agrees, but I can’t over-emphasize how totally effed-up that part of the interview strikes me, film-wise. If you want to make a case De Niro has lost his mind, that’s Exhibits A-Z right there. Just mind-blowing…

    [Speaking of Penny Lane, it’d be nice if skeptics and sbm advocates show NUTS! some love when it comes out. If you’re faculty somewhere, ask your school to buy a copy for the library. Or better yet, see if you can get Lane an honorarium to come in and give a talk, co-sponsored by Film Studies, Science, Med School, whoever, though Film might not have any money to put toward speakers…]

    Finally, given everything Orac cites from De Niro’s interview, I’m doubling-down, not backing-off my contention that vaccine agnostics may actually exit, and the mere utterance “I’m for safe vaccines” may warrant suspicion, but it’s not enough to convict anyone as an AV true believer. If De Niro proved anything on Today it’s that AV sympathizers need only the slightest tug on their sleeves to follow the ‘I’m for safety’ opening with a cascade of very familiar chips falling onto the AV Bingo card. 🙂

  55. #55 Fragmeister
    April 14, 2016

    X, of course the article is biased. It is biased in favour of truth and evidence. If that is a new idea to you, please try to keep up.

  56. #56 sadmar
    April 14, 2016

    @ ORD;

    Face it. You need a big company to make a lot of product and that product has to be paid for.

    I suppose so, but that doesn’t justify profit-taking on public health necessities like standard vaccines. The pharmas make their money on new proprietary drugs, and stuff for ‘elective’ treatment (boner pills!). Whatever they pull in as profit on the MMR, they can afford to do without, and turn it out for cost. As for who pays that and how, feel the Bern, ORD, feel the Bern.

  57. #57 Jazzlet
    April 14, 2016

    @ Sadmar

    Turning anything out for cost is difficult, making a small profit ensures you really do cover your costs without having to vary the price a lot.

  58. #58 JustaTech
    April 14, 2016

    Liz @42: Do you think RDN ever discussed any of this with his autistic son? Asked his opinion?

    Because I can’t imagine how much it would hurt to find out your dad told the whole world that he thinks you’re broken.

  59. #59 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    April 14, 2016

    What do Orac’s minions call people that are both antivaccine-sympathetic and pro-vaccine?

    If you’re an example of such a beast, I call them ‘loon’.

  60. #60 Denice Walter
    April 14, 2016

    @ Eric Lund:

    What I find intriguing is that young children- and some older people who experience a variety of ‘problems’- often imagine that others think, feel and act exactly as they themselves do- it takes a while for children to learn that others have a diversity of views, tastes and talents. Some never achieve this perspective.

    HOWEVER the folks I survey- including Andy- seem to think that everyone really is in it for the money. So many of the web articles or broadcasts I review discuss the unseemly greed and unrestrained avarice that they observe in their opponents without ever talking about how they themselves earned their own wealth and just who paid for their lavish homes and opulent lifestyles.

    Instead they present themselves as humanitarians and the saviours of the downtrodden and abused. Andy is there to minister to mothers of ‘damaged’ children and other woo-meisters would save the injured victims of SBM.

    Which makes me think that perhaps I’m in the wrong business because there are so many lovely bridges- truly architectural wonders- nearby that I could sell people.

  61. #61 herr doktor bimler
    April 14, 2016

    So “Doctor” Wakefield shares this whole exchange with Farber (I’m guessing, because someone had to), Farber publishes, then pulls it an hour later.

    I’m given to understand that this is what Farber does. She will tell you at great length about her devotion to the principles of confidentiality, because this makes her noble self-sacrifice all the greater, every time she is forced to set those principles aside and publish whatever deeply-personal correspondence was passed to her under the table.

    In other words she is a puke-funnel with pretensions of journalistic integrity. She is the sort of person Wakefield would use to publish personal correspondence.

  62. #62 Robert L Bell
    April 14, 2016

    The funny thing about Robert F Kennedy, jr, is that his association with the anti-science loons of the antivaxxer movement reflects attention back on the anti-science loon contingent of the Environmental Movement that Kennedy also supports. As a life long outdoorsman I am quite annoyed that these people are tolerated within the movement because their penchant for spreading ridiculous fairytales to induce fear, uncertainty, and doubt among the trusting and uninformed is in the long term a drag on the larger movement. By destroying trust and balkanizing the various groups, who really do share common ends, they weaken vitally important efforts to save what we all treasure.

  63. #63 Joe
    Chicago
    April 14, 2016

    This site claims to be “science” based but I’ve read enough on this site to see it’s more like a religious cult shilling for Big Tobacco pseudo-science. You fools can’t even tell you’re the fanatics. Wonder if this comment gets allowed.

  64. #64 shay simmons
    April 14, 2016

    “Big Tobacco?”

  65. #65 Gray Squirrel
    April 14, 2016

    Re. “increased paternal age,” that translates to “your tadpoles are past the expiration date.” If there’s one thing that Manly Men hate to admit (OK, one of two, the other being treatable with little blue pills thanks to science-based medicine), it’s that their tadpoles have gone bad.

    Re. Sciencemom @ 12: quoting Wakefraud, “…Not only has your family’s life been blighted by autism…”

    Is the word “blighted” in the above, as obnoxious in UK English, as it is in US English?

    I think we should re-capture the phrase “vaccine safety,” for example “I’m all in favor of vaccine safety, so I read up. Vaccines are safe, and our family is up to date on our shots.”

    Doing it sufficiently, will get hits on searches for “vaccine safety,” thereby breaking down the Google Bubble over that phrase just a bit. Hopefully it will force the antis to come up with a new phrase, though I’m not so optimistic that it’ll be a truthful one, along the lines of “vaccine concern-trolling.”

    Speaking of “concern.” If all of these “concerned parents” are really so “concerned” about the mental health of children, why aren’t they organizing huge protests in Flint Michigan?

  66. #66 Roger Kulp
    April 14, 2016

    MJD@48

    Just to be clear,by citing this link,you are agreeing with those of us who believe that autism is a genetic or congenital disorder unrelated to vaccines.I read this study with great interest when it was published last month,as my whole exome sequencing showed I had pathogenic mutations for a gene for breast,colorectal cancers,and an extremely rare neurological disorder where people mostly lose the ability to walk.I have none of these.I had an autism diagnosis that was very low functioning but due to a treatable condition,as well as many serious childhood onset medical conditions,I have yet to reverse.

  67. #67 Politicalguineapig
    April 14, 2016

    GraySquirrel: Speaking of “concern.” If all of these “concerned parents” are really so “concerned” about the mental health of children, why aren’t they organizing huge protests in Flint Michigan?

    Oh, boy. Well, I suppose we could give them the benefit of the doubt and say maybe they were too busy doing all the type A things they do (writing books no one will read, whining on the ‘net, bleaching their kids..) and actually don’t know about the Flint problem- or we could go straight for the unkind and probably true answer that those kids in Flint don’t look like their kids and therefore they don’t care.
    Funny thing, despite all the concern trolling they do about those kids in the Somali community or those African American boys, the anti-vax movement is still whiter than milk. Oh, and they dropped the Somali community like a hot potato once they were done scaring everybody about the evil vaccines.

  68. #68 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    April 15, 2016

    If there’s one thing that Manly Men hate to admit (OK, one of two, the other being treatable with little blue pills thanks to science-based medicine), it’s that their tadpoles have gone bad.

    Well, my tadpoles are bad, but that’s from having the mumps back in the day. I’ve never needed any blue pills, but it’s good to know they are out there.

    Fun fact – Mark Crislip, an infectious disease doctor, says that he’s only seen 2 cases of mumps. My mom, an ordinary woman of the time, has taken care of 3 cases – my cousin, my sister, and myself. The first two are why the anti-vaxers say mumps are no big deal. A week or so out of school, and sick and crying kids. My case was marked by about 30 hours of delirium, a ball sack the size of my fist, and a house call (you kids can look it up). Making mumps extinct would be a good thing.

  69. #69 Eddie Unwind
    April 15, 2016

    Contraspiracist –

    1. A person who assigns a truth value to the rejection of a statement purely on grounds that its claims appear far-fetched, conspiratorial, exaggerated etc.

    2. A person who employs this reasoning as a tactic to reject, or divert attention from, an opposing opinion.

    3. A person who assumes that one who holds contrary opinions to theirs is necessarily a conspiracist, an extremist etc.

  70. #70 Ausduck
    waiting for a madman in a blue box
    April 15, 2016

    *warning: unabashed Whovian and David Tennant fangirl here

    Sometimes I wish more actors were like David Tennant, who gets my integrity/dignity vote for stating, whenever anyone else tries to use him as an authority for their cause/belief, that he will not use his celebrity to endorse anything outside his expertise as an actor.

    I am really disappointed in Robert de Niro, I thought he was better than he this.

  71. #71 Eddie Unwind
    April 15, 2016

    (For the sticklers, you might substitute ‘attributes’ for ‘assigns’, and prefer ‘one who holds opinions contrary to’ instead of ‘one who holds contrary opinions to’, etc.)

  72. #72 Chris Hickie
    April 15, 2016

    @ Vince #44–We may always disagree on this, but having Ari Brown on the Today show is nowhere near the same as the AAP issuing a statement saying DeNiro is wrong and saying dangerous things. Ari Brown is, well, Ari Brown. The AAP claims to be some 60,000 pediatricians “Dedicated to the Health of All Children”. Well, if they are, they can get off their duffs and show it. Instead I get tweets from the AAP today claiming I can fix poverty in my exam room by screening for it? Say what? What nonsensical academic eggheadness is this? (Sorry Orac, this truly is eggheadedness from pediatricians who live in Ivory Towers). Now I’m supposed to be a social worker during a 20 minute well visit in addition to screening for a bunch of other things as well as dealing with vaccine-hesitant parents who want to quote me stuff from Bob Sears MD FAAP who still remains a member of the AAP because the AAP doesn’t have the spine to toss him out. Give me a break. Is the AAP even aware of what’s happening in the real world?

    I’m sorry, but the AAP can’t even get its poop in a scoop enough to issue a policy statement in line with the AMA and AAFP policy statements this year calling for a legislative end to non-medical vaccine exemptions. And the AAP lets anti-vaccinationism run rampant in its membership (i.e. Sears and Gordon). And the AAP can’t call out AVers like DeNiro or Wakefield or the NVIC but expects me to spend even more time in the exam room refuting them on my own without policy from them?

    Yeah, great. Ari Brown spoke out. Whoop de doo. I’m sick of the AAP. The AAP lets Paul Offit do the bulk of their vaccine advocacy and take all the heat (including death threats) and the AAP does nothing when they could make a difference. The AAP is riddled with cluelessness and CAM wonks who I really think are anti-vaccine. What a bunch of lazy bums and/or cowards.

  73. #73 Helianthus
    April 15, 2016

    You fools can’t even tell you’re the fanatics.

    Fanatics are people who won’t change their view, no matter that.

    By example, people keeping saying “it’s the vaccines” when studies after studies have come negative. Or, when shown that the main culprit they are pointing at, e.g. thimerosal, isn’t in the vaccines anymore, or was never present in MMR, double-down with a lame “oh, well, must be something else in vaccines”. Or insist it’s too many vaccines, when the late smallpox vaccine by itself had more different antigens in it than the whole current schedule.

    Some good evidence will sway me on vaccines. I know this because my opinion was changed on other topics in the past, so I can hope I will keep this trend.

    What would change your mind?

    Wonder if this comment gets allowed.

    Wonder no more.
    Will that make you re-assess your opinion?
    If no, see my definition of “fanatics”, above.

  74. #74 Peter Dugdale
    April 15, 2016

    Eddie Unwind #68
    Apart from the neologism, your propositions look pretty uncontroversial to me.
    I think if you candidly examine your own behaviour, you’ll find that you’re applying them yourself in your daily round. How otherwise would you find time to eat, drink, sleep and do everything else one goes about in life.

  75. #75 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    April 15, 2016

    @Gray Squirrel #64:

    Is the word “blighted” in the above, as obnoxious in UK English, as it is in US English?

    Even more so.

  76. #76 Chris Preston
    April 15, 2016

    I found Andrew Wakefield’s text and e-mail messages to Grace Hightower really quite informative. Wakefield was clearly wanting to ensure that no-one who had any knowledge about vaccines saw his movie prior to its release. Knowing probably full well that it would result in his movie being dissected before he had a chance to bask in the adulation of his followers and get the money rolling in.

    His comment about the ” family’s life been blighted by autism” is disgusting, but you shouldn’t be taken in by assuming that is what Andrew Wakefield believes to be the case. It is almost certainly not. It is a comment that is a cynical reflection of Hightower’s own thoughts on the matter and is there to keep Hightower and De Niro in his camp. It seems to have worked.

  77. #77 LouV
    France
    April 15, 2016

    Finally, given everything Orac cites from De Niro’s interview, I’m doubling-down, not backing-off my contention that vaccine agnostics may actually exit, and the mere utterance “I’m for safe vaccines” may warrant suspicion, but it’s not enough to convict anyone as an AV true believer.

    I completely agree with this. I tend to see “pro-safe vaccine” as not automatically “anti-vaccine” (although unfortunately it is far too often the case).
    However, people who use this defense need to realize that, if this declaration of good intent isn’t followed by convincing arguments*, it won’t automatically shield them from any criticism. It’s not a “Get out of jail free” card.
    After all, SBM advocates are “pro-safe vaccines” as well ; we just don’t have the same concept of “safety” (= we don’t think the risk should be an absolute zero, even if it should of course be minimalized if possible), and know judging safety is a bit more complicated that discovering “OMG, this dangerous / disgusting ingredient is in vaccines ?!?”
    I don’t totally discount the possibility that a person is very new to the subject and is genuinely asking innocent questions (and not JAQing off). But I’ll admit it is VERY tiring to try and sort among commenters.

  78. #78 herr doktor bimler
    April 15, 2016

    “Big Tobacco?”
    Cigars, I guess.

  79. #79 Eddie Unwind
    April 15, 2016

    Peter Dugdale #73
    Your assumption further validates the necessity for such a neologism, one which is anything but mild in its implications.

  80. #80 Chris Bigland
    UK
    April 15, 2016

    De Niro is antivaccine. Either that, or he’s doing a very good imitation of being antivaccine.

    That would be De-Niro’s best acting performance since Raging Bull. Let’s be honest he hasn’t been able to imitate anyone else but himself in any film since.

  81. #81 Eddie Unwind
    April 15, 2016

    …but (in response to #78) I appreciate and respect your being candid.

  82. #82 Eddie Unwind
    April 15, 2016

    Whoops! In response to #73.

  83. #83 herr doktor bimler
    April 15, 2016

    Chris Preston @75:
    I found Andrew Wakefield’s text and e-mail messages to Grace Hightower really quite informative. Wakefield was clearly wanting to ensure that no-one who had any knowledge about vaccines saw his movie prior to its release.

    That was my reading too. Andy was outraged when someone violated the confidentiality of correspondence by consulting an expert and checking whether his film was a complete midden of mendacity. Such is his devotion to the sanctity of confidences, that his immediate response was to send the entire confidential exchange to the Celia Farber puke-funnel to get it out in public.

  84. #84 Jordan Durrant
    London
    April 15, 2016

    My son has autism. It was not caused by his vaccines, i know this for fact. They have kept him healthy and happy and i’m really glad he had them. These anti-vaccine celebrities are right up there with the Scientologists IMO; openly displaying their ignorance, inability to think for themselves and the ease with which they can be deluded and dictated to.

  85. #85 has
    Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each.
    April 15, 2016

    Angela@13: Well duh. That all these rugged indepent thinking truth seekers always sound 100% indistinguishable from each other simply 100% proves that they’ve all arrived 100% independently at the same 100% correct answer. Shurely you know a 100% scientific consensus when you hear one?

    MJD@52: Yes yes you terminal bore, we’ve already figured out where the fencepost is, thankyou for that mental image.

    Joe@62: Bless your heart, sweet. Now go try posting the exact same comment on NatNews and AoA, and come back and tell us how that worked out.

  86. #86 Peter Dugdale
    homeofhomeopathy
    April 15, 2016

    Eddie –
    if you see a guy standing there with a placard “the end is nigh”
    how do you react?

  87. #87 Eddie Unwind
    April 15, 2016

    Peter Dugdale –

    “The end is nigh”? Doubt I’d pay much attention to it.

  88. #88 Eddie Unwind
    April 15, 2016

    That is unless he banged me over the head with it.

  89. #89 Eddie Unwind
    April 15, 2016

    Unless he banged me over the head with it.

  90. #90 Dangerous Bacon
    April 15, 2016

    “the mere utterance “I’m for safe vaccines” may warrant suspicion, but it’s not enough to convict anyone as an AV true believer.”

    In isolation, this is an unarguable and laudable position, which all of us share.*

    When it accompanies a laundry list of antivaccine tropes and a defense of a bogus antivax documentary produced by a disgraced research fraudster, it’s revealed as just another antivax trope.
    One might just as well argue that the statement “Galileo was wrongly persecuted” is unassailable. When incorporated into the Galileo gambit (as in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed about climate change), it’s clearly a trope of the pseudoscience crowd.

    *excluding the many antivax diehards who are unalterably opposed to any vaccine under any circumstances.

  91. […] Many variants exist, such as, “I’m for vaccine safety,” which is the one that Robert De Niro used to defend his bypassing the rules of his own Tribeca Film Festival to have Andrew Wakefield’s now […]

  92. #92 sirhcton
    waiting for the Singularity or a tax refund
    April 15, 2016

    @MJD #52

    Isn’t it obvious, I’m often straddling the fence when it comes to vaccines and autism.

    Americans have a wonderful word for such, originally associated with politics, but reaching its more current(?) meaning sometime in the late 1800s or later: Mugwump – I believe such a creature has its “mug” on one side of the fence and its “wump” on the other. Please, feel free to adopt it as your nom-de-internet.

    I cannot answer for any minions, other than myself, who did find 72 cents in the washing machine (a legal form of gambling in my state) but has otherwise not yet received my stipend from Big Pharma. I suspect His Perspex Personage is holding onto it to buy yet another Rolls.

  93. #93 Helianthus
    April 15, 2016

    @ sirhcton

    Mugwump.
    I will have to remember this one.

    Also, bet on the Singularity. It will happen sooner 😉
    Next Wednesday, I was told. Or was it last Wednesday?

    @ mjd

    I’m often straddling the fence

    Someone straddling the fence is like a falling buttered toast: in this universe, it has a tendency to fall on the wrong side.

  94. #94 Helianthus
    April 15, 2016

    Also, bet on the Singularity. It will happen sooner

    Uh, according to Randall Monroe, it was today.

  95. #95 Peter Dugdale
    April 15, 2016

    Eddie Unwind #86

    “The end is nigh”? Doubt I’d pay much attention to it.

    Exactly. You applied your propsitions 1 -3

  96. #96 sirhcton
    in Boltzman's teakettle
    April 15, 2016

    @ #92 Helianthus

    The Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mugwump), if it is to be trusted, yields further information. I must say I prefer its more modern sense. That is the joy of words stolen . . . er, uh, I mean “borrowed” by English, especially American English.

  97. #97 Old Rockin' Dave
    Sitting on the fence and I'm going to keep sitting on him until he pays me a fair price for the swag.
    April 15, 2016

    “What do Orac’s minions call people that are both antivaccine-sympathetic and pro-vaccine?”

    “Ooh,ooh, Mr. Kotter, I know, I know – is it wishy-washy?”

  98. #98 Narad
    April 15, 2016

    Contraspiracist

    Is there a neologism for someone who deploys the killfile on the simple basis of signal-to-noise ratio?

  99. #99 Spectator
    April 15, 2016

    #19
    “AFAIK there are three age variables that affect risk:
    – age of father, age of mother and if the age difference between father and mother is more than 10 years. All are true in this case.”

    Parental age in can understand; everything deteriorates with age, eggs and sperm are not exempt.
    But, how does a difference between parental age aggravate the problem? Can older potential parents screen their, err, cell production to reduce the risk?

  100. #100 Politicalguineapig
    April 16, 2016

    Spectator: Can older potential parents screen their, err, cell production to reduce the risk?

    No, they can’t, which contributes to them becoming anti-vaccine. Especially the mothers, who usually feel that if they can have only one child they are entitled to one they can brag about. And as we’ve seen here, the dad usually throws the kid under the bus to keep the peace.

  101. #101 herr doktor bimler
    April 16, 2016

    Can older potential parents screen their, err, cell production to reduce the risk?

    Guys can always freeze their sperm when they are younger, with the intention of thawing it out when they are older and much-run-after. But do not use the shared household deep-freeze for this purpose as one’s flatmates’ responses may be unfavourable.

  102. #102 Liz Ditz
    Great State of California
    April 16, 2016

    I missed this earlier. I am doing a round-up of the responses to De Niro’s nonsense. To my surprise:

    Manny Alvarez at Fox News: Dr. Manny: I’m talkin’ to you, De Niro — autism is not caused by vaccines.

    Creating an environment of suspicion only delays what we must accomplish today. De Niro, I need you and your celebrity pals to concentrate on today. I know that you chose a different career path than I, and that it takes many years of scientific training to understand cellular biology, but that is not an excuse to give any form of validity to Wakefield’s quack claims. Rather than acting as a mouthpiece for conspiracy theorists and the like, it’s time for you to use your celebrity power for good and help me, a father like you, get the answers we want.

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/04/13/dr-manny-im-talkin-to-de-niro-autism-is-not-caused-by-vaccines.html

  103. #103 Politicalguineapig
    April 16, 2016

    I thought Fox News was rabidly anti-science? To the point where I don’t even trust their weather reports.

  104. #104 Narad
    April 17, 2016

    Wait, how long have Wakefraud and Farber been balling pals? Here he’s apparently chiming in to support a repeat of Eliza Jane Scovill with Rico Nagel.

  105. #105 Narad
    April 17, 2016

    Oh, and lest anyone think for a moment that Farber – despite some seeming attempts to soften her image – remains anything other than a full-blown HIV crank, check this out:

    Lindsey was adopted by her parents, Steve and Cheryl Nagel, from Romania, as an infant, in 1990. She was tested for “HIV” in Romania, and tested negative.

    No qualifications, just scare quotes.

    Curiously, there is also this item from the same time frame:

    Journalist, Celia Farber is producing a film on Baby Rico’s life to help other families avoid the horrors caused by the industrial medical complex refusal to allow parents to determine the best care for their babies.

    Yah, it’s a stretch, but I think I need to cleanse my palate from Farber at the moment.

  106. #106 Darthhellokitty
    In Bed, with Cats
    April 17, 2016

    I kind of wish I hadn’t followed that link. They present it all in such a rebellious-heroes-fight-evil way, but you can see tragedy coming a mile away. (And then of course I had to Google for how it all turned out, having somehow forgotten who Lindsey was.)

  107. #107 Dangerous Bacon
    April 17, 2016

    “I thought Fox News was rabidly anti-science?”

    Can’t speak to their coverage of all scientific issues (such as climate change), but I haven’t noticed the network’s coverage of immunization dipping into antivax territory – at least, not any more than the other major networks.

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/08/17/12myths-and-facts-about-vaccines.html
    http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2016/03/27/de-niro-axes-anti-vaccination-film-from-tribeca-after-scrutiny/

  108. #108 Denice Walter
    April 17, 2016

    Narad:
    ” How long have” [Andy and Celia.. um.. known each other?]

    That’s the earliest overt interaction of which I am aware BUT I think she jumped on the anti-vax bandwagon earlier: she is featured in some of Null’s panel discussions that accompany his ( so-called) documentaries’ premiers ( viewable on you-tube etc) as an expert of sorts..

    Funny that Hiv/ Aids denialists appear at anti-vax conferences, websites and films ( also Ruggiero, ex SBM turncoat Montagnier, Clark Baker).

    Perhaps a career in anti-vax has a potentially bigger audience and longer shelf life.

  109. #110 Politicalguineapig
    April 18, 2016

    DB: Well, since every single one of them is a Republican, and most Republicans don’t know anything about science (to the point that the house and senate “science” commitees would be hard-pressed to tell you if the Earth was round) I assumed they would not support vaccines or anything remotely sciency; but maybe I was too hard on them. Next thing you know they’ll be telling everyone that other planets and stars exist. Or letting National Geographic actually do science documentaries again.

  110. #111 Politicalguineapig
    April 18, 2016

    Ooops, Sorry Denise, that’ll teach me to comment late at night. But I still wouldn’t trust Fox to get the weather right, and I hope Murdoch leaves this world soon, so National Geographic can be sold and report on science again, rather than run endless glurge on Christianity.

  111. #112 Jock Doubleday
    April 19, 2016

    “Blacklisted Is the New Black: Alicia Silverstone Takes on Rockefeller Industrial Medicine – An expose of the historical fraud of vaccination”
    by Jock Doubleday
    Sunday, April 17, 2016
    http://waitingforvanek.blogspot.rs/2016/04/blacklisted-is-new-black.html

  112. […] If that isn’t a tipoff that this movie will be a load of antivaccine propaganda, there’s a link to the TODAY SHOW interview with Robert De Niro about VAXXED and there’s this trailer: […]

  113. […] amerikanische Science-Blog Respectful Insolence fällt ein eindeutiges […]

  114. […] into such a prestigious film festival, Robert De Niro himself, one of the festival’s founders who turned out to be antivaccine himself, ‘fessed up and then soon after yanked the film, causing antivaccinationists to lose it. Now the […]

  115. #116 Liz Ditz
    Great State of California
    May 22, 2016

    Sigh.

    “Something is there with vaccines, because they’re not tested in some ways the way other medicines are, and they’re just taken for granted and mandated in some states,” he explained. “And people do get sick from it. Not everybody, but certain people are sensitive, like anything, penicillin.”

    So, in light of all this, he is now teaming up with one of the top film execs to get the true story out there.

    “I’m working on something else,” De Niro said. “Harvey Weinstein and I are working on doing a documentary, but I don’t what to talk much about it, because when I talk about it, something happens. But that’s what we plan to try to do.”

    http://www.indiewire.com/article/robert-de-niro-developing-vaccines-documentary-harvey-weinstein-vaxxed-20160521

  116. #117 Denice Walter
    May 22, 2016

    Liz, at the start of the Texas Q&A video so kindly provided by brian, as the credits rolled behind Andy and Polly, I noticed the name ‘George Di Caprio’ so I imagine that the rumours from the cruise were accurate.

    Lots of money for Andy & Co

  117. […] It’s the continuation of a process that, depressingly, revealed Robert De Niro to be perhaps the biggest A-list antivaccine celebrity out […]

  118. […] really do need to find a higher quality celebrity to represent them. Yes, this year they got Robert DeNiro, but his handlers are clearly desperately trying to keep him from publicly spouting too much […]

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