Terra Sigillata

Writer Amy Wallace just tweeted and posted to her blog the fabulous news that a pending libel case against her and physician Paul Offit has been dismissed.

Amy Wallace was the author of the centerpiece article in a Wired magazine feature on how antivaccination activists create fear and confusion by distorting and misrepresenting facts about vaccines. This article “An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All,” was discussed in detail here back in October.

Two days before Christmas one of those individuals, Barbara Loe Fisher (also Arthur), filed a $1 million claim that Dr. Offit had libeled her in Wallace’s article by saying, “She lies,” in reference to Ms. Fisher. Condé Nast, the publisher of Wired, was also named in the suit.

Orac at Respectful Insolence wrote a very detailed post a week later explaining how Loe Fisher and other anti-science activists use the threat of legal action to suppress criticism since they can’t rely on the science.

While dismissed, this legal action has certainly created financial and emotional distress for Ms. Wallace who, unlike Dr. Offit, had no experience in dealing with the level of hostility that can be dished out by the antivaccination movement. As a freelance writer, Ms. Wallace probably also lacks the financial backstop that Dr. Offit has. In effect, I am concerned that a writer like Ms. Wallace, who wrote one of the best articles in recent memory on the antivaccinationist movement, will never take another assignment on such an issue because it is just not worth the aggravation. Even prior to the suit, Wallace noted that she had never before received such hateful letters and e-mails on any other topic in her 25 years of writing professionally. Much of the opposing correspondence made lewd sexual comments about Ms. Wallace rather than engage in a debate about the content of her article.

If my prediction is true, Orac is correct: the simple threat of legal action can be used to suppress criticism of anti-science and pseudoscience nonsense that threatens society (unlike taking a heavy metal-laden supplement product that harms only the user, withholding vaccines from children compromises herd immunity in society.)

On the other hand, this episode may embolden Ms. Wallace and encourage other writers to speak more extensively on the house of cards that lies behind antivaccinationists faulty assumptions on causality and search for true causes of autistic spectrum disorders.

Comments

  1. #1 Pascale
    March 11, 2010

    w00t! Sack up one for the good guys!

  2. #2 Karen Hurtubise
    March 24, 2010

    I would like to read this article. Being a massage therapist for 23 years I am in the loop for many alternative articles on all kinds of health issues. Truly, the anti-vaccination letters and information includes some of the most vicious attacks and hysterical name calling of all the topics except perhaps abortion and government health care. It makes me wonder about the people sending me their information and I tell them so. They proceed to attack me as an enemy also. I conclude there is no room for discussion with such people on this subject. I remain grateful for the brave souls willing to dialog and speak their truth about science. Please stay the course of finding out what is really happening both pro and con with vaccines, autism, and many other illnesses in our society. People like me need your voice and I am glad I found this website accidentally looking for my Medicines from the Earth herbal conference. Thank you.

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