How “they” view “us” (briefly revisited)

Yesterday, I wrote about how "they" view "us," the "they" being believers in dubious medicine, pseudoscience, and outright quackery. As examples, I used believers in the unsupported claims of "brave maverick" cancer doctor Stanislaw Burzynski and antivaccine activists who are utterly convinced, against all science and evidence, that vaccines caused their children's autism. I pointed out at the time that many of these people really, really do believe that "we" (i.e., skeptics and supporters of science-based medicine who criticize the various modalities they passionately believe in) are not just wrong, but downright evil. They view us not just as opponents or people with whom they disagree, but as pharma shills who are actively trying to keep them from helping themselves or their relatives. One dismissed us by saying, "Evil people feed off of aggravating others. Bad people have no place in our healing journey." (Yes, she used the word "evil," and, yes, she seems to think that we do this for jollies because we like aggravating others.) Meanwhile, antivaccinationists rail against "hate campaigns" against Jenny McCarthy and how they view us as promoting autism (which they equate with evil, although only a few of them will directly say it). Indeed, to them we are promoting a "vaccine-autism Holocaust." If you don't believe me that antivaccinationists routinely use this term, Google "vaccine autism Holocaust." Indeed, one parent has even stated:

For me, the denial that there is an autism epidemic is the medical equivalent of denial of the holocaust. In the spirit of protecting the vaccine industry from any linkage to autism, the pro-vax side not only denies that vaccines may be linked to autism but denies that there even is an autism epidemic.

Yes, that's right. If you accept science and medicine, along with all the evidence that has failed to find even a whiff of a hint of a correlation between vaccines and autism, you're the equivalent of David Irving, a Holocaust denier. As I said, that's really how they view us. Or worse. In the comments at the antivaccine propaganda blog Age of Autism I found a real gem about the 1977 swine flu vaccine campaign, right after this post:

None of us understood that the people behind the swine flu vaccine fiasco were criminals who were experimenting on the public just like the Nazis.

Yep. To antivaccinationists, not only are supporters of vaccine programs just like Holocaust deniers, but they're the equivalent of Nazi doctors carrying out horrific experiments on concentration camp prisoners. It only makes sense, of course. Holocaust deniers are almost always Hitler admirers or Nazi sympathizers; so it's only a small step to go from calling someone a Holocaust denier to calling him a Nazi.

Visions of pro-vaccine Nazis dancing in antivaccinationists' heads aside, it didn't take long for me to become aware of one more example of just how evil antivaccinationists think "we" are. It comes from one of the usual hives of scum and quackery that promote such ideas, but not the mothership, Age of Autism. Rather, it comes from Mama Mac at the (not-so-)Thinking Mom's Revolution in the form of a post entitled Dirty. Rotten. Scoundrels. It is a list of people that Mama Mac views as pure evil (or as "dirty rotten scoundrels). In the interests of serving my now-massive ego before I give praise where praise is due, I will have to point out how disappointed I was that I wasn't included on the list. In fact, it's been quite a while since the antivaccine crowd at AoA or its closely allied blogs has actually done me such an honor. I rather suspect that I've been too open on this blog and in other public forums about stating just how much of a badge of honor I view it to be counted as someone they really, really don't like. It used to bother me, more because of the Google reputation poisoning than anything else, but now I view it as high affirmation that I'm doing good when someone like Mama Mac attacks me. Perhaps the antivaccinationists realize that now and won't give me the satisfaction anymore, although Jake Crosby apparently hasn't gotten the memo.

Be that as it may, with a couple of exceptions, the fourteen people listed as, apparently, "dirty rotten vaccine scoundrels" by Mama Mac are in actuality highly admirable people. We'll dismiss the actual scoundrel first: Poul Thorsen. Antivaccinationists really, really like Poul Thorsen, not because he participated in (not ran) the Danish studies that failed to find a link between either the MMR vaccine or thimerosal in vaccines and autism. Thorsen, it turns out, has been accused of misappropriation and misuse of U.S. federal government grant money, and about a year ago the antivaccine movement went wild, trying to use the Thorsen case to distract from the inconvenient science that does not support their case. He was a convenient bogeyman, and they labored mightily to hold him up as "proof" that the Danish studies were hopelessly tainted by his fraud (if he is, in fact, guilty—after all, he has not been tried yet). Even though he was only a "middle of the pack" author on those studies (meaning that he clearly did not hold a leadership role in running or writing up the study), suddenly Thorsen was the face of the CDC and pro-vaccine movement. Why? Because he really is charged with fraud and he really was an investigator for the Danish studies. Of course, even if Thorsen is guilty, that doesn't invalidate the Danish studies. Moreover, there's a lot more evidence out there than the Danish studies that support the safety of the vaccine program and the lack of correlation between vaccines and the dire outcomes antivaccinationists attribute to them. Even if the Danish studies were hopelessly tainted, it would not alter the scientific consensus, because the Danish studies are not the be-all and end-all of vaccine safety studies. They are just, to quote a cliche, another scientific brick in the wall supporting the safety of vaccines.

In any case, if Thorsen is guilty, he really is a dirty, rotten scoundrel and should be locked up for a long time if convicted. He is not, however, a dirty rotten scoundrel who is the face of the vaccine program, as much as antivaccinationists stretch to try to convince you that he is.

The other somewhat questionable person on the list is Nancy Snyderman. She's the chief medical correspondent for NBC News, and, on the good side, she's been a staunch advocate for vaccine safety. Unfortunately, she isn't always as careful as she should be about what she says about vaccines, and, worse from my standpoint, she has embraced quackery in the form of "integrative medicine." I wouldn't call her a "dirty rotten scoundrel," but I would call her somewhat unreliable in her support of science. Of course, whatever Dr. Snyderman's failings, they are not the fevered nonsense that Mama Mac tries to pin on her:

She believes simply that if you vaccinate, you are a good parent and if you don’t, you are not. She has said, “Just get your damn shots”. She values the herd over the child and is comfortable with an acceptable level of collateral vaccine damage in the war against infectious disease.

Actually, Snyderman's saying "Just get your damn shots!" was one of her finer moments. I should make it a tag line for this blog.

The rest of Mama Mac's list includes people who are, in fact, people I admire: Paul Offit (of course!) is there, because to antivaccinationists like Mama Mac he is Sauron, Darth Vader, Voldemort, Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot all rolled up into one. Why? Because he invented a vaccine for rotavirus that has saved lives and prevented suffering, and for that he is considered pure evil. For his contribution and (more directly) for his unflagging promotion of vaccines and his willingness to call the nonsense promoted by antivaccinationists exactly what it is, nonsense, he's been subjected to the vilest attacks and slander at the hands of the antivaccine movement. It's not surprising that on a couple of occasions the pressure got to him a bit, and he lost his cool. I only wonder at how he could have kept his cool for so long, given what he's put up with. Bill Gates is also there, of course. Since he retired from the active management of Microsoft and dedicated his great wealth to philanthropy he's become another Dark Lord of Vaccination, mainly because a large focus of the Gates Foundation's work has been to promote vaccination campaigns in Third World countries as a means of promoting health and ending the scourge of preventable disease and death there. He also has no patience for the nonsense of the antivaccine movement, which is a plus. In fact, since Bill Gates ceased to lead Microsoft, he's become a really great guy.

To get a bit more insight as to how antivaccinationists view such people, I can't help but quote Nancy Hokkanen, a contributing editor to that wretched hive of scum and quackery, Age of Autism:

They reveal much about their narcissistic personalities via a chilling lack of compassion for vaccine-injured children and their families.

So let's recap. Adding Hokkanen's characterization, I conclude that "they" see "us" as narcissistic, lacking compassion, corrupt, and, yes, downright evil. Is it any wonder that they would come to the conclusion that virtually any tactic is justifiable in their crusade against medical science? It's not hard to find similar quotes elsewhere about topics other than vaccines. Indeed, if you can stand the craziness and hostility, just wander on over to Patrick "Tim" Bolen's website (The Bolen Report—I don't want to link to it), and you'll see even more hostile language directed at skeptics over not just vaccines, but cancer therapies, alternative medicine, supplements, and pretty much any other quackery you can think of. This hostility, this "us versus them" attitude is a feature, not a bug. Whipping it up is how quacks keep their supporters enthusiastic and how they continue to sell useless products. We're not likely to penetrate such tribalism or to change the mind of people like Mama Mac, although on rare occasions we can. It's far more important to get the fence-sitters and make sure good science-based information is out there for them.

Finally, overall, I can't help but conclude that, other than for Poul Thorsen, this is a very good list of people who have actually made a contribution to the world. I also can't help but point out the marked contrast between thirteen of the fourteen people on this list and people like Mama Mac. The people on this list in general do good for science, medicine, and society. Mama Mac? Well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

More like this

A week ago or so, I was perusing my Google Alerts, along with various blogs and news websites, looking for something to blog about, when I noticed a disturbance in the pseudoscience Force. It's a phenomenon I've noticed many times before from a wide variety of cranks and quacks, but it all boils…
My first big splash in the blogosphere will have occurred five years ago in June, when I first discovered the utter wingnuttery that is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. It was then that I wrote a little bit of that not-so-Respectful Insolence that you've come to know and love entitled flushes its…
Almost everyone knows the story of Victor Frankenstein and his monster. It's such a classic tale that has been around so long and told so many times in so many ways that it's almost impossible for someone living in this country not to have encountered it growing up. Frankenstein's monster is also a…
Here we go again. If there's one thing about the anti-vaccine movement, it's all about the ad hominem. Failing to win on science, clinical trials, epidemiology, and other objective evidence, inevitably anti-vaccine propagandists fall back on attacking the person instead of the evidence. For example…

Meh. As long as I sleep well at night and I can look at my peers in the eye, I'm good.

But I do like how the "narcissistic personalities" meme is tossed around @ AoA ( most famously by Jake) - and now here.
Shockingly, Mama Mac is a social worker and does therapy.
Another TM is also ( I forget which) , as well as Katie Wright and Ginger Taylor, have been educated and employed in related fields like psych. I hang my head in shame for them- they must have gone to crappy universities.

In other anti-vax news:
the Safe Minds- Jake brouhaha continues @ AoA with a new 'splanatory article about the former's position/ actions.
Oh joy!

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

Denice, I believe the good(ish) news about "Mama Mac" is that she is not now doing social work of any kind.

This little TMR hissy fit made me laugh out loud.

I find it bad enough that as skeptics, we're often subjected to casual bigotry the moment any random woo comes on a blog and assumes we're all depressed, basement-dwelling nihilists confused by everyday phenomena. They tell themselves this to explain why we'd complain about their pet woo, rather than entertain the notion that we're sincere about our presented arguments. Anti-vaxxers are particularly vicious, and they've been stuck in a cycle where disinhibition is rewarded.

Thinking of some moments of values dissonance I had with some shows I've seen, where the "hero" is the one that closes off diplomatic, legal, and otherwise civilized options for dealing with the villain, opting for some horrible fate out of proportion to the villain's crimes. That's the sort of thing that emerges out of black-and-white thinking. Assume your enemies are monsters by default, and you'll end up a monster.

By Bronze Dog (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

The funny part is the anti-vax camp are the deniers. Just like other deniers (holocaust deniers, 9/11 truthers, moon hoaxers, global warming deniers, creationists), they are confronted with overwhelming evidence supporting a point of view contrary to their own and they must resort to every trick in the denialist handbook to pretend somehow it doesn't matter. Not only that it doesn't matter but by casting doubt on the contrary view means their own wins somehow.

It's broken logic through and through and it's not surprising that the tactics are similar regardless what some group is trying to deny.

I lay some of the blame on the school system for failing to provide an adequate basic maths course. That single failure has left all of these anti-vax loons incapable (apparently) of sanely comparing risks

Ed Brayton periodically presents a Bryan Fischer Award to people 'who display a staggering lack of self-awareness, accusing their opponents of their own worst traits and engaging in rank hypocrisy'. I think that can well apply here to MamaMac. 'Narcissism' and 'lack of compassion' would definitely qualify her for an award.

It's kind of hard to feel compassion for people who think (as one woman told me last week) that I am responsible for the murder and maiming of untold numbers of children.

It's the lack of good mug shots of the box of blinking lights that keeps you out of these line-ups.

"Why (is Paul Offit regarded as the embodiment of evil by antivaxers)? Because he invented a vaccine for rotavirus that has saved lives and prevented suffering, and for that he is considered pure evil. "

Of course, it's not just that he invented a life-saving vaccine. His real sin is being an eloquent advocate for immunization, directly taking on and debunking antivax nonsense in a very public manner (in addition to published research on the subject of vaccine safety).

Paul Offit being a symbol of Evil to antivaxers just shows how malevolently twisted their thinking is. I'd be pleased to have a legacy one-tenth as useful and productive as Offit's.*

*Glad to see Seth Mnookin made #2 on Mama Mac's list. Of course, any praise of mine for Seth has to be tempered by the fact that I _am_ Seth Mnookin (at least, according to one conspiracy-minded antivaxer on another forum). In reality I have many identities, including Orac, Paul Offit, unnamed co-conspirators at the CDC, the Lindbergh baby etc.


By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink


No, no, no. Dr. Offit's real sin is that he (gasp!) made money from his invention. I mean, how dare he! He shouldn't have derived any material compensation from it. He should be more like those saints, Gary Null and Joe Mercola. Oh, wait...

Tsk, tsk you keep harping on how this Congressional Hearing was set up. Thanks to the *latest* statement from SafeMinds that appears on AoA...the matter is now *settled*, because a Congressional aide did an *internal investigation*…

".... SafeMinds spoke directly with the Congressional staff responsible for organizing the recent autism hearing to ensure that there had been no misunderstanding. Our contact there assured us that nothing undue or untoward occurred in conversations between the Committee and SafeMinds...."

There's more discussion about SafeMind's *internal investigation*...

".... SafeMinds also organized a Congressional briefing on May 18, 2012 to engage Congress and educate members on the problems with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.[4] This briefing highlighted the Unanswered Questions Report[5]which links government-compensated vaccine injuries and autism, and it called for Congressional Oversight hearings. For this briefing, we chose as presenters Clifford Shoemaker, the Chairman of the Vaccine Injured Petitioners’ Bar Association, Dr. Peter Meyer who has written an exhaustive review of the inherent flaws of the NVICP, several parents of victims and Louis Conte, a long-time criminal justice professional, co-author of the paper and a Board member of EBCALA. We did not invite Mark and David Geier to speak, which Jake finds fault with, and readers can feel free to disagree with our decision, but we think our choices were outstanding and do not apologize for them...."

Glad to see Seth Mnookin made #2 on Mama Mac’s list. Of course, any praise of mine for Seth has to be tempered by the fact that I _am_ Seth Mnookin (at least, according to one conspiracy-minded antivaxer on another forum). In reality I have many identities, including Orac, Paul Offit, unnamed co-conspirators at the CDC, the Lindbergh baby etc.

This is an interesting observation and more projection on the part of the anti-vaxx braintrust. They employ schemes to create multiple fronts with a revolving core of members to make them appear larger in number than they actually are. They make the accusation that we do the same lest they confront the reality that we are much more numerous than they care to envision. Why our own Jen troll has accused me of being Allison Singer and then of course, the generic pharma shill accusations of others.

In other anti-vax news:
the Safe Minds- Jake brouhaha continues @ AoA with a new ‘splanatory article about the former’s position/ actions.
Oh joy!

Adorable isn't it? Jake and Bolen are now Voldemort (must not be named), apologies to the Geiers for seeing what SafeMinds actually think of them and not for SafeMinds portrayal of them as the freakshow they are and then lastly, the sighs of relief from the faithful that all must be well now and they can now go on "fighting the good fight".

Being in your position Denice, can you not see the many theses/dissertations that can emanate from observing just AoA?

By Science Mom (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

I wish I were important enough to make their list, but all I can say is that all the really good vaccines came along after I had the diseases and I wound up on the autism spectrum anyway.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

Although Bayareamom asks the "tough questions":

So how is this professionalism associated with these government/political entities HELPING our cause? How is that actually working for us? Because I'm not seeing it. I've been involved with this activism a lot longer than some of you folks and believe me when I tell you that it was NOT this bad when our son was born back in 1993.

Oh come no now Bayareamom, you've made some enormous accomplishments such as a huge increase in measles and pertussis* cases, created a huge money-suck out of the NVICP with your frivolous vaccine-autism cases, created a cottage industry of 'mummy martyrs' who can now find fame and fortune by exploiting their special needs children and have made your lunacy so much more visible by banding together and making spectacles of yourselves. You really should give yourselves a pat on the back for those accomplishments.

*Pertussis prevalence increases can't all be pinned on anti-vaxx activity but there are more cases among the un/under-vaccinated.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

This and the prior thread are familiar territory to me: I'm a bio prof specializing in evolutionary theory. My colleagues and I might even be top o'the list for forced confrontation with this phenomenon. Since I've focused on teaching for many years now, I think I've gained some insights from and about incoming students which aren't evident in either the hyper-intellectualized philosophy of science literature or the raging-incoherent isms-fights on the internet and in similar media.

First, not even the most culturally indoctrinated students are berserk ideologues. Well OK, a very few are, having been literally trained to disrupt and humiliate teachers, but most students from an observant background are quite aware that they've been told something and are at least willing to see what "this guy" is about to say. They've been told what he or she is *supposed* to be saying, which is nothing short of diabolical: morals-destroying, community-attacking, and hate-driven. But as I say, they are willing to see if this is true. Therefore teaching evolution effectively begins with philosophy, including graded work, and not with some iconic portrayal of individuals or studies. (Here insert much talk of materialism and vitalism, and about pre-evolutionary observations of homology before it was named.) I've found that the lights go on at this point, *before* I start talking about monkeys and cells and stuff.

Second, and bluntly, most biologists are badly-prepared to deal with this. They think the standard course material is sufficient to the task of speaking to the majority of the students, and it simply isn't, partly because *no* biology text is fully grounded in its philosophical position or in a realistic assessment of its audience (a few nonmajors texts stand out to the contrary, but absolutely nothing pitched toward majors), and partly because textbook publishing economics favors the undue influence of entities such as the Texas school board. So if you "teach the book," you'll end up passivelyconfirming the students' fears or trained expectations - to them, if you didn't address those things, then you must be hiding your agenda. And even worse, if the prof begins combatively, as if the class and specifically any observant students were composed solely of opposing gladiators in a public debate format, then the result is disastrous. The students won't even fight back; they'll see those fears and expectations confirmed, clam up, memorize for the grade, and walk out far more solidly planted in the political creationist camp then they were before the class - and the prof will be none the wiser, perhaps even praising himself or herself for fighting the good fight.

I am presenting perhaps too much about my professional life here only to bring the applicable point forward regarding alties and woo ... it's not about the meisters. It's not about opinion-makers and their trained attack-dogs. It's definitely not about a public debate format. For teaching evolution effectively, it's about thoughtful people who identify their religion with community and with ethics, and who've been told those things are under attack. For alties and woo, it's about nothing more sinister than a ton of citizens - ordinary people, not stupid, not well-informed either, who aren't necessarily going to battle against SBM hammer and tongs, but who aren't going to respond well to arguments from authority, to being patronized, or to being identified with the vocal proponents they're seeing as potentially interesting.

Those are the audience. Most of them aren't posting, but reading constantly. Most of them aren't able to get into raw scientific content like what epigenetics or quantum means, because from the outside these seem like *doctrinal* debate points (which they are not, but that's what they look like). They'll be judging on social issues like respect among community members (a feature at this blog), on acknowledgments of limitations (for which Orac's admirable point that medicine isn't science is a great example), and on the power of very strong philosophical distinctions such as material vs. vital explanations. It's very counter-productive to discount someone as stupid because he or she is merely interested in altie or woo; I think that most people who are, are also open to genuine and powerful argument. The fact that the ones who aren't are also the loudest, shouldn't distract us from the task of presenting those arguments, and into the hopeless mess of gladiatorial combat with the loud ones.

* All mention of gladiators above probably arose from Orac's mention of the Spartacus TV series, also one of my guilty pleasures. I mean, is it porn with plot, or plot with porn? Must watch more to decide!

By Ron Edwards (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

#15 Steven Chang has been SPAMMING multiple threads on Science Blogs with that nonsense. He first appeared asking other bloggers to "please write an article about this" (his spam link). Now he's proclaiming it's not quackery.

Steven, it IS quackery, you're making money selling it and stop spamming us. Just go away.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

In response to my sisters-in-crime:

Liz, she wrote recently ( "In a Galaxy...") that if her child didn't have an ASD, she would have had her own therapy centre. I'm not sure if any of the others I mentioned are currently working as counsellors et al. Perish the thought!

What I can't fathom is how superficial their education/ training must have been if these women are unable to turn their magnifying glasses upon themselves... as well as being able to spot the autism-vaccine link as unlikely- what no physio?; medical students usually think that EVERYTHING is wrong with them, eventually they become more realistic hypochondriacs. Similarly so in psych.

The label of "narcissism" is often used at AoA but seriously- if a person thinks that they- without an education and experience in medicine- can criticise an entire field, demanding special treatment from the government and courts.. the mind boggles.

An interesting aside: alt med folk castigate people who are successful and are recognised for their achievements by the general public ( e.g.Mac's list) - USUALLY they attribute their success to malfeasance, "connections" or criminal actions- reminds me a bit of Gilligan's early work wherein a woman identified as "first in her medical class" is sometimes labelled as a fraud, not a normal woman, a cheater etc, rather than a hard worker or intelligent.- unlike the male characters.

Like our web-meisters, they despise what they can't ever be: experts and accomplished individuals.

Science Mom: Oh, you are so right! What makes the situation even more delightful is that my degrees first focused on clinical issues and then on experimental psych, so I can image many ways to study these brave, maverick-y mummies.

Obviously, studies about executive functioning and person perception in anti-vax supporters.
Patterns of attribution for negative outcomes
Group think in website cohorts
When journal writing is NOT therapeutic: a literary survey
Acting out at public lectures
Acting out via e-mail
Acting out in blog entries..
I could go on but won't.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

@Old Rockin' Dave #13:

I wish I were important enough to make their list, but all I can say is that all the really good vaccines came along after I had the diseases and I wound up on the autism spectrum anyway.

How dare you have been born when you wanted to be born and still deny The Truth of your existence?


By Rich Woods (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

The label of “narcissism” is often used at AoA but seriously

This trend intrigues me (I have a student whose PhD work was about recognising narcissists among management recruits, and comparing narcissist management trainees against non-narcissists). At what point did it become the pop-psych diagnosis of choice? Was there a particular event or publication or Oprah show?

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

I cannot read further until I leave this comment, so my apologies if it has been brought up already. I absolutely cannot bear the thought of anyone comparing autism to the Holocaust. To the antivaxxers I will just say this here, as I know dissenting voices on AoA rarely make it through their rigorous comment-deleting--

The Holocaust was a holocaust because millions of people got MURDERED. MY son is ALIVE, and moreover intelligent, healthy and happy, and also he is autistic. SEE THE DIFFERENCE????

By Melissa G (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

@ herr doktor bimler:

I think Jake started it all when he wrote a post - illustrated with a lovely *fin-de-siecle* painting- about a particular journalist whom he envies.

When I read this the first time, it reminded me of the web woo-meisters' diatribes concerning people whose abilities they deride because they cannot equal them.

And deep down somewhere- unless if they are truly delusional- they know it.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

So far there is little mention of the cottage industry quacks and scaled up woo hucksters who simultaneously promote and feed off the above described behaviours. Quite a lot of woo is fraud, deception for money.

I'd like to see a study of the voting behaviour of the woo promoters cf the punters. Do the the promoters align politically with AGW deniers, for example?

Hitler would not have agreed with me, so anyone who disagrees with me must be Hitler. (Insert face palm here.)

By Sarkastik1 (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

The conspiracy theorists themselves are the narciscistic ones, the ones that find or invent big interests that supposedly go out of their way and against their interests to suppress or fool them; that portray others as 'sheeple' to appear superior; that pretend they are so brilliant they know better than highly-trained professionals though spending a tiny fraction of the effort; that presume you must care about their viewpoints, even when you ignore them; that insist on intruding into science forums to make sure they are noticed; that twist most every question or counter argument into a supposed personal attack on their fragile self concept.

By Sarkastik1 (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

@Ron Edwards, thanks for that thoughtful post. You have the advantage of being in a classroom where (usually) no one is yelling and heckling; bloggers and other public forums aren't so lucky, because several noisy idealogues will usually turn up on any thread. Do you have any ideas on dealing with them while keeping it constructive for the lurkers?

@ herr doktor & Denice Walter

the narcissism angle does intrigue, because it seems fitting when a person thinks that they - without an education and experience in medicine (or almost anything) - can criticise an entire field or deny the Periodic Table or other factual things because there are other ways of knowing, that in their heart or gut, they know is real. For a wooligan this is projection, no?

@ Melissa G, bang on, no apologies required.

By al kimeea (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

@ Sarkastik and others, I will contribute the data point that the one definite narcissist in my family is also a conspiracy theorist, interestingly enough. Not, fortunately, a vaccine-denier, as he had Pertussis as a child, but into every other branch of alt-med woo to come down the pike.

@ al kimeea, thanks. That particular analogy just boils my blood.

By Melissa G (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

The Holocaust was a holocaust because millions of people got MURDERED.

Strictly speaking, I believe the name comes from Elie Wiesel. IIRC, there's also an odd back-story here, but it's irrelevant. I'm pretty much down with "Shoah" for the actual event.

@ David C:

But remember, the anti-vaccine movement ( in its present-day incarnation) is based upon the cult of AJW whose MO was to market his own patented single vaccine after scaring parents about the MMR - as well as other money-grubbing schemes.

AoA is partially supported by adverts for supplements and biomedical treatements ( woo) as seen along the borders of each page. Editors there try to sell their own books.

These groups frequent conventions whose presenters usually offer services-dietary, faux medical and legal.
TMR's commenters often offer services; TMR has a book coming out soon.

I survey various alt media whose primary function is to sell products- earning their unscrupulous owners handsome salaries. We can point readers to the palatial estates of several of these ....gentlemen. Stick around, we'll show you.

About political leanings:
there appears to be a tightrope-walking attempt to blend rightist, Randian libertarianism (health freedom) and a more liberal, back-to-nature vibe: thus no one's money will be turned away because of their political stance.

@ al kimeea:

I think it's important to differentiate NPD - a mental condition- from unbridled egoism as a personality flaw
and both from healthy self-esteem- which might be annoyingly expressed by some people. There's also a difference between mental illness and bad manners.

I would venture- no names mentioned- that some of the people we write about -both in anti-vax and alt media- do have problems with reality, with managing emotions, dealing with stress and with maintaining a realistic,
general understanding of other people.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

@ Vasha,

Thanks for the kind words. It's true that the classroom is different, and it may seem safer in some ways. On the other hand, I am more obliged there to find inroads or bridges to a higher proportion (all or almost all) of the people involved.

I think it's possible to uphold high standards in internet discussions, although it takes a fair amount of work and also buy-in from others. In my non-academic life, I managed a successful internet forum within a contentious subculture for over a decade, in part by insisting that at that website, we were not "on the internet" and any presumed rules or permissions for that vague location were overridden by the rules I'd set up. My moderation permitted no exceptions, whether for long-established respected participants having a bad day or for a newcomer, although I was nicer to the latter about it. I also made it clear that people who really knew and understood the rules were expected to follow them even when - especially when - provoked. Those rules included open season on anything resembling an idea, and no false courtesy hiding hostility, so the site did not degenerate into a bland echo-chamber. It became literally an open pit of hell for people who sought to disrupt it, as they were immediately called out on their behavior and then ignored. I took pleasure in never deleting a post and in receiving the requests to do so, sometimes a year later, when someone finally realized what a horse's ass they'd made of themselves. I always said "no."

This blog is another such haven, I think, just as it stands today. When purposeful disrupters arrive, they're called out instantly, not in an ostracizing or special-target way, but rather only in the same terms everyone here expects of one another anyway. If I make a claim of some kind, then I think I better provide a useful link, or one of you will remind me. And if one of you reminds me, I say, "Quite right," and either do so or withdraw my claim. And hasn't the positive effect already been observed? The last time Orac got his circuits clogged and wondered, "What's the use anyway," numerous regular contributors chimed in with testimony about how the discussion here had profoundly affected their views. Amidst all the sentimentality (I was jaundiced that day, I admit, and did not join the group hug), I think it was a good reminder that this isn't a site where the Smart People gather to congratulate one another and sneer at the Morons - it's a place where people with doubts and confusions can learn how claims and conclusions can really be assessed. Orac models that as best he can, which is very good indeed, and his all-too-rare criticisms of medicine/science hassles play a big role too (in fact, it was his lobotomy posts that led me here).

Looking at the other responses on this post, I'm seeing that my point isn't really meshing with the drift of the conversation. I hope it won't be misunderstood as disagreement.

By Ron Edwards (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned this so far -

Hitler Zombie returns!

By Baron Scarpia (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

For another perspective on vaccination refer to my website: "Over-vaccination - Challenging Big Pharma's lucrative over-vaccination of people and animals":

So far the website includes pages on:

- Over-vaccination - a multi-billion dollar market.
- Annual flu vaccination and the influenza industry.
- Questionable HPV vaccination.
- The arbitrary MMR second 'booster' dose.
- Pertussis/whooping cough - how does increasing the numbers of 'boosters' of the current vaccine protect against the new strain?
- Over-vaccination of pets - an unethical practice.

- Questions for:
-- The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
-- The Australian Academy of Science re "The Science of Immunisation Questions and Answers".
-- The Cochrane Collaboration.

- Forum discussion on vaccination eg:
-- The university and CSIRO-funded The Conversation forum.
-- Ben Goldacre's 'Bad Science' forum.
-- The Virology Blog.

The website is a work in progress and I will be updating it periodically.

By Elizabeth Hart (not verified) on 13 Feb 2013 #permalink

Oh, goody. I might just have some new blogging material for sometime in the near future. There's enough nonsense on your website for multiple posts. :-)

A brief perusal of Elizabeth Hart's website reveals a number of the usual antivaccine canards, such as the claim that because most people who get HPV don't develop cancer, universal vaccination against HPV is not necessary, despite hundreds of thousands of women dying of cervical cancer globally every year, not to mention other cancers caused by HPV. I suppose that since only about 1% of people who get polio develop paralysis, that's nothing to worry about either. This kind of dangerous ignorance really p!sses me off, and I really wish people like her would keep their opinions to themselves.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

On her website she holds up her position as Research Officer, but her background is in politics and philosophy.

I have a A Degree in Some Biological Field. Does that give me credibility to talk about politics and philosophy or some extra skill in literature searching those fields?

Her dog died after being vaccinated, and another antivaccine loon was born. Overgeneralizing from insufficient data. Again.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Post hoc ergo propter hoc strikes again, eh?

I, for one, still blame the presence of exotic fruits from such places as Australia, for my child on the autism spectrum (never mind that she is wonderful and I love her and am very very proud of her). Who stands to make money from Kiwi fruit etc that weren't present here in Canada when I was a kid? Mangoes were unheard of in my day. Too many exotic fruits too soon. They aren't even green!!!! (unless not ripe). Massive government cover up over the connection between exotic fruit and autism. I want a study looking at kids who ate exotic fruits and those who didn't and see what the rates of autism are. Seriously, people, you can't make this stuff up........;)

Elizabeth is butthurt about being banned from the Bad Science forum claiming it was her questioning of vaccines. I don't think so and if she wants to know what censorship really is, she should hold JABS and AoA to the same standard.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

@Krebiozen: "I suppose that since only about 1% of people who get polio develop paralysis, that’s nothing to worry about either."

Some trolls here have said exactly that.

"A brief perusal of Elizabeth Hart’s website reveals a number of the usual antivaccine canards, such as the claim that because most people who get HPV don’t develop cancer, universal vaccination against HPV is not necessary, despite hundreds of thousands of women dying of cervical cancer globally every year, not to mention other cancers caused by HPV."

Not to mention millions of cases of dysplasia (precancers) caused by HPV, which must be surveilled/biopsied/excised with concomitant pain/expense/potential loss of fertility.

The antivax crowd is only willing to acknowledge worst-case scenarios, in an effort to minimize numbers of people affected. Beyond being deceptive, it makes them sound like uncaring ghouls. "hey, only X number of people died, what's the fuss about?"

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

They reveal much about their narcissistic personalities via a chilling lack of compassion for vaccine-injured children and their families.

I have asked this before, and nary gotten an answer: what has Andy Wakefield ever done for autistic children or their parents, other than give them a bogeyman to blame?

Let's take it a step further: suppose, for the sake of argument, that Wakefield was right. Now tell me, what would that do for autistic children or their parents, aside from giving them someone to blame?

By Marry Me, Mindy (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Who stands to make money from Kiwi fruit etc that weren’t present here in Canada when I was a kid?

Curses. Grant and I are revealed as shills for Big Kiwi.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Who stands to make money from Kiwi fruit etc that weren’t present here in Canada when I was a kid?

Not only that, they changed the name. Just like polio.

I think they used to be called Chinese gooseberries. Until a marketing company decided to give the fruit a more appealing name.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

To be fair, I do think that Andrew Wakefield and the Greirs are sociopaths and lack a conscience but the majority of anti-vaxxers are mostly just not all that bright instead of evil.

By LibrarianSarah (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

let us not forget the communist insinuation of red mangoes into our fruit markets

By al kimeea (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

And, people, it’s kiwifruit, one word with no capitalisation of Kiwi. Kiwi are either the birds or us New Zealanders. We wouldn't want people to confuse hairy oval things with male New Zealanders', erm, "fruits".

The again… maybe that confusion is the cause of autism…

How "They" view us. ..

A number of times, when I've made a forray into an altie blog, I've had comments directed at me like "Why are you filled with such HATE?" or "Obviously you have many unresolved personal issues" as if my objective is just to be mean or I'm acting out a personality disorder!

I think they used to be called Chinese gooseberries. Until a marketing company decided to give the fruit a more appealing name.

Forget you not the Patagonian toothfish.

Grant: We wouldn’t want people to confuse hairy oval things with male New Zealanders’, erm, “fruits”.

So you're telling us that every man in New Zealand shaves down under? (Apologies to all, I couldn't resist.)

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Of course they shave Down Under. The question is whether they shave down under Down Under.

(that was even worse. My apologies too).

In the vein of how "they" view "us", anti-vaxxers have shown up in the comments on an op-ed by a Vermont pediatrician. Among the commenters is one Laura Condon, who claims to be unbiased, but who is the NH Advocacy Director for NVIC.

@ Todd W. Link fail...try again, please.

Try this. It's an op-ed by Dr. R. "Mort" Wasserman in the Vermont Digger.

Got it Todd W. What a joke that Hilary Butler posted there. It looks like the ignorant ones are getting plenty of *push back* from other posters.

At that link I posted, it seems I've touched a nerve.


Thanks for sharing that link! Very nice.

Great op-ed, Todd W! That Dr. Wasserman put it very nicely. Infectious disease docs tend to be very passionate about vaccinations, having seen firsthand the terrible consequences of actually *getting* the diseases.

By Melissa G (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

MSII, that is wonderful!

My comments have been removed. Would be great if others could fill in the gaps that have been left.

As an Australian, I would like to sincerely apologise for Elizabeth Hart.

Hey, I just thought of something - before I moved entirely into health HR reporting, I did a lot of clinical reporting was part of a number of research projects, in designing data collection and reporting tools. Does this mean I get to call myself an expert in clinical research and style myself a Research Officer like she does?

By Christine (the… (not verified) on 19 Feb 2013 #permalink

@Todd W.

Sucks that they removed your comments d/t not allowing for anonymous comments.

I would hope that they would reconsider considering the harassment some receive from using their real names from anti-vaxxers.

How I view the vaccinators?

1. Infection promoters
2. Germ denialists

Justthevax and The Poxes are now history.

By Just The Pox (not verified) on 19 Feb 2013 #permalink


Yeah, I tried explaining my reasons, but the editor is adamant. Apparently, the appearance of using a real name is more important than actual content.

@Just The Pox

Oh, high, thingy! Trying out a new handle, are we?

Todd W.,

It doesn't matter. It's the thought that counts. And I am certain I'll be putting your own blog to shame if only you'll accept the challenge. But why wouldn't you?

By Just The Pox (not verified) on 20 Feb 2013 #permalink

Stay classy thingy, stay classy.

Thingy just got her sorry a$$ kicked off the "Just the Vax" blog, by Science Mom. Nice catch Todd W.

She just gets worse, doesn't she. Here cookie.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 15 Mar 2013 #permalink