Ad hominem and harassment: How antivaccine activists work

For some reason, I was really beat last night, and, given that this weekend is a holiday for a large proportion of the country (if, perhaps, not for a large proportion of my readership), I don't feel too bad about slacking off a bit by mentioning a couple of short bits that I wanted to blog about but didn't get around to. And what better topic to blog about on Good Friday than the exact opposite of what this Easter season is supposed to be about, namely the behavior of antivaccinationists? I realize it's an easy target, but, hey, I'm tired. Besides, it amuses me, and, as I've said so many times before, this blog is about what I like and what amuses me. You're just along for the ride, and if you like what I like, great. If not, there are plenty of other blogs out there.

This particular bit of misbehavior on the part of the antivaccine movement happened earlier this week and hit rather close to home. Remember nearly four years ago, when the Boy Wonder (Jake Crosby) launched an attack against me in which he accused me of having an undisclosed conflict of interest putting me in essence in the pay of Sanofi-Aventis. It was utterly ridiculous, as always, and based on his usual "six degrees of separation" conspiracy mongering, but it did spark antivaccinationists to start writing and calling the Board of Governors of my university demanding that I be fired or disciplined. Fortunately, the medical school and university stood by me. Indeed, he medical school dean even called me and asked if I felt threatened. When I likened the antivaccine activists harassing me to animal rights loons, she totally "got it," which is why I recommend that comparison to any other academic who is subject to this sort of harassment. In any case, nothing came of it, other than some agita on my part, when I wasn't sure whether Jake's sliming would gain traction.

Even with Jake having completely nuked his bridges to the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism (AoA) and the antivaccine activist organization SafeMinds, it would appear that the antivaccine movement still likes to try to harass its critics at work. Earlier this week, I received an e-mail alert from the Autism Action Network (A-CHAMP) with the Subject: header of "Take Action: Paul Offit claims we know autism is prenatal." (Yes, I am on the mailing lists of a number of antivaccine crank and other crank organizations, the better to have blogging material come to me, rather than having to seek it out.) Right on schedule, a couple of days later, on April 16, the antivaccine crank blog AoA published this "Take Action" notice:

Note: Here is an easy to use action alert to ask Dr. Paul Offit's bosses to Action alertrequest that he stop making "stuff" (another word would fit well) up about autism - as a distraction for the epidemic and to protect his industry land connections. Click HERE.

Offit: "When you have autism, you are born with autism"

Ask Offit's bosses to stop him making stuff up

In a recent interview with Medscape ( millionaire vaccine industrialist and spokesman, Paul Offit, MD, pretends that he knows that autism begins before birth, which denies that autistic regression occurs, “When you have autism, you are born with autism. There is no changing that, and to some people, that is helpful to know.” We thought this might come as a surprise to many people who watched their healthy child regress into autism, and anybody who follows autism research.

Offit promotes himself as one of America’s leading authorities on autism, even though, like most parents, he has no professional training in autism. Which may account for him saying things that have no foundation in either the medical literature, or the experience of hundreds of thousands of people. And he has several jobs at very prestigious institutions, which one would hope would value a close adherence to truth and known facts. Offit is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology, and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

If you are tired of credentialed elites with obvious conflicts of interest making up stuff about autism that conveniently supports their own financial interests please click on the Take Action link above to send an email to Offit’s bosses at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s of Hospital of Pennsylvania.

And why not give Offit’s bosses a call and ask them to ask Offit to stop making things up.

Amy Gutman, President, University of Pennsylvania, (215) 898-7221

Steven M. Altschuler, MD, CEO, Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (267) 426-6143

Please share this message with friends and family.

This is how antivaccinationists roll. They don't have the evidence. They don't have the science. They don't have the clinical epidemiology. So they attack the messenger. They've been attacking Paul Offit this way for years. They've attacked me this way, but appear to have backed off now that it's become clear to them that their attacks don't gain any traction at my university and that I now view them as a badge of honor. Nowadays, the antivaccine cranks seem to be focusing largely on law professor Dorit Reiss and Forbes blogger Emily Willingham. At some point, new pro-science bloggers will earn the ire of the antivaccine movement–and I will congratulate them when they do–and become the new favorite target of these cranks. They also never learn. In the culture of academia, freedom of academic expression is highly valued, and if that expression happens to be in support of science it's incredibly unlikely that any university's administration would act to silence an academic like Dr. Offit, Prof. Reiss, or myself, as much annoyance as such e-mail and phone campaigns might cause deans and chairs. Indeed, a supporter of Stanislaw Burzynski tried the same thing on me just this year, and one of the associate deans told me that dealing with such cranks was just part of the job.

Still, years ago, I didn't know that. I really thought that my job might be in jeopardy if cranks targeted me at work. Cranks rely on that fear to intimidate and silence newbies. I also realize that I'm lucky to be in academia. If I worked for a private hospital or clinic, for instance, it's quite conceivable that the administration would find my extracurricular activities too troublesome to tolerate. Others who speak out against the antivaccine movement who aren't in medicine or science and work for corporate America could also find that their bosses aren't supportive of extracurricular activities that result in complaints and—to them—potentially adverse publicity. Government employees are particularly vulnerable because of political considerations and rules about advocating for causes; sometimes supervisors are just plain spineless. This is how the antivaccine movement silences bloggers. As much as I love to welcome new voices to the pro-science fold, I do want them to understand that they could potentially fall victim to attacks like the one most recently launched on Paul Offit, the attacks I've suffered over the last nine years, and the attacks that frequently target Dorit Reiss and Emily Willingham, among others. Such attacks used to frighten me; now I consider them, at most, to be an annoyance, not to mention as a badge of honor that I'm being effective.

I also take my amusement in noting that character assassination and ad hominem attacks aren't just the weapon of choice of the antivaccine movement against its enemies, but also against itself. I need to fire up the microwave for some fresh popcorn to watch the latest internecine bloodletting going on in the antivaccine movement, courtesy of—of course!—Jake Crosby, who's busily re-nuking all the bridges to his former friends and allies that he started nuking about a year ago. This time around, he's busily continuing his attacks on former ally and mentor Mark Blaxill in a post entitled Mark Blaxill Didn’t Disclose Pharma Conflict at 2001 IOM Meeting:

Other than identify himself as a parent, Blaxill revealed no conflict of interest whatsoever. He only stated that his research was not supported by any funding source as IOM requested that he disclose. What he did not reveal was that he was still in the employ of Boston Consulting Group, which still had vaccine manufacturers as clients. He would admit this in email to SafeMinds’ board of directors the following year and to omnibus attorney Mike Williams the year after that. Blaxill even consulted for Merck.

Jake's a crank whom I detest, all the more so after having actually met him in person about a year ago, but it is rather amusing to see some of the people who cheered him on as he tried to accuse me of undisclosed COIs getting a taste of their own medicine from the Frankenstein monster they created. Sure, his "logic," such as it is, is completely based on conspiracy fantasies and support of pseudoscience, but that's always the case, a world in which vaccines cause autism and all-pervasive, all-powerful pharmaceutical companies will do anything to silence it, even buying off people like Mark "Not a Doctor, Not a Scientist" Blaxill apparently not to push too hard against vaccines. Of course, if that really were the case, one wonders why those evil pharma overlords wouldn't just co-opt Blaxill completely and have him "convert" to being pro-science, having seen the light? After all, if what Jake writes is true Blaxill is too stupid to be an effective double agent.

There, as tired as I am, I feel better.


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Whilst on my woo 'rounds' earlier, I was unable ( and am still) to view AoA despite trying various methods- and it's not a problem with connectivity etc.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

millionaire vaccine industrialist and spokesman, Paul Offit, MD

That's priceless; from now on I'm going to refer to Andrew Wakefield as "millionaire autism biomed industrialist and spokesman, Andrew Wakefield." Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

I think AoA is having problems. I couldn't access it last night at all, and this morning it's only intermittently accessible. This reminds me very much of when we were having server issues over at SBM due to load and suggests to me that they either had a post that got more traffic than their server can handle, have an issue with server configuration, or are under a DDoS attack.

Is AoA on Typepad? I haven't tried to get to AoA, but Typepad sites that I regularly read have been inaccessible this morning.

@Sarah A: Good catch on that "millionaire" bit. It's possible that Offit has a net worth of around that much, but that club isn't as exclusive as it once was. As Sam Goldwyn used to say, "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

Thanks for writing this, Orac. There are a few anti-vaxers out there trying to figure out who I am, probably with the intent of putting my information out there so their rabid dogs can harass me at home or work and complain to my employer. All they have to do to get me to shut up is provide evidence in support of their claims. But they can't do that, so they have to resort to harassment.

I have to admire Dorit and Emily for being vocal under their real names. Takes a lot of courage and fortitude.

Speaking of agita, there was the time I was "outed" in an Internet forum by a fairly well-known antivax loon - who decided that I was an employee of the CDC (talk about your horrific conflict of interest!) and posted my supposed contact info including e-mail address.

Too bad I've never been employed by or associated with the CDC. How the CDC ever got to be the embodiment of Evil I'll never know.

AoA's link to the Offit Medscape interview by Art Caplan was dead, but I got to read the article, which was quite good, despite Offit overreaching by indicating that all autistics are born with it.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

You have to be registered as a health care provider in order to see the Medscape article and in order to post comments...which didn't stop many of the anti-vaccine cranks from posting comments.

If you "google" or copy and paste, the article and the 48 comments, including mine, should could up:

To Vaccinate or Not: Calming Worried Parents

Maybe AoA could organize a campaign to harass health workers in Vietnam (for organizing vaccination efforts to stem a severe measles outbreak there). Or even go on the offensive against parents of measles victims. Hey, it "worked" for the Australian Vaccination Network.

""Vietnam is in the grip of its worst ever measles outbreak, with the infection tied to at least 108 deaths since December in a toll that is expected to climb.

Previously, the worst year was 2009 to 2010, when two people died of measles in the Southeast Asian country. Authorities blame parents for not getting their children vaccinated and the three-to-five year cyclical nature of the virus, making this a particularly dangerous moment. The country is stepping up its efforts to immunize children under three years old."

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

Well, this is as good a time as any... to air DW's

*The Sceptics' Guide to Very Safe Commenting and Blogging
For the Benefit of Youngsters, Newbies and Lurkers Alike*

The internet is littered with malignant, misanthropic prevarication and if you irk its perpetators, too you, like Orac and Dr Offitt, can be a target of their wrath
And who wants that?

How do I know this?
Because I have observed bright, well-meaning, fabulous people harassed at work and home and even getting sued because they wrote truthfully in opposition to whimsy-based medicine in defence of reality.

A physicist complained to a radio station that aired malicious woo and wound up in a "debate" that wasn't and later being sued for calling anti-science what it was. ( The case was thrown out of court)

A gay, hiv+ university lab scientist was harassed at work and home because he wrote truthfully about hiv/ aids meds. And I believe has also been sued recently.

A few of Orac's minions have suffered in similar fashion. You know who you are, oh defenders of the (not) faith.

How can a cautious person defend against such abusive, haranguing, loathsome poppycock and still speak up? Here are a few simple, easy-to-follow rules:

- Don't ever disclose your actual, entire name UNLESS you are prepared for the consequences
- Don't ever comment on woo-based sites UNLESS you have undertaken evasive manoeuvring: protect your e-mail
- Be especially careful with anti-vaxxers because they have axes to grind and you don't want to become their grinding stone. They believe that you are part of the grand conspiracy of pharma malfeasance (tm) and are being paid mightily- thus you are fair game to them
- Toss out some distractors
- Don't say where you work
- Remember these people like lawyers and have money
- Have fun

Personally, I use two of my four real names and do not disclose my location.
Unfortunately, I found out that personal information about large business transactions I made is on the net- which a brilliant detective might be able to ferret out knowing two of my four names. Fortunately, my critics probably wouldn't be brilliant detectives, judging from their ideas about 'science', so I suppose I'm home free.

If I had it to do over, I'd be even more cautious and would use a different 'nym because mine is exactly the same as that of a lovely lady in Tasmania- I hope she hasn't been aggravated because of me.

I'd probably also present myself as male despite my feminism ( my two last names are masculine personal names and they sound cool together suggesting a distinct persona that is ironic if you knew me).

So don't say I didn't warn you.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

My first and last names together are fairly uncommon but luckily the lunatic fringe can't mess with my source of income (thank you, Uncle Sugar), so even if they were able to track me down there's a limit to the financial damage they might do*.

I suppose they could try to get me kicked out of the American Legion. Horrors.

*I don't see it happening, compared to some of the posters here I'm very small potatoes.

I just spend a whole class period on Tuesday talking about vaccines and the anti-vaccine movement with my students. Everyone was pretty well informed and we all had a good laugh at Wakefield, McCarthy and the ant-vaccine cranks.

I'm retired, I have a common first / last name combo (there are two of us in town, unrelated), I'm a very small voice in the discussion, and I'm better armed than most police, but I still wouldn't want the loons to know who I am.

But I ain't afraid to post my IP. Come at me, guys! I'll leave a port open for ya.

I think ad hominem attacks are deplorable.

BTW, who is this anti-vax crank Cathy Jameson they're now promoting? What a smug-faced loon.

@ Jeff1971:

Jameson is a/k/a "Mamacita" at TMR where you may find even more of her....erm... writing.
Her annoyance factor level rivals that of Stagliano, Goes and MacNeil- i.e. as high ( or is it low?) as you can go.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

given that this weekend is a holiday for a large proportion of the country (if, perhaps, not for a large proportion of my readership)

There's no need to be a monotheist to make a holiday out of the annual airing of The Ten Commandments.

Ah, the Thinking Mothers. What a great name for that sliver of society for whom it is so very, very important to believe that they are smarter than doctors.

Put another way, anti-vaxxers.

Come on, Narad, you have to do *something* festive.

Altho' I'm an atheist ( and a large number of friends, colleagues and family are similarly inclined) I shall celebrate burgeoning nature and the fact that we got by the last winter / ice age by the skin of our teeth or suchlike**.

I plan to drive with one of my creatures to the [redacted] sea, watch the boats, drink and then have SE Asian food and ice cream. That's festive if I get dressed up a little.

** the angel of death left us alone?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

Watching The Ten Commandments isn't festive?

There's also another holiday a lot more important than Easter to us young folks this Sunday ;)

Government employees are particularly vulnerable because of political considerations and rules about advocating for causes

This is complicated (PDF). Public employees, unlike private ones, generally enjoy some protection when speaking on matters of public concern. The exception is when it undermines the employer or perhaps is intrinsically insubordinate, such as speaking for the
employer when not authorized to do so.

Is AoA on Typepad? I haven’t tried to get to AoA, but Typepad sites that I regularly read have been inaccessible this morning.

Yes, with domain forwarding to Demand Media crapspace.

The problems with AoA' s site was a server outage. A server farm in Utah was hit by problems and hundreds of sites were down for several hours.

By Mrs Grimble (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

AdamG, are you referring to what I think you are referring to?

By skeptiquette (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

@ Johnny #16

If you mean public IP or even your machines (usually stable) dynamic IP, be aware that can map to your MAC address. Either can map to your general area and probably with some digging to a small neighborhood area.

By Spectator (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

If you mean public IP or even your machines (usually stable) dynamic IP, be aware that can map to your MAC address.

You might want to G—gle "loopback address."

I've experienced some frightening threats but law suits don't bother me. People have come after me for things I've said publically but speaking the truth is protection enough. That said, I avoid using identifying information on certain social mediums. I'm mainly uncomfortable people figuring out who the people in my family are and harassing them.

"Toss out some distractors"

Beautiful weather we're having here in Singapore...

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

It's gorgeous here too - average snow depth has already decreased to 28 inches.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink


You mean you're not Bonnie Offit? I'm shocked!


Why does that article ring so true to me? Hehehehe...

@ren: it's a mystery.

By Dorit Reiss (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

@ roadstergal:

" here in Singapore"
Me too! We'll have to meet for lunch at Tao's. Best Mei Fun in town.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

There’s also another holiday a lot more important than Easter to us young folks this Sunday ;)


@adamg - Easter makes a lot more sense if you partake of mind altering substances. Plus there are all those jelly beans and peeps around.

I had many concerns when I started becoming outspoken not about my employer as I am on long term disability but more about personal safety. I had heard how vile anti-vaxxers can be. I tried hiding behind only an initial for my last name at the beginning but so many sites were requiring Facebook login. I couldn't hide but I reasoned I would be safe because Canadian. Then the Southern Alberta outbreak happened and I learned we have homegrown nutters. I would just like to warn any of them that if they chose to confront me I have a parasympathetic nervous system disorder and verbal dysdecorum.

I would also like to apologize to Dr Harriet Hall. My early attempts to hide my identity as Harriet H has meant some anti-vaxxers mistaking me for her. How they could mistake my ramblings for a doctor... Well I can imagine how they could do that. Sorry Dr Hall if you have taken the heat for anything I've said.

By harriet huestis (not verified) on 18 Apr 2014 #permalink

My real name is very uncommon. If one looks for my name, one ends with me. I once had some minor problems with some people defending a tree-talkers. I posted under a pseudonymn, that also is part of the name I use for my music, so, since my real name was some sort of common knowledge in some musical circles. One let me know that she knew where I lived, while it was actually my dad, so I'm a little bit more carefull now, to post things that the 'open-minded' nuts might upset under some name that can be tracked back to my real name.

Made some interpunction mistakes, but I hope it is still readable.

There's new stupidity at the usual place. Someone with SATS results in the mid-50s has done some awesomely clever looking analysis, with tables and everything, to come to the conclusion about the recent federal survey results on autism:

'The CDC ADDM network reports raise far more questions than they answer and the changes over time make it difficult to answer even the most basic questions about what is going on with autism in the United States.'

You might think the faint glimmer of a lightbulb might have gone on, and they might have realized just how damned hard it is to survey autism prevalence, but no. On they go with how its gone up twenty nine thousand percent in the last month and so forth.

Why do they even bother to harass us when they think we are all bots anyhow?

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 19 Apr 2014 #permalink

You might think the faint glimmer of a lightbulb might have gone on, and they might have realized just how damned hard it is to survey autism prevalence, but no.

Ah, but they call for a census:

"The CDC has yet to conduct a population-based count of people with autism of all ages and severities which would lay this issue to rest."

So, it would be just like the regular census, which cost $42 billion in 2010. But with medical records.

It was extemely competent of AoA to leave out the figures from the SafeMinds original, though.

^ (And psychometric testing.)

This is good: "For some reports, the only source of a percentage is a bar graph so I have put those percentages in regular font as they are taken from the graphs with an approximate adjustment for the ratio of boys to girls in the typical cohort."

This "methodology" spits out 30% for Arizona. However, intellectual disability for states other than Utah ranges from 4.2 to 5.5 per 1000, and Figure 3 makes it obvious that AZ must be 4.2. This trivially yields (4.2/1000)(33,768) = 141.8256 ID cases out of 530 ASD cases, or 26.76%.

Maybe Katie should have let Cynthia Nevison, Ph.D. (civil engineering) do more than "the graphs."

Katie also misreads the figures for Arkansas and New Jersey: the fact that a proportion is the same in boys and in girls doesn't mean that that's the proportion for the population.

^ Wait, yes it does. Now I'm just confusing myself.

What to call these people...? 'Cranks' might bring a libel suit, and 'nutters' is right out, so how about 'modern miasmatists'?

'Miasma theory' was the idea that cholera and other diseases were spread by 'miasmas' or 'bad airs.' Keyword search 'Thames' + 'Big Stink' and read up.


One shouldn't use one's 'legal name' for anything online except when signing 'legal documents.' For all else, use your imagination, the more vividly the better. Even using parts of your 'legal name' is risky.

A full name + birth date = identity theft, so to the extent that these are discoverable, you're at risk. Never post even the year you were born or your age.

I'm fully protected. Even if someone got my 'legal name' and had super-sleuth powers, they couldn't get within about 10 kilometres of my physical address (keeping one's address out of all public records takes some doing but is highly worthwhile). My job is also immunized against retaliation by miasmatists and others.

Now all I need is the secret URL for Big Pharma so I can sign up for some part-time income as a Pharma Shill.


Re. AOA being down: I thought they might've had a case of measles.

Re. that 'other holiday:' In about ten years the whole escapade will look like the original Prohibition, and people will go to the pub for fish & chips with a pint and a puff. And more chips. With the exotic spicy sauce. And more fish please. Yes, and two rounds of desert after that. Right!

Regarding the boner in #45, I wasn't able to get the New Jersey intellectual-disability number from Fig. 3 (4.8/1000) to jibe with the 29% cited, with or without accounting for the 93% availability of special-ed records.

Georgia works out, with the cited 37% implying 4.9/1000. North Carolina's inferred 5.5/1000 yields 31.7%–33%. But NJ won't sanity-check.

@Narad #44--as someone who has been practicing pediatrics in AZ since 2000 I have some observational points (both from being in Tucson for 13 year and now in AZ for 2 1/2 mos.

1. Parents of children with developmental disabilities shop for the autism diagnosis. Why? Because the way our educational system is set up in the public schools, if your child carries an autism diagnosis, they get much more assistance at school than say a PDD-NOS diagnosis.

2. There's a sad shortage of developmental pediatricians in AZ (i.e. pediatricians who have done a 3-year fellowship), but I have seen more of these pediatric "clinics" where a non-board-certified pediatrician (yes, they have an MD and have done a pediatric residency) will pretty much hang an autism diagnosis on any child who comes in the door.

3. Vaccine rates for Arizona have been steadily falling over the last 10 years. It's been documented in several papers (I'll cite them later--I'm in a rush)--yet autism is "increasing" here and it's the vaccines? NO. IT. ISN'T.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 20 Apr 2014 #permalink

I swear, I have read and re-read Weisman's article and have come to the conclusion that she, like many @ AoA and TMR, believe that autism is a fixed, discrete quality or trait that can be measured like weight, blood glucose or bp. Thus we have comments like a "37-fold increase" and the mantra " 1 in 10,000, then 1 in 2500....... to 1 in 68", so beloved of Dachel.

They manage to reify a concept about cognitive/ social abilities greatly based upon language, statistics, observation and other ephermeral notions.

The percentage of children with ASDs keeps increasing, they wail. Where are the older adults with ASD and AS, they shriek? The number of cases increased as the number of vaccines increased, they yeowl.

So ideas like diagnostic substitution, increased surveillance and diagnosis shopping ( as Dr Chris notes above) are totally meaningless to them. I 've noticed that there is a trend amongst them ( and some other woos) to see biological/ psychological processes, conditions and events in concrete terms. Often their lack of knowledge in physiology is covered over with manufactured, fantasy-based ideas about how 'vaccine damage' works influenced by thought leaders like Blaylock and AJW ( Teresa Conrick is a prime example of this). It reminds me of how ancient European cartographers, when drawing an area where they lacked any information, penned in "Here be Sea monsters".
Instead we have, " Here be vaccines". Fears promptly fill in areas of ignorance.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 20 Apr 2014 #permalink

I would actually rather enjoy watching someone try to harass my immediate family, consisting as it does of six and a quarter feet of bad-tempered retired Scotch-Irish grunt.

(I don't count the cats or the German shepherd).

DW:I swear, I have read and re-read Weisman’s article and have come to the conclusion that she, like many @ AoA and TMR, believe that autism is a fixed, discrete quality or trait that can be measured like weight, blood glucose or bp.

I think that's mostly for their convenience. After all, they can't afford to admit that autistic people are people. So they have to devise as many categories as they can to keep autistic people, and more specifically, their kids, out of the category of human.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

@ PGP:

I truly think that some of these advocates see human abilities as binary ON/ OFF switches rather thaneach being a very wide continuum that includes ASDs, NTs et al. Similarly, black-and-white thinking exhibited as " us vs them".

People with *other* prejudices may also have similar cognitive issues that orient them in that wrong direction- in other words, it's not entirely emotional. BUT - and here we go again- executive functioning gone wrong.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

DW: I truly think that some of these advocates see human abilities as binary ON/ OFF switches rather thaneach being a very wide continuum that includes ASDs, NTs et al. Similarly, black-and-white thinking exhibited as ” us vs them”.

I'm highlighting this specifically, because I agree with it the most. I have ADD myself, which makes some things difficult and some things easy. I can read quickly and process most written information. Audio learning isn't for me; unless there's a lot of differentiation, talking and even some kinds of music quickly become a mess of whirrgarble.

The problem I have with a lot of the anti-vaxxers is that they seem obsessed with the things their kids can't do, and most abominably, refuse to give their kids any useful help at all. It's like they want their kids to fail, and then they act surprised when the kids aren't progressing.

They also refuse to meet the kids in their comfort zones- they make the kids hug people, they make them use eye contact. And worst of all, they gloat over deaths.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

Jake has noticed this, and made a comment -

He links to a copy of the entire post by our host at

not to the post here. I'd think that Gia Gazette would be in violation of the copyright for this blog, but that's for our host and Science Blogs do decide.

After all, they can’t afford to admit that autistic people are people. So they have to devise as many categories as they can to keep autistic people, and more specifically, their kids, out of the category of human.


I truly think that some of these advocates see human abilities as binary ON/ OFF switches rather thaneach being a very wide continuum that includes ASDs, NTs et al. Similarly, black-and-white thinking exhibited as ” us vs them”.

Yah, that kind of thinking leads to people saying things like -

This probably sounds horrible, but I don’t really care about evangelicals. Sooner the old guard dies off, sooner we can have nice stuff, like, oh, universal health care. Scientific progress would be nice too; we either have to wait for people to pop off or jettison states for the US to start producing internationally known scientists again.

Johnny - A citizen of a state that should probably be jettisoned

@ Johnny:

There's a school of thought ( about thinking) that would argue that stereotypes arise as a means of simplifying overly complex information - i.e. that comes about because of the nature of *memory itself*-
OBVIOUSLY this doesn't make but right or fair but may enable us to understand why it is so prevalent.
AND why we may need to actively work against these undercurrents in ourselves.( I know that there are also additional arguments that we find it harder to go against people who 'look like us' etc- too much to go into here).

Now imagine how much harder it must be to remain fair and use all of the information IF one is not NT.

Which brings us around to Jake:
he doesn't like that Orac uses a word ( "detest") that he seems to express regularly if we can read into his invective about Mark, Orac, Dr Offit, Brian Deer et al. Even yours truly and other minions.

In Jake's book, if you don't tow the line and agree with him on every point, you are entirely lost. I would venture that this is probably not purely personality issues but involves cognitive differences as well.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

this doesn't make IT right or fair

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

From Denice

this doesn’t make IT right or fair

This is something many of us would like Politicalguineapig to think about.

@ Chemmomo:

Of course.
In the meantime, I would hold with my ancient family motto-
*Something is better than nothing*
(Probably sounds impressive in the original Franglo-Saxon)

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

Poor Jake.

He thinks nothing of calling people pharma shills—thinks he's perfectly justified, even—and accusing them of all manner of evil, etc., but when I make an honest statement, namely that I do not like him—that I, in fact, detest him, even, for what I consider to be excellent reasons—suddenly he's clutching his pearls. Hilariously, my statement was actually fairly mild for me. No major insults, just a clear statement that I don't like the guy. Why should I, any more than he should like me?

It just goes to show that, as I've suspected for a long time, that, spoiled brat that he is, Jake can dish it out but can't take it. I am amused.

As for the copy, I don't know if there's much I can do about that other than forward the bogus link to the powers that be at NatGeo. It's incredibly hard to stop that sort of content theft. Most such sites are located outside the US, and unless you're ready to spend a lot of money and a lot of time it's almost impossible to reverse the content theft.

No doubt the content thief would wail "But I included credit!"

(While not making any apparent effort not to make the post look like an original piece. Meh.)

Johnny: Sometimes my frustrations get the better of me. It's just, after a while of election years where the most reactionary people rise to the top, when one constantly hears about states trying to rebrand creationism, and we get outbreaks of preventable diseases, frustration rises to the point that fifty states don't sound quite so nifty anymore.Seriously, it's gotten so bad that my first reaction to a story about schools in Kansas was 'they still have an education system?"

(And btw, respond to my comments on the thread they were posted on, please.)

Heck, if I were in power, I'd be lobbying to make vaccines unavailable in certain areas. Maybe anti-vaxxers would sing a different tune if they saw why their grandparents and parents valued vaccines.
And again, I categorize because it's easier. Thinking of anti-vaxxers as people just gets too depressing.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

Rats. AoA appears to be back up.

I'm currently getting "unknown domain" spit out of Firefox (weirdly, a traceroute resolves to, ""

Narad: I've been getting "unknown domain" for the past 12 hours. How am I going to slum at AoA if their server is down?

I noticed it was down earlier today. According to AoA's Twitter feed, it appears to be a problem with TypePad. I'm surprised AoA uses TypePad to host the blog.

tow the line
Rather than "toe the line"? Perhaps it is a fishing metaphor, and DW is trolling.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

"No doubt the content thief would wail “But I included credit!”"

I once had someone pull one of my posts and then add a statement to it that was VERY different from what I was saying. Without noting that the statement was added.

By Matt Carey (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

@ herr doktor bimler:

No. That's an actual error. Rather surprising, no?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

-btw- I just had a drink.

I think that Orac has been incredibly patient with Jake, an annoying, nasty little twerp who has tried to make trouble for him at work, harassed him in public and written trashy speculations about him that might be read by patients, unnecessarily alarming them.

Trying- and I tried, believe me- to communicate simple concepts about likelihood to him, with his rigidly ossified, fantasy-based worldview, was like trying to teach algebra to a dining room table, i.e. an exercise in futility; nothing sinks in beneath the pristine, varnished surface.

Because I work with students and potential students, I can't, for the life of me, understand how he's managed to acquire degrees from reasonably respectable universities and is now in a SB doctoral programme. Aren't these places competitive in the least?

I think he's well on his way to becoming another woo-meister who pontificates about 'Science' - which he wouldn't know if it hit him over the head with a brick- and calling everyone with whom he disagrees evil incarnate, he alone being a beacon of justice and enlightenment. What's so moral about frightening people away from vaccination for children anyway?
He'll give Mike and Gary a run for their money.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Apr 2014 #permalink

No. That’s an actual error. Rather surprising, no?

Surprising enough to make me fall off my chair...

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 22 Apr 2014 #permalink

We in the states that should be jettisoned could make quite a nice country for ourselves. I don't really understand the determination, here and in other nations, to keep the borders the same as they were drawn generations ago. So many Blue-Staters, like politicalguineapig, not only don't view us Red-Staters as fellow citizens, but don't even view us as human and would enthusiastically applaud our extermination. Why would we want to be part of the same country?

LW - Another citizen of a state that should probably be jettisoned. 

I made the mistake of registering with Disqus and commenting on Natural News trying to fight the good fight. I recently got banned for calling out Mr Adams on some particularly misleading Bunkum... Since then the spam in my email has been astronomical! literally 50 mails a day offering to increase appendage size and lots of other distasteful stuff. Spam filters are catching most but some still gets through. Never had a problem before. Thoroughly dislikeable person and terrible site! I had no idea of the vehemence of these people! The names i was called,, they really have no use for facts or science over there!

@ Krebiozen:

Well, I'm not perfect- pretty f@cking fabulous- but not perfect.

@ Bags:

You know, spam e-mail ads *were* Mikey's business prior to NN in the form of Aerial ( sp?) software which he sold off several years ago.

You might want to look at MIkey's bio ( @ Health in order to laugh at him in retribution for the recent woes he's caused you. It's hilarious.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 22 Apr 2014 #permalink

Sorry to hear about the email spam.

I've been registered with Disqus for a few weeks and commented on MJ and a couple other places.
Other than a daily email telling me if someone has responded to my comment or one of the commenters I follow like lilady or Dorit Reiss has posted a comment, I haven't noticed a particular change in my spam content.

But, perhaps it's something about Natural News. I seldom read it and haven't tried commenting there.

But, thanks for helping fight the good fight!

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 22 Apr 2014 #permalink

I think its something he purposely did after i was banned. I was arguing about Louis Pasteur's last words at the time. Unreal the things they say. In the words of Terry Pratchett.. its an @ss kicking contest with a Porcupine! The fight must go on though. Enough people have died and suffered needlessly from this misinformation!

@ Bags: I'm registered on Discus and I've never had problems with Spam. I don't post comments on any website or blog that is "iffy" and "I don't do Facebook"....which has eliminated my activities on the Ho-Po.

LW: Uh, no, I do think you guys are human, and I never said anything about extermination. Wishing natural processes would accelerate is not the same as condoning murder. I probably should've been clearer.

I'm just kinda sick of the foot-dragging on progress, the blowhards that your states keep electing, and the whole grumbling from down under.

Now that I think about it, there are a lot of ways noticeable penalties could be creatively administered. PBS shuts down in red states, science documentaries, magazines and channels suddenly become unavailable, and anti-vaxxers only get allowed into amusement parks on certain days. ("You're from Marin? Sorry, you can only go here on Wednesdays..")

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 22 Apr 2014 #permalink

@ Bags: I’m registered on Discus and I’ve never had problems with Spam. I don’t post comments on any website or blog that is “iffy” and “I don’t do Facebook”….

If NN is harvesting Disqustink E-mail addresses (and I don't know if this is possible), it may well be a TOS violation. It's easy enough to test; just set up a throwaway address.

Speaking of which, it's not as though FB is particularly scrupulous about requiring real names.

@Denise Walter

I just read his Bio. He's superman! how can just one man achieve so much!

dear oh dear lol

@Politicalguineapig, "Uh, no, I do think you guys are human". Uncommonly decent of you. You don't think we're your fellow citizens, of course, as expected.

"I never said anything about extermination. Wishing natural processes would accelerate is not the same as condoning murder." Extermination via natural processes (e.g., disease) is still extermination and you would applaud it.

I am trying to view you generously, but it is hard.

I am trying to view you generously, but it is hard.

See #63 above.

PGP is *not* a bigot. PGP is just lazy.

@Johnny, no, I'm sorry to say, she really is a bigot. I can't search back on this iPhone, but there have been many arguments with her before.

Did you know that all men hate all women, though as men get older they get better at hiding it? Or that most white men are unemployed and that makes them feel all rapey and hateful? PGP knows these things.

LW: Extermination via natural processes (e.g., disease) is still extermination and you would applaud it.

Not if it's stuff the population is already doing to themselves, like, say the obesity problem in the south.

And, about the other stuff, stressed men tend to go out looking for trouble; if they used to be on top, they get more stressed and try to restore power by hurting people. How many mass shootings have there been in the past few years? And how many were carried out by non-whites?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 23 Apr 2014 #permalink if some members of a demographic can be proved to have done X, then all members of a demographic do X.

PGP, you sound eerily like my grandpappy used to when he was discussing n*****rs. Nice job.

Shay: I can't be racist against members of my own race. And any stressed population is going to see violence as an option; it's not just a US problem.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 23 Apr 2014 #permalink

I'm not calling you a racist; I'm calling you a bigot.

I can’t be racist against members of my own race.

Of course you can. Do you "wince" when you see Black women "saying stupid things in public"?

Politicalguineapig, when I'm stressed, I don't "go out looking for trouble". I don't go out at all. Your generalisations are making you look ignorant and silly.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 23 Apr 2014 #permalink

Are there peer-reviewed studies that prove herd immunity?

By Darlene Buckingham (not verified) on 27 Apr 2014 #permalink

Yes, there are. There hundreds of them, and they are often linked to. Many have been discussed on this blog. Some examples include:

Pediatrics. 2009 Jun;123(6):1446-51.
Parental refusal of pertussis vaccination is associated with an increased risk of pertussis infection in children.

Am J Epidemiol. 2008 Dec 15;168(12):1389-96. Epub 2008 Oct 15.
Geographic clustering of nonmedical exemptions to school immunization requirements and associations with geographic clustering of pertussis.

JAMA. 2000 Dec 27;284(24):3145-50.
Individual and community risks of measles and pertussis associated with personal exemptions to immunization.

Is there any reason why you would doubt this? Did you ever try finding the studies on your own, or did you just rely on the words from some website?

Also, Darlene, when you understand what herd immunity actually is, you can see that simple math alone proves the principle. Follow along with me:

1. Infectious diseases reside in hosts.
2. Infectious diseases also spread to new hosts.
3. For every infectious disease, there is a number which represents how good that disease is at spreading itself.
4. This number, which we'll call R-zero, is "how many NEW hosts, on average, does one infected host spread the disease to, in a population where everyone is susceptible to the disease?"
5. If a disease has an R-zero number below one, then it can be expected to die out - in just the same way that if you put your money into an investment that loses 10% of its value each period, eventually the value of that investment will drop to nothing.
6. By contrast, a disease that has an R-zero number above one can be expected to spread, and spread, and spread - as long as the pre-conditions that the R-zero number is based on still hold.
7. From 4., we know that one of those preconditions is that the disease can find susceptible hosts in the population. If we alter that, by making potential hosts less susceptible, we lower the disease's effective R-zero number.
8. If we lower a disease's effective R-zero number below one, it becomes a disease that dies out, rather than a disease which spreads and spreads and spreads.

Now, unless you can dispute one of the above statements, then you accept that herd immunity does in fact exist, just as a matter of mathematical logic. How MUCH do we have to reduce the susceptibility of the population to push the effective R-zero below the tipping point of 1? That's a much harder question, and it's highly dependent on the disease itself - but it doesn't change the principle.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 28 Apr 2014 #permalink

Some good news on the vaccine front

No warning letters posted yet.

Narad: No, because they know better, generally. If you grow up as a member of a minority group in the US with political aspirations, 'I represent everyone in the group' tends to get drilled into your head. Unfortunately, a lot of white women have completely forgotten the '70s and bought into the glamorization of the '50s.

JF: One man or a few hundred men doesn't balance out the thousand men who prefer violence.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 28 Apr 2014 #permalink

No, because they know better, generally.

And you take this to support your contention that "I can’t be racist against members of my own race"?

I was just glancing at GR's sponsor list to see if any of them were likely candidates for FDA enforcement. Check this out: apparently, they think it's adequate to delete the word 'autism' from the definition of 'ATEC'.

Well, the FDA had better watch out...

it seems ( @ Autism Investigated) that a congressman is calling for an investigation of the fabled wrongdoings at the CDC : in a story from shot of truth/ Focus Autism, a Rep Posey believes in the conspiracy mongering and habitual fol-de-rol being broadcast by Hooker and Crosby.

Apparently, they will have an audience at Autism One as they are both presenters. Perhaps another politiician will speak.
Oh joy.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 28 Apr 2014 #permalink

Unfortunately, a lot of white women have completely forgotten the ’70s and bought into the glamorization of the ’50s.

What the crap does this mean?

Some good news on the vaccine front:

Not really, the AVers are still going at it hot & heavy.

But it is good news for autistic children whose parents are chasing cures: they (the children) may be protected from their parents' ill advised, unethical, DIY "science" tortu-- I mean, treatments.

@Liz - after I typed it, I knew I didn't get it quite right....since it dealt more with the biomedical side of the house.


One man or a few hundred men doesn’t balance out the thousand men who prefer violence

I'd like to see your proof that a lot of men, or most men, "prefer violence".

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 28 Apr 2014 #permalink

I’d like to see your proof that a lot of men, or most men, “prefer violence”.

I don't even prefer Hanes.