Sigh. Here we go again. Robert De Niro is letting his antivaccine freak flag fly again, this time even higher than usual, by revealing that in the wake of the antivaccine debacle at his Tribeca Film Festival he is going to make his very own documentary about vaccines. It’s the continuation of a process that, depressingly, revealed Robert De Niro to be perhaps the biggest A-list antivaccine celebrity out there.
First, a bit of background to bring newbies up to speed. A couple of months ago, science-based medicine advocates were scratching their heads over news that the Tribeca Film Festival was going to include among its documentaries a film called VAXXED: From Cover-up to Catastrophe. The movie, which was directed by antivaccine icon Andrew Wakefield and a one time producer for the pop medicine daytime show The Doctors, Del Bigtree. From the trailer alone, which contained a number of deceptive audio edits, it was obvious that this movie was going to tell the myth of the “CDC whistleblower,” William Thompson, a CDC scientist who’s been a frequent topic of blogging here due to his having nearly two years ago been recorded by a biochemical engineer turned incompetent antivaccine epidemiologist named Brian Hooker who demonstrated his incompetence with an epically incompetent and simplistic “reanalysis” of a study by Frank DeStefano and coauthored by Thompson that claimed to have found that the CDC had “covered up” a link between the MMR vaccine and autism in African-American boys, thus confirming the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement. Transcripts were released, and documents given to a Congressman by Thompson leaked, and the story keeps going on and on.
Truly, it has turned into an urban legend, and this is the legend told by VAXXED, an execrable film containing a heaping helping of antivaccine pseudoscience and misinformation. It’s a movie you don’t even have to see to know that it’s antivaccine nonsense.
There was a considerable uproar over the inclusion of VAXXED in the Tribeca Film Festival, with its PR department characterizing the criticism as attempted “censorship” even though it was nothing of the sort. Meanwhile, I and others speculated that someone must have pulled some strings to get such an obviously bad movie full of antivaccine pseudoscience into Tribeca, perhaps an A-list celebrity antivaccinationist. I even speculated that it might have been Robert De Niro, one of the film festival’s founders, himself, although at the time no one had any knowledge or evidence that he had antivaccine proclivities. In fact, I was rather surprised when Robert De Niro admitted that it had been he who had unilaterally decided to include VAXXED in the film festival he founded, bypassing the regular submission and judging process. Ultimately, the festival yanked VAXXED, and antivaccinationists, who had viewed its inclusion in the festival as a vindication, went absolutely nuts in their outrage.
Not long after that, in April Robert De Niro let the mask drop and let his antivaccine freak flag fly for the first time in an interview on the TODAY SHOW. It was an interview that was painful to watch. De Niro revealed that he and his wife Grace Hightower had an autistic son and that he De Niro repeated old, long-debunked antivaccine talking points as the co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, Jane Rosenthal, looked on in horror and tried to rein him in. It turned out that his wife believed that something had “changed” in their son after being vaccinated. I also learned around the same time from someone who worked on the set of a movie De Niro appeared a few years ago in that Andrew Wakefield had been seen speaking with Hightower on set. My best guess was that the movie was likely to have been Machete, which was filmed in Austin and directed by Robert Rodriguez, who with his wife Elizabeth Avellán is a big booster of Andrew Wakefield.
However, Robert De Niro became an antivaccine loon, like the newly converted, he plans on doing something about it. He wants to make a movie, as described in this interview. But first, some antivaccine nonsense:
And I have to ask, you have an autistic child and your own film festival, Tribeca, started out with a controversy over an anti-vaccination documentary you programmed. What do you think you learned from choosing it and then choosing to not show it?
RD: Well, what I learned, first of all, there was a big reaction, which I didn’t see coming, and it was from filmmakers — supposedly, I have yet to find out who it was. I wanted to just know who they were, because to me there was no reason not to see the movie. The movie is not hurting anybody. It says something. It said something to me that was valid. Maybe some things were inaccurate, but if the movie was 20 percent accurate, it was worth seeing. And they were saying it’s because of the filmmaker and he was discredited, but how was he discredited? By the medical establishment? There’s a lot going on that I still don’t understand, but it makes me question the whole thing, and the whole vaccine issue is a real one. It’s big money. So it did get attention. I was happy about that. And I talked about another movie called Trace Amounts that I saw and spoke about it a lot, that people should see it, and it’s there. Something is there with vaccines, because they’re not tested in some ways the way other medicines are, and they’re just taken for granted and mandated in some states. And people do get sick from it. Not everybody, but certain people are sensitive, like anything, penicillin.
“I have yet to find out who it was”? Either he’s not trying that hard to find out (which would be good), or he is still really pissed off and is sending a message not unlike the threat he made last time he was interviewed to “find out” who complained about VAXXED. Be that as it may, let’s look at just what De Niro is saying. “The movie is not hurting anybody”? Really? It is a mass of conspiracy mongering and misinformation that, if it becomes widespread enough, could drive down vaccination rates and harm children. “Maybe some things were inaccurate, but if the movie was 20 percent accurate, it was worth seeing”? That might be fine for a fictionalized account of some event or other, but this movie is being represented as a documentary. It is being sold as a true story that is describing accurate science, when it is anything but that. De Niro wants to know who discredited Andrew Wakefield? Yes, it was the medical establishment, but it was also a dogged investigative reporter named Brian Deer, the British legal establishment, and just about anyone else with a knowledge of medical science who looked at Wakefield’s claims.
In fact, I’d argue that Wakefield discredited himself, and the rest of the world just reported how he did it. If De Niro is still unaware of that, he is clueless beyond belief.
So Robert De Niro has “questions.” So what? The answers are there for him if he would only open his eyes and shake off the torrent of misinformation that he’s come to believe, but I suspect that will not happen any time soon, given that he’s parrotting a version of the pharma shill gambit, the toxins gambit, and the easily refutable lie that vaccines aren’t tested adequately. He’s gone deep down the rabbit hole for a deep swig of the antivaccine Kool Aid.
Now here’s where he tells the interviewer that he’s making a movie:
Your hope is that eventually people will see the movie?
RD: Yeah, and you always say, you’re not against vaccines, you’re against what they put in vaccines that can hurt certain people who are allergic. It can kill them sometimes. And there’s such an industry. There’s big, big money in vaccines that the CDC will put ...
And you’d show this movie again, given the opportunity?
RD: No, I’m working on something else. Harvey Weinstein and I are working on doing a documentary, but I don’t what to talk much about it, because when I talk about it, something happens. But that’s what we plan to try to do.
Harvey Weinstein is one of the biggest producers in the business. He’s so big that Entourage based a character on him. If this is true, and Harvey Weinstein is bankrolling a vaccine documentary with Robert De Niro, that is a very good reason for advocates of science-based medicine to be worried. An A-list celebrity teaming with one of the biggest producers in the business who co-owns with his brother a film studio could be bad, very bad for the public perception of the science of vaccines, because the A-list celebrity who is making it with Weinstein has revealed himself to be very much antivaccine and in the thrall of the narrative of antivaccinationists like Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, and Brian Hooker. Unlike VAXXED, it’ll be a movie with glossy production values, slickly made, with the marketing muscle of a major Hollywood studio behind it and either hosted or at least promoted by a beloved A-list actor. Bigtree’s and Wakefield’s movie is primarily preaching to the converted, with Del Bigtree and Polly Tommey doing most of their publicity through Q&A sessions and Periscope videos to try to reach a wider audience, along with the occasional interview they can score on regular media.
In contrast, Weinstein and De Niro could take Wakefield’s lies, wrap them in the myth of the “CDC whistleblower,” add sympathetic anecdotes of parents struggling to care for their autistic children and repeating the same sorts of anecdotes as Jenny McCarthy about how they think their children "changed" right after vaccination, and make a compelling saga that you and I would know to be nonsense but would be very compelling to people not familiar with the old misinformation, tropes, and lies that antivaccine activists use to promote the idea that vaccines are dangerous. Even if the chances that this movie is ever made turn out to be small, I still think it’s something to be concerned about. Sure, it’s just a movie, but if it is made and marketed, it would be the biggest antivaccine propaganda film ever made by the heaviest hitters yet to make such a film.
Despite that, I actually do feel for Robert De Niro. Parents of children with autism like him are magnets for antivaccine activists and quacks and susceptible to their blandishments because of the very human desire to want an explanation for everything. Something must have caused my child's autism, they think, and feel guilty wondering if it was something they did. Enter antivaccinationists with an explanation that's simple, compelling, and oh so wrong. Add to that De Niro's celebrity, which attracts the really big name antivaccine loons, like Andrew Wakefield and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and it's easy to understand how De Niro and Hightower were seduced by antivaccine pseudoscience. That doesn't excuse them, but it is to me a mitigating factor.
De Niro apologists will likely point out that he has repeatedly said that he is not antivaccine. My response to that is that very few antivaccinationists actually publicly self-identify as antivaccine. (As an aside, I find the ones who do refreshing because of their honesty.) Knowing that being antivaccine is viewed unfavorably, the vast majority of them convince themselves either that they just have "questions" or, as Jenny McCarthy so famously did, that they are vaccine safety advocates. However, I've been at this long enough to recognize antivaccine rhetoric when I see it, and Robert De Niro is spouting pure antivaccine rhetoric. That makes the odds that any product of his collaboration with Harvey Weinstein will produce a scientifically accurate portrayal of issues of vaccine safety slim or none and that the documentary won't be antivaccine propaganda disguised as a vaccine safety expose zero..
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WOMBAT: Waste Of Money, Brains And Time.
Hundreds of studies, dozens of countries, tens of millions of children, two decades, and the result of every study of any size is completely unanimous. Vaccines don't cause autism. It's not being suppressed, it's been studied: over $400 million in the US alone. It's not been ignored. Nobody is hiding anything. Wakefield was simply wrong, as most studies are, in the end.
... but then fiddled his results, made stuff up and lied in order to hide the fact and to generate a massive personal income stream.
I've long had this thing.
When I want to be entertained, I turn toward Hollywood producers, directors and entertainers.
When I'm ill, I go to my doctor.
If I listen to an A-list celebrity, I'd have taken seven thousand forms of vitamins and other crap, which would have left me with 200/100 blood pressure, a pulse of 128, left ventricular hypertrophy, atrial flutter and aortic dilation of 2.2 cm, growing larger every day.
In short, as those were vital signs and issues measured in January, my hyperthyroidism would've progressed and that aortic issue would've advanced, the cardiac issue would have progressed, rather than significantly regressed.
I'll stick with the doctor for things medical, mechanics for the rare few issues with my car that I can't address, Hollywood for a few empty hours of escape from aches and pains accumulated over a long career in things military.
Because, there isn't a chemical possible to delude me otherwise, into a course toward self-destruction in such a sure manner as to ignore evidence based medicine.
That, despite my continued smoking. Toying with v-tach during withdrawl of nicotine isn't a good idea right now, I'll have to work with doctor on that, once I'm sufficiently stable.
I'll probably rush it slightly, as I'm concerned over some issues that I suspect are lumbar disc related and significant in their own right and you can't smoke in hospitals any longer, perhaps a stay while recovering in a telemetry unit...
But, that's for my medical team to decide, not some idiot actor, turned producer/director/village idiot.
That's far afield of his lane.
Oh, I also don't take medical advice from the butcher, baker or candlestick maker.
That said, I do enjoy some herbal teas, once cleared by my endocrinologist and primary care physician. No medicinal notions there, just grand good tasting beverages in between coffee cups.
Something I've also cut back on, until that v-tach thing was toyed with and needs further addressing.
The issue initially caused by cardiac damage after a heat stroke, got sloppy on bringing water after I retired from the Army, but still in the Persian Gulf.
You know, 120 degrees in the shade, which doesn't exist.
Vaxxed is obviously a sausage. It is allowed to contain 20% meat and 80% sweepings off the butcher's floor.
@Chris Preston, #4, hey now, I happen to enjoy sausage.
Although, here in the US, floor sweepings are unlawful to be incorporated into food. Frequent, yes, illegal, also.
But then, I cook sausage quite well, save certain Italian dried sausages, from trusted vendors.
Germany has a similar trait, with non-dried, raw consumed sausage, but *only* from a trusted butcher, with some lament by many over the loss of such butchers, in favor of supermarket non-trusted butchers...
But, there, I've digressed.
I stopped eating sausages when I noted the "Meat Content Percentage" stickers on all of them at the store - none of them were 100%...
@Amethyst, as sausage by its very definition contains always less than 100% meat, due to spices or other components (variable by culture), your shudder is groundless.
Sausage can contain anything from blood and a binder (such as grains), through meats and a diluting set of spices, with a variable content of meat to fat content.
As one politician remarked, "politics is like making sausage, is not a pretty sight".
True, Otto von Bismark was entirely spot on, if one is utterly unprepared to know one's food source chain and processes.
Could you eat an animal's meat that you've personally killed?
I have. Out of respect for the life I took to support me and necessity at times.
To the point where the meat was still close to body temperature for some animals, when they went into the oven.
To live, we require some organism to die, be it a plant or animal. As we require animal sourced vitamins, yeah, in primitive conditions, it can get really, really, really real and personal.
Find your balance where you can, under such conditions, lest you starve or suffer a fatal nutritional deficiency.
I was actually thinking more of the bland beef sausage in the British tradition. Apropos of things meat having only a distant relationship with the name, I remember years ago a consumer organisation getting beef pies tested and determining one brand was constructed of crust, gravy, trotters and salivary glands in that order of volume. Yes that is right, the beef parts in the pies were actually from pigs.
@Chris Preston, I'm a big fan of a breakfast dish, one I'm currently seeking in a distant US location from home, where it's common, called "scrapple".
Traditionally, it's pork face meat and corn meal, with specific spices, formed into a loaf, then baked.
In reality, eyes, brain and liver are key ingredients. As one who usually is incapable of digesting brain (something about gallbladder removal and physiological specific issues), brain isn't a bit ingredient, porcine liver seems to be.
While I can't enjoy a dish of say, four full male hand span portions, a centimeter in slice thickness without becoming ill, I can enjoy three or four. More, increasing indigestion occurs, consistent with neural tissues (I've had brain and spinal portions more times than I can count in various cultural meetings).
In short, I know *what* can make me feel ill, in which specific way.
Lacking a sense of smell honed that talent, as I've had pretty much every form of food poisoning known to man, outside of botulism.
Still, it's a breakfast food that I grew up with and enjoy.
Preparation isn't pretty, but it's a farmer's originated food and I happen to like it on occasion.
As we've relocated from SE PA to NW LA, a lack of "Pennsylvania Dutch" are lacking, so I'll probably have to import it.
Still, consider eating pork livers.
I happen to still occasionally enjoy a beef liver, typically, around every 3 - 5 years or so apart. Probably a form of pica.
I simply accept it and move onward.
I fully well understand that it won't be 100% meat. But I saw some very, very abhorrently low percentages.... to the point where I suspect sawdust or something!
Also, I'm not really sure why you went on a tanget about hunting on me, nor how to really respond to it, since I am not a hardline vegan or anything...?
@Amethyst, no specific targeting implied or suggested.
I've simply had both voluntary and involuntary experiences in having to hunt for food.
The involuntary wasn't actually involuntary, I volunteered for a SEER program training, so I had to hunt for food.
I preferentially hunt for deer. Specifically, whitetail deer.
Mule deer are too large for me and my wife to eat, hence, a waste of animal and hence, life. A feral pig, also acceptable, as they're a nuisance animal here and part of our preferred foods. That said, we'd be challenged on not wasting the meat, we'd have to share with the community and happily do so.
I wasn't specifically targeting you, just mentioning one specific thing, killing meat, kinds of meat.
I'd love to be able to process brain, however, I've learned the hard way, trying to do so provokes projectile vomiting.
Not an experience that I suggest for anyone. :)
I guess the question I'd really like to see asked and answered is this: why does anybody accept the Wakefield narrative over the results of much more robust work? Science isn't a democracy, but even if it was, the weight of studies is massively against the purported link. This is not like homeopathy where there's a new bullshit pro-magic study out every week, there is literally no good evidence at all supporting a link.
Because the hardcore of Wakefield believers (think John "Cock" Stone et al) have invested so much of their time and effort in promoting the theory over the years, that even while they realise it's now bullshit, they can't be seen to back down. In their case, it's now a big part of who they are. So they keep pushing it, inventing non-existent corroborating "evidence" in order to justify their own existence.
Some of them (Angus Files, "Hans Litten" et al) on the other hand are so deranged, they'll believe anything Stone and the like tell them.
I've worked as a disability carer for a decade plus, and I've noticed that relatives of the intellectually disabled tend to fall on a spectrum that stretches between guilt and resentment. I think De Nero and other parents like him are on the guilt side of the spectrum. I've seen them endlessly fret over something they did that might have caused their child to become so... damaged.
It's sad when they can't accept that bad things just happen. Often for no discernible reason.
Anyway, enough of my armchair profiling.
Personally, while De Niro and Hightower might claim they love their son, I don't believe them. Anyone who could let a comment like "blight" pass by with no reaction (and without telling their spouse in a rampage) can't really love their child.
You want to see parents who love their children unconditionally, disabled or not? Ask me about my cousin, who is watching 2 of her children die of a genetic disease, and is the biggest mama bear and child advocate for all 3 of her children that I know of. THAT'S unconditional love.
(No offense meant to parents who love all their children unconditionally. However, I don't believe Hightower and DeNiro do).
De Niro is such an amazing actor who has been one of the few who has aged gracefully in Hollywood and stayed on top. His recent revelations, association with conspiracy nutters like Wakefield, Carrey and RFKJr. and now a "documentary" just make him look like a daft old fool throwing a tantrum because he was forced to get Vaxxed off the Tribeca lineup.
@ Guy Chapman
Bortched blockquote, first paragraph is from Guy Chapman
Guy: "I guess the question I’d really like to see asked and answered is this: why does anybody accept the Wakefield narrative over the results of much more robust work? Science isn’t a democracy, but even if it was, the weight of studies is massively against the purported link."
All that "robust work" is flawed, generated by the corrupt CDC and/or bought and paid for by Pharma or irrelevant because parents and brave maverick doctors have seen children turn autistic instantly on receiving vaccines. Whereas studies by independent, brave researchers like Wakefield and the Geiers have proved the vaccine-autism connection.
One hopes DeNiro will document all this is what will undoubtedly be an immensely popular and highly rated film.
Some people who have trouble accepting that their kid is autistic feel a need to blame someone or something for "damaging" their kid. Wakefield gives them a handy scapegoat. Otherwise, they would either have to look for something else to blame, or accept that genetics had something to do with it (which in turn implies that they themselves are imperfect).
It's a false comfort, but it's still something for these people to cling to.
"..we are all wired to like a good story"
Because I read and hear so much woo on a daily basis, I am starting to think of its perpetrators less as amateur scientists and more as amateur screen writers.
To be serious, hasn't AJW concocted many stories prior to his more recent career as a movie maker?
Here are a few of the themes I hear:
- a citizen scientist uncovers corruption in government and industry
- a young radical scientist discovers many amazing facts that established science doesn't accept 40 years later
- a dedicated journalist finds that an isolated community doesn't suffer the same conditions as the general population because they avoid modern advances
-a scientist visits the Italian countryside and finds the elderly to be active and living in bliss close to nature
-a businessman investigates why children become ill and finds it's medicine's fault
- a mother whose child is harmed by doctors become a crusader and warns other parents
- a group of mothers discuss their children's problems and find solutions that work better than what established medicine and psychology have to offer
- a young man who has a particular condition becomes a scientist and journalist ferreting out corruption and crime.
Uh-oh. I don't know how long it takes to get a film like this made and into theaters, but if by chance it comes out before the election, it might have the effect of encouraging Trump to let his own anti-vax freak flag fly, and that might win him some votes.
But whenever it comes out, we should meet it with an organized response: informational protests, with a small but sufficient number of people standing near the theater entrances with leaflets to hand out, and signs saying "Go see (name of some other film) here, but don't see (name of anti-vax propaganda flick)."
It would also be worthwhile to contact theater owners, so they can choose to not book the film. That task should be undertaken very carefully and with ample information provided, so it does not come across as a censorship threat.
No doubt some anti-vaxers are reading this blog, so we can be sure they'll be out in force as well. Good: nothing's quite so American as a bunch of people on soap boxes in a public place. Even better when the facts are on our side.
Robert De Niro, after the well-deserved pummeling he's taken from the science blogosphere. I recommend throwing in the towel.
If Robert De Niro doesn't throw in the towel, and goes the distance, the judges will decide a winner.
It is my hope that entertainment and science remains unstable in a democracy.
It won't. The process of getting from the concept to showing it in cinemas or on TV usually takes more than a year. The odds that this will be released in time to impact the election is extremely low.
I wholeheartedly agree.
Except the facts do not matter.
People are arrogant, that is a judgment call I have chosen to make from my observations in life. Some of the antivaccidiots spout their nonsense for personal gain, but many others are just simply ignorant. The latter portion can't grasp what information is out there about vaccines and/or autism, therefore an assumption is made that something must be shady. An unwillingness to admit being ignorant on a subject or incorrect drives a lot of this.
I wonder what level of 'loose with the facts' De Niro would accept if someone were to make a 'Documentary on the Life of Robert De Niro' which contained 20% truth and 80% fabrications all being detrimental, scandalous lies.
My bet is it would be a microsecond before the lawsuits flew.
Doesn't the father's age correlate with autism? Imagine that I posted a picture of Kermit the Frog drinking tea or something.
What's happened with William-not-actually-a-whistle-to-blow-after-all-Thompson? There seemed to be much excitement at the prospect of him publishing something in May, but I've seen nothing new? Or was that just a rumour?
Just for the record I am in Newbury, home of the famous Newbury sausage.
Zach S. says (#25),
Some of the antivaccidiots spout their nonsense for personal gain, but many others are just simply ignorant.
A few vaccine-safety advocates may be right, that's what scares many people.
Mr. Robert De Niro (RDN) is not in it for personal gain nor is he ignorant with respect to Autism Spectrm Disorders.
@ RDN et al.,
Please avoid using Andrew Wakefield in the film content or production. Thx.
And an extinction level event asteroid may hit Earth in the next ten years. Same level of chance, really.
No. It's the lies and propaganda they spout that scare people.
He's a highschool drop-out with a batty wife and an axe to grind. Being a parent of an autistic child does not automatically render one an autism aetiology expert. You are also a case of the latter.
DiCaprio, too? I thought those rumors were quelled...
Well, Mr Woo is spending more time than usual in his echo chamber, or the mutterings about vaccination have increased. When I received notification that my son needed a meningitis booster before senior year began in the fall, I was relieved that Mr Woo at least finds that illness scary enough to vaccinate for (or perhaps has decided that since my son is vaccinated according to recommended schedule he is a lost cause at this point).
I have learned that none of his grandchildren are vaccinated to schedule (I am only separating his and hers for clarification; they are always ours). It was surprising, because one daughter-in-law is a labor and delivery nurse. I was so disappointed. They are in the pick and choose delayed schedule crowd. I worry most for the children on the farm, and desperately hope they at least are covered for tetanus.
It baffles me. All the boys were raised with farming. If you don't give your calves the right shots, they die. I don't see them skipping those because big Pharma is running a conspiracy there to make cattle sicker?
They will even discuss how many drugs given to livestock also go to people. I end up wondering how they don't connect those dots.
The idea of a DeNiro movie portraying vaccination as incredibly risky (if he has fallen into the "all vaccines cause damage and it is cumulative" camp, then he will believe it is never safe) really alarms me. We are talking about a US release, a country where at least a third of its voting population finds Trump's obvious "I will tell you whatever it takes to sell my brand" rhetoric as trustworthy and convincing.
Idiots who are likely take believe something because a celebrity says it, regardless of the celebrity's knowledge or education.
The other day, when viewing the Q&A following the film from Texas, I caught the closing credits that featured 'George DiCaprio' I've learned that he is a producer, cartoonist, writer and Leo's father.- not sure of his role in the film though.
Thanks for the reminder. I would have totally forgotten about this. As expected, it is looking like Hooker made this up entirely. Since they are so into journalistic integrity, I'm sure we can expect retractions from the major AV outlets when they realize they were wrong/duped.
Holy crap is that a scary prospect. We could try to mitigate the fallout but it would be like fighting a tank with sharpened sticks. This would be so much worse than anything that's happened up to this point.
Oh, I've been eagerly watching the countdown. Remember, Jake went further and specified PNAS.
I doubt RDN will make a documentary, they don't usually make much money.
However, a movie about the brave doctor (RDN) that brings THE TRUTH to the masses at the expense of his professional life. That is a horse of a different color. Probably in IMAX.
Yeah, I thought of that possibility after I wrote this post. It would be far more damaging if RDN and Weinberg did a "ripped from the headlines"-style dramatization of the CDC whistleblower saga or of Andrew Wakefield's story.
"As expected, it is looking like Hooker made this up entirely. Since they are so into journalistic integrity, I’m sure we can expect retractions from the major AV outlets when they realize they were wrong/duped."
Nah. If the ballyhooed "revision" by Thompson never materializes, it'll be because Hooker blew the whistle on his plans to get a big CDC payoff in return.
You gotta think like the conspiracy-philes.
Thompson would make a pretty lousy version of Deep Throat. And it's too late to cast William Conrad as Hooker.
There's already been a TV dramstisation of Wakefield's story in 2003. It didn't go down well even then.
This would, I presume, be more expensive than a documentary and I wonder if anyone would actually bankroll it. Of course, I have no idea about how Hollywood works so maybe it is a possibility. For all the damage to public health such a film would do, I imagine it would be a commercial and critical flop either way.
I'm hoping Di Niro is just blowing smoke...
Jake even went so far as to designate 5 May as the publication date, you know to interfere with Trump's Repub nomination who is also anti-vaxx or somesuch.
Science Mom says (#31),
Being a parent of an autistic child does not automatically render one an autism aetiology expert.
I'm the parent of two adults with ASD.
Therefore, n=2 has given me a dual insight into a vaccine/autism connection.
I triple dog dare you to ask me a question about the mechanism-of-action Science Mom.
There’s already been a TV dramstisation of Wakefield’s story in 2003. It didn’t go down well even then.
His story lacks popular appeal but if they remove it a few degees and embellish it, it could do well.
If you consider it, The Fugitive was pretty damning to Big Pharma even though it was not the main focus of the film.
Vaxxed is obviously a sausage.
As Bismarck so famously observed, people with weak stomachs should not watch sausages or anti-vax movies being made.
Having worked in the film industry, I can tell you that as actors and producers go, Robert De Niro does his background research more than most. For that reason, until he completely proves otherwise, I will continue to respect him with the benefit of the doubt.
To take on the subject, he will first need to hire a highly discerning team of researchers to guide and vet every word of the script. In my experience as a science writer, I can unreservedly recommend Respectful Insolence as an invaluable and time-saving resource. Assuming that the documentary is going forward, it would be useful to list any other resources that his team would find useful.
No it doesn't when you have perseverated on your monomania to the extent of the exclusion of anything else.
Why because you think you can have a pass on your weird latex obsession?
Except that in this case he "just knows something is there". Experts have tried to talk to him and his wife and they just dismissed them. They are fully in the thrall of Wakefield and Co.
"Robert De Niro does his background research more than most. For that reason, until he completely proves otherwise, I will continue to respect him with the benefit of the doubt."
To me, it seems like he's only a bit more competent since he can do his own research, but that's a dangerous mixture, to make use of misinformation like that and still be unaware of the common human faults such as assuming that if his child was "changed" then it must be vaccines.
Also, if De Niro even considers Andrew Wakefield's points as valid, I have to question his judgement on what he thinks is "a highly discerning team of researchers". As much as I want him to review high-quality research from scientists and sound reasoning from blogs such as Respectful Insolence I doubt he'll actually respect those viewpoints, and he may just dismiss them because they're not "independent" or they're funded by "Big Pharma".
It's difficult for me to respect Robert DeNiro for wanting to push films that will do a great public disservice. This is also a disservice to children diagnosed with autism. One thing that bothers me so much is how awfully the anti-vaccination crowd depict the autism diagnosis, as if their child is tortured or even dead. It's almost sick to me. Even if the vaccine caused autism, I'd rather have my child get autism than measles (and the diseases that can later crop up due to how measles weakens the immune system). Autism doesn't debilitate children, and I doubt, provided you understood it, it will break your heart as when you see children with measles.
@Science Mom #49: Stating that he “just knows something is there” is not the same as having a documentary research team arrive at the same conclusion, and I believe he knows it. De Niro is about to enter the world scientific investigative journalism. The task of the research department will be to provide an understanding of the reasoning applied to conclusions in such a way that a non-scientist can appreciate and comprehend them. In the process, facts become discriminated from assumptions.
And don't forget the "something did this to him and if we find the right thing, we can undo it" angle that you can then pin all your hopes on (and leads to horrors like chelation or bleach enemas).
"I guess the question I’d really like to see asked and answered is this: why does anybody accept the Wakefield narrative over the results of much more robust work?"
Part of the answer to that one, I think, has been addressed by our host in pieces about doctors not always being good scientists. You and I will both have met medics who understood the scientific process and those who barely grasped it.
Then think about a more general population who haven't had to study science to the level of medics...
The lack of decent critical thinking and understanding of the research process and how to critically evaluate it amongst many of my clinical colleagues (especially OTs and my fellow nurses), all of whom are now educated to degree level, was at times shocking. I lost count of the number of times I was told "research shows..." only to discover that someone had read it in a book, unsupported by any references to proper research and evidence (NLP was a favourite here, along with anything Myers-Briggs). And they could not grasp why I was not convinced...And became even more baffled when I started asking some questions about basic statistics...
A further example is my niece, coming to the end of an environmental "science" degree. Said degree contains bog all actual science and a whole lot of "cute fluffy bunny" propaganda (I speak as one with an environmental science degree and a period of work for environmental charities). Niece rejected my recommendation to take biology and chemistry A-levels as a necessary underpinning for her proposed degree as they were "too hard"...
I have many other similar stories, gathered from years in health settings and years working with teenagers.
OT on Bismark and sausages:
Legend has it that Bismark challenged the eminent pathologist (and radical) Rudoff Virchow, of inflammation, triad and journal fame, to a duel. Bismark withdrew because of Vircow's choice of weapon: both to consume one of two wurst, one of which was to be inoculated with Trichinella spiralis . Bismark didn't like the odds.
#8 Chris Patton
I remember buying a sausage and bun in London from a street vendor, Piccadilly Circus IIRC. Good bun; the sausage seemed to be a fascinating mix of sawdust and oatmeal. No sign of spices.
Cut-me-own-throat Dibbler would have been impressed.
@rhwombat, I read that the reason Virchow chose sausages is because Bismarck was an expert in both swordfighting and pistolry, and would easily have won.
# 25 Zach S.
Except the facts do not matter.
Probably a good mix of Dunning--Kruger and crank magnetism combined to give us someone who does not know how ignorant they are and automatically assume that “THEY” are lying to the public for some evil reason.
1. Probably a graduate of Google University
along with anything Myers-Briggs
DON'T GET ME STARTED.
both to consume one of two wurst, one of which was to be inoculated with Trichinella spiralis . Bismark didn’t like the odds.
Also Virchow spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder Tricinosis.
# 33 Mrs Woo
f you don’t give your calves the right shots, they die.
Things have changed since I was on a farm (well okay it was almost half a century ago). Can you explain?
# 53 Murmur
But, but the Myers-Briggs is great and grounded in the best Jungian science. (I had a problem with that last bit.)
I remember reading a book from the US National Research Council where they mentioned that they had never seen an instrument that did nothing but was viewed so favourably but the users.
Engineers often are climate change deniers and I think it may be for the same reason as medical staff are anti-vacs, etc.. They are not trained as scientists but much like doctors (and presumably your other clinical colleagues) they learn a huge amount of facts and techniques that they often use very creatively but they have never had to think critically about how the knowledge they have is generated.
A friend of mine in engineering grad school once told me that in undergrad the engineering students are told “this is how it works” and in graduate school you begin to learn that you are supposed to ask, “Is this how it really works?”
Lots of anti-vaxers say they do the research. The problem is that they do their research at Google University and find only what they want to know. We know that De Niro considers Andrew Wakefield a reliable source. How do we know that De Niro will be any less selective about his sources than the Google U. researchers?
@Science Mom (#43)
I'm wondering if Jake will try to take credit for this alleged paper not appearing. He did, after all, call on people to pressure Thompson to dump the reanalysis. Interesting tactic: make up a nonexistent paper, call on people to pressure Thompson, and then when it doesn't appear (because it never existed in the first place), claim credit for "talking sense" into him.
In other anti-vax news....
Dan announces that AoA's re-design will be unveiled in a few hours- he gives a sneak peek of an aspect of that astonishingly revolutionary newness- featuring more Dachel and more paypal.
For some reason, I'm not very impressed.
@ ToddW, funny you should say that the thought crossed my mind as well.
@ Lighthorse, I'm afraid I don't share your confidence that Di Niro will put a research team together that will produce factual vaccine safety information. I wish I did but Di Niro and his wife (who appears to be driving this issue more) are deep in the Kool-Aid and they've already been dismissive of experts trying to reason with them.
Since Mr. DeNiro has does such in-depth research, he should be well aware of the association between advanced paternal age and autism in offspring. He was 55 when he fathered his autistic son. Since he seems to need someone to "blame", perhaps he should look in the mirror.
@NH Primary Care Doc: Of course it's not his fault (nor his wife's, who also wasn't young when their son was born). After all, he's a BIG MOVIE STAR so it couldn't be his genetics. Besides, his wife said their son changed after the MMR. Who are you going to believe? Some (likely paid-off) researchers or the woman you love who got her information from St Andy of Wack-a-doodle?
The type size and amount of leading makes the comments effectively unreadable. And, amazingly, they seem to have managed to make the site even slower to load than it used to be (then again, I had to switch browsers, since it now doesn't work at all on the legacy FF that I prefer, so that could be a factor).
The type size and amount of leading makes the comments effectively unreadable
Yes, the size is annoying but I find the type weight to be the most annoying. The leading is just ghastly. I wonder if they were going for the accessible e-reader version look. (Viewed on safari and chrome on an iPhone).
I hope more sites don't adopt this design.
True, it's horrendous -
but lookit how the DONATE! part sticks right out!
Egad that font, don't know what about it makes it so unreadable, but I did check the source code so I can try to avoid those font sets at all costs!
Has any interviewer brought up the subject of paternal age to Mr. DeNiro, do we know?
Good lord, never buy anything from the tourist traps around Trafalgar Square, especially not sausages. I'm not a massive fan of hipstertastic Borough Market, but you can buy Ginger Pig sausages there, and they're magnificent bangers. Best consumed with parsnip mash, IMHO.
Age of Autism: It looks a lot like PaTimmy's redesign.....
You can chill out a bit folks. There probably won't be a film, and if one does get made it won't get much push from the Weinstein Company. Like all big producers, Harvey talks up a lot of stuff that never materializes at all, or winds up getting dumped to video (anyone see "Feast"?). The odds any vaccine film could make the kind of box office Weinstein Co. needs are awfully slight, especially given that VAXXED is out there first taking all the buzz (which isn't that much).
I see no need to worry about Bobby and Harvey coming up with something that channels AJW and rehashes the empty 'CDC Whistleblower' narrative.
I take De Niro more or less at his word. The film biz is a viper pit, and if there's anything negative to be said about someone with his status, it will get said by someone. But in a long career in the spotlight, no one has ever talked smack on Robert De Niro. From which I conclude he must be a decent no-BS guy. When he said he wanted to start a discussion, he meant it. If you look at the films he's famous for, they're all 'discussion starters' with ambiguous characters and persepectives, not preachy manichean melodramas. It makes sense he'd think that's all films can do it, pose thorny questions, not provide definitive answers. So when he said VAXXED was hurting anyone, he was only saying, "It's just a movie", and therefore only a jumping off point. If it's 80% wrong, but could provoke debate, fine.
So I think he's sincere that VAXXED wasn't the kind of provocation he wanted, and realizes at some level he got conned by Wakefield. Which is why, if he does anything else on vaccines, he'll do it his way, with people he's trusted and worked closely with for decades.
RDN's son, Elliot, is 18. He has accompanied his parents on trips to Cannes and other film world social events. The only reference I could find to him online: "Elliot impressed his attentive Pops with his bowling skills." in an gossip column about Renee Zellweger attending Elliot's 13th Birthday party which was held at a Lucky Strike Lanes in Hell's Kitchen. De Niro's bios say he's an attentive parent in general, and I doubt he has any of the usual anti-vaxer resentment of his ASD kid. He 's not a narcissist, and Elliot was born late in his parents life, when a special needs kid wasn't going to derail their go-getter career dreams. I think he just feels guilty. I'm guessing Elliot is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, so he gets out and interacts with other kids, probably with the usual teasing and other nonsense, and RDN feels bad about that. And I'd guess he genuinely loves his son, and cringed to himself when AJW went with that "blight' smack.
I'm also guessing his "I'm not anti-vaccine" isn't an echo of Andy's posing excuses. It is entirely possible to believe vaccines are a risk factor for autism within certain susceptible populations, yet to also understand that vaccines are crucial to public health, and safe for the vast majority of kids. Perhaps even to think 'the risk from not-vaccinating is worse than the autism risk from vaccinating' and take your kid in for the shots, even if you don't buy the settled science showing vaccines have no link to ADD whatsoever. Thus, it's possible that while most of the AVs are just spinning when they say 'we're for safe vaccines', someone like De Niro actually means it.
Regardless, since RDN doesn't really do 'partisan preachy', I'd guess that's the stand he'd want his doco to take: 'Let's try to make the shots safer!' NOT, "Don't ever let that needle stab your baby!" Of course, supporting the vax-autism link will scare people and maybe lead to more vax-refusal, but actors don't think like that. Look, this is the guy who's signature role inspired a wacko to attempt a presidential assasination, so he's not going to feel responsible if people do something crazy because of a movie he works on, because he knows someone can do something crazy because of any movie.
Anyway... The good news: after the VAXXED fracas, RDN isn't going to touch Wakefieldism or anything about Thompson with a 10-foot pole. If his efforts do yield a film, it won't stereotype autistics in any way comparable to VAXXED, and will only present a variety of bad ASD-cause ideas as "these are the questions people are asking". It won't say 'the MMR causes autism' or 'thimerosal causes autism' or anything firm, definitive, wacky. It will just dig deep into mistrust, as in 'There are too many questions, so you shouldn't be convinced these things are totally safe. We need more research. Yada yada yada.' The bad news: if a film comes out of this, it will be emotionally powerful, and help keep distrust of vaccines afloat. It will be a fence-sitting film – that is, promoting fence-sitting pushing some people who would have fallen casually on the 'will vaccinate' side up onto the fence.
Damn it, just got ensnared in a friend's nonsense post showing the number of vaccines required over time. It quickly evolved into a mess with 3 different moms claiming they've done research and mentioning Mercola's site. Arghh.... and Vaxxed was mentioned too.
anyone see “Feast”?
The 2005 horror / thriller with the carnivorous aliens. Not the 2014 cannibalism horror, nor the 2014 rom-com, which may be the same movie for all I know.
Years before this vaccine mess I heard from folks who worked with De Niro who described him as a brilliant actor and as smart as a sack of hammers.
I was not surprised to hear that he is incapable of critical thinking or reasoning.
Sadmar: And I’d guess he genuinely loves his son, and cringed to himself when AJW went with that “blight’ smack.
I doubt it. His son's been mostly raised by the staff. I'm sure once his son was diagnosed, Robert De Niro and his wife lost all interest in him, and only play 'devoted parents' in public. Notice how quick De Niro was to throw that poor boy under the bus?
Good Herr Doktor @ 58
I refused to undertake the "leadership" training my old NHS trust demanded that all us senior nurses should do on the grounds that it was based in that "finest Jungian science" (thanks JKI), Myers-Briggs. For some reason my then manager and the next one up the line could not grasp my objections. They even asked me if I was suggesting that I knew better than HR...Guess what my answer was...
Sounds about right.
I was fortunate enough to do my degree at a time when we were still required to replicate experiments from papers as part of our studies, which showed us pretty quickly that some ropey old stuff got published and that it was a really, really good idea to go through the published methodology and stats with several fine-toothed combs and a large sack of salt.
Genuine question: what is wrong with the Myers-Briggs test? Also, I knew that Freud was viewed with some disdain, but what did Jung get wrong?
All I know about Myers- Briggs is that it classified me as a Field Marshall, which I found amusing but somewhat appropriate.
what is wrong with the Myers-Briggs test?
It's more a question of what is *right* with it. It's a made-up test with no empirical foundation, using questions drawn from Briggs' and Myers' vague amateurish intuitions to locate people along continuous scales... those locations then being collapsed to simple dichotomies like I/E because reasons. From the perspective of the testing company, it serves the purpose of making them money, but in every other way it is worthless.
Also, I knew that Freud was viewed with some disdain, but what did Jung get wrong?
That's a different question altogether. Jung is not to blame for the MBTI. Briggs stole his terminology but never bothered to understand his theories.
Thank you shay and HDB for your answers.
Don't worry, all you brainwashed minions of the WHO's global extermination program. Someone way above you has already ordered, Mr De Niro's timely death. He simply couldn't live with the fact that he'd allowed his son to be vaccinated and rendered autistic, so he shot himself in the back of the head while he slept, just like all those holistic doctors out there that were pushing natural cancer cures etc. No one of his public stature is allowed to question vaccines and live. To me, the guy's just proved he's as big a hero in life as he plays in movies and will become a martyr forever after you bastards kill him, then maybe a critical mass will wake up to the horrific truth about vaccines and how they have become agents of destruction as opposed to protection as intended by their inventor, Dr Edward Jenna, whose actual method should be revisited by every Doctor alive today, so they can see the blatant reversal of his method that has poisoned billions with unnecessary highly toxic adjuvicants. Remember: VAROLATION VAROLATION VAROLATION, NEVER INJECTION!
Just to add to the picture at the end of this article, maybe there will be yet another Kennedy assassination, one wonders if the whole family were anti-vaxxers.
Today the grim reaper wears a white coat.
Assuming you're serious and not creating some sort of satirical performance art, put your analyst on danger money, baby. Now.
And it's "Jenner". Just a fun fact.
Joe Salaman: "Don’t worry, all you brainwashed minions of the WHO’s global extermination program."
Le sigh. There is no extermination program. There are programs to make sure kids get a chance to grow up and get educated. It has been found that in areas where child mortality is high, families have more children in order to make sure that a couple reach adulthood. This is why the countries with the greatest population growth are places like Afghanistan.
Another thing that helps reduce population growth is educating women:
Are you also against teaching little girls how to read?
As as far as the rest of your rants: they are just nonsensical conspiracy theories.
Plus Dr. Edward Jenner is the one that replace variolation with vaccination. Remove yourself from teh internets and actually work on getting a real education. Have you heard of this thing that is in most towns? It is called a "library." They have books on history, spelling and science.
Thanks for reminding me! I've forgotten to get a library card since we've moved here.
I'll have to schedule a task to remind me during the week.
Society has become so dumbed down. When society and science is so closed minded that we stop questioning everything...it FAILS. Tests have not proven them safe, especially when they have not been tested as widely and appropriately as other studies. I have yet to see a test on the effects of how a vaccinated child while fighting a infection - which many many children fight colds and infections during this stage of life... We Should question everything. I will tell you this, a vaccine + a virus infection can cause serious issues in autoimmune disorders.including T1D in children... so I do think we need to take a closer look at vaccines. They need to be reevaluated every year if possible. They are something that is mandated by our government and big pharma has their hands in. QUESTION everything.
And so, we are provided, yet again, with further supporting evidence of Dunning-Kruger.
With so much evidence, surly it should now be the Dunning-Kruger law!
Open Minds: " QUESTION everything."
"I will tell you this, a vaccine + a virus infection can cause serious issues in autoimmune disorders.including T1D in children… so I do think we need to take a closer look at vaccines."
I will question that. Could you please provide the evidence for that statements?
"They are something that is mandated by our government and big pharma has their hands in."
Which government? Which vaccines are "mandated"? What provides more profits for "Big Pharma": vaccines or treating diseases? Please provide verifiable documentation in your replies.
I have another questions for you: Is you mind so open that your brain fell out?
I am always amazed by the anti-vaxxers who seem to think that the US Government is the only one in the World.
If they stopped to think for a minute about the fact that more than 170 countries have national vaccination schedules, it would be clear that their claims of some nefarious conspiracy are simply nonsense.
This seems to be the problem with many anti-vaxxers, like Open Minds above, they seem unable to stop to think.
Ah, but the US really rules the world.
Now, excuse me, I need to get 50 mg of diphenhydramine and hope I don't need prednisone, as I set off a severe bullshit allergy in myself by typing that. ;)
More seriously though, quite a few antivaxers actually think that, which is odd, as there are quite a few drugs long approved throughout Europe, but not in the US.
One example comes to mind, insulin degludec, which was licensed in Europe for two years or so before the US got around to licensing it.
Must be the magic or something. Or maybe our reptilian overlords.
Consistency and logic are far beyond their reach.
Chris Preston: "I am always amazed by the anti-vaxxers who seem to think that the US Government is the only one in the World."
I am too. Though I spent a third of my youth outside the USA. I did live in one country where the "mandates" were actually quite real. If you were in the interior when there was a yellow fever outbreak you needed to carry your vaccine record.
If the National Police stopped you and you did not have proof of vaccination, they would kindly "escort" you to the nearest clinic to get the vaccine.
This was also the same country where the dictator of that decade would make sure that an entire newspaper run would be confiscated and destroyed if they wrote something he did not like. And he was the "good" dictator versus the guy who came later!
I am often amused that some of my fellow Americans are screaming that their freedoms are being repressed. They do not have a clue on what it is to live where those freedoms are not assumed. Even going north to very polite Canada, some of those rights do not legally exist.
@Chris, yeah, many westerners are spoiled by their freedoms that they simply accept.
They assume that the real world is like their homes, the same rights that they enjoy are enjoyed by one and all, save a sparse few prejudiced nations.
I'm retired military, US military. I've deployed to true dictatorships that were "friends" of the US, Amirates and Emirates and a few crosses in between.
One instance, I had my wife with me, Qatar. We honestly miss that place.
It had an Emir since the son had a bloodless coup to replace his alcoholic and cliquish father, the king. Met with much humor, there was a counter-coup, also bloodless, from which the former Emir survived easily.
The king lived out his life in a castle/villa complex not far from the capitol.
One annoyance there was, businesses were run largely as a hobby and it showed. But, gaming that system was easy enough.
Even my wife loved living there - nobody was shooting at anyone - unlike Philly.
I liked it largely for the climate, extremely friendly people and a really nice private pool. I could tread water for an entire afternoon in that pool. Mutually enjoying my wife in a bikini and her enjoying me in my swim suit. When the pool pump worked.
See businesses as a hobby...
But, one games any system or one stays muddled. :D
OK, on a more serious note, the nastier that the environment is, the higher social duty of a local culture is linked to hospitality. Inuit, Arab and Afghan share that trait, as refusing hospitality is a death sentence and next time, it could be oneself. Understanding that can help build common ground and then, bridges. That was one of my specialties, back when I wore tree resembling clothing and lugged around a fully automatic weapon (odd, the damned thing didn't load or clean itself and I'd have been satisfied with it cleaning itself).
So, yeah, I know precisely of what you are speaking of and the distilled idiocy of those who speak in that way.
Well, at least here, where we've relocated to, nobody is shooting up the neighborhood.
We only have to deal with many, many, many B-52 flights over the house - at low level and a humidity level closer to that of Venus.
Damn, but we miss Qatar.
One might observe that your discombobulated screed is noteworthy mainly for its failure to adhere to its own demands.
I think there's a word for this.
You talkin' to me? Look what this f***ing mutt did to my shoes! Someday a real rain will come and wash all the trolls of this blog.
I don't know on which planet our recent visitor lives, but in France, US, Canada, doctors will advice you to postpone vaccination if you are currently fighting an infection.
There is also something ironic in acknowledging that "this stage of life" of children is rife with infections and then question the appropriateness of using vaccines at or before this time.
Who left the troll door open? Between the conspiracy dude and "open minds" (who let their brain fall out, it was so open), it's a lousy start to the day.