If you’ve spent any time debating vaccine deniers, you know that you must be a big pharma shill…because you’ve definitely been accused of such if you’ve ever debated vaccine deniers. It is by far the most popular argument the anti-vaccine movement use because they rarely know anything about the science and so must attempt to discredit their opponents. Cause when you’ve got nothing of any substance to argue, why not just try to poison the well?
And there are no shortage of examples of this gambit being used by anti-vaxxers:
The “pharma shill” gambit by David Gorski
LA Times – “Childhood vaccines, autism and the dangers of group think” By JAMES RAINEY
“The Jenny and Jim antivaccine propaganda tour has begun” by David Gorski
Demonizing “Big Pharma” by Steven Novella
“Conspiracy Mongering at Age of Autism” by Steven Novella
I could go on but you get the idea.
But I can think of no anti-vaxxer who uses this tactic more than young Jake Crosby, who seems to never even try to make any other argument but to accuse absolutely everyone of being a big pharma shill (see: here, here, here, here, here, and here).
Crosby and his ilk seem to go out of their way to find any loose association between their critics and any pharmaceutical organization and then apply a classic McCarthyist guilt by association accusation against those critics. And of course when most of your critics are actual medical professionals, it’s not hard to find some loose connection to the industry that literally manufactures the products they use.
For instance, recently David Gorski reported on the hit piece young Jake Crosby was writing against him. First, Crosby emailed Gorski about an alleged “conflict of interest” that he claimed Gorski did not disclose on his blog. The claim was that Wayne State University stands to benefit from Sanofi-Aventis money, and since Gorski works for Washington State University, that creates a conflict. But even before Crosby published his “article,” Gorski emailed him back and specifically stated that he does not receive any money from Sanofi-Aventis or any other pharmaceutical company, nor was he likely to any time in the foreseeable future. Then Crosby went ahead and ignored Gorski’s words and wrote:
Dr. Gorski has been funded over the last decade by institutional funds, the Department of Defense, the National Cancer Institute, the ASCO Foundation, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. He currently receives no funding from pharmaceutical companies, although he did once receive a modest payment for an invention from such a company back in the mid-1990s. Indeed, so bereft of pharmaceutical funding is Dr. Gorski that before his talks, when he is required to make his disclosures of conflicts of interest, he often jokes that no pharmaceutical company is interested enough in his research to want to give him any money. Maybe one day that will change, but for now, like most biomedical scientists in academia, he must beg the NIH and other granting agencies for the money to keep his lab going.
This is the kind of tenuous connections vaccine deniers exploit to invent their nonexistent conspiracies.
But then I noticed a new article on the vaccine denialist propaganda site Age of Autism that was being reposted from a piece Crosby had written for his student publication, Brandeis University Magazine.
So I thought it’d be fun to play investigative reporter Jake Crosby-style. Let’s see. Crosby is a student at Brandeis University, which is hosting a Biotech, Healthcare & Science Summit in November that includes pharmaceutical industry professionals on the panel. And other participating employers who are involved include Merck, Acceleron Pharma, Adnexus Pharmaceuticals (Bristol-Myers Squibb), Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, and Novartis. And Novartis signed an license agreement with another company that obtained an exclusive worldwide license with sublicensing rights to the technology from Brandeis University.
And if I keep digging, is there any doubt I couldn’t find more ties between Brandeis University and pharmaceutical companies? Yet Mr. Crosby never mentioned this possible conflict of interest on Age of Autism. What’s he trying to hide?
Of course I’m being silly but this is precisely how anti-vaxxers justify dismissing their critics out of hand without addressing the actual science.