Antivaxxers grow increasingly bolder

December 30, 2011

Over the last year, the anti-vaccination movement has grown more bold in their misinformation campaigns. It began Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, where they tried to advertise their propaganda in AMC movie theaters. This effort was thwarted however in no small part because of SkepChick activist Elyse Anders. Then months later, they succeeded in getting a commercial running on the Time Square CBS Jumbotron. And last month, they succeeded in getting Delta Airlines to air their propaganda on flights.

Each time Elyse Anders used a petition to influence those who have agreed to work with these antivaccine groups and I discussed this during my recent SkeptiCamp talk, which was focused on promoting more skeptical activism in NYC because as great as Elyse has been for NYC, she doesn’t live here and I hate needing her to fight our local battles when we have a sizable skeptical community, many of whom I suspect would be interested in skeptical activism.

Well now the inaccurately named National Vaccine Information Center is back to their old tricks and are currently, as well as during New Years, running another dishonest ad in Times Square on ABC Full Circle’s 5000 square foot TSQ Digital Screen. And the ad is scheduled to run during the New Years celebration. Also, Jenny McCarthy will be part of the televised show and has promised to try to draw attention to the ad.

And again, since there’s no organized NYC skeptical activism…yet (hopefully more on this soon!), New York’s protector, Elyse Anders, is back with another petition. Please sign this petition urging ABC to pull the ad at once.

Yay! Sweet, sweet death!

Now unfortunately, that’s not the only antivaccine news story lately. The antivaccine Australian Vaccination Network is currently promoting a children’s book that teaching kids that measles is awesome. I shit you not. The book is called Melanie’s Marvelous Measles, and it’s written by a woman named Stephanie Messenger. I’m reminded of another children’s author who wrote about measles, Roald Dahl. Though he wasn’t marveling at the disease so much as cursing it for having killed his kid. For more commentary on this sickening book, check out PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson and Reasonable Hank.

The other big news from Australia was that the head of the Australian Vaccination Network, Meryl Dorey was originally scheduled to give a talk at the Woodford Folk Festival about the evils of vaccines. After our friends at the Australian Skeptics campaigned against it, her talk transformed into a panel featuring Dorey and a bunch of actual qualified experts with the know-how to demolish her arguments. But the Australian Skeptics didn’t stop there. They amusingly paid to have an airplane fly over the Festival with a sign reading:  VACCINATION SAVES LIVES.

Bravo Australian Skeptics on a job well done. Now we just need to bring the same level of activism to NYC.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 11.5.11

November 5, 2011

1. Anti-vax parents engaging in bioterrorism – If so-called “pox parties” weren’t enough, some parents have begun literally mailing chicken pox infected items for the purpose of infecting other people’s kids. And even worse, some have started mailing items infected with the far more dangerous measles. This would have made a perfect setup for the virus at the end of the recent Planet of the Apes film or for a zombie apocalypse story.

2. More anti-vaxxer propaganda – Just when I thought it was bad enough that the anti-vax propaganda film “The Greater Good” was coming to NYC’s IFC Center for a week beginning November 18, now I learn Barbara Loe Fisher and her band of cranks at the misnamed “National Vaccine Information Center” has a month-long “PSA” spot playing on Delta Airlines flights that suggests washing hands alone is an adequate substitute for a flu vaccine…cause that’s who you most want to go unvaccinated…people traveling from country to country. Argh! Fortunately, the wonderful Elyse Anders over at Skepchick is on the case and has begun a massive petition campaign to persuade Delta to cease this plot to kill us all. Also, she’s provided a handy-dandy list of contacts at Delta Airlines and its video provider.

3. Zombie worms found in fossil

Traces of bizarre, bone-eating ‘zombie’ worms have been found on a 3-million-year-old fossil whale bone from Tuscany in Italy. It is the first time the genus Osedax has been found in the Mediterranean, and suggests Osedax were widespread throughout the world’s oceans 6 million years ago.


4. Simon Singh vs. fraudulent psychic Sally Morgan’s lawyers:  part 1 and part 2 – You might remember Singh as the UK science journalist who was sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for libel over his calling their chiropractic “bogus” and his subsequent victory in the appeals process. I also recently wrote about Sally Morgan’s being caught wearing an earpiece during her performance. Well, Singh’s suggested she prove her powers are real, so now she’s trying to intimidate the man who beat the BCA in court with lawyers. Boy, did she fuck with the wrong journalist.

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Anti-vaccine ad running on CBS Jumbotron in Time Square

April 11, 2011

Fuck you, CBS!

Joseph Mercola and the mis-named National Vaccine Information Center have formed an unholy alliance to bring a anti-vaccine commercial to the heart of Time Square on the CBS Jumpotron, which will be seen by hundreds of thousands of passersby.

The latest report is that the ad is already running and will continue to broadcast once an hour for the next two and a half weeks. So like with the recent AMC Theater debacle, Elyse Anders from Skepchick is leading the charge in organizing a protest against CBS:

Please sign this petition at telling CBS Outdoor to take the ads down.

Tweet @CBSOutdoor and @CBSTweet with the hashtag #VaxCBS to tell them how you feel about them running this ad.

Then, you can send an email CBS Outdoor’s board of directors and CBS Network executives asking them to stop running the ad IMMEDIATELY.

More information is available in my previous post and at Respectful Insolence.

And pass it on!

And if you’d like, you can use my email to the CBS executives as a template:

I am contacting you to express my deep outrage at your company’s decision to value money over child welfare. Joseph Mercola and the so-called “National Vaccine Information Center” are lying to the American people about vaccine safety because of a cult-like devotion to the belief that vaccines are dangerous. This is in fact not true. Vaccines are the single greatest medical achievement in human history and millions of lives have been saved around the world by vaccines. Every reputable health organization on Earth endorses vaccination and agrees that the risks from vaccines are minimal and rarely ever serious.

I am an regular viewer of a number of shows on your network, but as long as you continue to propagate deadly anti-vaccine propaganda that endangers the lives of children, either via your Time Square Jumbotron or by continuing to let sham journalist Sharyl Attkisson editorialize about the harms of vaccines when the facts clearly disagree with her, I can no longer in good conscience watch your network.

Please remove this ad and fire Ms. Attkisson at once.


PS: Here are a number of reputable, well-sourced websites attesting to the safety of vaccines and debunking the misinformation of anti-vaccine propagandists:

Video testimonials from Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases:

Other great sources:

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Barbara Loe Fisher is insane

January 8, 2010

Don’t try to sue me for libel just yet, Barb. That’s not intended as an insult nor is it intended to damage your “reputation” [LOL]. It’s an objective assessment of the paranoid, incoherent ramblings you display in the following video.

Really Barbara. I want to help you. You really should see professional help. And no, I don’t mean Jenny McCarthy. I mean a full team of trained psychiatrists working around the clock to figure out the nature of your malfuncture and how to fix the problem.

But I also have to ask a question. How do you sue your critics to silence their criticism of your fearmongering and then turn around to insist that its they who are the fearmongerers for saying vaccines are NOT dangerous and trying to silence your criticism when they’ve clearly done no such thing, as evidenced from the very video you’re produced where you use your voice to suggest your voice has been suppressed? It’s just a question.

Here’s Orac’s take.

News From Around The Blogosphere 1.5.10

January 6, 2010

1. Maybe the G-spot issue isn’t settled afterallYesterday, I posted a story about a study that suggested the G-spot is a myth. And today I saw an interesting response to that study, so I figured I’d link to it.

2. Why is Barbara Loe Fisher suing Paul Offit, Amy Wallace, and Wired Magazine in Virginia? – Another story I blogged about yesterday was the libel lawsuit anti-vaccinationist from Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center against their critics. It seems that she’s suing them in Virginia even though Offit resides in Pennsylvania, Wallace resides in California, and Conde Nast’s offices are in New York. And though this is pure speculation at this time, Orac thinks he may know why? Those states have laws against strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). But Virginia doesn’t. Of course I don’t think it will help her case for the reasons explained in the previous blog on this case linked to above.

3. Christopher Hitchens debates with Unitarian Minister Marilyn Sewell – Well worth the listen. The transcript is also available.

4. Margaret Downey trying to organize atheists in Washington – Margaret Downey of Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia has proposed organizing a Unity Convention to assemble members of all the various atheist organizations around the country in the nation’s capitol. I guess this would be a kind of atheist “Million Man March.” I’m all for it but I have to admit that I’m very impatient. I’ve heard some say it can’t happen until 2014 but I’d like to see it happen in 2010.

5. Is sex the best way to prevent crime and war?

If our distorted relationship with human sexuality is the source of much of this frustration, confusion, and ignorance, societies with less conflicted views should confirm the causal connection. Developmental neuropsychologist James Prescott found that bodily pleasure and violence seem to have an either/or relationship—the presence of one inhibits development of the other.

6. What’s the harm in “alternative” “medicine”? – Remember the story of Daniel Houser, the kid with Hodgkin limphoma who was court ordered to receive chemotherapy, which eventually saved his life after a short period when his mother kidnapped him to prevent evil medicine from saving him? Well, for every Daniel Houser there’s at least one Tamar Stitt. Ten-year-old Tamar wasn’t so lucky. She died because her alt-med-loving parents smuggled her out of Australia following a court order to get her chemotherapy for her rare liver cancer. THIS IS WHY WE FIGHT! THIS IS THE HARM DONE BY “ALTERNATIVE” “MEDICINE!”

7. Clusters of autism cases in California may point to possible environmental factors – We’ve been down this road before. There have been other clusters of autism and it’s not uncommon for randomness to result in the appearance of clusters. But it’s definitely worth investigating.

Anti-vaccinationists foiled again and have possibly finally met their Waterloo

January 5, 2010

This has been one of the worst days to be an anti-vaccinationist ever. First, it was announced that yet another well-designed study has  hit another nail in the coffin of their hypothesis that the MMR vaccine is linked with autism. Then researchers concluded that there was a lack of evidence supporting special diets for autism. And while I haven’t seen a response to these reports yet by the anti-vaccine crowd, I’m sure it will be forthcoming as certain as I am that their response will just be a lot of blanket dismissals and baseless accusations of Big Pharma corruption.

But sadly, the anti-vaccinationists have sunk to a new l–I mean are continuing to behave as slimy as ever by trying to intimidate their critics into silence with lawsuits, $cientology-style. Barbara Loe Fisher and her ironically named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) have launched a libel lawsuit against Dr. Paul Offit, Amy Wallace, and Wired Magazine. The subject of the suit is Wallace’s superb article in Wired Magazine that quoted Offit and addressed the tactics and dangers of the anti-vaccination movement. Here is a pdf of the complaint.

Of course, unlike the British Chiropractic Association’s libel case against Simon Singh, the NVIC has the misfortunate of having to deal with the U.S. libel laws and not the British ones. While the British libel laws place the burden of proof on those charged with libel, the U.S. system makes it incredibly difficult to prove libel in order to better protect free speech from those who would attempt to exploit the law to silence speech they don’t like.

As Steven Novella points out, the U.S. legal system has a number of ways it protects speech against false libel charges:

The ability to sue for libel is an important right to redress legitimate wrongs. But this right can easily be abused to silence open discussion. For this reason many states have SLAPP laws (strategic lawsuit against public participation). Recently the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the need for open public discussion of important issues is a legitimate defense against a libel suit.

But one way the cases are similar is that they both seem to hang on an interpretation of one word. In Singh’s case, he lost because the judge mis-interpreted the word “bogus” to mean an accusation of deliberate deception. Here, it seems like the case will hang on the usage of the phrase, “She lies.” Now that seems far more like an accusation of deliberate deception than the Singh case but keep in mind that Wallace is quoting Offit, not stating this accusation herself. So merely reporting as journalist someone else’s alleged libelous accusations seems to put her in the clear right away as far as I can tell.

But what about Offit? As I understand it, in the U.S. libel system, one has to prove not only that they’ve been harmed but that harm was intended and best of all, that the accusation made is false. It’s that final piece that I think will be next to impossible for Fisher’s lawyers to prove. Offit is among the world’s leading experts on vaccines. He knows what he’s talking about and potentially has license to pull from any publicly available verbal or written statements Fisher has made in the past in order to prove that she does indeed lie. Catching any public figure in a lie is a no-brainer, so finding examples of Fisher lying should be like shooting fish in a barrel, especially when you consider the actual charge against Offit:

“That statement comes within the context of an article that portrays those like Fisher (who oppose mandatory vaccination) as unscientific, uneducated, and harmful to society.”

She also charges that she suffered a substantial loss in her professional reputation. LOL. Oh poor, poor Fisher. It was you who has  destroyed your own reputation ages ago. By the time Offit entered the scene, your reputation couldn’t get any lower. I’m reminded of Bart Simpson’s famous response to his father who after making a drunken fool of himself the night before said he hoped his son hadn’t lost any respect for him. Bart’s brilliant response was that he has as much respect for his father now as he ever did.

I really, really hope this case goes to trial and is dragged out at least as long as the Dover case over Intelligent Design because the more I think about it, the more apparent it seems that Fisher has made a colossal error that will have devastating results for herself and the whole anti-vaccination movement. If this case is dragged out, Offit’s lawyers can continue to bombard the judge and jury with Fisher’s lies (lies shared by the rest of the anti-vaccine movement) one by one by one. He’s got the technical expertise himself to expose how wrong her science is and any other legitimate expert can confirm it. For those who followed the Dover case, the judge was bombarded with mountains of science texts confirming evolution over many weeks. Just imagine weeks and weeks of dissecting Fisher’s every erroneous scientific claim. Maybe I’m just being naive or overly optimistic but I think this could be the anti-vaccinationists’ Dover if the legal team defending the accused plays their cards right.

It’s also funny how Mark Blaxilll, the editor of Age of Autism, has no trouble at all accusing his critics of being liars.

Now I’ve already linked to Steven Novella’s excellent piece on this but to learn more, Orac includes links to other great articles in his blog:

ADDENDUM: Autism News Beat, Steve Novella, and Terra Sigillata have more. ANB and Steve Novella, in particular, list all the misinformation that Barbara Loe Fisher has spread in the name of demonizing vaccines, such as the claim that the DTAP vaccine causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), when, if anything, the evidence suggests that it is probably protective, and her deceptive fear-mongering about squalene adjuvants in the H1N1 vaccine (which, by the way, the H1N1 vaccine doesn’t contain).Finally, Kim at Countering Age of Autism, found a lovely article by Barbara Loe Fisher on the NVIC website:

The discrimination begins, always, with the majority in a society pointing the finger at a minority for somehow endangering the public health and welfare. Individuals in the minority group are singled out as different – ethnically, biologically, spiritually, morally – from the majority. The human impulse to fear, judge, marginalize or eliminate those different from the rest has left a blood soaked trail winding throughout the entire history of man from the Great Inquisition to the Holocaust; from the killing fields of Cambodia to Rwanda, Serbia and Tibet; while the persecution of those with leprosy, TB, AIDS, mental illness, and handicaps continues in every society.

Later in the same article, I found this quote by Loe Fisher:

Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel has said “When you take an idea or a concept and turn it into an abstraction, that opens the way to take human beings and turn them, also, into abstractions.”Individuals harmed by vaccines are not abstractions. They are human beings who deserve to be spared a lifetime of suffering rather than being thrown under the bus to prop up forced mass vaccination policies that fail to acknowledge biodiversity within the family of man.

Geez, was Barbara Loe Fisher really comparing criticism of the anti-vaccine movement by defenders of science-based medicine to what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust? Where’s the Hitler Zombie when you need him? Clearly, her brains have been chomped by the Undead Führer. Her hyperbole in rhetoric against defenders of mass vaccination programs also strongly belies her denial of being “anti-vaccine.”

News From Around The Blogosphere 7.30.08

July 31, 2008

There’s still no planet Starbucks but they can name a species -Remember that old sham years ago (it’s probably still around) where you were told that for a little money, you could get a star named after you or someone you loved? Well, that was bogus and in many cases the star you named didn’t even exist. But for the right price, you CAN name a new small species. Just don’t pick one of the names that are already names of species like: Mick Jagger, Marilyn Monroe, the members of the Sex Pistols, or the fish species dubbed beeblebroxi, a tribute to the character Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And finally, there’s actually an species named:

Is that the Virgin Mary on your restaurant floor drain or just rust?

-Classic case of pareidolia. I’m sure it’s not as tasty as the Virgin Mary on the grilled cheese sandwich:

Oh, and on a related note, here’s Jesus Cat:

Jesus Sucks -That’s according to a television comedy show host who commissioned to have an airplane fly across Toronto while waving a banner with those two words printed on it. Of course many Christians with no sense of humor are deeply offended.

Astrologer fails to predict Earthquake–there’s a shock for you:

Just when you thought it was safe to defile crackers again… -This really is the story that won’t die. Crackergate is back on! PZ Myers responds to another set of religious yahoos who can’t accept that we don’t have to show respect for their dopey sacred cows and that’s just the way the cracker crumbles.

Karl Giberson talks gibberish

-I know. I know. It was the best title I could think of at the time. Anyway, here PZ Myers presents his rebuttal of Giberson’s claim that atheist activists are fundamentalists of the religion of science. Yeah, like we never heard that shite before. It’s all part of the creationist Orwellian strategy of framing:

Religion is Science
Science is Religion

I’m calling bullshit!

Phil Plait’s follow-up comments about Ed Mitchell & the UFO believers -Phil addresses the logical fallacies of those who responded negatively to his blog about Apollo 14 Astronaut Ed Mitchell’s claims (also reported on here at Skepacabra) that he knows for certain that space aliens have been to Earth and that the government is covering it up.

Anti-vacciner booth infiltrate Netroots Nation -These vampires are everywhere. Perhaps it’s advisable to always carry a wooden stake and cloves of garlic for just this sort of occasion.

Most & Least Religious Colleges in the U.S. 2008 -Damn, NYU didn’t make the list of least religious! I thought I left a better impression. Oh well, at least New School, where I gained my graduate degree is on the list.

How Real Science Works -A great article that tries to demystify this strange thing we call science. So how does science work? I’ll give you a hint. It requires a lot of hard work and does not work by making shit up. Sorry creationists.

RationalWiki to the rescue -This is a great source of skeptical inquiry. Check it out.

And now a moment of science:

Did Dinosaur Soft Tissues Still Survive? -New research challenges suggests that the supposed recovered dinosaur tissue is in reality biofilm – or slime. Sorry again, creationists.

Possible ‘Sleep Gene’ Identified In Fruit Flies -In a recent study of fruit flies, researchers identified a gene that controls sleep.

Lost An Appendage? Grow Another -Understanding the molecular pathway responsible for limb regeneration in some animals is a research objective for MBL investigator William R. Jeffery, a former director of the MBL Embryology course and professor of biology at the University of Maryland.