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 change.org 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 change.org 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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Anne Dachel okay with everyone else’s kids dying so long as her’s make it out

November 19, 2011
Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

It was inevitable that as soon as the NY Times released its short but devastating review of the latest anti-vaccine propaganda flick, The Greater Good, the folks at Age of Autism wouldn’t take it lying down and mount an assault on the critic.

And sure enough, Anne Dachel delivered in spades with this amusingly hyperbolic screed against a film critic for not liking their shitty movie. Not since The Brown Bunny has there been such a petty, childish response to a bad review.

Just how absurd, fundamentally dishonest, and hyperbolic is Dachel’s response? Look at the title of her piece:

New York Times Reviews The Greater Good Movie Tells Vaccine-Injured Children to Drop Dead

Um, did I miss that part? I read the review and it said nothing…NOTHING of the kind. What film critic Jeannette Catsoulis DID say was that the film was an “…emotionally manipulative, heavily partial look at the purported link between autism and childhood immunization” that “…would much rather wallow in the distress of specific families than engage with the needs of the population at large.”

Catsoulis continues by pointing out that the whole thesis and line of inquiry of the film is entirely “fundamentally flawed”, since “it fails to point out that even were such a link proved definitively, all that matters is that its victims number significantly fewer than those of the diseases vaccinations are designed to prevent.” In other words, the film sets up a total straw man argument by focusing on the wrong questions.

Catsoulis argues the film isn’t as balanced as it pretends to be as it didn’t show the suffering of children who contract the very diseases the vaccines prevent:

“A cost-benefit analysis is completely ignored. Also elided are the mostly forgotten horrors of measles, mumps, chickenpox and polio: instead of lingering at a graveside with grieving parents who believe vaccines killed their baby girl, perhaps the filmmakers could have unearthed some footage of children encased in iron lungs.”

Though a correction has been made to the review because apparently the film does show children in iron lungs, it’s quite clear from Catsoulis’ mistake that this is clearly not emphasized and certainly not given equal attention to the very few individual cases of alleged vaccine injuries the film is much more interested in feeding to the public.

But that’s where Anne Dachel’s whiny response takes an odd turn as she leaps many dimensions of logic to argue that it’s not reasonable for health practitioners to place greater importance on protecting the most lives because they should apparently only care about protecting Anne Dachel’s kids:

Phrases like, “needs of the population at large,” “cost-benefits analysis,” and “all that matters is that its victims number significantly fewer than those of the diseases vaccinations are designed to prevent” are really frightening to me. It makes me think of things like “peripheral damage” and “acceptable loss.”

That’s because you’re insane, Anne. The terms you describe come from military strategy, not medical practice. In fact, such behavior is considered highly unethical in medicine and could lead to losing one’s license to practice (ya know, like Dachel’s buddy Wakefield lost his license for his callous disregard for child welfare). Perhaps the single best example demonstrating that medicine doesn’t work that way is with organ donation. Doctors can’t just harvest organs from a terminal patient to save numerous other patients. Hell, if a person drops dead this very minute, doctors can’t just take the organs. The person would have to have volunteered to be an organ donor. So even if the fate of five other terminal patients rests on the organs of one dude who’s already dead, they still must respect that person’s wishes as best as they can. This is not something that is taken lightly. But yes, generally doctors have to play a numbers game and do the best they can to protect the most people. It’s almost like that’s their job or something.

But what this all comes down to is, exactly as the review says, a cost-benefit analysis. Doctors often have to make major life and death decisions, sometimes very quickly. This often means going with what has the best odds of a positive outcome paired with the lowest odds of making things worse. It’s not perfect. Sometimes medical procedures can fail or even make things worse. Nobody knows for sure how it will all turn out in the end. But keep in mind that even seat belts have been responsible for some deaths. So does that mean we should all stop wearing seat belts? No. That’s absurd because when you look at a cost-benefit analysis, it’s clear that seat belts save far more lives than they hurt.

Like seat belts, vaccines aren’t 100% safe. And everyone acknowledges this fact openly. That’s the whole point of Catsoulis’ criticism. Everyone already agrees vaccines CAN cause injuries. The only real point of contention if a legitimate one existed (it doesn’t) would be whether vaccines do more harm than good. And the answer to that question is absolutely not.

Lastly, Dachel exploits a common argument among anti-vaxxers, implying that vaccine requires some sort of child sacrifice. It does not, at least no more than saying automobiles require child sacrifice. The fact is that as long as we drive cars, some people will get killed in car accidents. But that’s not a requirement of society’s continued use of cars. To suggest otherwise is absurd. Same with vaccines though even more so. Cars kill thousands of Americans every year. Vaccines haven’t killed even one for at least the last two. Incidentally, 27 Americans died of lightning strikes in 2010 alone. So consider that while Dachel condemns them damned vaccines.

Meanwhile, millions of lives have been protected from deadly diseases. If looking at those statistics, Anne Dachel wants to side with the viruses at the expense of the human species, she’s welcome to do it but the rest of us sane people are going to mock her mercilessly for her pathologically terrible decision-making skills. Her child is much, much more likely to suffer at the hands of the diseases vaccines can prevent than the vaccines themselves. And if she wants to take her chances by not wearing a seat belt because seat belts too have caused injury or even death, she can do that too.

And how does Dachel defend this idiotic view?

Catsoulis isn’t troubled by the fact that there’s no way to tell WHOSE CHILD IS VULNERABLE. It’s just the chance we all have to take—for the good of the herd I guess.

It makes me afraid that in the end, when “a link [is] proved definitively,” to use the author’s words, we’ll be told that what happened to our kids is justified by the claim that vaccines prevented lots of other kids from getting sick.

Dachel isn’t troubled by the fact that there’s no way to tell WHOSE SEAT BELT WILL FAIL. It’s just the chance we all have to take–for the good of the people who might be hurt if our bodies get thrown from our vehicles during a car crash. Dachel would have people believe it’s a choice between protecting your kid or protecting other people; it’s not. Vaccines protect BOTH the vaccinated and those around them. There’s no need to pick and choose priorities. It’s a fuckin’ win-win situation for everyone. But if she wants to risk everyone’s lives on this appeal to hypothetical future evidence that will confirm her presently unjustifiable speculations–if that’s what she wants to hang her hat on–then I’m going to have to cite my own hypothetical future evidence that she’s certifiably insane. So just remember my warnings when future Anne Dachel is up in the bell tower massacring dozens of people with a shotgun while eating babies, stealing Christmas, and using magic to resurrect Hitler.

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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.

BUSTED!

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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Cartoon Sherri Tenpenny almost as frightening as the real thing

July 25, 2011

Someone has used Xtranormal animation software to create great video about the anti-vaccine movement:

Though the anti-vaxxer in the video is never named,  it’s pretty unmistakably Sherri Tenpenny:

Having been in the same room with her I don’t know if animation can quite capture all the evil that is Sherri Tenpenny yet, but bravo. We need more videos to expose the lies of these deadly charlatans. Vaccines save lives. For instance, it’s now being reported that chickenpox deaths have plummeted thanks to the vaccine, while 1,100 children in the Congo are dead from measles, a rare disease in nations with strong vaccination against measles.

And if the rare serious risks can’t be tolerated by the anti-vaxxers, then maybe they should look at how many people die from cars each year & launch a campaign to ban all cars.

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J.B. Handley drinking game

May 18, 2011

The latest blog by Generation Rescue’s J.B. Handley posted over at that wretched hive of scum and villainy known as Age of Autism has inspired me to create a drinking game. The piece is a long rant against David Gorski titled, Dr. David Gorski’s Unique Brand of Moronism.

Here are the rules of the drinking game, which while designed for this particular article, should probably fit any Handley article:

1. Drink every time Handley uses an ad hominem argument

2. Drink every time Handley acknowledges he’s using an ad hominem but then still treats it as if it’s a legitimate argument anyway.

3. Drink every time Handley suggests the mere use of a pen name invalidates a critic’s position.

4. Drink every time Handley pulls a Donald Trump by asserting his critic’s respectable medical credentials aren’t respectable at all even though he himself as no medical credentials at all.

5. Drink every time Handley uses scare quotes.

6. Drink twice every time Handley uses scare quotes more than once in a single sentence.

7. Drink every time Handley tries to paint his critic as just a big meanie while implying he would never sink so low (ignoring that he himself reluctantly was pressured to give up the domain pauloffit.com, where the site’s sole purpose was to flame one of his leading critics).

8. Drink every time Handley references either his own parental status or his critic’s not being a parent, or uses that status  as a rationale for his knowledge (scare quotes could not be used around the word knowledge because scare quotes are now an official trademark of J.B. Handley) and/or behavior.

9. Drink twice every time Handley explicitly mentions he’s a parent of a kid with autism or special needs.

10. Drink every time Handley applies circular reasoning by just asserting vaccines cause autism or neurological injury as if it were a fact.

11. Drink every time Handley embeds or links to a video where we’re supposed to see a demonstration of some irrelevant point he’s making and the clip doesn’t actually even demonstrate that point.

12. Drink if Handley just trash talks for at least eight paragraphs and then treats it as if it were some brief diversion from some larger and more legitimate point.

13. Drink twice if that larger and more legitimate point turns out to be just more trash talking.

14. Drink every time Handley (who once endorsed a photoshopped image of his critics sitting at a Thanksgiving table preparing to eat a baby) charges his critic with un-professional conduct and immaturity while never addressing the actual criticisms themselves.

15. Drink every time Handley compares or contrasts his critics with fictional doctors on TV or in films.

16. Drink every time Handley chooses to pretend a significant scientific distinction is nothing more than a game of semantics even though it’s already been thoroughly explained why it isn’t.

17. Drink every time Handley refers to, “feeding the hungry lie,” applying the same circular reasoning of asserting vaccines cause autism or neurological injury even when all the evidence is squarely against that hypothesis.

18. Drink every time Handley applies the long debunked “too much, too soon” gambit or poses an unfalsifiable hypothesis.

19. Drink every time Handley asserts that the ingredients in the vaccines are dangerous despite all the evidence to the contrary.

20. Drink twice if mentions an ingredient that is either naturally produced in the body or that the body is regularly exposed to in larger quantity than is found in any vaccine such as formaldehyde or aluminum.

21. Drink if Handley just copy and pastes the ingredient list, counting on scary names like 2-phenoxyethanol or polydimethylsilozone to create fear, even though you suspect he has no idea what the ingredients are.

22. Drink every time Handley references mercury or thimerosal as if that isn’t the single most debunked anti-vaccine claim of them all.

23. Drink every time Handley plugs one of his other shitty websites.

24. Drink every time Handley disingenuously suggests he’s not really anti-vaccine but is completely open to the possibility that vaccines don’t cause autism.

25. Drink twice if this comes at some point after he’d already asserted vaccines cause autism as if it were a fact.

26. Drink every time Handley claims to know what a real doctor would do or say despite not being one.

27. Drink every time Handley suggests anecdotes make an adequate substitute for epidemiological data.

28. If you’re still alive, donate your body to science.

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The Value of Vaccines | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

April 29, 2011

Jake Crosby once again unintentionally convicts himself of having a conflict of interest

April 28, 2011

Jake Crosby is at it again with more 6000-degrees of separation conspiracies – If I were as childish as the folks over at Age of Autism, I might dub this kid Joke Crosby…but I’m classy and stuff. Crosby reiterates his last alleged conflict of interest:

The saga of Seth Mnookin and his uncle, Robert Mnookin just gets weirder and weirder. First it has been revealed that Robert Mnookin is close colleagues with Linda Singer – the mother-in-law of pharma-funded wife, Alison Singer – and Michael Lewis, who sits on the board of her fake autism charity/pharma front group, “Autism Science Foundation.”

Got that straight? Seth Mnookin’s uncle works with the mother-in-law of Alison Singer (who I get a funny feeling young Jake is not a fan off – what he has against warrior moms with autistic children, I have no idea). This to him constitutes a conflict of interest. On what grounds? Beats the fuck out of me!

I recently learned that I’m distantly related on my uncle’s side to Jonathan Ames, the writer and producer of the HBO series Bored To Death. And while I met his parents once now, I’ve never so much as been in the same room as Mr. Ames. And yet young Jake, who apparently isn’t aware that everyone in the world is connected by a few degrees, is convinced such a tenuous connection is “weird” and “bizarre”, as well as significant enough to completely ignore Mnookin’s actual facts and arguments.

His latest amazingly “bizarre” connection is that the author of the recent NY Times article that positively quoted Mnookin also “gushed” about his uncle in a news story from a whopping six years ago.  Come to think of it, I’ve noticed a lot of writers consistently write negatively of Charles Manson. Weird! Bizarre! It must be an evil plot. What other possibility could there be? Also Jake Crosby has in dozens of articles “gushed” over Andrew Wakefield. Bizarre. I think Jake would agree that that proves overwhelmingly that he is part of a conspiracy. Seriously though, this level of deluded McCarthyism is getting truly pathetic. Here is an article that lays out the grounds for what is considered an unhealthy relationship in the real world.

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