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The anti-vaccine movement shows just how low it can go

I debated whether or not to blog about this. The reason is that I suspect that gathering a lot of attention and controversy is exactly what Generation Rescue wanted when it posted what I’m about to blog about. On the other hand, no matter how low my opinion is of the principals who run Generation Rescue‘s anti-vaccine propaganda blog Age of Autism, there were limits below which they wouldn’t go. Oh, sure, AoA has launched at least three broadsides at me over the last year and a half, all penned by the ever-offensive blowhard J.B. Handley, the founder of Generation Rescue who’s allowed himself to be displaced by a brainless D-list actress and her equally dim but, alas, very popular A-list comedian boyfriend. Indeed, I’ve gotten to the point where I can almost predict when such a broadside is coming, and when it does I know I’ve scored big points.

This time, though, the broadside wasn’t directed at me.

Look, I get it. I get why J.B. Handley likes to launch a full frontal assault on me periodically. I’m not all warm and cuddly and accommodationist. When I see pseudoscience, stupidity, and nastiness on the part of the anti-vaccine movement I don’t mince words about it. I call stupidity stupidity and despicable behavior despicable behavior. Sometimes it it causes me some mild trouble. But, attacks by cranks aside, I’ve never seen anything like what AoA posted the other day. It was so over-the-top that even bloggers who don’t normally pay that much attention to the anti-vaccine movement, bloggers like Rebecca “Skepchick” Watson took notice before even I did. Basically, whatever nastiness the anti-vaccine movement has thrown my way, it’s never done to me what it’s just done to a friend (Steve Novella), a scientist I admire (Paul Offit), and two journalists (Amy Wallace and Trine Tsouderos) who’ve earned my respect for having written hard-hitting, science-based exposes of the anti-vaccine movement and the anti-vaccine autism “biomed” movement, as well as others who clearly don’t deserve this degree of hate and abuse.

It’s never portrayed me as eating babies as part of a Thanksgiving feast. That’s right. AoA thinks its a load of yucks to paint its enemies as cannibals eating babies.

Even as someone who has become as jaded as I have when it comes to the behavior of the anti-vaccine movement, I was amazed by just how vile this latest post from Generation Rescue is. I realized that the anti-vaccine movement hates us defenders of science-based medicine, but I hadn’t realized the depth of the hatred, but it flowed out in torrents in the comments after this post. Misogyny, hatred, anger, and pseudoscience, all mixed together in a toxic brew, and I plan on pointing out some examples. No doubt AoA expected me and others to be outraged, but what I am, more than anything else, is depressed. That human beings can think such things based on so little evidence is truly depressing–and saddening.

First, there’s Kim Stagliano, a.k.a. “Stagmom,” leaping in very early with a comment that Rebecca also took her to task for, a comment that was so misogynistic and tasteless that apparently she took it down. Good thing I saved it, as did Rebecca Watson, the better to rub her face in it:

Dr. Nancy is under the table servicing Dr. Offit’s RotaDick. Wait, can you hear her? “Fere If doh bontrobersy!!” Someone should tell her it’s not polite to talk with your mouth full.

She’s referring to Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor and a defender of vaccines against the myths promulgated by the likes of Kimmy.

Then there’s Autismdaddy crowing:

Love it. Pharma-whore house looks like to me!

But the commenters at AoA were just getting warmed up. No attack on an an ideological enemy would be complete without one element, one technique of demonization, a favorite these days of right-wing enemies of President Obama and formerly a favorite of left-wing anti-war protestors against President Bush. It’s the all-purpose demonization that keeps giving, so much so that I created my own literary “device” to mock it, a device I kept going back to until recently the sorts of analogies I used to have so much fun mocking became so commonplace that I could if I so desire run a blog that is nothing but such attempts at parody. That’s right, I’m talking about letting your brains be chomped by the Hitler Zombie, just as a commenter going by the ‘nym of benmyson did:

It’s a horrible image. So are the images of boxcar loads of men, women and children going to Dachau, or the image of the napalm scorched Vietnamese girl running down the road. Obviously reality is horrifying. Sins of omission do just as much damage.

A five year old girl as sold, traded, bartered into sexual slavery in North Carolina recently. This child ended up strangled to death and tossed off the side of the road into a pile of rotting deer carcusses. The mother of this child, a prostitute herself, may have rationalized that the child she gave away would have no worse of a life than most children. She may have even rationalized that sacrificing her daughter would enable her to save her unborn child and her son. Much the same way the Chinese did by killing the newborn baby girls.

People can rationalize all kinds of things, blowing up 100,000 people by dropping two atomic bombs in Japan may have saved the world from who knows what, but tell that to the family and the survivors.

Yes it is a cruel and horrifying image but so is turning a blind eye to the truth. And the truth is they know better.

Because the image of children being vaccinated against deadly childhood diseases is just like the Holocaust.

Benmyson is apparently unaware that Dachau was a concentration camp, not a death camp. Boxcar loads of men, women, and children were generally not taken there to be gassed, but either punished or worked to death. Political prisoners, Jews, Communists, Christian religious resisters to Nazi rule, and, later, Soviet prisoners of war, were imprisoned there under bad conditions that steadily deteriorated as the war continued and the Nazis became more brutal. But, hey, why ruin a good rant with a little history?

Be that as it may, where have we heard this sort of apocalyptic imagery before? Many are the crank movements that devolve into comparing their enemies to Hitler and Stalin and claiming that they’ve slaughtered on par with them or Pol Pot. I will admit, however, that I’ve never heard anyone likening defending science-based medicine against pseudoscience–any pseudoscience–to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not even PETA, a group that is not shy about invoking the Holocaust for its own purposes, hasn’t done that. Speaking of the Holocaust and Nazis, it didn’t escape my notice that the image of the perceived0 enemies of GR and AoA preparing to eat a baby for a holiday feast is more than a little reminiscent of the blood libel against the Jews, in which anti-Semites claim that Jews kidnap Gentile babies in order to perform ritual murder and use their blood to make their Passover matzah. I wonder how many Jewish parents of autistic children noticed that.

The sad thing, the thing that really depresses me, is that this his how a lot of the anti-vaccine movement really does think. Seriously. In fact, if you have any doubt that the movement behind AoA is anti-vaccine to the core, check out this comment by Kristina:

The horrifying truth about these people is that if they replaced their current, real life actions that injure and kill thousands of children per year, with a tradition of killing just one baby per year for Thanksgiving, the world would be a better place. That is why the cartoon, while sickening, is not inappropriate.

Kristina apparently really does believe that vaccines kill thousands of people a year and that it would be better to kill one baby a year to be eaten than to keep vaccinating babies and have thousands die. Words fail me in trying to convey to you the enormity of the hatred and ignorance embodied in these beliefs. The rhetoric is starting to resemble that of the radical anti-abortion movement, both in its invocations of the Holocaust, its apocalyptic comparisons, and the accusations of murdering children. From there it’s only a short hop to accusing your foes of being capable of eating babies (all neatly cloaked under a flimsy blanket of lame than lame “parody”). From there it’s not a very long leap to thinking that something has to be done about these people who have been painted as enemies of humanity and killers (and eaters) of babies. The history of the anti-vaccine movement is starting to look disturbingly like the history of the anti-abortion movement. Accusing your enemies of killing and eating babies, even in jest, is a step in the direction to dehumanizing defenders of science-based medicine in such a manner that could make it easier to justify violence.

In all fairness, however, so over-the-top was AoA’s latest antic that several of its readers, even some who are usually totally down with the pseudoscience behind autism “biomed” quackery and the scientifically discredited notion that vaccines cause autism, reacted with appropriate revulsion. A sampling:

This is disgraceful. Who do you think you are to do something like that? If somebody would picture myself like this i would be more then offended. This is below all standard. Shame on you. (George)

Sorry all, I loved AOA till tonite. This baby on the table is just going too far. I dont know where American civilization is headed. Our distinguished jurist, Justice Clarence Thomas , said it years ago. Americans are losing CIVILITY ! Half a century ago, would anyone have portrayed Hitler and his top brass sitting at a fine dining table with you know what on it? Of course not- Thats because people were taught civility and respect in those days. (Cherry Sperlin Misra)

It is unfortunate to hear that the editors at AoA do not see the harm in posting garbage like this.

I visit this blog daily and it has become one my best sources for autism news. The quality of information and research on real autism matters is unsurpassed.

Having said that, how can anyone expect to be painted as anything but extremists with imagery like this. I understand the anger, I understand the frustration. What I don’t understand is how this advances our cause to advocate for our children.

How can I pass information from this site on to anyone in an effort to convince them of the need for vaccine/environmental research for autism. AoA cannot be taken seriously when stuff like this is posted. (Tom K)

This really helps a lot in the discussion of vaccines and safety doesn’t it? It fails on two levels:
– it is a personal attack on individuals, not on their policies or beliefs
– it shows the offensive nature of your site and the people who support it. This merely labels you as extremists and will ultimately lose you credibility and respect.

Quite shameful…(Antro)

Quite shameful indeed. He’s also nailed a key difference between how I criticize and how AoA attacks. I tend to try to attack beliefs and statements. When I say, “The stupid, it burns!” I’m usually referring to the stupidity of the statement I’m mocking, not to the person who made it. AoA goes for the ad hominem attack first. What else can it do? It can’t argue the science. It can’t argue from logic. All that’s left is to slime those whom it perceives as its enemies. As a consequence, henceforth, whenever I want to show someone just how loony, how utterly without scruples, how out of touch with reality the anti-vaccine movement is, I’ll just show him this post on AoA. Let’s put it this way. When even Craig Willoughby, who went from seemingly at least semi-rational to full-out hate-filled ranting (particularly about me), doesn’t think this is appropriate, AoA has a real problem, and trying to claim that this disgusting picture was “inspired” by Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” looks desperate at best and pathetic at worst.

So how did the “leaders” of AoA react? Well, we already know how Kim Stagliano reacted; she cheerfully made a blowjob joke about it. Later she joked about loving puppies. True, she removed the “BJ” comment, which is a little bit to her credit. A very little bit. Clearly she does have a sense of shame. J.B. Handley, on the other hand and not surprisingly, thought the picture “hilarious.” Meanwhile, AoA’s resident self-proclaimed “scientist” who isn’t a scientist in any sense of the word (Mark Blaxill) appeared disturbed by the picture but decided to defend the picture by opining that “we’re a BLOG” and that “it’s our job to be edgy.” (Clearly, Blaxill has a different definition of the word “edgy” than most people do.)

Conspicuous by their absence are David Kirby, Dan Olmsted, and Kent Heckenlively. Certainly, Kirby, for all his skill at verbal prestidigitation and twisting science into a pretzel of pseudoscience and misdirection, is no dummy when it comes to PR. My guess is that he’s appalled by this. Ditto Dan “I see nothing” Olmsted. Kent Heckenlively, as scientifically clueless as he is and as appalled as I’ve been by his subjecting his daughter to quackery, strikes me as a genuinely nice man. I wonder what he thinks of being associated with the likes of Adriana Gamondes, who Photoshopped this picture.

I want to finish this post by echoing a sentiment expressed by Sullivan over at Autism Blog. Although Generation Rescue wants them to think so, Paul Offit, Steve Novella, Amy Wallace, Trine Tsouderos, Paul Insel, and Alison Singer are not the enemies of parents with autistic children, not even parents who are utterly convinced that vaccines caused their child’s autism. Neither am I, as hard as Generation Rescue (and particularly J.B. Handley) would like parents to believe otherwise. It is not we who are standing in the way of Generation Rescue, Andrew Wakefield, Barbara Loe Fisher, and the rest. It really isn’t.

Science is, or, more specifically, the lack of good science supporting their beliefs.

That’s right. Unfortunately for Generation Rescue, its former dogmatic insistence that autism is a “misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning,” and its later insistence that it’s “too many too soon” or the “toxins” in the vaccines causing an “epidemic of autism,” the science just hasn’t fallen into line with its beliefs. It shows no sign of doing so. Worse, the more science goes against it, the more the anti-vaccine movement moves into sheer crankery and hatred. Rather than re-examining their beliefs in light of new evidence and readjusting them, exactly as I would do if there were a series of well-designed large studies showing strong evidence that vaccines are linked with autism, the anti-vaccine movement as epitomized by Generation Rescue and its propaganda blog Age of Autism retreats further and further into pseudoscience, lashing out at anyone who dares to stand up and tell it that there’s no convincing scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism or that “biomedical” woo reverses it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It would actually not necessarily be a bad thing if these things were found to be true, because we would then not only have identified a major cause of autism but would have highly effective treatments for it.

Unfortunately, real life isn’t that simple, and, instead of realigning its beliefs to conform to reality, the anti-vaccine movement lashes out at those who point out that there’s no science supporting them. Worse, if there were any doubt that Age of Autism is profoundly anti-vaccine to its very core, that doubt was removed when AoA decided to liken those who stand up against anti-vaccine misinformation to baby killers and hordes of commenters descended to say that such a comparison was appropriate because they really believe that vaccines are a Holocaust, a Hiroshima, a Nagasaki, a Stalin, Chinese women sold into slavery, and the killers of thousands of children every year. Autistic children pay the price of its irrational fear of vaccines and belief in “biomed” treatments that are, in my opinion, the rankest quackery. If sanity doesn’t prevail, ultimately all children will pay the price in the form of the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases that will kill and maim thousands of them.

ADDENDUM:

And the comments just keep rolling in! First, there’s Twyla:

I do hear those who are saying that it is important to elevate the level of discourse and avoid personal attacks. But to me, this picture is very expressive in an intelligent way.

Expressive and intelligent? Well, “expressive” I’ll give you, but intelligent? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Then there’s this not-so-dynamic duo of comments. First, we have Mike opining:

What is “sick” to me is how anyone would not want to put an end to this EPIDEMIC that is causing so much pain for our children. The only change I would have made to the picture was to put Satan himself at the head seat.

Well, isn’t that special? With Hitler being mentioned so prominently, the only way to up the ante would be to go to Satan, although I think the crank ceiling has been reached as far as hyperpbolic analogies. Still, I bet you know what’s coming next. Certainly I did, and here it comes, courtesy of Jessica:

I think if someone could obtain a picture of ORAC…there would be your perfect Satan.

Love right back atcha, Jessica.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

188 replies on “The anti-vaccine movement shows just how low it can go”

“Unfortunately, real life isn’t that simple, and, instead of realigning its beliefs to conform to reality, the anti-vaccine movement lashes out at those who point out that there’s no science supporting them. Worse, if there were any doubt that Age of Autism is profoundly anti-vaccine to its very core, that doubt was removed when AoA decided to liken those who stand up against anti-vaccine misinformation to baby killers and hordes of commenters descended to say that such a comparison was appropriate because they really believe that vaccines are a Holocaust, a Hiroshima, a Nagasaki, a Stalin, Chinese women sold into slavery, and the killers of thousands of children every year. Autistic children pay the price, and, if sanity doesn’t prevail, all children will pay the price in the form of the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases that will kill and maim thousands of them.”

AOA clearly intended this post as a morale rouser for their followers, and even on that score it seems to have failed. I think it falls fairly neatly into the category of “things you wish you opponent would do but never dare to hope that they would be that stupid”.

I think it falls fairly neatly into the category of “things you wish you opponent would do but never dare to hope that they would be that stupid”.

My thoughts exactly.

The picture in question is still up there, and as of yesterday, there were still supportive comments coming in. Given the number of negative comments that they are allowing to be posted, though, I suspect you’re right that at least someone there has some shame.

I too fear for the future of science in this country. When dangerous internet-fueled ‘advocacy’ groups push people in this direction, it can have very bad consequences. In addition to your examples, I would point out that the increasingly outrageous anti-vaccine rhetoric calls to mind the recent battle over Lyme disease.

The problem is this: if you believe that thousands of people (presumably children) are being killed or neurologically maimed each year by vaccines, which is being somehow being covered up by big pharma to protect their profit margins, then the comparison to the Holocaust/Hiroshima/Stalin/Iraq (no one goes down that road do they?) is logical. Same thing with abortion.

I led with Stagliano’s fellatio comment on my blog on it yesterday morning, http://counteringageofautism.blogspot.com/2009/11/standing-up-from-table-and-saying.html.

I ended up covering and deconstructing Blaxill’s post in another blog, and running a third calling for an letter-writing campaign to Google News to get AoA removed from the news feed.

Stagliano may have taken the worst of her comments down, but she expressed this: ” This is a cartoon/spoof of the team of people who have either made it their life’s work to make sure our kids go untreated or who have advanced that agenda unabashedly in the mainstream media. I feel no remorse in running it. I think Mark Blaxill’s comment explained our position very well.”

Whether she feels any remorse about stooping to the low level of Handley’ misogyny and that’s why she removed it, we probably will never know. It ‘s not like AoA or GenRes are particularly good at admitting when they are wrong.

I’d argue that they are letting their loyalists’ comments that are calling them out for this through in order to be able to deny that they heavily censor their comments.

Surprised? Not me.

Kim Stagliano made a BJ joke? Seriously? The same woman who on HuffPo vowed to have public sex with any male (females need not apply) who rid her daughters of the autism label? Seriously.

Handley claimed to have his wife chelated before having their second kid. Seriously.

These people support dangerous stem cell (un)therapies in Mexico, drinking hydrolyzed RNA, chronically dosing massive quantities of anti-virals, ingesting high concentration of fat-soluble vitamins, eating algae paste, sitting in IR saunas, exposing a kid to chelation, slathering on Buttar’s stinky goo, and forcing a kid to sit in an HBOT balloon all in the name of feeling better about themselves as experimentalists.

And anyone expects these people to exhibit restraint and judgment?

Stagliano and Handley represent Generation Rescue and Age of Autism well; they are typical of the tiny, violently ignorant band involved with those anti-science organizations.

“The history of the anti-vaccine movement is starting to look disturbingly like the history of the anti-abortion movement. Accusing your enemies of killing and eating babies,”, actually its reminiscent of anti-semitism: the whole thing is similar to the blood libel. Any bets on “jews being behind big pharma” next?
I suggest someone libeled by these people should warn them of the attitude of the British courts to such defametary posts.

It’s sad that these people are so full of hate. From time to time I catch myself thinking that I hate Jenny McCarthy, or I hate JB Handley. The next time one of those thoughts run through my head, I will think of this post and try my hardest to attain the compassion and understanding for their side of the argument that they refuse to have for ours. They have allowed their passion to turn to hate. We should avoid that at all costs.

Not even a raised eyebrow. It doesn’t surprise me in the least.

All it shows is that they are becoming more and more unstable as an organisation. As people begin to realise this they will leave, pushing them even further to the margins. ITs inevitable with so little basis in reality.

In the long run, this is a good sign of the eventual marginalisation of a group long since past insane and yet still whipping a dead horse for more speed.

Okay, so there’s been a lot of outrage over the misogyny and how AoA ridicules science.
Don’t get me wrong, this is vile.

But I’m autistic.
I’m the “turkey dinner”.
Bensmyson compared my life to that of a Dachau prisoner.

It is sad to learn that hardly anyone finds it offensive that autistic peoples’ lives are misrepresented and marginalized in such an obnoxious way.

Then you say autistic children pay the price.

Can you not imagine what effect this has on autistic people in general?

The idea that is perpetuated here is that autism is such a tragedy we’re better off dead.

This is how abuse of autistic people is justified.

How loud do we have to shout for people to notice that we exist, that we are humans and that our lives are worth living?

Damn, and I thought GR was a slick, professional-like outfit. They couldn’t get someone with even a moderate amount of Photoshop skills to do this?

Has anyone who has the stomach to read through all the comments on that post noticed if Dr. Jay has commented yet, asking them to be civil?

Just wondering if he holds both sides to the same standards.

Then you say autistic children pay the price.

The idea that is perpetuated here is that autism is such a tragedy we’re better off dead.

Is it?…thats news to me. Perhaps a quote or two to back up that claim?

Children do pay the price though because these guys are demanding research (and have got it) into pointlessly unlikely areas of research instead of spending that money on more useful avenues. Not to mention their love of ridiculous “alternative” medical techniques where their own children are the guinea pigs.

Good point, Kowalski. It is very damaging to portray autism as a “fate worse than death”.

OTOH, it is reasonable to want people with autism to have communication and self help skills–just as parents wish this for their “neurotypical” kids.

I gather from your post that your own communication skills are very, very good. This isn’t true for all kids diagnosed with autism, as you know.

But you’re right: the tenor of the posts at AoA do nothing to help people with autism in general.

Kowalski, I don’t know; morons such as Handley, McCarthy, Stagliano, and others are apparently deranged enough to think autism somehow makes a person worse off than they may actually be. I’m not autistic, but I know a few autistic people and I think I’ve got enough familiarity with what it entails to know that the anti-vaxxers are completely deranged.

Most anti-vaxxers aren’t doctors trying to bilk people out of their money; they’re dumb parents who aren’t educated worth a shit on this. Their degrees are likely in something in which they never had to take a biology class or a psychology class. They’re also flooded with wacky parent hormones so it’s somewhat impossible for them to think with a certain amount of detachment about their kid (not to disparage the sane parents who are logical). In sum, they are eejits.

I’m not saying autism, in the majority of cases, doesn’t provide difficulties for the person who’s got it; but they somehow think autism is some sort of condemnation to some imaginary fate. I see they’ve never met Temple Grandin.

Kowalski–

Thank you for stopping by to make that point. It’s too easy for the rest of us to think of autism as a childhood condition, even if we know people on the spectrum. And I have no reason to assume that, after a childhood and adolescence of being pushed into questionable or harmful “treatments,” that most autistic people manage to take control of their medical care at the age of 18, or ever. That’s hard enough for people who aren’t labeled as having mental problems. There are real differences between useful support of various kinds (I won’t presume to speculate what you specifically find useful) and cures, even for something that the person wants changed.

Another day, another dead victim of Orac’s style of medicine.

“Miss Magnano, a 38-year-old mother of twins who won the beauty pageant in 1994, died of a pulmonary embolism on Sunday. She had spent three days in a critical condition following a gluteoplasty procedure in Buenos Aires.

A close friend, Roberto Piazza, said the procedure involved injections and the liquid “went to her lungs and brain”.

“A woman who had everything lost her life to have a slightly firmer behind,” he said.”

Alternative medicine practitioners do not cut people up or inject foriegn substances into their bodies for large sums of money, so it is impossible for an alternative medicine practitioner to kill a patient the way allopathic medicine practitioners constantly do.

People can rationalize all kinds of things, blowing up 100,000 people by dropping two atomic bombs in Japan may have saved the world from who knows what, but tell that to the family and the survivors.

The US firebombing of Tokyo caused far more death and destruction than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. But “firebombing” just isn’t as scary as “atom bomb” for those constructing an emotional rant.

I… Meh.
A wise person I once knew said, “you cannot reason with Crazy. You can’t even fight Crazy with Crazy, cuz it just breeds more Crazy.”
It isn’t even about a loss of civility, anymore. Civility has to be learned, earned, and cultivated. The only reason we have some to lose is because people worked so hard to earn it in the first place. I don’t see that stopping, across the board, even when subjected to this kind of mindless, ignorant hate. Let’s not lament the loss of something that some people clearly never had; let’s pay our respects to the good people who were so unashamedly attacked, instead. Let’s think of Paul Offit, Steve Novella, Amy Wallace, Trine Tsouderos, Paul Insel, and Alison Singer for who they really are, not as the targets for the distraction of truth that some would like them to be. Let us remember that they aren’t as sick and twisted as their opposition, whatever their real faults may be, and that they are trying to help, in the face of something that has quickly become terrifying in its myopic violence. I don’t know them personally, but I feel for them, and I’m proud of them, even if I don’t have a right to be. Here’s to you, folks.
Good luck, and good hunting.

@Another Victim,

H*ppeh, you really should try harder at concealing yourself. You come on here and post in exactly the same style every time.

One slight error, it was Jonathan Swift (not Thomas Swift) that wrote A Modest Proposal.

Blah blah….so it is impossible for an alternative medicine practitioner to kill a patient the way allopathic medicine practitioners constantly do.

Therefore they have to be more inventive in how they kill their victims.

This is how abuse of autistic people is justified.

I don’t know if it was you or someone else, but this is something that has begun to strike a chord with me, the extent to which autistic people (more likely kids, though) are absolutely subjected to child abuse. The things these people are doing to their children are absolutely criminal, and we would never allow it with other developmental disorders.

Orac raises a very important point: that this sort of “humor” (and I use the term loosely) is a tactic to dehumanize the purported enemy, making it that much easier to justify violent acts. If this kind of thing keeps up, how long before vaccination clinics are bombed?

Someone close to me has commented, half-jokingly, that my site may bring the crazies a-callin’ if they found out who I was and where I lived. Though antiantivax.flurf.net is a somewhat humble endeavor and nowhere near as influential as the individuals featured in the cartoon, AoA’s actions actually make me a bit more concerned, for myself, those close to me, and for other bloggers supporting science-based medicine.

This calls to mind George Santayana’s observation about “one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” Or perhaps Winston Churchill’s about “can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

I think the point that AOA is dehumanizing people with autism along with their “enemies” is worth repeating. The approach they take to treatment is so completely unethical, it shouldn’t really be any surprise that they think this kind of “humour” is appropriate. Any group that considers autistic children as guinea pigs for unproven treatments is not really concerned with the autonomy of the people they’re claiming they’re “curing”.

“I suggest someone libeled by these people should warn them of the attitude of the British courts to such defametary posts.”

Nah, I think they shouldn’t be warned. *veg*

Remember the movie by Autism Speaks that featured a mother talking about how she felt like killing her autistic kid. That’s the kind of attitude that many people find disturbing. (And no, the mother isn’t a bad mother for having those thoughts- she’s a bad mother for putting them on video.)

I hate to bring this up in what was otherwise a good read.

I hate the phrase “Science Based Medicine”. TBH, I’ve started to wonder if thats part of the problem, the….theft…if the word medicine by hacks and woo pushers. There is no such thing as Science Based Medicine. There is Medicine and Not-Medicine. Woo is not medicine.

I think the word should be taken back. I don’t think it should be “defenders of science-based medicine”. It should be just be “defenders of medicine”.

We’ve had our own recent dose of Mercury Woo in of all places the (formally) respected Pulse Magazine. Their Letter of the Week was from a Dr Jerry Thompson GP (Family Doctor) promoting the dangers of Thiomersal in Pig Plague vaccines… Pulse is widely read and perhaps it’s readers have enough sense to know what poison a Geier and Geier reference is…

A little research showed that he Dr Thompson was umm… well, he’s got a sideline in Homeopathy, Vega testing and Kinesiology…

I tried to make a fuss about it… But with Thanksgiving, and the approach of Chanukah, Xmas, Yule and Inti Raymi people have other things on their mercury poisoned minds…

You can read all about it on the New Republic’s “Mercury Quackery in Pulse Magazine”

Another day, another dead victim of Orac’s style of medicine.

Do you know what “gluteoplasty” is?

A close friend, Roberto Piazza, said the procedure involved injections and the liquid “went to her lungs and brain”.

This is not a legitimate medical procedure. Any MD who tried it in my part of the world would lose his licence.

Alternative medicine practitioners do not cut people up or inject foriegn substances into their bodies for large sums of money

…except when they do – chelation, anyone?

What’s worse than a troll? A stupid troll.

Bob, the problem is that SOME CAM treatments DO work. (Nasal irrigation, for example.) So what do we do? Do we call it medicine if it works and not-medicine if it doesn’t? So if some traditional Chinese medicine treatments work but others don’t, should we call it traditional Chinese medicine-and-non-medicine? What about those treatments we’re not sure about? Do we call them not-sure-if-it’s-medicine? Science based medicine is just so much simpler as a term.

actually its reminiscent of anti-semitism: the whole thing is similar to the blood libel. Any bets on “jews being behind big pharma” next?

Yeah, I also noticed that. When I read “eating babies as part of a Thanksgiving feast”, I immediately thought of the fucked-up rumors that used to be (hell, still are) spread about Jews drinking blood at their ceremonies and such. Truly ugly.

And as far as a crude photoshop job to maximize offensiveness… I outgrew that after my freshman year of college. Please.

Any bets on “jews being behind big pharma” next?

You’re WAAAY behind the times. Over on MHA, the psychoceramics have been citing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for ages. Along with the Illuminati.

I think you can find quotes over on whale.to

Alternative medicine practitioners do not cut people up or inject foriegn substances into their bodies for large sums of money

Two words: Tariq Nadama

Bob Gardner:

I hate the phrase “Science Based Medicine”. TBH, I’ve started to wonder if thats part of the problem, the….theft…if the word medicine by hacks and woo pushers.

Actually the term was coined as a counter to “evidence based medicine”, and has nothing to do with an attempt to distinguish from so-called alternative medicine. See the first posting of the ScienceBasedMedicine blog for an explanation:
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=1

Within the practice of medicine there is already a recognition of the need to raise the standards of evidence and the availability of the best evidence to the practitioner and the consumer – formalized in the movement known as evidence-based medicine (EBM). EBM is a vital and positive influence on the practice of medicine, but it has its limitations. Most relevant to this blog is the focus on evidence to the exclusion of scientific plausibility. The focus on evidence has its utility, but fails to properly deal with medical modalities that lie outside the scientific paradigm, or for which the scientific plausibility ranges from very little to nonexistent.

As simplistic as it sounds, if it works its medicine, if it works no better than a Placebo, it is, in my opinion, not medicine. As for stuff we’re not sure about, I think calling anything medicine when your not sure whether it works or not is a little….silly.

So while Science Based Medicine might be simpler, simply using medicine denies the word to those that would misuse it.

*insert usual opinion warnings here*

@Chris – 39

I stand corrected. I still get a strong nasty taste in my mouth whenever I hear the phrase however.

Mr. Gardner, you should take it up with Dr. Novella. It was his idea to promote Science Based Medicine as opposed to Evidence Based Medicine.

The other stuff, I just call “not medicine.” Or I call it magical thinking and medical myths, terms I used quite frequently this morning. In my university email box I got asked for my input on what to look for in a new dean for the School of Public Health. Since that was the department that allowed Jennifer Jacobs to go into Central America and treat diarrhea in children with homeopathic sugar pills, I told them to make sure the new dean puts a stop to that kind of nonsense!

Bob, the problem is that SOME CAM treatments DO work. (Nasal irrigation, for example.) So what do we do? Do we call it medicine if it works and not-medicine if it doesn’t?

Absolutely. As covered in Dr Hall’s post at SBM today, nasal irrigation was vindicated in a clinical trial (though problems were noted with long-term use). It works. Ergo, it can and should be used as medicine.

By the way, Orac:

If you think this is “just how low” the antivaxxers can go, I envy your sunny view of the world.

From the comment by “Mike,” quoted in the addendum:

What is “sick” to me is how anyone would not want to put an end to this EPIDEMIC that is causing so much pain for our children.

This use of the word “epidemic” (in all caps, yet) is a stunningly superlative example of unintended irony.

Vaccines are an “epidemic”? Epidemics are precisely what vaccines help to prevent. It takes an incredibly twisted view of reality to think as Mike does; it’s exactly like referring to prosperity as poverty, or to a feast as a famine — turning reality completely on its head.

~David D.G.

I stand corrected. I still get a strong nasty taste in my mouth whenever I hear the phrase however.

Thats because saying something either works or it doesn’t is the fallacy of the excluded middle.

Your comments, Orac, on the exact nature of Dachau were beyond tasteless. Benmyson simply referred to the image of people in boxcars being sent to Dachau. He did not give a timeline. He probably meant it as code for the worst of the worst of the Holocaust, and most readers understood it as such. Even those readers who know that the gas chambers were at the much bigger Auschwitz.

You do not refute Benmyson by pointing out that Dachau began as a mere prison. Suggesting that those poor Nazis just couldn’t keep up their high standards of taking several months to overwork underfed prisoners to death, thanks to those interfering Allies, is atrocious on your part.

I’m exceptionally proud of the blog AoA has become. To characterize it, however, as an initiative of Generation Rescue is simply untrue. In point of fact, AoA is far bigger than Generation Rescue, and has dozens of contributors who have nothing at all to do with GR. For what it’s worth, neither I nor anyone at GR plays an editorial role in AoA.

One of the many reasons AoA poses such a threat to people like you is that it represents the views of a large and growing community, a view that challenges the status quo, and a view that many more Americans each day are growing to share – partly due to the tireless efforts of AoA. It’s also a view that, given your past inaccurate proclamations, you certainly pray is untrue: that the prevalence of autism is growing, that the environment is playing a heavy role, and that vaccines appear to be the #1 culprit.

The photo in question that you feign exasperation for is a comedic style known as “satire” that also deals in metaphors. It may have gone over your head, I found it hilarious, if only I had been clever enough to think of it myself.

JB Handley

Mr. Emba’s referring to my comments about the Nazi concentration camp Dachau as “beyond tasteless” in the context of a post about Age of Autism going for big yucks portraying those whom it perceives as its enemies as baby-eating cannibals just fried my irony meter, particularly given the echoes of the blood libel against the Jews that Age of Autism’s imagery evokes.

william e emba: Do you understand that Orac wasn’t trying to make any justifications for the horrible massacre and that he was just clarifying why using Dachau is not accurate?

So you lack the ability to understand context and to critically examine small parts of posts? Wait… maybe you do.

@JB Handley

I found the picture rather tasteless, as did a coworker to whom I showed it. The bad thing, though, is not the picture itself, but the idea behind it: that the individuals portrayed are baby-killers. I urge caution in your portrayals, lest you create a beast that you cannot control.

that the prevalence of autism is growing, that the environment is playing a heavy role, and that vaccines appear to be the #1 culprit.

And when you don’t have any data to back your assertions, why not use images that look like they were slapped together by a drunk 5-year-old?

benmyson (quoted in original message):

It’s a horrible image. So are the images of boxcar loads of men, women and children going to Dachau…

Or the images of the rows upon rows of iron lungs, or the packed quarantine wards… I think someone needs to raid various photo archives and put together a nice collection of images that truly show how much better the world was before vaccinations. Add some newspaper and magazine articles from the time, to let the people from the past voice their agreement with those of today that, indeed, nobody ever died from whooping cough.

(As a complete aside, it struck me this morning that Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series is a good parallel to the vaccine issue; dragonriders=vaccine, thread=vaccinatable illnesses, rest of Pern population after “missed” threadfall=anti-vaxers.)

“if only I had been clever enough to think of it myself.”

JB, you’ve thought of many things as “clever”. The date-rape analogy, for example.

JB, I have no doubt you are proud of AoA. That’s a sign of how little I think of you personally, not a statement of how much I think of AoA.

AoA is excellent in that it puts in the public eye what you and your team are really like. Sure, you can recruit with it. But have you really made a difference? Maybe in taking more parents down your path, but really, have you made a difference in the autism community?

Not really.

Not that this is anything like on topic, but I believe Dachau’s gas chambers were never operated. There were firing squads and a killing field near the oven building but no gas chambers.

@Richard Smith

I think someone needs to raid various photo archives and put together a nice collection of images that truly show how much better the world was before vaccinations.

Someone has. I have a link to just such a site under the Additional Resources section of my site, antiantivax.flurf.net

@56 Matt

Actually, I’d disagree somewhat.

J.B. Handley has made a difference, just not a good difference, in my opinion. Through his organization, Generation Rescue and his blog Age of Autism and their unstinting anti-vaccine activism, arguably he, more than anyone else, has contributed to the unfortunate perception of the autism community as being full of anti-vaccine cranks. Arguably he, more than anyone else, has frightened scientists away from speaking out or even wanting to go into autism research, because they don’t want to have to deal with the hassles that his group causes them. (Who can blame them?) Arguably he, more than anyone else, has made scientists paranoid that their autism research will be misused by cranks, as was so ably documented in Trine Tsouderos’ second article.

Arguably he, above all else, has tainted the image of the autism community with the toxic stench of anti-vaccine crankery, at least in the United States.

Mr. Emba’s referring to my comments about the Nazi concentration camp Dachau as “beyond tasteless”

It was. With Benmyson not actually stating anything, you gave a brief whitewashed history of Dachau, the further to criticize him. It was just a “concentration” camp? They didn’t really mean to kill tenthousandsome prisoners in the last months, but gosh darn those Allies were making things tough all over, and Benmyson is a dork plus for not filling in these excuses for the Nazis? Excuses which you volunteered?

In the context of a post about Age of Autism going for big yucks … just fried my irony meter, …

How so? You said some ludicrous crap, I called you on it. Period. Irony would happen if I had some relevant blind spot. Could you identify it?

I’m exceptionally proud of what Jeffrey became. To characterize him, however, as a criminal is untrue. In point of fact, Jeffrey was far more than a criminal, and he has dozens of admirers who have nothing at all to do with crime. For what it’s worth, neither I nor anyone else tells Jeffrey what to do.

One of the many reasons Jeffrey poses such a threat to people like you is that he represents the views of a large and growing community, a view that challenges the status quo, and a view that many more Americans each day are growing to share – partly due to the tireless efforts of Jeffrey. It’s also a view that, given your past inaccurate proclamations, you certainly pray is untrue: that the prevalence of cannibalism is growing, that the environment is playing a heavy role, and that hydrogenated oils appear to be the #1 culprit.

William, you do realize that Orac is an OPPONENT of Holocaust denial, don’t you? He never blamed the Allies- you read that into his post.

It was. With Benmyson not actually stating anything, you gave a brief whitewashed history of Dachau, the further to criticize him. It was just a “concentration” camp?

I neither said, did, nor meant anything of the sort. Nice try trying to liken me to a Holocaust denier, though. I suggest you peruse the numerous posts I have written about Holocaust denial before you pull something so ridiculous:

http://respectfulinsolence.com/2006/08/how_i_discovered_holocaust_denial.php
http://oracknows.blogspot.com/2005/04/60-years-ago-today-liberation-of_29.html
http://respectfulinsolence.com/history/holocaust_denial/
http://respectfulinsolence.com/history/holocaust/
http://respectfulinsolence.com/2006/08/how_i_discovered_holocaust_denial.php
http://respectfulinsolence.com/2006/08/eugenics_and_involuntary_euthanasia_1.php
http://respectfulinsolence.com/2009/02/bishop_richard_williamson_holocaust_deni.php
http://respectfulinsolence.com/2009/09/creationism_holocaust_denial_stupidity2.php
http://respectfulinsolence.com/2009/11/holocaust_on_trial_podcast.php

To suggest that I was trying to argue that Dachau was “just” a concentration camp is a massive straw man and hugely offensive. There is a distinction that Holocaust scholars make; the classic imagery that Benmyson was trying to evoke was of extermination, particularly taken in the context of what was written later.

william e emba: Do you understand that Orac wasn’t trying to make any justifications for the horrible massacre and that he was just clarifying why using Dachau is not accurate?

Do you understand, Jean-Francois, that I certainly believe this was Orac’s intention, but I was quite horrified that he failed?

Benmyson referred to Dachau, because it was despicably bad, and he is playing with that image for his own purposes. Orac rightly ripped into Benmyson for Benmyson’s purposes. He then proceeded to rip into Benmyson by “correcting” him, saying that if Benmyson had known his history better, he’d no doubt have shared with us something more brutal than a “mere” concentration camp. About 30,000 people died at Dachau. Not as much as Auschwitz, no.

SO WHAT????

On top of that, Orac than says it was only at the end that Dachau got really bad, because of the poor Nazis getting squeezed by the Allies. In other words, he was saying it wasn’t really the Allies fault.

Dachau was despicable, and in his effort to make Benmyson look a fool, Orac went in and tried to quote a little history, how Dachau wasn’t the worst of the worst to begin with.

So you lack the ability to understand context and to critically examine small parts of posts? Wait… maybe you do.

You are simply stupid. Orac point-blank whitewashed Dachau, and I called him on it. Period.

How so? You said some ludicrous crap, I called you on it. Period. Irony would happen if I had some relevant blind spot. Could you identify it?

Hah! Sure, I can identify it. Where did Orac say anything remotely close to: “They didn’t really mean to kill tenthousandsome prisoners in the last months, but gosh darn those Allies were making things tough all over…”? Right now your posts seem to be constructed purely of yellow, fibrous plant material.

So glad you could drop by, JB. Yes, you’ve done so much. You weren’t satisfied to defame and insult legitimate medical practitioners and scientists who have worked to decrease the morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases. You also have pushed pseudo-science and quackery on unsuspecting individuals with autistic kids. Way to go

Michael at #35 wrote

Bob, the problem is that SOME CAM treatments DO work.

I believe it was Phil Plait who said something like

You know what we call “alternative medicine” that works?
Medicine.

One of the many reasons AoA poses such a threat to people like you is that it represents the views of a large and growing community, a view that challenges the status quo, and a view that many more Americans each day are growing to share – partly due to the tireless efforts of AoA. It’s also a view that, given your past inaccurate proclamations, you certainly pray is untrue: that the prevalence of autism is growing, that the environment is playing a heavy role, and that vaccines appear to be the #1 culprit.

More accurately, it’s a view that the evidence firmly demonstrates to be invalid. I note that you made no attempt to actually address this central problem.

The photo in question that you feign exasperation for is a comedic style known as “satire” that also deals in metaphors. It may have gone over your head, I found it hilarious, if only I had been clever enough to think of it myself.

So what would you think if I were to photoshop a picture together of you, Wankerfield, McCarthy, et al machine-gunning hundreds of children, dancing on their corpses, and then carrying on to torture hundreds more to death? That would have the advantage over this one that the premise (the fact that your activities threaten to kill thousands, nay millions, of children) isn’t actually grossly wrong.

You are simply stupid. Orac point-blank whitewashed Dachau, and I called him on it. Period.

If by “called him on it” you mean exposed your own stupidity and immorality, sure …

Orac,

You are correct.

I probably should have stated that JB hasn’t made a difference for the better in the autism community.

I honestly can’t think of a single thing that GR or AoA has done of value.

So, what can we take away from this post by AoA?
1) Autistic children should be put to death (and there are no autistic adults).
2) No one has ever died of a disease.
3) “The Protocols of the Elder of Zion” is an acceptable source of anti-vax quotes(and does not inherently Godwin everything).
4) Misogyny is an acceptable and necessary part of fighting vaccines.

These people are stone-cold-fuck-nuts. Eat babies? You have got to be fucking kidding me. If you think that life is that hard for you and your autistic child, please, please take the advice of The Stranger: if you’re planning a murder-suicide, do the suicide part first! It’s only a death sentence if you “treat” them to death.

At this point the whole anti-vaxx movement is permanently Godwined. All they do is spew hate: hate towards women, hate towards science, hate towards reality.

I think that it has become quite clear in the recent past that people are assholes towards each other, given the opportunity. This is simply more evidence of that.

“Orac point-blank whitewashed Dachau”

False. Orac was reasonably accurate in his depiction of it.

Which part of “….either punished or worked to death.” or “…..prisoners of war, were imprisoned there under bad conditions that steadily deteriorated as the war continued and the Nazis became more brutal.” constitutes ‘white-washing’?

Also you attribute the following nonsensical claims to Orac:

“Orac than says it was only at the end that Dachau got really bad”. False, direct quote or get lost. Also irrelevant, “It went from bad to really bad” is in no way apologetics.

“because of the poor Nazis getting squeezed by the Allies”. False, direct quote or get lost.

“In other words, he was saying it wasn’t really the Allies fault”. WTF? This doesn’t make any sense in the context of your complaint. Not blaming the Allies puts the blame on the Nazis, yet you’re trying to blame Orac for ‘whitewashing’ Dachau, or somehow making it seem less worse for what it said about the Nazis than it actually was.

This claim makes no sense in the context of your complaint unless you meant ‘Nazis’, not ‘Allies’.

Direct quotes and explicit explanation or apologise and get lost.

See what happens when I try to be brief because it’s not a main point?

Perhaps I should have spent three or four paragraphs explaining all the bad things that went on at Dachau or left the reference out. However, being a stubborn cuss, I’ve decided to leave the text alone and simply add a link to my post about the liberation of Dachau to the appropriate part of the passage.

I’ll admit that I’ve been accused of reading too much into things at times, and perhaps I sometimes do. Perhaps my knowledge of the Holocaust even led me to get too history-wonky in addressing Benmyson’s comment. Whatever my sins on that score, real or imagined, however, Mr. Emba has far surpassed them by somehow reading into my little paragraph that I was “whitewashing” Dachau and making excuses for it at the end of the war on the order of Holocaust denier excuses that the only reason the camps got bad at the end of the war was Allied bombing and deprivations caused by the deteriorating military situation in Germany. In what fantasy he read such meanings into what I wrote, I have no idea.

I actually once had a civil discussion via e-mail with Kim Stagliano. She seemed reasonable… Sad. The very worst thing is that all of those people being portrayed as eating the baby would freely give up their lives for the lives of any on the editorial board of AoA… That’s the kind of people we’re dealing with on both sides.

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