I am Bonnie Offit!

I hadn’t planned on beating on that wretched hive of anti-vaccine scum and quackery, Age of Autism, again today so soon after having done so not just once but twice yesterday. I really hadn’t. After all, AoA is the crank gift that keeps on giving (and has kept on giving for three years now), and there is such a thing as going to the well too many times; i.e., too much of a “good” thing. I say this even though I had been planning on posting a blog post “rerun” today because last night I went out to dinner with a job candidate for our institution and didn’t get back until late. By the time I got back, I was so dead tired that my sainted wife had to put up with me crashing quite promptly on the couch upon arriving home. (Unfortunately, with my increased responsibilities at work, this sort of burning the candles at both ends seems to be happening more and more frequently.)

As they say, though, the best laid plans of mice and men…

It turns out that the big macher of the anti-vaccine movement fronted by Generation Rescue and AoA, J. B. Handley, just saved you and me from blog reruns today. I thank him (and so should you) for posting something so utterly hilarious that not only did it have me chuckling uproariously as I sat before my computer in the pre-dawn hour, but it also gave me something amusing to write about briefly before heading off to work. It’s also terribly bad luck and bad timing on J.B.’s part that his post went live early enough on a day that I couldn’t sleep through the whole night and ended up getting up nearly an hour earlier than I normally do. It’s very rare that I can comment on a bit of AoA silliness on the very same day it’s posted, but a confluence of my insomnia and my not having done a post today conspired against J.B., and that’s not a bad thing.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Shortly after I awoke, not being able to sleep to my usual time to get up because, well, I had crashed too early last night, I decided to sit down in front of the computer for a little while before getting ready for work to check out what our favorite anti-vaccine cranks were up to, mainly because I was frustrated that I couldn’t manage to sleep another hour or so. In particular I was curious whether they had noted my posts yesterday. Not that I expected them to, but sometimes they mention them in the comments, and it can be quite amusing. I never got to that point. As I watched the AoA front page load, what to my wondering eyes should appear on AoA but one of the most hilariously off-base attacks I’ve ever seen in my life, even more so than the infamous “cannibal Thanksgiving feast” bit of nonsense that AoA posted last November. I’ll give you the title:

Is Paul Offit’s Wife Internet Troll/Autism Father “Sullivan”?

That’s right. J.B. Handley thinks that Sullivan, blogger for Left Brain Right Brain is Bonnie Offit, Dr. Paul Offit’s wife. I kid you not. He even uses “research” and “reasoning” that make Jake Crosby’s look like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and and Greg House by comparison!

Sadly, because I have to go to work soon, I don’t have time to do a detailed deconstruction of this hilariously off-base “reasoning” used by Mr. Handley. I wish I did. On the other hand, I encourage you to read it for yourself. I can’t resist a few tidbits, though. First, he paints Bonnie Offit thusly:

Bonnie Offit, a pediatrician, tours the autism Web sites late at night after her husband goes to sleep. “He’s not the man they’ve created an enemy out of,” she says. She wishes his critics knew him the way she does–a gentle, sweet, salt-of-the-earth guy. “What I’ve learned in all this is to stick to the truth, talk about the science,” says Paul Offit. “It’s not about me, it’s about the data.” Above all else, it’s about doing right by the children.

[…]

The press has been very clear because Bonnie Offit has told them: she takes the time to watch the blogosphere, monitoring the pulse of those against her husband. Yet, for all the time Ms. Offit reportedly spends on the web, I can’t find a single comment or post in her name. Unless of course she calls herself “Sullivan,” and then everything makes perfect sense.

Sure it does, in the la-la land that is AoA. Handley then sets up the contrast:

“Sullivan” is a prolific, anonymous blogger. In the last few years, Sullivan has essentially hijacked a website, LeftBrainRightBrain –a site that used to be dedicated to the concept of “Neurodiversity.” Sullivan’s subject matter, in dozens of blog posts, is the vaccine-autism controversy, and really nothing else. Sullivan is also a prolific commenter, both in the blog posts written by Sullivan and in other forums.

I first came across the name Sullivan after I appeared on the TV show “The Doctors” because this Sullivan character was absolutely dominating the discussion boards about the show, as you can see for yourself HERE. In fact, Sullivan has posted comments at The Doctors website an amazing 223 times, as I learned from reading Sullivan’s profile on The Doctors website

Leading Handley to write:

Let me be clear: I have circumstantial evidence that points to Bonnie Offit being Sullivan. I will spell out what I have, and let you be the judge.

His “evidence” consists of seven items:

  1. “Sullivan brings up and protects Offit at every turn.”
  2. “Sullivan is in communication with Paul Offit, with great insight.”
  3. “Sullivan has spent considerable time clarifying how much money Paul Offit made from the Rotavirus vaccine, with remarkable insight and detail.”
  4. “When Barbara Loe Fisher sued Paul Offit, Sullivan didn’t even mention the case until the suit had been dismissed, despite the fact that Orac (a blogger who Sullivan cites frequently) had discussed the case 3 months prior.”
  5. “Sullivan knows what’s in Paul Offit’s new book, Deadly Choices, even though it hasn’t been released yet.”
  6. “If it has to do with Offit, Sullivan will defend the most arcane of topics (especially the Rotavirus vaccine).”
  7. “Sullivan is obsessed with the same topics that obsess Paul Offit.”

Which leads Handley to speculate, true Mel Gibson-style (both in real life and in Conspiracy Theory:

So many questions emerge if Bonnie Offit is Sullivan. How much of Paul Offit’s upcoming book is written by Paul Offit? As an inside joke, does he thank “Sullivan” in his acknowledgements? Will the book’s writing style and Sullivan’s writing style be eerily similar? Is Sullivan the thoughts and words of Bonnie Offit, Paul Offit, or both?

Does the evidence I have presented prove anything? Again, I’ll let the reader decide, and either add to or challenge my argument.

Translation: I’m just asking questions.

Given this passage, I say right here, right now that I challenge J.B.’s argument. I have to. I can’t allow Sullivan to be falsely accused of something of which he’s innocent; i.e., of being Bonnie Offit using the ‘nym “Sullivan” to hide behind. I feel obligated to challenge J.B. on this because…

I AM BONNIE OFFIT!

Think about it. By Handley’s criteria could apply to me (well, mostly). I bring up Dr. Offit a lot on both my blogs, particularly when he’s being attacked. I have been in communication with Dr. Offit. I blogged a lot about the dubious lawsuit against Dr. Offit, true, but that was just a front to misdirect the credulous like J.B. It worked like a charm. I’ve also seen a draft of Dr. Offit’s new book, Deadly Choices. In fact, I will make a confession right here that I failed Dr. Offit in that I didn’t get around to reading it all and providing him with feedback before the time when needed me to because the manuscript arrived during a particularly rough stretch at my job. What I did read was excellent, and I can assure J.B. that he will not be pleased when the book is released, but I do feel quite bad that I actually let the Dark Lord of Vaccination down. Hopefully he won’t come looking for me to give me 10,000 vaccines all at once as a punishment for failure.

Finally, I do seem to be “obsessed” with the same topics that obsess Dr. Offit. The anti-vaccine movement does get under my skin because I hate seeing children endangered. As for the whole autistic child thing, well, I don’t have one. That’s true. But, again, how does J.B. know that isn’t a front also? We pro-vaccine pharma shills are quite clever, you know.

So, J.B., please. You’ve got the wrong Internet Troll/Autism Father”! Bonnie Offit is not Sullivan. Do not pursue him or punish him. I’m the one you’re after.

I’M BONNIE OFFIT!

ADDENDUM: Kev tries to claim that he is Bonnie Offit. Don’t listen to him. Don’t believe him. Don’t be deceived by him. I’m Bonnie Offit!

ADDENDUM #2: Craig Willoughby opines in the comments of J.B.’s post:

JB, respectfully, I have to say that I disagree with you. This post seems like nothing by a smear campaign against Sullivan/Bonnie Offit, and I question the relevance and reason for doing this. Being someone who has a creepy internet stalker chasing me around, I can understand why people like Sullivan choose to use anonymous pseudonyms to post.

Sorry, you guys may not agree with me, but that’s how I see it. I hate to say this, but I’ve lost a bit of respect for you, J.B.

It took something this ridiculous to get Craig to realize that J.B. likes to engage in smear campaigns against his enemies? It took this to make Craig “lose a bit of respect” for J.B.? Craig’s bar for respecting people appears to be drawn laughably low.

ADDENDUM #3: Apparently the “I’m Bonnie Offit” campaign has reached Twitter under the hashtag #imbonnie.

ADDENDUM #4: Craig Willoughby tries to be the voice of reason on AoA in the comments in response to John Stone’s bringing home home the credulity:

I disagree, John.

Personally, I feel that these accusations are a bit unfounded and, to be frank, quite ridiculous. This is not in any way meant to be disrespectful, but seeing this type of behavior from people I once held in high esteem is troubling.

I’m sorry, I just have a hard time condoning this behavior.

Sadly, he fails. Witness the following additional comments.

First, Katie Wright:

Amazing work JB!

This really makes sense. Who on earth would have such detailed information on Offit’s finances, his personal travails, his book galleys…

But it is “Sullivan”‘s hyper defensiveness that is the giveaway. This is how a parent would defend their child (their relationship sounds emeshed and a little scary) – totally unconditionally- this is not about “the science” at all it is a transparent attempt to rehabilitate Offit’s reputation and promote book sales.

Poor Bonnie- this must be an all consuming obsession.

I feel most sorry for her patients! Bonnie cannot have time for anything else, I bet she is thinking about this 24/7.

Best projection I’ve seen all day. Or all week. Or all month.

Then there’s Erik Nanstiel leaping in with this gem:

Since I trust the neurodiversity advocates as much as I do a hungry shark not to attack meat… I would expect that IF Bonnie Offit were really Sullivan… they’d all jump in to protect her identity. What a blow to her credibility such a revelation would prove.

That said, JB gets me thinking… circumstantial, yes… but he’s a shrewd guy and has been following these blogs for YEARS. I’m unconvinced either way… but tend to side with JB’s observations until proof to the contrary should surface.

Erik obviously isn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but at least he retains a modicum of skepticism compared to Katie Wright. But even Erik and Katie seem like supernovas of brightness in comparison to Bendetta’s observations:

Ohhh Craig;

I really like your blogs, you are really insightful.

But this time you are so wrong!

How many times have you listened to a debate and because there is so much deceitfullnes – out right lies- the truth gets buried? You walk away not any wiser, just more confused?

If JB Handley realiazed who someone is that is mudding the waters it is not only his right, but it is his (insert whatever profanity you like) duty to humanity to expose it.

Truth illuminates, although it may be so bright as to hurt your eyes for awhile.

How many times has the federal government put people in prison just for Flibbing????

Get me some popcorn. The meltdown in the AoA comments is truly entertaining!

ADDENDUM #5: The hilarity continues on Facebook at the AoA page, where AoA has posted, Queue the next GAP Band song – any ideas which one? Hmmmmm. JB is in the house! Wow! The comments there really bring home the crazy. At least whoever’s posting for AoA has admitted that “JB is merely asking a question.”

ADDENDUM #6: Stay classy, AoA. Stay classy, Sylvia:

Whoever Sullivan is, he/she is in bed with Paul Offit. But the pseudonym “Sullivan” is probably more tasteful than the more descriptive “Offit’s Bit**”.

ADDENDUM #7: And J.B. Handley loses another one, specifically AoA commenter AnaB:

I’m sorry, I just find it harder and harder to come over here any more. I miss the days when it was Olmsted style, stick with the facts muck-raking. IMO, this is so circumstantial that it borders on libel. I want no part of that.

Nor should you, Ana, although, as in the case of Craig Willoughby, I’m surprised it took this level of stupidity on J.B.’s part for you finally to realize that character assassination, no matter how flimsy the basis behind it, is AoA’s stock in trade. As they say about computers, it’s a feature, not a bug, in AoA.