Who are the Terminator cranks?

As a part of a longer post where I was, for the most part, serious albeit sarcastic, I asked one question that I considered a bit of a throwaway joke. Oddly enough, the more I think about it, the more I think that it wasn’t such a joke. Here was my question:

Perhaps we could have a contest: Which cranks are most persistent, tobacco/smoking denialists, AGW denialists, anti-vaccine loons, or anti-fluoridation activists?

To which jre responded in the comments:

Fairness requires that we try to round out Orac’s list. At a minimum, this must include:

  1. Tobacky / 2nd-hand smoke denialists
  2. Climate septics
  3. Anti-vaxers
  4. Anti-fluor / Precious bodily fluids defenders
  5. Free energy / perpetual motion advocates
  6. 9/11 troofers
  7. Carson=Hitler DDT boosters
  8. Moon landing revisionists
  9. HIV deniers

Holocaust denial is off the map; sorry. There are some things even a crank won’t go near.

Actually, I don’t think that Holocaust denial is off the map. Well, actually, it is. What I meant was that I would still lump Holocaust denial in there. I’d also add evolution denialists, also known as creationists, of which there are two main varieties, young earth creationists and intelligent design creationists.

Depressingly, Now that I have (perhaps foolishly) inserted myself into the anti-fluoridation manufactroversy, I can now honestly say that I’ve dealt with each and every one of these cranks at one time or another on this blog with one exception. I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with moon hoaxers. That, I think, gives me the authority to know of what I speak when I propose my own answer to the question of just what kind of crank is the most persistent?

Clearly, it’s possible, based on my experience in observing what topics that I blog about bring the most cranks and trolls crawling out of the woodwork to drive a thread to hundreds of comments, to name the top three, from which I’ll choose a “winner.” My top three most persistent forms of crank are:

  • Anti-vaccine loons
  • Tobacco/secondhand smoke denialists
  • Anthropogenic global warming denialists

I say “possible,” but that doesn’t mean it was easy. After all, I’ve had posts about 9/11 Truthers that have brought in dozens, if not hundreds, of comments. Also, my one and only foray into anti-fluoridation woo certainly brought in the water fluoridation cranks by the bushel full. Then there are HIV/AIDS denialists, one of whom tried to draw me into a “debate” with now deceased (of AIDS) HIV/AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore. But, after going back and forth a few times about whether any of these merited kicking one of the top three off the list, I ultimately decided that the winner for the most persistent cranks, the cranks capable of latching onto a skeptical post and flooding the comments with endless streams of vitriolic woo, it had to be one of these three. So, out of these three, which one did I pick for the One Crank To Rule Them All, the One Crank to Find Them, the One Crank to Bring Them All and in the Darkness Bind Them?

And the “winner” is…(if you can call it that):

Tobacco/secondhand smoke denialists.

I bet you didn’t see that one coming. Don’t get me wrong. Anti-vaccine loons are definitely up there in terms of sheer crazy combined with persistence. However, they just don’t seem to be the same as they were when I started blogging. I don’t know if it’s me becoming a bit jaded with them or maybe it’s them having lumped me into the category of enemy blogger, but they just don’t seem as crazed to me as before. On the other hand, maybe they realize that many of my commenters really know their stuff when it comes to vaccines and don’t fancy being utterly humiliated on a regular basis. Who knows? I do know I’m grateful to my pro-vaccine readers for watching my back when I’m away from the blog and can’t answer the anti-vaccine cranks for many hours at a time when I’m at work.

Why tobacco/secondhand smoke denialists? Well, there’s just something about them when they show up in a thread. I can sort of understand anti-vaccine cranks; they really and truly believe that vaccines injured their children. In the vast majority of cases, they’re wrong, but I can understand the intensity of their passion. On the other hand, cranks arguing against secondhand smoke tend to be incensed about, more than anything else, their no longer being allowed to smoke in a bar or restaurant. When the passion level is the same in people who think, even if almost always mistakenly, that their children were injured and people who don’t like the guv’mint telling them they can’t light up in a bar or restaurant, I wonder about the people who harbor such a persistent sense of being wronged because they hate it that The Man is telling them that they can’t light up in a bar anymore. The sense of proportion seems lacking.

I strongly suspect that there is a cadre of tobacco defenders who have a whole panoply of Google Alerts set up to detect any new news story or blog post discussing secondhand smoke. When such a post appears, the flying monkeys descend on the comment thread to rant and rave about threats to liberty or to try and fail to pick apart the science. You saw it in my most recent post on secondhand smoke. We’ve seen it time and time again on this blog virtually any time I write about secondhand smoke (for instance, here, here, here, and here). In particular, Harleyrider1978 might well have influenced me to tip the prize to the smoking cranks. He takes the cake, as I hadn’t realized that there are still people out there who deny that smoking itself causes lung cancer and heart disease in those who actually inhale the toxic fumes from cigarettes themselves. Even the vast majority of secondhand smoke cranks concede that smoking causes cancer and heart disease, but not Harlyrider1978!

Still, it’s very, very close. In retrospect, maybe I should have named the anti-vaccine cranks as the winners. After all, they’re the only cranks who actually have tried to get me fired, which is a qualitatively different level of vitriol than just flooding the comments of my posts with inanity and insults. That wasn’t persistence, though. It only lasted a few days and then comnpletely fizzled out after my Dean basically ignored them and stood up for my academic freedom.

So, dear readers, I ask you right here and right now: What cranks do you think are the most annoyingly persistent, the most intensely obsessed, the must unrelenting and why? Who are the cranks who can rightly be called Terminator Cranks, because they can’t be reasoned with, don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and absolutely will not stop–ever–until a blog thread is dead.

Speak! Orac wants to know!