Sullivan outs himself, or: Time for J.B. Handley to put up and shut up about Paul Offit

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Longtime readers of this blog might be familiar with a certain regular commenter here who goes by the ‘nym Sullivan and also blogs over at Left Brain Right Brain. Back in November, our old friend at the anti-vaccine propaganda crank blog, J.B. Handley himself, founder of the anti-vaccine crank activist group now fronted by Jenny McCarthy herself, Generation Rescue, posted a hilariously off base “outing” of Sullivan entitled Is Paul Offit’s Wife Internet Troll/Autism Father “Sullivan”? Yes, that’s right. Apparently J.B., with the investigative skills of Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau and Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective Lieutenant Police Squad, all rolled into one, thought he had come across slam-dunk evidence that Sullivan was in fact Bonnie Offit. This post was idiotic, even by the standards of AoA, Generation Rescue, and J.B. Handley himself, so much so that I had a hearty chuckle at J.B.’s cluelessness.

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Let’s review the “evidence” that convinced J.B. that he had his culprit. In his post, seven observations about Sullivan are noted:

  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.”

These observations led J.B. to conclude that Sullivan is:

  1. Female
  2. American
  3. A doctor or scientist
  4. Not the parent of an autistic child.

Therefore…a witch! No, wait a minute! Therefore…Bonnie Offit! At least, that’s what the intellectual firepower that is J.B. concluded, weaving all the disparate strands of evidence, real, nonexistent, or imagined, into a conspiracy theory worthy of Jerry Fletcher, complete with JAQing off:

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.

The results were, I must admit, so ridiculous that even a fairly large segment of the band of sycophants, toadies, and lackies who infest the comments at AoA found J.B.’s conclusions…to put it politely, improbable. Of course, J.B. being J.B., it wasn’t enough for him just to speculate wildly based on his imaginings of the nature of a person who comments and blogs under the ‘nym of Sullivan. He had to double down on his foolishness and issue a challenge. Noting that Bonnie Offit had expressed extreme displeasure at J.B. Handley’s having purchased the domain pauloffit.com and packed it full of misinformation, accusations, and lies designed to slime Dr. Offit, he issued this challenge to “Bonnie Offit”/”Sullivan”:

Bonnie Offit, or Sullivan for that matter, I have a simple offer:

If you can produce a dad with a child with autism with a remarkable grasp of the medical and scientific literature who blogs under the name Sullivan, a man who has an inordinate grasp of the details of your husband’s patents, lawsuits, published studies, and web habits, I will make sure that the pauloffit.com website is given to you and your husband for good.

In fact, if you can produce this father, I promise to never, ever publicly write about or utter the name “Paul Offit” again.

I’m waiting, Bonnie, and I have a funny feeling I will be waiting a very long time.

It turns out that J.B. only ended up waiting five months and 11 days. Sullivan has “outed” himself. Not only is he traveling to IMFAR, but he’s presenting an abstract there. Moreover, unlike Orac (whose real identity is a poorly kept secret and who likes to refer to his real-life alter-ego with winks and nudges), Sullivan is completely out:

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Yes, Sullivan is an industrial researcher in computer hardware and the father of an autistic child.

So. J.B. Handley made an explicit offer. If Bonnie Offit or Sullivan produced Sullivan’s true identity and it wasn’t Bonnie Offit, J.B. promised never to write about or even publicly utter the name “Paul Offit” again. That leaves just one question for J.B.: Is he a man of his word? Is he a man of honor? Will he keep his promise to relinquish control of the domain pauloffit.com and never to write or publicly speak about Paul Offit again? Inquiring minds want to know! So, right here, right now, I’m joining Liz Ditz, Kim Wombles, and Todd W. in challenging J.B. by telling him it’s time to put up or be revealed as a man without honor.

Believe it or not, as much as J.B. and I detest each other, I still like to believe, deep in the recesses of my heart (or perhaps delude myself into thinking) that, underneath that twisted, bull-in-a-china-shop facade that revels in bravado, character assassination, intimidation, and promoting anti-vaccine quackery that J.B. presents to the world might still lurk an honorable man, or at least some vestige of honor. Crude and obnoxious J.B. most definitely is, but at the very least he does seem to think of himself as a man who stands by his word. Is he? It takes more than just a positive self image to prove it; so let’s find out. J.B. made a very clear and unambiguous promise that if Sullivan’s identity were revealed and it was not Bonnie Offit that he’d give up pauloffit.com and stop attacking Dr. Offit. There’s no wiggle room, at least not for a reasonable man not trying to twist his way out of the unpleasant consequences of a stupidly offered promise.

Sadly, I fear that J.B., having lost his own challenge fair and square, will fail to settle accounts and do what he said he’d do if he lost. Somehow, some way, I predict that he’ll find a way to move the goalposts or try to claim that he didn’t say what he said or didn’t make the promise he clearly made. Perhaps he’ll try to weasel out of it by claiming that he was just joking (which would, quite frankly, be the lamest and least defensible strategy of all). Perhaps he’ll claim that only Bonnie Offit can claim pauloffit.com and then attach a bunch of conditions, such as her personally calling him to claim it, or something like that. Perhaps he’ll find another way to renege on his promise that I haven’t yet thought of.

Or maybe, just maybe, he’ll do the right thing, give up ownership of pauloffit.com and stop his vicious attacks on Dr. Offit.

And monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Come on, J.B., isn’t keeping your promise a small price to pay to prove Orac unequivocally wrong about you once and for all, on this one issue at least? Think of it this way: If you don’t, I and the rest of us who try to defend science-based medicine against the lies and misinformation of the anti-vaccine movement will never let you forget it. For once, it’ll be us gloating.

And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

In the meantime, any time J.B. mentions Paul Offit, Bonnie Offit, or Sullivan (a.k.a. Matt Carey), post links to this post and these other posts calling him out to keep his promise: