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Anti-vaccine propaganda lands in New York City this weekend

“The Greater Good” is what I like to call an antivaccine propaganda film masquerading as a documentary. And, yes, it’s full of antivaccine misinformation.

I’ve heard it said (actually, I’ve said it myself) that if you don’t have the science and evidence to back up your point of view, in order to persuade someone, make a movie. At least, this seems to be the philosophy of a number of cranks who have produced movies promoting pseudoscience over the last five years or so. The first one of these movies that really caught my attention was an anti-evolution, pro-“intelligent design” creationism documentary narrated by Ben Stein and released in 2008, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The movie was pure creationist propaganda, complete with Ben Stein visiting Auschwitz and Dachau, the better to try to link “Darwinism” to the Holocaust.

Movies promoting religious pseudoscience such as intelligent design creationism are not the only kinds of pseudoscience propaganda films that cranks make. Indeed, medicine is rife with them, and Wally Sampson has referred to this particularly pernicious genre of documentary as “medical propaganda films.” During the existence of this blog, we’ve reviewed a few such films (or at least written about what we could find out about them without paying for the DVD). For example, I’ve written about The Beautiful Truth, a paean to the Gerson protocol for cancer, complete with coffee enemas, and reviewed Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days, a film dedicated to the claim that you can cure almost everything (including not just type II but type I diabetes) with a raw vegan diet. There’s even a film out now praising Stanley Burzynski and his highly dubious “antineoplaston” therapy that I’ve been meaning to review. I finally found a free copy of it to watch, and perhaps I’ll get to it before the end of the month. The problem, of course, is the neuronal damage I’m likely to suffer by sitting in front of my computer and watching the film.

In the meantime, I couldn’t help but notice that another medical propaganda film is making the rounds. Indeed, the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism is promoting a screening of this film that’s scheduled for tomorrow in New York. This documentary, The Greater Good, has been making the rounds of various film festivals and as of today has made it to New York, where it is opening at the IFC Film Center on Sixth Avenue. Now, I could simply say here that all you need to know about this movie are that Joe Mercola has hosted the movie streaming on his website in “celebration” (if you can call it that) of what he and Barbara Loe Fisher dubbed “Vaccine Awareness Week” and that one of our favorite bands of anti-vaccine cranks, the Center for Personal Rights, sponsors of a pathetic failed anti-vaccine rally in Grant Park in Chicago in 2010, is sponsoring two screenings tomorrow, one at 4:10 PM and one at 8:05 PM. After the films, audiences will then be treated to a panel discussion by anti-vaccine luminaries such as Louise Kuo Habakus, Mary Holland, and Kim Mack Rosenberg and also “special guest” Emily Tarsell, the last of whom is billed as the mother of a girl who died from the Gardasil vaccine and also, not coincidentally, is the Director of Gardasil Network Development for the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). I’m guessing there’ll be some really helpful medical information being passed around at these screenings.

Yes, that’s sarcasm. I realize it’s a bit obvious.

I’m going to tell you more, though, because I’ve actually managed to sit through the whole thing. The things I do for my readers! Fortunately, Orac, being a Tarial cell computer that is the most powerful and interconnected in the galaxy hidden in a cheesy Plexiglass box full of blinking multicolored lights, is able to withstand the waves of burning stupid that emanate from this film. It’s total anti-vaccine propaganda, manipulative to the core and full of misinformation confusing correlation with causation. To give you an idea of what you’re in for (in case the video is no longer available by the time that you read this), here’s the trailer:

The first thing I noticed about The Greater Good is that it’s slick and well produced–considerably better produced, I think, than Expelled! The only aspect of it that I found annoying (besides the sheer quantity of anti-vaccine misinformation, pseudoscience, talking points, and distortions, all of which were plenty annoying) was the little animated segments. (Well, the little animated segments and any segment featuring Dr. Bob Sears.) However, given the sheer mass of anti-vaccine propaganda contained within this documentary, quibbling about a stylistic element like that is rather like quibbling about the arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The documentary is structured, as many documentaries are, around three families, the better to provide the human interest framework upon which to pile the pseudoscience. Interspersed with segments about each family are interviews with various experts. Perhaps I should say two experts arrayed against a whole lot of “experts,” because defending vaccines we have real experts like Dr. Paul Offit; Dr. Melinda Wharton of the CDC; Dr. Norman Baylor, who is Director of the Office of Vaccines Research and Review in the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research; and Dr. Mark B. Feinberg, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Policy for Merck Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Merck & Co., Inc. Arrayed against them we have a whole lot of anti-vaccine pseudoexperts, such as Barbara Loe Fisher, grande dame of the anti-vaccine movement and founder of the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC); Dr. Bob Sears, a pediatrician known for his non-science-based “alternative” vaccination schedule, who of late appears to have ceased mere flirting with the anti-vaccine movement and thrown his lot in with it; Dr. Lawrence Palevsky, a “wholistic” pediatrician; Dr. John Green III, who is described as a “specialist in clinical ecology and nutritional medicine“; and several trial lawyers known for representing parents suing for “vaccine injury,” lawyers such as Clifford Shoemaker, Kevin Conway, and Renee Gentry.

The Children and Their Families

Who are these families? All of them provide heart-wrenching stories of suffering, and one has suffered through the death of a baby. No one with an ounce of empathy could fail to be moved by at least two of these stories, if not all three. Unfortunately, it’s clear that the producers know that and use these sad tales intentionally to manipulate the emotions of the viewer. Early in the film we are introduced to Gabi Swank and her family. Gabi is a teen whose family, herself included, believes she was injured by the Gardasil vaccine. She is shown being a healthy, energetic cheerleader and then portrayed as having descended into a mass of medical problems, including seizures, neurological complaints, and many others, all as a result of the Gardasil vaccine. What’s rather interesting is that, nowhere in the film do they really state with much clarity exactly what it is that Gabi has, other than “vasculitis” and, more importantly, when her symptoms began relative to vaccination. I had to go searching, and I found that two years ago at the NVIC conference Barbara Loe Fisher and Gabi’s mother Shannon Schrag stated that Gabi was diagnosed with “central nervous system vasculitis and central nervous system lupus after receiving the third Gardasil injection.” I also found a YouTube video made about Gabi a while ago:

Throughout the film, Gabi is portrayed going to visits to doctors, going through all of her medications, looking ill. Perhaps the most heartbreaking segment of all portrays Gabi trying on various prom dresses, a huge smile on her face, only to develop severe back pain as she’s getting ready to actually go to the prom, necessitating a trip to the emergency room. Gabi laments during the car ride to the hospital how she has the “worst luck in the world,” and it’s hard not to agree. At the hospital, she is diagnosed with a kidney stone, which is presumed to be due to one of her medications. As a result, Gabi misses her prom and is devastated by it, saying to her mother that she is really sad that she has gone from being a princess to “look where I am now.” Who could help but feel for a girl in such a situation? Certainly not me. Later, as if things weren’t bad enough for Gabi, her mother is shown being forced to give up her house and describing how she’s getting a divorce, all because Gabi’s illness has left them with $100,000 in unpaid medical bills and placed so much stress on her marriage that her husband couldn’t take it anymore. The implication, of course, is that all of this is due to vaccines given to Gabi “for the greater good.”

Not surprisingly none of the questions over the timing of the development of Gabi’s symptoms are mentioned, which have been described in various news reports as beginning “within weeks” of her having received the third dose. Correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, but in Gabi’s case it’s hard not to note that even the correlation seems pretty darned weak. Heck, even by Gabi’s own story, it’s pretty close to looking nonexistent. None of this, of course, is mentioned in the movie; Gabi’s and her mother’s unwavering belief that Gardasil caused her illness is accepted as Gospel, and it is pointed out that Gabi’s neurologist Dr. Dwight Lindholm has stated publicly that Gabi’s illness is due to Gardasil. How did Dr. Lindhlom come to that conclusion? It’s never really explained in the movie (or anywhere else that I could find), and apparently the filmmakers are hoping that no one realizes that just because a neurologist thinks that the vaccine caused Gabi’s illness doesn’t make it so. I feel sorry for Gabi because she has horrible health problems. I really do. No one should have to have such horrible health problems at such a young age. However, I just don’t see any good evidence that her current health problems are due to Gardasil.

Next up is Jordan King. Jordan is a 12-year-old boy with autism that his parents blame on vaccination. Even more than that, Jordan’s was one of the test cases for the Autism Omnibus proceedings. Even under the looser rules of evidence of the Vaccine Court, the Special Masters rejected the Kings’ claims of causation of Jordan’s autism by vaccines and rejected it conclusively in a well-written, well-reasoned decision. Indeed, the Special Master concluded:

This case, however, is not a close case. The overall weight of the evidence is overwhelmingly contrary to the petitioners’ causation theories. The result of this case would be the same even if I totally ignored the epidemiologic evidence. The result would be the same if I restricted my consideration to the evidence originally filed into the record of this King case, disregarding the additional “general causation” evidence imported from the Dwyer case. The petitioners’ evidence has been unpersuasive on many different points, concerning virtually all aspects of their causation theories, with each such deficiency having been discussed in detail above. The petitioners have failed to persuade me that there is validity to any of their general causation arguments, and have also failed to persuade me that there is any likelihood that Jordan’s thimerosal-containing vaccines contributed in any way to the causation of Jordan’s own autism. To the contrary, based upon all the evidence that I have reviewed, I find that it is extremely unlikely that Jordan’s autism was in any way causally connected to his thimerosal-containing vaccines.

In short, this is a case in which the evidence is so one-sided that any nuances in the interpretation of the causation case law would make no difference to the outcome of the case.

The filmmakers, although they mention that the Kings lost their case, downplay just how badly they lost and portray their defeat as part of the “conspiracy” to cover up vaccine injuries. This is true even though the Special Master pointed out:

I have kept all of these points in mind in deciding this case. I have not required a level of proof greater than “more probable than not,” which has also been described as “50 percent plus a feather.” I understand fully that petitioners are not claiming that Jordan’s thimerosal-containing vaccines were the sole cause of his autism, but are alleging only that such vaccines contributed to the causation of his autism, allegedly in concert with an underlying genetic vulnerability. I have looked beyond the epidemiologic evidence to determine whether the overall evidence — i.e., medical opinion, circumstantial evidence, and other evidence considered as a whole — tips the balance even slightly in favor of a causation showing as to Jordan’s autism.

Worse, in the documentary itself, the Kings describe how they took Jordan to a DAN! doctor, who did provoked urine heavy metal testing and claimed to find that Jordan’s mercury levels were very high. This doctor then told them that he was “mercury toxic” due to vaccines, an account that can also be found in the judgment.

The truth is that the Special Master went out of his way to be sympathetic to the Kings in his ruling, and it’s hard not to be sympathetic to them. They clearly love Jordan and have done the best they can to raise him, even with his autism and medical problems. In the documentary, they openly worry about what will become of Jordan after they die. Who will take care of him? What parent of a child with developmental disorders doesn’t wonder that? As loving and struggling as they are, though, the Kings are mistaken. They might believe that vaccines caused Jordan’s autism, but there is simply no evidence to support such a view.

Finally, the most difficult of all is the case of Dr. Stephanie Christner and her daughter Victoria Grace Boyd Christner, who died at five months of age. Again, it’s a horrible, horrible thing to lose a baby like this, one of the most horrible things in the world. However, as much as we might feel saddened by the story and sorry for the Christners, we have to stay as objective as possible when it comes to their claim of what killed their baby; i.e., vaccines. To put it simply, there just isn’t any evidence that vaccines led to the death of their child. Dr. Christner blames the death of her baby on a “slow reaction over time” to vaccines causing “chronic inflammation.” Christner tells a story of her child being vaccinated with “all the usual vaccines” at the age of two months and then “never being the same after that” within a week. Apparently, Victoria started to become more withdrawn, stop eating regularly, and ultimately had a seizure on December 15, 2008. From the obituary we can make some inferences. Victoria was born on August 22, 2008, meaning that her two month shots would have been administered in late October. So the seizure occurred nearly two months after vaccination. On December 23, Victoria received her next round of vaccinations, and then the movie jumps forward nearly two more months to the weekend of Valentine’s day, which is when Victoria, for unclear reasons, suddenly stopped breathing and died in what sounds rather like SIDS, although not enough information to know is presented.

This happened more than a month and a half after her last round of vaccines.

The scenes in which the Christners describe the death of their daughter are the most harrowing in the film. I almost cried while watching them describe the death of their daughter. However, that emotional reaction did not keep me from noticing that their story was also not particularly convincing even for a correlation between vaccination and the death of their baby, much less convincing for causation. We’re left with the Christners lamenting how they had “followed the rules” and ended up with a dead baby, interspersed with photos and home videos of a cherubic, happy baby, followed by Dr. Bob Sears claiming that a lot of doctors try to convince their patients that vaccines are 100% safe.

Truly, the cynicism of the filmmakers (and Dr. Sears) is beyond belief.

The “Experts” vs. the Experts

Interspersed between the vignettes from the families, we find the classic battle of “experts” versus experts; i.e., pseudoexperts versus real experts. On the real expert side, we have people like Dr. Paul Offit, who is, as I like to say, known among anti-vaccine activists as the Dark Lord of Vaccination; Dr. Melinda Wharton of the CDC, and others who valiantly try to promote the science-based view of vaccines. They are, unfortunately, overwhelmed by anti-vaccine propaganda. In fact, the film is a classic case of a “manufactroversy,” which is a favorite denialist technique to give the impression that there is a legitimate scientific controversy when in fact there is none. The questions about whether vaccines are safe and effective, whether vaccines cause autism, whether they cause all the neurological and developmental disorders attributed to them, and whether they cause asthma and other diseases related to the immune system are not controversial in science. They just aren’t, the attempts of antivaccine propagandists like this to assert otherwise notwithstanding. However, by pairing anti-vaccine doctors and one anti-vaccine scientist with scientists who support current science, the filmmakers, quite intentionally I believe, give the viewer the impression that there is a real scientific controversy over these issues, as much as Dr. Offit, Dr. Wharton, and others labor to try to explain that there is not. Add to that the nakedly emotionally manipulative use of Gabi Swank, Jordan King, and the Christners mourning their dead baby, and it is very clear what the filmmakers’ message is. It’s not a message based on good science, particularly given how often hoary old straw men are trotted out to be knocked down, strawmen like the complaint that “vaccines can’t be questioned,” which is utter nonsense that is easily debunked simply by pointing to the conflicting scientific literature on the efficacy flu vaccines in the elderly.

Indeed, the movie is could easily be described as an anti-vaccine talking points greatest hits. At various points in the movie, “experts” call for a “vaxed versus unvaxed” study, even a randomized study of vaccinated children versus those receiving placebos. I kid you not. No less a luminary than Dr. Sears himself called for this in the movie, but he was not alone. Many, but by no means all, of these anti-vaccine talking points come from a “holistic” pediatrician named Dr. Lawrence B. Palesky, whose website touts his “holistic advantage” and describes Dr. Palevsky thusly:

In using his “whole child” wellness philosophy, Dr. Palevsky recommends and incorporates the teachings and therapies of nutritional science, acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, chiropractic, osteopathy, cranial-sacral therapy, environmental medicine, homeopathy, and essential oils, along with natural healing modalities such as aromatherapy, yoga, Reiki, meditation, reflexology, and mindfulness.

Is it any surprise that Dr. Palevsky comes across in the movie very much as being “anti-vaccine”? Of course not. He even writes articles for the NVIC. It’s also no surprise that Dr. Palevsky spends much of his time on The Greater Good promoting a litany of anti-vaccine pseudoscience, including the “toxins” gambit, conspiracy mongering about pharmaceutical companies, and claims that vaccines aren’t adequately tested. Late in the movie, he’s even shown speaking to the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) and using the most brain dead of anti-vaccine gambits, namely claiming that because mortality from various infectious diseases was falling before vaccines for those diseases were introduced it must mean that vaccines are useless. It’s the very same intellectually dishonest gambit that Raymond Obomsawin made himself famous for. Elsewhere in the film, Dr. Palevsky is shown speaking to a bunch of parents talking about how amazed he was to discover that there was mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, antibiotics, and preservatives in vaccines, all gambits that we’ve discussed many, many times on this blog.

In fact, if there are any remaining doubts that Dr. Sears has finally allied himself with the anti-vaccine camp (we gave him the benefit of the doubt when Dr. Snyder deconstructed his Vaccine Book a while back), this documentary should put them to rest, because right after the scene with Dr. Palevsky promoting the “toxin” gambit to parents we’re treated to Dr. Bob saying:

You would think that the FDA would take each of those ingredients and then study them in human infants to make sure that each of those ingredients is safe. Well, they haven’t done that. They’ve never taken vaccine quantities of each of those ingredients and done the safety testing to confirm that each one of those ingredients is safe.

Given that vaccines as a whole are extensively studied in infants and that we have longstanding historical evidence of vaccine safety, this “toxins” gambit is nothing more than a ploy that (1) appeals to the fear of chemicals with complicated, nasty-sounding names; (2) plays on the scientific ignorance of the American public, many of whom don’t understand the concept of dose-response and think that it’s possible to eliminate nasty chemicals completely; and (3) produces an intentionally impractical regulatory hurdle that vaccines must overcome, as each and every component, seemingly, must be studied individually in individual clinical trials, regardless of existing evidence. One wonders if Sears realizes the implication of his argument. Would we have to test the buffer solution that is used for safety, even though it’s usually something like phosphate-buffered normal saline? Or what about formaldehyde, which is a normal byproduct of metabolism and is present in vaccines at levels far below what is already in the infant’s body to begin with? Sears, whether he realizes it or not, is parroting a common anti-vaccine talking point that screams “vaccines contain ingredients known to cause cancer and death.”

Another doctor trotted out in this documentary as an “expert” is Dr. John Green III, who is described as having been “been in medical practice for 36 years with a background in emergency, family practice, environmental and holistic medicine and allergies.” He embarrasses himself by whining about how producers from FRONTLINE didn’t use any of the footage of his interview for The Vaccine War. In this, he sounds very much like Dr. Jay Gordon. In fact, one wonders why Dr. Jay didn’t show up as one of the anti-vaccine “experts” used by the filmmakers. Later, a neuroscientist named Christopher Shaw, who is apparently revered in anti-vaccine circles for doing experiments in mice that suggest that aluminum is toxic, is shown saying that we’re all living in a “toxic” soup and that vaccines are part of that soup, all overlaid with a cartoon, a couple of images from which I’ve captured as screen shots:



Other “experts” fall more into a gray area. For example, Diane Harper is well known in anti-vaccine circles. An investigator in the original clinical trials for Gardasil, she has apparently turned against the Gardasil vaccine. Although she was apparently misquoted in the past, as reported by Ben Goldacre, in this movie, the mask appears to drop, with Harper castigating Merck and speaking at the NVIC conference in 2009, telling the audience she will “show you the science.” Particularly annoying is how she is represented as the “lead researcher” for the Gardasil trials when in fact she was simply an investigator at one of the sites at which the original trials of Gardasil were conducted. There is a huge difference. Dr. Harper has also stated unequivocally in the past that “I fully support the HPV vaccines. I believe that in general they are safe in most women.” One can’t help but wonder whether she’s now changed her mind. At least, I wonder based on the segments of her interview that made the final cut, whether she still believes this, as her statements in the movie appear to go far beyond her previous mostly reasonable complaints that the vaccine has been “over-marketed” by Merck.

Finally, there’s Barbara Loe Fisher, the grande dame of anti-vaccinationism herself, who probably gets more screen time than just about anyone else. She tries to portray herself as being “moderate,” and I suppose that, compared to the more radical anti-vaccine zealots, she might be described that way, but that’s not saying much. As I’ve documented before, her website and her vaccine conferences are cesspools of anti-vaccine pseudoscience, and so is the vast majority of what she says in this documentary. Basically, she repeats the same anti-vaccine nonsense that she’s been repeating for nearly 30 years, all while laboring mightily to try to present herself as a “moderate” who is “attacked by both sides” and complaining that “advocates like myself” are “demonized.”

There might have been a time back in the 1980s when Barbara Loe Fisher was not truly anti-vaccine and really was a “vaccine safety advocate.” That day is long past. All it takes is a look at her website to demonstrate that. In fact, I’d love to ask Fisher personally what specific vaccines she recommends. If she were truly a “vaccine safety advocate,” she’d have ideas of which vaccines are safe and which ones aren’t. Never is heard from her, anymore anyway, anything other than attacks on each and every vaccine. None of them, apparently, are “safe enough” to earn the NVIC seal of approval and all of them, to the NVIC, cause horrific complications. Perhaps that’s why ambulance-chasing “vaccine injury” attorneys like Kevin Conway and Clifford Shoemaker are featured, the latter of whom is known for raking in money hand over fist from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and threatening bloggers who point out that he makes tons of money from the VICP.

Speaking of trial lawyers, they are also prominently featured in this movie. In fact, another particularly revealing scene takes place near the one hour mark in the movie. In this scene, several of the lawyers featured in the documentary are filmed in a restaurant discussing the VICP. The scene is preceded by complaints from various principals about how the VICP protects vaccine manufacturers from legal liability by forcing litigants to go through the Vaccine Court first, including a scene in which Fisher laments how vaccine manufacturers have “no accountability.” Then we see Kevin Conway holding court with his fellow trial lawyers, saying:

It just amazes me what the government does to protect the integrity of vaccines. It can be anything but the vaccine. They feel as though their job is to keep immunization rates up, and if you legitimize vaccine claims, then you’re saying, yeah, there are vaccine injuries, and they can never say that.

Of course, the very existence of the VICP is an admission that there are sometimes vaccine injuries, as is the existence of so-called “table injuries,” which, if a child demonstrates one of these conditions in close temporal association with vaccination, result in automatic compensation. To the lawyers, the problem is not that the government doesn’t concede that there are vaccine injuries. If that were the case, then the VICP wouldn’t exist and no one would ever receive compensation. The problem is that the government insists that complainants use a special court in which lawyers can’t go for huge contingency payoffs and, even worse to the lawyers, that there be some science behind claims of vaccine injury. These lawyers are in my opinion notorious for relying on bad science and pseudoscience to try to win their claims. None of this prevents Conway from stating baldly that he believes that it’s all a “conspiracy,” although he concedes that “it’s a conspiracy to do good” by keeping vaccination rates up.

Finally, if you want to see additional “experts,” the ones who apparently were responsible for the medical and scientific content of the film, all you have to do is to wait until the very end of the closing credits, where it is stated that “this film was vetted by Dr. Lawrence D. Rosen, MD, FAAP and Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld, MD, FRCP for scientific and medical accuracy.”

This explains a lot.

Who is Dr. Rosen? He’s an “integrative” pediatrician who is chair-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Clinical Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at UMDNJ/New Jersey Medical School (ack, my old stomping grounds!), and Chief of Pediatric Integrative Medicine at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, as well as medical advisor to the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center. He also writes The Whole Child blog. All one has to do is to search his blog, and one will find that Dr. Rosen opposes vaccine mandates, in particular mandates for the flu vaccine and Gardasil and appears to believe that thimerosal causes autism (although he is very careful to be vague on this issue). Worse, he was a featured speaker at a notorious anti-vaccine conference in Jamaica in January, sharing the bill with the likes of fellow “experts” Barbara Loe Fisher, Dr. Palevsky, Dr. Russell Blaylock (who is an all purpose medical crank and, like many all purpose medical cranks, anti-vaccine), Dr. Shiv Chopra (who is anti-vaccine to the core), Dr. Richard Deth (who was an expert witness for the plaintiffs at the Autism Omnibus proceeding), Raymond Obamsawin (mentioned above), and, yes, Andrew Wakefield himself. It turns out that Dr. Yehuda Schoenfeld spoke at the very same conference with Dr. Rosen and has himself been involved in dubious vaccine-autism science, in particular involving Mark and David Geier in his journal.

It all makes sense now why this movie is so bad.

Whither autism?

For all its anti-vaccine talking points, The Greater Good does bring up an issue that I find rather curious and, quite frankly, amusing, and this issue comes from Barbara Loe Fisher herself. This most revealing statement from her comes twice, first early in the movie and then late in the movie, when she repeats it. Basically, Fisher argues that vaccine injury is “not just about autism” and late in the movie even goes so far as to say:

In the last decade, the conversation has shifted from one looking at the broad issues concerned with vaccine safety and vaccine policies to focusing on autism. And I believe it was an error that’s had serious consequences. The truth is, it’s become very easy to dismiss the entire vaccine safety issue by focusing on autism and vaccines.

While she says this, an image of Jenny McCarthy on Larry King Live! is briefly flashed on the screen coincident with the phrase “serious consequences.” Besides wondering if Barbara Loe Fisher is exhibiting a bit of envy over how McCarthy and Generation Rescue have grabbed the spotlight, I also wonder if Fisher realizes that she is implicitly admitting that vaccines do not cause autism. After all, if there were strong scientific, clinical, and epidemiological evidence in existence that vaccines do cause autism, then I fail to see how focusing on autism would make it “very easy” to dismiss the entire vaccine safety issue. In fact, if I were anti-vaccine and such evidence existed, I’d trumpet it to high heaven as my strongest argument that vaccines were harmful. Yet, here we have Fisher bemoaning how the vaccine/autism connection has taken over and made it easy to dismiss her and her fellow anti-vaccine activists as cranks. The amusing thing (to me, at least) is that Fisher apparently doesn’t recognize that her argument implicitly admits that the evidence that vaccines, or components of vaccines, cause autism is nonexistent or at best incredibly weak and that there is lots of evidence that they do not.

The Filmmaker

Finally, it’s interesting to take a look at the filmmaker, namely producer Leslie Manookian Bradshaw, who appears to have dropped the “Bradshaw” of late. It turns out that Bradshaw appears to be a homeopath, as I discovered when I first heard of this movie several months ago. At least, that’s what she lists her occupation as in her political campaign contributions. Interestingly, I distinctly remember that she used to have her training in homeopathy listed in her filmmaker bio page several months ago, but it’s not there anymore. Unfortunately, I didn’t save it. Whether she is a homeopath or not (it would be very coincidental if there were another Leslie Bradshaw in Ketchum, ID who just so happens to list her profession as a “self-employed homeopath, but you never know), Manookian has been known to show up at other blogs to post anti-vaccine views, as she did here and here. Perhaps RI will be fortunate enough for her to do the same here. Interestingly, now that the movie is out, Manookian appears to be trying to hide her previous activity. Gone are any references to homeopathy on her website. Gone in particular is the “take action” page, which is now no longer publicly accessible, but used to contain content like:

Take Action/Goals of the Film:

  1. Open the hearts and minds of individuals to the reality that vaccine injuries occur.
  2. Encourage parents to talk with doctors about vaccine safety before making informed decisions.
  3. Demand independent vaccine safety research before approval and licensure by the FDA.
  4. Hold pharmaceutical companies accountable when vaccines cause harm.
  5. Petition for philosophical exemptions from mandatory vaccinations in all 50 states.
  6. End the FDA’s fast-tracking of childhood vaccinations.


  • NVIC – National Vaccine Information Center
  • Pathways to Family Wellness
  • The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • by Dr. Bob Sears
  • ACIP – Advisory Committee On Immunization Practices- Creates the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule and promotes the increased use of vaccines.
  • CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- Protects the public health, promotes vaccines and monitors safety of vaccines.
  • FDA – Food and Drug Administration- Regulates all pharmaceutical products including vaccines to protect public health.
  • NVICP – National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program- Compensates those injured or killed by a vaccines.
  • VAERS – Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System National vaccine safety surveillance program.

Yes, Manookian used to list as the very first source for vaccine information, along with Now, its resource page lists the American Academy of Pediatrics first, but still lists,, and the NVIC website.

Unfortunately, The Greater Good, which could have been a provocative debate about current vaccine policy based on asking which vaccines are necessary and why, in the end opts to be nothing more than pure anti-vaccine propaganda of the lowest and most vile sort. It give the pretense of “balance” by including prominent pro-vaccine scientists, but in the end it is very clear where the message of the movie lies, particularly given the three main families profiled in the film. Worse, from correspondence with a couple of the pro-vaccine doctors interviewed in the movie, to me it appears that the resemblance between this movie and Expelled! is more than just its denialist tendencies in that the filmmakers apparently were less than straightforward with scientists about their viewpoint when interviewing them. All of this leads me to conclude that The Greater Good is to vaccines what Expelled! was to evolution: Science denialist propaganda of the most blatant sort. In fact, it’s so bad that even Orac’s Tarial cell was seriously strained to have to absorbe the content of the video.

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]

284 replies on “Anti-vaccine propaganda lands in New York City this weekend”

You totally forgot to mention House of Numbers in your list of propaganda pamphlets…

Btw. I have watched the Burzynski movie, oh, my the poor guy. Such a tearful story, came from Poland without a cent, built his own business and now he is constantly harassed by the FDA. Poor guy. And his treatment is, of course, brilliant, just suppressed.

Well, you won’t learn anything new from the movie. And I really recommend to skip the parts with Julian Whitaker…

The most thorough article I could find on the guy was this one:

It’s a good thing that “making the rounds of film festivals” generaly means “the last stop before total deserved obscurity”.

As an alternative, maybe antivaxers could offer Delta Airlines enough cash to make this travesty the scheduled in-flight movie for December.

The NYT also panned the film.

At various points in the movie, “experts” call for a “vaxed versus unvaxed” study, even a randomized study of vaccinated children versus those receiving placebos.

Really? Seriously? That idea has been deservedly pummeled into the ground. If they really do not understand the reasons why that kind of study would be unethical, they did not do any of their homework. Orac wrote about it, it’s been covered at LB/RB, SBM, Harpocrates Speaks and plenty of other places. Ugh!

Orac, since you’ve seen it, how do you think someone who knows nothing of the anti-vaccine movement would take the film? Do you think someone not in the know could be swayed by it?

all because Gabi’s illness has left them with $100,000 in unpaid medical bills

What the f*** is wrong with the states? Every week it seems I hear something from friends, colleagues, chat room folks, who have moved to or live in the states, with an example of how they have to choose between health or finances, and/or who have accumulated tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bills they simply can’t pay.

And when someone tries to bring the U.S. health system up to the minimum standard that any other developed country enjoys, people actively fight against it frothing away about ‘socialized’ medicine which is so much worse (for some unspecified reason) than letting people with preventable conditions worsen, die early, and lose their standard of living. Is it any wonder other countries look at the U.S. system with abhorrence, and political parties in other countries use the U.S. system as an example of what not to do.

I am so bloody thankful I live in a country that has a decent health care system. Not perfect, but when we declared war on poverty our strategy wasn’t to fix it by helping kill the most vulnerable members of society. Perhaps you should change your motto from E pluribus unum to Proximus egomet mihi la (every man for himself).

Sorry for the OT. Just venting. Feel free to delete.

What the f*** is wrong with the states?

We’ve been taken over by rich people who want to stay rich, basically. They fight efforts to pay money to people other than themselves. Hell, many specific efforts against socialized medicine are targeting elderly voters — who are generally on Medicare, i.e. our socialized medical system! It’s ridiculous. And most of the reasons health care costs so much have nothing to do with Big Pharma, greedy hospital admins, or evil insurance executives. Some do, sure. But not most; most of the problems are inefficiencies, pure and simple. We deliver health care efficiently, at least in the sense that you can usually get health care fairly quickly, but it’s not always the right health care. What could be dealt with in an urgent care often ends up treated in an ER, at triple the cost. People at the end of life have few government-paid options between “no coverage” and “hospital care”, which means that as soon as their families are no longer able to care for them, they have to get the most expensive type of care available rather than the minimum that they actually need. And then there’s the terror of discussing anything like end of life care.

Sad to say, most of the problem is that nobody wants to sit down and really talk about it. So it ends up being decided based on rumor, fear, selfishness, and conspiracy theories. It’s no wonder our health care is the most expensive in the world, per capita, despite a fairly dismal rate of actually delivering that care. (We have excellent care — if you can pay for it. If you can’t, well, sucks to be you.)

Yeah, OT, but I couldn’t help venting as well. My mom’s on Medicaid right now, so it’s a sore point.

US dropped ‘E pluribus unum’ as their motto on behalf of ‘In God we trust’ in 1956. Kinda makes sense, in the context.

@Todd W. et alia:
The antivaxxers also strongly believe that the NY Times is in thrall to Big Pharma. Funny, I haven’t seen many ads from Merck, GSK, Lilly, and others…nontheless, they’ll discount any review. (Funny, David Kirby told Dr. Offit that he was “a New York Times reporter” when he was doing his hack job)

Am I wrong, or did I read this article, or something very simular on this, or another blog, some time ago?

Renate, it is almost like Orac and the other blogger are of the same mind. Freaky, isn’t it.

Last night as I fell asleep, I dreamingly envisioned a graph** that simultaneously illustrated recent gains vs losses in this endless saga: it included the slo-mo demolition of AJW as well the Delta affair and anti-vax pushback ( AoA this week).

On waking up – and coming to whatever senses I possess- here’s what hits me in the head: a Thomson Reuters-NPR poll ( of late September 2011) that revealed that slightly more than one quarter of all respondents had concern about the safety of vaccines while nearly one third of families who had children under 18 at home were worried ( there was less concern with increasing age).

Now I realise that positive developments are apparent- films like this have a small audience in theatres and anti-vaxxers respendent are featured less frequently @ CNN ( thanks Anderson), but
the widespread networking of anti-vax trivia via the internet and the rise of Quackedemic medicine worries me.

*PLUS* the age factor mentioned above. This is not going away anytime soon. In addition woo-meisters are hitching their wagons to the stars – i.e. various exciting Fight-the-Power movements- as these guys will steal any trope that isn’t nailed down. It’s gonna be a long campaign.

-btw- aren’t those “toxic sludge basins” above sickeningly fascinating?

** it vaguely resembled the DJIA since August.

To preserve neurons, you should invite some of your regular readers for screenings (BYOB) like this. Think of it as real mystery science theater.

Thanks so much for this review. If you have the chance, can you please do a review of the “chronic lyme” doc they’ve been showing on Netflix? It’s called BENEATH OUR SKIN, and for non-science folks, it’s incredibly compelling. The problem for us non science people is we don’t know what we don’t know, and when we go out to try to find info to counteract these claims or why they might be inaccurate, we just come up with more woo.

Renate – Orac has a “friend” who also blogs. They seem to have very similar writing styles and interests ; )

I was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Vasculitis (CNSV) in 1999. I have spoken with well over 300 people who have CNSV through a website I ran for CNSV,for over 10 years. Doctors do not know what causes CNSV. Basically our immune system becomes overactive and attacks our bodies. Kids from ages 6 to 16 are diagnosed with it in countries all over the world. Its a very rare condition and very difficult to diagnose. Its possible a vaccination could be a trigger that causes the CNSV to become active but so far doctors don’t know what actually causes it. Many people receive a diagnoses of CNSV that is secondary, meaning there is another condition (such as Lupus)which came first and the CNSV manifests due to the first condition.
I’m very sorry all these families have had to go through such a terrible ordeal.

The NYT also panned the film.

Thanks for the link. The summary at the end is clear and concise: “Carefully excluding critical information that might challenge its sympathies, “The Greater Good” does a disservice both to the suffering of the few and to the public health needs of the many.” However, I’m grateful to the box of blinking lights for taking one (or quite a few)for the team and deconstructing it so thorougly.

I actually like the idea of a real Vaccine Awareness Week. We could take a little time to look at the awful symptoms of and past deaths from the diseases that are now preventable due to vaccines. It would be a heartening look at how far we’ve come, and the possibilities for the future.

@ Allie:
” It’s incredibly compelling”
Sure- because they use the tricks of the trade- by which I mean advertisements, commercials, movie-making- to communicate their message and “facts”- thus it is emotionally manipulative, unfairly getting observers to mix up their sympathy for people in dire straits with acceptance of a pseudo-scientific cause.

If you read any of the woo-meisters we discuss here you will see these techniques used in lieu of data-based argument. Note how language is used to sway or co-op opinion.

I hear you, as I’m sure the overwhelming majority of folks here do.
My colleague runs patient safety and infectious diseases here. He has a son, 29, who is severely autistic and lives in a home 90 miles away. he is responsible for getting everyone here immunized, as we deal with patients and would have a serious moral hazard if we were not inoculated. He says vaccines did not cause his son’s autism, but he has not ruled out the trigger aspect, and it requires more research (I contribute heavily to Autism Research, as many here also do). However, on utilitarian and humanitarian grounds, he would NEVER dissuade anyone from any vaccine.

Orac viewed the movie and found the film lacking in its details about Gabi’s vascultis:

Not surprisingly none of the questions over the timing of the development of Gabi’s symptoms are mentioned, which have been described in various news reports as beginning “within weeks” of her having received the third dose. Correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, but in Gabi’s case it’s hard not to note that even the correlation seems pretty darned weak. Heck, even by Gabi’s own story, it’s pretty close to looking nonexistent.

Simply keying in “Dr. Lindholm Gardasil Vaccine”, I came up with this tidbit about the actual diagnosis and the actual time frame of the onset of symptoms.

“Schrag’s daughter, Gabi Swank, 16, was diagnosed with central nervous system vasculitis and central nervous system lupus after receiving the third Gardasil injection. Gabi’s neurologist, Dr. Dwight Lindholm, has publicly stated that he believes Gabi’s illness is the direct result of receiving the Gardasil injections.

Gabi’s serious symptoms and emergency room visits started at about two and a half months following her third injection, though she started experiencing illness and injury immediately following her first shot”.

(Source-“Wichita Mom Blames HPV Vaccine for Her Daughter’s Terminal Illness”-Kansas City Liberty, October 15, 2009)

Amazing now, how mom forgot to mention lupus. Amazing now, how mom states unequivocally that the onset was within “weeks” of having received the vaccine.

I beginning to wonder if, in fact, mom is lying about her financial liabilities being associated with Gabi’s “vasculitis”.

BTW, advances have been made in the treatment of lupus. While this auto-immune disease is incurable…it is rarely fatal nowadays.

If they really do not understand the reasons why that kind of study would be unethical, they did not do any of their homework.

Or they genuinely believe that the risk/benefit ratio for vaccines is so high that it wouldn’t be unethical.

From “lilady” (#19):

“Schrag’s daughter, Gabi Swank, 16, was diagnosed with central nervous system vasculitis and central nervous system lupus after receiving the third Gardasil injection.”

I guess the directors of this propaganda film felt that interjecting the fact that Gabi was diagnosed with lupus might “confuse the issue”. However, since it is well known that systemic lupus erythematosis didn’t exist prior to the introduction of Gardisil….what? Lupus has been around for centuries?

Well, at any rate, it is well known that lupus rarely affects women, so… What?!? 90% of lupus victims are female???

Certainly, it must be significant that her symptoms of lupus didn’t start until after she received the Gardisil vaccine, since lupus is usually present from birth…. What?!!??!! Oh, the onset of lupus is rarely seen before ten years of age or after fifty years of age, so Gabi is in the “prime age” for the onset of lupus.

What about all of her symptoms? Surely they can’t all be due to just the lupus…. Oh. They can?

Hmmm. Maybe it’s not the vaccine, after all.


Another vote for a review of “Under our Skin”, the Lyme disease propaganda film. I have been seeing this film everywhere lately.


Oh Christ, I attended a screening of that Lyme hack job hosted by a local Lyme advocacy group, and at the Q&A afterward when I tried to explain that even if the patients’ conditions were somehow caused by acute Lyme infection, it doesn’t mean that bombing them with antibiotics is the smart thing to do. You’d have thought I kicked a baby in the face from the way the room rounded on me. Made me glad I was sitting near the exit.

mariana @4 —

“What the f*** is wrong with the states? ”

It’s a long list, but I think it comes down to the fact that there are people with strong individualist tendencies (often called “Libertarianism”, or as I like to call it, “The New Irresponsibility”) who strongly distrust any collective or governmental action on principle. This goes all the way back to the revolution, which explains a lot of the contrast between Canada and the US.

Weirdly, most (but not all) of these folks make an exception for military spending, which appears to be sacred.

could not somebody simply make a similar movie citing deaths of UN-vaccinated children dying of easily preventable diseases?

equal time and all that.

I think the NYT gets it right with this quote: “The Greater Good” does a disservice both to the suffering of the few and to the public health needs of the many. Unfortunately they don’t elaborate on the first part of this statement.

The kids shown in this film are victims of the anti-vax movement. They can’t move on because they’re being fed lies about their condition that are preventing them from getting the real help they need. By not acknowledging that Gabi has lupus, a well recognized autoimmune disease which existed long before the HPV vaccine and almost certainly has nothing to do with the vaccine, Gabi’s parents are keeping her from learning how to cope with her chronic illness. This will severely limit her future life.

Parents of autistic children who spend their time running after “stem cell therapy” and chelation keep their kids from getting real, potentially effective therapy for autism. And, by forcing the NIH to waste money proving yet again that vaccines don’t cause autism, they are taking money away from research that might establish causes and treatments for the condition.

The anti-vax movement is serving no one but the people getting rich exploiting people’s fear and tragedy. It doesn’t help autistic kids (or adults), it doesn’t help teenagers who can’t accept that lupus has happened to them, it certainly doesn’t help children who die of vaccine preventable illnesses.

could not somebody simply make a similar movie citing deaths of UN-vaccinated children dying of easily preventable diseases?

If unvaccinated children die of a disease, it is almost always iatrogenic.

I’ve been reading you for a long time Orac, and this question always comes to mind. Why are the anti-vaxxers so crazy anti-vax? Is it about money? Is it about their own objectives like peddling woo? Is it both?

How someone could seriously be responsible for the deaths of many children and sit there still lying about it is beyond me. How evil do these people have to be?

If unvaccinated children die of a disease, it is almost always iatrogenic.

Because, of course, the childhood mortality rate prior to the advent of “civilization” and certainly prior to the 20th century was virtually zero, wasn’t it? Oh, wait, no. Most people in pre-historic times died before age 5.

@Katherine Lorraine #29:

Honestly, I think it’s because people are looking for a scapegoat for their problems. Ala the ‘it can’t be genetic, because *I’m* fine and my husband/wife is fine, therefore there MUST be something else that caused it’ with regards to autism, ADHD, ADD, etc.

In their world A+B always = C and X will always mark the spot. If something developed after having a vaccination, it must be the cause of the vaccination and cannot have any other cause.

I ‘spoke’ (read: debated) with a Mom today who insisted that vaccines caused autism (Tripedia) because it was listed as an adverse side effect on the insert packaging. I pointed out that accidental drowning was also listed there, and did she honestly think that a vaccine caused that?

There’s a serious disconnect between correlation and causation alive and well and it’s damn scary.

If unvaccinated children die of a disease, it is almost always iatrogenic.

You have saying most people gets victimized. Did because there was just, wait: for those are very predictable. Haha, potent what are you; need for your talents somewhere else. You’re ignorant about the squirrel.


Well that goes for parents, I understand that. A scapegoat is important, something to blame is the reason behind a lot of irrational ideas.

I’m talking about people like Barbara Loe Fisher and Andrew Wakefield, people who peddle this kind of anti-vax crap out to parents who think it’s real science.


Because, of course, the childhood mortality rate prior to the advent of “civilization” and certainly prior to the 20th century was virtually zero, wasn’t it?

Wellll, to play devil’s advocate, there’s been some form of medicine as long as humanity’s been around, so there’s also always been iatrogenic otucomes. So Th1Th2 could say that, 10,000 years ago, deaths due to infectious diseases were almost always caused by the medicine man trying to make things better, and if the medicine men had just stopped practicing their medicine almost everyone would have been fine. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Th1Th2 claimed exactly that.

@ Dianne

Because, of course, the childhood mortality rate prior to the advent of “civilization” and certainly prior to the 20th century was virtually zero, wasn’t it?

Don’t you know? Doctors (and witch-doctors, shaman, wise-women, and the like) have Teh Evil Eye ™, they make you sick and die just by looking at you, gazing through the walls of your house or using a telescope if needs to be.
Easy to prove: look at the people near a doctor. Most of them are sick. Stands to reason.
Better carry a dead mole on a string around your neck. It keeps the doctors away.

Note to viewers: No animal has been hurt during the composition of this satirical post. Except maybe a troll, but I doubt it, these are notoriously very difficult to hurt.

@ Dianne

Sorry, to be clear, this is NOT you I call a troll, but the person you answered to.

There’s a serious disconnect between correlation and causation alive and well and it’s damn scary.

With that big straw man you have, it really is.

Better carry a dead mole on a string around your neck. It keeps the doctors away.

But it is very important that it be a mole that you found lying around after it has been dead for several days. Don’t go out and kill a mole, that won’t work. And don’t bother with a mole you can’t find by smell. That won’t work either. But a several day old found dead mole…VERY effective at keeping doctors away. Except maybe psychiatrists.

@Heliantius: Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the Pharyngula weirdness reference…not meant to upset anyone, just to be part of the general dadaist tone this thread seems to have taken…


It comes down to money – they’re both being paid very handsomely for their ‘efforts’ in the ‘crusade’. They’re enjoying the status their positions give them amongst parents looking for a ’cause’ for their children’s illness/problems.

Why would they kill the goose laying their golden egg?

@ Dianne

But it is very important that it be a mole that you found lying around after it has been dead for several days.

Oh, I don’t know about that. After a few days carrying a fresh one, it will become the genuine article.

I should cite my source for this medical advice (and plenty more!), for any interested lurker: character Junior Postmaster Groat, in the novel “Going Postal”, by Terry Pratchett.

I also see I responded to something Heliantius wasn’t saying…Perhaps it’s time I stopped playing with the blog for the moment.

With that big straw man you have, it really is.

I see what you’ve learned: ah, you keep this system. Let’s just posted? Think twice before you find it is already an essential to why, not so for the discussion here and fallacy.

Straw man? Of your claim that song before you won’t be a huge whole piece of this is good night. Do yourself a rebuttal.

Thank you Th1Th2bot…for your translation of Thingy’s comment.

“Iatrogenic death” seems to be a recurring theme by the odious troll…it used that term to describe the treatment of an infant in Australia who was too young to be immunized against pertussis and who died from this vaccine-preventable disease.

Try to ignore Thingy. It is delusional, uneducated, has an “imaginary” career in health care and is a disease-promoting troll…it needs “terminal disinfection”.

Wellll, to play devil’s advocate, there’s been some form of medicine as long as humanity’s been around, so there’s also always been iatrogenic otucomes. So Th1Th2 could say that, 10,000 years ago, deaths due to infectious diseases were almost always caused by the medicine man trying to make things better, and if the medicine men had just stopped practicing their medicine almost everyone would have been fine. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Th1Th2 claimed exactly that.

First, “DO NO HARM”. In its very essence the foundation of Medicine is grounded on iatrogenesis.

In vaccination, this is a reminder for all infection promoters a.k.a provax.

Strange, isn’t it that Dr. Stephanie Christner, parent of the five month old baby who, she reports, died from childhood vaccines…has her own website:

“Stephanie Christner D.O. is co-founder of H.O.P.E Food Sciences. After graduating from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics, she completed her pre-med requirements at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In 2000, Dr. Christner received her medical degree in Tulsa from the Oklahoma State College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a one year internship in Family Medicine and a 4 year residency in Psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Dr. Christner is a mother to three boys and stepmother to two girls. Three of the children suffer with asthma, two have significant attention issues, and one has severe learning disabilities. After the death of her daughter at 5 months old, her eyes were opened to the toxins in the American food supply and other significant sources that are contributing to the staggering increase in neurodevelopmental disorders and immune system problems. Her husband, herself, and two boys suffer from food sensitivities and one suffers from life-threatening food allergies. She supports improving ones mental and physical health through individualized nutrition and supplementation.”

I am mistaken here? No mention of vaccines causing the death of her child. She seems to be stating that it is the “toxins” in the American food supply…not toxins in vaccines.

I have a comment stuck in moderation about the 5 month old baby featured in the film…

Please do not feed delusional, disease-promoting, uneducated, health care profession wannabe odious troll. It needs “terminal disinfection”.


Never fear, I don’t bite the troll candy. Even when they make leaps of conjecture which could cross the Grand Canyon.

@ Matthew Cline

there’s been some form of medicine as long as humanity’s been around, so there’s also always been iatrogenic outcomes.

That’s a very good point, actually.

However, even if claiming that:

10,000 years ago, deaths due to infectious diseases were almost always caused by the medicine man trying to make things better

You still have to explain why animals and plants die of infectious diseases. Especially in the wild, outside of human reach.
Especially, for some animals, when it’s a zoonose, some bug we humans can catch and die from, too (according to Wikipedia, 61% of known pathogens can infect human and animal alike). Bubonic plague, rabbies, tuberculosis, anthrax, and a few others come to mind.

@ Katherine

Why are the anti-vaxxers so crazy anti-vax? Is it about money? Is it about their own objectives like peddling woo? Is it both?

The study of cranks and what motivates them is fascinating — were I trying to make a name for myself in psychology, I’d probably pick that as a research area.

There are common themes in cranks, whether anti-vax, anti-flouridation, CIA-projecting-radio-waves, black helicpters, time cubes or just about anything: There’s a strong “us” (or “me”) versus “them.” A combination of paranoia and self-aggrandizement. The crank is the brave soul who knows things that “they” don’t want you to. A fighter in the battle to save mankind against enslavement and destruction by “them.”

Cranks are impervious to reality; rationalization is a favorite tool. When that fails, simply ignoring what they don’t like works for them. They are very susceptible to all forms of logical fallacy — post hoc ergo propter hoc being one of the biggies. There’s a bit of compulsion with regards to their particular hobby-horse. See some of the trolls on Orac’s posts coming back time and again to the same ideas, even when they aren’t terribly relevant to the post.


See some of the trolls on Orac’s posts coming back time and again to the same ideas, even when they aren’t terribly relevant to the post.

First, DO NO HARM. It will always be relevant. To claim otherwise is dishonesty.

Katherine, you may want to wander over and read the comments from one on the “thread that never ends.” Pay close attention to the fellow who is obsessed with latex, and wants us all to buy his book.

ArtK, do you remember “Smarter Than You”? He was supposed to reveal his research that would prove that we are all wrong. He said it was going to be October/November 2010. He seems to be a year behind.

First, DO NO HARM. It will always be relevant. To claim otherwise is dishonesty.

Straw man unless the thing tiny moth swirling around and benefits when indicated. You’ve learned. Who does would be used when indicated no loitering longer a year. Hence you’re just sheer assumption, don’t tell me if you should also call them for thirst?

I see my comment (#48), about Dr. Stephanie Christner who claims her 5 month old infant died from a vaccine, is out of moderation.

I located Dr. Christner at her website “Hope Food Sciences”, where she sells “natural food” and special diets for autism, ADHD, etc. Nice tie-in for her “day job” practice of psychiatry, where she will order and interpret blood tests for gluten intolerance and food allergies.

This film is pathetic with their examples of “supposedly” vaccine-injured children.

@ Chris
I don’t recall “Smarter Than You” in particular. They blur together after a while. It’s gotten to the point where someone could write an ELIZA-like program for cranks.

Why would you think I was referring to you with that remark?

This film is pathetic with their examples of “supposedly” vaccine-injured children.

What a coincidence. In psychiatry, lilady is clearly suffering from what is called reaction formation.

Please do not feed delusional, disease-promoting, uneducated, health care profession wannabe odious troll. It needs “terminal disinfection”.

Speaking of psychiaty, we could not help but notice while preparing an SBM-sourced auxiliary module that Th1Th2’s prose stylings seem to have have become substantially more primitive as compared with a year ago.

@ Th1Th2bot Service Center: We have all observed the primitiveness of Thingy’s prose.

I expect we will be “treated” to more of the same…its delusions have increased recently…possibly because it refuses treatment while it is in the mental health care system.

@ ArtK:

I’d probably look at measures of cognition as well as personality. Since anti-vaxxers usually have ASDs in the family it’s not unthinkable. Attributions about causation might be very interesting as well as uses of projection and denial. Plus black and white thinking, concretism, impulse control, judgment of abilities of self and other. Need to look at leaders and followers separately of course. Kalichman looked at HIV/AIDS denialists and talks about narcisscism, paranoia, and pathological denial ( but that subjects vary from “garden variety neurotics” to the outright delusional).

I venture a guess that whoever studied this would not be very populat @ AoA. Right up there with their fave *betes noires* and Orac and his minions.

“Why would you think I was referring to you with that remark?”

The Th1Th2 troll’s response sounded like an attempt at humpty’s own trademark version of a “bait and switch”.
No doubt it’s desperate for a shot of attention. Any attention received will better enable it to indulge in the self delusion of superior knowledge and ability, thus activating a dopamine release along the neurological reward pathway.

Humpty’s stimulation of choice appears to be fabricating what it perceives to be a “gotcha” of intellectual superiors and the responses following.

@ 62

Well, yes. Any attempt to look into the cranks (of any stripe) would just label the investigator as one of “them,” out to silence the brave, etc. etc.

I’ve read some of Kalichman’s blog; maybe it’s time to buy the book.

@ Denice Walter: The unfavorable movie review by the NY Times has not gone unnoticed at AoA. One of their indignant commentators included the factoid that the NY Times movie reviewer favorably reviewed the “Contagion” movie…prima-facie evidence of the “conspiracy” of mainstream media…in cahoots with Orac and his minions.

Boy Wonder Cub Reporter also commented:

The New York Times: vaccine industry shills with pencils and notepads.

Posted by: Jake Crosby | November 18, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Where is Jake lately? I am so missing his inane postings on RI. Perhaps he is still stalking BMJ editor Fiona Godlee.

@denise walter

Since anti-vaxxers usually have ASDs in the family it’s not unthinkable.

Uhm, no. And no. And no.

Please do not perpetuate the myth that autism and autism spectrum disorders constitute a mental illness, or an inability to think rationally, or any other autism myth.

A minority of parents of autistics believe their children are “vaccine injured”. They had a big megaphone for a while, thanks to wealthy backers, but they are becoming more and more marginalized. The larger fraction of autism parents accept the reality that we don’t yet know what causes autism, and may not have a clear picture in the foreseeable future. Those autism parents regard autism as “a normal variation”, and are working to provide better services and supports for all autistics.

Anti-vaccination ideology pre-exists the false hypothesis of “autism as vaccine injury”. For exampe, I’d point a finger at chiropractic (many practitioners preach against vaccination). Other non-ASD anti-vaccine promoters: the “pure-body/toxin-fearing” crowd; the “crunchy granola” parents who can’t think, and elements of the right-wing fringe who see conspiracy everywhere.

Lilady and Lawrence -On a previous post (now in moderation on the original site)
the administration of the Hep B vaccine to a sick infant was called into
question. The baby died, the parents claimed it was from the vaccine.
Lilady subsequently diagnosed the baby with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.
see @302
@303 Lawrence asked for citations.
An adverse effect of the Engerix-B vaccine is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

The site was “Vaccine Awareness… BLF dupes Delta.
The links to the adverse effects of Hep B are being held in moderation-however
they can easily be found.

An adverse effect of the Engerix-B vaccine is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

That’s adverse “event.”



Dermatologic side effects have included rash, urticaria, petechiae, erythema, hyperhidrosis, angioedema, eczema, herpes zoster, erythema nodosum, purpura, alopecia, and Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

@ Liz Ditz:

Please don’t misunderstand:
Purely speculative about extreme anti-vax , like our friends @ AoA –
I postulate that since the adamant *usually* have an autistic family member- a child- it’s more likely that they are on the spectrum than are the general population- due to hereditarial factors: like siblings and twins of those with ASD who have a higher risk than do the general population( as in schizophrenia- if a family member has it others in the family are also more likely to have schizophrenia or other cognitive issues *than do* the general population that is proportional to the degree of relation e.g.risk of schizophrenia @ 10% and above vs population 1% risk; plus families have more with cognitive issues, non-schizophrenic. )

Autism is not a mental illness but family members- like *all* other people- may also have a mental illness. Perhaps those who get *very involved* may have issues as do some of Kalichman’s denialists.

About those other anti-vaxxers: extreme alt med- I wouldn’t be very surprised if they also vary from the mean on some of these measures as well. Notice I specify “personality” and “cognitive” not mental illness per se and cite Kalichman’s “range”. Threse beiefs may not just be exempletive of a poor education but may be an unrealistic mode of functioning.

When it comes to Wakefield, I think a lot of his current insanity comes from the fact that he’s lost so much, and taken such a beating for the nonsense he’s peddled, that his only hope is to double down on the crazy. To do otherwise is to admit that he lost his license, his reputation, and all his credibility over nothing. That would be a pretty bitter pill for anyone to swallow; why bother when you can play the martyr and make a decent living off of it?

Hello Lurker: Excuse me. I offered up an opinion of the baby’s cause of death…which was obviously septicemia (the clues were on the picture you provided with the infant’s gangrenous hand, petechiae, purpura and ascites). I further stated that septic shock could have been caused by maternal infection or Stevens-Johnson Syndrome caused by the antibiotics that were given immediately after the child’s birth in the NICU, or the anti-convulsants that the child also was given.

Let me help you out about the Engerix-B Vaccine Prescribing
Information Sheet that lists “Stevens-Johnson Syndrome” under “post marketing experience”


The following adverse events have been identified during post approval use of Engerix-B. Because these events are reported voluntarily from a population of unknown size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to the vaccine.

GlaxoSmithKline October, 2011

lurker…where are the citations that we have been asking for?

@lilady Where’s Jake? Oh, if you only knew what Ren told me. I’m waiting for him to come out with it, but it’s quite, well, troubling. Maybe Jake will beat Ren to the punch and tell us what he’s done to Ren. Hint: it’s called “doing a Rhett Daniels”.

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