Beauty and the antivaccine beast

The last couple of days have been very busy, as you might have guessed from my brief (for me) post on Tuesday and my—shall we say?—appropriation of a post to use for yesterday. Today’s going to be the same, but for more pleasant reasons than having had to go out to dinner with a visiting professor and being out until 10:30 PM and slaving away at grant applications. Last night an unexpected surprise arrived. Well, it wasn’t a surprise that it arrived; it was a surprise that it arrived yesterday, as I hadn’t expected it until today, and a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t expected it before the end of the month.

I’m talking about by brand new iMac, baby!

Yes, after six and a half years, it was finally time to retire my old desktop workhorse, a Mac Pro. It’s actually amazing how long that particular computer remained not only useful but as fast at some tasks (for example, video rendering) as newer computers. Alas, it couldn’t be updated to the latest Macintosh OS (Mountain Lion), and it’s so old that it doesn’t even have Bluetooth (which was optional and for which I had no use in 2006) or wifi (which was considered unnecessary in a high-end desktop computer at the time, which was presumed to be directly hooked up to an Ethernet connection). Indeed, I’m on my third laptop since the one I had when I first got the old Mac Pro. In fact, I use my laptop so much that I wondered if I actually even needed a desktop anymore, but the limitations of laptops with respect to storage of media meant that I couldn’t store my multi-TB media library. Also, because I’m constantly working on grants and papers, I am increasingly feeling the limitations of a 13″ screen when it comes to having multiple documents open. Laptops are fine for text and tasks where I don’t need multiple windows open at the same time, but a big screen is just so much more pleasant when making figures, writing papers, and the like.

So when the new iMacs were finally announced, they were so…beautiful that I figured it was time to retire the old warhorse and get a sleek, powerful new iMac. So I took the plunge and got myself a 27″ iMac, and it arrived yesterday. When I got home from work, blogging couldn’t compete. I did something that I really enjoy doing: I set the computer up from scratch, so that I didn’t transfer six and a half years of digital schmutz in the preferences and other system files that had built up over the years. (I don’t remember the last time I did a clean install of the OS.) The task is almost complete. All applications have been installed from original software discs, which taught me something about the impending obsolescence of optical drives, given that only three software packages that I have are even on disks anymore. The rest I downloaded, while I copied my may GB of files from my old computer over my wireless network. All that remains is to transfer my iTunes and iPhoto libraries over, which I can do tonight after I get home from work. My new machine will then be ready to rumble with the grant I’m currently working on.

Oddly enough, the aluminum-encased smooth and thin beauty of our new iMac reminded me of something—or perhaps I should say someone—that is anything but slim or beautiful. Does anyone remember John Best? He’s what can best be described as a rabid antivaccinationist (trust me, I’m being kind) whom I first encountered back in 2005 when he started commenting on my old blog. He would occasionally comment on this blog early on after I first moved over to ScienceBlogs, but over time his appearances fortunately became rarer and rarer. I finally banned him. That’s not to say that he doesn’t occasionally show up, but he rarely gets through because I recognize his style and I know the IP addresses he tends to post from.

In any case, if there’s anything you need to know about John Best, it’s all there on his blog Hating Autism. Here’s fair warning: It takes a strong stomach to bear the hatred, insults, and frequent reference to autistic people as “brain damaged” and other derogatory terms, all accompanied by broadsides against vaccines (which he blames for autism, of course), big pharma, the government, and, of course, vicious attacks against people whom he views as enemies.

People like Australian blogger Phil Gluyas.

What I didn’t know is that Phil had sued Best for defamation. What I just found out is that Phil won his lawsuit, which arose thusly:

9 The present proceedings arise out of a long running dispute, which the plaintiff has had with the defendant concerning the causes of autism. As I stated, the plaintiff himself suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome. That condition is considered to be part of the autism spectrum. Persons who suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome do not suffer the cognitive or developmental deficits, which commonly affect those with autism. However, like autism, those with Asperger’s Syndrome have social deficits, and, in particular, they have difficulty empathising or being able to interact appropriately in social situations.

10 The defendant has maintained websites, and contributed to websites, on which he has published a number of entries concerning the causes of autism. In essence, the defendant maintains that all forms of autism are caused by mercury poisoning, and that they can be cured by a form of treatment referred to as chelation. The plaintiff has challenged that view, and has contended that conditions on the autism spectrum are congenital and are not susceptible of a cure.

11 The defendant’s responses to the plaintiff’s views have gone well beyond the bounds of ordinary discussion and intellectual debate. The items posted by the defendant on the internet, concerning the plaintiff, contain an extraordinary level of invective and personal denigration, which, in some measure, have been repeated in two letters which he has forwarded to the court in response to the proceedings served on him.

And here are some examples:

(a) (Exhibit G).- An entry entitled “Phil Gluyas’ history of brutality” which was uploaded by the defendant on the website on or about 3 February 2010.

(b) (Exhibit L). An entry entitled “Severely deranged mental case sues me again” uploaded by the defendant onto the website (“the hating autism website”). The plaintiff downloaded and read that entry in December 2010.

(c) (Exhibit M). The entry entitled “Phil Gluyas of Australian Football abuses autistic women” dated 11 April 2009 uploaded by the defendant onto the hatingautism website.

(d) (Exhibit N). The same entry entitled “Phil Gluyas of Australian Football abuses autistic women” uploaded by the defendant to the website (the “philgluyas5 website”) and dated 23 November 2009.

(e) (Exhibit O). The entry entitled “Is Phil Gluyas the next Adam Lanza?” uploaded by the defendant onto the hatingautism website on 20 December 2012.

(f) (Exhibit P). The same entry “Is Phil Gluyas the next Adam Lanza?” uploaded by the defendant on the philgluyas5 website dated 3 January 2013.

(g) (Exhibit R). The entry “Pneumonic plague averted in Melbourne” uploaded by the defendant on the philgluyas5 website on 3 November 2009.

(h) (Exhibit S). Various entries by the defendant as part of comments in relation to the “Youtube” video “I am autism”. Those comments were uploaded by the defendant over a period of a few weeks leading to 23 November 2009 (when the plaintiff downloaded them from the internet).


31 The plaintiff relies on three imputations in respect of exhibit M (the entry “Phil Gluyas of Australian football abuses autistic women” on the hatingautism website) and exhibit N (the same entry on the philgluyas5 website). Those imputations are:

(a) By analogy with Hannibal Lecter, Phil Gluyas is a mentally unwell person who poses a serious threat to the physical safety of others.

(b) A medical authority determined that Phil Gluyas was so physically dangerous to others, as a result of a medical disorder, that he was banned from working anywhere in Australia.

(c) Phil Gluyas suffers from a serious mental disorder that causes him to be violent towards others.

32 I am satisfied that the two entries, published by the defendant, conveyed each of those three imputations of and concerning the plaintiff. Immediately beneath the heading of each entry, is a photograph depicting the character Hannibal Lecter, from the film Silence of the Lambs. That character was a psychopathically violent and dangerous individual. Underneath the photograph, the defendant stated:

“Phil Gluyas is a severely deranged man from Australia who likes to abuse people with autism, especially women. Gluyas was found to be so dangerous to his co-workers that a medical authority proclaimed him to be mentally unfit for employment anywhere in Australia.”
33 The photograph and that passage, alone, are sufficient to give rise to each of the three imputations. However, the balance of the article reinforces and repeats each of the imputations. The defendant then referred to the fact that the plaintiff umpired Australian Rules football. He stated:

“What might happen with Gluyas umpiring if some autistic woman happens to wander onto the field? With his history of being medically banned from all work places in the country, I shudder to think what this lunatic might do to a disabled person that he could get his hands on.”

Sadly, I don’t know if Phil will ever be able to collect the damages awarded ($50,000) from Best. Even if there weren’t the issue of collecting damages from a judgment made by an Australian court from a U.S. citizen, which would be daunting and expensive, there’s another issue. I highly doubt that Best has the money. Still, it’s good to see that Best has been slapped down. On a practical level, I doubt it will have much effect, but it is a moral victory.

Now back to my grants and my new iMac. It’s a case of beauty for some perverse reason reminding me of a beast. The difference between the fictional beauty and the beast is that this particular beast has no redeeming characteristics that I can find, nor any potential that I can discern for ever changing in such a way as to redeem himself and become worthy of the beauty.