Get out the popcorn! This internecine war among antivaccinationists is getting interesting (part 6)

I don’t know why I’m interested in this, to the point where I’m on my sixth post about it since February. I sometimes even ask myself that very question, because taking an admittedly somewhat perverse interest in the internecine feuds among antivaccinationists. Maybe it’s a bit of schadenfreude. Maybe it’s just me. Whatever the reason, the ongoing feud between Jake “Boy Wonder” Crosby and his former mentors and allies in the antivaccine movement keeps bringing me back for more, as it did last week after a couple of months away. Maybe it’s because when the antivaccine movement is fighting among itself it’s wasting energy that it could otherwise be using discouraging vaccination, fear mongering, and endangering public health, and that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s the sheer enjoyment of seeing people who tried to get me fired ripping into each other. (Hey, I’m human, the computer-inspired moniker notwithstanding.) Maybe it’s a little of both. Either way, it is a good thing to see them wasting time and effort on this.

So it was with great amusement that I noted that our old friend Jake has finally made the break official and complete. How, you ask, has he done this? He’s finally started his own blog. Amusingly, it’s called Autism Investigated. Even more hilariously, his subtitle is “Uncovering the who, what, when, where and why of the autism epidemic,” and he’s clearly aped the design of the antivaccine crank blog that spawned him, Age of Autism, complete with listing himself as the editor. Here’s a hint, Jake: If a blog has only one blogger, there really isn’t much of a point in having an editor. You don’t see Orac referring to himself as the “editor” of this blog, do you? Of course not. That’s because, when it comes to this blog, I’m it. Every word you see here pours forth from my keyboard. One wonders if Jake is just being pretentious or whether he’s recruiting other writers. If so, whom would he recruit? Patrick “Timmy” Bolen? Now, there’d be some hilarity! Or maybe he’s just being a pretentious git.

No, I guess he really does plan on trying to solicit articles:

The purpose of this site is to investigate the who, what, when, where and why of the autism epidemic, particularly the role vaccines play in causing it as well as the government’s role in covering up that cause. To maintain independent coverage, Autism Investigated will not accept sponsorship or commercial advertising of any kind. Readers are encouraged to make their own contributions to the site either via authored articles or through participation in our interactive comment discussions. We value your voice and look forward to your readership. To ensure that you don’t miss our posts, please subscribe to Autism Investigated and you’ll receive email notices of new articles. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook too.

Hmmm. Maybe I should contribute something. In fact, I encourage any of my readers to contribute posts to Jake. We’ll see what he actually lets through. In the meantime, I can’t help but wonder if Jake’s using the royal “we,” though. He might be soliciting posts, but right now his blog is clearly a one clueless young man operation.

After (predictably) attacking Seth Mnookin, Jake decided to try to fry another one of my irony meters again. Fortunately for me, I’ve reinforced mine with layer after layer of insulation and shielding against a flaming lack of self-awareness. It held. Just barely. The onslaught of nonsense and hypocrisy was powerful, though, and I’m going to have to patch it up a bit. To see why, just take a look at Jake’s attack against one of his former mentors who molded him into the crank that he is, Mark Blaxill:

On the 4th of July, Canary Party Chairman Mark Blaxill made his first public statement responding to revelations of his role in hijacking November’s congressional autism hearing. He descended into a litany of ad hominem attacks against his critics, including myself.

See why even the strongest shielding of my irony meter was sorely tested? Jake, getting indignant about ad hominem attacks. A young man who’s made his reputation primarily based on ad hominem attacks? Think about it. What is Jake’s MO? In general, he somehow tries to discredit his enemies by linking them to pharmaceutical companies, usually through a “six-degrees-of separation” technique, in which he insinuates that a friend of a brother of a cousin of wife once worked for a pharmaceutical company in the past or owned pharmaceutical stock. The connections are virtually always tenuous and irrelevant, but he uses them to insinuates that these distant, second-, third-, and fourth-hand connections to the evil pharmaceutical companies indicate such a hopeless conflict of interest that the person expressing pro-vaccine sentiments who falls victim to it is completely unreliable and unbelievable. That is the very definition of “ad hominem,” which means “against the man,” or attacking the source without addressing the source’s arguments properly. Jake used a variation of his usual ad hominem attacks against me three years ago, which is when he tried to attack me by accusing me of an undisclosed conflict of interest because a drug company had apparently given money to my university to research something related to what I work on in my lab. Never mind that I had not taken any money from that company and was, in fact, completely unaware that it had ever provided a grant to my university.

Such is how Jake operates.

I do have to give Blaxill credit for some newfound insight, though. Jake is clearly very upset by something Blaxill said that was completely accurate:

Mark Blaxill directs his final paragraph at me, calling my reporting “delusional.” He then flip-flops by stating I have “so much potential to do good work.” He also talks about wanting to “heal the rift between us” five months after unfriending me on Facebook.

Now, he plans to continue shutting off contact with critics like myself on the excuse that, “I have no intention of getting into any flame wars on this subject.”

Perhaps it’s time for Mark Blaxill to practice what he preaches.

As I said, irony is lost on Jake. One wonders if he’ll ever practice what he preaches and stop his relentless conspiracy mongering ad hominem attacks. Probably not, unless there is some revelation that hits him like a bolt from the blue. Whatever the case, I’m not really that interested any more in Jake’s specific charges against Blaxill. From my perspective Blaxill is about as big an antivaccine loon as there is, Jake’s accusations of his having strayed from the purity of the true message notwithstanding. I’ve written many times about Blaxill’s poor understanding of science and embrace of outright pseudoscience (just type his name in the search box for examples).

This little schism in the antivaccine movement appears to be provoking a reaction back at the mothership. Just yesterday, the same day Jake posted his broadside at Blaxill, there appeared a hilariously self-congratulatory post at the antivaccine crank blog AoA by Katie Wright entitled People Who Get #$%& Done. No doubt this bunch of antivaccine activists does occasionally “get #$%& done,” but what, exactly is the #$%& they get done? Persuading a bunch of retired antivaccine Congressmen like Dan Burton to show up at their antivaccine quackfest Autism One is not impressive. Admittedly, getting a a couple of sitting Representatives (Bill Posey and Darrell Issa) to show up at the same quackfest is somewhat more impressive, but not in a good way. Fortunately, of late the antivaccine movement appears not to be nearly as influential as it was around 5-10 years ago, but occasionally it can still score a couple of legislators and somehow persuade them to show up in the Chicago area for a day to expose their crankery. They can even sometimes persuade one of them (Dan Burton in the past, Darrell Issa now) to hold grandstanding hearings that no one outside of the antivaccine movement cares about. When we have to worry will be if they ever show signs of getting actual antivaccine legislation passed, which, fortunately, they have not as of yet.

Still, as impotent as the AoA/SafeMinds/Generation Rescue/Thinking Moms’ Revolution axis of the antivaccine movement so fortunately is, they’re the people who are the biggest threat to public health because they might someday actually luck out and have become a bit more pragmatic in their crankitude. It’s a good thing that Jake seems capable of little more than character assassination and disrupting the occasional talk by scientists.