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An anonymous critic complains to Orac’s employers over his post on the murder of Alex Spourdalakis

Antivaccinationists, quacks, and apologists for antivaccinationists and quacks (but I repeat myself) seem to have an illusion that I’m just swimming in pharma lucre, that I sit in my underwear grinding out magnum opus-worthy after magnum opus-worthy blog posts, all so that I can rake in the cash hand over fist, lead a life of pure luxury, and enjoy ruthlessly crushing any hint of dissent regarding science-based medicine. Even if that assessment were completely true, as Lord Draconis Zeneca tells us that it is, it’s not all easy being a prolific, logorrheic pharma shill servilely doing the bidding of our shape-shifting Reptilian overlords. First off, it’s a lot of work grinding out these epic posts of pure awesomeness. It really is. You can tell when the constant blogging is taking a toll on me when occasionally I actually do a post under 1,000 words—or do a somewhat navel-gazing post like the one I’m writing now. Secondly, there’s a price to pay. Sure, now that I’m approaching the end of my ninth year of blogging and am amazingly considered an established skeptical and medical blogger, I actually get invited to do speaking engagements at skeptics’ meetings like TAM. I actually blog under my real name elsewhere. Reporters sometimes contact me for interviews about alternative medicine or Stanislaw Burzynski. I’m on podcasts every so often and even, when I’m lucky, invited to be on the radio from time to time. Oh, sure, it’s nowhere near as often as often as some of those bloggers at more prestigious blog collectives (ahem, Forbes—cough, cough—Scientific American and Discovery), but I suppose that’s just the price of using a pseudonym—or of being one of the more “prickly” skeptics when it comes to quackery.

Lest my readers think it’s all sweetness, light, and wheelbarrows full of money, I do have to point out that there is a dark side. There are problems. There are even, somtimes, hazards. For sometimes, every so often, a true believer learns The Truth. Normally that’s not such a big deal. They just try to poison my Google reputation by writing an attack post against me, as the denizens over at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism like to do from time to time. (But do they have a Wikipedia entry, I ask? No, most of them do not, with the occasional exception. I do. It’s just one of the fruits of my labors bestowed upon me by skeptical Wikipedia editors who came to view me as having enough prominence to rate a Wikpedia entry.) Such attacks started way back in 2005 and seems to happen ever several months or so now.

However, sometimes, one particularly nasty, motivated crank will try to complain about me at work, apparently not realizing that this is my hobby, that I put up as many firewalls between my blogging and work as I can (not to mention disclaimers that you should never, ever mistake my blather her for anything resembling the opinions of my university or cancer center), and that my bosses know about my blogging. This has happened so many times over the years, that it now barely causes my pulse to accelerate by more than a beat or two a minute when I learn of such a complaint, compared to the past where it really disturbed me. It turns out that my bosses at two different institutions have been a lot cooler than I had feared they would be. It also helps to work for academic institutions, which generally highly value academic freedom and are usually loathe to do anything that even gives the appearance of trampling on the free speech of their faculty. (Private companies, alas, are not so open-minded.) Be that as it may, it appears that my post earlier this week about the murder of Alex Spourdalakis “inspired” an autism biomeddler to complain to my place of work. I don’t know who it was (she didn’t leave her name), but I do want to let you know the sorts of messages I get from time to time. I had thought of posting the audio file of the voice mail this person left, but, unlike the vaccine-autism conspiracy theorists who try to cause trouble for me at work from time to time, I will actually respect this person’s anonymity. I don’t recognize her voice, but it’s possible that if I were to post the audio of her message someone out there might recognize her. So I won’t.

But I will take the trouble of providing you with a transcript with my pseudonym substituted for my real name:

Are you aware that Dr. [Orac] is writing about an area out of his expertise, autism and pediatric gastroenterology? Are you aware of these things that he is—because he has a blog and he’s making comments about? I think that you should advise Dr. [Orac] to stick to what he practices and to stay out of the autistic community’s business and to stay out of the business of advocates who are trying to help families. And he’s crossing a very dangerous line here, because he is dissuading people from getting the help that they need for their children, and he should be reprimanded for this. He does not have any business crossing those lines and talking about issues that do not concern him. And, quite frankly, you know, I think that it’s a conflict of interest, and I think that he should lose his job and his license. But that’s just my opinion as one person who is an objective observer, and I honestly feel that what he is doing is not helping anyone, except maybe himself, and he needs to stop being so self-serving and so selfish.

OK, I’m going to go out of Orac mode for a while. Writing the introduction to this post was a blast, but it’s time to get serious for a bit. I must admit, I did feel my jaw drop as I listened to the above message, delivered in exactly the tone of voice you would guess from reading the transcript. Yes, it did sound exactly the way you think it would sound. And, no, that is not a good thing and does not reflect well on whoever this woman is. I really wish I could embed the audio for your edification, too, but I don’t want to take the chance that someone might listen to it and recognize the voice.

After I stopped laughing—I mean, seriously, does anyone believe this is an “objective observer”?—I became a bit annoyed. Then sadness came over me. I thought back to the first time a crank tried to harass me at my job and get me “reprimanded” or fired. That was way back in 2005, and it was William P. O’Neil of the Canadian Cancer Research Group who started sending me legal threats (why, I don’t know, because I hadn’t even written about him; I had merely praised some work by Australian skeptic Peter Bowditch). All of this was enough to freak out a then new blogger, but O’Neill also cc’ed my department chair at the time, the late (and sorely missed) Stephen F. Lowry, MD, my then division chief, and my cancer center director. In retrospect, O’Neill did me a great favor—inadvertently, of course, but a great favor nonetheless. What I learned is that my administration wasn’t troubled by his threats (indeed, Dr. Lowry even told me that O’Neill was contemptible bully). Indeed, my cancer center director never even responded or acknowledged that he had received anything, which leads me to think that he just deleted it as yet another crank e-mail and basically ignored it.

I then thought back to more recent incidents. Back in 2010 antivaccinationists, “inspired by a blog post by the Boy Blunder, Jake Crosby, and his six-degrees of separation conspiracy-mongering and insinuations of nonexistent undisclosed conflicts of interest, started bombarding the board of governors with e-mails and phone calls. After I explained what was going on and what the real situation was, my dean gave me her full support and even asked me if I felt threatened or felt as though I needed protection. Although I did acknowledge how antivaccinationists were very much like animal rights activists, I actually didn’t feel physically threatened. Maybe I should have. Then, of course, a few months ago a Stanislaw Burzynski fan took a run at me, complaining to the president of my medical group that I was practicing medicine without seeing a patient because I had commented on the anecdotes of Burzynski patients based on publicly available information. His reaction was more amusement than anything else, as he had an actual social media person who quickly ascertained that, contrary to the accusation made by this Burzynski fan (whose identity I know, by the way) I had done nothing the least bit unethical. I was told not to worry about it; so I didn’t. Unfortunately, this very same person (I’m pretty sure it was the same person) submitted a complaint to my state medical board, which promptly looked into the matter and sent me a letter saying they had found no violations of state law or regulations and that the matter was closed. I scanned that letter into a JPEG file and used it in my talk at TAM. It will feature prominently in another talk I will be giving in two weeks for a group of postdocs about communicating science as a cautionary example—along with the picture in which Steve Novella and Paul Offit’s heads were Photoshopped into that infamous cannibalistic Thanksgiving Day feast.

So why did remembering these incidents make me sad? After all, I and my blog survived them. Thanks to these, and several other incidents not mentioned here, I lost my fear of cranks, quacks, and antivaccinationists “outing” me, trying to poison my Google reputation, or even contacting me at work. These experiences made me stronger and better as a blogger. They did, however, also make me more cautious. I’m no longer as free-spirited in my writing as I used to be and write everything with the assumption that my cancer center director and surgery department chairman might read it. Even so, such tactics are now at worst a nuisance and mildly embarrassing because sometimes I feel obligated apologize to my bosses that these idiots wasted their precious time, even if it was only a few seconds to read an inane e-mail. The good thing is that my bosses know about my blog and, I suspect, now do what the director of the cancer center where I previously worked appears to have done and just ignore the occasional crank complaint like the one above.

How many skeptics and supporters of science-based medicine who want to speak out against the cranks, quacks, and antivaccinationists have been silenced by these very techniques that I, through a fortunate confluence of working in academia and having fairly understanding bosses, have been able to endure with no ill effects. I don’t know, but I do personally know of several over the years who were silenced thusly and at least a couple whose “fire in the belly” didn’t burn hot enough to enable them to endure the attacks. They quite reasonably decided that speaking out wasn’t worth the hassle. I can’t say that if I were to work for a private company, for example, that I wouldn’t be forced to conclude the same thing. It’s quite possible that, due to the poisoning of my Google reputation by antivaccinationists and quacks, I wouldn’t be able to land a job in industry anyway were I ever to decide to try to do that.

After what I think to have been a pretty amusing start, I almost hate to end this post on such a bummer note, but if you are going to be a skeptic and speak out against the quacks and, especially, the antivaccinationists, you will be targeted. Harassing skeptics at work is a feature, not a bug. It doesn’t matter how strong a firewall you think you’ve put between your blogging or other social media activity and your work. It doesn’t matter how outrageously over-the-top your disclaimer is that your opinions are not those of your employers (as my disclaimers have traditionally been). It doesn’t matter how polite you are. Steve Novella, after all, is as polite as they come, and Age of Autism still Photoshopped his head into a Thanksgiving dinner scene at which the main course was a baby. Paul Offit is as nice as they come, but antivaccinationists still regularly castigate him as a “biostitute” and an evil, baby-killing pharma shill. Harassing skeptics at work to try to intimidate them into silence is a feature, not a bug, of the Internet crankosphere. It’s a very intentional tactic designed to shut up their critics, because cranks, quacks, and antivaccinationists have nothing else. Lacking science, evidence, and reason to back up their beliefs, yet completely convinced that they are in the right, they have to try to discredit critics.

Sometimes, I even see a post like this one at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism entitled Contact CBS: Support its Strong Reporting on Alex Spourdalakis. Between our anonymous “friend’s” message and AoA’s apparently feeling enough heat to send in its flying monkeys to try to defend the indefensible, I know I’ve scored a direct hit, along with all the other bloggers who criticized Sharyl Attkisson’s whitewashing of the brutal murder of Alex Spourdalakis and her multiple lies of omission. Between the AoA post and one of the antivaccine cranks. It makes me feel all warm inside. Together, let’s keep the heat on Sharyl Attkisson’s “reporting” on Alex Spourdalakis.


If you don’t think that this is intentional, designed to shut up critics, go and see the AoA brain trust denizens, screaming that I should be fired. For example, here’s “oneVoice“:

“DR” [Orac] should be fired from his job.His patients should fire him.National Geographic needs to stop funding this stupid non-sense blog.

His peers should get this rotten apple out of the bushel before all the apples go spoiled.He brought shame and stupidity to the medical community. Lilady is a retired nurse,an epidemiologist,she is not up to date and she used to give booster shots and vaccines to thousands of kids. All of them together with their best friend dr.prOffit can go down south,take a vacation and please never ever come back.We know that they do not care about our kids,Alex or anybody.It is all about money and big pharma profit.Dig yourself a hole Orac… or whatever who you are
and stay there with your snake (pHarma symbol)friends.

Of course, if Seed/NatGeo ever “let me go,” I’d just keep doing what I’m doing elsewhere on a WordPress blog. I already have one set up and ready to bring out of mothballs at a moment’s notice. I don’t do this for the money. The same person then threatens:

Thank you,I agree with that previous comment 100%.

ATTENTION: Mr.Orac: I need to mention that one sentence Ms. Sharyl Attkisson wrote WORTH MORE,THAT YOU HAVE EVER WRITTEN in your entire lifetime.Thank you CBS,great job.

If I was your employer I would have fired you after the first five blogs for your unethical and unprofessional communication.You have lowered yourself down with the rest of the snakes (pharma) and completely forgot your number one PRIORITY,which is to protect the children and to protect the future.Do you think you are the only one here with a professional degree??? There are many professionals and parents working day and night to find answers.Idiots like you will not stop us.The professional organizations YOU BELONG need to strip your licence.I really do not understand how you made it this far.I will do a full investigation on you.SAVE YOUR MONEY,WHILE YOU STILL HAVE A JOB.
(PS:I reserve the doctor title for caring professionals only.)

Yep. An anonymous commenter on an antivaccine crank blog is threatening to investigate me. I’m all a-tremble. I mean, it’s not as though Jake Crosby didn’t try to “investigate” me. All he could come up with were bogus allegations of undisclosed conflicts of interest that were rapidly seen through and dismissed. I doubt that this person could do any better. Of course, maybe they’ll sic Sharyl Attkisson on me. If they do, though, it will be rather obvious that the motivation is totally vindictive. It would also likely amplify my message. Not a good plan. Attkisson, her antivaccine proclivities notwithstanding, almost certainly knows that.

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]

190 replies on “An anonymous critic complains to Orac’s employers over his post on the murder of Alex Spourdalakis”

I sit in my underwear grinding out magnum opus-worthy after magnum opus-worthy blog posts

You can afford underwear?

Dr. Orac (I know that’s not your real name), I have to tell you that your example has inspired me over the years that I’ve been reading you. I’ve been reading you for so long that your “Classic Insolence” is almost entirely stuff from the memory cache at this point, and over that time my opinions and methods have grown exponentially more precise and demanding. No longer is Wikipedia good enough as a source for scientific arguments, I ask for studies; not just studies, but thanks to you I learned to see the flaws in studies, both alternative and actually scientific.

In short, thanks a ton for having the belly fire to keep going, because this blog is one of the reasons that I have become such a passionate advocate for science, even if it’s merely within the hippie dippie circles within which I travel here.

Oh, and your influence has made my Facebook comments exponentially longer, so I’m sure I speak for all my friends when I say thanks a million.

I’m sorry this has been happening to you. Some people simply do not understand academic freedom, which is a shame. I don’t agree with all you write, obviously, but you’d probably be shocked and horrified to know how often I do. Keep writing: sometimes it makes me grind my teeth in annoyance; other times I quite like it.

@Orac – given the extreme vitriol that has developed around the Alex case over at AoA (how dare anyone accuse “them” of having a part in the tragedy – you know, except for all of the online press, videos, Wakefield, Dr. Krigsman, etc), I’m not surprised that one of their cohorts managed to get fired up enough to contact your employer… get mentioned over there by name quite a bit, by the usual suspects (and you know).

You too, have inspired me to be more diligent in combating the deceitfulness and ugliness of the anti-vaccine movement, not just for my own kids but for Public Health in general. It can be difficult to fight the good fight when confronted with outright lunacy (and loads of it), but at the end of the day, it does feel like it is worth it when I look at my kids.

I’ve put myself out there in fairly Public forums & have yet to have any serious blowback, but I expect at some point that it will happen….

Chris Shaw
September 5, 2013

Bravo Dr Shaw. I like to think if anyone tried to attack your employment as a way of disagreeing with your research & views, then Orac’s readers would do what they could in way of support, and I hope that this never happens.

Nice. At first she only wanted Orac “reprimanded”…but quickly opines that “he should lose his job and his license”… because she’s “an objective observer”.

Should we eliminate the male denizens at AoA, or was she reading from a prepared script?

Are you aware that Dr. [Orac] is writing about an area out of his expertise?..I think that you should advise Dr. [Orac] to stick to what he practices…

By that logic, only football players and coaches should be allowed to talk about football, musicians and conductors should be allowed to talk about music etc.

I, too would like to thank you Orac, for your leadership in this area.

At least partially because of you, I was able to speak out against biomeddlers on my local autism support group. One was quite a well-known leader of the European biomedical effort, who had recently moved to my city, and would have loved to infiltrate the group with quackery.

The other was a woman who tried to justify taking her daughter for stem cell treatments even though a child had died after being treated by the same “doctor” in Germany. Her justification was that the child who died was so disabled that the parents thought the child would be better off dead.

I wrote strong responses under my own name, which is an unusual one, and as I did so, I wondered if someone would complain to my place of work. But, nothing happened, and instead I received quite a few thank you notes.

These people only survive because the keep their little echo chambers “safe” from dissent, either by overt censorship, or by drumming out members who question them. The more we can all do to shine the light of science and ethics into these dark echo chambers, the better. As you say, they are “lacking science, evidence, and reason to back up their beliefs”. The silent watchers need to have this demonstrated to them.

The theme here is very familiar to me, but, unfortunately, without the support from administration part.

I pretty much gave up my public side a number of years ago because the administration to whom I am beholden doesn’t understand the basic concept that yours does: there are bullies and cranks in the world, and that they are much more likely to make contact than rational people. When I was teaching chemistry, one letter (the major issue was, amazingly enough, an accusation of witchcraft… yes, the person in question was and remains of questionable sanity) led to reprimand and a ‘plan’, which was the heaviest level of discipline at the time without needing to file charges against license. The administrator took the position that I must have done something to cause this, the several inch thick file of paper from one person in about one week notwithstanding. The look on my labor rep’s face in the initial meeting was priceless. He was as dumbfounded as I was when the administration rep explained, in all seriousness, what the issue was. I never did figure out what the trigger was.

I am very glad (and jealous) that your administration understands that they generally hear from those that are angry or irrational, not from the reasonable and intelligent majority. I don’t have much faith that I will ever see an administration that is supportive at this point, as the turn has been towards politicians, professional administrators, buzzword believers, and sloganeers, and away from the academics, but at least I can look to your experience and dream.

So you’re ‘dissuading people from getting the help that they need for their children’, are you? With your tiresome insistence on children getting ‘help’ that does not kill them and has a high likelihood of actually being effective at treating or preventing what ails them. As opposed to the kind of ‘help’ that was dreamed up in some crank’s back kitchen and will always be impervious to evidence, you fiend.! Can they not hear the ironies? No, I suppose they can’t. Seriously, Doctor, if you’re annoying these people you must be doing it right, but I’m sorry you’ve had the hassle. Glad your colleagues know how to value and support you.

“Objective observer” my bum. It never ceases to amaze me what a weak grasp of the distinction between blogging (which is a side gig for most bloggers) and their professional endeavours. Attempting to silence a perceived enemy via the means which this woman did is merely an extension of the poor character and lack of ethics these twoo believers have.

I too would like to thank our host for enduring these pathetic albeit annoying attacks to continue to shine the light of day on biomeddler and quack activities. I would also like to thank his centre’s administration for lending him such glowing support.

Thank you for doing what you do. You’ve inspired a lot of people who might otherwise remain silent (including myself until very recently) to speak up by talking about things in your blog we might not see otherwise. There are more people in our corner than with the crazies, it’s just hard to tell because we’re not as loud as the crazies. We’re harder to hear. (Because they’re crazy). You’re respected not only in the blogging world by those who matter, but also in the real world by those who matter. The others resort to personal attacks and harrassment because in their heartest of hearts, they know what they preach doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Once you’re that far into the looking glass it’s difficult to turn around and come back without admitting what a mess you’ve become, and that requires a humility they just don’t have. Of course, I don’t need to explain that to you but I feel I have to type it. Thank you Dr. Gorksi, for being an entertaining voice of reason. Please don’t ever stop.

Oh, and I find it amusing that this “objective observer” feels you should lose your license as a licensed, respected physician (who just happens to be a surgical oncologist) speaking about things outside of his areas of expertise like pediatric gastroenterology and autism, but sees no problem when someone who isn’t even a doctor anymore does it. And even if he was, autism was never his speciality. I’m half-inclined to purchase a web domain called “” and have it simply open to a page with the phrase, “He doesn’t have any anymore.”

I can appreciate that all the harassment must really suck, but please know that there are many of us out here who really appreciate all the hard work you put into your blog.

Plus, if the pseudoscience cranks are prepared to put all that effort into harassing you, you must be doing a good job of showing up all the nonsense they spout.

@AnObservingParty, @Rich Scopie – I’ll chip in a couple of bucks towards the domain name purchase.

On the one hand, I wish the critics weren’t so cowardly. In other words, “Come at me, bro!” Don’t come at my job. The family has to eat, and, many times, our jobs have nothing to do with what we’re disagreeing about.

On the other hand, I’m kind of glad they come at us. If a boss/mentor/advisor/employer/whathaveyou won’t have our backs, is it worth it to work for/with them? It’s not like we’re defending child murderers or anything like that.

Remember when JB Handley wanted to know who “Sullivan” was and wagered that it was Bonnie Offit? That allowed the person behind “Sullivan” to come out and be recognized and now serve at the IACC.

When the whole “EpiGate” thing happened, I quickly found out who to trust and who not to trust. When Jake Crosby piled-on with his letter to the Md. secretary of health about my “conflict of interest” in promoting the use of the flu vaccine (it made my job easier?), it cemented in me the need to move on and move up.

And, here I am, sitting at a very prestigious university, learning some incredible stuff… Having had dinner with the dean of the school and a few other very well-respected people, all of whom I disclosed my social media activity and the repercussions thereof, and they still accepted me.

So, keep at it, folks, the more you think you hurt us, the stronger you make us. Thankfully, people who can discern who is a “crank” and who’s not still run the world.

playing the man and not the ball is always a dirty trick

glad you have understanding bosses.

playing the man and not the ball is always a dirty trick

glad you have understanding bosses.

The more they resort to these types of tactics, the crazier they appear to the general public…so I say they should keep it up….really go all the way down the rabbit hole.

Oh, and I find it amusing that this “objective observer” feels you should lose your license as a licensed, respected physician (who just happens to be a surgical oncologist) speaking about things outside of his areas of expertise like pediatric gastroenterology and autism, but sees no problem when someone who isn’t even a doctor anymore does it.

This is an excellent point that bears repeating (or in AoA speak, bares repeatiading). Wakefield, the Geiers, Sears, Gordon, and any “DAN! doctor” for that matter, Blaxill, Olmstead, Handley, Stagliano, Rubolino, Goes, Jameson, McCarthy and the list goes on and on do not possess a whit of expertise on the topic of autism yet proclaim themselves experts and dispense medical advice on the subject. These charlatans are by far a closer example of what this so-called “objective observer” accused Orac of when she said, “He does not have any business crossing those lines and talking about issues that do not concern him.”

I have no doubt the hypocrisy eludes her.

[email protected] — “Thankfully, people who can discern who is a “crank” and who’s not still run the world.”

Unfortunately, given how people running Congressional hearings have lionized anti-vaxxers and global warming denialists, I fear that this is not quite as universally true as one would want it to be.

Science is hard to get right and easy to get wrong, which makes it far too easy for people with agendas to make bogus cases that look good to non-experts.

As a pediatrician with a doctorate in neuroscience, allow me to state that you do a mighty fine job discussing all things pediatric, Orac.

As a pediatrician with a doctorate in neuroscience, allow me to state that you do a mighty fine job discussing all things pediatric, Orac.

Right. AoA commenters have had their knickers/ panties in a twist/ bunch/ knot about Orac again since Dan’s post appeared
on Saturday so I’m not at all surprised that one of them – or a reader- went ahead and left a message.

A few phrases in the message stick out:

Orac is “writing about an area out of his expertise”
against “advocates who are trying to help families”,
“dissuading people from getting the help they need”
and for being “self-serving and selfish”.

Those are precisely the reasons that I PERSONALLY oppose sites like AoA, TMR, PRN et al.That’s what THEY do.

I admire Orac because he continuously opposes mis-information and mis-guided self-assignation of expertise by alt med poseurs and University of Google educated parents that can, through their g-d forsaken, self-righteous mis-application lead to actual physical harm to children and adults as well as alienating their trust away from SBM which might conceivably, truly help them.

Throughout the episode involving Alex, his mother was actively discouraged from accepting help from standard sources and encouraged to seek out alternative methods and practitioners. We @ RI know exactly who was working towards those unrealistic goals and who continues to interfere now, legally rather than medically, after his murder.
It’s all there in print at the usual locations by the usual suspects..

I often say that alt media provocateurs like to tar their critics’ reputations in order to divert their followers’ attention from their own scurvy, seething, rotten mass of despicable iniquities.

I need to go outside a bit to take a few deep breaths.

And that is why many commenters here prefer to be anonymous.

Next time someone complains about anonymity, let’s just link them here and move on.

It is unfortunate that the very people who claim science is on their side don’t seem to understand science, nor how it works. They seem to not understand the words Subjective versus Objective (S.O.A.P. is drilled into my head from schooling and state boards) in the same way people confuse to and too.

A line from Princess Bride “You keep using that word…” keeps popping into my head. They keep confusing their emotional “hunches” with actual evidence. They are passionate but their vigor belies hubris and dogmatism.

It almost seems pathological that when presented with contrary evidence they cannot waiver from their conviction. I say “seems pathological” because some appear to hold jobs, pay their bills etc. And in conviction I mean they “cannot” be wrong for to be wrong means their entire being ceases to exist.

I am careful where I post and what I post about. I never claim to be an expert in anything and always frame my response in a way which indicates the words I type are my own opinion and in no way should be construed as evidence.

I am an observer and strive to be as objective as I can. I admit my limitations and converse with other colleagues to ensure I keep myself grounded. I think if I am an “expert” in anything it is admitting I am faulty, can be fooled and need to work every day on becoming a better critical thinker. Not just for myself but my patients.

Once more into the breach Orac. Once more into the breach.

I am sometimes jarred emotionally to the vitriol that is spewed towards me on some of my posts on other sites and have grown thicker skin through the years towards these things. Lets face it, these are very emotionally charged topics.

“This” is exactly why I never even consider having my own blog! Nutjobs have a lot of free time, and can become dangerous.

Kudos to you, and gratitude for having a thick skin to put up with all the craziness.

GASP! My first comment. I’ve been a lurker for too long, but my day is never complete without reading RI, SBM and Neurologica blogs. I’m in awe of Orac and the skilled individuals with their respective comments. Needless to say, I’m skeptical and a fan of Orac. This article really bugged me for the anonymous critic’s profound hypocrisy. They don’t know what they don’t know and can’t recognize that. Orac, please continue this good fight and soldier on in the excellent work you perform on this blog and countless other activities. You’re not alone, I pontificate skeptically at every turn to my family, friends and even strangers if they are open to new data. Thank you.

I really kind of hope this question is not on-topic, but does anyone know why the Neurodiversity weblog is shut down?

GASP! My first comment. I’ve been a lurker for too long, but my day is never complete without reading RI, SBM and Neurologica blogs. I’m in awe of Orac and the skilled individuals with their respective comments. Needless to say, I’m skeptical and a fan of Orac. This article really bugged me for the anonymous critic’s profound hypocrisy. They don’t know what they don’t know and can’t recognize that. Orac, please continue this good fight and soldier on in the excellent work you perform on this blog and countless other activities. You’re not alone, I pontificate skeptically at every turn to my family, friends and even strangers if they are open to new data. Thank you.

Chris and Antaeus Feldspar (btw, one of the more inspired ‘nyms) I believe Kathleen Seidel thought it was time to move on.

The main site is still live

But the blog is gone. I regret her decision as the extensive coverage of the Autism Omnibus was very useful, as was her coverage of the antics of the Geiers, Boyd Hayley, and the vaccine-injury-lawyer bunch were all very useful.

Apologies for the double post. It didn’t look like it worked the first time, so I tried a second time. Neither showed up, now they both showed up. Gotta love technology! 🙂

Orac, let me add my voice to all those who have written in support. You have had a significant role to play in my conversion from just rolling my eyes to actively trying to counter dangerous pseudoscience. I often link to you in responses to Facebook friends.
I’m a historian (with a laboratory background) and today’s lecture is on the Scientific Revolution. The kids are getting a dose of the difference between science and pseudoscience.
I’ve yet to have a sCAM advocate answer the following: If ‘traditional’ medicine is all about money, money, money and sCam isn’t –Why does every sCAM practitioner I know charge for their treatments?

Liz: Ah, that’s a shame. I always wonder, with situations like that, whether the archives could be made available to other interested parties to mirror, so that the site could still serve as a wealth of information without requiring the original blogger’s continued effort.

@ Xuuths:

re ” free time”.

You speak the truth.

As a psychologist, I’ve often speculated about the relationship between unrealistic thinking processes and the propensity to put them on public display, even vicariously, via the internet.

Often, we see *folie a deux* evolve into *folie a* many ( pardonez my Franglais, svp). Anti-vaccine supporters insulate themselves from reality through their internet lives and will, of course, rear up against anyone who would shake them back into the real world.

It’s easy for a parent who is in conflict with a medical diagnosis and the medical establishment to lash out in any way they can against Orac and other SB sources.

TMR’s MacNeil and Jameson have recently written about how RL cohorts have shunned them or called them “freaks” ( her words, not mine). Within their cult, they are instead revered and respected as true, maverick revolutionaries of paradigm shift. They were there first at tthe first rumblings of the birth of the New Age. Someday they’ll be vindicated

Or so they tell us.

I will again call these sites and facebook pages group therapy/ support groups gone wrong: they instill unrealistic ideas rather than the converse.

But that’s just my opinion as one person who is an objective observer

Duckling, you are neither objective nor just an observer.
To be fair, few people are. That’s why good scientists could be so picky about data and results.
And yes, it’s just your opinion. Please don’t be upset if we don’t share it.

I can only repeat that previous readers have said. Please keep writing “about things outside of your areas of expertise”.

The idea of allowing people to talk only about things they are expert on is somewhat attractive – for one thing, journalists and politicians would have to be much more accurate or just STFU, which would be quite relaxing.
On the other hand, that could be a very boring world. We would’t have much left to talk about.

Anyway, if Orac did listen to his teachers during medical school, I suspect he still knows more about human physiology than most of his detractors.


So, keep at it, folks, the more you think you hurt us, the stronger you make us.

So, you’re saying we’re Jedi?

I remember EpiGate well. It’s when I found out that my own employers were at least supportive of the whole separation of work and non-work activities. Luckily that fellow never put the issue to the test with me. The only other folks that have put me in their sights were a California 99%er that took umbrage at something I wrote and threatened me and the VT Coalition for Vaccine Choice, who every now and then try to figure out who I am.

It would be nice to feel comfortable enough to just be open, but I truly appreciate the work of those who are.

Orac – I’d also like to thank you for putting your neck above the line. You’re an inspiration.

Also, that transcript is so hilariously hypocritical that it’s approaching Poe territory. YOU are practicing outside your area of expertise? Ha! I do not know how they dare.

Broken [email protected] – That made me burst into tears. Ableism at it’s most nefarious.

Orac, you’re a “maestro” in the art of debunking charlatans for many people in the world. Keep the good work.

Thanks for speaking up on this, I hope the message helps other bloggers stick, too. And for continuing to blog in the face of cowardly attacks like this. Aside from being fun to read, I can’t tell you how helpful this blog – with the wealth of information in it – is for discussions with anti-vaxers.

@ Rich @ Britgeekgrrl @ Lawrence

Enable me, please. No donations required. I just need a push.


I suggest running the idea past a legal resource first. Good idea, just be careful.

Obviously you, as a doctor, are working outside of your expertise by talking science and exposing irrational thought. On the other hand, they who are not doctors, KNOW the one true cause of autism.

If that isn’t outright arrogance, I don’t know what is.

Anywho, big props to your university. I knew there was a reason I like it there so much. However, a lot of woo believers in the German department there. Also in the nursing school (which is more depressing), as my husband reports.

Outside your area of expertise? That contrasts with Andrew Wakefield, an unemployed former trainee gut surgeon, who has never – ever – had a patient in his own name in his entire life.

I’d be happy to pony up the cost of the web registration….doing my bit for Public Health is some form or fashion…..

I’ll add my voice to those encouraging Orac. This sort of nonsense shows that what you are doing is working. Your employers should be proud to have someone who cares so much about scientific truth working for them. They have certainly gone up in my estimation through your association with them.


You have done tremendous good in the world, and I have great respect for you and your work here. Your primary job is helping very sick people, but you also provide a light and an inspiration, and I thank you for that.

And I can tell you that this post has done something good for me, personally.

Recently, someone at work made an inquiry to the corporate bulletin board email list about biomed treatments for their ASD child, soliciting opinions.

And I, not to my credit, figured that I did not need that kind of trouble, and was silent. After all, it’s not like I know anything.

Having read this, I am ashamed, and also energized.

I refuse to be silent about this topic any more. I make this embarrassing admission in conjunction with a promise to no longer ride free on your good work.

It’s time to do my share.

Thank you.

In what field of medicine is experience required in order to know that forcing coffee or garlic enemas up one’s backside is contrary to the best interest of the patient? Does that even require a medical degree at all?

Orac has provided me with a better education than I’ve received most anywhere else. Much of the time I didn’t quite appreciate learning how much I’d wasted on quackery, but I’m now much better for the knowledge, and I survived to tell about it.

As a daily reader and occasional commenter I want to thank you for your work. I am a professor of biology who teaches a senior seminar in critical thinking for our majors. Our main emphasis is CAM (Bigfoot and Nessie are such low-hanging fruit!) and your blog is our #1 skeptical/medical blog. Of course one does not need to be a physician in a particular specialty to be able to apply critical thinking and the methods of science to medical claims; my students do it all the time and without your medical qualifications. But of course we all know that anyone who can lay claim to the title of “mom” is instantly qualified to expound on anything.

In addition to Orac, I think it’s worthwhile to laud our other luminaries who have the chutzpah to post under their own names in various capacities – Denice, Liz, Ren, Chris (of the Hickie persuasion), and I’m sure I’m missing some. … And, of course, all the other outed bloggers, and some of our own active posters who can’t go named for one reason or another (lilady, I’m thinking of you specifically).

Just a lot of good work being done by a lot of people.

I don’t know if I have ever been heckled for anonymity by someone who them self was using anything resembling a real full name. I will post a product review or comment under a meaningless name like “user” followed by a string of random digits, and some jagoff named “bj” or “bieberfan” will say they don’t believe me because I am “anonymous”, as if their name is any kind of ID.

Note the brief paragraph I added to the end of my post and the change in the title. Truly, sometimes the reaction of AoA to my humble efforts and those of other skeptical bloggers makes me feel all tingly inside.

I’m away for a few months and when I come back, all hell’s broken loose!

Orac (may I call you Orac?), I think you are performing a real public service here. Before I stumbled across your blog, I had no idea that there were so many people opposed to an obvious good like vaccines. I’ve been recommending your blog to my friends. Keep fighting the good fight.

Thanks to this blog, and your other not-so-secret blog, I have become quite the skeptic (born again skeptic perhaps?). I teach health and disease, as well as nutrition, to college students, and these topics are full of misinformation. Because of you and your colleagues writings, I have now added a topic: A skeptic’s guide to complementary and alternative medicine to each class I teach. Thank you

Really, this sort of thing is stupid. Not only is it stupid, it’s also squelching free speech and silencing critics by underhanded means rather than by engaging their points. To me, it’s fine if you want to not reply to critics. It’s your right . But to reply to critics by calling their boss and demanding the bosses silence the critic ? Wrong. Completely wrong. If the facts are on your side, the truth will out. Otherwise you should be prepared to change your mind.

@Public Educator:

When I was teaching chemistry, one letter (the major issue was, amazingly enough, an accusation of witchcraft… yes, the person in question was and remains of questionable sanity) led to reprimand and a ‘plan’

Public Educator turned me into a newt!


And that is why many commenters here prefer to be anonymous.

I can easily see people twisting this around to the opposite conclusion: people have tried to get Orac in trouble with his work, but he didn’t get in trouble with his work. So if you’ve done nothing wrong, you won’t get in trouble at work. So if you’ve done nothing wrong, you shouldn’t be worried about people calling into your work to try to get you into trouble.

I’m very glad you have such great and understanding employers.

This type of attack is a key reason why I use and maintain my (single) pseudonymic identity online. I don’t know if my employers would be so understanding and accommodating if some crank decided they disliked what I had to say here or at other skeptical blogs enough to try to hit me where it hurts. I know I don’t really even register as background noise on any hostile radar sets, but even my insignificant and currently idle tiny blog has received a comment from the infamous Dave Mabus.

@ Mewens:

Thank you for your kind words but I must make a correction:
I don’t post under my real, FULL name- I leave off the second last name- which is also a masculine, personal name-
so I’m really Denice V. Walter Howard-
Not really, but close enough. You get the idea.

You seriously don’t think that I’d reveal the whole thing when I know what kind of critics Orac has- especially those who like to play detective and investigative reporter. Some love lawyers also.

And there are quite a few Denice/ Denise Walter/ Walters around, in , at last count, 6 different countries!!!!
I hope that none of them get harassed for my words.
Especially that nice lady in Hobart, Tasmania. Who am I absolutely not. As a I said, she’s nice.

So if you’ve done nothing wrong, you won’t get in trouble at work.

Wasn’t there a commenter here a year or two ago that was forced to stop commenting due to their employers objecting? Maybe I am misremembering or thinking of another blog.

@66 Ha ha ha ha, compliment retracted. I’ll just have to lump you in with lilady. The horror!

I do not use my full name but I think I could easily be tracked down. I post my location and my photo has been used on a number of profiles. Luckily no one will care that I choose to post here.

In the original post, Orac noted that Attkisson “very likely fed information to someone at AoA to help them portray Lisa Randall at Voices for Vaccines as an “industry group,” ”

The fact that AoA has asked it’s readers to contact CBS could be due to Attkisson letting AoA know that the piece is receiving a lot of criticism. Keep those letters to CBS coming, folks. We are making a difference.


Wasn’t there a commenter here a year or two ago that was forced to stop commenting due to their employers objecting?

That would be Ren (see #20) who now has to wear a ski mask at all times thanks to these imbeciles.

BTW I have been amusing myself by burying some idiotic antivaxxers at the Washington Post under mountains of science, along with some other commenters (you know who you are). John Stone, Cynthia Parker, and an artificial intelligence algorithm that goes by the name of Dachel are all there. Easy targets but I’m in a grumpy mood lately.

Does anyone know who Twyla2 is? S/he is a particularly tenacious antivaxxer who appears to have swallowed Safe Minds website whole, poor thing.

I just want to chime into the Orac appreciation society.

I was sort of a shruggie when I started reading the old blog, back in the Neolithic a few months after he started it up in 2004.

I have learned so much about so many subjects from Orac and the Merry Band of Orac’s Minions. Despite having a BA from a spiffy university, I had a very modest education in science.

So thanks, das blinken lights, and thanks to all who explain complex subjects in such a way that they are in reach of a student of the humanities.

Peeps, don’t forget that Our Gracious Host is not only a physician and surgeon, but holds a PhD in physiology.

Aside from that — working with good people is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

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