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On vaccines and autism, child pornography, and seeing “bullies” everywhere

Bullying. You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Yes, I do so love to co-opt that famous line from The Princess Bride for my own nefarious purposes, but it’s so perfect for this particular topic, which comes up every so often when I’m writing about the pseudoscience behind the antivaccine movement. It usually takes the form of an emotional screed by some antivaccine parent or other complaining about how she’s being “bullied” by us nasty, evil, insensitive pro-vaccine, well, bullies. (They frequently repeat the word many times throughout the course of their little rants.) A newspaper prints a pro-vaccine article critical of antivaccine pseudoscience? It’s bullying. What about if a friend questions her antivaccine views? It’s bullying. How about if her school or daycare requires her child to be up to date on her vaccines before attending. Obviously it’s bullying. And heaven help any pediatrician who who tries to persuade her that her vaccine pseudoscience is pseudoscience and that she should vaccinated. Obviously he (and it’s almost always a he in these stories) is nothing but a big fat medical bully.

You get the idea. We’ve seen these sorts of rants from people like Katie Tietje, Cathy Jameson, and countless other antivaccinationists that I haven’t discussed. Just before Thanksgiving, I saw one by another of the merry band of angry antivaccine warriors over at that wretched hive of scum and quackery, Age of Autism. It’s by someone whom I don’t recall having heard of before, Dara Berger, and is entitled, unironically, Pro-Vaxxers Are America’s Acceptable Bullies.

Because I had never heard of Dara Berger before, I did a quick Google search to see what her connection is with the antivaccine movement (other than, apparently, blogging for Age of Autism). I quickly learned that she is a Board Member and Co-Chair of the Programming Committee for the National Autism Association NY Metro Chapter and is on the Advisory Board of a documentary being made called Documenting Hope that will “document” recovery from autism and other chronic conditions. Looking at the medical advisory committee, which includes Dr. Martha Herbert, Dr. Jay Gordon, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Frank Lipman, an acupuncturist, and a whole lot of other woo, I don’t have high hopes that his movie will be particularly science-based…obviously. After all, here we have a woman involved with an organization that believes vaccines cause autism, plus several others who have aligned themselves with the antivaccine movement, one of whom (Dr. Hyman) even co-authored a recent antivaccine screed with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. himself! Then there’s the National Autism Association, which until recently listed vaccinations as a cause of autism on its website.

Whatever her background, Berger is nothing if not melodramatic (not to mention grandiose). Note her conclusion after setting it up with a description of the problem of bullying in school:

Everyday we hear horrible stories about children being bullied in school. Some refer to it as an epidemic. The tactics are so much worse than when I grew up in the 70’s. You could not get an entire school to gang up on someone’s Facebook page or send a compromised picture or video of that person and have it go viral. You pretty much had only a few choices to hurt them. Whisper rumors about them to other people, which let’s face it takes time. One popular thing was to scribble something mean about them on the bathroom wall. Although you had to hope that people used the stall and actually noticed the writing.

Bullying is a horrible thing to live through especially when it involves a child. It can leave lasting physical and emotional scars. Children have even lost their lives to bullying as some get pushed over the edge and commit suicide. We here these stories everyday. Luckily there is more awareness and parents have some recourse. They can sue the school or do something more drastic like move or change schools to protect their child.

But what happens when an entire country is bullying individuals? I find that this is the case for Vaccine Bullying.

That’s right. It’s not just doctors. It’s not just pro-vaccine friends and nasty skeptics like myself. It’s the entire damned United States of America bullying her! One can’t help but wonder: What is the US doing to bully the brave Ms. Berger? Has it started a whisper campaign about her? Has it ganged up on her Facebook page? Has it scribbled mean things about her on the bathroom wall? Inquiring minds want to know!

Unfortunately, Ms. Berger is all too happy to explain. To her The Vaccine Bully is comprised of our entire government because the government doesn’t accept that “vaccines are hurting adults and children even though they secretly pay out billions of dollars in their not well disclosed Vaccine Court.” This struck me as a strange assertion. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has a prominent, easy-to-find website, complete with lots of information, instructions on how to file a claim, and, of course, data and statistics easily accessible to anyone with a computer or smartphone. The latest statistics were even updated in October. I know, I know, just because there’s a website doesn’t mean that people know about the Vaccine Court, but Ms. Berger is clearly trying to insinuate that the government is trying to hide the existence of the court while referring to the government “secretly” paying out billions of dollars. It’s not much of a secret (at least not to me and most reasonable people) if figures as recent as last month are easily discoverable on the web on an official government website.

It’s not just the government, though. Oh, no. It’s those damned pediatricians. Ms. Berger tells a tale of woe about an encounter with a pediatrician:

I went to a new doctor on West 79th street. He was a highly recommended pediatrician. During the visit, I told him that I only wanted to do the Polio vaccine since I heard it was one of the more benign ones and that I was worried about giving vaccines to my 3 month old baby. He started to raise his voice and said that I need to give a more useful one like the DTaP. I said that I didn’t want to. He proceeded to speak much louder and told me “I will not stand by and watch you kill your baby”. He actually said these words to me! I left immediately as tears fired down my face. I marched right up to the receptionist and said “don’t even think of submitting this visit to my insurance, since this was not a proper doctors visit and I now have to go see another doctor”. Then I continued “tell him I will report the visit as fraud if he tries to get paid”. She looked at me shocked and kind of mumbled okay. I checked every explanation of benefits for the next 6 months. He never submitted it. I felt some vindication in my small way that I stood up to him and did not pay him for his lousy behavior.

My guess is that this is a rather—shall we say?—selective retelling of the tale. If the doctor truly behaved as described, that’s unacceptable, but I rather suspect that Ms. Berger is leaving some things out. For one thing, a pediatrician trying to maintain a practice on the Upper West Side is not likely to start yelling at a patient’s mother so easily. I know doctors who practice in New York City. It’s very, very competitive, and referral patterns are pretty tight and inflexible. A pediatrician who yelled at a patient’s mother like this would risk seeing his referrals and recommendations drying up. This would be doubly true for an affluent Manhattan neighborhood like the Upper West Side. Reading between the lines, having heard many similar stories from antivaccine activists like Ms. Berger, my guess is that Ms. Berger was a particularly annoying antivaccine parent and the pediatrician just got fed up. It’s understandable. I don’t know if I could keep my cool if I were a pediatrician facing my fourth or fifth parent like Ms. Berger in a day, which is why it’s a good thing I didn’t become a pediatrician.

Let’s accept that if the pediatrician did indeed yell at her (although from the story it sounds more likely that he probably raised his voice in exasperation) it was a bad thing. However, it’s not “bullying” to try to persuade a parent to vaccinate her child. Vaccination is standard of care medical practice, and parents who don’t vaccinate their children put not only their children in danger, but the children of others. A pediatrician who does not try to persuade parents to vaccinate is, in my not-so-humble opinion, committing at best medical negligence and at worst malpractice. Definitely, he’s failing to live up to the standards of his profession.

Ms. Berger also characterizes being required by school administrators to have her children vaccinated before they can attend school to be “bullying.” Of course, school vaccine mandates are the law, and school administrators are simply following the law by requiring proof of vaccination before letting children into school. By Ms. Berger’s standards, any government official or police officer who enforces the law is being a “bully.” That cop who pulled you over for going 20 MPH over the speed limit and wrote you a fat ticket? Definitely a bully! Shouldn’t you be allowed to drive as fast as you want? What about that parking officer who saw that your meter expired a half hour ago and wrote you a ticket? Super bully! Shouldn’t we be able to park wherever we want and for however long we need to for free?

So fragile is Ms. Berger that to her any questioning of her antivaccine views or story is “bullying.” She relates a tale of how at dinner a cousin had the temerity to question her claim that vaccines caused her child to have a stroke, pointing out, quite reasonably, that “you can’t be sure it was the vaccine.” This led the fragile Ms. Berger to scream back at her “YES! I am sure” and ignore her the rest of the meal, concluding:

I felt very angry how she could even think to question me not once, but three times. If my son had broken his leg, she would never have asked me how I could be sure. It is her own brainwashed views on vaccines that caused her to try to bully me at a dinner party. It was both inappropriate and inexcusable. I have decided to forgive her ignorance for my own peace and sanity. It’s just incredible how pervasive vaccine bullying can be.

I don’t consider questioning a claim that vaccines caused strokes to be “bullying,” given that there is no good scientific evidence that vaccines do, in fact, cause strokes. That was a face-to-face encounter, though. Ms. Berger is even more fragile than I’ve shown thus far, as she concludes with an example of horrific online bullying that is terrifying to behold:

I recently had someone send me a link to a book called “Neurotribes” which is about how autism has always been around and it’s just better diagnosis. I haven’t read the book but watched three minutes of the author speak. I immediately closed the link and wrote my “friend” that I find the link upsetting. I said my son was vaccine injured like many children with Autism. The authors’s book undermines what has happened to so many children like my son”. This person ignored my comment. I was angry that he would not even acknowledge that the link upset me. I went at him again the next day. I explained further that “I live in a world everyday that pretends what happened to my son did not happen. I continued “when we were growing up there were not all these kids that could not walk and talk”. He again ignored my message. I felt silently bullied. So I pressed on with my third and final message the following day. Here is what I wrote verbatim: “that link was more upsetting than child porn would be to me. Your insensitivity explains why you are still alone. Most people just apologize when they realize they have upset someone even if it’s unintentional”. He finally said that he was sorry. I probably have not changed his views, but I believe he might think twice the next time he talks about vaccines and autism with a parent who has a vaccine injured child. And if he upsets them, maybe it won’t take 3 days to apologize.

Yes, you heard it. A friend sent Ms. Berger a link to a book he thought she might like. What was his reward for something he probably did out of kindness? Ms. Berger totally flipped out. So, as many people would do, he simply went quiet, no doubt hoping not to escalate the situation. Finally, after three angry e-mail responses from Ms. Berger, he appears to have apologized, most likely to get this ranting woman off his back. I might have done the same thing, although, to be honest, were it me I’d probably have issued a notpology along the lines of, “I’m sorry you’re angry because of this.” If Ms. Berger wonders why autism antivaccine activists are so commonly viewed as a bunch of ranting loons, perhaps she should look at her own behavior in response to an innocent, well-intentioned e-mail from a friend.

To say Ms. Barger’s response was disproportionate to the perceived offense would be an understatement. Think about it. She actually said that receiving a link to a book by Steve Silberman about how autism has always been with us was more upsetting to her than child porn! Let me repeat that to emphasize the lack of proportionality: A book on autism—no, a mere web link to a book on autism—that doesn’t support the idea that vaccines cause autism upset Ms. Barger more than viewing child pornography would! That’s right. Ms. Barger is seriously equating the level of offense caused by questioning whether we really are in the midst of an “autism epidemic,” a key cornerstone of the antivaccine faith (because if autism prevalence only appears to be skyrocketing because of better diagnosis, more intense screening, and diagnostic substitution then vaccines couldn’t possibly be causing autism), with child pornography.

The mind boggles.

So what do we do about this fantastical problem of Vaccine Bullying (which, I note, Ms. Berger always capitalizes)? This, apparently:

So what do we do about the problem of Vaccine Bullying. I suggest always speaking up to a bully as long as it does not infringe upon you or your child’s safety. We could write more articles on the subject to educate people. There could be a task force created to counsel those being bullied. Most of all we can stand together and support one another for a cause that affects the entire community. You would think that the world would feel some empathy for parents who have a child with vaccine induced Autism, but instead we are persecuted for standing up and warning others.

May I suggest not badgering a friend who did nothing more than innocently recommend a book to her with three ranty e-mails demanding an apology? No? Oh, well…

Heather Barajas comparing her plight to that of Jews during Nazi Germany. This is also not what is going on when antivaccine activists are criticized for their antivaccine beliefs.
Heather Barajas comparing her plight to that of Jews during Nazi Germany. This is also not what is going on when antivaccine activists are criticized for their antivaccine beliefs.

Antivaccinationists love to paint themselves as being “persecuted” and “bullied” for their beliefs. Frequently they take this persecution complex to ridiculous extremes, such as during the debate over the passage of the new California law SB 277, which will eliminate nonmedical vaccine exemptions beginning in 2016, when antivaccine activists routinely likened the law to fascism and themselves to Jews in Germany during the Nazi era, complete with offensive co-optation of the yellow Star of David badges that the Nazis forced Jews to wear. (Even Dr. Bob Sears couldn’t resist using such imagery.) Co-opting Holocaust imagery is not a new thing, either. Meanwhile, at AoA, Ms. Berger’s co-blogger, Kent Heckenlively, has been known to liken his struggle to that of Aragorn against the dark lord Sauron in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

I suppose I should be grateful that Ms. Berger confined her rhetoric to just being bullied.

Aragorn and his outnumbered armies face the assembled hordes of the dark lord Sauron as the Black Gate to Mordor opens. This is also not what is happening when antivaccinationists face criticism for their views.
Aragorn and his outnumbered armies face the assembled hordes of the dark lord Sauron as the Black Gate of Mordor opens. This is also not what is happening when antivaccinationists face criticism for their views.

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]

772 replies on “On vaccines and autism, child pornography, and seeing “bullies” everywhere”

It’s funny- it sounds to me that she was the one doing the bullying of the friend who sent her the link to the book.

My personal favorite is when someone comes onto MY blog because of a post that I’ve written and says that I’m a bully for my views. It’s my blog! No one is forcing you to read it!

Until we have a clear idea as to what autism is and how and why it occurs we are not going to convince these people and I doubt we will then. Particularly in those children who do seem to regress after early development and those with other co morbid conditions.
I wish I had a fiver for every time I have explained that as autism cannot reliably be diagnosed much before the age of two it is impossible to know if a child who has had an adverse reaction to a vaccine was autistic before the vaciine was administered. Antivaxers ‘know’ otherwise.
I get told that I’m only a mother not a doctor or a scientist so what do I know!
‘Umm! ‘Cos my opinion is supported by scientific evidence’
At which point I may as well save my breath because apparently all my evidence is tainted and I’m a pharma shill.
Our local charlatan and antivaxer thinks mothers like me are neurotic and don’t want to accept that our children are damaged and could be cured becuse being ‘autism mums makes us feel special – oh the irony!

Interestingly enough, they don’t want to listen to doctors, scientists and researchers either…..

Dara Berger = Professional Victim

I know doctors who practice in New York City. It’s very, very competitive, and referral patterns are pretty tight and inflexible.

This goes a long way towards explaining Kelly Brogan.

@#2 There is, without question, a lot more we need to learn to understand autism but it is certainly the case that we know an awful lot about 1) what autism is as it translates into a disorder; and, 2) variables related to etiology. None of this knowledge has changed the attitude of anti-vaxers and I doubt the further accumulation of evidence will either. Sad but likely true.

“that link was more upsetting than child porn would be to me.”

Well, there you have it. In her mind, telling the story of how autistics have always been part of our society but have been shunned and shoved away in dark places is “more upsetting than child porn” to her. But it’s not that autistics have been treated that way, no. What is “more upsetting than child porn” to her is that Steve Silberman didn’t repeat the lie that vaccines cause autism. That is the reality this woman — and many others who write for and read AoA — live in, where the truth is an anathema to them. Simply pointing out to them that the sky is blue is bullying, yet they do nothing for autistics who are actually being bullied into those dark places. They even whitewash the murder of autistic children, because murder is more acceptable than bullying, apparently.

This woman’s behavior, even as self-reported, makes it sound as if she’s really unbalanced.

Welcome to ScienceBlogs, the Vaccine/Global Warming website.

Is there a vaccine to prevent CAGW skepticism?
If so, I must not have gotten the shot.

See, you’re not a skeptic. Skeptics can be persuaded by good evidence. You are what is sometimes called a pseudo-skeptic, one who adopts the rhetoric of skepticism to provide cover for a completely dug-in ideological position.

The other word for this is “denier”. The standard rhetorical technique for defending against this is to vigorously clutch one’s pearls and assert that the word is inextricably linked to Holocaust denial, and how dare you accuse me of that!!! Well, no one’s accusing you of that. It’s an accurate description of the pseudo-skeptic position, because at this point, the evidence that global warming is happening, is caused mostly or wholly by humans, and is likely to be very disruptions is conclusive.

I don’t miss these types one bit, you know, as a pediatric “bully” and all. Though, once in a blue moon, I’ll still get an AV parent who apparently never checked out my vaccine policy online or read it while registering in the waiting room. Does a part of me feel bad about asking them to go elsewhere for care? Yes. But if you aren’t going to vaccinate then you are a risk to my newborns immunocompromised patients. If that makes me a bully, well bully for me.

Also, what is it with these AVers and their glasses of wine in hand whilst “researching” on the computer. Berger is another of these types –see her 11/20/15 AoA column where she just “knows” it’s the vaccines that did it). Maybe if they’d all back off on the wine, their brains might defog. No, probably not. But I’m sure the etoh is fueling some of their screed, as it’s a pattern seen in the TMR crowd as well.

“I felt silently bullied.” Well, at least she isn’t flying planes into skyscrapers.

This woman’s behavior, even as self-reported, makes it sound as if she’s really unbalanced.

Yes. One assumes that whenever a person writes something about herself that she unconsciously tries to present herself in the best possible light. We all tend to do that, myself included, which is why it takes a conscious effort to try to be more objective when discussing our own behavior. After all, it’s human nature to want to present oneself as favorably as possible. So, even assuming that Ms. Barger is trying to present herself in as favorable light as possible (which is likely), her description of her own behavior, particularly that last part where she went absolutely ballistic over a friend innocently sending her a link to a book he thought she might be interested in, to that point that she badgered him with three ranty e-mails, comes across as unhinged and unreasonable.

Somehow the bit about her being more upset by that link to a book than she would have been by child pornography blew right past me when I wrote this, even though it’s very important. So I just added a bit of text and changed the title of the post to emphasize that part a bit more, because it is important. Someone who is more upset by seeing a link to a book that refutes her views about vaccines and autism than she would be by child pornography is not someone who can be reasoned with.

I had a friend like this, once. She wasn’t terribly wooish, that I know of, but she was terribly, terribly invested in the idea that if ever she felt the slightest bit unhappy or uncomfortable, for any reason, it was because someone else was being a terrible person. It went so far that she accused me of being a bully and a horrible friend for the grave offence of having answered the phone when someone she was arguing with called me.

And here is the thing… so thoroughly had she convinced herself that she was surrounded by bullies and mean girls, that she basically gave herself cover to be as mean as she wanted to anyone, at any time. Calling her out on her own bad behaviour was seen as the ultimate in bullying.

I never did figure out how to get through to her, and some days, I still feel like it’s a shame. A few people I know still cross paths with her from time to time, and it sounds like she’s still a very unhappy person.

I see the same sort of personality problem in a lot of these AV “bullying” rants, and this example was a striking one. She sounds like she’s clinging desperately to the need to believe that any unhappiness she might feel, whether it’s something big (like adjusting to having a child with a disability) or something small (like someone questioning a single one of her assertions), is someone else’s fault. And not someone else’s fault through a simple well-intentioned misunderstanding, but rather deliberate cruelty or malfeasance.

It’s a lousy way to live.

This is the exact same attitude that leads anti-vaxers to invade pro-vax websites & complain about all the pro-vax “trolls.”

As is one could “troll” one’s own website.

“She relates a tale of how at dinner a cousin had the temerity to question her claim that vaccines caused her child to have a stroke, pointing out, quite reasonably, that “you can’t be sure it was the vaccine.” This led the fragile Ms. Berger to scream back at her “YES! I am sure”…

“The authors’s book undermines what has happened to so many children like my son. This person ignored my comment. I was angry that he would not even acknowledge that the link upset me. I went at him again the next day.”

Ms. Berger sounds like an awful bully, what with all the anger, screaming and berating.

@ Chris Hickie:

“Also, what is it about these AVers and their glasses of wine in hand whilst ‘researching’…” ?

Oh, I know. I’ll venture that it’s a self-soothing mechanism/ affiliation-seeking action/ mind-clouding technique that they use frequently rather than facing reality.

I truly believe that some of these women DO have a hard time taking care of a special needs child and in addition, they are disappointed in their lot- they thought that they’d be in a ‘different place’ when their children were aged 10 or 15. They may become isolated from other parents ( of NT kids who live nearby) and family who don’t understand. So I do understand their predicament.

Thus they seek out comfort in mind-altering substances ( not that there’s anything wrong with that) and mind-numbing conversations amongst their like-minded computer friends who reward their pseudo-science by agreeing and congratulating them on their brilliance. Then they write the whole mess up and post it on AoA or TMR or- an entirely new option- NARRATE their tales on TMR TV! That’s the new thing.

As I always say, these websites/ fanfiction spots are ‘group therapy gone wrong’ because they reinforce unrealistic ideas and interaction.

And believe me, I like to go out, have wine or gin- not both- and talk with associates/ friends/ SOs but seriously, I know what ideas to keep working on when I’ve sober and what to discard.
Although poetry created in that manner can often be superior.
Where’s JP?

She sounds like she’s clinging desperately to the need to believe that any unhappiness she might feel … is someone else’s fault.

I’ve known people a bit like that — I had a former colleague who had an infinite capacity for blaming other people for difficulties that were her own doing, and was able to rationalize jaw-droppingly bad behavior on her own part. Everyone ended up mad at her, and she was never able to perceive that she was the common factor, even though in many ways she was an extremely intelligent woman.

@ delta-orion:

“any unhappiness she might feel…is someone else’s fault”

That’s often how young children attribute blame- it’s a means of preserving self-esteem. Everyone does it to some extent but these women appear to make it a habit.

I see this victim mentality as being culturally supported. Otherwise why would the perpetually offended not feel any shame for their own behaviors.

NH Primary Care Doc,

I enjoy civil disagreements since I learn from them but nothing torques me more in the comments section than someone being insulting to the blog host.

More on self-adulating anti-vax promotion:

TMR facebook announces a new documentary by Christie Dames and Kevin O’Malley, *Moms Determined*, featuring TM, Dragonslayer ( Marissa Ali) – a “quest or unite moms from around the world to help find answers to complicated medical diagnoses”

“a quest to unite”

I’d wish more power to them if they weren’t so entirely misguided. It’s too bad; they might be able to do some good in the world if they weren’t wasting their efforts in all the wrong places.

@Catherine Hall #2:

I get told that I’m only a mother not a doctor or a scientist so what do I know!

Which is ironic, given the number of anti-vaxxers who claim that as a mother they know that vaccines harmed their child and doctors can’t possibly know otherwise.

The ‘worse than child porn’ is so outrageous that yup, I felt some rage on first read. But then I realize it’s hyper-outrageous, i.e. beyond the realm of outrage into utter WTF.

delta-orion’s comment smacks me upside the head, because d-o’s friend reminds me of someone now in my life who frequently resorts to a sort of persecution/martyr worldview (someone’s always ‘screwing them over’), but can also be very combative and hurtful to others (seemingly to a lesser degree than d-o has experienced, thankfully). And what delta-orion sees so beautifully is this friends pain. For which d-o has compassion, a desire to get through. Maybe I’m reading in, but get the impression the fact the friend can’t be reached makes d-o feel sad about the whole situation…

I think to myself that yet again sh!t rolls down-hill. World class WTF doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s hard for me to be sympathetic when my martyr goes on the ‘all about me’ war-path. But I know that this individual was abandoned by their mother as a child, and left in the care of a physically abusive father — a level of traumatic experience I can’t imagine I can ever fully understand.

I know that folks with personality-disorder type issues often have had some formative horrifying experience in their youth – incidents where they were badly hurt through no fault of their own. It’s hardly surprising that they may shut this out of mind, only to have the repressed return as a variety of irrational projections e.g. ‘vaccine damage conspiracies’, or that these mental distortions lead them to do harm to others in one form or another. Sadly, full-on personality disorders appear to be cases where some part of a person’s humanity becomes broken beyond repair. They become monstrous, and the best advice to others appears to be ‘just stay away, because there’s really nothing you can do about it.’

So I wonder if someone did something awful to Dara Berger. I consider the possibility that “more upsetting than child porn would be to me” linked to the viciousness of “your insensitivity explains why you are still alone” is not a random reference pulled out of the air. I sense some serious sh!t is rolling down-hill here. I imagine I might feel sorry for Berger if I knew her ‘whole story’. But I feel sorrier for the people who are caught in its path, and can’t get away…

I’ve learned that ‘my martyr’ is falling under the sway of an anti-vax “friend”… At this point things are still a long way from AoA level crazy… But I’m afraid…

I do take some solace from Orac’s post, though. I take the appearance of Berger’s screed on AoA as another sign that anti-vax is in it’s death throes as a ‘movement’ capable of maintaining enough influence to threaten public health. It’s not just that Berger wrote it, but that it’s typical of how much more fringey the core AVers have become, along with embracing Tea Party politicians and what not. Taking a wider view, the public sphere in the U.S. appears to be approaching a crisis point with Trump-ism. The mass of sheer crazy seems to growing bigger, but more unstable week-by-week. That’s frightening, of course, but I can’t see anti-vax getting any significant boost there, but rather getting kicked to the curb by more broadly held, more dramatic, and more venal obsessions: anti-immigrant, death-to-all-Muslims, arm-kindergarden-teachers-with-AK47s, and so on. Small comfort, maybe, but I guess I’ll take what I can get.

The apparent definition Ms. Berger (although the intermittent spelling as Barger seems quite appropriate in this case) holds of Bullying reminds me of the Robot Chicken terrorism sketch…

Boy: I pledge allegiance to the hag of the United States of fart.
Terrorist: DID YOU HEAR THAT? HE SAID “FART”! NOW IS THE TIME TO STRIKE!
Boy: I was just trying to be funny!
Announcer: America loves a joke, but not when the punch-line is TERRORISM.
Mother: (baking flag-cake) Ooops! I only put on 49 stars!
Announcer: TERRORISM.
Couple: (at voting booth) We just voted Democrat!
Announcer: TERRORISM.
Jew: (with menorah) Time to light the Hanukkah menorah, kids!
Announcer: TERRORISM.
Punk #1: (at video store) Ooooh, how about The Core?
Punk #2: Ahhhh, …could be good.
Announcer: TERRORISM.

I think it’s pretty clear that Ms. Berger has borderline personality disorder. Grafting an irrational belief onto such a disorder makes for a particularly noxious and difficult person. She gets into high-voltage conflicts with people wherever she goes, but has no insight into how she is the cause of these conflicts. She has no idea how bad she looks, even in her own self-interested description of these encounters. I loved the sentence “I felt silently bullied.” Wow. Even when someone is saying nothing, he is bullying her. “Your insensitivity explains why you are still alone.” How vicious. I hope her victim is not sensitive about being single, and took this crazy lady’s ranting with a grain of salt. Certainly, he has at least decided to have nothing more to do with her.

I think the business of the porn versus the book is very simple: the book dares to question her ideas and the porn is all about someone else and therefore of no concern to her whatever. Lookitme! Lookitme!

@ sadmar:

You more or less hit it on the head about my feelings toward my former friend. I honestly can’t help wondering if she was (and maybe still is) suffering from some sort of low-level depression, and turned to a sense of persecution as a maladaptive way of managing it, the way some people self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. I *liked* her. When she wasn’t tearing a strip off someone for some imagined slight, she was fun.

But at the same time — liking someone, and feeling sorry for them, just isn’t enough. Not when they’re doing real harm. I think Denice made an excellent point (which of course she and others have made here before) when she said that, yes, these women *are* unhappy, they *are* struggling. And no, we shouldn’t forget that. But they don’t get a free pass just because they have hardships to deal with. Their hurt does not justify the harm they do to others, including their own children.

Catherine Hall @2:

Our local charlatan and antivaxer thinks mothers like me are neurotic and don’t want to accept that our children are damaged and could be cured

How is Mr Noakes these days?

@ Denise #23

If you take a thousand people who can’t fix a car and put them all together they still can’t fix a car. Similarly, a thousand of these TMR types aren’t going to be any better at diagnosis than any one of them alone. Perhaps however they will be more entertaining. Definitely more annoying.

So Ms. Berger does not want her baby to the get the DTaP, even though pertussis is floating around lots more than polio. Of course, if her child does get pertussis she will do the same as Heather Dexter: a bunch of nothing useful and then complain on hard was on herself, not her child.

I am quite familiar with bullies online. A bit over ten years ago I participated in a support listserv dedicated to my son’s speech diagnosis (twenty years they got various speech disorder diagnoses, not autism*). One of the Mercury Moms tried to get me banned from the listserv because I just clarified on a thread about the MMR vaccine where she had warned against mercury that it never contained thimerosal.

I got tired of the Mercury Mom Militia going on about vaccines and chelation, that I submitted an email titled “Bad Idea.” The vitriolic nasty grams that landed directly in my email (not the listserv) were amazing.

I dealt with this for a year. I shared some of the Mercury Militia email with some folks I had met on the Healthfraud listserv (go to Quackcast to sign up), and was informed one of that militia was an employee of the late Dr. Bradstreet.

I was thoroughly disgusted and frustrated, so I just left the listserv. It was about two weeks later that a little boy was executed by chelation for the unpardonable crime of being autistic.

And they call me a bully?

* Son now has an autism diagnosis, and it is severe enough that he is eligible for the state’s Developmental Disorders Administration.

AoA commenter Betty Bona chimes in to add refusing to argue with her to the list of bullying tactics:

Two lines I hate hearing from family and friends are, “we get our science from very different sources,” and “we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” It’s their way of ending the argument without having to consider my points. They get to continue with their “more educated than thou” beliefs with the second assumption that I’m a nutcase. I feel bullied then.

@ Christopher Hickie:

Dr Chris, they ARE quite entertaining in an ‘OMFG are they really serious?’ way.
AND how they jockey for attention, compete with each other for the Most Devoted Martyr or Parent of Most Ill Child award.
They are on display at AutismOne 2015 videos ( TMR and Recovery Panels) and the aforementioned TMR TV. The panels include at least 6-7 of them at a time. Yiii!

I never forget when I read their masterpieces that they are above all performing for an audience. Perhaps they’re not really like that but then, how many people would make careers out of narrating their lives as caretakers and their children’s challenges? Only histrionic attentions wh-res.

@Narad: Oh, that is hilarious. Of course, Betty is absolutely correct that saying that “we’ll just have to agree to disagree” is a way of ending the argument without considering her points. What she doesn’t realize is that it is a good strategy for preventing unpleasantness in a social situation where you don’t really want to get into a knock down, drag out argument dealing with antivaccine nutcases like Ms. Barger and Ms. Bona.

It is not, however, bullying. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Note her sarcasm:
” more educated than thou”
because these people believe that THEY themselves are more educated than doctors, psychologists, researchers.

Herr Doktor [email protected] 32
Mr Noakes appears to be well thank you. Though sadly out of pocket having had a tribunal find him guilty of sex discrimination against a former employee.
He has suggested his company be allowed to bid against our Meducal Specialist Group when the contract comes up for renewal. He is offering to treat us all with vitamins and his supplement Golec and promises the island will be cancer free. Not sure what he was planning for obstetrics or orthopeadics and trauma. Even he couldnt be daft enough to expect his wonder treatment would be much use in dealing with a breech presentation or a broken leg.
Anyway, as no one seems keen on taking up this offer he is standing as a candidate in a local by-election next week.

They get to continue with their “more educated than thou” beliefs with the second assumption that I’m a nutcase. I feel bullied then.

Think how much more of a bully I must be for not bothering to find out Betty Bona’s* opinions in the first place!

* I cannot help thinking of Julian and Sandy when I read her nym.

# 10 Christopher Hickie

Does a part of me feel bad about asking them to go elsewhere for care? Yes.

Don’t be foolish. You are doing your best to keep your patients safe.

If I had young children I’d be searching out someone with your policies (and running like mad from the waiting room of someone like Dr. Sears)

Berger’s claim that a scientific book about the diagnosis of autism is “worse than child porn” is offensive on so many levels.

Orac: “What she doesn’t realize is that it is a good strategy for preventing unpleasantness in a social situation where you don’t really want to get into a knock down, drag out argument dealing with antivaccine nutcases like Ms. Barger and Ms. Bona.”

My adult autistic kid has more social sense than either of those women.

“We’ll just have to agree to disagree,” is indeed a smarmy, annoying dodge. It doesn’t prevent unpleasantness, because it stinks of undeserved privilege and power to stop discussion. It’s not bullying. It’s haughty dismissal, something people say as an exit put-down they can get away with via faux politese, because everyone now knows the phrase has become a performative cliche.

The thing is, it’s not something you say to actual friends or family you care even a little about. So methinks Betty “Get-Me-A-New-Nym” Bona’ (or is that pronounced ‘big-bo-NAY’) is making that up. That is, either it’s not a direct quote from folks close to her, but a paraphrase expressing how she hears their disengagement, or it’s a direct quote from someone (probably just one person, one time) who is NOT close friend or family, and she’s punching up the martyrdom by framing as coming from multiple close sources. Either way, I’m sensing the sort of hyperbole Denise might characterize as performance for Histrionic Attention Whore Community Theater.

Even if ‘Bona’ did get this form of ‘dis’ from a friend, the ‘bullying’ claim is just so insensitively whiny BS. I was bullied in Jr. High, and I would have celebrated if my tormentors had just dismissed me with an insult. It was physical, creating more fear than anger, and it seemed it would never stop. I’ll credit ‘Bona’ for one thing: saying “I feel bullied then”, not “I know I’m being bullied then.” Yup, it’s all in your mind Betty: either you’re making your own bruises, or you have no idea what actually being bullied feels like.

As I’ve observed, Chris, quite a few of the parents seem to lack that certain *je ne sais quoi* concerning social interaction, self-evaluation, understanding others etc.
and we know that ASDs can display heritability
but we’re not supposed to say that because …you know..
they don’t like it or something.

This woman claims bullying wasn’t so easy in the 1970’s? Thanks, lady. Thanks for telling me that. I’m sure I must have imagined all those bruises way back in middle school since it was so difficult and time consuming to be a bully back then.

SMH

This woman has no idea what it means to be bullied, and her complaint is just a shield against criticism . . . deserved criticism as it happens. She can’t defend her views with logic, so she uses emotion. Cowardly, despicable, and worst of all, dishonest.

“We’ll just have to agree to disagree,” is the Yankee “Bless your heart.”

Panacea: “This woman claims bullying wasn’t so easy in the 1970’s?”

I sometimes wonder if the kids who bullied me relentlessly in fourth grade are now part of the AoA crowd. I was an Army brat who had lived elsewhere than their little midwest town, and would actually read books. Apparently being different is a crime in some small towns, and small minded communities like AoA.

Catherine Hall @ #39:

“Even he couldnt be daft enough to expect his wonder treatment would be much use in dealing with a breech presentation or a broken leg.”

Why not? It works for everything else:

“We’ve had complete successes with many common cancers including prostate lung breast and melanoma, but a little with leukemia too. The immune system can eradicate chronic inflammation, bacterial and viral infections, and our GcMAF has been successful here, and with Autism, Chronic Herpes, Chronic Acne, Chronic cirrhosis of the liver, Chronic kidney disease, Chronic depression, Colitis, Crohn’s, Fibromyalgia, Hepatitis, Herpes, LMBBS, ME/CFS, Osteoporosis, and various types of Immune dysfunction including allergies. Research shows GcMAF can reverse HIV, Parkinson’s, and prevent deterioration in multiple sclerosis (MS) and ALS, and in its role of immune system regulator, can reverse diseases that attack the immune system like Lupus and Arthritis. And is effective with wound healing.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20140326214335/http://www.gcmaf.eu/how-gcmaf-works/

I was an Army brat who had lived elsewhere than their little midwest town, and would actually read books. Apparently being different is a crime in some small towns, and small minded communities like AoA.

I don’t quite agree with your conclusion there, Chris.

I was an AF brat, back in the days when the Viet Nam war was in full swing, and we moved a lot. Big city schools, small town schools, on base schools, schools near the base, and schools nowhere near a base (because dad was overseas) – all of them had bulling, and anybody could be the target.

I think it’s a fundamental part of the human condition – men, women, boys, and girls. You might as well expect big fish to not eat little fish.

I’m not saying that it should be allowed. You can stop a bully, but you can’t stop them all.

@sadmar —

“We’ll just have to agree to disagree,” is indeed a smarmy, annoying dodge. It doesn’t prevent unpleasantness, because it stinks of undeserved privilege and power to stop discussion. It’s not bullying. It’s haughty dismissal, something people say as an exit put-down they can get away with via faux politese, because everyone now knows the phrase has become a performative cliche.

I (at least think) I usually say “Let’s just agree to disagree,” or at least try to suggest that’s how I mean it via tone and context.

But I do fairly regularly suggest that resolution under circumstances where the debate has gone on past long enough for it to be clear that no other kind of agreement is going to be reached.

Is that icky of me? I’ve never intended to convey anything by it other than “OK. This is going nowhere. Let’s stop arguing.”

^^That’s a sincere and not a trick question. I mean, if it’s annoying, I’ll stop doing it.

If you’re enough of a BULLY to make me. Of course.

(No, really. Am I unwittingly condescending to people by saying that?)

And believe me, I like to go out, have wine or gin- not both- and talk with associates/ friends/ SOs but seriously, I know what ideas to keep working on when I’ve sober and what to discard.
Although poetry created in that manner can often be superior.
Where’s JP?

At a fairly raucous event right at the moment, from the sound of things.

Their hurt does not justify the harm they do to others, including their own children.

Yes, a thousand times. But I think we err when we conflate the harm with the person. We can maintain some sympathy for the human-beings while condemning their actions. I don’t think this is just philosophical nit-picking, either. What we want is to eliminate as much harm as possible, yes? To develop effective strategies to prevent harms, we must understand them, and some form of measured sympathy is typically necessary to do that.

If there ARE something like personality disorders operating in ‘extremist’ anti-vaxers at AoA, TMR etc., that puts them into the ‘probably lost causes’ category, and we’re not going to be very successful in getting their behavior to change. It seems the most we can do is warn others to steer clear, and work to reduce future incidence of the causes of such disorders – the best methods of which are likely to be doing what we can to protect the vulnerable from the harms that can warp their sensibilities in their formative years, and working to counter-act the forces that may trigger ‘dormant’ pathologies to erupt into harm later in life.

My hypotheses here are:
1) The psychological pathologies that lead people to callous actions tend to fall into two general categories:
a) Repeated positive reinforcement of bad behavior in childhood and adolescence.
b) Significant un-addressed childhood victimization. (e.g. child sexual abusers who were themselves victims of sexual abuse denied/covered-up/etc.) I think this has something to do with evolutionary ‘natural selection’ among social creatures, where the worst survival chances fall to those at the lowest rung on the dominance ladder – thus the instinct after receiving a beat-down to turn around and administer another to a weaker member of the clan.
2. ‘b’ is much more common than ‘a’ for the simple reason that brutality is a more common experience for children than basking in unchallenged privilege.
3. Neither ‘a’ nor ‘b’ are universally causal. Some folks will emerge from such environments/experiences with negligible effect, only minor damage, only self-directed harm, etc. Some x-factor likely figures in the equation leading to harming pathologies.
4. Those x-factors are either too varied, unchangeable (genetic?), or unknown to imagine addressing, so our focus should stay on ‘a’ and ‘b’ (as intractable as they may seem to the pragmatic eye…)
5. ‘a’ and ‘b’ aren’t mutually exclusive at all, and the most extreme ‘deviance’ may result from a combination of the two. One scenario might be a ‘spoiled’ child who suddenly experiences a traumatic instance of how cruel the world can be, and then ‘acts out’ in ways that are rewarded in some form. (The play/film The Ruling Class comes to mind as a parable…) Another scenario might be a neglected child who has neither buffers against cruelty nor controls on their response.
7. These pathologies may simmer without leading to significant harms until some triggering incident in adulthood exacerbates them. Obviously perhaps, I’m thinking here that most AV-crazy likely stems from some childhood thing that doesn’t lead to big-time overt wigginess until the individual faces the ‘crisis’ of dealing with parenting a special-needs child. But certainly other life events – divorce, job loss, financial woes, etc. – lead vulnerable folks over-the-edge where more grounded folks regain their footing.
8. Recent history suggests that these psycho-social pathologies are amplified by mutual reinforcement… which has been immensely enabled by the explosion of self-selected immediate communication forms: cable news, talk radio, the blogosphere, social media. Now all the damaged nut-jobs can find each other, and create insular ‘virtual community’ bubbles that support distorted ‘alternate realities’ that rival Philip K. Dick wildest imaginings. It’s hard to imagine either AV or Trumpism being major Things without the internet.

OK. If there’s anything to these hypotheses, the question remains as ever ‘what is to be done?’ How DO we we protect vulnerable kids from the harms that can turn them toward the monstrous? How DO we counter-act the forces that call-up and unleash the waiting monstrous in adults?

I mean if you’ve plowed through the previous 684 words, I ought to have some pragmatic suggestions for you, amirite?

Wish I did… Wish I didn’t feel so exhausted… So at sea… So old and weak… For tonight anyway, outside of muttering vague platitudes about “justice for all” ‘fighting inequality and exploitation’ or good ol’ “do unto others” human decency, I got nothin’…

^ Unless, of course, “performative cliche” represents an infraction under some jurisdiction’s Code of Aesthetics.

Would halting things at the outset be any less of a “smarmy, annoying dodge … [that] doesn’t prevent unpleasantness, because it stinks of undeserved privilege and power to stop discussion”?

I have a close friend who was in earlier years quite mercurial. Unsurprisingly, after several repetitions, my “oh, G-d, it’s time to play trying to start an argument again” circuits were quite finely tuned.

Betty Bona’s characterization of “bullying” is neither more nor less than the complaint that people eventually refuse to put up with hers.

Johnny: “Big city schools, small town schools, on base schools, schools near the base, and schools nowhere near a base (because dad was overseas) – all of them had bulling, and anybody could be the target.”

Actually, I was just highlighting the most egregious of them all. Mostly because the fourth grade class I had in Missouri Rural School #xyz was making me repeat what I had learned in my third grade at Stillwell Elementary of Ft. Ord, CA. It apparently was an abomination that I had already mastered long division and would routinely get 100% on most tests. That place actually made be behind my fifth grade peers at the next school, an American ex-pat school in South America.

This is why I locked myself in my brother’s car because I was chased there with threats of real physical violence (well, I already had been hit by full force with by someone on a bike earlier). My brother was in high school, and was supposedly taking care of me while visiting a friend.

It was nothing compared to the teasing (not bullying) I had in 8th in the Canal Zone. Oh, and I did not get bullied in Minnesota during 7th when my dad was stationed in Korea. I just had stupid boys try to toss paper balls down my cleavage in math class (which was self paced, so I made up the time I lost in fourth grade, and having a mathematically incompetent 6th grade teacher in that private overseas school).

The only good thing about living in that wretched place while my dad attend the Command and General Staff School just over the border (and past the prison farms) was that I picked up the habit of going on long walks.

Yes, I was bullied in junior high… but by then I had grown a spine, another “good” thing about that wretched place. Something that has been very helpful in the age of teh internets.

But the difference between the likes of Bona and myself, is that she is the very definition of a troll. She badgers people who do not think like she does.

Though I admit to occasionally mocking them, but I try now to limit that at satire sites like TheSpudd, where because I could do the long division I learned in third grade I am labeled a “Pharma Shill.” I am sorry, but folks who do not know how to click on a link, find two numbers on a math table, use their computer calculator to divide two simple numbers deserve to be mocked.

Yes, I am a math and computer literacy bully. 😉

@ ann

Wow, IMHO it’s really cool and considerate that you asked sincerely in response to my rant.* You rock! So I’ll fight my drowsies to attempt a sincere, thoughtful reply…

In person, I think tone of voice usually carries the day. Context matters a lot, too. If you’re getting browbeaten, and say “let’s just agree to disagree” in exhausted resignation, the subtext would be different from the way I’ve encountered the phrase. My experience with it (which may be idiosyncratic) comes in academic settings, where a person in control of discussion employs it to cut off an exchange with putative peers after being caught with a weak argument. Q and A’s after conference presentations or job talks, meetings with The Dean of Faculty, etc.

Actually, I have no problem whatsoever with someone cutting off unproductive discussion, or even ducking a difficult challenge. To me the icky comes from being disingenuous about it when the power dynamic is equal or favors the person withdrawing. The oxymoron of “agree to disagree” is too cute by half, and a sort of coercive gentility in those situations. Thus “Let’s agree” is worse than “We’ll have to agree” if you hear it voiced from a position of authority. You don’t want to ‘just disagree’. You think you’re right and you want to continue pressing the argument to a conclusion to demonstrate that to your interlocutor, or to others listening in.

Of course, people can feel that way when they’re dead wrong, just droning on repeating unsupported assertions, or any intermediate doses thereof. My suggestion then, is that anyone so beseiged should weather the storm long enough to do the small bit of critical reflection on the situation required to generate a specific context-appropriate disengagement instead of invoking the shop-worn generic form – especially in online text forums where tone is damn hard to communicate, and readers often assume the worst and fail to pick up the cues we may to include to indicate otherwise.

And I’ll suggest that some measures of honest disclosure and respect for our interlocutors is the key to ick-avoidance.

Having run a few examples through my mind, I’ll tentatively suggest a form of [apology] [succinct explanation of the problem with the exchange] [withdrawal statement]. And to whatever extent we may be in control of the discussion, I’d suggest we ‘own it’. E.g., if someone drones on and on with the same ‘point’ in a public exchange we might say “I’m sorry, but this isn’t going anywhere, and we need to move on, so I’m going to take the next question.” The apology expresses the minimal respect we expect from anyone honestly taking issue with us. Combined with the problem ID, I think it distinguishes the issue at hand from any broad judgement of the other person as a whole – which we’re not in a position to make with someone we don’t know, and don’t want to make with family/friends who have other opinions or qualities we value.

Again I’m suggesting measured respect and honesty, not profuse apology to the point of obsequious butt-kissing on oe hand, or brutal candor on the other. Thus, we might say “I’m sorry, but this isn’t going anywhere” when we’re actually thinking “Damnit, I can’t take any more of this crap!”

It also strikes me as a good idea to ‘own’ wthdrawal from a position of interpersonal weakness. For example, if we’re being browbeaten with anti-vax conspiracy nonsense by a friend or relative we’re ‘stuck with’, we might say ‘Look, Betty. I’m worn out. I just don’t have the stomach to keep arguing with you. Please let’s drop it and talk about something else.” Or “Look, Betty. I don’t have the stomach to keep arguing with you. I’m sorry, but I’m out of here.” Depending on the situation, we might say we’ll resume the discussion later, or only entertain resuming it under certain conditions (like, being reasonably calm), or have no desire to ever participate in the argument again under any circumstances, or no intent of even listening. “I’m sorry, but I have to preserve what little peace of mind the rest of my life leaves me, and if you go there, I’m gonna have to leave the room.”

Granted, Dara and Betty make it clear that they will take great offense at anything other than total acceptance of their First Principle: “The vaccines ruined my perfect snowflake!” But my premise is that we’re talking to people we don’t have the luxury of writing off, and there will less offense taken and less trouble spilling over to other matters if we choose our words wisely. Doing so is also good practice for when we have to deal with folks who aren’t being bat guano bonkers, but just boorish, tedious, or dumb about a certain given topic at a certain given time. I also like to think I remain true to my own standards – treat others the way I want to be treated – even – or maybe especially – when they’re taking a dump on me. That is, I like the feeling of “I didn’t sink to their level”, or perhaps “I ‘won’ by demonstrating my moral superiority”. That said, there can come a time when nothing but the straight poop will do, “You may or may not be a fine person in a lot of other ways, but on this, you’ve been a total f***nutz spewing out irrational harmful garbage that makes me want to puke, and then go outside for the good long primal scream I’m withholding to speak to you now in this calm quiet voice.” Or something like that…

In sum, whether “Lets just agree to disagree” rises to ick level depends, but while there are certainly worse things we could say, I think we can (and should) do better…
______
* In addition to my long-standing pique at “agree to disagree” my ranting was influenced by sympathetic angst at my SO’s tales of a stressful Thanksgiving dinner spent fending off an aggressive martyr-complex sibling’s attempts (yup, this is the one moving toward anti-vax) to dredge up argument-starting family stuff. Which fending-off the SO has long given up trying to do with delicate, clever, forced gentility because It Does Not Work — now just saying calmly but firmly “I’m sorry, but I am NOT going to talk about THAT!”

This woman has never been bullied.

Her characterization of the judgment she’s experienced as “bullying” is insulting to every child in the world who has actually experienced it.

Dara, I hope you read this post about you, and the comments section. You are co-opting children’s pain, and trying to excuse yourself by adding that those children’s parents can just move or sue.

And I am not bullying you when I state that you are not the victim in this situation.

Your reference to bullies in the title, Orac, provides me with a hook to post something here on a matter that is dear to me and many skeptics in Australia, and increasingly internationally. So apologies if I am going a little off thread, but the matter is urgent: This is an SOS call-out:
The multi million dollar sham therpay cult leader, Serge Benhayon, is suing Esther Rocket for defamation over criticism by her of Universal Medicine, a sham health and wellbeing therapy group / business / philosophy / cult. Benhayon is trying to silence his prominent critic by financially ruining her.

To contribute to her support (crowd) fund see here:
https://ozcrowd.com/campaigns/esther-rockett-legal-defence-fund/#.VlmDlHYrLIU

To contribute to the Streisand effect, please repost this:
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/jane-hansen-how-universal-medicine-bullied-me/story-fni0cwl5-1227262426186?sv=9363ff3f378085a14130e64e297d13b1

Thank you good people for your patience with this somewhat off topic post.

Would halting things at the outset be any less of a “smarmy, annoying dodge …

Yes, usually.

Betty Bona’s characterization of “bullying” is neither more nor less than the complaint that people eventually refuse to put up with hers.

Well, I’ll contend it’s “more” because it’s so self-contradictory, circular, and enclosed as you pointed out @ #35 – we’re bullies if we argue with her, or if we decline to argue with her. I can honestly complain that people refuse to put up with my complaints without being a fascist.* Bona’s using the form of a complaint to demand acceptance of her terms. If you can’t argue, and can’t not-argue, then the only option is to salute and fall in line.

Even if we agreed to disagree about how “We’ll just have to agree to disagree” tends to be used, 🙂 I can’t imagine any of the possibilities being Narad-employed. Having been very close to some mercurial folks myself, and often flummoxed in attempts to move things back toward even keel, I’m sincerely curious how you responded when your “oh, G-d, it’s time to play trying to start an argument again” circuits were tripped. If you’re still friends, you might be better at that than I’ve been… (Anecdata can be useful, if you care to share.)

You seem to have been irked by “performative cliche”, though I’m not clear why exactly. I see I wasn’t quite clear in expressing the point. My bad. I’ll spare the bandwidth of the full clarification, and just note that I wasn’t apologizing for dear Betty, but pointing to something in her tale that strikes me as tellingly bogus. That is, in seeing how “agree to disagree” can be taken as condescending, I’m skeptical it was ever used that way by anyone who is actually close to her. I suspect she’s recasting something else into a betrayal by intimates, fabulating butt-hurt melodrama to appeal to the AoA readership’s self-aggrandizing pity-party. You may find that far-fetched or irrelevant to what you object to in the comment, but rest assured I wasn’t trying to cut her any slack, but quite the opposite…
___
* In fact, I have complained about people who ‘refused to put up with my complaints’, (though I bitched to others, not them) when those original complaints were not just to them, but about them not following their own written rules, were on point, supported by strong un-contradicted and un-countered evidence, and when it was their GOD DAMN JOB to adjudicate complaints fairly AND keep their sh!t straight to begin with…
Like an old song: “There, I’ve bitched it again”…

Not an intellectually respectable article. Just drop the insults and make the case (with evidence, not assertions, please) that there is no causal link between vaccines and autism.

This writer can’t do that, which is why he resorts to ad hominem aspersions. What an intellectual lightweight.

@ sadmar:

re # 7 & 8 above.

Sure. What I’ve observed is that they are working very hard to CREATE these ‘bubbles’ in order to insulate themselves from further insults from the reality-oriented community.

So as much as their projects- books, films, websites, social media- are engineered to proselytise to newcomers, they also work to keep partisans within the fold and comforted by reinforcing material, awash in anti-vax. I think the recent spate of AoA related books published by Skyhorse is an excellent example: during the holiday season, Kim will list them all ( see last year’s) as gift ideas. Then there are the conferences and films released publicly in theatres ( “The Greater Good”). TMR has a web TV station with 10 channels- all loony, all the time.
Facebook, twitter,
hashtag heaven ( of #CDCwhistleblower, #Hearthiswell etc fame) as well as more private means: this work serves as a second career for many of the principals.

Similarly, merchants of woo are establishing their own alt media empires via computer radio/ phone broadcasting- prn.fm and talk network- founders of these outlets continuously warn their followers about how biased the mainstream is- so ” Get your news from us!” They would form an impermeable bubble around their groupies as surely as conservative TV/ radio does. Their skewed politics and economics reinforce the basic message- Buy our products to protect yourself- linked to their merchandise. They teach followers/ converts ‘how to live’ as surely as religions do compleat with a system of values, mores and taboos.

An endless array of cults for modern anthropologists to survey.

Not an intellectually respectable article. Just drop the insults and make the case (with evidence, not assertions, please) that there is no causal link between vaccines and autism.

This writer can’t do that, which is why he resorts to ad hominem aspersions. What an intellectual lightweight.

The autism / vaccines link has been adressed in several other article on this blog, so you are criticizing the article for something that would have been very redundant.

“The autism / vaccines link has been adressed in _several_ other article on this blog,”

You misspelled “innumerable”.

“he resorts to ad hominem aspersions. What an intellectual lightweight.”

Irony not your strong suit?

Burmese Days #52
Usually, the task to show that a new hypothesis is reasonably true is to people proposing it. And believers in autism/vaccine hypothesis haven’t succeeded.

Just drop the insults and make the case (with evidence, not assertions, please) that there is no causal link between vaccines and autism.

As others have mentioned, the “case” has been made in innumerable posts on this and other blogs.

How about instead you provide evidence that there is no “causal link” between anti-vax craziness and children dying from preventable (by vaccine) disease?

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/whooping-cough-kills-infant-in-laurentians-1.3340923

Burmese Days: “Not an intellectually respectable article. Just drop the insults and make the case (with evidence, not assertions, please) that there is no causal link between vaccines and autism.”

What was the point of this article? Did you understand it?

“This writer can’t do that, which is why he resorts to ad hominem aspersions. What an intellectual lightweight.”

Can you? Instead of using insults like in your first and last sentences, just provide the missing science. Provide the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that any vaccine on the American pediatric schedule causes autism.

Here are some suggestions:

Use the search box near the top right of this page to make sure the study you post has not already been discussed on this blog.

Also, be sure that the researchers are actually qualified. So no lawyers, journalists, computer scientists, professors of finance and others who have not studied the relevant science. And also reputable, so no person whose license to practice medicine has been legally revoked.

By the way, Burmese Days, do you now feel like you are being bullied? Do you also think that the book Neurotribes is as terrible as child porn?

Just asking to see where you stand.

Just drop the insults and make the case (with evidence, not assertions, please) that there is no causal link between vaccines and autism

Use the internet much? Focus on the right-hand side of the blog as you face the computer screen. Under “Categories” you can find 1,215 blog posts discussing the myth that vaccines cause autism. Put your mouse over the words “antivaccine nonsense” and wait for a little blue line to appear, then left-click.

It’s really not difficult.

@Dr. Hickie #10: ” if you aren’t going to vaccinate then you are a risk to my newborns immunocompromised patients. If that makes me a bully, well bully for me.”

I would be interested in making a computation of the difference in risk between a vaccinated child and an unvaccinated one. What would expect the difference to be? How might we go about making such a computation? What numbers would we seek? Because the parameters would vary enormously between vaccines, a one-by-one approach would be best. I think the probabilities could then be summed. Not quite correct, but the probabilities of the intersections can be assumed to be small enough to ignore.

Consider the MMR? What is the probability that an unvaccinated child will be contagious for one of those diseases at some point prior to adulthood? What is the probability that a vaccinated child will be contagious for one of those diseases? Do you know or know where estimates of those risks can be found?

Just saying – another child in Canada has died of whooping cough – too young for the vaccine and family and friends that infected the baby were UNVACCINATED! A tragic waste.

Check http://www.cbc.ca for more information.

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