Tribeca Film Festival wrap-up: Andrew Wakefield’s “brilliance” and spies and Nazis, oh my!

Whenever a story like Robert De Niro’s decision to choose an antivaccine film by Andrew Wakefield for screening at his prestigious Tribeca Film Festival followed by his decision to drop the film like the proverbial hot potato upon being shown just how full of misinformation, distortions, and pseudoscience the film is shows up, I not infrequently feel as though the topic takes over the blog. And so it often does. It’s been the main topic here for the last week. That’s why I thought I’d move on to something else, but then, seeing the reaction of the antivaccine crankosphere yesterday to the news of De Niro’s decision not to screen Wakefield’s Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe at Tribeca, I couldn’t resist one more dip into the well. Hopefully, readers aren’t becoming too tired of this story. The reactions range from the usual “Help, help! I’m being repressed!” and “Censorship!” to the truly nutty, to the point that I was entertained enough to apply one last dab of not-so-Respectful Insolence before moving on to other pastures.

First up is the least loony response. Note that by “least loony” I don’t mean in any way that it isn’t loony. It is. It’s just that I thought I’d start slow and work up to a crescendo. I’m referring, of course, to the response of Del Bigtree posted to NaturalNews.com and other sites in the form of a video labeled EXCLUSIVE UNCUT video interview with ‘VAXXED’ producer Del Bigtree that was 99% censored by ABC World News Tonight:

Right off the bat, it’s disingenuous and downright dishonest to label this interview as “99% censored.” Basically, apparently because ABC News only used one brief snippet of the interview in its story, it was “censoring” the rest of Bigtree’s responses, as though he had some sort of right to expect that all 10 minutes of the interview (or even a significant portion of the interview) would be included in what ABC News ultimately aired. This is silly in the extreme, as anyone who’s ever done media interviews knows. For instance, I’ve done hour-long interviews with reporters, only to have a sentence or two of my responses included in the ultimate story that is published. Does this sometimes annoy me? Of course it does, particularly when the snippet chosen doesn’t match the message I was trying to get across. Is it “censorship”? Of course not. I know how little space journalists have, and the time constraints on TV news stories are even more severe. Obviously, Bigtree is a TV producer and knows this, but he also knows that most of the fans of NaturalNews.com don’t know this and will lap up the song and dance about his being “censored,” hence his posting a cell phone video of the whole interview. In a bit of sheer over-the-top silliness, Bigtree even includes footage of routine introductory questions in which the producer is asking him what title he wants ABC to use in the caption.

I must admit, I nearly choked on my iced tea at Bigtree’s answer to the first question, where he brags about how he was the producer for The Doctors, which he characterized as the “best medical talk show in the world.” (It’s not.) He also brags about his being “known for doing stories that a lot of people don’t want to touch,” such as stories about pesticides, GMOs, pollution, etc. One wonders if he realizes why people don’t touch some of those stories. (Hint: Perhaps it’s not because of big pharma, big agriculture, or big industry; perhaps it’s because he takes on such stories from a fear mongering, pseudoscientific standpoint. Certainly if Vaxxed is any indication, that’s what Bigtree does.)

Not surprisingly, Bigtree regurgitates Brian Hooker’s and Andrew Wakefield’s blatant lie that William Thompson, the CDC scientist whose telephone conversations with Hooker led him to become the “CDC whistleblower” in the fevered dreams of the antivaccine movement, had accused the CDC of scientific fraud. He had not. Promoted by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), it’s a lie that Wakefield repeats constantly and that Wakefield and Bigtree had to use deceptive editing techniques to support. Bigtree also claims to have looked at the papers provided by Thompson to Posey and characterized them as the “most compelling evidence of fraud I’ve ever seen in my life,” which tells me that he has no clue how to interpret scientific data. Big surprise there, given that he believes Wakefield and Hooker. Matt Carey and I have both examined the primary documents, and we’ve found no evidence of fraud, although we did find evidence that Thompson was a bit of a troublemaker who didn’t play well with others—and not in a good way.

Perhaps the most hilarious part of this video is Bigtree’s response to the producer asking him if he was concerned about working with Wakefield, given that his work had been discredited and retracted and his medical license yanked for his dishonest behavior. First, Bigtree described himself as a “medical producer.” I suppose by a strictly technical definition, that’s sort of true, given that The Doctors does discuss medical topics, but in reality he was an infotainment producer producing one of fluffier daytime talk shows out there. He might as well have been producing The Dr. Oz Show. Bigtree then explains how he looked into “every aspect” of Andy Wakefield’s career and then proclaims that the “world lost one of the greatest scientific minds when Andy Wakefield was taken from us,” a phrasing I found quite odd given that Wakefield is most definitely not dead. He then went on to characterize Wakefield as a “man who was doing studies that were going to lead to healthier vaccines and better ways to take care of the health of our children.” So why was Wakefield discredited? Per Bigtree, because “that was going to cost a lot of money for the vaccine industry.”

I almost couldn’t continue at this point, so strong was the bile rising in my throat and spasmodic the urge to collapse into an uncontrollable fit of laughter at the characterization of Wakefield as “one of the greatest scientific minds.” How deluded can one man be? Bigtree tries to show us when he concludes that he is “proud to be working on this picture about the CDC whistleblower with Andy Wakefield.” The bottom line is that Andy Wakefield had a patent on a competing measles vaccine when he did his MMR study in 1998. He misrepresented the results as showing that the MMR vaccine was associated with autism. He committed scientific fraud during the execution of that study. As a result of his fear mongering about the MMR vaccine, measles, once under control in the UK, came roaring back as MMR uptake plummeted because parents, fearful of the vaccine due to Wakefield, avoided it in droves. These days, quite justifiably, Wakefield has been relegated to speaking on a cruise full of sovereign citizens, crop circle chasers, paranormal “researchers,” selling conspiracy theories to the credulous.

In a way, I almost feel sorry for Bigtree. He seems to realize on some level that he’s committing career suicide by working with Andy Wakefield, but can’t really bring himself to understand why. He complains about how the mainstream media hasn’t picked up this story but doesn’t ask himself why that is. To him, it’s because of the power of the CDC and pharmaceutical companies but can’t quite bring himself to ask himself whether the reason no mainstream news outlets are interested is because they can tell that there’s no story there, that this whole “CDC whistleblower” scandal is not a scandal at all, but rather the product of the grievances of a scientist at the CDC who let his personal disagreements with his colleagues over a 2004 study fester to the point where he felt he had to unload to a biochemical engineer turned incompetent epidemiologist. Let’s just put it this way. There’s a reason why the only seemingly “mainstream” reporters with any interest in this story are—to put it nicely—crank-sympathetic at minimum and cranks themselves at maximum. Think Ben Swann and Sharyl Attkisson. After all, if he really thinks that vaccines are given a “free pass” in testing and are “injected directly into the veins” of our babies, that his movie is just facts, and that our assessment of vaccine safety depends so heavily on the study that Thompson criticized, Bigtree will fit right in with this crowd.

There is one thing I’d like to say to Mr. Bigtree right here, though. Near the end of his interview, he complains mightily about how much criticism there has been of his film by people who have not seen it but have seen only the trailer. I’d be happy to review Vaxxed, Mr. Bigtree. Just send me a screener or a link to a screener any time. I’ll watch it and write a review. My e-mail address is orac@scienceblogsllc.com. I’ll be waiting.

Of course, Bigtree is downright mellow compared to others. Louis Conte, for instance, asks if I was on the panel of scientists that Robert De Niro had with him when he watched Vaxxed and decided to pull it. Alas, no. I would have been happy to have served in such a capacity, but, unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of juice that a star as big as De Niro would even take notice of me. Conte also accuses me of having a “spy” who noted that De Niro’s wife Grace Hightower had been seen on one of his movie sets having a friendly conversation with Andrew Wakefield. I wish! The reality is much less interesting. A reader e-mailed me out of the blue after one of my posts about Tribeca and was very worried about my saying too much publicly. So I used my Google-Fu to try to fill in the rest. Of course, perhaps it would be better for me if Conte believed that I actually have a vast network of spies everywhere like Varys (a.k.a. the Spider) on Game of Thrones. (Come to think of it, maybe I do have such a network. Muahahahahahaha! Beware, Mr. Conte! Beware!*)

I am, however, happy to see that Conte and the clown car at Age of Autism read my work and find it so compelling that Conte thinks I’m of a stature that Robert De Niro himself would include me in a panel of scientists he asked to review Vaxxed and that I have spies everywhere. It is good to have one’s enemies fear you that much.

Still, nobody does demonization and conspiracy mongering better than Mike Adams, whose initial reaction I discussed yesterday. To him, it has to be Nazis. No matter how tenuous a link, to Adams, it’s always Nazis. In this case, he blames the Sloan Foundation, a sponsor of Tribeca, for pressuring De Niro. Where is the Nazi connection? Here you go. Based on a brief post by HIV/AIDS denialist Celia Farber, Adams goes on one of his epic “Nazi” rants:

The Sloan Foundation is so named from Alfred P. Sloan, a Nazi collaborator and eugenics depopulation promoter. It’s no coincidence that his own beliefs on using medical interventions to reduce race-targeted populations coincides perfectly with the stated depopulation goals of Bill Gates (whose financial web of influence is woven across the entire vaccine propaganda landscape).

You know, using similar logic, I must be collaborating with Nazis because one of my collaborators is based at Henry Ford Hospital, and Henry Ford was known as an antisemite and admirer of Hitler and the Nazis before World War II. Look for an antivaccine loon to quote mine the preceding sentence, coming to an antivaccine blog near you soon.

Adams isn’t finished, though:

Like the most evil entities on the planet, the Sloan Foundation hides its eugenics / depopulation agenda behind a “science” agenda. But if you read between the lines, it’s obvious that the foundation’s ethics are rooted in globalist initiatives that sacrifice human lives to create whatever the elitists call “a better world.”

But if you really want hilarity, just look at how clever the Sloan Foundation is. According to Adams, its President, Paul Joskow, despite being a member of the Council on Foreign Relations “global elite group with deep ties to depopulation advocate Bill Gates, who also awards large grants to numerous websites that agree to publish pro-vaccine propaganda,” Joskow is so nefariously clever as to pull this bit of misdirection to hide his evil plans:

As part of the cover for all this nefarious activity, Paul Joskow gives money to an anti-eugenics non-profit group called “Facing History.” This annual report from 2013 lists “Barbara Chasen Joskow and Paul L. Joskow” as donors, while simultaneously stating the group is “Celebrating Milestones” that include “teaching about the challenges societies face as they attempt to heal, repair, and rebuild after genocide or other instances of mass violence.” It is no coincidence that vaccines are a form of mass violence against children, thereby perpetuating the circle of violence upon which these non-profit front groups depend for their funding and stature.

That’s right. Joskow is that cleverly nefariously deceptive, according to Adams, and “got to” De Niro.

I have a word of advice for Del Bigtree and the antivaccine loons. Take a deep breath and take a break. You really are your own worst enemies. You want desperately to be taken seriously, but your every word screams to journalists and other reasonable people the very reasons why you shouldn’t be.

*This is sarcasm. I feel obligated to point this out because antivaccine activists might actually mistakenly think that I do have a network of spies and am threatening Louis Conte or anyone else. Obviously I am not, but these people are so deluded that I feel obligated to emphasize that I am not threatening anyone. It’s a joke, people.