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A case study in fake news: Did the FBI raid the CDC based on the CDC whistleblower’s allegations?

Fake news has become an enormous problem. Here, Orac takes a look at a rather fascinating tidbit of fake news aimed at the antivaccine movement. Did the FBI really raid the CDC with the “CDC whistleblower” showing them what to find? Of course not. But a story like this is nearly irresistible to true believers that vaccines cause autism.

[Note: The proprietor of the website has responded by e-mail. See Comment #37.]

Now that the unreal has become real, I was just thinking how weird it is that I’ve never actually blogged about a phenomenon that directly contributed to the election of Donald Trump. I’m referring to the phenomenon known now as “fake news.” Now, by “fake news,” I do not mean sloppy reporting. I do not mean biased reporting. I do not even mean a type of article that many crank websites publish in which a real news story (often with other news stories) is used as jumping-off point for pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. I’ve discussed more of this latter form of misinformation over the years than I care to remember. No, I’m referring to news stories that are made up out of whole cloth, either as clickbait (i.e., to make money) or for political advantage (the form that contributed to the rise of Donald Trump).

Basically, fake news sites publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation in the hopes of these articles going viral to amplify their effect. Unlike satire sites, the goal of a fake news site is not to entertain, but rather to mislead. Oddly enough, for the most part, even NaturalNews.com probably isn’t really a fake news site, unless fake news is designed as extreme distortion of the news and using a mixture of news and crank sources to promote conspiracy theories. On the other hand, maybe that’s enough. Of course, fake news exists on a continuum, as Steve Novella helpfully lays out; with fake news at the extreme. It’s that bit of ambiguity that will make it very difficult for social media outlets like Facebook to crack down on fake news. Finally, fake news does not equal “information I don’t like or that I disagree with,” but that is how the term is increasingly being used: To delegitimize mainstream news outlets reporting facts that conflict with a person’s pre-existing beliefs. I’m getting tired of this already tired trope, but it shows no sign of abating and every sign of continuing to be the preferred retort of believers in fake news stories to dismiss disconfirmatory information.

Be that as it may, believe it or not, most antivaccine blogs and sites are not fake news sites. They tend to use legitimate news articles and scientific studies to draw the wrong conclusions, or they promote bogus scientific studies designed to bolster their pseudoscientific belief that vaccines cause autism. However, antivaccinationists are very prone to fake news, and yesterday I saw a doozy of an example. The dooziest! It started on the Facebook page of an antivaccine loon, Jim Meehan:

Elsewhere, I saw an article by William Mount entitled FBI Raid on CDC HQ Atlanta – Confirmed.

Obviously, I was intrigued. If this story were true, why hadn’t I heard of it? It would, after all, be big news. Of course, believers in fake news and antivaccine pseudoscience would say that it’s because the mainstream media is covering it up or refusing to report on it, but, really, there’s now way such a raid could be kept a secret in the age of social media. Someone would have seen. Someone would have talked. Someone would have Tweeted. There would have been someone, somewhere, who revealed something, even if, as these reports claimed, the raid took place at 3 AM yesterday.

It didn’t take me long to find the source of the story on a website called WhatDoesItMean.com, allegedly by someone named Sorcha Faal, “as reported to her Western Subscribers.” It also didn’t take long to figure out that Sorcha Faal is the pseudonym of a conspiracy writer who might or might not be David Booth, owner of the website. RationalWiki notes that Faal’s stories are of such poor quality that not even fellow conspiracy theorists think much of them. There’s no doubt that the story that got Meehan and Mount all worked up, President Trump Orders FBI To Conduct Massive Raid On CDC Headquarters, is not very good, but it does reveal a pretty in-depth knowledge of some aspects of antivaccine conspiracy theories while revealing ignorance in others, and I can see how a certain type of antivaccine conspiracy theorist might find it compelling. There’s even a video:

Note the framing of the story as that of a foreign intelligence report circulating in the Kremlin and somehow leaked, complete with a disclaimer that some “words and/or phrases appearing in quotes in this report are English language approximations of Russian words/phrases having no exact counterpart” added for extra faux authenticity and conspiracy:

A stunning Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) report circulating in the Kremlin today states that just hours after President Donald Trump and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey “warmly embraced” in the White House yesterday, FBI agents conducted a massive early morning raid on the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based in Atlanta, Georgia, accompanied by Doctor-Scientist William Thompson—who is one of the most feared government whistleblowers in the United States for his exposing the vaccine-to-autism link cover-up.

See what I mean? There’s no way a “massive raid” wouldn’t be noticed and reported on by someone. However, Faal, whoever he/she/it is, clearly has some familiarity with the whole “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory. It’s one that I’ve blogged about more times than I can remember; so I’ll provide the CliffsNotes version with links. The “CDC whistleblower,” as you might recall, is a psychologist named William Thompson who works for the CDC and was involved in planning and carrying out some pivotal studies that failed to find a correlation between vaccination and autism, including a 2004 study whose lead author was Frank DeStefano (henceforth referred to as DeStefano et al). Beginning in November 2013, for reasons known only to himself, Thompson somehow became chummy with Brian Hooker, someone whom I like to refer to as a biochemical engineer turned incompetent antivaccine epidemiologist because that’s exactly what he is. Not realizing that his conversations were being recorded, Thompson spoke to Hooker in several telephone calls in which, apparently racked with guilt over his role in DeStefano et al examining MMR vaccine uptake as a risk factor for autism, he unburdened himself, kvetched about his CDC colleagues, and basically accused the CDC of covering up a finding that MMR vaccination correlated with autism in African American boys. Even if one were to take that finding at face value, it actually was a study that showed that Andrew Wakefield was basically wrong in that no such correlation was found in Caucasians, male or female, African American girls, or any other racial group. That right away should have suggested to Thompson that it’s a spurious finding due to small numbers in the subgroup. It was, of course, a finding that disappeared when proper statistical correction was made for confounders.

As a result of these conversations and the data supplied to him by Thompson, Brian Hooker did an epically incompetent “reanalysis” of DeStefano et al. What this reanalysis claimed to find was that DeStefano et al had done some statistical prestidigitation to eliminate a statistically significant difference in African American males correlating with age of MMR vaccination. Of course, as I discussed at the time (as did many others), Hooker, in his love of “simplicity,” had neglected to control for important confounders and imputed way too much significance to a spurious correlation that disappeared when proper correction for confounders was made. As I’ve put it many times, simplicity in statistical analyses of epidemiological data is not a virtue. In any case, so incredibly incompetent was Hooker’s analysis that the journal actually retracted the paper. Because Thompson’s allegations appeared to confirm the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement (that the CDC knew vaccines cause autism but were hiding it from the public), the antivaccine movement has been beating this dead horse of a scandal for over 15 months now. The believers in that conspiracy theory fervently wish for the FBI or other law enforcement to raid the CDC and arrest all those whom they consider responsible for the “vaccine-induced autism epidemic.” It is their number one fantasy.

I was there to observe the birth of this conspiracy theory in August 2014, and I know it quite well. It was a very educational experience, and, unfortunately, this conspiracy theory has been going strong for two and a half years. It spawned two antivaccine “CDCTruth” demonstrations at the CDC, one in 2015 and one in 2016. It also spawned VAXXED: From Conspiracy to Catastrophe, an antivaccine propaganda movie inspired by the CDC whistleblower conspiracy theory so heavy-handed that Leni Reifenstahl, were she still alive, would have told the director Andrew Wakefield and the producer Del Bigtree to tone it down a bit. Wakefield, of course, is familiar to my readers as an icon of the antivaccine movement, the disgraced doctor who published a fraudulent case series in 1998 purporting to find an association between vaccination with the MMR vaccine and autistic enterocolitis. It was a study that launched thousands of antivaccine quacks, and it was ultimately retracted. Unfortunately, President Trump’s antivaccine views led him to meet with Andrew Wakefield in August and led Wakefield to attend the Inaugural Ball with Gary Kompothecras, the wealthy Florida chiropractor, long time big money donor to the Republican causes, and Donald Trump supporter who had arranged the meeting in the first place:

Andrew Wakefield and company at the Trump  Inaugural Ball

So, right in the first paragraph you can see Faal basically writing an antivaccine crank’s wet dream of a story: The FBI, under President Trump (whom antivaccine activists perceive as a friend), raiding the hated CDC less than three days after Trump’s inauguration, with the CDC whistleblower himself showing them the way! It’s the “happy ending” to the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement! There’s even this background:

According to this report (and as we’ve previously reported on), almost a fortnight ago, President Trump appointed anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to become the Chairman of the Golden Vaccine Safety Task Force, and whose scathing manifesto titled MERCURY & VACCINES shocked the liberal elites in America who have for decades deliberately poisoned millions of children, while at the same time, in 1986, President Clinton signed a law called the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 that eliminated any liability to pharmaceutical manufacturers for their complicity in this crime against humanity.

No, not exactly. While it’s true that Trump did meet with RFK Jr., it’s entirely unclear whether he actually appointed RFK Jr. to anything. The whole storyline could just as easily been typical RFK Jr. Self-aggrandizement.

So what exactly happened with this “raid”? The fake news knows:

Nearly immediately after President Trump appointed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head this vaccine-autism task force, this report continues, he then requested that Sally Yates become the Acting Attorney General of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on 20 January when he took power—which she accepted, and then nearly immediately afterwards returned to her home city of Atlanta where she empanelled a secret Grand Jury.

Oooh. Sneaky. But that’s not all:

Raising the suspicions that Dr. Thompson was not being protected by the Obama regime, this report explains, was that right before the 2016 US presidential election that brought President Trump to power, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden blocked Dr. Thompson from testifying on scientific fraud and destruction of evidence by senior CDC officials in critical vaccine safety studies regarding the causative relationship between childhood vaccines and autism.

Immediately upon taking power on 20 January, however, this report notes, President Trump fired Dr. Tom Frieden and installed Rear Admiral Dr. Anne Schuchat as the acting head of the CDC—who along with Dr. Thompson were the only two witnesses presented on Saturday (21 January) before the Atlanta secret Grand Jury called into session by Acting Attorney General Yates.

With the massive raid conducted by the FBI on the CDC headquarters just hours ago (3:00 am US East Coast time), this report continues, it is apparent that from her secret Grand Jury proceedings, Acting Attorney General Yates was able to secure a warrant for this to happen—though this SVR reports section on this subject is more highly classified than this general report allows mentioning.

Of course, the explanation for why Thompson was not allowed to testify is much less…ominous. Basically, the lawsuit above did not name the CDC as a party, and CDC policy regarding employees testifying in such lawsuits is one of impartiality and not allowing such testimony to disrupt the duties of CDC employees. While it is true that Rear Admiral Dr. Anne Schuchat is the acting head of the CDC, it’s not true that Trump fired Frieden. He turned in his resignation, as is the custom for presidential appointees when a new President takes over. As for the claim that yates got a grand jury together, got a warrant, and arranged a large raid in such a short period of time defies belief almost as much as the claim that such a raid occurred when no other sources have reported it other than sources citing this particular story. Also, there’s the little issue that the Attorney General doesn’t need a grand jury to get a warrant. He just has to get a judge to agree that there’s sufficient probable cause for a search and then get the warrant from the judge. A grand jury comes later, to determine if there is sufficient evidence of law breaking to go to trial.

Then there’s this:

And the many (and growing) rumors that President-elect Trump made his decision to run for president due to his youngest child, Barron, having been diagnosed with autism immediately after receiving a childhood vaccine shot in late 2013, and that his wife, Melania, has vowed to file lawsuits against anyone making such a claim—but who, nevertheless, will not be moving to the White House in order to keep her child out of the “media bubble” that surrounds all US presidents and their families.

First, I’ve never seen credible evidence that Barron is autistic. My position is that, no matter how much I detest Trump, Barron is off-limits, period. Leave the kid alone. It’s tough enough for him as it is. That’s been my position. Second, the timeline doesn’t even make sense. Barron is almost 11, which means he would have been seven in 2013. That’s a bit old for the usual “vaccines caused my child’s autism” story, most of which involve toddlers. Third, as I’ve documented, Trump has been spewing antivaccine nonsense since at least December 2007. Given that Barron was born March 2006, that timeline would make more sense. Be that as it may, it’s easy to see how this paragraph also feeds into the fantasies of the antivaccine cranks. Not only is Donald Trump antivaccine like they are, but he actually decided to run for President because he experienced an event like the ones that made them antivaccine!

It goes beyond this, though. Mount actually builds on Faal’s fake news story:

So this morning President Trump ordered a raid on the CDC Headquarters in Atlanta and the Intelligence Office below the CDC Headquarters.

The penalty for purposely murdering and crippling American’s is covered in USC 18 and is 20 years in jail to death.

The arrests begin today – the Tribunals (Trials) of these “Paid Terrorists” will begin in late March. They may be televised or they may be very quiet.

So not only was there a raid that no one heard of, but all the “paid terrorists” at the CDC will be put on trial, possibly in secret. It’s a lovely story, if you’re an antivaccinationist. Hilariously, Mount called the CDC and said that a receptionist told him that “they are not allowed to talk about the raid.” The comments after Meehan’s post are almost all credulous, along the lines of “Way to go!” Meanwhile everywhere I’ve seen this story, it’s admitted that the report is “unconfirmed,” but clearly everyone wants to believe it. That’s the key to an effective fake news story. It has to be something a certain population wants to believe. Indeed, on one page, one of the commenters even describes the “What Does it Mean?” website as ” sponsored and fed info by Russian intel that knows things the MSM does not- and of course it’s biased to meet Russia’s objectives if their intel services are indeed behind it.”

In fairness, not everyone’s buying it, though, at least not on Dr. Mount’s page. The reason? Mount shamelessly uses the story to sell his products. One of his commenters even says (quite accurately) that Mount is “playing with vaccine parents emotions to sell his product at the end.” Also in fairness, this fake news story hasn’t (yet) gone viral. Only a few sites have picked it up, although it is starting to get traction on Twitter. Will this fake news go any further? Who knows? It might not, because it makes the mistake of stating that something definitely happened at a specific time at a specific place. If another day goes by (or two), even the most die-hard believer is likely to start to question this. A better story would have been to say that a grand jury had been empaneled and was going to call, say, William Thompson to testify. Now that one could have had legs, because there’s no way to disprove it.

Fake news has obviously become an enormous problem. The example I chose, mainly because I found it interesting, is but a grain of sand on the beach of fake news, but it shows the anatomy of a fake news story. It’s sensational. It appeals to conspiracy theories. And it is something that a large number of people really, really want to believe, as believers in the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement want to believe that their prayers have finally been answered and justice (in their eyes) is being done to the hated CDC. It doesn’t matter that the cracks in the plausibility of the story are obvious. This one had all the hallmarks of an appealing fake news story for antivaxers. Unfortunately, there will be more, many more. There are always more.

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]

327 replies on “A case study in fake news: Did the FBI raid the CDC based on the CDC whistleblower’s allegations?”

First Comment baby!

Oh Yeah.

I’m kinda new here but I just wanna say that I hope the CDC get prosecuted for their crimes against humanity.

According to confirmed reports, organizations and individuals are preying on scientifically illiterate and otherwise fearful and naive people, either to make a profit or because they, too, are ignorant and fearful opportunists. Unfortunately, despite valiant efforts to stop the contagion, it continues to spread and mutate with little hope of abatement.

In other news, AoA has announced the passing of Dan Olmsted.

I disagreed with his writings and think he did a certain amount I f harm, but nowhere near as much as Andrew Wakefield et al. Age of Autism has increasingly been seen as out in conspiracy theory land and Olmsted didn’t have the contact with decision makers. Despite that I am saddened to read this. I was under the impression he was not that old.

in 1986, President Clinton signed a law called the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986

Meanwhile, in this reality, who was US President in 1986?

Yah. The same Clinton that was involved in the Watergate scandal. I think he used Obama’s time machine or something to go back and sign the papers that implicated Nixon in the Bay of Pigs.

On the topic of fake news, how can people be gullible enough to believe stories like these? They don’t even come close to passing the smell test, much less be credible. I always assumed that the author of “Believing Bullshit” was exaggerating a bit, but this would seem to indicate he actually down-played the problem some-what.

[email protected]: It is an article of faith among a certain subset of Americans that everything bad in this country can be blamed on one or more of three people: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. All of whom have time machines at their disposal. At least, that’s the standard explanation among this crowd for how Obama was able to put birth announcements in the Honolulu newspaper on the appropriate date despite being born in Kenya. Why would Clinton not have a time machine available to sign a bill that passed Congress in 1986?

Of course, given the claimed superpowers of Democratic presidents, they don’t attempt to explain how enough Americans are able to resist their charms to ever elect a Republican President.

On the topic of fake news, how can people be gullible enough to believe stories like these? They don’t even come close to passing the smell test, much less be credible.

I know this seems counter-intuitive, but it’s because it doesn’t pass the smell test. Some people find it plausible because it sounds so unlikely that nobody would be brazen enough to say it unless it was true.

Hey, it’s not “fake news”, it’s “alternative facts”!

Kind of like “alternative medicine”.

You have no idea. Faal emailed me. It’s comedy gold! Maybe I’ll post the email later. I’m between cases occupying myself during the unfortunately long turnover time, and this thing would be better done on a computer rather than a smart phone. It might even make a good blog post.

The dooziest! It started on the Facebook page of an antivaccine loon, Jim Meehan:

Of note Meehan and his PAC “Oklahomans for Vaccine and Health Choice” (AKA Oklahomans for the Spread of Vaccine Preventable Diseases that Maim and Kill”) are named in a libel suit for defaming an Oklahoma pediatrician ( http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/courts/enid-pediatrician-alleges-defamation-by-tulsa-doctor-political-group-for/article_34d06505-1e63-58f6-909a-feae43a69f4b.html )

Meehan deserves to lose his medical license.

re Dan Olmsted

I was surprised as well to read this.
Although he supported conspiracy theories and anti-vax, he did treat me with deference when we interacted.

Whilst I agree that Natural News is not _exactly_ fake news, it does encourage readers to question *actual* news, perhaps making them more vulnerable to spurious material.

Unfortunately I’ve become familiar with another aspect of our woo-meisters’ alt media empires which is creating faux bios for themselves which amplify their abilities and create fake credentials and titles. For example, Mike is a researcher with a lab, skilled din music composition as well. Gary Null has completed dozens of research studies and worked at a research institute as a fellow.. They weave an entire web of qualifications and achievements which do not exist in reality.

Similarly, they encourage others to create their own myth ( see prn.fm/ naturalnews) for fledglings who emulate their methods.

Of note Meehan and his PAC “Oklahomans for Vaccine and Health Choice” (AKA Oklahomans for the Spread of Vaccine Preventable Diseases that Maim and Kill”) are named in a libel suit for defaming an Oklahoma pediatrician

Docket here. The petition with exhibits is 86 pages long.

A. That’s horrible writing by the author.

B. Secret tribunals? Did any of these people take civics?

C. Please do share the email.

In other news, AoA has announced the passing of Dan Olmsted.

That reminds me that I noticed yesterday that Safeminds reported a $15,000 grant to Autism Age on their year 2014 Form 990 even though the latter didn’t have 501(c)(3) status until April 2015. I think the former’s fiscal year ended December 2014.

You may or may not publish this comment?
You are clearly ‘other’, by which we mean inhuman, by which we mean that your consciousness is either so distorted that you actually have faith in your misguided opinions or that you are so stupid that you cannot perceive the truth.
Humanity is being fed upon, paedophile blood drinkers run our planet, those that drive us to war and pit us against one another in their undending game of thrones.
As a species we begin to see this now, a mark of the birth of a diferent epoch. Servants of the Power as it subsists will discover the justice of the ages, right soon. Can you sense the coming of the time? Do you fear it?
Not long now, you apologist for the worst of evils.

@#9

…how can people be gullible enough to believe stories like these?

It’s easy when you have little meaningful education but were pushed through an inferior education system and have spent your adult life watching The Apprentice and a non-stop variety of other reality shows and digesting what passes for even mainstream “news”, let alone the abundant other sources.

We downsized and moved to a very working class neighborhood in a Midwestern city–believe me, such people are numerous and while they can be very nice people on a personal level, it is difficult to interact with them. It’s all “my chiro is a God”, “I need to get another gun”, “do you think Mexicans are moving in next door?”, and much, much worse in terms of racism, homophobia, and general information. It boggles my mind that these people even have high school diplomas. They believe that cancer is caused by our “poisoned food”, they “wonder if” shots just “might” cause autism, the word “natural” is a science term to them, and they MUST have a gun because, “well, you never know…”. These people have always been around, but their exposure to the internet has amplified their intellectuctual shortcomings and allowed them to connect with each other and with those who have taken advantage of their intellectual and educational shortcomings.

After eight years, the election has spurred me to get out, of the neighborhood and the country. I should add that some of my neighbors are Democrats and take pride in their union membership, and some are gay, but they still love their chiros and believe that cancer is caused by “toxins”, and that immigrants are taking our jobs. Most of these people have never traveled other than a possible trip to some resort or other, and many have lived on this street all their lives. They hated school, barely made it through, do not read at all, and watch only local news (often Fox) and sports. Many are functioning (or worse) alcoholics who think beer is a dietary requirement.

In summary, there are masses of not so bright, barely educated, incurious, unread and uninterested people whose only reading experience has come with the internet where they have access to random and easily digested material that they have no skills to interpret. They far outnumber their intellectual counterparts I fear. I try to remember that three million more people (smart or not so smart) voted for Her, but the fact is that is doesn’t matter.

Note: Of course I am generalizing, but not too much. Everyone with a brain has left for one of the coasts or a few “elite” areas.

Of course, believers in fake news and antivaccine pseudoscience would say that it’s because the mainstream media is covering it up or refusing to report on it, but, really, there’s now way such a raid could be kept a secret in the age of social media.

Not to mention that, since the President is supposedly completely behind the anti-vaxxers, sooner or later there would be a communique from the White house ; quite difficult to cover up…
Love also the part about secret trials.
> After all this time, no public trials about a national health scandal ?
> Guantanamo & co should have taught that a State having secret trials is not exactly a good thing…

Nice darwinslapdog. Perhaps more emphasis that the people preying on us low-information folks have only recently gotten that good at it. Biased blogs powered by corporate money that makes them biased are more frequent.
PS: I got a taste of the gullibility just a moment ago.
https://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/robert-f-kennedy-jr-cdc-an-edifice-of-fraud/
The commenters are all true believers. Flu vaccine is touted as being ineffective, without using a single number or statistic to make the case – I would not have believed it possible myself, so none here need to trust my report.

Did the raid take place – Yes or No. No? Okay, enough said. Yes the notion is wishful thinking for the majority of the vaccine efficacy and safety informed, and we can see it is a story the fully-heeled, gunnels-in-the-water, protectors of the left, needlessly streak to with a certain gleeful alacrity and excessive exuberance to objectify as fake news, but I’m pretty sure the new admin is thinking about actually doing it and will do so at an appropriate time. So save the propaganda and keep a spare change of underwear on hand..

There’s no way a “massive raid” wouldn’t be noticed and reported on by someone.

15,000 employees at the CDC — I think *one* of them would have mentioned it on Facebook or Twitter.

@Anonymous Pseudonym #9:

On the topic of fake news, how can people be gullible enough to believe stories like these?

Practice. Lots and lots of practice.

Trump Tweets about it or it didn’t happen!

Can anyone identify the occasion of the pictures of the FBI roting boxes? That;’s awfully well-lit and highly attended for a secret right-time raid.

Or maybe the FIFA raids in Florida … palm trees don’t grow well in Joisey.

Ohh. That Sorcha Faal.

A frightening foreign military intelligence directorate (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today states that over the past nearly 36 hours the vast intercontinental military tunnel complex constructed by the United States Air force over the past nearly 45 years was hit with two powerful nuclear explosions at its main terminuses in Colorado and Virginia used nearly exclusively by the Central Intelligence Agency. (CIA).

http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index1514.htm

And here’s Brian’s response to this post, received by e-mail this morning. He runs the website in question:

24 January 2017
To: Orac

Re: A case study in fake news: Did the FBI raid the CDC based on the CDC whistleblower’s allegations?

Dear Dr. Orac,

I am writing to you today in order to dispute some aspects of your recent article titled “A case study in fake news: Did the FBI raid the CDC based on the CDC whistleblower’s allegations?”[1]

In this article you referenced one of our reports[2] that you called “fake news” and stated: “fake news sites publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation in the hopes of these articles going viral to amplify their effect”

In your making this spurious claim about our article you grossly violated these two articles of the International Fact-Checking Network code of principles[3]:

A COMMITMENT TO NONPARTISANSHIP AND FAIRNESS

We fact-check claims using the same standard for every fact check. We do not concentrate our fact-checking on any one side. We follow the same process for every fact check and let the evidence dictate our conclusions. We do not advocate or take policy positions on the issues we fact-check.

A COMMITMENT TO TRANSPARENCY OF SOURCES

We want our readers to be able to verify our findings themselves. We provide all sources in enough detail that readers can replicate our work, except in cases where a source’s personal security could be compromised. In such cases, we provide as much detail as possible.

Specifically of your gross violations of these principals to be noted are:

You provided your readers with only one side about us (Rational Wiki) without bothering to counter this information with our own.[4] [5] [6] [7]

By this gross failure of yours you rendered your readers unable to verify anything about the subject your article was focusing upon, but if you had enabled them to do so they would have discovered these facts:

We are not a “fake news” site, rather, we are conspiracy theorists, and on our main front page we explain this fact by stating:

“Conspiracy theorists concentrate their time on transmuting the “base matter” of current events, official stories, propaganda and public relations into the gleaming golden truth buried within. They do this through the very right-brained activity of uncovering and inventing connections between disparate elements.

They create story-systems to understand and explain events – essentially a religious activity. For whatever reason, it’s much easier for us to deal with our internal contents by projecting them into the world around us. These outward signs inevitably become carriers of the archetypal content and psychodrama latent in the seeker.

Conspiracy theory also overcomes the strictures of literalism and the problems of simplistic thinking by experimenting with multiplicity of meaning. Ordinary events, people and signs become symbols bristling with complex, malleable, even contradictory meanings. Mystery is revived and idealized. Facts become more than the sum of their parts. Theory becomes poetry and even theology.”

Furthermore, on our About Page[7] we clearly state:

“Some events depicted in certain articles on this website are fictitious and any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental. Some other articles may be based on actual events but which in certain cases incidents, characters and timelines have been changed for dramatic purposes. Certain characters may be composites, or entirely fictitious.”

Should you have honestly provided your readers with this factual information they would have been able to ascertain for themselves that we are not “fake news”, but are, instead, the victims of those who use our clearly identified “conspiracy theories” for their own personal motives.

And should you have adhered to these most basic of journalistic principles, your readers would have been able to discover that our reports are EXACTLY like those produced by the American Central Intelligence Agency’s Political Instability Task Force[8], and whose “conspiracy theories” produced by their “clairvoyants”[9] have proven to be 80% accurate.[9]

By providing your readers with truthful information about us they would have, also, been able to discover the findings of University of Oxford physicist David Robert Grimes, who in his scientific paper titled “On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs” (published in the Public Library of Science peer-reviewed open access scientific journal PLOS ONE) devised a “simple mathematical model” to prove, or disprove, a conspiracy theory[10][11], and that verifies the predictive qualities of many of our reports.

Your failing to provide your readers with these truths further denies them the knowledge that the American government/media establishment/etc. doesn’t actually care at all about “fake news” (it’s a minor nuisance to them), but rather conspiracy theorists like us who are able to “predict” future geopolitical events nearly as well as the CIA—and proven by the 2008 report written by the former Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration, Cass Sunstein, he co-wrote with Harvard Law School legal scholar Adrian Vermeule a titled “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures”. [12]

Granted, for you to have provided truthful information about us in order for your readers to have discovered these facts for themselves, it would have taken you longer to write and source—but as a physician, don’t you believe they would have been better served by honesty then this “fake news” screed you wrote?

And regarding your grossest journalistic/professional failing in writing this “fake news” article, you did not even bother to contact us about anything prior to writing about us.

Why?

If you had followed this #1 journalistic principle and simply asked us why we wrote this report we have told you everything I’ve contained herein, and specifically as it relates to our report you cited we would have fully explained that to you too.

And that EXACTLY corresponds to our 2 December 2015 “probability formed” conspiracy theory report titled “Putin Orders “Doomsday” Plane Into Air After Military Warns US-Turkey Plot Is “Beyond Staggering”[13] about a coup occurring in Turkey to bring down the government of President Erdogan—and that was followed 7 months later by this coup actually occurring.[14] (and this is just one of dozens of such predictive reports we’ve written prior to the actual event occurring)

Finally, your intellectual dishonesty gives me no sense that you’ll read this letter, and even if you did, would not clarify your original article with the truth. But if I’ve accomplished one thing it is this—I’ve proved with this letter who the real “fake news” writer is, not us, but you.

Sincerely,

Brian Webmaster WhatDoesItMean.com Paris, Fr

References:

[1] http://respectfulinsolence.com/2017/01/24/a-case-study-in-fake-news-did-the-fbi-raid-the-cdc/

[2] http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index2216.htm

[3] http://www.poynter.org/fact-checkers-code-of-principles/

[4] http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index7381.htm

[5] http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/whoissorcha.htm

[6] http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/indexsf33778855.htm

[7] http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index677.htm

[8] http://globalpolicy.gmu.edu/political-instability-task-force/political-instability-task-force-home/

[9] http://theweek.com/articles/635515/cia-team-clairvoyants

[10] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/authors?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0147905

[11] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0147905

[12] http://www.law.uchicago.edu/files/files/387.pdf

[13] http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index1952.htm

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Turkish_coup_d'%C3%A9tat_attempt

For whatever reason, it’s much easier for us to deal with our internal contents by projecting them into the world around us.

Translation: The world is a confusing place, and we can’t make sense of it, so we invent stories of how we wish the world worked, so that we don’t have to confront our inability to understand life, the universe, and everything.

So, wait….he’s admitting that his site is “fake” and the stories are “fake” but blah, blah, blah?

What does that email even mean?

Secret tribunals? Did any of these people take civics?

They certainly don’t know much about the American legal system. Grand juries do not issue search warrants. If a law enforcement officer believes that he needs to search a location or an object for evidence of the crime, he applies for a warrant, stating the specific location(s) or object(s) to be searched and the basis for believing that there is evidence of a crime to be found there. A judge then approves (or not, but usually yes) the warrant, and the police or FBI conduct the search. The grand jury doesn’t get involved until later, when the prosecutor is satisfied there is sufficient evidence of a crime to justify bringing the case to trial. He first must make the case before the grand jury, which has to approve the charges (although, as the old saying goes, a competent prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich).

Also, while the proceedings of a grand jury are secret, the grand jury itself is not.

That should be SKILLED IN MUSIC
( or SKILLED IN DIN MUSIC)
Both correct

As someone who has performed a fair amount of 20th century classical music in public, I resemble that remark.

paedophile blood drinkers run our planet

I, for one, welcome our new paedophile blood drinking overlords.

That email is rich. I see much whining and hand-waving but nothing to support his fake report.

Also, I’m not a journalist. I never claimed to be one. I’m a blogger, which is more akin to a pundit without a mainstream media gig. 🙂

I was expecting some blustery demands for Orac to take down the post or even a legal threat.

He missed the perfect opportunity to throw in a “Govern yourself accordingly.”

… it’s much easier for us to deal with our internal contents by projecting them into the world around us

As in projectile vomiting, or something originating from farther along the ol’ enteron?

Furthermore, on our About Page[7] we clearly state:

“Some events depicted in certain articles on this website are fictitious and any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental. Some other articles may be based on actual events but which in certain cases incidents, characters and timelines have been changed for dramatic purposes. Certain characters may be composites, or entirely fictitious.”

As Lawrence noted above, Brian is basically admitting that his site publishes fiction. The first sentence in that disclaimer is a standard disclaimer in novels.

The rest of that rant is equally incoherent. He insists that you take that site’s word regarding their bona fides (notes [4]-[7]), invokes the CIA in what may or may not be a conspiracy theory (I don’t trust either of the cited sources on that one), tries to double dip with his citation of Grimes’ paper (the two DOIs are in fact the same) which he insists (without independent verification) supports his view, and a cherry pick about the attempted coup in Turkey.

If I were the sort to indulge in certain mind-altering substances, I’d want some of whatever Brian has been smoking.

Tribunals (Trials) of these “Paid Terrorists” will begin in late March. They may be televised or they may be very quiet.

The idea, I think, is that Trumpian American will be a combination of Stalinist Moscow and Revolutionary Paris, all show-trials and People’s Tribunes and secret hearings, and for the audience whose pockets Mount is trying to pick, this will be a good thing.

“We are not a “fake news” site, rather, we are conspiracy theorists”

Oh, yes, because that’s so much better.

Putz.

“They do this through the very right-brained activity of uncovering and inventing connections between disparate elements”

Dude, just call it as it is: lying.

All I know is that I received a vaccine when I was 9 years old in 1968 and immediately had a reaction that led to severe difficulty breathing. IThe family doctor came to the house and gave me a shot of adrenaline in my thigh. I was able to recover but from that day on had terrible asthma attacks. The doctor blamed my cat that I had for three years. I also immediately became allergic to my chicken feather pillow I had used for years, chicken soup, carrots, and many foods I always ate, cats, dogs and winter weather. I always loved playing in the snow. After the shot, I couldnt go out in winter without needed a drug to stop the asthma attacks. So, as far as Im concerned, a certain percentage of people are reacting to something in the shots, and they had better look into it. Many autistic moms I have talked to state without any doubt that it was right after the mmr shot that their child changed and became autistic. Something is wrong here and to say there is no side effects, especially by an educated doctor, to this invasive procedure, is gross negligence and professional misconduct. People should at least have the right of refusal since the informed consent regarding the vaccine’s side effects is a non issue since you basically have NO CHOICE. Whats the difference that you may end up with asthma the rest of your life. Its worth not having been sick with measles for three or four days.

We fact-check claims using the same standard for every fact check.

As in, we don’t bother to check anything whatsoever.

The fake news thing is ridiculous, but then so is your analysis of William Thompson’s findings.

Please. Point out specific areas or points that I got wrong. Please be specific, and please back up your criticism with evidence from reliable sources.

No doubt it will be impossible to convince Tom that his memory of asthma occurring from the day he got a vaccine might be faulty – but I have to take issue with the idea that kids only get measles for 3-4 days. Back in the pre-vaccine era, most of us were sick for close to two weeks (unless pneumonia or another measles complication supervened).

The only more foolish antivax meme than “measles wasn’t so bad” is the one that claims measles is a positive health benefit.*

*Hi, Melanie! Isn’t measles marvellous?
**Brian should go to work for Pres. Trump. Someone with a facility for creating “story-systems to understand and explain events” would fit right in at the White House.

Panacea writes (#52),

Oh, yes, because that’s so much better.

Putz.

MJD says,

When the word “conspiracy” is used as a noun, the word “plan” is an acceptable synonym.

So, in that context the phrase “conspiracy theorists” takes on a whole new meaning.

I wonder if Sadmar would agree with me?

One thing is certain, though, the glass is always half empty here at RI – especially if Denice Walter is drinking. 🙂

conspiracy theorists like us who are able to “predict” future geopolitical events nearly as well as the CIA

Does this competing-conspiracy-theory invented-narrative methodology also work for “predicting” the movements of the stockmarket? Asking for a friend.

Thompson,apparently racked with guilt over his role in DeStefano et al examining MMR vaccine uptake as a risk factor for autism, unburdened himself to Hooker.

That interpretation just isn’t consistent with the actual transcripts published in Vaccine Whsitleblower. Thompson never tells Hooker that the MMR causes autism, and actually tells him it doesn’t. That’s clearly what Hooker is after, and he makes any number of statements on that premise, in part prompts to get Thompson to agree. Thompson never takes the bait. He deflects subtly or says things Hooker will misinterpret. But he never corrects or challenges Hooker either. He just lets Hooker go on thinking what he thinks.

This is the basis of my interpretation that Thompson was playing Hooker, hoping that Hooker would use his Washington connections to make trouble for DeStefano and the other folks at the CDC against whom he was seeking revenge – primarily for personal reasons.

The closest thing the Vaxxed crew has to a ‘money quote’ from Thompson is where he says he’s ashamed, and apologizes to Hooker as a representative of ASD parents because the CDC has set back and/or dropped autism research. But this is exactly where anyone who thought the MMR could be implicated in ASD would reference that in conversation more or less automatically, and Thompson never says anything about how or why the CDC is messing up autism research, or what he thinks the CDC should be studying. Of course, Hooker thinks its the vaccines…

Because we’re only getting Thompson through the filter of Hooker and other antivaxers, what has been obscured is that Thompson co-authored several research papers that showed no links between ASD’s and vaccines AFTER the 2004 DeStafano paper, including one in 2007 on which he was lead author that gave thimerosal a pass. This study did report “a small, but statistically significant association between early thimerosal exposure and the presence of tics in boys.” However, at a CDC press briefing, Thompson said, “we interpreted it as random associations that we found by chance. In addition, for that birth to one month exposure period we found five significant associations where it looked like there was a beneficial association of higher thimerosal exposure.” So, either he had borked his own study, or he was BSing Hooker about the significance of the tics…

So, basically, the whole ‘CDC Whistleblowe’ story has been ‘Fake News’ from the get-go.

As any conspiracy theorist should know, any email stating policy must also include a picture of said author in the latest in 13 proton fashion headwear. Otherwise, it’s simply not policy.

@ Tom (currently at #55) – “All I know is that I received a vaccine when I was 9 years old in 1968 and immediately had a reaction that led to severe difficulty breathing.”

Yes, you had an allergic reaction. You would have developed allergies and asthma, regardless of any vaccine even though it was a trigger, due to your predisposing genetics.

Even Andrew Wakefield has called this fake news.

Of course Wakefield thinks this was planted to make his team look bad.

Sorcha Faal is definitely a tip off that it is fake news. However, when I did a whois on whatdoesitmean.com, it does not reveal the owner of the site anymore.

In fairness, not everyone’s buying it, though, at least not on Dr. Mount’s page.

I’m pretty sure there are some quotation marks missing here.

Even Andrew Wakefield has called this fake news.

Now I don’t know what to believe!

That interpretation just isn’t consistent with the actual transcripts published in Vaccine Whsitleblower.

When you take into account other things and the totality of what I’ve been imbibing of this manufactroversy over the years, I consider it a valid interpretation. (Have you read every document in the CDC whistleblower data dump that Ben Swann “reported on”? No? I have.)

Yes, Thompson didn’t think and has never, as far as I can tell, said that vaccines cause autism. He did, however, bear a grudge against the CDC in general, DeStefano in particular, and certain of his bosses as well. He wrote an e-mail (later published) full of anguish about having to present the DeStefano et al data to a hostile audience when he was worried about the deficiencies he perceived in it. He clearly fought with his co-authors over the decision not to include all of the unadjusted data and reacted very badly when he didn’t get his way.

The only potential correction I might make would be to change it to “tortured by anger and guilt,” because the portrait of Thompson that emerges when you combine all the documents, not just the transcripts of the four selected phone calls in Kevin Barry’s book, is one of a very angry, resentful man with a grudge and, yes, some guilt. The anger probably dominated.

Because we’re only getting Thompson through the filter of Hooker and other antivaxers

And the filter of his bosses at the CDC through their reports on him and their putting him on administrative leave when he had some sort of emotional breakdown around the time DeStefano et al was in progress. And from his own writing in the notes in the CDC whistleblower data dump. And from his own reanalyses of the data in the data dump.

Barry’s book is not the only source of data on Thompson.

Peter Westwood:
Humanity is being fed upon.

I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.

Are we sure Dan Olmsted’s actually dead? ‘Cause if the only source is Age of Autism, I’m not buying it.

Coldeyes @30:
it is a story the fully-heeled, gunnels-in-the-water, protectors of the left, needlessly streak to with a certain gleeful alacrity and excessive exuberance to objectify as fake news
What?
Anyone who writes like that had better be wearing a monocle and spats

HDB @74: Eh, I kind of enjoyed that delightfully overwrought prose, particularly in comparison to some of the piss-poor writing we’ve been seeing from our resident discontents.

Though it does remind me of when a friend of mine decided to comment all his code in the style of Gibson’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”.

a friend of mine decided to comment all his code in the style of Gibson’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”

The next step is writing routines with opposing purposes called homoousian() and homoiousian().

Anyone who writes like that had better be wearing a monocle and spats

And learn how to spell “gunwhales.”

And learn how to spell “gunwhales.”

Perhaps “gunnels-in-the-water” referred to an “eel-like blennioid fish of the family Pholidae, occurring in coastal regions of northern seas.” (See also butterfish.) That would make as much sense as the rest of his post.

@37:
At least he is up front about being full of crap. He dresses it up in a massive amount of verbiage, but openly admits to making it up as he goes along to suit the newest fad in conspira-nuttery. Trust us. This article is based upon real events. The names and loactions have been changed and the facts modified to fit our angles, err I mean to protect the identities of those involved. Well except for those dirty scientists who don’t see things the way we do. And those politicians who didn’t reply to our screeds in an appropriate manner. Oh and that journalist whop has the temerity to fact-check our statements. But other then that, it’s 100% true.. as far as the conspiracy goes.

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