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Are antivaccine groups “hate groups”? Not exactly, but the answer isn’t entirely no, either.

Recently, Dr. Peter Hotez characterized antivaccine groups as “hate groups,” and antivaxer Barbara Loe Fisher took great umbrage, accusing Dr. Hotez and the public health community of “bullying” parents of “vaccine-injured” children. Did Dr. Hotez go too far? And what about Fisher’s hypocrisy, given that Dr. Hotez has received death threats credible enough to warrant police protection and Fisher herself has sued her critics, in effect trying to bully them into silence?

One of the fixed beliefs of the antivaccine movement is that anyone who “questions” vaccines, believes that vaccines cause autism and do more harm than good, and refuses to vaccinate her child is a “persecuted” minority. Not only that, but they are the righteous minority, being persecuted by “hate groups” for their righteousness as they try to save the world’s babies from the horrors of vaccines, and the only reason that they are such a minority is because of the machinations of big pharma, the government, the medical profession, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and all of us medical blogger “pharma shills” whom our reptilian overlords pay to trash Andrew Wakefield and the antivaxers who worship him. Indeed, the way antivaxers view themselves is as the heroic underdog, the way that antivaxer Kent Heckenlively fantasizes that he’s Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, rallying the forces of Gondor for one last doomed stand in front of the Black Gate of Gondor to distract the Dark Lord Sauron’s all-seeing Eye so that the hobbits Frodo and Sam can reach the Crack of Doom to destroy the One Ring of power and save the world. On other occasions, I have encountered antivaxers who so seriously fancy themselves victims that they co-opt symbols of the persecution and slaughter of the Jews during the Holocaust. Indeed, antivaxers do love their Holocaust imagery when characterizing school vaccine mandates or any requirement that their child be vaccinated. These offensively overblown Holocaust analogies are a favorite of luminaries of the antivaccine movement ranging from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to Barbara Loe Fisher. Kent Heckenlively even once likened his plight to that of Anne Frank!

Because of this persecution complex that drives so much of what antivaxers do and believe, they often believe that they are the victims of “bullying.” I’ve described this phenomenon many times. To this, I often like to respond: “Bullying.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Earlier this week, I saw a lovely example of this trope. Sure enough, it was Barbara Loe Fisher, the grande dame of the antivaccine movement and founder of the oldest antivaccine organization that I’m aware of, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), and on Tuesday she took to YouTube to whine about the words of Dr. Peter Hotez, whom I admire so much that I like to refer to him as the Paul Offit of Texas; in other words, a very vocal, fearless, and persuasive advocate for science and vaccines. I first took note of Dr. Hotez way back in 2009, when he spoke out about antivaxers. More recently, Dr. Hotez has been active sounding the alarm about the rising rate of nonmedical “personal belief exemptions” to school vaccine in Texas and the politicization of school vaccine mandates.

Here we go:

Helpfully, Barbara Loe Fisher provides a transcript, so that I don’t have to listen to the whole thing:

Many years ago when I was having a conversation with a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) during a public engagement meeting, we explored the reasons for why public health officials and parents of vaccine-injured children were at such odds with each other. I said it was because we disagreed about the science. He said, no, it was a disagreement over values and beliefs. Recently, a physician dean at Baylor University College of Medicine made it clear that it is a lot about doctors getting off on demonizing and bullying parents of vaccine injured children.

According to an article in the Duke Chronicle, Peter Hotez, MD, PhD gave a global health lecture at Duke University in which he called on medical scientists to “engage the public” to promote more financial investment into the development of more vaccines. 1 Apparently, he also called on them to counter what he labeled as the “anti-vaccine movement,” which he believes has been “propelled” because “anti-vaccine websites exist with names such as the National Vaccine Information Center.” The article reported that Dr. Hotez castigated politicians from the “peace, love, granola” political left, who believe that “we have to be careful what we put into our kid’s bodies,” and politicians from the political right, who tell doctors like him “you can’t tell us what to do with our kids.”

Notice how Fisher frames her post. She portrays herself as the advocate of science, who thinks that the reason there is such conflict between antivaxers and public health officials is because they disagree about the science; in other words, it’s a rational argument. While there is an element of that, the CDC official was closer to the truth, because, let’s be honest, it isn’t a “disagreement” about the science that drives antivaxers. Rather, it’s a selective reading and misrepresentation of the science by them, coupled with an easy acceptance of pseudoscience, as long as that pseudoscience confirms their beliefs that vaccines cause autism and a host of other conditions, disorders, and diseases, such as diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), neurodevelopmental disorders, and the general unhealthiness they perceive in today’s children. The CDC official knew, as I know, that there really isn’t a scientific disagreement over whether the childhood vaccination schedule is safe and effective and over whether vaccines cause autism. We know that it is and they don’t. The evidence on that front has become so overwhelming that I no longer hedge when I say that vaccines dont’ cause autism by playing scientists and saying that there is no association between vaccination and autism that we have been able to detect, meaning that if there is a link it must be incredibly small, given the number of large epidemiological studies that have failed to detect it.

Here’s the disingenuous but clever part. Fisher immediately pivots from accepting that much of the source of conflict between antivaxers and the public health community is based on values, but not because of her values. Oh, no. It’s because, as she puts it, doctors “get off on demonizing and bullying parents of vaccine-injured children,” using Dr. Hotez as an example. Before looking at the rest of Fisher’s little screed, let’s take a look at the Duke Chronicle article from three weeks ago to see what Dr. Hotez actually said. What struck me first and foremost is that his speech was actually a mea culpa for the scientific and public health community:

On Monday, Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, gave the first lecture of the Victor J. Dzau Global Health Lecture Series. Hotez said he believes it is an obligation for scientists to engage the public, himself being an advocate for attention to poverty-related neglected diseases, as well as a supporter of vaccines.

As a critic of the anti-vaccine movement, Hotez’s actions have prompted a police cruiser to spend 24 hours in front of his house as protection. But he pinned some blame for the rise of the movement on the scientific community itself.

“Part of this is our fault. It’s not in [my generation of scientists’] DNA to engage the public,” Hotez said. “Eighty-one percent of Americans cannot even name a living scientist.”

I’d love to know where Dr. Hotez got that figure, as I’m a bit skeptical that the number is that high, but the point does ring true. I also fully agree that we as scientists have not been the greatest at engaging the public. Things do appear to be getting better, with more and more scientists and physicians discussing science for lay people on social media, but this is a relatively recent phenomenon, and there is as yet little in the way of academic incentives to take part in such activities.

I also can’t help but note Fisher’s hypocrisy in complaining about antivaccine parents being “bullied” by pro-vaccine scientists and doctors when those doctors routinely receive death threats, as Dr. Offit has and apparently Dr. Hotez also has, to the point where the police take it seriously enough to assign a police cruiser to protect him and his family. Now that’s bullying. That’s trying to silence someone through intimidation. Being a much lesser “luminary,” I myself have experienced a less severe form of this same tactic. For example, antivaccine “entrepreneurs” like Mike Adams has posted over 40 defamatory articles about me on his website over the course of two years, claimed to have reported me to the FBI and my state attorney general, and falsely tried to link me with an oncologist from southeast Michigan who bilked Medicare and Medicaid of tens of millions of dollars by administering unnecessary chemotherapy, in some cases. I’ll condemn doctors on “my side” if I see them going too far in criticizing the likes of Fisher or threatening antivaxers, but, quite frankly, I so rarely see anything resembling this that I can’t recall the last time I’ve had to say anything. Fisher, on the other hand, whines about being “bullied” and about Dr. Hotez’s absolutely correct characterization of the NVIC as an antivaccine group, but seems either blissfully unaware of the bully tactics on her side or OK with them.

Fisher goes on to complain:

But Dr. Hotez reserved the bulk of his venom for parents of vaccine injured children. Like a schoolyard bully who engages in name calling when he can’t come up with anything intelligent to say, he slapped the label “anti-vaccine” onto parents of vaccine injured children speaking about what happened to their children after vaccination. Then, he went further and viciously accused those parents of hating their children:

“Anti-vaccine organizations camouflage themselves as a political group, but I call them for what they really are: a hate group,” Hotez said. “They are a hate group that hates their family and hates their children.”

Reading the Duke Chronicle article, I certainly didn’t get the impression that Dr. Hotez was aiming his vitriol primarily at the parents who claim their children have been “injured” by vaccines. He attacked the antivaccine groups, like the NVIC, which, as much as Fisher denies it, is without a doubt an antivaccine group, as I’ve written about many times before. For example, the NVIC regularly accepts large donations from über-quack Joe Mercola to promote things like “Vaccine Injury Awareness Week,” to buy antivaccine ads for the CBS JumboTron in Times Square, or to air antivaccine material on Delta Airlines. On the NVIC website there is the “Vaccine Ingredient Calculator,” basically the “toxins gambit” on steroids designed to promote fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about vaccines, as well as the “Vaccine Memorial,” which purports to memorialize all the children “killed by vaccines.” Basically, the NVIC is as antivaccine as they come.

Dr. Hotez is also correct about many antivaccine groups as disguising themselves as political groups. For instance, he mentions Texans for Vaccine Choice, an antivaccine political group rooted in conservative, anti-regulation, anti-government ideology that’s been unfortunately all too successful in stymieing legislation to tighten up requirements for personal belief (i.e., nonmedical) exemptions to school vaccine mandates and or extending vaccine coverage. I’ve discussed this group several times before, and similar groups before. I will quibble with Dr. Hotez on one issue, though. He is clearly trying to bend over backwards to be “balanced” when he castigates politicians from the “peace, love, granola” political left, who believe that “we have to be careful what we put into our kid’s bodies,” and politicians from the political right, who tell doctors like him “you can’t tell us what to do with our kids.”

Although, as I’ve said many times, antivaccine beliefs are the pseudoscience that spans political ideology, with no evidence that antivaccine views are more common on the left or the right, those antivaccine groups disguised as political groups are now overwhelmingly right wing, and the loudest and most dangerous voices from the antivaccine movement virtually all come from the right. The reason is simple and not related to the prevalence of antivaccine beliefs on the left or right. It’s because antivaxers have realized that they can pitch their message of “no vaccine mandates” to conservative, anti-regulation groups and politicians, and produce a compelling message linking “vaccine choice” and “parental rights” with “freedom.” There is no equivalent alliance or messaging on the left, at least to nowhere near the same extent, other than the occasional left wing politician openly voicing antivaccine rhetoric. In the process, many of these conservative groups, which were not antivaccine before, become antivaccine. It’s been an unfortunately wildly successful strategy, and “freedom,” “parental choice,” and “no mandates” have become antivaccine dog whistles. Indeed, I like to quote a libertarian senator, Rand Paul, on the issue of school vaccine mandates: “The state doesn’t own the children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.”

I do also have to admit that I’m a bit uncomfortable with Dr. Hotez’s labeling antivaccine groups as “hate groups.” My reason is not because I object to comparing some antivaccine groups to hate groups. Given the well-documented manner in which antivaxers compare pro-vaccine advocates to Nazis and fantasize about meting out retributive “justice” to them once “they” are proven correct and vaccines proven to be the horrific toxic waste that antivaxers portray them as, I can see the parallels. However,I do not believe that antivaxers hate their family or hate children, at least not in general. I do believe that there is an element of disgust and disappointment in all too antivaccine parents that their child is not “normal.” Disappointment is normal, but many of these parents, such as the ones who subject their children to “autism biomed” quackery that includes treatments as abusive as chelation therapy, bogus stem cell treatments, chemical castration, and even bleach enemas in the name of “recovering” their “real” child. On second thought, Dr. Hotez might just have a point here.

Of course, what really appears to have pissed off Barbara Loe Fisher is that Dr. Hotez criticized the NVIC directly in no uncertain terms:

In an email, he expanded on his personal feelings about the non-profit charity, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), founded by parents of DPT vaccine injured children, who have worked for 36 years to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and to secure informed consent protections in vaccine policies and laws. He said:

“The National Vaccine Information Center, is the National Vaccine Misinformation Center. It’s a phony website designed to intimidate and spread false and misleading information about vaccines. The NVIC is an important driver of the antivaxer movement and one that places children’s sic in harm’s way to perpetuate its twisted ideology.’”

I can’t disagree with a single word of Dr. Hotez here. I’ll admit that the NVIC didn’t start out as antivaccine. Indeed, Barbara Loe Fisher is to be commended for her work with Congress in the 1980s to help pass the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which set up the Vaccine Court to handle claims of vaccine injury. However, sometime, beginning in the 1990s or so, and accelerating since the turn of the millenium, the NVIC has become increasingly antivaccine, until today it is as antivaccine as such groups come, with Barbara Loe Fisher herself invoking Nazi and Holocaust analogies in castigating vaccine mandates, or, as I put it, Nazis, Nazis, everywhere, all wanting to vaccinate your child. As for the NVIC’s advocacy of “informed consent,” it’s really the advocacy for what I like to call “misinformed consent,” in which “consent” is based on a warped, twisted version of reality in which antivaccine misinformation paints a picture of vaccines as so dangerous and ineffective that consent based on that misinformation would be rational if parents don’t know any more.

As for “hate group,” Fisher opines:

In his interview for the Duke newspaper, Dr. Hotez chose to use the word “hate” four times in two sentences when he defamed the National Vaccine Information Center by calling it a “hate group.” Branding an organization a “hate group” is not an inconsequential action, morally or legally.

In the 21st century, the term “hate group” is most frequently used to describe groups of individuals associated with “hate crimes,” which are defined by state laws and include threats, harassment or physical harm. Hate crimes are motivated by prejudice against someone’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability. 11

Dr. Hotez didn’t call the NVIC a “hate group,” at least not alone. He referred to antivaccine groups in general as “hate groups” and mentioned NVIC in that context. There’s a difference Still, Fisher founded the NVIC; so I understand her fixating on his mentioning of her group. However, let me just point out that at least one aspect of a hate group that antivaccine groups do meet, namely threats, harassment, or physical harm. I then point out that police cruiser keeping watch over Dr. Hotez’s home 24/7 because the police clearly believe that threats of physical harm made by antivaxers against Dr. Hotez and his family are credible. I also note the multiple instances of threats made against Dr. Offit. Dr. Hotez was probably a bit too liberal with the use of the term “hate group,” but he did have a point. I also realize that Dr. Hotez has an autistic child himself, and, to antivaxers, parents of autistic children who do not believe that vaccines caused their child’s autism and passionately say so are viewed even more as enemies tha “run-of-the-mill” vaccine advocates.

As for “bullies,” let’s look at Barbara Loe Fisher herself, given that she’s been known to use a bit of legal intimidation herself in the form of a dubious libel suit (which was dismissed), just like her hero, the guru of the modern day antivaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield. Barbara Loe Fisher likes to cry “Bully!” and “Intimidation!” while she and other antivaxers portray themselves as “dissidents,” but in the end, those cries appear to be a case of projection, and her fellow antivaxers are just as much into intimidation as she is. Heck, some of them even bullied a bunch of high school students who had the temerity to make a pro-vaccine documentary.

And I haven’t even gotten into the violent rhetoric antivaxers direct at their opponents with disturbing frequency.

By Orac

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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.

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159 replies on “Are antivaccine groups “hate groups”? Not exactly, but the answer isn’t entirely no, either.”

From my article on Science-Based Medicine ( )

Barbara Loe Fisher is the Co-Founder and President of NVIC. In a keynote presentation at the Health Freedom Congress, Fisher said:

“Vaccination is a medical procedure that has been elevated to a sacrosanct status by those in control of the medical-model based health care system for the past two centuries. Vaccination is now being proclaimed as the most important scientific discovery and public health intervention in the history of medicine.

“Using religious symbols and crusading language, medical scientists describe vaccination as the Holy Grail. Vaccines, they say, are going to eradicate all causes of sickness and death from the earth and anyone who doubts that is an ignorant fool.

“In the 21st century, if you refuse to believe that vaccination is a moral and civic duty and dare to question vaccine safety or advocate for the legal right to decline one or more government recommended vaccines, you are in danger of being branded an anti-science heretic, a traitor and a threat to the public health. You are viewed as a person of interest who deserves to be humiliated, silenced and punished for your dissent. (Fisher, 2014. Available at:–Defending-Your-Right-to-Know-and-Free.aspx ).”

Really? Scientists are saying vaccines will wipe out “all causes of sickness and death”? Does this even sound rational? And those refusing vaccines “[are] being branded . . . anti-science heretic, a traitor and a threat to the public health. . . viewed as a person of interest who deserves to be humiliated, silenced and punished for [their] dissent.” Well, yes they are anti-science; but it sounds to me like the psychological defense mechanism of projection, that is, projecting undesirable feelings, emotions, or behaviors onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with one’s own unwanted feelings/behaviors, coupled with paranoid conspiracy fantasies.

Indeed. As you point out, Barbara Loe Fisher has been at this a long time. She’s been playing the persecuted “truth teller” since I first encountered her around 11 years ago; so I assume that she’s been doing it even longer. It’s her shtick.

“You are viewed as a person of interest who deserves to be humiliated, silenced and punished for your dissent.” This is coming from one who cannot tolerate a contrary assertion (aka facts) to one’s alternative reality. I know this from experience.

I’m also not comfortable in describing the parents as hating their children. Even parents using biomed – while some may acting out of disdain, others have been convinced that they are doing what their child needs, I think, and are still acting with good intent – today there appears to be a serious apparatus in place to sell them these ideas, complete with presentations convincing to a lay person, testimonials, and online social networks of believers that can mislead even well intentioned parents.

But as you point out, anger and hatred seem to be a driving force in the movement, and somewhat of a glue, too.

As usual, I couldn’t have said it better than Dorit. I think it’s best to apply Hanlon’s razor to the antivax crowd as far as their attitudes to their families are concerned. Ignorance is a better explanation for their failure to act in the best interests of their children than is malice. And emotional claims to the contrary feed the antivax narrative that pit doctors and scientists in a battle against genuinely loving parents. It is certainly possible to love your son or daughter and to simultaneously be stupid. We should focus on remedying the latter; throwing shade on the former will make it only more difficult to addressing that deficiency. Dr. Hotez is doing no one any favors.

As they say, it’s a fine line between love and hate sometimes. Antivaxers love their children, but so many of them try so hard to “fix” them through “autism biomed” as outrageously abusive as chemical castration, bleach enemas, and chelation therapy that one does have to wonder whether there is an element of hate there too. That being said, I don’t think it’s appropriate to call antivax groups hate groups per se. In that, Dr. Hotez went a bit too far. However, I do think that he had a point in that there is a lot of hatred driving antivaccine groups, hence the title of my post. I also think that Barbara Loe Fisher is gleefully taking advantage of Dr. Hotez’s statement to play the victim, something that she excels at.

This is somewhat understandable in that these parents believe passionately (against all evidence) that vaccines caused their children serious harm, and it is natural to hate the people whom you blame for your child’s plight. That explains a lot of the anger, death threats, and revenge fantasies. However, it is not too hard to see in at least some parents that hatred being internalized and/or directed at their children. How many times do we see antivaxers claim that vaccines “stole” their child, as though the autistic child is not their “real” child? It’s not too hard to imagine some of these parents starting to hate.

IMHO they don’t hate their kids, they resent their kids, which I’ll come back to in a moment (item 4 below).

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around antivaxism for years, and the best explanation I can come up with is:

1) It’s a true phobia, not terribly different to fear of flying.

But unlike airplane-phobia, there are not incontrovertible statistics (crash deaths per million passenger miles or whatever) to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that it is wholly irrational. Every airplane crash makes big news, any sane person recognizes that they are very rare occurrences. But autism diagnoses are far more common, and the causal mechanisms are still unclear. The absence of a clear and incontrovertible causal mechanism puts fearful parents’ brains on pattern-seeking overdrive, where spurious correlation is far more likely, in a manner analogous to supernatural superstitious fears that are assuaged with magical “explanations” and magical rituals.

2) It uses social reinforcement of the phobia to become a complete subculture.

Antivaxers were far fewer in number until they were able to connect on the internet. Their groups stoke the phobic syndrome with emotional reinforcement, and provide anecdotes that support the spurious correlations. They also produce epistemic closure in their members, with “meme vaccines” about evil scientists, big pharma, etc., that “immunize” them against actual facts and reasoned arguments. And, they provide a desperately-needed sense of community for parents struggling to take care of kids with disabilities that are quasi-taboo to discuss openly and casually in other social contexts.

3) If the above assessment is correct, then we might expect that science-minded people who have overcome irrational phobias such as fear of flying, via cognitive/behavioral means alone (without medication such as beta-blockers), could have relevant and helpful insights. Former phobics may be able to help antivaxers overcome their vax-phobia. This will be more productive if it includes a reinforcing social context that provides a sense of community, similar to peer counseling support that helps recovering substance abusers stay clean.

Possible strategy: support groups for parents of autistic kids, under the auspices of legit medical centers such as Kaiser Permanente, that include people who have overcome phobias. About which more under (5) below.

Also, parodies of rationalized phobias may be useful in “immunizing” people against antivax memes, for example “there are ten times as many airplane crashes as get reported, and they’re covered up by a secret airline conspiracy.” Elaborate on the theme with websites, testimonials, obviously faked photos (“rapid construction of new hotel on site of covered-up plane crash”), etc., to attract ridicule that will spread to encompass the phobia-rationalizing of antivaxers.

4) About resentment: Here I’m defining hate as pathological chronic ill will (wishes of harm) toward another person, such as occurs in racism. Clearly that’s not what’s going on with the vast majority of anti-vax parents.

Instead what we see looks like a combination of normal parental love with chronic frustration and anger in a relationship that can’t be escaped (unlike an abusive spousal relationship), plus some measure of self-pity, and enormous cognitive dissonance between “love of one’s child” and “chronic frustration and frequent anger toward one’s child.” That complex stew of contradictory emotions produces bitterness and a sense of unfairness, and taken together all of it is what I’m referring to as a resentment syndrome.

Much of interpersonal interaction is emotion-sharing and most of that is unacknowledged or implicit: “here, feel what I’m feeling” and “can I feel some of what you’re feeling?” and so on. The resentful parent can’t openly and directly give their kid a dose of their own emotional stew, but they can give the kid an unacknowledged dose via “treatments” that are painful and in some cases overtly hazardous. At root this is emotion-sharing behavior: “here, have some of my pain.” It also gives the parent an option to express sadness & grief over the child’s pain (bleach enema >> crying kid >> crying parent >> “I know you don’t like it but I have to do this” as rationale, etc.).

The situation ratchets up if the parent has nowhere else to express those feelings without being subjected to shame, or if the parent expresses them in a context that reinforces the vax-phobia, such as anti-vax social groups.

5) If (4) is correct, then a social context that provides a community of interest in which parents can express their resentments and get peer support for overcoming them (or not acting them out behaviorally toward their kids), will provide a better solution than concealment or reinforcement.

That type of community or social context shouldn’t make “fighting anti-vaxers” an “agenda” item or stated goal, it should simply seek to offer parents a safe place to express their resentment and get help overcoming it. But even in that context, parents who experience benefits, may also begin to lose their susceptibility to anti-vax memes. And of course, any such social groups can respond to anti-vax memes when they come up, by dismissing them and not giving them reinforcement (a simple reference to “that was started by an ex-doctor named Wakefield who was found guilty of medical fraud for it,” and then move on rather than pay more attention to it).

6) The right-wing connection: even simpler, the extreme right is politically powerful at the moment, so it attracts those who are seeking support for other positions that are not intrinsic to it.

Not long ago, anti-vaxism was roughly equally distributed across the political spectrum. The Trump presidency has made it expedient for antivaxers to espouse rightwing ideology by way of seeking more members and associating themselves with political power.

If Bernie Sanders’ left-wing populism had won out instead of Donald Trump’s right-wing populism, antivaxers would be trying to mold themselves to fit the political left. This is testable by examining antivax rhetoric in politically left areas such as the San Francisco Bay Area, certain cities in the northwest, left-populist areas such as much of Vermont, etc.

To my mind our best countermove to the politicization of antivaxism, is to fight the antivax rhetoric with politically-consistent provax language on both the right and the left, and rhetoric that is neither left nor right but can’t be rejected by either side.

Is any of this useful?

@Gray Squirrel:

But unlike airplane-phobia, there are not incontrovertible statistics (crash deaths per million passenger miles or whatever) to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that it is wholly irrational.

But there ARE incontrovertible statistics, in the form of many, many studies with large sample sizes that have consistently failed to demonstrate any causal link between vaccines and autism. The largest meta-analysis investigating the hypothesised vaccine-autism link (“Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies”, Luke E. Taylor, Amy L. Swerdfeger, Guy D. Eslic, DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.04.085) had an aggregate sample size of over 1.2 million children, giving it tremendous statistical power. And of course, as you can see from the title of the paper, it failed to find any evidence of a link between vaccines and autism. That basically means that if there actually is a link, it is an extremely weak and tenuous one.

Of course there are other studies that try to show the opposite link, but unlike the studies that failed to show a link, they are all invariably of poor quality, with small sample sizes, and dubious designs, and often fatal flaws.

The fact that these statistics aren’t as easy for the layperson to understand as aeroplane crash statistics is the problem, but then again, the phenomenon of autism is much more complex than an aeroplane crash.

Actually, I think that a lot of antivaccine sentiments with parents stem from their protective instincts and love towards their children — vaccinating a child is not a pleasant experience for anyone involved, and deliberately hurting or upsetting a child simply feels wrong. I think that the vast majority of people wince at seeing their kid poked with a needle, and feel sorry for the child, because it doesn’t understand why it is being hurt. It only takes a little bit of FUD-mongering (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) to make people question if they’re doing the right thing. So no, parents are not to blame, even if they strongly believe that anything bad that befell their child was caused by vaccines.

The problem is that antivaccine groups are to be blamed for spreading the aforementioned FUD, often (ab)using all sorts of strong emotional mechanisms to do so – just look at arbitrary antivaccine Web sites, rife with anecdotes about happy, healthy children, allegedly crippled or even killed by Evil Vaccines. And yes, the proponents of vaccination are often accused of being heartless brutes for not taking parents of ‘vaccine-injured’ children seriously and even hating them (no doubt you’ve encountered this yourself countless times — I know I have). This is a very nasty way to polarize the discussion, because of course vaccine proponents sympathize with parents if something bad happens to their child; we just disagree about the cause. This is all the nastier because those parents are implicitly blamed for vaccinating and thus damaging their child, and indeed they often feel guilty (which of course is totally unjustified); anything that removes that burden of guilt should be welcomed, but the antivaccine crowd does the exact opposite by blaming and fighting the ones who try to convey the message that no-one really is to blame…

Unfortunately, the scientific side is even more at a disadvantage here for not having emotional tools at their disposal, as science is explicitly supposed to look at the cold facts, devoid of emotion. At best, one can point out that vaccination saves countless children and their families from unmentionable grief, but even that is far more abstract and emotionally remote than just one scaremongering FB post describing a child that supposedly got autism from being vaccinated. So I guess the best course of action is to keep fighting those organized antivaccine groups, while at the same time express understanding and compassion towards actual people who believe that vaccines caused their child’s health problems.

Orac, I agree with your suggestion ( i.e. fighting the antivaccine groups while showing compassion to the parents)
BUT the problem is that the groups are run by unhappy parents who then label us as haters. If I critique Kim’s/ BLF’s message, I am then anti-woman and anti-parent I suppose.

There’s got to be a way: I observe that you tread carefully but when you are quoted they leave your understanding and care out.

@Denice Walter
Um, I’m not Orac … but yes, it is tricky to both fight antivaccine activism and express respect and compassion towards the people who practice such activism, often out of erroneous beliefs. The only way I can think of is to keep repeating the message that yes, it is tragic what sometimes happens to children, but to also stand firm in the notion that vaccines aren’t the cause. Ands perhaps emphasize that this also means that the burden of guilt is lifted from parents who believe that they hurt their child by having it vaccinated.

I get your point about parental distress about kids in pain from being poked with needles.

Question: why not use some kind of pain medication to make that a painless experience?

For example do whats done in dentistry: rub in a topical analgesic such as novocaine, followed by a quick shot of novocaine where the vaccine will be administered. Maybe a little nitrous oxide to make the kid sleepy and detached. Yes all of this takes longer, but if it results in a smiling kid who giggles about being “tickled” by the shots, that will go a long way toward making anxious parents more comfortable.

Some MD ought to try this in their practice and then write up the results for a journal article.

Sure, they’re being bullied.

Or similarly, @ kimrossi1111:
in response to NYT’s “women should be heard” on International Women’s Day last week:
” Except women w vaccine injured autistic kids. We are not heard or printed unless ridicule & denial. Right Gray Pharma Lady?”

Everyone who disagrees with anti-vax isn’t a misogynist.

“The National Vaccine Information Center, is the National Vaccine Misinformation Center. It’s a phony website designed to intimidate and spread false and misleading information about vaccines. The NVIC is an important driver of the antivaxer movement and one that places children’s sic in harm’s way to perpetuate its twisted ideology.” I could not have said it better myself!

Unfortunately, with the death of Stephen Hawking, I wouldn’t be surprised at all that the number of people who couldn’t name a living scientist is 83%. My guess is that if a survey were taken today asking “Name one living scientist”, the name most frequently listed would be Dr. Oz, and that should actually count as a negative one rather than a zero.

BLF: “Recently, a physician dean at Baylor University College of Medicine made it clear that it is a lot about doctors getting off on demonizing and bullying parents of vaccine injured children.”

No, it couldn’t possibly be that a physician (who has an autistic child himself) is appalled at the rhetoric of antivax groups and is calling them out for that reason. Instead, he’s just “getting off on demonizing and bullying” them.

It clear who’s actually doing the demonizing.

What all too often gets lost in history is that Barbara Loe Fisher and the NVIC are the products of a criminally irresponsible 1982 documentary called DTP: Vaccine Roulette, hosted by the ‘Mother’ of the Anti-Vaccination movement reporter Lea Thompson, who was rewarded with an Emmy for her malpractice.

The details can be read on both the Vaxopedia

And Plos One in a very nice article by Seth Mnookin

Which reveals the origin of the NVIC:

“In the days after “Vaccine Roulette” aired, Thompson’s employer (WRC-TV,) provided callers with the phone numbers of other people who’d also called looking for more information about negative information regarding vaccines — and in doing so, helped create the modern-day anti-vaccine movement. Among the parents who met in the days after the airing of “Vaccine Roulette” was Barbara Loe Fisher, who soon formed a group with the Orwellian moniker the National Vaccine Information Center.”

But very few people seem to be aware of how she got started in the 1980s, though of course many anti-vaxxers and even the Thinking Moms Revolution have praised DTP: Vaccine Roulette (Which can be found easily enough with a YouTube search.) as being the ‘first warning’ of the dangers of vaccines. The film really needs a modern skeptical review, though from what I’ve read it’s really no different from Vaxxed in it’s use of manipulative interviews and carefully selected ‘experts’.

I’ve had my own suspicions, which I will stress I cannot prove, about what lies behind that film. Towards the end of the 1970s, you had the Dalkon Shield affair, in which a badly designed contraceptive device caused pain and suffering for a large number of women. It also resulted in massive class action suits and payouts.

It also provided a model for the unscrupulous to make a quick and easy profit, run a scare campaign on a widely used product, sign up frightened parents into a class lawsuit and profit via the lawyers fees. Certainly this is what appears to have been going on with Silicone Breast Implants in the late 1980s, where the science only caught up with the scare campaign after the money had been paid out. And it’s definitely the case with Andrew Wakefield.

And you are mistaken about there being no ‘messaging on the left’ on anti-vaccine issues, it does exist, but it’s aimed at a different audience, ‘freedom’ ‘parental rights’, etc are all fine for the white folks. The left focus their anti-vaccine rhetoric at African-Americans, and it’s more along the ‘vaccines are a conspiracy to sterilize the black race’ lines than anything else and of course if you try and debunk that kind of rhetoric, you will be bombarded by people calling you a racist for doing so.

[The Dalkon Shield Affair] provided a model for the unscrupulous to make a quick and easy profit, run a scare campaign on a widely used product, sign up frightened parents into a class lawsuit and profit via the lawyers fees.

You just perfectly outlined what Andrew Wakefield and Richard Barr tried to do with MMR.

I don’t know if this will go to the right place but it is a reply to racist-vaccine conspiracy theory – no reply was available where this was posited.

I’ve heard about this – that vaccines, etc. are a conspiracy against black people. But here we can make an important point about political asymmetry. The ‘health freedom’ and ‘owning one’s children’ rhetoric is firmly within the mainstream of contemporary conservatism in the U.S.A., but ‘vaccines as racist conspiracy’ rhetoric, while it definitely exists, is highly marginal within even the far-left.

It’s almost like mainstream conservatism is objectively nuttier than far-leftism! I’ve seen mainstream American conservatism come more and more to resemble the nuttiest, most reactive, most out-there left-wing rhetoric (neither standard-issue liberal centrism nor socialism). I’ve even started hypothesizing causal relations between them.

When anti-vaxxers excuse and justify abuse and even murder of autistic children via their quackery, “hate” doesn’t seem to harsh a word. I think they love the idea of the children more than their actual children — as they don’t think their autistic child is their “real” child. If you consider a hate group one that has an organized aim of doing away with a group of people considered “inferior” they certainly meet that criteria.

Hotez has got it right, IMO.
Calling out Bab’s NVIC anti-vaccine death cult scam is the right thing to do.

Barbara Loe Fisher’s NVIC depends nearly exclusively on raw VAERS data as evidence of vaccine injury causality to scare their readers off of vaccines by not informing them that the VAERS reports in no way constitute a report of causality. Her/NVIC’s dishonest VAERS portal conveniently does not list the VAERS data disclaimer:
nor the in depth guide to how to interpret the data:

which list warning after warning not to use the data as evidence of causality and requiring you to click a button acknowledging that you have read and understood the disclaimers about the data.
I wonder why that might be, don’t you?
I wonder if it is because the only data she seems to be able to produce in her attempt to impugn the safety of the vaccines is a listing of the VAERS reports – which are completely useless for that purpose as stated by the VAERS site itself.
It doesn’t get much more dishonest than Babs Low Fisher.
Babs is also so sleazy and evil that she tries to impugn vaccines by telling vulnerable young parents that they cause ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’:
“Barb Loe, NVIC

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) often a false diagnosis really caused by vaccines…
Yeah, Babs is a real sweetheart and honest as the day is long (/sarc)

I think if someone like Barbara Loe Fisher told me the sky was blue, I’d go out and check.

Mothers should get their medical information from their physician and recognised experts. Why would they risk their baby’s health by taking advice from unknown crackpots on the internet with who-knows-what agenda – perhaps they are just crazy sociopaths with 213 cats?

Respectful Insolence could be considered a “hating group” in that it’s a social group (i.e., Blog) that practices hostility towards a designated member of society (e.g., parent who questions the safety of some vaccines and has a child with an ASD).

There’s so much hate from Orac and his minions that said parent (i.e., MJD) is banned from writing or commenting about the “anti-vaccine contortions” posting cited above.

@ Orac,

After ten years of commenting at RI, prove you don’t hate this “designated member of society” and immediately acknowledge that MJD is one of Orac’s minions and will no longer be in auto-moderation.

Narad writes,

…you insipid, whiny little shit.

MJD says,

Calm down, angry RI friend.

Q. Why do amicable people use a nym instead of their proper name.
A. Humbleness

But angry Narad-friend only speaks the truth, y’know? Maybe if you toned down the self-righteous god complex from an 11 down to maybe a 5 then people’d actually take you seriously. Putting yourself up on a pedestal only shows more people just how much you’re actually a living garbage bag of conspiracies.

Michael, any hatred coming your way you have brought upon yourself. You’re not disliked because you have an autistic child, or even because you have a crank view.

You’re disliked because you behave badly. Consistently.

And lo, I return from an extensive commenting hiatus just in time to see this execrable self-righteous irony.

I am somehow both glad to see, MJD, that you have gained neither intelligence nor experience in my absence, but also saddened by said lack of wit, tact, or any logic whatsoever still tainting the threads of this blog.

I also fully agree that we as scientists have not been the greatest at engaging the public. Things do appear to be getting better, with more and more scientists and physicians discussing science for lay people on social media, but this is a relatively recent phenomenon

If there were some way that the truth could resonate more strongly than the falsehoods in social media. Overcoming the filter bubble effect is not going to be easy. Is it enough to simply be open about presenting what you do?

Seeing vaccine refusal and anti-vaccine sentiment increase dramatically in the last 15 years, I agree that NVIC does not care for children’s health–increasing vaccine-preventable disease a death through their anti-vaccine activities. The NVIC just suffered a loss legislatively in New Hampshire where they tried to get a bill passed that would have removed tetanus from the list of vaccines required for school entry (making NH the first state to do so). The bill was defeated only 200 to 80, which means 80 legislators in NH, thanks in part to the heavy lobbying by the NVIC of those legislators, were dumb enough not to see how insanely dangerous this bill was. Who in their right mind wants children to be unprotected against tetanus? The NVIC does, and the NVIC would care less if they increased tetanus rates through their actions. Further, one could argue this bill was a backhanded way to get kids out of the DTaP requirement since you can’t give pertussis vaccine except as part of the DTaP for kids, so parents who didn’t want their kids to be protected against tetanus could have petitioned not to receive DTaP. I’m sure the NVIC could give a crap less about babies dying from pertussis, as they clearly haven’t in the past given a damn about all the infants who’ve died in the California pertussis outbreaks of 2010 and 2014. Nope, instead the NVIC would dance in the streets if no one vaccinated and deny all culpability for the consequences.

How does the NVIC get to claim non-profit status given the amount of politic lobbying they do anyhow?

Dr. Hotez rocks. I wish bigger groups would call out the NVIC for what they are, which is a bunch of anti-vaccine disease spreaders–if they did perhaps so many parents wouldn’t be fooled by BLF and her cronies.

Dr. Hickie, I wonder if that stupid stunt wasn’t specifically to get DTaP removed from the schedule via the tetanus requirement. It would then be the door opened to getting more vaccines removed. Did anyone bother to mention that tetanus was part of the DTaP jab? How could 80 numpties justify a yea vote?

It is disturbing that 80 elected officials voted for this. What’s also disturbing is (best as I can tell) there wasn’t any public lobbying from the pro-vaccine side to make sure this bill wouldn’t pass. With the exception of people like Drs. Hotez, Offit and Orac, I see basically nothing from the pro-vax side publicly pushing back against these horribly vial anti-vax groups. The AAP refuses to show any spine (as does the AAFP and AMA), nor will state vaccine advocacy groups do anything either. And then all the academics will sit around at conferences and wonder why more and more parents aren’t vaccinating. Well, no sh*t, Sherlock–if all parents see is the lies from NVIC, Mercola, Natural News, Green Med, etc with no call outs from the other side….well I’d be convinced not to vaccinate as well.

How does the NVIC get to claim non-profit status given the amount of politic lobbying they do anyhow?

The strict § 501(c)(3) prohibition is about specific candidates. Lobbying is a murkier issue.

They also claim to be an educational advocacy organization. 501(c)(3)’s are specifically allowed to educate.

The only problem is, it also allows these organizations to spread misinformation tax free. The IRS is not in the business of deciding what truth means.

That reminds me… last I checked, Kim had failed to timely file AoA’s Form 990, now that Dan’s gone.

The ‘Blog’ doesn’t hate you, Mikey. Most of us here (well, me, and I admit I may be projecting) just think you’re obsessed and resistant to facts. Also, speaking as one who has read your book (well, one of your books), I can also say that your writing skills are also lacking. But hate is a really strong word. I’d say ‘indifferent’ or perhaps ‘annoyed’.

I don’t speak for our host, of course, but I note that every time I’ve seen him set you free of any restraints, you have spouted copious amounts of crap about your fetish. A less patient man would have banned you outright years ago for ignoring instructions. I know I would have.

However, maybe our host does hate you. By letting you post your silly comments, he’s helping you poison your Google juice. Hmmm…. I have to think about that.

I use Bing and MJD’s first 2 pages don’t look all that bad:
with the exception of an RI post and the Encyclopaedia of American Loons piece ( not at the top of the list), it shows loads of books and articles authored and features an auto bio sketch.

It might look ((shudder)) legit to the uninformed.

@ Denice Walters,

I’m in Florida writing a biography for a 90 year old missionary woman who is legally blind, hard of hearing, and has seven stents that support her beating heart. She also was a Registered nurse who spent much of her life helping the needy in the poorest and most dangerous parts of the world. She’s pro-vaccine…

Can’t wait to present the book here at RI, it’s 90% complete.

Here’s the marketing paragraph,

As communication technologies such as smart phones, computers, and artificial intelligence become more prevalent in the 21st century, Christian missionary work may be on the verge of extinction. The operation of sending a person to a foreign country to promote Christianity is rapidly being displaced with online ministry. From a historical perspective, this book provides the biography of June M. Dunn who was a Christian missionary and professional Nurse in Haiti, Honduras, Guam, Russia, Saigon, Saipan, Switzerland, and Thailand. June’s Christian upbringing, healthcare training, and an unwavering trust in God’s plan allowed her to persevere and flourish. Throughout this book, many personal stories describe inspiring, comical, and sometimes frightening aspects of missionary work. At the beginning of several chapters there are quotes, pictures, and paintings used to illustrate her amazing life story. With respect and reverence to those who provided Christian missionary outreach, this book is a heartwarming account of a missionary worker that effectively used her religious faith and advanced healthcare training to improve the human condition for many in need.

If I get respectful insolence for this volunteer effort your hate for MJD deserves instant auto-moderation.

Wouldn’t you agree, Orac?

I am so enraged by this abuse of actual science that I confess to not being able to read the entire (excellent) Orac commentary.

I’m an editor and writer of grant proposals in the life sciences (among other activities) and immediately reject anyone who engages in foregone conclusions (“vaccine-injured” being the principal one–evidence for which is what?) or who is sloppy about punctuation. “Vaccine-injured” is an adjective, people. Please respect our beautiful and precise language even though I am not faultless about such pedantic issues at times.

I’ve mentioned this in other posts so don’t want to be tedious. The clue to a fundamental antagonism towards real science is a complete disregard for the language of science. If you have to make things up and create your own terms, there is no argument for being on equal footing with the standard nomenclature or the accepted understanding of a term or concept. It’s basically an epistemological matter. As Henry James so famously said, style is the man. Your language reflects the integrity of your mind–what you know, what you understand, how you frame your understanding of reality..

Alternet has a good article this week on the giveaway signs of an authoritarian mentality. These anti-vax people check most of those boxes. Highly recommended for any of you with spare time. I’m not a huge fan of that site, but it’s one of the better alternative ones.

And to you arrogant people who unquestioningly accept the notion that children are vaccine-injured with no evidence whatever to demonstrate that, please go back to eighth grade and refresh your understanding of the scientific method and the meaning of the word “evidence.”.

those antivaccine groups disguised as political groups are now overwhelmingly right wing, and the loudest and most dangerous voices from the antivaccine movement virtually all come from the right … It’s because antivaxers have realized that they can pitch their message of “no vaccine mandates” to conservative, anti-regulation groups and politicians, and produce a compelling message linking “vaccine choice” and “parental rights” with “freedom.”

Scammers go where the money is, and right-wing voters have been trained to bring out their credit cards when they’re shown a conspiracy card.

Not to forget the power of crank magnetism. Some barmpot who’s already turned off their brains and embraced climate-change denial, evolution denial, and the other shibboleths of rightwing politics is a natural-born sucker for the antivax grifters as well.

They fly their libertarian flag very high–as though that absolves them of responsibility to adhere to basic principles of scientific soundness.

I am really, really tired of seeing the word “hate” thrown around interchangeably with the more rational (and adult) term “critical.”

No, people who correct your misguided misconceptions/lies/distortions don’t “hate” you. We are not ten years old and throwing sand in each other’s faces on the playground. Grownups who have an actual education can strenuously disagree with the uninformed opinions of dogmatists and ideologues. It’s called exercising one’s critical and rational faculties and countering lies and entrenched delusions with facts.

If you are still stuck in the playground mentality, however, It must provide some kind of comfort to address a facts-vs.-lies challenge by name-calling (everybody HATES me wah-wah!!) in toddler fashion. So far that seems to be working for you. Never let the facts interfere with your prejudices and delusions, I guess. If you ever evolve to the level of adult discourse, this might become an interesting discussion. Not holding my breath……….

Sorry…seriously misplaced comment that was meant as a reply to some “hater” entity higher up in the thread.

We are not ten years old and throwing sand in each other’s faces on the playground

I’m too tired to find the whole thing at the moment, so a panel will have to suffice.

@ Sara,

Q. What is the defining essence of Respectful Insolence.
A. It’s better to loath than to hate.

Now that’s adult conversation.

Speaking as someone who ran an animal rescue group for fifteen years…..The IRS oversight of 501 (c) (3) groups is an absolute joke. I do not kid nor hyperbolize at all about this. Two groups here collected about $50,000 worth of donations and then literally skipped out of town. The state regulatory structure could do nothing because both were IRA-registered charities and there were bureaucratic/jurisdictional issues.

Please be very careful where you put your money into animal charities. Insist that they give you their filing documents. I’ve had trouble getting shady orgs to give me this stuff. It can be hard. I’ve talked to the IRS about these enforcement issues, and their excuse is always the same whiny-whiny bullshit: we don’t have the manpower.

A much more serious issue for physicians and clinicians who are dealing with the opioid crisis is this: :Several years ago I ran across a large animal charity that had some kind of agreement with to a compounding pharmacy in New Jersey. Get this: this person was shipping huge bottles of burprenorphine–a controlled substance–to people on the board through this compounding pharmacy. This was a few months before the compounding crisis blew up because of meningitis contamination. Not only that….This person was shipping penicillin–UNREFRIGERATED–through the mail to various members of that board.

From my conversations with that person, it became clear that he was using that pharmacy to supply his own addiction.

I talked to the local Diversionary Task Force of the DEA about this. They were completely useless. The agent I spoke to was untrained and ignorant. This does not inspire any confidence at all in their ability to stop this. So….I guess this is cautionary.

Sorry, corrections and followup info…..Both were registered IRS charities, and the IRS people pled inability to enforce for lack of manpower. I do not believe that for one second. They can go after someone for $0.10 of unpaid income tax but don’t have the ability to shut down fake churches and charities pulling in hundreds of millions? Puh-leeze…Gag me with a giant spoon. Someone is being paid to look the other way.

I think some supplement manufacturers hiding behind fake charities and many of these quackeroonys have probably cut some kind of deal for their tax-exempt status. We’re into conspiracy territory here, but that’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Many of these companies are clearly in violation of FTC and FDA standards, yet they continue to operate. Cui bono?

Paid or not to look the other way, I’d wagger that churches & charity that size can afford to rent an entire faculty of law at an ivy league university…


Scientology. Case closed, really.

For decades the IRS has backed off organizations that can afford good lawyers to string out a case and exhaust its budget with endless motions and appeals. The shysters all know how to play that game and are equally aware that the IRS must pick its battles and let some good ones be lost for lack of resources.

A danger sign I see is that supplement manufacturers/quacks/dangerous non-treatment peddlers are borrowing from the tobacco industry playbook. So are many other very shady players. The tobacco industry paid good money to deceive the public for many decades. Why pay to reinvent the wheel when someone else has already done the slick, lying groundwork for you?

I also think they are getting much craftier about hiding their tactics. They have created science-y-sounding front groups that the average person will accept at face value. This is everywhere. I’ve been shocked at how credulous even legitimate researchers can be in failing to examine some of these very iffy groups.

My husband is a neuroscientist looking at circadian timing in cancer stem cells, and I’ve had to stop him and his PhD students several times now from submitting to crap journals based on superficials available on the web.

Having said that, though, I’m a bit disenchanted with Barrett and Quackwatch lately. I think he has slacked off.

Oversight is a self-directed endeavor. I would like to see an umbrella organization–independently funded–that has no conflicts of interest and has a solid legal instant-response crew to keep these quacks in line. Dream on…

Grey Squirrel, you asked about using a topical anesthetic to reduce the pain of the needle. Our doctor suggested it and gave us a prescription for our daughter when she was about 5 and a little older. We used it. I don’t know if it diminished the pain, but putting the patch on awhile before the vaccination probably reduced the anticipation of pain. She still turned white though and we had to wait 15 minutes to be sure she didn’t faint. Now she’s a healthy adult who fears wasp stings far more than vaccinations. She needs an epipen for the wasps.

I cavil at statements like ‘Getting a vaccination is emotional for the parent.’ Getting my kids vaccinated wasn’t an emotional experience for me. It was just part of looking after them, like changing diapers, wiping up puke and putting little plastic things into all the outlets. But I don’t have any recollection of bad reactions to vaccinations as a child and certainly my parents didn’t question the usefulness or safety of them. So I had no expectation of it being an emotional hurdle that I would have to prepare myself for. Registering them for school was a lot more distressing.

Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding your child is exactly the person they are supposed to be. And, if you’re lucky, they might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be. The Water Giver

This statement was on Facebook and I thought very appropriate to this post. Anti-vaccine parents are not allowing their children to teach them to be the person they should be.

Having a 6 month old step-daughter, at my age, that is certainly teaching me many new things and I hope it continues for the rest of m life.

I’m uncomfortable with any claims that parents don’t love their children, other than obvious cases of abuse. It must be terribly difficult to have a severely disabled child, while watching other children growing up in the usual ways. I’d imagine there would be an inevitable wondering about what could have been. Treatments to make those children more like others could be compared to children with cancer. Parents put those children through terrible ordeals in an attempt to make them well and sometimes those treatments fail. Unfortunately the parents of autistic children give their trust to people like Fisher, and go down that path of unproven treatments with no supporting evidence, and sometimes those treatments are every bit as awful as some of the things Doctors do to children to try and help them. The belief that something is painful but necessary has justified both helpful treatments and abuse.

On the conservative side of the equation, I can’t help but wonder at people who loudly proclaim their freedom to spread infectious disease, and buy guns despite criminal history and mental health problems, but favor law after law preventing women from making their own health care decisions. What’s up with that?

And incidental, people with “mental problems” (mental illnesses) are less likely to be violent, and much more likely to be the victims of violent crime. If “normal” (neurotypical) people can own guns, they should be able to.

Personally, I’ve actually been involuntarily committed, so I can’t legally have a gun. But that’s very rare.

Even most felons have drug related felonies, or other non-violent felonies.


And incidental, people with “mental problems” (mental illnesses) are less likely to be violent, and much more likely to be the victims of violent crime. If “normal” (neurotypical) people can own guns, they should be able to.



Well, not all mental illnesses are the same.

Just so we’re clear – I’m a gun guy. I have guns. I shoot guns. I’ve hundred year old guns (not all I’ve inherited, but some are) and some are new and modern. I have “assault weapons”. A day at the range poking holes in paper is a good day. I’ve killed lunch and dinner, not just for myself, but for those I love. My memories of guns and shooting are some of the best memories I have. Learning from my dad. Passing it on to my sisters kids and grandkids. Air powered, single shot, lever action, pump, bolt action, single action, double action, and semi-auto (sorry, no full-auto, but maybe someday), I’ve shot and still own them all. It’s all great fun and a happy part of my life. Within limits, I think that all Americans should be able to share in those joys.

Within limits. One of those limits is the mentality ill. Some of the mentally ill are violent and unstable, and shouldn’t be in running free in public. Some are non-violent and peaceful creatures wondering the earth – right up until the day they aren’t. The question is, how to tell the difference, and how to create a database to include them in the background check process. To me, it would be one of those common sense laws, but HIPAA.

But it isn’t up to me, it’s a question of the law. Here’s a good overview of the laws dealing with guns and mental illness –

Look it over, and tell me which laws you think should be changed, and how. Include how it should be enforced and implemented. Convince me it’s a good idea, and I’ll join you in a letter writing campaign. But I’ll say up front, convincing me isn’t really going to be easy. I think the existing laws are good laws, and wish they could be enforced.

Felons are another category I’m comfortable restricting gun rights, the same as voting. Going thru life without a felony conviction isn’t really all that hard, most people do it without thinking about it. However, I’d agree that all people who have had rights restricted should be able to apply to have those rights restored. Some are non-violent, but some are very violent. Violent people, mentally ill or sane, felons or not, should not be armed. It’s just the way I feel.

I’ll get back to you tomorrow. Right now I am very happily planning a trip to the Midwest to see many good friends, as I discovered that Spirit has flights in the nearish future to Chicago (equidistant between Ann Arbor and Madison) for less than a hundred bucks.

Thank you for your disclosure about your personal history. I really appreciate that and hope it will be kept confidential among the members of this blog.

I am related to someone who was convicted of incest and molestation of several children–not the first in what seems to be a long chain of offenders among my relatives–and so greatly appreciate that you are willing to reveal such personal details. Thank you.

It’s really unfortunate that anyone who has been involuntarily incarcerated for mental health issues faces very long-term legal issues versus people like my relatives who are actual criminals who committed their crimes against children with focused, sociopathic–and I would say psychopathic–intent. I was at his sentencing hearing and heard victims’ statements from their mothers. It was one of the most excruciating experiences of my life.

The only good thing I can offer about this is that the cycle will probably end with him, and everyone else with one exception who did this has died. I have enough to go after the one remaining person if he ever repeats. He has a background in law enforcement, but I have found a way around this.

This is not the best or most private place to offer encouragement, but thank you for being open about your history. It is very important to scale down our misunderstanding of mental illness and not to confuse that with people who do what they do because they are basically….just…..evil. No other word for it.

Felons are another category I’m comfortable restricting gun rights, the same as voting.

It’s going to take me a while to think out a reply to your sex offender mental illness database, but I can say promptly that disenfranchising felons after they’ve served their sentences strikes me as indefensible.

Well, not all mental illnesses are the same.

Just so we’re clear – I’m a gun guy.

And not a psychiatrist.

I can say promptly that disenfranchising felons after they’ve served their sentences strikes me as indefensible.

Definitely. Why, exactly, should somebody who, say, sold some weed at some point not be able to vote?

Hell, in Vermont prisoners can vote while they’re locked up.


Thanks. I have no trouble being open about it; mental illness is not something to be ashamed of any more than any other illness.


Can you explain the difference between involuntary admittance and involuntary commitment? Do you know when and why involuntary committment (including outpatient committment) happens?

No problem on the delayed response. I, too am traveling for a while… south to Florida where I used to live back in the ‘70s for a few nights, then over to New Orleans where I’ll spend the best part of a week with friends and family, then north to Clarksdale and the crossroads for a night or two of total Blues immersion, then Memphis and across Tennessee (mmmm… BBQ), then back home.

No, I don’t know the difference between involuntary admittance and involuntary commitment. As Narad notes, I am not a psychiatrist. I don’t know why you ask, either, or what it has to do with the topic under discussion. The page I linked to doesn’t mention admittance, involuntary or not, only commitment. If there is a law baring those involuntary admitted, it’s not on that page I linked to and I’m unfamiliar with it. Please, tell me about it, and why you think it’s a bad thing.

Also note that I said I’m in favor of those who have lost rights to voting and gun ownership having those rights restored. But I draw the line at violent felons, or indeed any violent person, owning guns. They have proven they have bad impulse control, and are not the type of people I want to see armed. That’s one point that neither you or anyone else will be able to convince me otherwise.

Then let me explain to you the difference between involuntary admittance and involuntary commitment; it’s rather arbitrary, depending on where you are.

I was involuntarily in a psych ward in Michigan (at St. Joe’s) and I really, really wanted out and was challenging the admittance. This usually leads to a civil committment trial (generally without a jury, unless you request one, and it’s essentially a kangaroo court; the judge goes with whatever the treating psychiatrist says.)

At that particular place, someone came and explained the rights I would lose if I were committed, and told me I could defer the trial, which I did, and left with rights intact.

At the place I was in in Yakima, this did not happen. Just about everybody there had their kangaroo court and left with an “LRA,” involuntary outpatient committment with concomitant loss of certain rights, for just about any mental illness, whether they had ever shown violent tendencies or not. (Then there were the few unlucky souls who were shipped off to the Eastern State Hospital, an awful place; I can provide links.)

The reason it matters is that it shows that you know little about what you opining on.

You’re not a psychiatrist, as you said, and yet you said that there is “mental illness” and “mental illness.” Which is which? Do you know your way around the DSM? Do you know people with many different mental illnesses? I do.

As far as felons go, notice that I was specifically talking about non-violent felons in regards to gun rights. I am acquainted or even friends with multiple felons.

And then you broadly said you were okay with taking away felons’ voting rights, which, along with Narad, strikes me as indefensible.

That’s one point that neither you or anyone else will be able to convince me otherwise.

This is more nuanced than the impression I originally got, so I apologize if I missed an earlier comment; my access to anything but a tablet has been limited.

Still, it seems that you’re viewing those with mental health issues (hi!) primarily as threats to others. I would instead surmise that most people who, say, blow their brains out wouldn’t even appear in this proposed registry.

And incidental, people with “mental problems” (mental illnesses) are less likely to be violent, and much more likely to be the victims of violent crime. If “normal” (neurotypical) people can own guns, they should be able to.

First sentence, indisputable. The second sentence made me think though. Mental illness is a big bucket so are there any mental illnesses that should/could disqualify one from gun ownership? Also, what about those who may harm themselves with a gun? I can’t remember where or when I read this but if I recall correctly, more suicides could be prevented if there wasn’t easy (relatively speaking) access to guns. I’m not spoiling for a fight, your statement just made me think about this.

No, I don’t know all the different types of mental illness, and I doubt that you do either. But I know enough to know that some are violent and some are not.

As far as how they are separated, and where the lines are drawn, I depend on medical and legal professionals, and the law to decide. Maybe you know a better system. Tell me about it. How would things work if you were King (well, Queen, anyway).

I want that we should keep guns out of the hands of violent people, mentally ill or not, convicted felon or not. I also want that the non-violent people who have proven themselves responsible and trustworthy, should have the chance to enjoy the positive side of the shooting sports.

But I know enough to know that some are violent and some are not.

Oh, really? Well, fuck me. Whaich DSM axis is this division on?

No, I don’t know all the different types of mental illness, and I doubt that you do either. But I know enough to know that some are violent and some are not.

Actually, I know my way around the DSM extremely well. If you “know enough to know that some are violent and some are not,” elucidate, please, which “ones” are violent and which are not.

The vast majority of people who commit violent crimes are not mentally ill. The vast majority of people who are mentally ill do not commit violent crimes or violence in general. Conflating the two shows a certain amount of ignorance (as we are all ignorant on certain things. Ignorance can be fixed.)

Are people with bipolar disorder disproportionately violent? People with schizophrenia? Paranoid schizophrenia? Depression? Anxiety? Borderline personality disorder? Other (highly stigmatized) Cluster B personality disorders? Which ones? Are all people who are diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder violent? Who decides, in the absence of a violent history, which mentally ill people (including people diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder) are going to be violent in the future? Are these people clairvoyant?

Show your work and your sources.

Erk, borked where I meant to reply. I’m doing some transcription at the moment (about the science fiction publishing industry.)

You missed one category: autism… or just being in special education.

My oldest had a speech disorder diagnosis, for which there was a very rare special education program in our local school district (it was a direct offspring of the hard of hearing program after they got kids who could hear, but could not speak).

The parents of “normal” kids kept trying to get that program removed from their school. The deaf and hard of hearing programs were cool… but not those kids who just could not do something as “simple as talking.” It was called the “Dyspraxic Program.” More than once I had to explain that did not mean “violent.”

As it turns out, most of the kids were autistic (my kid started three years before autism was added to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act list). Apparently it is commonly thought that most with autism are violent. Granted, there are those who have profound behavioral problems…. but many many more are like my kid: a gentle soul who wishes to be just be left alone.

This is perhaps why my kid fell between the cracks and took so long to be diagnosed. He is a quiet retiring man that has anxiety if someone he does not know tries to engage him in conversation. I have had to assure a few neighbors that the weird guy with long (but gorgeous strawberry blond curly) hair walking through the ‘hood is not dangerous (he walks in a loop around the neighborhood as part of his exercise for cardiac rehab after open heart surgery he had six years ago).

Le sigh.

Yeah, I didn’t include autism just for the reason that it generally isn’t defined as a mental illness, I believe. Do you know exactly what it would be categorized as? I think of it as a “difference in wiring,” a neurodivergance, but there’s probably a more scientific way to put it.

Fair enough. Though it is defined in the DSM.

Going on recent research it is many different genetic sequences that cause different neuro connections. But then again so do many things that are called “mental illness.”

One common symptom of autism is anxiety. It is something related to other mental illnesses. Like depression. Anyway, when you are dealing with human neurology it is difficult to draw a hard line between several types of diagnoses.

My son also has a genetic heart disorder that actually showed up as a physical anomaly in an echocardiogram. When he was tested six years ago he did not have any of the genetic sequences that were then known to cause it. Recent research has found the genetic sequences that cause about half of the autism spectrum sequences.

Because the brain is much more complicated than the heart (which is essentially just a pump with rhythm), I assume that there is much more to be learned. The line between many mental illnesses and the thing we call the “autism spectrum” might be a bit more fuzzy than we think.

And seriously, do you know any one in your life who is perfectly “normal”?

By the way, I would just like the note that “mental illness” and “special education” are both often construed to assume “violent” to many folks. This is unfortunately a common stereotype.

@ Chris

In the newspaper I read, there are 2 writers with special needs children.
One has a child with Kleefstra syndrome, a genetic disorder, which comes with some autism-like features. He writes on sports but has published a whole series of pieces about his son. Those pieces are full of love for his disabled child. He doesn’t blame vaccines for the situation his child is in.

The other writer has a son with autism. And this is not the ‘Rainman’ kind of autism, as she described it in her latest piece. Her child will be dependant all of his life. Still, she doesn’t hate her child and doesn’t blame vaccines. She cares a great bit about him. In her latest piece, she also answers a crime-writer, who states that criminals with autism are not shown in a series about people with autism.and she states that with criminals there is mostly some other disorder at work as well.
Alas all is written in Dutch and I’m not going to translate parts of the writing.

There is little predictive value in the DSM categories, as every clinical psychologist I’ve ever talked to will attest. I’m really uncomfortable with this mish-mash in several comments that autism is still popularly perceived as a mental illness. Isn’t that settled science by now? Isn’t there sufficient evidence at this point that it’s a hard-wiring problem with many potential causes and sources? I thought the re-classification of Asperger’s into part of ASD was meant to overcome this prejudice so that it’s clear the modern thinking is more along the lines of many people showing some of those traits along a very broadly defined spectrum. RD Laing and what is really “normal” and all that….

I’d like to see the catchall term “mental illness” just go away for good. Semantics matter, especially to the public. What good are all these advances in behavioral neuroscience if we still resort to 19th-century stereotypes?

Sara: “I thought the re-classification of Asperger’s into part of ASD ….”

I have a clue of why Asperger’s was axed from the DSM V part of autism spectrum disorders:

My oldest was always given the diagnosis of dyspraxia or childhood apraxia of speech, essentially difficulty in forming words between the signals from brain to mouth. Of course he had language issues, and some odd repetitive behaviors. He was nonverbal when he was three years old, but after ten years of speech therapy he can speak but one can tell is it is not quite normal. His is literate and in many ways quite bright, thought there are some functional intelligence issues.

He finally got a diagnosis of autism when he was 26 years old under both DSM IV and DSM V. At the feedback session with the psychologist he asked why he did not have a diagnosis of Asperger’s. She replied that under DSM IV that one criteria for Aspergers was that there may not have speech delay nor disorder. In short, no person who was nonverbal at age three could be diagnosed with Aspergers.

So since my son is the only fairly functional close to normal intelligence who needs supports that may seem to have Aspergers, they would not get that diagnosis, so it was removed. Instead the focus is on the amount of support the person needs. So it is now Autism Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3. My son is Level 2.

The psychologist told him that is was perfectly fine to tell others he has Aspergers, it was okay in an informal shortcut to explain himself.

I hate when you are typing along and you think of the words, yet the fingers do not comply, plus I notice it only after it posts:

“So since my son is the NOT only fairly functional close to normal intelligence who needs supports…”

Kind of important… oh, my stupid fingers.

And I put the word in the wrong spot. You can figure it out, I am giving up and about to play with an hot iron and large table cloth.

Not everything a mentally ill person does has anything to do with their mental illness. When mentally ill people are violent, it is often for the exact same reasons non-mentally ill people are violent. Because they are angry and want to take it out on someone. We don’t magically know which non-mentally ill people have that same mentality, so perhaps until we can predict it, we should refrain from giving anyone guns, according to Johnny’s logic.

Terrie,I am capable of growth,learning, and new ways of thinking, and the scales have fallen from my eyes. Friend Narad and JP have convinced me that, no matter what any mental health professional may say in court, no mentally ill person should ever be denied ownership and acces to a legal firearm because of any past or present illness. Any law that would allow such events to come to pass should be stricken from the laws of land. Indeed, I now would support a mentally ill convicted felon should they wish to own a firearm.

I blame my previous primitive thinking of my cursed Neanderthal heritage, and the infirmaries of old age.

JP – did you see this?

The Baker Act allows mental health facilities to hold a person for up to 72 hours for evaluation. A law enforcement officer, a mental health professional or a Circuit Court judge may involuntarily commit an individual under the act if they are thought to be mentally ill, are refusing a voluntary examination and are thought to pose a threat to themselves or others.

If Cruz had been involuntarily committed under the act, it could have made it difficult for him later to legally purchase a firearm.</b?

Florida law at that time prohibited the sale of weapons to someone who had been involuntarily committed, but CNN legal analyst Mark O'Mara said that, while there is a database for Baker Act commitments, that information is not always consulted in gun background checks. The act also had some ambiguities, such as whether a Baker Act commitment prohibits gun purchases forever, or just during the period of incompetency. Recent changes in Florida’s law will help address those issues, but are already being challenged as unconstitutional.

Maybe this is the start of the end of these laws based on primitive thinking.

Friend Narad and JP have convinced me that, no matter what any mental health professional may say in court, no mentally ill person should ever be denied ownership and acces to a legal firearm because of any past or present illness.

The sarcasm is unwarranted.

Maybe this is the start of the end of these laws based on primitive thinking.

Please elaborate on your doubtlessly well thought out understanding of state-by-state requirements for involuntary commitment. Starting with the Baker Act will suffice for the time being.

In my state, there’s a reason that involuntary commitment is rare, even if one is clearly unable to take care of oneself at a point in time: If you don’t sign in as voluntary (the “informal” status that exists in the statute no longer actually exists in practical terms), then one is threatened with being shipped off to the state hospital. But, hey, if you go in voluntarily, you can still get an FOID card.

^ One more thing: Given that you’re drawing lines, should random, periodic screeing for drug or alcohol (ab-) use be required for firearm ownership?

No sarcasm intended. Reading JP’s thoughtful and moving story of her experiences changed my mind. Then when you said my support any laws along those lines was based on primitive thinking, well, that hurt. Either of those alone would have caused me to rethink my support of such laws. Clearly I was wrong, and am not ashamed to admit it.

I have come to believe that, because I, like every other human, am incapable of predicting the future behavior of any other fellow human, and most people, of all types, are indeed trustworthy and non-violent, it’s only fair that I support no restrictions on firearm ownership for any citizen of this planet. If someone is going to advocate restrictions, it ain’t gonna be me.

And, as we used to,say back in the day “Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms – who’s bringing the chips?”.

it’s only fair that I support no restrictions on firearm ownership for any citizen of this planet

Oh, Jesus, I give up.

Okay, I just finished a job, and I’ll take a brief break from my reward of sitting in the sun with a glass of red wine.


You don’t seem to get it. For one thing, I personally have little interest in guns, and I don’t plan on buying one (I can’t, but anyway.) Most of my (male) relatives have guns and enjoy shooting and hunting. The guns are locked up and they sure as hell aren’t letting me get my hands on one, not because they think I’ll “go crazy” and shoot somebody, but because I’d probably shoot myself. (I mean, I wouldn’t, because the odds are I’d f*ck it up and just blow my face off or something.) It is awkward when newish friends around here invite me to go shooting, and I have to make up something to say so that I don’t have to tell them that I can’t mess with guns because I’ve been involuntarily committed. (I usually just say “I haven’t touched a gun since I was 16,” which people can interpret however they want, and which is true.)

I’m not sure why I felt the need to include that part, but on to the point.

It’s not that I think gun ownership should be completely unrestricted “for anybody in the world.” I think that something which is supposedly a fundamental constitutional right shouldn’t be stripped from a group of people as broad as “the mentally ill.” You don’t even seem to know that much about mental illness at all, as is evidenced by the “I know enough to know that some mental illnesses are violent and some are not” statement. You never did answer any of the questions I posed to or do any of that work, incidentally.

Maybe it shouldn’t be a constitutional right, I don’t really care, but it is, and as such, stripping it from “the mentally ill” based on a bullsh!t conflation of mental illness sets a dangerous precedent. What’s next, especially under this administration, round up all the crazies and lock them up to protect everybody from the scary violent mentally ill people? It’s not so much of a stretch. Or, what, the first amendment gets to be applied only to a certain approved group of people, not including the mentally ill? I mean, hell, those people could say anything, right? Or maybe communists don’t get the “privilege” of the first amendment, which, again, is not a stretch, if you know anything about US history.

And if, say, gun ownership wasn’t a constitutional right, and we wanted to decide who gets to own gun based on the likelihood of violence, and, in particular, we want to prevent mass shootings, we shouldn’t allow white men to own guns. I mean, that’s the demographic that’s almost exclusively responsible for mass shootings. Or, when it comes to gun violence more broadly, no guns for men at all. Just sayin’.

I want that we should keep guns out of the hands of violent people, mentally ill or not, convicted felon or not. I also want that the non-violent people who have proven themselves responsible and trustworthy, should have the chance to enjoy the positive side of the shooting sports.

It is always apparent after each mass shooting that the person was violent and should never have been allowed access to firearms.

In practice, the NRA arms-dealer lobbyists are never going to accept a mental-illness caveat on the 2nd Amendment, because it could be the start of the wedge and the thin edge of the slippery slope, setting the precedent for other restrictions. As a concept, though, it makes a nice bait-&-switch distraction. So the cycle seems to be

Mass murder. Public outrage; calls for a reduction in the pervasiveness of firearms.
NRA-funded politicians suggest mental-illness restrictions, or single out some other easily-scapegoated minority as the core of the problem, a “them” (because the problem couldn’t possibly be “us”).
Outrage is diffused and redirected.
NRA-funded politicians indignantly veto mental-illness restrictions, and instead enact laws to increase the pervasiveness of firearms.
5, GOTO 1

Obviously mental illness gets stigmatised along the way, but from the NRA perspective this is only a side-effect, not their central intention.

Narad, I don’t know why you say you’re giving up. You and JP have shown me the error of my ways, and I stand reformed.

Yes, a few days ago I wrongly thought that mental health professionals, in sworn testimony, acting in a court of law with legal experts, might, just might, be able to prevent gun violence and not just react to it. It was a dream I hoped could come to pass.

But JP has made it clear to me that she knows as much as those who have studied and have initials after their names. She has lived the life, and, damnit, she knows the people involved. She assures me that past preformance is no indication of future actions. If she, with her real world knowledge and training, can’t know who will be violent in the future, can anybody say otherwise with any degree of certainty? Clearly not me, and no one else either. If JP and you tell me any such laws are wrong, I’ll accept that.

Just as I don’t want to see a class of poorly defined and arbitrarily categorized type of firearms made illegal, she doesn’t want to see a class of likewise poorly defined people denied their rights. I would be a hypocrite to accept one and not the other.

We, and I mean all of us, have to trust the experts. JP assures me she knows as much as anybody, and more than most, about this matter, and I’ve made it clear (I hope) I do not. I’d be a fool not to trust her.

She assures me that past preformance is no indication of future actions.

Johnny, that’s the precise opposite of what I’ve been saying. I’m holding my tongue, but goddamn if I don’t let fly my tongue if you push me any further. Your seemingly deliberate misrepresentations are absurd and maddening.

Yes, a few days ago I wrongly thought that mental health professionals, in sworn testimony, acting in a court of law with legal experts, might, just might, be able to prevent gun violence

Perhaps you had not thought about it very much.
If I were a mental health professional, I would prefer to decide questions of gun ownership on things like “criminal associations”, or “history of violence”, or “number of restraining orders”… questions that don’t require diagnostic judgement or legal expertise.

“No wonder he’s an expert on famine, he’s been dining out on I don’t like Mondays for thirty years”.

Johnny, I might not have letters after my name (although I do and I will have more once I leave with my MA), but I could breeze through a BA and MA in psychology if I had the interest and funding. (Have you ever gotten most of a PhD?)

The fact is that you don’t even know the basics required to have an informed opinion on the matter, and you show no interest in learning.

Hey, did you know those who had been involuntarily committed didn’t have the right to vote until the late 70s? You can bet your *ss I know that; I care about the history of my people.

And FFS, do you think I shouldn’t be able to vote? A lot of people sure did. But if you ask me, I’m a hell of a lot more qualified to vote than most people who even bother to.

Johnny’s made it very clear he’s an ableist ass. People like him are exactly why mentally ill people are at such great risk of being victims of violence.

I’ve deliberately avoided this despite having counselled people of all sorts:

I agree with Clyde: qualification/ disqualification shouldn’t be based upon lack of dx/ dx respectively but on the person’s previous actions concerning having restraining orders, violence, threats etc.

In addition:
I think that it should be hard to acquire weapons of any sort:
– you would need age limits, registration, perhaps education, safety,
testing, a wait period
– it would cost money

I know some people need guns for careers/ protection and there are really hunters**
those would perhaps allow consideration:

someone is a guard
a guy owns a coin shop
a 50 year old man hunts since he was 14 and has never had a violent episode ( with people)

but also subject to review

If hunting is a family thing, perhaps teenagers might be allowed as an apprentice of sorts to his father, uncle
with LIMITED, supervised access – like a student driver

It’s extremely complex and varies with LOCALE. People in more rural areas may develop classes, programmes to speed up the process IF they have decent histories,

Still, it wouldn’t address issues like suicide

** not around where I am obviously


Still, it wouldn’t address issues like suicide

Would you agree that we (people of this planet) need much more data on suicide or more perhaps, on motivation to prevent suicides.

What I think is that motivation (and lack of) make a huge part of suicides but I doubt myself coming to that conclusion because it is so simplistic that I’m looking hard to find errors in my reasoning. I think it’s nowhere near simple but it is a good start.


If hunting is a family thing, perhaps teenagers might be allowed as an apprentice of sorts to his father, uncle
with LIMITED, supervised access – like a student driver

When I was in middle school, one quarter of physical education was “hunter safety.”

Could not agree more. I am a woman who has faced obstacles from WOMEN DOCS!!!!!! in making my health care decisions. This is outrageous but tangential to your point.

In Florida it is now illegal for a primary care physician to ask whether there are guns in the house. We have now reached a point where the public health threat from deadly weapons is less important than the right of people to own these stupid things. The lives of children are apparently far less important in the US than the right to own a deadly weapon, and every single day a child discovers a loaded gun in the house and kills himself/herself or others. The CDC is forbidden to collect stats on gun accidents, gun ownership, and the number of household accidents involving children playing with guns. It is absolutely insane.

For you physicians here, please do something. Anything. This is insanity.

Apologies….I keep posting in the wrong place.

I am appalled at someone’s comment here that shooting off a semi-automatic weapon is a “joy” that every American should be able to experience. Freely spreading AIDS or influenza should also be a considered a libertarian-protected “joy,” I suppose? All are public health threats. Threats that kill. Maybe I would like my desire to keep guns away from kids to likewise be a protected American “joy.”

That whole post was either preposterously obvious trolling or just delusionally asinine.

Not to derail.

My point is that anyone who finds the censorship of public health stats on gun use, ownership, casualties, and deaths to be in any way defensible probably has big psychological baggage and is living in a violence-fuelled fantasy world. This is a public health matter. Period.

Let me see if I have this right…

Cloudskimmer “can’t help but wonder at people who loudly proclaim their freedom to … buy guns despite criminal history and mental health problems”.

JP pops up and says that the mentally ill and felons should be allowed to buy guns.

I take exception to arming the mentally ill and felons, and make it clear the that it comes, not from someone that wants to ALL guns banned, but from someone that has enjoyed the shooting sports in many forms for 50 years or better, and wants to see that continue.

And you think I’m the troll? Seriously?

And you think I’m the troll? Seriously?

I, for one, am just disappointed in seeing extremely primitive thinking about mental illness from a valued RIgular.

I am a woman who has faced obstacles from WOMEN DOCS!!!!!!

Something something Thistlebottoming about adjectives something.

Well, you work like hell to bypass patriarchy in medicine and then get stuck with some macha jerk who feels obligated to prove she’s tougher than the men. May you come back as a woman.

I’m not Thistlebottoming. We all have our quirks, and I get tired of constantly monitoring other people’s junior-high carelessness in grant proposals.

Johnny, no one called you a troll. Guns are a polarising issue so it’s not surprising that you are getting pushback. Disclaimer: I inherited some antique guns but I abhor the ownership of semi-automatic weapons (they aren’t meant for anything but killing people) and various accessories. While target-shooting with such weapons may be a hobby for you, could you please consider the bigger picture that is the massive loss of life vs. momentary adrenalin rushes from discharging semi-automatic weapons?

Well stated. I agree completely. There are genuine trolls here, but the gun issue will inevitably elicit some very strong commentary that anyone who has strong opinions should be prepared to defend.

I’m using an oddball program, so some of my comments get posted in the wrong place. Still scratching my head about how to fix that.

Anyone who finds the right to get a little thrill from blowing something apart with a gun to be more important than the responsibility to protect the welfare of little kids against gun-related accidents needs to do some serious self-examination. I will not budge on that.

Coming from a gun owning family, I would, at minimum, heavily restrict all semi-automatics. There are only two reasons to have one. 1) Killing people. 2) Ego boost. While I might not go as far as banning them (I would ban high-capacity magazines), I would require permits, registration and borrow from Israel and Switzerland and say you must buy and then use the ammo at the gun range — you can’t have it at home.

I abhor the ownership of semi-automatic weapons

So you’d prefer something more like The Wild Bunch?

So you’d prefer something more like The Wild Bunch?

Damn you and your obscure references 😀 Assault weapons is what I should have said. I own muzzle loaders, what do I know.

OK, but is this an “assault weapon”? It’s a 1917 DWM Luger “Artillery” pistol. It comes with a shoulder stock and a 32-round snail-drum magazine.

OK, but is this an “assault weapon”? It’s a 1917 DWM Luger “Artillery” pistol. It comes with a shoulder stock and a 32-round snail-drum magazine.

I would say yes.

While I’m not sure what gun ownership has to do with whether antivax organizations are hate groups –

The idea that semi-automatic weapons are a special death-dealing category of guns is questionable.

Most privately owned guns are “semi-automatic”, meaning they fire a single round for each pull of the trigger. This includes rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Even commonplace double-action revolvers are technically “semi-automatic”, since pulling the trigger acts to ready a new bullet for firing with the next trigger pull. Again, from Wikipedia:

“A semi-automatic firearm, or self-loading firearm, is one that not only fires a bullet each time the trigger is pulled, but also performs all steps necessary to prepare it to discharge again—assuming cartridges remain in the firearm’s feed device. Typically, this includes extracting and ejecting the spent cartridge case from the firing chamber, re-cocking the firing mechanism, and loading a new cartridge into the firing chamber. To fire again, the trigger is released and re-pressed.”

So if one wants all “semi-automatic weapons” banned, that eliminates the vast majority of guns, whether used for target shooting, hunting, self-defense or “killing people”.

Maybe Science Mom means instead to refer to so-called assault weapons capable of being used with large capacity magazines.

“Maybe Science Mom means instead to refer to so-called assault weapons capable of being used with large capacity magazines.”

The legal definition of which is a wonky mess.

[@ Sara,

Q. What is the defining essence of Respectful Insolence.
A. It’s better to loath than to hate.

Now that’s adult conversation.].

I having a heckuva time putting my responses in the right place. so apologies to others if this is a total non sequitur.

First, MJD, I am an editor and have trouble getting past your fifth-grade punctuation errors. “Loathe” is a verb. “Loath” is an Elizabethan adjective seldom used in modern English and has an entirely different meaning. Please look that up. Absence of a question mark in your supposed question is also a bit annoying. Your retort is also nonsensical.

I’m sure your parents are very proud that you feel justified in judging what is and is not adult conversation. I, however, find your continuingly passive-aggressive attempts to dominate many threads here to be irritating and ignorant. I think you need to be grateful you have not been banned outright. Simulating rational discourse does not make it so. You distract, and I prefer to engage with those who have something valuable to say without resorting to disguised contempt for the facts.

ETA: I am partially blind and use assistive technology that occasionally falters, so apologies to other readers for occasional bloopers.

To return to one fiber of this thread….Here in Florida there has been an initiative for years to restore the rights of felons convicted in other jurisdictions. Sadly, one of my closest friends made a very bad mistake in his youth in committing a white-collar financial crime and served his time. He claims to have been a friend of James Earl Ray while incarcerated. Long story there.

He now has advanced Parkinson’s and campaigned for a long time to restore his voting rights, but I suspect he will be declared incompetent to vote if his rights are restored because of neurologic matters..

The big campaign to restore the rights of felons here has gone on for a long time and has been very complex and politically charged.

There’s a bit of a remote analogy between this and the ability of uninformed parents to supersede the opinions of pediatricians and primary care docs on the bigger vaccination issue. I don’t know anything about our state law on this and would like to hear opinions..

My buddy got some rather (I think) unethical docs to sign off on letting him re-earn his rights on humanitarian grounds. This process is not yet complete, and it may not eventually work here.

I don’t know whether this tactic is being widely used. It seems a bit odd and really offbeat, but I wonder whether this could be the next trick in their book with a child who is already sick with a chronic condition unrelated to infectious or immune disease. Makes me wonder.


For Chris–Thanks for your explanation of Asperger’s and the reconfiguration of it within ASD. The only adult I know who clearly has Asperger’s but has never had a thorough, modern evaluation was found to be on the spectrum long before those distinctions became an issue. He is highly articulate but cannot hold a job because of anti-social behavior due to ignorance and poor understanding of his needs, I think, when he was growing up. I’m still confused about what the specialists really think about him.

All of this with adults who fell through the cracks decades ago seems very fuzzy. He finds it impossible to read social and behavioral cues and can be a real pain to try to talk to, and he now has a history of provoking some dangerous confrontations and has a legal history. In some ways he is a savant and has done well taking law courses but sabotages himself with dismal social skills. His linear thinking baffles and frustrates other people who just give up on him.

There seem to be a gazillion puzzling variations among individuals for what he shows, and it’s sad that he didn’t get the guidance he needed as a kid. Now he drifts, literally, because he cannot understand social conventions and behavior.

Your child is very, very fortunate.

You’re welcome, and thanks.

My son has the issues that make and keeping a job, which is why he is working with a job coach. He has anxiety, so he needs to be comfortable with the place. Apparently in one test job it was discovered that he has a thing about being around ladders. Who knew?

Also the young man does have several social issues. Fortunately he was just enough to get help from a program that is addressing young adults. Actually he was a couple years too old, but the psychologist talked the director to expand the age range. So we were very lucky to get connected to that psychologist (attached to the autism clinic at the local university).

According to the psychologist there has been lots of studies in the last ten years that have changed perceptions. Sometimes when they think a child has a behavior problem, it is actually a kind of autism, and things improve with addressing the anxiety or other sensory issues.

There are a gazillion puzzling variations in autism because it covers so many types of differences, many of them based on genetic variations. There is a huge study that is gathering up as many of those genetic variations and trying to match them up to genetic sequences. They have found that there are symptoms that are common among certain sequences, and with that they hope to find therapies, both medical and educational/training, for these specific disorders:

Research marches on, totally ignoring the anti-vax groups.

Thank you. I’ve learned a lot from your posts. It is essential not to be distracted by profit-motivated and entirely exploitive organizations. I know you know better than to fall for that, but many naive people do not.

This is the most distressing part of how these shysters exploit people: they know that in the US most people lack the background to understand how their vulnerabilities and fears can be used by horrible people to enrich themselves, and those soulless ghouls are everywhere. There is almost no way to stop them now with the proliferation of all these sophisticated marketing schemes via the web.

Even in our work–hubby and me–we get duped by clever people confusing actual science with absolute crap. I have to be constantly vigilant about this. Bad journals, bad open-access crappy publishers, the whole bit.

Thanks. It is completely essential to bypass the looneys in whatever way is working. Success can be cumulative.

Again, you are welcome and thank you for the kind remarks.

The Simons Foundation is a fairly well established and funds many math and science pursuits:

One of those science pursuits is autism:

They work with many university research centers, not individual mavericks, on realistic subjects and goals. The autism center that diagnosed our son is part of a large local public university, which also has several whose research funding comes from the Simons Foundation.

They would dearly love to have my son sign up for one of their many studies. He did agree to do one, but decided not to when he read he would be video taped. They called a few times and told him that he did not have to do that. But he still declined.

He is over eighteen years old, so I can’t make him do it.

I had a very disappointing encounter today with a woman who cuts my hair and brings her autistic son to work with her on the weekend. He doesn’t seem to be too bothered by the chemical smells or by interacting with strangers.

She is a classic anti-vaxer and started telling me that she’s trying to figure out how to get out of having him vaccinated for school because “they put all this terrible stuff in vaccines, you know.” The issue for her seemed to be not that vaccines caused the problem but that vaccines contain toxic junk. This kid is probably five. I tried the spiel that vaccines are tested for safety, nothing in life is entirely predictable or foolproof, etc. We didn’t get the flu vaccine, either, she said, because I read that it didn’t really work anyway.

I kind of gave up because she had her fixed notions and wasn’t receptive at all. She was also a rather punitive, strict disciplinarian with him, which bugged me quite a bit. It reflects previous comments here about the authoritarian nature of some rigid anti-vax activists–my children, my property, etc. Probably won’t go back.

Ech, that must’ve been frustrating to encounter.

Hopefully she’s not too strict, children raised under authoritarian parenting can end up with some issues if it’s too harsh.

Extremely frustrating to watch this woman use language and harsh tactics with a kid who was confused and upset and had little ability, I think, to understand what she wanted him to do. These children need special flexibility and patience. I’ve been amazed at the goodness I’ve seen from some parents of autistic kids. Unfortunately this was not an example of it, and I just hope he’s getting good care from qualified teachers and other people close to him.

Please end this thread. I have a PhD in clinical psychology and have seen the consequences of people having access to guns who are clear threats to society. I have other credentials to comment on this, but it seems superfluous.

Please stop responding to people who are clearly disturbed and have found a way to rationalize their dysfunction. All of this discussion about whether felons and people diagnosed with big problems should have guns is very disturbing. I got out of the field because of the inaction of law enforcement when a little girl was shot by her psychotic father who somehow acquired a gun. LE also pled inability to act because of the law in place at the time. This is utter bullshit. The solution is political action.

I was perfectly happy to drop it, but seeing as you’re continuing it …

I’ve already said that the vast majority of violence (particularly if we’re talking about violence strictly against others, which is not the legal definition of violence risk in a psychiatric sense, at least in Washington state) is committed by people with no mental illness diagnosis whatsoever.

I’m sorry that happened to you. It’s also an anecdote. I have anecdotes, too; my dad blew his brains out when I was 11 and he was 42, and he had no diagnosis whatsoever in the psychiatric sense, because he’d never sought treatment.

Personally, I’ve had run ins with the police for public nuisance behavior when I was profoundly psychotic for public nuisance behavior. I was never violent in the slightest, nor did any kind of violent thoughts even enter my mind. (Actually the police interactions were what finally brought my psychiatrist to finally acquiesce to my friends and my advisor and have me involuntarily admitted to St. Joe’s; he was worried that I would end up in jail or something, which he explained to me after I’d gotten out. Before that he was very much “she has rights, you know” when people were clamoring for me to go to the hospital.)

I could link to numerous pieces by psychologists and psychiatrists and actual research about how the supposed link between mental illness and violence is bullsh!t. But you want everyone to drop it, so … whatever. I need to finish transcribing an interview with the surgeon in chief of a well-known children’s hospital, and then I have company waiting in the living room and beer waiting in the fridge.

Please stop responding to people who are clearly disturbed and have found a way to rationalize their dysfunction.

This seems patronising. Specifically whom did you have in mind as “clearly disturbed”?

All of this discussion about whether felons and people diagnosed with big problems should have guns is very disturbing.

It may be that this is Missing the Point Day, in which case I am annoyed that no-one told me. You seem to have misunderstood comments by JP and others, which argued against a simple-minded notion for curing America’s gun-violence problem (i.e. by singling out a group of scapegoats and selectively removing their rights, on the basis of verdicts from a self-selected profession of alienists).
The misunderstanding is your problem, not JP’s.

the consequences of people having access to guns who are clear threats to society

Males? Republicans? Gingers?

No. I’ve been around here much longer than you, and I’ll stick around as long as long as I please (well, as long as Orac lets me.) I have no intention of “going away.”

@ JP:

Well, I’m glad that you’re not “going away”
You make important contributions: your view is refreshing in an era of awfulness and rightist lunacy,

I read/ hear so much trash from the usual suspects- millenials being “uneducated”, “snowflakes”, SJWs.. gender fluid..
I’m sure you know whom I’m discussing. Mikey, Gary, Jake.

I am happy to hear a socialist/ communist speak her piece aloud.
-btw- FYI:
my father’s uncle married a communist FROM RUSSIA, Lena, long ago. I don’t know the whole story but her family was ousted from the USSR because they were of another faction not the main one
ANYWAY, I knew her when I was a child and she was great. She wanted to go back to the Soviet Union but my great uncle disagreed. She lived on a farm, raised dogs and ducks and wanted to give you everything when you visited : dogs, ducks, eggs, vegetables / fruit she grew, pies she made.. She took the philosophy seriously. And she dressed Old Skool a la Russe

OK, so longevity on a blog is some kind of pissing contest now? This kind of childishness is a waste of my time. Thanks to everyone else for some valuable information and insights. Sayonara.

Thanks. Company just left; we had burgers, and seeing as people were over, I bought real beer; Lagunitas IPA.

My feline comrade, as usual, is feeling very snuggly, so I shall give him my full attention for a bit.

Just by the by, now that I’m not psychotic (and haven’t been for a long time), I don’t see conspiracies behind everything. It’s not generally a sign of healthy thinking, which, if you have a PhD in clinical psychology, I’m sure you know.

head scarves and long skirts. Usually with flowers- mostly red or violet
She was fabulously beautiful despite her age.

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