On Monday, I took note of an antivaccine doctor named Gary G. Kohls, MD. He was at the time someone I had never heard of before, or, more accurately, someone I didn’t remember. He got my attention by publishing an antivaccine screed against Paul Offit and myself in the Duluth Reader in which he repeated a lie about me that originated with über-quack Mike Adams. Basically, he tried to label me a “disinformation agent” who advocated deceptive, trollish strategies to discredit antivaxers and spread provaccine messages. Regular readers, of course will know that I disapprove of such tactics and, whatever information I spread and promote, I’m quite up front about it. I don’t do it behind the scenes, as Dr. Kohls tried to indicate in the Duluth Reader Weekly. To make a long story short, Kohls misattributed quotes from a commenter going by the ‘nym g724 as having been written by me advocating theses sorts of “disinformation strategies,” as I explained in my normal inimitable detail while laying the not-so-Insolent smackdown that Dr. Kohls richly deserved.
That leaves the Duluth Reader Weekly, which published these lies about me, courtesy of its columnist.
A disingenuous response to a straightforward request for a correction
Naïve and trusting blogger that I am, at least when first encountering a publication whose nature appears to be legitimate (i.e., not obviously a crank or quack publication), I decided to write to the editor of the Duluth Reader, Robert Boone. The exchange went something like this:
I am writing in regards to a column published on Friday by Gary G. Kohls, MD, entitled Internet Trolls, Disinformation Agents and Big Vaccine.
This article contains claims about me, specifically about what I have written, that are both incorrect and potentially libelous. That the information is incorrect is not a matter of opinion, judgment, or interpretation. Dr. Kohls has, quite simply, misattributed quotes to me. I never wrote or said what he claims that I said. Whether it was though carelessness or dishonesty (or both) that Dr. Kohls did this, I do not know. However, I am hoping that, as editor of this newspaper, you are interested in factual accuracy in what you publish and will thus take appropriate action upon learning what I have to relate to you. Specifically, I am requesting that you either correct Dr. Kohls’ potentially libelous article or retract it.
Indeed, it is not going too far to state that Dr. Kohls demonstrates a reckless disregard for the truth when he characterizes my views on Internet trolling with two quotes that he has misattributed to me. You will notice that he has no primary direct sources for these quotes, but uses a secondhand dubious source in order to slime me. I have dealt with these misattributed quotes before, and I just dealt with them again today in this post.
I understand if you don’t wish to read the whole blog post above and will therefore summarize Dr. Kohls’ misattribution and misinformation, in particular why it is misattribution and misinformation.
First, Dr. Kohls quotes me as having written this:
“Go in there and “agree with them” and then say things that appear thoroughly delusional, overtly nuts, blatantly and obviously wrong even to nincompoops, etc. Occasional spelling and grammar errors are also useful but don’t over-do. The point of this exercise is to create an impression that drives away undecideds who may come in to check out these sites. It helps to do this as a group effort and begin gradually, so the sites appear to be “going downhill slowly.” – David Gorski, one of many well-hidden Big Pharma shills who specialize in trolling “safe vaccine” websites of distressed or angry parents whose children have been unequivocally injured or killed by vaccines.
I never wrote anything of the sort. The above passage was taken from an anonymous comment left on my blog on April 20, 2012 by a commenter using the ‘nym g724. Here is the link
Next, Dr. Kohls also claims that I wrote this:
“The way to do it is to first set up a fictitious email address. Speaking from experience working on research on extremist groups…Create a totally fictitious name and then an address that reflects that name e.g. John Doe and [email protected] Second, get an address on a free service provider such as Yahoo or Hotmail or whatever. Since most of these ask for your “other” email address as proof of identity, give them the one on your broadband provider. They will send a confirmation email to that address giving you your starting password. Third, after about a week of using your new fictitious address in various places that let you sign up for comments, you can be sure it’s working, so then go in and delete the address you created on your broadband service. Typically they deactivate the address immediately and then take a month to free up that slot for re-use. This step ensures that your Yahoo or Hotmail address becomes un-traceable back to your broadband provider. Forth, wait a month for the original fictitious name to completely purge from your broadband provider. Fifth: Now you’re home free to get onto the anti-vax boards and any other objectionable boards you want to go after and make all manner of noise to make them look ridiculous and drive away the undecideds. Yeee-hawww, round ‘em up!” – David Gorski, infamous pro-vaccine disinformation agent and surgeon who is on the faculty of Wayne State University. His two pseudonyms are “Orac” and “Respectful Insolence”). Gorski publishes on a blogsite that he has deceptively named “Science-Based Medicine”.
I wrote nothing of the sort. Again, this was written by the same anonymous commenter using the ‘nym g724 in a comment posted on April 25, 2012. Here is the link.
Finally, Dr. Kohls is not a particularly careful writer. He claims that Dr. Paul Offit is “Skeptical Raptor.” He is not. I know who “Skeptical Raptor” (http://www.skepticalraptor.com) is. I consider him a friend and admire his work, just as I do the work of Dr. Paul Offit, but Dr. Offit is not Skeptical Raptor. I also note that the reactions of my regular commenters to the two comments above was nearly uniformly negative, indeed almost violently so. Neither I nor my fans support such “disinformation” tactics.
Just by way of the source of the lie that Dr. Kohls republished, it appears to have originated on a website run by Mike Adams, a well-known alternative medicine and antivaccine “entrepreneur” and, in my opinion, scammer. Here’s a bit about him:
- The Legend of Mike Adams and the Reality
- Most ‘dangerous’ anti-science GMO critic? Meet Mike Adams–Conspiracy junkie runs alternative ‘health’ empire
So, basically, Dr. Kohls used a dubious source that misattributed quotes to me that I never wrote or said, all in order to attack and defame me. There is other misinformation about me in Dr. Kohls’ article, but to explain the nuances of why his claims about my research and Rilutek are distortions and falsehoods would take a lot more text to explain. If you are interested, I will refer you to these two posts, but reading them is not necessary if you are pressed for time. I include them for completeness’ sake:
- In which Dr. Gorski once again finds himself a target of the “pharma shill” gambit
- Behold my power, quacks, and despair! Mike Adams publishes several defamatory articles about yours truly…
Finally, having perused the archives of Dr. Kohls’ articles published in the Duluth Reader, I must admit to some amazement that your publication would provide him with a platform, given that he regularly publishes pseudoscientific antivaccine misinformation of the sort that I’ve been battling and refuting for the last 15 years on respectfulinsolence.com and sciencebasedmedicine.org. It is, of course, your right to have an antivaccine columnist on your staff, but I’ll finish with a friendly observation: It is not a good look.
However, it’s an even worse look to have a columnist on your staff with so little regard for accuracy, and I hope that you will do the right thing and either correct or retract his article.
I actually did get a response, and how do you think that Mr. Boone responded? Take a guess. Hint: It wasn’t what I would expect from a publisher and editor who cares one whit about journalistic accuracy:
It is a pleasure to hear from you. To start with, our publication features writers of many interests and beliefs (many we don’t agree with…) and that is part of the reason we have a wide and diverse readership. We encourage all our reader to participate in the discussion and your response is just what we need. We have had another readers who has been defending you and other physicians disparaged by Dr Kohls which livens up the debate. On that note, may we publish your letter? Myself, I’d prefer we had another voice in this matter and wish there were more to rebutt the other times when Kohls strays from “his lane” Please let us know if it would be alright.
The Reader Weekly
This was the single most irritatingly disingenuous reply I’ve ever received from the editor of any publication ever. It was intellectually dishonest in the extreme, to the point that it actually infuriated me. Yes, I was pissed. I was really, truly, and royally pissed. What set me off? I bet you can guess, but notice how Boone (or whoever wrote this) completely sidestepped the issue of a correction or retraction and instead only offered me a chance to rebut Dr. Kohls in his publication. He completely ignored the issue of correcting or retracting the actual demonstrated misinformation in his paper, the Duluth Reader. He also completely ignored the issue of why he was providing a forum for a quack peddling pseudoscience of the worst variety. Remember, Minnesota has recently suffered a huge measles outbreak among its Somali immigrant population, thanks to antivaccine misinformation of the very sort that Dr. Kohls is helping to spread.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at an article published in the Duluth Reader by Dr. Kohls while the Somali measles outbreak was still raging. Here’s just a taste of how the Duluth Reader, by hosting Dr. Kohls’ antivaccine pseudoscience and quackery, helped to contribute to the Somali measles outbreak:
Critical thinkers and knowledgeable readers who have no ulterior motivation to blindly promote current over-vaccination agendas will agree that the Somali parents who have witnessed the devastating epidemic of Autistic Spectrum Disorders decimate so many of their children since coming to Minnesota, made a wise choice in refusing MMR vaccinations. The Somali community has seen an alarming incidence of ASD (currently 1 out of every 32 of their children are afflicted, the worst prevalence rate in any Minnesota demographic group, even exceeding the 1 out of 48 among the fully vaccinated white male children in Minnesota). Recall that concurrent with the alarming epidemic of ASD was a dramatic increase in live virus vaccines, mercury-containing vaccine and aluminum-containing vaccines.
This is utter bullshit, pure and simple. I’ve discussed the background of the Somali measles outbreak in great detail, including the question of an increased prevalence of autism in the Somali immigrant community. Dr. Kohls doesn’t know what he’s talking about (as is the case for pretty much everything he writes about vaccines). Then, Dr. Kohls uses the intellectually dishonest “vaccines didn’t save us” gambit. (It appears to be one of his favorite antivax tropes, as I’ve seen him use it multiple times.) It’s also a favorite gambit of prominent antivaxers like J.B. Handley. It’s one that antivaxers like Julian Whitaker tried to use and got his posterior handed to him by Steve Novella in a debate.
Hilariously (or it would be hilarious if it weren’t so irresponsible), in addition to a number of antivax tropes well known to readers of this blog, Kohls pulls the “Brady Bunch gambit.” Yes, he actually parroted the claim that because 50 years ago a sitcom played the measles for laughs as a “normal” childhood illness, that must mean that no one ever thought measles was dangerous. Wrong. Historically measles was appreciated to have serious, potentially deadly complications, and more recent evidence shows measles to be more deadly than previously thought. Indeed, the most feared complication of measles, the 100% fatal subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is more common than previously thought, and doctors over 100 years ago knew how dangerous measles was.
Amusingly, here’s how Dr. Kohls is described in the article:
Dr Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN, USA. In the decade prior to his retirement, he practiced what could best be described as “holistic (non-drug) and preventive mental health care”. Since his retirement, he has written a weekly column for the Duluth Reader, an alternative newsweekly magazine. His columns mostly deal with the dangers of American imperialism, friendly fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, and the dangers of Big Pharma, psychiatric drugging, the over-vaccinating of children and other movements that threaten American democracy, civility, health and longevity and the future of the planet.
So, yes, the Duluth Reader knows that, by publishing Dr. Kohls’ misinformation about vaccines, it has willingly converted itself into a wretched hive of antivaccine scum and quackery. If you want to see how bad it is, just type the word “vaccine” into the search box of the paper’s website. Every single article, save two, that the search returns is an antivaccine article written by Gary G. Kohls, MD. That’s five pages of lists of articles, only two of which are not articles by Dr. Kohls.
A wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery indeed.
If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s not being distracted by techniques like the one Mr. Boone tried on me. I saw no value in publishing a “rebuttal” to Dr. Kohls in a newspaper like the Duluth Reader Weekly that values journalistic accuracy so little that Boone didn’t even address the topic of my complaint and instead tried to distract me with a shiny object, a published letter or op-ed refuting Kohls’ pseudoscience, as though there are two sides to this issue scientifically. It was an offer for me to contribute to false balance. He could say that he had given “the other side” a chance to respond and wash his hands of the whole issue (and maybe get a bit of clickbait in the process).
So I pressed the issue:
That all depends. What are you going to do about Dr. Kohls’ misinformation-laden article? Are you going to correct or retract Dr. Kohls’ lies about me? Yes or no?
The second response was even worse than the first disingenuous response:
We would like your letter and Peter Johnson’s letter to correct Dr Kohls.. he is rather entrenched in his beliefs and need to be challenged more.
There is only one reaction to a statement this utterly divorced from reality, and that is the biggest facepalm of all:
No, Dr. Kohls doesn’t need to be challenged more. He needs not to be given the platform that the Duluth Reader gives him to spread his quackery and pseudoscience. So I let Boone have it:
That is not good enough. Dr. Kohls’ misinformation-filed article about me remains uncorrected and unretracted, and I’ve already published a rebuttal on my own terms on my own blog.
I laid off the Duluth Reader in my post, but am now beginning to think that you support Dr. Kohls’ antivaccine stances. Why else have you published his misinformation for so long?
Don’t you care about the accuracy of what is published in your paper? Why do you even have an antivaxer as a regular columnist anyway? Why would I want to associate my name with a newspaper that cares so little for journalistic accuracy? Sadly, your disingenuous answers lead me to think that the answer is no. I do not
You want to publish my letter or an op-ed? Prove to me that you run a paper that’s worth contributing to. Do the right thing.
This was sent Tuesday night at 11 PM. I have yet to hear back from Mr. Boone, although I did Tweak him with an email last night saying:
So may I assume from your lack of further response you plan on doing nothing to correct Dr. Kohls’ misinformation that you published in your newspaper?
I think you know the anser to that question, although in fairness, he might respond today.
Anti-pharma and anti-psychiatry
If antivaccine pseudoscience were the only pseudoscience Dr. Kohls were peddling, it would be bad enough, but it’s not. Perusing Dr. Kohls’ list of Duluth Reader articles going back to 2011, you’ll find anti-pharma rants, antivaccine rants, and anti-psychiatry rants.
I mentioned before that Dr. Kohls seems very proud that he founded a Duluth chapter of MindFreedom International, a rabidly anti-psychiatry group. As I noted last week, it’s not clear whether MindFreedom International is affiliated with the Church of Scientology, the way the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a Scientology offshoot whose purpose is to attack psychiatry, is. Whether MFI is affiliated with Scientology or not probably doesn’t really matter much; its belief system is virtually identical to that of Scientology. Its anti-psychiatry quackery is just as extravagant, hostile, and full of pseudoscience as Scientology’s, and Dr. Kohls buys into it completely.
Even worse, as commenters on the last post pointed out, I’m suspicious that Dr. Kohls has connections to Scientology himself, but, as is so often the case with Scientology-linked anti-psychiatry activists, there is always plausible deniability; so what I’m left with is just a suspicion that I can’t prove. Certainly, Dr. Kohls is just as anti-psychiatry as any Scientologist. For instance, he wrote an article regarding CCHR entitled Psychiatric Drugs: Create Violence and Suicide, School Shootings and Other Acts of Senseless Violence, in which he heaped praise on a CCHR report:
This extensive CCHR report is the very best I have read concerning psychoactive drugs and drug-induced violence, suicidality and irrational behaviors.
Note especially the latter pages that will enforce the notion that it isn’t so-called mental illnesses that need addressing, it is the brain-altering effect of the dependency-inducing (so-called) psychiatric drugs that are given out like candy by physicians for the normal emotions of sadness, nervousness, insomnia, low self-esteem, social anxiety, brain malnutrition, etc, all of which are NOT mental illness but rather normal human realities. Please spend a lot of time studying this well-documented treatise.
Note: Psychiatrist Peter Breggin (google him and watch his powerful videos on YouTube) has always said that people diagnosed with so-called mental illnesses (usually false diagnoses) are never violent UNTIL they start taking the brain-altering, addictive psych drugs or are going through withdrawal syndromes from the drugs!
I guess that, like the case of MindFreedom International and Peter Breggin, both of which deny connection with Scientology while being just as anti-psychiatry as Scientology and the CCHR, in the end it probably doesn’t matter much whether Dr. Kohls has any connection with Scientology. He’s a fellow traveler, preaching the same pseudoscientific anti-psychiatry message.
Finally, I originally said that I had never heard of Dr. Kohls before, but in retrospect, after having published my post. While searching my emails for another purpose, I found that Dr. Kohls had actually emailed me a long rambling screed on February 4 using the email address [email protected] and cc:’ing a whole bunch of journalists at STAT News, the New York Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and many more. Because this post has already gotten pretty long and I could potentially make another post out of deconstructing that nonsense if I’m ever in the mood. However, far be it from me not to give you a flavor of it, by providing PDFs of the three articles that he attached to his email. I’ll just give you a taste:
I count myself among a group of whistle-blowing scientists who have seen through the massive Big Pharma-generated dis-information campaign that is designed to push more and more costly vaccines onto an unsuspecting public. (270 new ones are in Big Pharma’s pipeline,) The campaign is also designed to discredit skeptics of that dis-information agenda – not to mention the multitudes of vaccine-injured and vaccine-disabled (and dead) children and families that their neurotoxic vaccine have damaged. Because I “saw something”, I felt obligated to “say something” publically.
The pro-vaccine – and very well-funded – corporate dis-informers call us well-informed vaccine skeptics “Anti-Vaxxers”, a cowardly tactic known as an “ad hominem attack”. Ad hominem attacks are designed to smear an opponent’s point of view when the smearer isn’t capable of refuting it in an open, fair and rational debate. These corporate smearers have very successfully influenced healthcare journalists to repeat their talking points. Most journalists, even those that write about healthcare issues, are not knowledgeable enough to see through corporate subterfuge. In fact, they often use biased CDC or corporate-provided information to write their columns and books.
(The use of the term “conspiracy theorist” is a similarly cowardly ad hominem attack tactic largely used by official government dis-informer groups like America’s multinational corporations, the Deep State ruling groups, the intelligence agencies like the FBI and CIA, (not to mention similar groups like Britain’s MI6 and Israel’s Mossad). These organizations are all well-funded secretive organizations that spend most of their time planning real conspiracies against dissidents and other governments and anyone that is interfering with a corporation’s commercial agenda. These groups wish to keep the conspiracies secret by labeling as “conspiracy theorists” the ones who are legitimately trying to figure out what’s happening behind their closed doors.
Or, Dr. Kohls could just be an antivaxer, anti-psychiatry quack and conspiracy theorist.
The Duluth Reader: A wretched hive of antivaccine and antipsychiatry scum and quackery
Mr. Boone is deluding himself if he thinks the Duluth Reader is not a wretched hive of scum and antivax and antipsychiatry quackery as long as he allows Dr. Kohls to publish a weekly column. Other than a man named Peter Johnson, who did a pretty decent job refuting one of Dr. Kohls’ articles, there is basically no other voice on issues of medicine in his weekly reader. Sadly, Boone also provides an example of how you can have significant antiscience and pseudoscience on the left, because the Duluth Reader, much like the other free newspapers that go under the “reader” banner in other cities where I’ve lived, is a progressive publication, definitely left-leaning in its political orientation, as a perusal of its content will rapidly reveal.
In any event, let me finish by putting Mr. Boone and Dr. Kohls on notice. The Duluth Reader and Dr. Kohls are now on my radar, thanks to Dr. Kohls’ foolish decision to republish lies about me. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Duluth Reader and claims made by Dr. Kohls, just as I do for Natural News and a list of quacks that I monitor. I also encourage my readers to let Mr. Boone ([email protected]) know that you don’t appreciate his letting his paper remain a wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery. Basically, the Duluth Reader is fake news about vaccines, psychiatry, and pharma.
Now, the only question is how long it will be before Dr. Kohls finds Mike Adams’ campaign of libel against me from three years ago and starts regurgitating those lies too. You know it’s coming—probably starting tomorrow, when his next column. is due to drop.