Fake News serves conspiracy theorists well

A recent article posted by Orac examined the fallacious story of FBI raids on the USA Centre for Disease Control.

What’s concerning here is that such stories aren’t just bogus claims or cherry picking from evidence or misrepresenting of reports and announcements from authoritative sources. Nope, these stories are utter nonsense with no basis at all in verifiable events.

They aim to advance malignant and anti-social agendas. In the case of the above lie that the FBI raided CDC offices, it’s clear purpose was to exploit the drooling anticipation of the anti-vaccination lobby. Mainly that with “vaccine/autism/tweeting” Trump having been inaugurated the evil masters behind mass poisoning-by-vaccine would get theirs.

A second very useful purpose is that very few people check the source of the material. Within 24 hours the fake news story may have been read by tens to hundreds of thousands. Even if the piece is refuted with evidence and thoroughly debunked, it is unlikely readers drawn to the key message will invest the time and intellectual discipline to ascertain a. the facts and b. how readers were deceived.

There’s an interesting article here examining Trump’s grab bag of lies. If you can possibly (again) bear Michael Shermer’s “rustle in the grass” reason as to why he reckons our species is prone to believe, it’s lurking there to scrape your eyes across. I find this too simplistic. It side steps the notion of risk and reward – a trait of strong human beings throughout history.

Perhaps it’s more of a factor of individual cognition. I mean if we evolved to distrust the “rustle in the grass” why did only one nutter “investigate” the bogus story of a Clinton run child sex ring. By firing his gun. Into a pizza shop? No. We haven’t evolved to believe. We evolved to think. Believers tend to be fodder. Thinkers not so.

Do read Orac’s piece. It focuses on the FBI/CDC issue nicely. Not only was this fake news story published but was followed up with further fake news boasting articles with headlines proclaiming “Confirmed”.

Fake news isn’t new to those dealing with anti-vaccination lies. The anti-vaccine lobby has been publishing deceitful articles and “announcements” for years.

It seems in the present climate it is likely we will see more fake news from a range of anti-science, far right wing, bigoted groups that are finding a damaging voice to Western democracy.

Del Bigtree misleads his audience over vaccine safety testing

In a second episode dealing with the Lies of Vaxxed published by More Truth © an old standard of the anti-vaccine lobby is subject to facts.

The lie Del Bigtree smothers his uncritical audience with is that, “there is not a safe vaccine out there” presumably because as he continues to lie, “there is not a decent safety study on any of the vaccines”.

Lies of Vaxxed: Episode 2 “Vaccine Safety Testing”

What we learn from the video above is that there are six main stages of vaccine development is the US. Including;

  • Exploratory
  • Pre-clinical
  • Clinical development
  • Regulatory review and approval
  • Manufacturing
  • Quality control

During the exploratory stage scientists focus on identifying an antigen that can prevent a specific disease. Without success during this process development goes nowhere. It cannot continue. Nonetheless, the exploratory stage takes years of diligent laboratory research.

When the exploratory stage yields viable results production continues into the pre-clinical stage. Here progress with tissue or cell-culture preparation involves animal testing. This aspect of the pre-clinical stage will assess the safety, or lack thereof, of any potential vaccine. Another aspect of the pre-clinical stage is assessing the ability of the potential vaccine to stimulate an immune response.

Despite the cost and time invested by this point, the majority of potential vaccines do not satisfy the rigour of the pre-clinical stage. In these cases again development cannot continue.

The diligence of the clinical stage can be seen as a three part process.

  • In the quest to ascertain safety, trial vaccines are tested on a small sample of healthy adults.
  • Vaccines are tested on a sample of several hundred adults.
  • Finally the clinical stage involves testing the vaccine on tens of thousands.

With vaccines being developed for children the clinical stage process continues. The age of test subjects is lowered incrementally until the target age is safely reached.

The final stages of clinical development include randomised and double blind trials. The potential vaccine is tested against a placebo. It takes from six to ten years to complete these safety tests. Whilst medications in the USA are subject to the same intense testing it’s worth noting that sample populations are three times smaller than for vaccine studies.

There are six more stages overseen by the FDA for regulatory review and approval of vaccines. This involves safety inspection of manufacturing facilities by the FDA and even more testing.

Safety monitoring, including phase IV trials, continues indefinitely once a vaccine has been approved. In the USA there is the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the Vaccine Safety Datalink – a nationwide set of linked databases.

I certainly recommend watching this video because it is clear that safety is the primary element in vaccine manufacture. Claims to the contrary by Del Bigtree and the Vaxxed cronies are demonstrable lies. Under present manufacturing guidelines and restrictions most potential vaccines do not reach clinical development. As is clear in this video the reason is safety.

Professional anti-vaccinationists like Bigtree, or any who promote Vaxxed in order to consciously profit from their manufactured controversy, are a malignant force in public health. As such they deserve our derision.

 

♣ Despite this reality, in Australia the self appointed “vaccine experts” from the anti-vaccine lobby such as Meryl Dorey, Judy Wilyman and Tasha David insist no randomised double blind trials or testing against placebo has ever been carried out.

♥ Australians may likely remember from 2010, a significant number of AEFI. Febrile seizures in children aged 6-59 months following administration of CSL’s Trivalent Influenza Vaccine. One chid was ultimately compensated. This event resulted in the FDA inspecting CSL laboratories and outlining five “objectionable conditions”. Australia’s TGA reported at length on the event, the FDA inspection and the process of TGA inspection of CSL manufacturing facilities.

Whilst this was an unwanted, unfortunate event, it is also an example of safety and quality control procedures being firmly implemented.

 

AVSN president Tasha David misleads ‘We Are Vaxxed’ audience

Current president of the Australian Vaccination Skeptics Network, Tasha David, visited Atlanta Georgia in the USA to attend the so-called “CDC Truth rally”.

This caper was a big deal for antivaccinationists obsessed with the dishonest, deceptive film Vaxxed. In forming a view about the push to promote Vaxxed and the individuals involved it is important to understand how utterly false and potentially harmful it is. Like most outspoken antivaccinationists Tasha David keeps reminding us of her own dishonesty.

Whilst in the US, on the weekend of October 15-16, David joined the parade of vaccine victims appearing as video subjects for We Are Vaxxed. Although dishonest throughout her stint it is the first lies she offers that are so patently absurd. Initially David offers:

The government made us change our own name because we’re not allowed to choose our own name in Australia, so that’s basically one of the reasons why we’re here because in Australia we don’t have a Bill of rights we don’t have guaranteed freedom of speech, so we’re not allowed to speak on a lot of things.

Freedom of speech? Bill of Rights? Not allowed to choose our own name in Australia? Oh my. The government had “made us change our own name”? Balderdash and Blubberblurt. The Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network are obsessed with manipulating discourse and social media to keep their prior name – the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) – alive.

The AVN was formed in 1994. Twenty years later Tasha David became president. Clearly the AVN had a long run with the name they had chosen. It was however a confusing name and always intended to deceive. Regrettably the official sounding name was successful in fooling members of the public, and a legitimate midwifery organisation listed the AVN as reputable. The NSW Department of Fair Trading received complaints to this effect.

In December 2012 they ordered the AVN to change its name within two months or be deregistered. Minister for Fair Trading at the time, Anthony Roberts, said the group’s name “is confusing and has misled the public as to its operational intention”. The order was a huge blow to the twisted morale of the group which thrived on whenever possible snubbing regulators and mocking the vital purpose of regulation. They unsuccessfully challenged the order and by March 2014 changed their name to the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network.

By the time of the name change the Fair Trading Minister was Stuart Ayers. The ABC reported:

Fair Trading Minister Stuart Ayres says the association’s original name was misleading.

“The title wasn’t reflecting their strong anti-vaccination stance and so we after receiving numerous complaints requested them to change their name,” he said.

“They’ve now complied with that request and the new title reflects their anti-vaccination stance.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says it hopes the name change makes sure the organisation is not mistaken for a government agency.

It would appear that David’s intellectually contorted statement suggesting government strong arm tactics and suppression of free speech is a calculated lie crafted to gain sympathy. In reality it is the health of Australian democracy and Fair Trading legislation that led to the order to change their deceptive name.

  • Listen to the first 2 min of David’s interview. NB: I edited out the confusion around live video streaming but have not altered the commentary in any way.

Tasha David continues:

I see that you guys are up in arms about that new CDC um, rule we’ve been talking about – forced vaccinating um, children, or people basically in the US. But I’m really sad to say that they’ve already passed that law in Australia. It’s called the Biosecurity Act 2015 so basically, um, they can force vaccinate you if you have a disease or um, some kind of illness that is a risk to human health.

Now that could be anything. Could be a cold you know, so we’ve already got the legislation in place. I haven’t seen it be used yet but the fact that it’s even in place is scary to me, you know, so…

Here, David is contending that forced vaccination is a reality in Australia if circumstances meet conditions outlined in the Biosecurity Act 2015. She further contends that the Act permits forced vaccination of an individual suffering “some kind of illness that is a risk to human health… that could be anything… could be a cold”. Putting aside David’s alarming lack of understanding the role of vaccination we should look closer at the Biosecurity Act 2015.

The Act is headed, An Act relating to diseases and pests that may cause harm to human, animal or plant health or the environment, and for related purposes.

The HTML version I’ve linked to has 681 pages, including endnotes. The word “vaccination” appears eleven times, the majority of these being in subsections or related sections. That is to say this vast document does not present a number of novel reasons for vaccination. Rather parts of the Act describe when vaccination is relevant to interpretation and application of the Act.

David is in error when claiming the Biosecurity Act 2015 deals with “anything” or “a cold”. The diseases this Act is designed to manage are in fact far removed from such a dismissive notion. Chapter 2 – Managing biosecurity risks: human health includes Listing Human Diseases:

(1)  The Director of Human Biosecurity may, in writing, determine that a human disease is a listed human disease if the Director considers that the disease may:
(a)  be communicable; and
(b)  cause significant harm to human health.
(2)  Before making a determination under this section, the Director of Human Biosecurity must consult with:
(a)  the chief health officer (however described) for each State and Territory; and
(b)  the Director of Biosecurity.
(3)  A determination made under this section is a legislative instrument, but section 42 (disallowance) of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 does not apply to the instrument.

With regard to Human Biosecurity Control Orders it should be noted that these are not applied frivolously and when an individual objects to the application of such measures the Director of Human Biosecurity “must take into account any factors that may affect the health of the individual”. Thus an established risk to an individual of an adverse reaction from vaccination would prevent administration of a vaccine.

With respect to imposing biosecurity measures the Act includes, in Chapter 2:

[Protections] aim to ensure that a power is exercised, or biosecurity measure imposed, only when circumstances are sufficiently serious to justify it, and only if it would be effective, it is appropriate and adapted for its purpose, and it is no more restrictive or intrusive than is required. [Protection] also ensures that the requirements of this Chapter do not interfere with an individual’s urgent or life‑threatening medical needs.

It’s important to realise with respect to disease a great deal of this Act and the application of biosecurity measures involve individuals entering Australian territory and the operation of aircraft or vessels entering or leaving Australia. Managing risks to human health include human biosecurity control orders. Section 59 of the Act includes:

A human biosecurity control order that is in force in relation to an individual may require the individual to comply with certain biosecurity measures. [Those measures] include vaccination, restricting the individual’s behaviour and ordering the individual to remain isolated.

In Division 2 of the Act it states under Entry Requirements (bold mine):

The Health Minister may determine one or more requirements for individuals who are entering Australian territory at a landing place or port.

for an individual to provide either:
(i)  a declaration as to whether the individual has received a specified vaccination or other prophylaxis within a specified previous period; or
(ii)  evidence that the individual has received a specified vaccination or other prophylaxis within a specified previous period

With respect to vaccination identical requirements exist under Exit Requirements.

Unvaccinated Australians are freely travelling to and from the country without being vaccinated against potential disease. Despite the Biosecurity Act travellers have brought measles to Australia, resulting in a sixteen year diagnostic high in 2014. Tasha David may claim that under this Act a simple cold could lead to forced vaccination, but there was no evidence of Human Biosecurity Control Orders in the wake of a recent measles outbreak in Melbourne. David would benefit from understanding just why she hasn’t seen this Act used to force vaccination for trivial reasons.

Section 74 of the Act notes when an individual is expected to comply with a biosecurity measure. Subsection (2) reads:

The individual is required to comply with the measure only if:
(a)  the individual consents to the measure; or
(b)  the Director of Human Biosecurity has given a direction for the individual to comply with the measure…

Section 92: Receiving a vaccination or treatment:

An individual may be required by a human biosecurity control order to receive, at a specified medical facility:
(a)  a specified vaccination; or
(b)  a specified form of treatment;
in order to manage the listed human disease specified in the order, and any other listed human disease.

With respect to the use of force one notes Section 95: No use of force to require compliance with certain biosecurity measures:

Force must not be used against an individual to require the individual to comply with a biosecurity measure imposed under any of sections 85 to 93.

Note: Force may be used in preventing an individual leaving Australian territory in contravention of a traveller movement measure (see section 101) or in detaining a person who fails to comply with an isolation measure (see section 104).

Thus contrary to Tasha David’s claim that, “they can force vaccinate you” under implementation of the Biosecurity Act 2015, we can see in this case that the Act itself prevents forced vaccination. It’s clear that no force can be used for the imposition of biosecurity measures under Sections 85 to 93. Vaccination, being Section 92, falls within this range.

No doubt antivaccinationists will disagree with any legislation that involves vaccination to protect the public from serious disease. What is important however is to underscore how this group will continually mislead the public without compunction. The Biosecurity Act 2015 is not used for just “anything” or simple “colds”. Nor does it permit forced vaccination.

David continues with considerable more nonsense. Offensive, crude dishonesty. Her next target is No Jab No Pay but it is the impact she claims to have observed that is quite sickening.

So these people that are single parents that don’t have that money to pay, you know that need that money just to survive… they can’t work, they can’t afford child care. So they’re basically on the street. We have so many stories on our web site of people living in cars, that are having abortions because they can’t afford to have a child in Australia now because of these laws.

Typically there is no evidence for these claims. If they were true the right thing for Tasha David to do would be to advise these individuals to have their children vaccinated and thus be eligible for the payments in question. Or perhaps the AVSN could help with some of that donated cash instead of spending it on trips to the USA.

Either way I doubt the AVSN will change their deceptive habits.

Conspiracy Theorists: obsessed and beyond reason

This morning I was met with the news that a train accident in Hoboken, New Jersey had left one person dead and over 100 injured. It was being described as “the worst NJ transit incident in the recent past”.

Moments later I was pondering what conspiracy theorists would be doing with this information. I didn’t expect much but a visit to Prison Planet – a hive of conspiracy paranoia fathered by Alex Jones – yielded some pickings. Comments lay under opening paragraphs from an NBC New York article. One read:

Yet another “accident” hundreds in serious condition, death toll still rising.

Note the press will not identify the train engineer.

Note how the press wont even identify if train was under control of “PTC” positive train control.

PTC prevents this, unless its tampered with. PTC cannot turn the power “up”, in a train, only “down”. That region was one the 1st in the USA to get PTC. Appears Mr. Obama needs a few days to work a narrative.

The author seemed to be “arguing” that the event was executed deliberately. His over confident assessment of “PTC” train control in that region suggested such an accident was unlikely if not impossible. The press, in his mind, were suppressing two vital facts: the driver’s name and the presence/absence of PTC control. President Obama thus, needed “a few days” to mislead the American public.

As it turned out the driver, engineer Thomas Gallagher had spoken to authorities “within hours” of the accident. He had been rescued from his crushed cabin and is reported to be in a critical condition.

Another commenter had worked it out using exclamation marks. This was no accident. It was the “scum Muslims”. He’s quite likely blown his ten bucks – unless the almost certainly American born descendent of Irish-Americans, has converted to Islam:

Can you say Tabotage / Terrorism !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The scum Muslims have struck again. This was no accident !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Ten bucks – the engineer was a Muslim.

Someone had posted Beastie Boys Sabotage clip, which was followed by Beastie boyz are enemy jews. Why do you listen to their music?

By this point someone gleaned the rules, summarising them neatly:

RULES FOR POSTING ABOUT THIS STORY:
1. DO NOT WAIT FOR ANY FACTS ABOUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU IMMEDIATELY POST WHATEVER MINDLESS CONSPIRACY THEORY YOU CAN THINK OF.
2. BLAME THE JEWS

So why was I pondering what these enemies of reason would be thinking? Recently, I’ve been considering the intractability of conspiracy theorist thinking. Or is that lack of thinking? Either way it (the pondering) is likely a constant for those who value the role of evidence in public health and appreciate the harm caused by opportunists who benefit from peddling fear and confusion.

This week I’d enjoyed a discussion in a clinical setting with a physiotherapist about “vitalistic” chiropractic. Whilst familiar and infuriated with the lack of evidence behind treatment claims, she was fascinated to learn of the anti-vaccine slant in chiropractic.

I’ve been as fascinated as disgusted with the antics of David Thrussell who, as artistic director of the Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival, attempted to bring the rankly deceptive anti-vaccine film Vaxxed to Castlemaine. An outstanding conspiracy theorist and blatant liar, Thrussell has played the victim whilst misleading both the media and sponsors of the film festival.

As always the delightfully unstable Judy Wilyman has been showing off her declining grip on reality. Of late she has chosen to bully the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at the University of Wollongong and also the Minister for Social Services. Wilyman’s ranting is so far from possessing an evidence base or a cogent stream of argument that it beggars belief. Unless of course, one considers it through the eyes of a conspiracy devotee.

Rob Brotherton (@rob_brotherton) authored Suspicious Minds – The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories. He suggests that to the conspiracy theorist their beliefs are unfalsifiable. There is simply no evidence to prove them wrong. In addition, driven by a need for control – a need which they cannot develop when faced with reality – the likes of Thrussell, Wilyman and Meryl Dorey, develop compensatory control.

The misleading film Vaxxed has given compensatory control to so many who lack control. We may consider Dorey’s misappropriation of funds, Wilyman’s feverish ranting about her superior “research” and Thrussell’s manipulation of others as types of compensatory control also.

Suffering from the insignificance that comes with no control over reality, such conspiracy prone personalities fall victim to proportionality bias. Events they desire to control, but can’t, must have a complicated – indeed powerful – cause. We see this also in their propensity toward other conspiracies.

Between 1/4 to 1/3 of Americans believe 9/11 was the result of some type of conspiracy. Usually the Inside Job theory. Within days of Kennedy being assassinated more than half of Americans believed Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Today, according to Brotherton, “the majority of Americans” believe some type of conspiracy led to the Kennedy assassination.

The audio below is from ABC’s All In The Mind and includes an excellent interview with Rob Brotherton. I certainly recommend it.

  • © ABC All In The Mind

 

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“Something has happened in the motorcade route”

“Something has happened in the motorcade route”

Friday November 22, 1963 Sam Pate, a reporter for KBOX Radio describing President Kennedy’s motorcade

——————

I was struck by recent tweets from Australia’s most troublesome, and arguably troubled, antivaccinationist.

In a splendid example of the transcendental world view that conspiracies are everywhere Meryl Dorey retweeted and commented on a pro-chemtrail tweet. Not just any pro-chemtrail tweet. This came from an account so packed with conspiracy tweets it’s almost suffocating to read. Ample antivaccine waffle, false flags, a comment on the strange absence of accents from Orlando shooting witnesses, the Sandy Hook “actors”, GMO, depopulation, etc, etc.

“TheMatrix” hashtag worked overtime and happened to accompany the tweet that caught Ms. Dorey’s eye.

Dorey_chemtrails2

This prompted a number of replies criticising the lack of thinking behind the chemtrail conspiracy theory. Meryl offered one critic:

Dorey_chemtrails

Understanding conspiracy theorists and the role implausible fallacy plays in their thinking is not as simple as accusing them of being crackpots. As individuals, they come from any age, race, socioeconomic status, education level, occupation, gender, political viewpoint. Uscinski and Parent wrote the 2014 book American Conspiracy Theories. They note on page 11 that laboratory experiments that induce loss of control and anxiety prompt subjects to draw conspiratorial explanations and see nonexistent patterns.

Such agenticity and patternicity are intuitive human qualities. Left unchecked they are qualities that steer one toward justifying the world as filled with interconnected events. Events that happen for a reason. Despite the evidence void, intuition can shape transcendental conspiracy thinking to believing the reason behind such events is generally one of malignant control.

Empiricism lacks the intuitive quality of transcendentalism. The empiricist accepts that coincidence and random events are part of reality. Any belief thus requires evidence. In this way skeptics are not prone to conclude based upon unchecked intuition. A simple but worthy example is the well used truism that correlation is not causation. For so many claims of the antivaccination movement (say, so-called vaccine injuries as opposed to genuine injuries) there is no evidence – just a claim based upon correlation.

These claims resonate with intuition. But subject to empirical examination and scientific skepticism we find these injuries (as opposed to genuine injuries) do not exist. The evidence supports another cause. With no evidence to the contrary and the inability to accept reality, we find the antivaccine lobby will cry conspiracy. Indeed there are a great many false claims kept in circulation by this lobby that are defeated with scientific evidence. Rather than accept the consensus the group cries conspiracy.

In March ABC Minefield produced Is the truth still out there? Why do conspiracy theories still exist? It’s an excellent episode. Hosts Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens discuss the persistence of conspiracy theories with guest, Patrick Stokes. Enjoy.

© ABC