David Attenborough presents “Migration of the Skeptic”

This is a rather short presentation on the somewhat rare migration of that strange creature, the skeptic.

This strange, pedantic being prone to seek out evidence is often accused of being at the heart of invented conspiracies. This accusation is particularly true of reality-adverse groups such as herbalists, antivaccinationists, chiropractors, homeopaths and many others who peddle fallacious claims devoid of evidence. It seems the innocent skeptic is motivated by an innate drive to challenge such obvious hanky panky.

This video focuses on a number of their distinguishing features and, when considered in full, highlights the ability of skeptics to take the piss out of themselves.

 

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Dealing with the Brian Martin dilemma

Recently Brian Martin a Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong, published an article in Health Promotion International.

Dealing with dilemmas in health campaigning appears to be a bipartisan analysis of social dynamics and some areas of public health. However whilst Martin relies upon science and methods employed by the scientific community to sustain his argument he demonstrates his signature ignorance of the scientific method and the import of evidence.

In short Martin has continued his campaign to elevate supporters and perpetrators of scientific fraud, pseudoscience, censorship, personal vitriol, calculated deception and dangerous scams to the status of legitimacy. Rather than admit his role in supporting and coaching Australia’s premier anti-vaccination lobby, Martin hides this affiliation behind:

I give a few examples, especially from the vaccination controversy in Australia.

I selected the dilemmas discussed here based on my studies of a large number of public controversies, including informal conversations with prominent as well as lower-profile campaigners. […]

A key aim of this paper is to make these dilemmas explicit so they can be given the scrutiny they deserve.

Health campaigners today face intractable ideological devotion manifesting as evidence denial. The resistance of certain scientifically durable realities that play important roles in the maintenance of public health, is commonly presented as “the other side”. In fact cursory examination reveals malignant intent, bogus information, illegal pursuits, frequent monetary scams and outright fraud.

Certain areas have become key targets of a persistent opposition that uses pseudoscience, conspiracy theory, evocation of public fear and the exploitation of scientific ignorance in an attempt to mask ideological persuasion as legitimate science. Whilst the intellectual paucity of these proposals are immediately apparent to scientists, and consequently dismissed out of hand, the mechanisms behind why this is so are not apparent to the lay reader.

As such, scientists face a dilemma in managing, preventing or containing what may be a disproportionately negative effect on public confidence in crucial areas of health policy. The problem with engaging vested interests that promote pseudoscience and scientific denial is that the risk of lending legitimacy to demonstrably false contention, is significantly heightened when recognised scientists (or health authorities) respond.

On the one hand the public have a right to expect reputable authorities address falsehoods in a transparent manner. On the other hand, notions such as the scientific method, scientific consensus, the impact of evidence and abuse of statistics is poorly understood by the general public. Understanding risk-benefit is a skill the largely scientific illiterate public in developed nations lack. Poor, and at times, irresponsible reporting by media outlets compounds this problem.

Recently a bogus claim by Natasha Bita of The Australian drew immediate condemnation from Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration. Influenza vaccination has been conclusively linked to no deaths in Australia. However Bita misused information from the Database of Adverse Event Notifications, to insinuate ten deaths were “linked to anti-flu vaccine”. Meryl Dorey, president of the anti-vaccination group Martin is a member of has been continually pushing the falsehood launched by Bita.

Interestingly in another of his articles, Suppressing Research Data: Methods, Context, Accountability, and Responses Brian Martin offers an excellent account of Dorey’s conduct:

Censorship, fraud, and publication biases are ways in which the availability of research data can be distorted. A different process is distortion of the perception of research data rather than distortion of the data itself. In other words, data is openly available, but efforts are made to shape people’s perception of it.

Although he’s referring to publishers, the above paragraph adequately describes how Dorey conducts herself. In Dealing with dilemmas in health campaigning, Martin raises the prospect that not engaging anti-science proponents such as anti-vaccination lobbyists may have a negative effect on public perception. Yet the complex reality of how adverse reactions are reported, accepted, documented and how they must be interpreted would be lost on the bulk of the public. The catchy, but false, ten deaths linked to anti-flu vaccine would have an impact.

More so, placing a callous, dishonest, unqualified opportunist such as Dorey alongside a genuine health authority creates the illusion that there actually is a debate to be had. Worse is that the individual lies and tricks of the anti-science identity by extension gain credibility. As I note below new research reinforces that opponents to public health and even the myths they create are best ignored when seeking to address they mess they’ve created.

Consequently, engaging such extreme minority views can be detrimental to public confidence and rather than removing respect for ideological falsehoods may well create an impression of legitimacy. Given his affiliations it is almost certain Brian Martin seeks to do exactly this in his article.

In fact the above quote splendidly describes Martin’s own generalised distortion of data. A suitable example follows. Rather than tackle the disparity between anti-vaccination propaganda and say, the risk of flying, driving, overseas travel or any day to day task he writes:

Supporters of vaccination emphasize the large benefits from being vaccinated, notably a reduction in disease, including associated deaths and disabilities. They also emphasize the social benefits, due to herd immunity, from high levels of vaccination (Andre et al., 2008). That is straightforward. But is it wise to mention that a small number of individuals will have adverse reactions, including death and permanent disability?

The advantage of sticking to positives and not admitting shortcomings is that the message is much more powerful. ‘Vaccines are safe’ is far more reassuring than ‘Vaccines are nearly always safe’. ‘Vaccines are safe’ is also clear and uncomplicated and hence far easier to sell. Furthermore, any admission of weakness is likely to be seized upon by opponents and trumpeted far and wide.

Unsurprisingly the second paragraph is without citation. What Martin is doing is constructing a faux dilemma that resonates with poor appreciation of risk-benefit. The fact is vaccines are safe. They are monumentally safe and to use such a vague term as “nearly always safe” conveys a risk-benefit somewhat more dangerous than riding high speed motorcycles on city streets.

To then suggest without breaking stride the proper description of vaccine safety makes them “far easier to sell”, is simply outrageous. This is exactly the sort of bogus information I mentioned above. It is the perpetuation of the malignant untruth that vaccines need a market and supporters of vaccines will pursue this. At one point we read an equally outrageous slur on scientists:

The most common way to deal with vested interests on one’s own side is not to mention them, relying on the belief held by scientists that they are objective, so it does not matter if corporations offer research funding and perks.

Recent research into debunking myths has underscored the perils of not only engaging proponents of evidence denial, but of simply repeating the myth itself. This material may help explain why, on the topic of scientific dissent, Brian Martin continues to give unjustified credence not only to soundly scientifically refuted notions (fluoride in drinking water, vaccination, conspiracy theory put forward as “vested interests” and even HIV/AIDS denialism), but also to the view that a “debate” may be legitimate.

Indeed not only are terms such as “debate” entirely inaccurate in a scientific sense, they at once distract from the true dynamics at play and arguably with tragic consequences, lend even more false legitimacy to what is essentially pseudoscience, abuse of science and denial of evidence.

Martin continues to place anti-science lobby groups on equal footing with public health authorities or refer to unqualified saboteurs of public confidence as “citizen campaigners” seemingly simply raising legitimate concerns. This fails to acknowledge scientific consensus, its import and value to community health, and its dependence upon the rigours of the scientific method.

In short Martin demonstrates an alarming ignorance of the scientific method and its ability to expunge in totality such ill conceived ideas that “debate” rightly applies to numerous areas of outright denial of evidence. Martin is a financial member and published supporter of Meryl Dorey’s anti-vaccination group and the PhD supervisor of radical anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist, Judy Wilyman. Yet again he has labelled volunteers who deconstruct the harmful messages of Meryl Dorey to suit himself.

Thus it is right and just to call into question Brian Martin’s acceptance or not of moral responsibility. Prior to this article he was furnished with ample facts that he’s chosen to ignore despite claiming to have been in discussion with participants. Clear demonstration of the bogus claims of the AVN that impact heavily on his subject material have been omitted. Impartiality is clearly irrelevant if not inconvenient to Brian Martin.

Amusingly he again raises the silliness of Dorey’s obsession with global conspiracies as an apparent fiction invented by her critics. After a frustrating exchange of emails over a year ago I demonstrated that yes, in their own words the AVN do believe in vaccine delivered microchips and global culling. I’m quite surprised he saw fit to republish such a ridiculously irrelevant aspect to this ongoing saga.

More seriously, the scientific community would quite rightly be justified to review reference to the bulk of scientific methodology and accepted consensus as “the dominant paradigm” or “the dominant epistemological position” in dismissive terms. Whilst it is true that scientific findings remain always open to further inquiry and challenge, this process cannot be jump-started by suggesting evidence denial constitutes scientific “debate” or that the very methods and practices that led to The Enlightenment constitute a “paradigm”.

It can be far more adequately argued that proponents of pseudoscientific beliefs and evidence denial have not, over the entire course of their existence, altered scientific consensus as it pertains to their chosen ideology. This is especially true of anti-vaccination, anti-fluoridation, alternatives to medicine and the denial of HIV/AIDS.

In this light we can see such groups as disempowered and effectively divorced from scientific and genuine skeptical inquiry. With no evidence to further their belief structure or force their ideology into reality we witness a constant recycling of well documented falsehood. This is backed by predictable contrariness that is more and more prone to argue their evidence is not flawed, but suppressed or censored by a covert conspiracy. Needless to say this has never been demonstrated.

Alienated, irrelevant and left to defend overwhelmingly debunked and thoroughly refuted notions, those incapable of accepting this reality predictably lash out and attack conventional science in an increasingly extremist fashion. Clearly these groups crave acceptance by the scientific community as they continue to use scientific terminology and mimic scientific research, discussion and reasoning.

However since their inception they have never once produced material that is accepted as genuine research or conclusive evidence. Their modus operandi is to shirk genuine research and produce bogus reviews they falsely label as “critiques”. These are carefully produced selections of cherry picked data presented with a false argument.

In addition they rely overwhelmingly on the alarmist and pseudoscientific work of a small number of faux professionals, whose greatest skill is the abuse of science – not its application.

This impasse has been manifestly apparent for many years. Thus far from accepting these groups have any legitimate contribution to make it should be stressed that the areas they continue to challenge are indeed settled scientifically. Yet Martin writes:

Supporters of the dominant position often say that the existing research base is more than sufficient to conclusively support their stand. Sticking with this claim has the advantage of not admitting weakness. It also can have an economic justification: unnecessary research is avoided.

The disadvantage of rejecting calls for more research is that the critics have a continual source of complaint. When critics have little capacity to undertake their own research—at least research requiring substantial funding—they can portray the defenders of orthodoxy as stonewalling in the face of legitimate doubt.

Again this is manufacturing a dilemma. With respect to vaccination health authorities have gone to extreme lengths researching, and continue to research, every possible adverse reaction or problem with vaccines. The research called for is today unethical and methodologically impossible. Other research demanded has already been conducted. Yet the goal posts are continually moved.

Consequently it is regrettable that certain authors appear to go to extreme lengths to cast denial as genuine dissent whilst insinuating that science has, and will, progress from those who consistently attack the process that does not produce the results they seek.

It should be noted Martin’s article has clearly been firmly edited away from his usual obvious slant in praise of scientific dissent. Its overall tone is seemingly reasonable. Nonetheless that’s not the real point.

Brian Martin has again shown he will be deceptive in the pursuit of his own interests.

Judy Wilyman: proof of vaccines’ success

We deserve to see the evidence that vaccinating for all these diseases is good and necessary for the community

Judy Wilyman, June 30th 2010

Read the above statement from prominent antivaccination lobbyist and student Judy Wilyman. It’s a reasonable observation. Defending it would be admirable. Fortunately I don’t have to because the evidence, not only for the success of mass vaccination, but of how this prevents death and disability from disease is readily available.

In fact the success of vaccination is so ubiquitous that vaccines themselves have become a victim of it. Judy Wilyman doesn’t understand she is one of the most fortunate human beings in history. Well into the future even after she dies, billions will dream of the quality of life Judy Wilyman enjoys. Born into the affluence of a developed nation she has lived an entire life protected by medical science, robust economies and public health success stories.

Judy Wilyman is one of the luckiest individuals in one of the luckiest generations in one of the luckiest nations as a mere single offspring of around 107 billion human beings to have lived and died on this planet. She is inestimably healthier, more comfortable, more free and importantly more disease free than around 99% of our species to have seen the sky. With her life protected by her own and others vaccine induced immunity, and now already almost twice the age that genetic predisposition alone permits on this planet, Judy will live on for years enriching her life and exploring any manner of experience.

Every day vaccine success is all around her. It’s invisible. It is the absence of suddenly missing school friends, the grief that parents would bear, the devastation that ravaged cities in the late 17th and 18th centuries. It is the message of those little mossy tombstones I passed that, on rare visits to older family graves, my father would stop and read with reverence long before I knew how to read at all.

It’s removed the throat choking sadness that incredibly meant both my maternal grandparents were long dead and even more years passed before their grandchildren discovered they had an uncle on that side of the family. The only male and last born, he had died within weeks of his birth taking with him my grandfather’s dream of passing on a farm.

Vaccine success is the absence of tears often shed. Tears Often Shed child health and welfare in Australia from 1788, published in 1978 was written by Dr. Brian Gandevia. I’ve heard Wilyman reach into the past to condemn vaccines by misrepresenting the scientific context of the times and wonder if she passed this by on purpose. In 1800 Botany Bay held about 1,000 children, half being orphans. Infant mortality was 11% – over 20 times what it is today. In 1827 pertussis appeared, then measles then diphtheria. Mortality was high.

By 1880 Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane had children’s hospitals. That year a measles outbreak hit Sydney. Henry Lawson’s 1899 poem entitled Past Carin’ reflects the tragedy of harshness in Australian living at that time. This is a short out-take:

Our first child took—a cruel week in dyin’, …

I’ve pulled three through and buried two

Since then—and I’m past carin’.

Judy Wilyman weaves myth and junk science to justify make-believe notions that we are not allowed to see the evidence of vaccine success. All the time unaware that she is this evidence. In more ways than one also. Not only is Judy here due to vaccination regimes and medical science, but the vacuum left by the need to simply survive is being filled by the fantastic fraud and fiction that Wilyman produces to malign vaccination itself.

So absolute has vaccine success been that we can now turn our attention to the rarity of the potential of an adverse event. Unlike Lawson, we’re not “past carin'”. In an era of health luxury we can choose what to care about, and with disconcerting ease antivaccinationists, divested of evidence, play human emotion.

Abuse of innocent Australians:

Her W.A. State Library talk was a hack job of the worst vaccine myths on offer. Yet supposedly worth retelling because Wilyman is studying to complete a PhD in an Arts faculty and labels herself “an independent researcher who has been scouring the peer reviewed journals for 10 years”.

At the same talk Wilyman allows a glimpse into ego clashing with conspiracy beliefs:

If vaccination was based on science then the media would not have to work so hard to suppress the information. You will notice the media reports rely on discrediting individuals and organisations and running fear campaigns to encourage parents to vaccinate. Did they mention in the papers that myself and [redacted] are both PhD researchers? Did they mention that the lowest vaccination rates in Perth are… where the majority of doctors and other professionals live? No. This topic is about the control of information.

That final appeal to authority is meaningless. It is a myth that “doctors don’t vaccinate”. Economic advantage has not only been firmly linked to the Dunning-Kruger effect but we’ve known since last century that the same demographic refuse to register their children on the Australian immunisation register, or complete appropriate forms. Linear skill sets (job training) and consequent income rises correlate to big mortgages, not critical thinking.

Moving beyond this slur on class status, Judy works quite hard to evoke a feeling of manipulation and abuse of personal rights in her audience. She produces a slide of the Australian Framework for Environmental Health Risk Assessment.

At the top is “community consultation”. Has anyone here been consulted on a preventative measure such as vaccination for the health of your child? The public is being excluded from this process because we’re told it’s a medical procedure. So I’m asking you tonight why are you vaccinating? Are you vaccinating because you have a good idea of the risk of disease and the risk of vaccines or are you vaccinating through blind faith?

I hate to interrupt but this is a gross deception played on her audience. What a set up! Nothing on the impact of vaccine preventable disease (VPD). Nothing on risk benefit. This comes well after claiming herself and Meryl Dorey are presenting “peer reviewed science” that proves there’s no evidence to support vaccination. They will tell the real story, not the contrived story the government and media tell. “The government treats vaccines as if they have no harmful effects at all”, Judy claims.

This makes Definition of adverse events following immunisation, published by the Australian government along with Post-vaccination procedures (focused on adverse effects) and reports on the surveillance of Adverse Events Following Immunisation in Australia quite puzzling then. Judy also claims “They are promoted as if we can put as many as we like into our bodies without harm”.

Convinced that the government “coerces” Australians into vaccination Judy argues vaccination is a human rights issue, that (with incentives) she described recently as “a crime against humanity”. In order to understand Wilyman’s primary deception it’s crucial to note her invention is that we live in an Orwellian type society that forces coercive and mandatory vaccination. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are free to be as stupid as we wish and place our children in as much danger from vaccine preventable disease as this madness allows. Even better, we can spread exposure to countless others who had no choice in the matter and belittle those who protect our children with herd immunity as “vaccinating through blind faith”.

Quoting “the health ethics that our immunisation principles are based upon” Wilyman then misleads her audience [bold mine]:

“The state retains the authority to regulate the human body in order to protect the health and safety of the general public”.

So it is the government that’s deciding how many vaccines we can put into our bodies

Even though this is complete codswallop, it prompts Judy to come up with two questions that set “the context and the ethics of these fundamental principles”.

  1. Did vaccines play a significant role in controlling and reducing infectious diseases?
  2. What is in a vaccine?

Let’s focus for now on question 1.

Abuse of Australian History:

Judy is a champion of the misconception that a reduction in overall death rates is proof that improved living standards, and not vaccines, controlled and reduced infectious diseases. Her abuse of the work of early public health authorities is demonstrably hypocritical. Let’s examine her abuse of J.H.L. Cumpston and H.O. Lancester. To Wilyman they “confirm” vaccines did not reduce infectious disease. Cumpston (1880-1954) was Australia’s first Commonwealth Director-General of Health. Known as “the father of public health in Australia” he features prominently in Child Health Since Federation written for the Australian Year Book 2001 by a present day population health scientist.

That scientist would be Professor Fiona Stanley. Founding Director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research she has been receiving awards now for 17 years, and refers to both Cumpston and Lancester in this work. Former Australian of the year professor Stanley is mocked and abused mercilessly by Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network for “aggressive commercialisation activities of the Telethon Institute“, being paid off by Big Pharma, hiding the truth and experimenting on children.

She was “invited” by Judy Wilyman to attend the very seminar I’m referring to now. Two days later interviewed on air, Stanley referred to the views presented by Dorey and Wilyman as “bizarre” and “so misinformed that it is scary”.

  • Professor Fiona Stanley speaks about the “so-called” Australian Vaccination Network in Perth

It’s offensive that Wilyman demeans sound legislation and state authority to control disease, just before invoking Cumpston’s name. As Stanley writes in Child Health Since Federation [bold mine]:

He [Cumpston] oversaw the most spectacular falls in mortality and morbidity ever seen in Australia. […]

Essential to this movement was an expert bureaucracy to research, create and administer policy… Other essential ingredients for the success of the public health movement was a competent and independent (from State) group of medical practitioners, devoted to the care of the sick, but willing to accept State interventions for both public health improvements and care (the latter of course on their terms). […]

Throughout the early 20th century, as bacteriology developed, knowledge grew of the role of organisms in disease, and the focus of public health shifted to identifying disease in individuals and control by isolation (quarantine), which opened the way to mass vaccination.

With improvements in sanitation and quality of life came healthier people. Recovery from disease increased and thus mortality fell. But no widespread immunity or viral elimination occurred. Better nutrition certainly increased host resistance to infection. J.H.L. Cumpston died in 1954 just as vaccine success took off.

Citing Ada and Isaacs, Stanley writes:

Infectious deaths fell before widespread vaccination was implemented. However, since the 1950s, mass vaccination has been the single most effective public health measure to reduce the occurrence of infections, to reduce child deaths and to improve child health

There is of course no doubt that access to good nutrition, clean water, public awareness of cleanliness leading to reduced contact with infecting organisms (good hygiene) and a cleaner environment led to improved health. Yet there is no evidence of vaccination as anything but the greatest single contributor to public health. Lancaster as cited by Wilyman (page 6) actually refers to “gastroenteritis, respiratory and other infections”. This in no way supports her claim that vaccines played no role in reduction of disease.

Wilyman is deceptive in other ways also. When writing on pertussis (linked above – page 6 again) her choice of target is 1954 when the NHMRC advised that pertussis vaccine become routine for new born babies. But fatality had fallen to only 15 deaths per year bemoans Judy.

She avoids informing readers that in the 10 years to 1955, 429 deaths occurred (p.2). In the previous decade – that in which the vaccine was introduced (1936-1945) – 1,693 deaths from pertussis were recorded. In the decade before with no vaccine? 2,808 deaths. So, since the vaccine was actually introduced fatalities had been declining dramatically. Period.

Abuse of Alfred Russel Wallace:

Wilyman refers to Alfred Russel Wallace as “the co-designer of the evolutionary theory with Charles Darwin” and mentions his work, Vaccination a Delusion. If anything exposes Wilyman’s lack of scientific rigor it is the abuse of history and the Victorian antivaccination movement. Wallace himself and his three children were vaccinated. His interest in the movement began once his natural science writings had finished. Whilst a source of income, Wallace was also driven by his spiritualism, social reformist views and Swedenborgianism.

Unlike today’s antivaxxers, the Victorian movements based their position on notions and quantitative approaches that were entirely rational for the day. Science itself was unsettled. One approach was prone to blend with spiritualism (experimental psychology, evolutionary biology, and astronomy), liberty and holistic notions. Another took the view that science should be objective, disinterested, factual and that politics should remain separate.

More so, repeated prosecution from 1867 for not being vaccinated against smallpox or having ones children vaccinated was ruthlessly followed through with. Methods like arm to arm vaccination were high risk and equipment (pins, forks, knives and needles) spoke for themselves. But despite his spiritual leanings Wallace was a scientist. An empiricist. He deplored shoddy record keeping and bad statistics – especially assumptions.

So he set to work challenging the gaping holes in epidemiological data. The vaccine status of between 30-70% of people who died from smallpox was unknown. Not because vaccination failed but records were unreliable or absent. Wallace himself probably had good reason to doubt the disease status of fatalities as recorded by doctors. Thomas Weber looked into Wallace’s role here and concluded in part.

The numerical arguments used by Wallace and his opponents were based on an actuarial type of statistics, i.e., the analysis of life tables and mortalities. Inferential statistics that could be more helpful in identifying potential causes did not yet exist. The statistical approach to the vaccination debate used by Wallace and his opponents could simply not resolve the issue of vaccine efficiency; thus, each side was free to choose the interpretation that suited its needs best. However, despite its indecisive outcome, the debate was a major step in defining what kind of evidence was needed. It is also unjustified to portray the debate as a controversy of science versus antiscience because the boundaries between orthodox and heterodox science we are certain of today were far less apparent in the Victorian era. What the scope and methods of science were or should be were topics still to be settled.

So Wallace had many reasons to challenge vaccination in his time, none of them related to the evidence we have today. Indirectly he helped bring about the success of vaccination as we see it presently. Ever the empiricist there is no doubt how he would form his views with contemporary evidence. Wilyman’s appeal to authority this way is quite silly.

Ultimately Judy Wilyman reinforces the success of vaccination. She has no evidence based argument and shockingly has recycled these old myths for years, masquerading as “an independent researcher”. Without fiction she would have little to say. Despite the cloak and dagger tales of “crimes against humanity” and “government coercion” she is simply free. Free to speak, free to be wrong. Completely democratically free.

Judy Wilyman represents the best in Aussie freedom. The freedom to be stupid.

Vaccination conspiracies in blind hyper-drive

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
John F Kennedy Meryl W Dorey

Well, New Yorker Meryl W. Dorey has seized it recently and displayed it on her antivaccination Facebook page out of context. So she may have this brief credit. It’s a standard of conspiracy theorists as a visit to Google will confirm. It has of course nothing to do with government secrecy over the public as Dorey seems to have assumed. As with a huge number of Kennedy’s speeches he is alluding to his full term foe – communism – as the reference to free examination of “an open market” suggests.

Kennedy has easily become the US President to be most quoted out of context. Speeches sliced up and overlaid to conspiracy clips, heading up cooky websites or as here, just thrown out amongst fetid posts and paranoid misinformation without another word. No explanation is needed for the (as we’re so often told) “more highly educated” vaccine deniers. Vaccines to them are proof of government cover ups and the malignancy of faceless agents across the world. They squeeze it into the Orwellian nightmare of fluoride drugging, chemtrail poisoning and hidden cancer cures. If Roxon’s incentive to immunise has shown us one thing, it’s that their grab bag of conspiracies was at the ready.

One speech conspiracy quacks love to shred is one of my favourite Kennedy deliveries. Address 153 The President and the press [Audio here]. It’s brilliant stuff, and rightly so. Kennedy’s task that night was to celebrate freedom of the press in a democracy to an audience not short on critical representatives of the press. To respect their role in holding government to account. To place their independence above the duration and mechanics of government. To support and accept media scrutiny. To speak of shared responsibilities. Yet most importantly to impart the knowledge of the huge responsibility this freedom brought to the press during the Cold War.

He pointed out enemy agents had boasted of accessing information usually obtained through bribes or espionage (such as satellite technology) and, “that details of this nation’s covert preparations to counter the enemy’s covert operations have been available to every newspaper reader, friend and foe alike”.

He needed a change in publisher outlook. He points to newspaper patriotism and loyalty. Their understanding of sacrifices that civilians are willing to bear. But he would be failing his duty to not bring to attention the inherent quandary of a free press watched by an enemy and the need of patriotic, self sacrificing newspaper publishers to weigh present dangers.

Kennedy notes Francis Bacon spoke of three inventions that changed the world. The compass, gunpowder and the printing press. His final paragraph is:

And so it is to the printing press–to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news–that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

Now let’s visit the mind of the Meryl Doreys of this world. Who claim as she did once that we’re controlled by “a sinister cabal of interbreeding criminal families”. The Illuminati pop up when it suits her also. These secret societies are so powerful it is beyond comprehension. Human beings are controlled like cattle – sheeple. These faceless people control governments, information and wealth keeping us sickly, poor, ignorant, in need. They run the media. Decide what we watch on TV. They seek to cull the human population. Vaccines are a means to do everything from forcing us to comply to being sheeple to injecting microchips at birth that will scan and monitor humans. We are in effect Guinea Pigs.

Imagine you’ve been fed this and more. Shown so-called proof. Imagine you almost believe it. You watch a “documentary”. Scenes of wars and human misery slowly numb your critical faculties. A sprinkling of facts. Yes, BMW did profit from war. Dick Cheney did privately profit from supplying troops in Iraq. Newspaper identities have run campaigns to shape the outcome of elections. A mushroom cloud appears for no apparent reason. But you get the meaning. Evil. The world is evil.

Images of corporations, drug companies and the seats of government. Then the words below begin to play as a background soundtrack. Half way through an new scene appears. An open topped car we know well. A smiling man in his prime. A boulevard in Dallas. An exploding head. An assassination. The words are Kennedys from his address to the press and refer to communism. But you aren’t told this.

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.

And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning…  Our way of life is under attack. The survival of our friends is in danger.

For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice… its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed.

… I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.

… that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

The meaning is unmistakable. Kennedy was onto The Illuminati and the faceless ones. The repugnant secret societies. This “monolithic and ruthless conspiracy”. With Kennedy relying on honesty and our help humans would realise their destiny and become “free and independent”. So, they killed him. You’ve never heard of this because as Kennedy said, the conspiracy “relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence… its preparations are concealed, not published. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised”.

Of course it’s an oldie but a goodie. A standard for New World Order conspiracies. It surfaces in one form or another time and again. In understanding the rank falsehoods and intractable devotion of anti-vaccine conspirators we can learn a lot from the above. The power of the free press can be gleaned from the fact Kennedy had to ask for acquiescence to considering a change in tactics as a matter of national security. To think people today argue that the media are agents in a malignant scheme of vaccination doing the bidding of governments and pharmaceutical companies is patent absurdity.

Yet we’ve had plenty of it this last week or so with the AVN getting airplay for their falsehoods and fears. Dorey has cried foul that the government and media are not leading with advice to conscientious objectors. She lied on air and online so hard about pertussis vaccination it’s hard to not imagine some infants being struck down as a direct result. Government coercion and government cover ups were her messages. Conspiracy! Her flying monkeys attacked and harassed any journalist who defended vaccination.

When the Fluvax debacle hit W.A. supporters of conventional medicine were horrified at the event then outraged at the contributing factors. Conversely a satisfied glow emerged from the antivaccination lobby. Yet the most vocal critics of drug company power and TGA apathy are medical professionals. Perhaps the most successful in Australia is also a regular at skeptic gatherings.

When Natasha Bita won a Walkley for her coverage of CSL’s poor manufacturing standards and shortfalls in the TGA Dorey posted on her Facebook page:

Natasha Bita wins the Walkley Award for her coverage of the Australian flu vaccine scandal! Times are changing!

Again the message is unmistakable. Journalists don’t normally report on vaccine or regulator problems. This is an aberration or signs of turning a corner. At the same time Dorey and fellow conspiracy theorist Judy Wilyman were accusing the media of being beholden to their drug company commissions and reporting biased messages on Roxon’s Immunisation Incentive. One Facebook member wonders how much “underground” work Bita did and “perhaps risking her safety at times”. She would have worked alone, “…where one person like this can feel insane and give up the fight for truth”.

Truth? Insanity? Glad he mentioned those points. At the time Virus in the system was written Meryl Dorey published an “Action Alert!” on Facebook, Yahoo! and Twitter. It contained the bald faced lie that supporters of vaccines were “mobilising” to attack Natasha Bita for simply reporting the facts. In Dorey’s twisted conspiracy world that would be routine. When journalists report facts supporting vaccination or about the effects of not vaccinating, Dorey attacks. Anger, vicious language, persecution and vitriol to put it mildly. The “monolithic and ruthless conspiracy” she believes in is all powerful. There can be no discussion.

But vaccine supporters did nothing. Dorey, claiming to be oppressed, suppressed and maligned, had no mud to throw. Using reverse psychology she posted these false warnings, urging her fellow devotees to bombard Natasha with praise. Apparently vaccine supporters and skeptics did NOT want the media covering this from a freedom of choice point of view. Freedom of choice? I mean… I don’t even…

There are few better examples of a conspiracy theorist caught red handed exploiting their own members than this. Sure it doesn’t have sliced up Kennedy quotes as a voice-over but the concept is the same. Serve it to the paranoid mind and it will stick.

Meryl Dorey’s Fake Yahoo! Twitter and Facebook Action Alert!

Click, read, be amazed

There can be no doubt Natasha Bita produced some great journalism. She exposed inexcusable apathy on the part of the TGA which is only made worse by Dr. Rohan Hammett’s defensive position at a Senate estimates hearing. She highlighted wasted money, government obstruction and ran a front page story on a youth who developed polio-like symptoms from oral polio vaccine. CSL’s failure to supervise Good Manufacturing Practice and their thumb twiddling until FDA representatives arrived to ultimately threaten revocation or suspension of their licence was galling. TGA attempts to cast this as almost routine were laughable. Complications such as polio like symptoms from OPV are rare yet well known and rightly deserve compensation. It made for great reading because most Aussies do not follow vaccination intricacies and would find this almost incomprehensible.

Although she now occupies a shrine for antivaccination devotees Natasha Bita confirmed nothing of their beliefs nor conspiracies. She did not find sanitation, not vaccination, reduced disease. She did not uncover any link to hidden deaths, diseases, disabilities or the big one – autism. Her entire story grew from the widely known fact one child suffered permanent injury and a nine times higher febrile convulsion rate followed administration of Fluvax to under five year olds. Anaphylaxis? Not a single case. Pertussis vaccination doesn’t work and this has been demonstrated around the world, as Dorey told ABC? No.

Mercury – not ethyl mercury is in vaccines? No. Aluminium and formadehyde poisoning children? No. Human cells floating around? No. Aborted fetal cells? No. A trail of untested vaccines? No. Secret monolithic societies? Hidden cancer cures? Proof of immune suppression? Proof vaccines do not work? Proof they all make people sick? Proof they are the cause of all allergies and the so-called “sickest generation in history”? No. In short, you think of a vaccine conspiracy and Natasha did not find it.

There were four failures and one deficiency at CSL specific to one influenza vaccine uncovered by the arch nemesis of vaccine deniers, the FDA. Hence problems with what is broadly known as Good Manufacturing Practice. Natasha Bita actually “uncovered” nothing here – the letter is publically available on the FDA website. This was crucial to her story and her publication of it’s import was swift and to the point. I probably couldn’t agree more with the sentiments she raised on this issue. But to hear the antivaccination crowd you’d think Bita broke into CSL Mission Impossible style. That she downloaded crucial top secret files before abseiling out a window clad in black leathers to her waiting Ferrari. She just escaped the black helicopters touting blazing machine guns with her uncanny driving skill, quietly slipping into work without a hair out of place.

Even reporting on Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation members Professor Terry Nolan and Peter Richmond of the National Health and Research Council having honoraria and advisory board ties to CSL, took a phone call to the Health Department. That they were involved in drug company sponsored trials and worked as investigators on CSL’s child H1N1 trials may be because they are, to quote Bita, “eminent researchers”. All conflicts of interest are declared and taken into consideration.

Yet to the devotees this is Big Pharma proof. Who would they suggest? Viera Scheibner? Judy Wilyman? Peter Dingle? Fran Sheffield? Simon Floreani, Isaac Golden or Nimrod Weiner? Let’s face it. Like any life long discipline the top jobs attract the top people. There is going to be overlap and to suggest this always leads to malignant outcomes and the control of “sheeple” says more about the true believers than intricacies of research institutions and business boardrooms. As fate would have it, others are well aware of this. Regulation is the key. Which is why regulators, their income source and their powers are absolutely crucial in the current environment.

Which brings me to another Facebook member who links to Natasha Bita’s article AMA urges watch on vaccines, writing, “and she’s continuing to stand up to them”. Stand up to who? This is a statement from the president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr. Steve Hambleton. Isn’t he pretty much “them” in a nutshell? He’s easily one of “them” and is echoing the concerns of medical supporters in that public trust has been damaged by the Fluvax issue. He is acutely aware of the spread of misinformation into vacuums that could be better filled by facts or dynamics that are conspiracy resistant. Dorey’s paranoid member fits the quintessential conspiracy profile of spotting one or two words and reacting like a programmed machine.

The article includes what is in effect the Last Post for yet another vaccine myth. That GP’s are in on the conspiracy:

DOCTORS demanded more monitoring of vaccine side-effects yesterday after the federal government announced penalties for families who fail to immunise their children.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said the government must introduce “active surveillance” to monitor side effects instead of relying on doctors and patients to report problems through “passive surveillance”.

For a vaccine, you are taking healthy people and trying to keep them healthy so surveillance of the side effects is doubly important,” Dr Hambleton said.

“We need to maintain confidence in the program. We can’t just say to people, ‘Don’t worry, it’s safe'” [….]

Dr Hambleton said doctors strongly supported immunisation to protect children against life-threatening illness.

But he called for taxpayer funding of Australia’s medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which is entirely funded by user-pays charges on the pharmaceutical industry.

He said the TGA needed to work “better and quicker” to ensure prescribing advice to doctors always included the most up-to-date data on clinical trials and side effects.

“We have to make sure regulators do their job,” Dr Hambleton said. “We do rely on the TGA for good quality, independent advice.

“Everything the TGA does is in the public interest so it should be publicly funded to do the extra work and notify the public of any changes that do come up. If it can’t do what it needs to do, we need to ask why.” […]

Vaccination protects against “life-threatening illness” and we need to maintain public confidence. It’s a smart move. Roxon’s method will only do so much to arrest falling vaccination rates. It will also do plenty to give conspiracy theorists “sheeple” leverage. Giving the anti-vaccine mob less and less to seize upon and fill with conspiracy twaddle is essential.

For Dorey and her ilk there may never be any hope. People must escape these belief systems much as one escapes a cult. They can’t be forced to change and in the main need help. Consider the person who introduced the above story. “[Natasha Bita’s] continuing to stand up to them”. Yet the story is not novel journalism but a mere AMA report. It supports immunisation as effective, promotes the TGA as acting in the public interest and shows doctors wanting better and faster information so they can continue to immunise without concerns.

Yet all these idiots (and I mean that nicely) on Facebook, including Dorey do not respond or correct or even comment. It’s just a dumping ground for quackery related to Natasha Bita’s Walkley, and that means victory over vaccines. Standing up to the monolithic and ruthless conspiracy. If Dorey did her homework she’d know the piece also contains an aim of her hated foes “the skeptics”. That being independent funding of the TGA. And I’m happy to admit that will help expose the fraud and inefficacy attached to the alternatives to medicine that the antivaccination lobby so often profit from.

The quote from Kennedy used by Dorey, above, is actually prefaced by, “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values”. Strangely enough, most untruths and distorted claims used by vaccine deniers exist because they have accessed such facts, ideas, philosophies and values. The abuse of package inserts is perhaps the golden example of what conspiracy theorists do with facts about vaccines. They craft fiction and spread it far and wide.

The truth is vaccine deniers cannot be entrusted with facts. Now, in possession of Natasha Bita’s facts and information followed by Roxon’s incentive, they have hit hyper-drive. Saba Button has been exploited by those who would see a nation of sick children. They don’t see good journalism dealing with the dynamics of a public health debacle. They see “us and them”. Whatever problems ultimately lay at the feet of the Fluvax scenario, none will question the efficacy of vaccination as a public health measure.

None will challenge the horror of what vaccine preventable diseases can do. None will justify the rise of vaccine preventable disease and the deaths of babies from flu and pertussis. Nothing will ever emerge to support the claims of the antivaccination lobby and their alternatives to vaccines. Nothing they do will ever make Dorey’s lies on ABC or the misrepresentation of Natasha Bita’s work factual. Yet to win support, they don’t have to. All they need for their conspiracy to bloom is a seed of doubt.

Which reminds me again of Kennedy, speaking to the press in 1961:

But I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to reexamine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of our country’s peril. […]

But I am asking the members of the newspaper profession and the industry in this country to reexamine their own responsibilities, to consider the degree and the nature of the present danger, and to heed the duty of self-restraint which that danger imposes upon us all.

Given recent advantage taken of Bita’s work and ABC air time those words resonate rather strongly here today.

Meryl Dorey’s Supercalifragilistichomeoprophylaxis 2011 W.A. tour

Even though the sound of it
Is something quite atrocious
If you say it loud enough
You’ll always sound precocious
Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay
Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay

Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network hasn’t been her usual fun loving self since returning from her W.A. 2011 Tour.

Things, it would appear, did not go to plan. It was supposed to have been all so simple. Meryl Poppins was going to float in with her carpet bag of all singing all dancing vaccine myths and in just 15 days tear up the stage in an extravaganza of adoration over a very special seven performance tour.

All of W.A. would turn out to hear one of Australia’s most loved fairy tales. Toils and struggles of the real world would be left behind for two weeks as fantasy and magic came to town. Scarred, battered and exhausted from the toxins in vaccines, this is just what this entire state of sickly people needed.

The favourites were eagerly anticipated.

Supercalifragilistichomeoprophylaxis, would have the kiddies tongue tied and flushed.

The delightful song and dance duo with Big Pharma Myth Conspira Conspira Conspira-see would have the adults on their feet. And everyone of course would sing along to Just A Spoonful of Oscillococcinum.

Step Back In Time with backing vocals from the very talented myths, Diseases Are Harmless and Vaccines Cause Disease were billed as “mind blowing”. For the totally unvaccinated, Meryl planned to team up with Diseases Provide Immunity and finish each show with the moving favourite that any parent can sing to kids, Stay Alive. She would be loved, adored by the media and interviewed at length on air.

But things seemed to go wrong almost immediately. Channel 10 withdrew sponsorship of The Conscious Living (or Lying) Expo after seeing Meryl Dorey’s name on the list. She summoned the Flying Monkeys. She published a piece on Dr. Peter Dingle who was there presenting his Great Cholesterol Myth. This conspiracy theory is a favourite of David Icke, so Meryl was certainly in good company. Dorey – self appointed defender of free speech – then spent two lengthy pieces on her blog whining about Liberal MP Barry Haase for having his say in defence of vaccines – below. Dorey twice more summoned the Flying Monkeys.

In a rushed round up, Meryl Dorey herself reported on the “smallish groups” to turn out to the Meryl Poppins shows. Despite billing herself as a “vaccine expert” Dorey was completely lost when it came to the rubella vaccine in Australia. In a piece that sounds half made up Dorey recounts testimonials from nameless people. At one of her shows Dorey spoke with a midwife who told her of a 22 week pregnant woman who was found to have low rubella antibodies “so her doctor just gave her a rubella vaccine on the spot”.

Here’s why you should never listen to Meryl Dorey and why her misplaced confidence and immediate conclusions are potentially dangerous.

First of all, rubells (sic) is only a risk for women in their first trimester of pregnancy (the first 12 weeks) so there was no need to panic about rubella levels for someone who was already 22 weeks pregnant.

According to The Australian Immunisation Handbook, regarding rubella:

The risk of damage declines to 10 to 20% by 16 weeks’ gestation. After this stage of pregnancy, fetal damage is rare but has been reported up to 20 weeks’ gestation.

Meryl Dorey:

Second, this vaccine has never been tested for safety during pregnancy and except in the case of an emergency, it should not be used at that time.

According to The Australian Immunisation Handbook, under Groups with special vaccination requirements:

The need for… rubella vaccination should be assessed as part of any pre-conception health check. Although the use of most vaccines during pregnancy is not usually recommended on precautionary grounds, there is no convincing evidence that pregnancy should be an absolute contraindication to the use of any vaccine, particularly inactivated vaccines.

Meryl Dorey:

Last, there IS no rubella vaccine in Australia – there hasn’t been for ten years or more since the monovalent rublla(sic) vaccine, Meruvax, was withdrawn and rubella is now only available as part of the combined MMR shot. This woman was vaccinated without being given any of this information and was told outright that she was getting a monovalent vaccine when in fact, she received a three-in-one shot!

Australian Immunisation Handbook, on rubella vaccination:

Rubella vaccine is available as either MMR vaccine or as a monovalent rubella vaccine. Monovalent rubella vaccine: Meruvax II – CSL Biotherapies/Merck & Co Inc (rubella virus vaccine).

I’ll wage good money you can keep returning to Meryl’s post to read, “This woman was vaccinated without being given any of this information and was told outright that she was getting a monovalent vaccine when in fact, she received a three-in-one shot!” for a long, long time. Wrong, wrong, wrong and making up stories. That’s our Meryl.

Then there’s an assumption another person was “misinformed”. Needing a tetanus shot the woman was offered the ADT Booster which has diptheria and tetanus toxoid, or dTap which is diptheria, tetanus and pertussis. You can read the Immunisation Handbook on tetanus here. The woman seems to remember being offered “tetanus and pertussis” which doesn’t exist. Even Dorey realises the potential for patient confusion, but we get:

Whether she misunderstood what she had been offered or the staff member had no idea what was in the vaccine, I’m not sure. But if she had been misinformed, it would not have been the first (or hundredth) time someone had told me a similar story.

Yes, yes indeed. Just like the rubella story above.

Hepatitis B vaccine is to be administered within 72 hours of birth, but Meryl heard from a nurse it is being given as early as 10 minutes. There is no issue here but Dorey seems to think it should be given “three days later”. To make this more absurd, information on the HBV vaccine being given within 72 hours of birth is available on the AVN website. Oh, Meryl!

She also spoke to someone representing someone else who Dorey claims has Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Apparently the person was vaccinated for H1N1 and “within days” was hospitalised. Dorey writes:

She tried to ask the staff if this could be related to the flu vaccine and they all insisted that there was no link…. This link has been known since 1976 when the flu vaccine was first brought into disrepute…. For staff today to be either so ignorant of this link or, even worse, to lie about it and cover it up, is unforgivable.

She finishes off by reminding readers that this is why the AVN exists. So, why you may ask. To publish without checking facts? To spread fear? To make up fallacies and draw impossible conclusions? To insinuate wrongdoing? So it would seem. To be sure however, there’s more to her ranting.

After the 2010 Fluvax debacle in which 3.3 per 1000 children suffered seizures, the appalling conduct of manufacturer CSL coupled with the TGA’s poor response to both, Dorey assumed she’d be welcomed with open arms. Only a year earlier she let Judy Wilyman loose to tell an audience that, “We’re being educated by the media who have pharmaceutical interests”. Time and again Wilyman claimed the media, as part of the Government, Pharma, Media triad, “run fear campaigns” such as “reporting the deaths of three babies from ‘flu”. In this way the community are “coerced into vaccinating”.

The Fluvax issue was why “hundreds of families” as Dorey claimed this year had children in hospital. Comparing all media reports it appears 23 were hospitalised, 47 taken to hospital and over 60 children effected. This is a serious matter deserving it’s own post to sort the concerns from the hysteria. Meryl made – and still makes – incorrect claims about the suspension in 2010 of paediatric flu vaccines by Australia’s chief medical officer.

She claims that parents were unaware their children were being used in a secret trial. As serious as the W.A. event was, this in no way gives Dorey an excuse to be libellous, falsely suggesting that:

[No] parent who gave permission for their precious child to be vaccinated in this campaign was informed that their babies were being used as guinea pigs in a trial that was paid for by the drug companies involved.

Being welcomed as some anti-vaccine Messiah with a magical carpet bag was not exactly how things flowed. Cathy O’Leary, medical editor for The West Australian reminded readers of how much trouble the AVN was in and brought up the “rape with full penetration” analogy to vaccination that Meryl strongly stood by at the time. The article included:

Australian Medical Association WA president Dave Mountain said the group was trying to whip up anti-vaccine hysteria again.

“They are zealots who pick and choose bits of information to make it look like they’re presenting real evidence,” he said. This led to parents refusing to get children and themselves vaccinated, which affected everyone, particularly the most vulnerable who benefited from herd immunity and, in that respect, they were a danger.

Liberal party member and Federal Member for Kalgoorlie, Barry Haase wrote a piece in The Kimberly Page on immunisation and the impact of the AVN. He noted:

Recent reports state the Australian Vaccination Network, an anti-vaccine lobby group; have been holding meetings in Western Australia. I find it illogical that sane parents would pay $15 to hear why they should not save the lives of their children.

For some, obscure to me, reason, this group has a snout on about saving lives. Vaccination has all but wiped out a number of childhood illnesses.

This radical group, based at Bangalow, near, of course, Byron Bay, was stripped of its charity status by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, after health authorities found its information to be biased.

This led to an opinion piece in The Kimberly Page from Ken McLeod, who has had his complaint against the AVN upheld resulting in a NSW HCCC order for the group to publish web site warnings. The HCCC have further published their own public health warning about the Australian Vaccination Network. Ken has also been instrumental in urging the OLGR to pursue the AVN over what became 23 legislative breaches.

As already noted here another W.A. article quoted Dorey as admitting to pro bono legal help in her appeals against the HCCC and OLGR. This raises more questions of what may have happened to pledges or donations secured for legal funds.

Then just recently Cathy O’Leary reported on the fact Consumer Protection is investigating the AVN’s grab for donations in W.A., in light of the OLGR NSW revocation of their charitable fundraising licence.

All in all the Supercalifragilistichomeoprophylaxis W.A. Tour 2011 was a big flop for Meryl Dorey.