Fake news, post truth, anti-vaccine

In 2016 use of the terms fake news and post truth became commonplace. Yet for those who address attacks on science, scientific consensus and the use of evidence in designing legislation, both concepts already had a long history.

Evidence based public health policy is attacked through the intentional disinformation of fake news and mocked via the subjective, emotional selective trickery of post truth. Alternatives to medicine rely upon bogus testimonials, false claims of scientific backing and pseudscience.

The anti-vaccine lobby want to be seen to be presenting a range of specific arguments against vaccination. Yet their main aim is to convince the unwary that vaccines cause harm and also kill on a huge scale. This in turn demands a feverish use of fake news and post truth. When their lack of fake evidence fails, post truth themes seeking to enrage an audience because governments “take away their right to choose” what’s best for their children’s health may quite sadly find their mark.

Presently we can see application of these concepts respectively with the promotion of the fraudumentary, Vaxxed and claims that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife profit from their investment in childhood vaccines.

Meryl Dorey

In March last year Meryl Dorey wrote (bold mine);

Australia has a long history of holding its elected representatives accountable when there is even a hint of corruption or profiteering – yet the current PM’s wife is Chairman of the Board of a company involved in vaccination and other pharmaceutical pursuits whose value has increased dramatically due – at least on the surface in my own opinion – to policies which her husband has helped push through Parliament. Did Mr Turnbull excuse himself during the debate on No Jab No Pay? Did he tell Parliament that he had a conflict of interest and excuse himself from the vote on this legislation? These are genuine questions – I don’t know the answer and my investigations so far have not been fruitful. Despite the apparent conflict of interest, not a word has been raised about this in the media or by the opposition.

Ah yes. “Not a word has been raised about this in the media or by the opposition”. Not so. Particularly with the number of media reports on the Turnbull’s investments.

Firstly had Dorey done her research well (or is that not employed the post truth tactic of cherry picking?), she’d know that six months earlier Lucy Turnbull was questioned about potential conflicts of interest for an article that was published in the media. Most importantly, quoting Mrs. Turnbull;

“I am currently in the process of assessing my role on company boards to ensure there are no conflicts of interest,” she says.

“We are seeking advice from various sources, and we hope to be in a position to decide in the next fortnight, whether I can keep doing what I am doing,” she says.

Just over a fortnight later the same paper wrote up Labor’s attacks on the Turnbull’s wealth. The byline was;

Labor’s attacks look like a shabby smear, but the bar is set very high for prime ministers and their partners.

Now in fairness to Meryl I should address why Bill Shorten didn’t challenge the PM for not excusing himself from the vote on No Jab No Pay, based on that conflict of interest. Firstly, Dorey did contend that “on the surface in my own opinion”, the value of Prima BioMed “increased dramatically due to policies which [Turnbull] helped push through Parliament”.

Okay, so it was a feelpinion. Worthless. But we can do better.

Two paragraphs earlier Dorey was ranting at Malcolm Turnbull, including;

Are you afraid that your wife’s profits at Prima BioMed (profits that jumped to AUD $5.5 million mere weeks after No Jab No Pay legislation was announced) might be affected if enough people start to question vaccination?

Above Dorey has linked to a May 21st, 2015 Financial Review piece headed, Patience Pays Off for Prima Chairwoman Lucy Turnbull. A small three paragraph piece, it finishes;

After a $15 million equity injection from US firm Ridgeback Capital last week at 1.73¢ a share, the stock has climbed from 2.2¢ to 16¢ after the bell on Thursday – jumping 190 per cent yesterday alone. And Turnbull’s stake? Now worth a tidy $5.5 million.

Clearly Dorey has fabricated the notion that the value of Prima BioMed increased due to the passing of No Jab No Pay.

Dorey can claim any rubbish she likes to try to sell the line Turnbull is shaping legislation to boost the share value of Prima BioMed. But the $15 million from Ridgeback Capital didn’t go to a company that manufacturers childhood vaccines. Yes Lucy Turnbull is Chair of the board of Prima BioMed, a biotechnology company working on cancer immunotherapy. Dorey really stretches the facts to contend it is accurately described as, a company involved in vaccination and other pharmaceutical pursuits. The company presently focuses on three main products targetting autoimmune disease and cancer which you may read about here.

The most notable link to vaccination is the development of CVac, the commercialisation of which was one reason for the formation of Prima BioMed in 2001. CVac, targetting ovarian cancer, ultimately trialled unsuccessfully. A potential trial for pancreatic cancer was cancelled in Febuary 2015. Read up on CVac here and Lucy Turnbull’s personal financial loss here.

More on the Turnbull’s investments here. Remember it’s now 18 months since Lucy Turnbull told Fairfax she was, “assessing my role on company boards to ensure there are no conflicts of interest”. Her full history of board, Foundation and senior committee positions indicates a person devoted to the success of not for profit, charity and with a love of science and medical innovation.

There is simply no substance to the claim by Dorey and others of a conflict of interest based on profits from childhood vaccines.

Belgin Sila Colak/Arslan

Last October when Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy was targetted by antivaccinationists the public got a glimpse of the name behind the Facebook group Anti-Vaccination Australia. Belgin Colak, aka Belgin Sila Colak, aka Belgin Sila Arslan.

Earlier this Month (March 6th) she posted this on her public timeline.

A “Yale study” eh, I thought. I followed the link and ended up at a “trueactivist” Feb. 17 piece. Under that deceptive headline the authors ran through a number of bogus, disproved claims about vaccines based at best on temporal correlation. A number of comments were scathing as to the misleading intent of the article. Now have a good read of Belgin’s claims above. “Multiple studies and other countries” report vaccine induced disorders. And these “very brave and unabashed scientists [who] have been able to show a correlation of what many have known for quite some time”? Where are they?

Had Belgin read the comments she’d have picked up on the objections to the alternative facts the authors had used. The worst was;

As with most research studies, the researchers stop short of claiming the vaccinations cause the all too common brain disorders.

In other words there really was no study from Yale suggesting autism and multiple brain disorders were linked to vaccines. Belgin’s love of fake news was on display here, for there was in fact an accessible link to the actual study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry. The title was Temporal Association of Certain Neuropsychiatric Disorders Following Vaccination of Children and Adolescents: A Pilot Case–Control Study. The institutes involved were, 1) Department of Public Health Sciences, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA and 2) Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.

What conclusion did these “very brave and unabashed scientists” offer? Bold mine;

Conclusion: This pilot epidemiologic analysis implies that the onset of some neuropsychiatric disorders may be temporally related to prior vaccinations in a subset of individuals. These findings warrant further investigation, but do not prove a causal role of antecedent infections or vaccinations in the pathoetiology of these conditions. Given the modest magnitude of these findings in contrast to the clear public health benefits of the timely administration of vaccines in preventing mortality and morbidity in childhood infectious diseases, we encourage families to maintain vaccination schedules according to CDC guidelines.

This is so clear we should thank Belgin. This study offers what antivaccinationists often demand. It’s saying there may be correlation in a small group but not causation. Vaccines work. Keep on vaccinating. The end.

A week ago I noticed Belgin post what can only be described as simply reprehensible exploitation of Saba Button.

The health department knew this vaccine had been reported several times, yet they still administered this vaccine on (sic) children regardless of numerous ER reports. You’re told a fever, seizures and crying is normal. Some never wake up, some end up with autism, and some are permanently disabled. Every vaccine causes damage! They’re still out there murdering babies, destroying lives, pushing more vaccines on children and now on expectant mothers. Every parent should be aware of this and have a choice!

Alternative facts and post truth galore. I addressed this case back in November 2011, because of similar exploitation at that time by Meryl Dorey. There are no excuses or denials to be made. Fluvax was not suitable for under 5 year olds. There were problems with both CSL, who incorrectly advised the TGA and the W.A. Health Department. Meryl Dorey was variously, fallaciously claiming hundreds of cases and hundreds of admissions. The ABC reported “hundreds of reactions” on April 18th, 2010 with 47 taken to hospital reported on April 23. The West Australian on the same day reported 23 admissions. This led to the suspension nationwide by Commonwealth chief health officer Professor Jim Bishop.

Why was it even used? During a 2006 Fluvax trial with a sample of 272, 1 child had a febrile convulsion. The TGA argue that one adverse event in a clinical trial is “not usually regarded as an adequate signal of a major safety problem”. In 2010 the febrile seizure rate caused by Fluvax was 3.3 per 1,000. This is remarkably similar to the rate in the 2006 trial. Yet TGA national manager, Dr Rohan Hammett told a Senate estimates committee hearing that the 2006 data showed “no sign of a febrile convulsion signal”. More so CSL may have advised the TGA of fever (not seizure) rates from 2005 – far less than 2006 fever rates. It is a convoluted, detailed issue. Do read this post. Fortunately Saba was compensated.

Belgin Sila Arslan claims there were or are fatalities and cases of autism. False. Every vaccine causes damage! False. Babies are being “murdered”. Repulsive. A visit to The Saba Rose Button Foundation presents a very different view.

The SABA ROSE BUTTON FOUNDATION is a not-for-profit charity focussed on raising funds to help children who have special needs and their families. The funds raised will pay for these special children to participate in ‘intensive blocks’ of physiotherapy, for specialised equipment that is needed, for parental respite and for care in the home.

Vaccine Injuries

I stated above that antivaccinationists ultimately seek to convince the unwary that vaccines harm and kill on a significant scale. Both references here to Belgin confirm this. Dorey also insists vaccines injure and kill – but never has the subjects or the evidence to confirm this. On her blog she lies smoothly, as here;

Many of you know of children who were injured or killed by vaccines. I personally know the families of at least 10 children who died as a result of vaccination and dozens (this is within my family and my close friends) who are permanently injured.

Other material above shows Dorey beating the conspiracy drum: profit from evil vaccines. Fortunately for me she raised the passing of No Jab No Pay legislation. Professor Julie Leask is not a fan of No Jab No Pay. This may well delight the anti-vaccination lobby. During the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab No Pay) Bill hearing in Brisbane on November 2nd, 2015, Professor Leask answered questions on vaccine injury. Her submission to the inquiry was firmly against No Jab No Pay. Thus with some hope one may view her information on vaccine injuries as something antivaccinationists might entertain.

Put simply there are between zero and less than five injuries that would require compensation each year, according to Leask citing a vaccinologist.

The audio and text below is from page 41 of the hearing.

If you listened to the audio you heard the anti-vaxxers in attendance groan in denial at the “zero to less than five” serious vaccine injuries per year figure. But this didn’t stop Meryl Dorey publishing Julie Leask’s anti-No Jab No Pay submission to the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill on her blog. Splendid post truth cherry picking right there.

To conclude we can expect to see anti-science groups gradually develop skills in the use of fake news/evidence and post truth. Recent stories in Australia involving measles cases in the unvaccinated and a case of tetanus are concerning. Cases of vaccine preventable disease are likely to become more and more common. As the unvaccinated spread their wings management of imported disease will demand more resources and frustrate health authorities.

Politically, science has lost a certain respect and may be under threat as rabid post truth movements such as Trumpism take root. Yet the harm such thinking and ideologies cause, and the cost inflicted financially and socially is easily seen and eagerly discussed. Exploitation has its limits.

And that is always a positive.

UPDATE: What does a health minister and an anti-vaxxer have in common?

Pod On The Hill podcast (by Victorian Labor). Episode 6, March 30th 2017.    

  • Outtake of discussion of anti-vaxxers – 3min 27sec – Download mp3
  • Or listen to outtake below:

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Full episode on Soundcloud. Forward to 23 minute mark for beginning of anti-vaxxer discussion.

Del Bigtree misleads his audience over safety of influenza vaccinations

An excellent video published by More Truth © provides a firm evidence based rebuttal to the blatant lies being peddled by Del Bigtree in his promotion of fraudulent anti-vaccine film Vaxxed.

A quick summary of main points raised in this production follows beneath the video.

Lies of Vaxxed: Episode 1 “The Flu Shot”

—————————–

  • The first lie from Del Bigtree is that “mercury” is still in influenza vaccines. “So let’s not kid ourselves”.

Actually the silvery metallic liquid that appears alongside huge needles in images antivaccinationists use to mislead, is elemental mercury. This has never been used in vaccines. The preservative thimerosal is used in multi-dose vials of influenza vaccine only. It is vital multi-dose containers are protected from bacterial infection and thimerosal ensures this.

Once in the body this compound breaks down into 49% ethylmercury which is expelled within approximately one week. A large number of studies confirm its safety for use in childhood vaccines. The mercury in seafood that we consume – methylmercury – is bio-accumulative and a recognised neurotoxin. This is why guidelines exist to ensure safe levels of methylmercury are consumed via seafood.

Of course the anti-vaccine lobby lie just as Bigtree does. Some even counter, bizarrely, that they do not inject fish. Or that ethylmercury is still a form of mercury and crosses the blood brain barrier. Firstly it does not enter the brain. Secondly if one is going to argue ethylmercury is “still mercury” they should apply that flawed logic to table salt; sodium chloride. In that light table salt is “still a form of chlorine”, which is inaccurate.

Thimerosal isn’t used in single shot vials. Finally, to be sure, one can simply ask for an influenza vaccine without thimerosal. There’s more information available here, and also here. So let’s no kid ourselves.

  • Next Del misleads his audience by claiming the influenza vaccine is being given to pregnant women, “and if you read the vaccine insert it’s never been tested on pregnant women”.

There are numerous studies confirming the safety of the influenza vaccine for both mother and fetus. As is clear in the above video this is true for “VAERS reports of pregnant women after the administration of TIV or LAIV”. TIV: Trivalent influenza vaccine. LAIV: Live attenuated influenza vaccine. Also there are significant problems in assuming the content of package inserts is equal to the conclusions of clinical research. Only the latter can be considered evidence.

  • Del continues with, “We now know women are probably miscarrying because of these vaccines, so that’s really horrific”.

Quoting from the video, “There are no studies that show the influenza vaccine can cause miscarriages or stillbirths. An independent study has actually shown that the flu shot can decrease the risk of a miscarriage or stillbirth”. A screenshot [3min 20] from the New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 24 2013 follows showing an abstract summary of Risk of Fetal Death After Pandemic Influenza Virus Infection of Vaccination. Conclusion as follows:

vaxxed_lies

There are a number of benefits for newborns associated with administering influenza vaccines to pregnant women. Between 2004-2012, 43% of children who died from influenza were healthy with no underlying conditions.

I recommend watching the video which includes evidence of a large number of studies that firmly refute the claims made by Bigtree.

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.

Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence

The following post is an exceptionally detailed review of the evidence, and scientific consensus, specific to the persistent claim of a link between vaccination and autism.

Those familiar with the integrity of the scientific method and its value in examining this particular issue will be grateful for both the quality and extent of this review.

Use of the seven tiered Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence provides an excellent device by which to gauge the value of evidence, and as such, introduces one to a reliable tool for similar endeavours.

I trust you find the article a valuable resource.

Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence

© thelogicofscience.com

The Logic of Science

One of the most common concerns that people have about vaccines is that they might cause (or exacerbate) autism. This idea is perpetuated by celebrities and innumerable websites, and it has become one of the cornerstone arguments of the anti-vaccine movement, but is there any truth to it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, both sides claim a superiority of evidence. Indeed, you can find numerous websites presenting lists of papers that they claim provide evidence that autism is caused by vaccines (such as “124 research papers supporting the vaccine/autism link“). Conversely, those who support vaccines also have lists of papers which they present as evidence that vaccines do not cause autism (for example, here and here). So which is correct? The internet is full of misinformation on this topic, so I want to cut through that crap and talk about the actual studies themselves rather than simply tossing lists around…

View original post 17,466 more words

Audio: Examining the anti-vax movement

Preamble…

Recently with the decision by Robert De Niro to pull the dangerous and fraudulent film “Vaxxed…”, from the Tribeca film festival, antivaccinationists have been amusingly “outraged”.

The film appears to be a collation of misleading to bogus claims, deceptively produced to appear as a “documentary”, with the aim of selling the ludicrous claim by one Brian Hooker that CDC scientist William Thompson had blown the whistle on CDC fraud. The fraud purportedly being an increase in autism in African-American boys receiving MMR “on time”. This nonsense brings us to the final card that the film’s director, Andrew Wakefield, is not only innocent of the fraud that saw him deregistered but an ethical hero “working to make vaccines safer”.

The hilarity of deceit at play here requires length and focus. The facts are examined here, here and here. This blog’s Wakefield tag is here. What has been predictable is the conduct of the anti-vaccine lobby. The film’s producer Del Bigtree reached new heights of conspiracy laden fallacy in an interview on USA’s ABC. It was “censored” (it wasn’t) because Big Pharma didn’t want “you” to see it. To accept that, one must accept the whole global Pharma-vaccine conspiracy.

Supporters believe this rot without seemingly questioning a jot. But why? How do they reach a state of intellectual helplessness and gullibility? Why are they incapable of discerning reputable information? As it turns out there are many sources discussing conspiracy theory mindsets, cognitive bias, distrust of authority and more. But for now I’ll avoid such in favour of the audio narratives below. I’m sure I’m not alone in musing about the conduct of antivaccinationists, particularly the similarities in spreading deception and abusing those who hold them to account for such dishonesty.

Here in Australia last January saw the acceptance of a PhD thesis from antivaccinationist and conspiracy theorist Judy Wilyman, by the University of Wollongong. This has rightly attracted wide criticism with respect to academic rigour as the work advances a conspiracy theory by advancing incredulous and debunked claims, citing criticised authors and works.

What is of note here is the contribution of her supervisor Brian Martin who has written that Wilyman has been unfairly attacked by critics. This is not an accurate portrayal of the intellectual and academic challenges Wilyman was met with by any means. Martin goes on to accuse Stop the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network (SAVN) of making complaints to “official bodies” and of seeking to prevent anti-vaccine talks.

This is quite true but I note that SAVN has never been so much as cautioned for vexatious conduct. Complaints are made with good reason and can only take shape thanks to the irregular conduct, or worse, of those complained about. Preventing the abuses of free speech that opponents of evidence based medicine and antivaccinationists engage in is essential to the defence of sound public health.

So what would drive an educated individual to work to enable the scurrilous conduct of his student, rather than encourage critical thought and intellectual honesty? This got me thinking of a worthy production.

Audio…

In August 2015 the BBC broadcast an inquiry, What’s behind the ‘anti-vax’ movement? [© BBC] It could dig a little deeper if we consider the abuse of grieving parents and vile threats that pepper social media. However I think the building blocks of such anti-vax conduct is presented.

  • Listen with the player below…

The four part programme features Dr. Dyan Hes, Brian Deer, Juniper Russo and Heidi Larson. The producers take the view that the so called debate surrounding vaccination has not only been settled, but in view of Andrew Wakefield’s fraud, is a misleading claim. Thus the programme is introduced with the promise that false balance will not be entertained.

Be sure to catch Juniper Russo (Part 3 – The Crunchy Mom) at the 11:15 mark. Juniper was the ideal nature loving mom from Tennessee, convinced Big Pharma had conspired to silence Wakefield. She was wired into the online anti-vax movement and chose to keep vaccines, and other awful medicines, away from her daughter. Juniper’s vaccine beliefs changed when her daughter was diagnosed with autism.

Juniper now takes an evidence based approach to lifestyle and is the author of the blog, Back From Nature.

Enjoy.