"Bullying" over vaccines?

There's been a post over at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism that I had meant to address when it first broke its head through the surface of the stupid to spew more stupid. Fortunately, nothing much was going on in the blogosphere that compelled me; so this was a good time to revisit the post and take care of some unfinished business, particularly given that there have been followup posts since then. It also goes to show how antivaccine cranks like to misuse language, sometimes unintentionally (which is probably the case here) and sometimes intentionally (too many examples over the years to list). For example there's the word bully, and I will say right here and right now to the the woman who wrote the post, Cathy Jameson: "Bully." You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The post I'm revisiting is entitled, amusingly enough, Things to Know or Do When You’re Up Against a Vaccine Bully. It should really be called "When up against someone who knows what he's talking about regarding vaccines, stay calm and baffle him with BS." You'll see what I mean in a minute, but first, let me just state my annoyance again at the antivaccine movement for trying to co-opt October, which has been Breast Cancer Awareness Month for over a quarter century, as Vaccine Injury Awareness Month. Jameson starts out with this canard right in the first sentence, also pointing out that it is National Bully Prevention Month. Naturally, she can't resist trying to put the two together, much as an antivaccinationist tries to put two neurons together arguing science. Like that antivaccinationist, she fails, and fails miserably. However, there are amusement and, perhaps, education in her failure.

First, she whines about headlines about vaccines that she doesn't like:

My head spins when I see headlines like those above. But, to the average reader, they may truly not know why some of the content of those stories are absolutely ridiculous. The reader may not be aware of the many risks of vaccinating or realize how much money goes into this industry. This happens when mainstream news refuses to offer both sides of the vaccine story.

Jameson amuses me here. When I started paying attention to the antivaccine movement about a decade ago, one of the things that drove me crazy, as it still does for many forms of pseudoscience, was the false balance in many news reports. In any story about vaccines, or so it seemed, every journalist seemed to feel obligated to interview antivaccinationists like Andrew Wakefield, Jenny McCarthy, or J. B. Handley antivaccine propagandists like David Kirby or Dan Olmsted; or local vaccine-averse parents. This was done in the name of "balance," of "telling both sides." Indeed, one of the key messages that I've been hammering home here again and again and again is that science is not politics. It is not a popularity contest. In science there are questions where there really are not two sides to an issue. The issue of whether or not vaccines contribute to the development of autism is one of these issues; a mountain of science and clinical studies has failed to find a link between vaccines and autism. Although science can never say never with the absolute religion-like certainty that antivaccinationists demand, it can tell us that the odds that there is a biological link between vaccines and autism is infinitesimally small. For that reason, in stories about vaccines, there is no need to bring out a crank antivaccinationist (but I repeat myself) for "balance," because there really is only one side to the story.

I think Dara O'Briain puts it best when he talks about homeopaths:

It's been a while since I've shown that clip; as far as I'm concerned, it's hard to show it too much, because there is a message there that needs to be repeated loud and often. Let's just put it this way. Cathy Jameson and her ilk are in the same category as the homeopaths and people who remove their own teeth that O'Briain mocks in the clip above, and turning to an antivaccinationist for "balance" in a news report is no different than turning to a homeopath. Do we interview moon hoax believers whenever there is a story about space travel? No! So why is it that, all too frequently, reporters feel obligated to interview antivaccinationists in stories about vaccine science?

Now here's the funny thing. It's something that makes me happy, but it makes Cathy Jameson very upset. I'm referring to a definite trend in news reporting about vaccines not to give the cranks equal time in the name of "balance." I don't have any quantitative evidence, but my anecdotal experience is that stories about vaccines rarely trot out an antivaccinationist any more in the name of "balance." This is a very, very good thing, but not to Cathy Jameson and the merry crew of antivaccinationists at the antivaccine crank blog AoA. Unfortunately, it is not a good enough thing, as just this week we see that there is still a lot of false balance out there in a list of ten stories publicized on AoA, as one of the stories is an article by an autism biomed quack Dan Rossignol. Yet the AoA commenters are still upset that one of the stories didn't mention a link to vaccines.

In any case, Jameson has been getting questions, and these questions are about what she refers to as "vaccine bullies":

I get several phone calls and emails every month from parents asking for help when they see similar headlines in the news. I get questions like: What can I do when my doctor isn’t listening to me? Why is my doctor bullying me about this? What do I say if I don’t want all those shots? What should I bring to the appointment to prove what he’s saying about vaccines and autism is wrong? I let parents know that the best thing that they can, and should do, is to learn as much as they can. I tell them to be ready to speak up when it’s time and to never forget it’s their child—not the doctor’s, that they are bringing into the exam room. I also suggest to these parents to read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. And then read some more. Knowledge truly is power, and applying that knowledge can be very powerful.

In the past, the places I spend the most time discussing vaccines, vaccine safety and how autism is linked to vaccines occurs in an exam room with one of my son’s medical providers as well as on blogs, message boards and in the comments of web-based articles. In the exam room, some doctors and medical staff are adamant about “No vaccines? No service.” Fine! I say. I’d rather take my children to someone else who actually respects them and their health. It may be more costly to find a different provider, but their life is absolutely worth it.

Funny, but if I were a pediatrician, I would say that protecting my patients, particularly ones who are immunosuppressed or have contraindications against being vaccinated and freeing up my time from unproductive discussions trying to persuade antivaccinationists like Cathy Jameson are absolutely worth losing a few patients like Jameson's children. Jameson seems to think that doctors and nurses enjoy trying to correct the misinformation about vaccines that they believe; they do not. It's an educational effort that is rarely successful, takes up a lot of time, and results in much frustration. It is also an example of the mind-numbing arrogance of ignorance that she thinks that her Google University knowledge trumps the knowledge that a physician has accumulated dedicating his life to taking care of children. In any case, based on that arrogance of ignorance, Jameson has decided to give her readers some advice. The funny thing about it is that some of it is actually good advice, just not in the way Jameson thinks. Much of it is a case of massive projection.

First, here's the not-so-bad advice that is such a massive case of projection that it utterly fried yet another irony meter. (Actually, as I've mentioned before, I'm fast running out of outrageous descriptions of distressed irony meters; so I'm going to back it off for a while.) Jameson tells us to be calm:

# 1 – Do stay calm. Online trolls love vaccine drama. Pharma shills do too. They get off on their wordsmithing, their debating skills and how much of your time they can waste. If it’s in the exam room that you raise a question or concern, and if it’s an ill-informed doctor or pushy nurse you’re up against, be prepared well ahead of time with what you want to ask, say or point out. Because your knowledge directly benefits your child’s health, stay calm, know your stuff and be ready to stand your ground. Keep in mind that some practices benefit from doling out pharmaceutical products. The more you know about where your doctor’s loyalty lies, the stronger you can be with the decisions or statements you want to make.

We currently have an antivaccine troll here "debating" over in another thread. He's been at it for a couple of weeks and over 300 comments thus far. His technique involves an ever-shifting array of fallacious arguments that seem superficially plausible. He's wasted a lot of your, my readers', time with some rather unskilled commenting prestidigitation. As for Jameson's advice in the exam room, all she's succeeding in doing is filling worried mothers' heads with antivaccine misinformation while convincing them that they know more than their doctors and can change the their doctors' mind if they're just persistent enough. All they do is to endanger their children and waste their doctors' time.

Next up:

# 2 – Do show them the studies. Back in the day this may have been hard to do. But, with the internet teeming with reliable, scientifically-based data, all one has to do is point out where the studies are. Ginger Taylor gathered studies as did TACA . You’ll see plenty of links to copy, paste, print and share. The next step once you’ve swapped studies? Ask them to read your stacks of facts. Make sure you’ve read theirs also. Don’t be shy. You’ll need to read them, too, because you’ll want to know how to counter them politely with science. If they won’t catch up to what you’re presenting, then you might feel that there’s no need to continue to argue/debate/beat your head against the wall with them. If, by chance, they do catch up, and if for instance, the argument is vaccines cause autism, follow up with a cordial reply asking if they need more proof that autism can result from vaccinations, share that the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has compensated families for their child’s autism which resulted from vaccinations. Remember that you may never get them to switch teams and join the vaccine safety camp, but you can plant tons of seeds to get them to think outside of their pharma-funded pro-vaccine box.

Relying on Ginger Taylor or TACA to interpret actual scientific studies is akin to relying on Ken Ham to teach evolutionary theory or Suzanne Somers to teach medicine. It's just not going to happen, and you'll only embarrass yourself regurgitating the misinformation, pseudoscience, and lies that you'll learn. Better not to bother, because it won't end well. If you don't yet know how to interpret scientific studies, you won't learn how from any of these characters, particularly if you try to repeat the lie that the NVICP has compensated children for vaccine-induced autism, which will only reveal your ignorance for all to see. The NVICP did no such thing, despite the attempts of the latest antivaccine celebrity to make a fool of himself, Rob Schneider, to convince you otherwise.

Jameson then tells her readers that they need to know the lingo. This is perhaps the most hilariously off-base advice of all, because Jameson demonstrates that she most definitely does not know the lingo herself:

# 3 – Do know the lingo. Some of these types of conversations come down to semantics. One of the biggest red flags that pro-vaccinators like to wave, and is utterly incorrect, is when they immediately reference what happened to Dr. Wakefield: “Dr. Wakefield’s study was debunked!” This is when things can get especially heated and is the biggest clue for you: Run. Just run. They aren’t worth your time. They are also showing how immature and wrong they are. But, if you want to stick around and try to educate them, by all means, tell them the facts. Tell them that, first of all, it was not a study; it was a paper. Second, if they’d actually read the paper, they would know that Wakefield, et al never said what the media says they said. Third, the crucification, of Wakefield was spurred by news reporters in the mainstream media who simultaneously flooded most of what we were reading in the newspapers. Fourth, these anti-Wakefielders were duped by the very people they adamantly continue to defend because of the misinformation the newspapers reported. Not until these folks take themselves out of the mainstream media circus sideshow act atmosphere will they be able to realize the truth. Their heads deeply buried in the sand still to see that yet.

"Tell them first that it was not a study; it was a paper"? Seriously? My jaw dropped; I did an epic facepalm; and then I started laughing, almost uncontrollably, after reading that. Here's a hint: A paper is nothing more than an article that describes a study, and, make no mistake, Wakefield's paper described a study. Specifically, the kind of study Wakefield's paper described was a case series. As Brian Deer taught us, it was a crappy case series with unrepresentative sample and grossly misinterpreted pathology results, a veritable cornucopia of Piltdown medicine, and Wakefield had a massive undisclosed conflict of interest. Second, while it is true that Wakefield never explicitly stated in his paper reporting his case series that the MMR vaccine was linked with autism in his subjects, he sure wasn't shy about implying and outright stating that it was in the popular press and then following it up with papers in journals less prestigious than The Lancet trying to draw that very conclusion. What Jameson is arguing is disingenuous in the extreme. Either that, or she really is that ignorant. Take your pick. In any case, if there was a media circus over Brian Deer's expose of Wakefield, it paled in comparison to the media circus in the UK that was precipitated by Wakefield's "revelations."

After this point, I must admit that Jameson had exhausted me. It's draining to deal with so much ignorance, and I've had a long week. Perhaps I should have revisited her post earlier in the week, when I had more energy. I didn't though; so maybe you can help me out. Jameson's remaining advice includes:

  • Do know what is going on with the “autism is only genetic” or “vaccines save lives” types of articles in mainstream news.
  • Do comment.
  • Never ever give up.

If you're an antivaccinationist, you don't have to bother with the first one. After all, AoA's "media editor" Anne Dachel routinely does it for you, posts the links, and thereby inspires her squadrons of antivaccine flying monkeys to fly over to the articles linked to and to divebomb their comments with poo, which is basically what Jameson is telling her readers to do with the last two: Continue to contaminate comment threads in any story having to do with vaccines or autism with antivaccine talking points.

The flying monkeys are forming up their squadrons again. Indeed, if you want to see bullying, see how they swarm in the comments of bloggers who aren't as established as I am and haven't built up their own squadron of science-based commenters (as I have been fortunate enough to do over the last nine years) to drive away the antivaccine quacks, thus allowing me to continue to produce your daily dose of Insolence (relatively) unmolested.

That is, if the bullies over at AoA don't try to harass me at my job again, as they did three years ago.


More like this

Two of the great "icons"—if you can call them "great" given that they're icons but hardly "great"—of the antivaccine movement are Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy. Over the last decade, they have arguably been the most influential people in the antivaccine movement. The reasons are simple. Let's…
What would we do without the Internet? It's become so necessary, so pervasive, so utterly all-enveloping that it's hard to imagine a world without it. Given how much it pervades everything these days, it's easy to forget that it wasn't that long ago that the Internet was primarily the domain of…
After the lengthy post from yesterday, I must admit, I'm a bit tired; so I think it's time to slum a bit for a day. No, that doesn't mean I'm going to throw up a video and call it a day. That's not how Orac rolls (well, usually, at least). I just need a bit of something that doesn't take a lot of…
After the last couple of days of depressing posts about the utter failure of the FDA to do its job protecting cancer patients from the likes of Stanislaw burzynski, it's time to move on. Unfortunately, the first thing that caught my eye as I sat down to blog last night not only fried my irony meter…

"Bullying" has to be one of the most overused words in the language these days (maybe I'm just touchy because an idiot columnist in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch yesterday referred to the victorious Red Sox as "bully boys". C'mon.) And it's farcical when antivaxers who routinely censor opposing views on websites they control and harass opponents at their jobs, gripe about "bullies".

"They get off on their wordsmithing, their debating skills and how much of your time they can waste."

This is a classic whine from the world of woo. If they've got so many better things to do with their time, why are they spending it racing around the Internet, vainly attempting to plug all the gaping holes in their Dam of Ignorance?

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

"Tell them first that it was not a study; it was a paper."

LOLOLOLOLOLOL This comment is pure gold.

The argument that I can never really get is the "pharma shill" or "they're making so much money off vaccines" BS. First off, that's wrong. And secondly, if ANYONE is making money off of vaccines it is the people who have made careers out of scaring people, giving speeches, selling their BS "natural" products, and such. The people who have the most to lose from the vaccine issue are not those who make and administer the vaccines, it's the fear-mongers! Do none of them see this?

A doctor ought to explain that children unvaccinated by choice threaten immunosuppressed patients and others in his practice. If the child is not vaccinated, the parents will need to find another doctor quack.

New reader here, and i cant get enough of this blog. finally someone sane writing about these issues!

I can't laugh out loud because its too early, I might wake my husband. But OMG. Where does she think scientific papers come from? If they were just opinion or made up crap (which Wakefield's might have been, I haven't read it), that is worse than any actual study, even if it is an unethical and poorly designed study. Note: no dr in front of Wakefield, he was stripped of his medical license.

Online trolls love vaccine drama. Pharma shills do too. They get off on their wordsmithing, their debating skills and how much of your time they can waste.

Gotta love that...it's those who promote vaccines who love "vaccine drama". Riiight.

"It's an epidemic! When will the government stop their massive conspiracy and admit it!"

No drama there...

As to wasting time...gee, who posts on every vaccine-or-autism-related news story and then runs away from the discussion? I believe the term is "media editor"

By I. Rony Meter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Good column, Orac.

As a pediatrician, I see children who are horribly bullied--beaten and threatened when caught alone at school or in their neighborhood Some of them are made miserable to the point of being suicidal. What Jameson blathers about is not bullying. It's not even in the same universe.

There is a closed facebook group for the area of town where my pediatric practice is located. I hadn't even thought to check this until now, but there are posts about me saying that I read them "the riot act" on vaccines or that I "lectured them" or "got huffy" when they told me they weren't vaccinating their child. No one specifically called me a bully, but the implication was there--as well as the names of some "vax friendly" pediatricians in my town who let parents pick and choose (or completely refuse) vaccines (new information to me since they aren't on Dr. Bob's "vax friendly" doctor list.). Me thinks some parents have rather thin skins.

There will likely be some more online grumbling by parents since there are ~25 families in my practice who have one more week to either start vaccinating their children or seek care elsewhere. Part of the impetus for changing my practice policy regarding non-vaccination is a local pertussis outbreak in my area. Simply put, I will no longer allow the chance of an electively unvaccinated child wallking into my waiting room with pertussis and infecting a newborn who is too young to be vaccinated. This is what happened with measles in San Diego County in 2008 when an unvaccinated former patient of Dr. Bob "Antivaccine" Sears spread measles to unvaccinated infants and children in a doctor's waiting room. I guess about all Sears can claim with regards to his contribution to this 2008 measles outbreak is that he wasn't a "bully". Truth is, he wasn't being a pediatrician by openly advocating for nonvaccination, which he does as a moderator for the facebook group "Parents and Others Against Vaccination" (as well as in his "vaccine books")

Ironically, while today's topic is about physicians like me "bullying" parents over vaccines, a parent in my practice has told me that she is getting flack from a group of nonvaccinating moms in her neighborhood because she is pushing for the local school district to enforce the state law for exclusion of unvaccinated children during this vaccine preventable disease outbreak of pertussis. Trust me, these antivaccine parents can be a rather pushy lot, and I am glad I won't have to deal with them in my practice anymore.

There is also a MD (who like Sears doesn't deserve the title given his antivaccine stance) named Mayer Eisenstein who has online postings and videos about "vaccine bullying". I've tried to engage him in a debate, but I guess he is "scared" of "bullies" (or more likely scared of debating against the truth)

Finally: Third, the crucification, of Wakefield was.... I don't believe crucification is even a word. But then again, Wakefield is no longer a physician, so maybe fake words are deserved for fake doctors.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Jameson is deploying some weapons-grade projection there. "Show them the studies"? That's the point: the studies show that Jameson and her friends are full of it. Wakefield's magnum opus was a paper, not a study? Clue phone: papers are supposed to be based on a study of some sort, and when it is shown that the authors made a fundamental error in the analysis of a study (or if it is found that the alleged study did not actually take place), it is common for the paper to be corrected or retracted. And I see far more drama kings/queens on the woo side than the SBM side.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

But, with the internet teeming with reliable, scientifically-based data, all one has to do is point out where the studies are

Let's fix that for her:

But, with the internet teeming with reliable, scientifically-based data, all one has to do is ignore it.

By I. Rony Meter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Tell them that, first of all, it was not a study; it was a paper.

Perhaps she could read the paper. Just search for the word "study":

"A similar problem may have occurred in the children in our study"

I guess Andy didn't know what he was talking about.

The paper starts with

"We investigated a consecutive series of children with chronic enterocolitis and regressive developmental disorder."

No, it wasn't a "study". It was an "investigation". right.


By I. Rony Meter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

when they immediately reference what happened to Dr. Wakefield: “Dr. Wakefield’s study was debunked!” This is when things can get especially heated and is the biggest clue for you: Run. Just run

Well yeah. Because that's when you know you've lost. She wants them to run because otherwise they might learn the truth, and she can't have *that*. Not when she's got bulleted lists and talking points.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

If Wakefield's paper was not a study and didn't say that vaccines cause autism, I guess that the fine folks at AoA will stop talking about it.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Jameson also writes for TMR as "Mamacita" ( at AoA and TMR, you can find a multitude of her posts- hundreds) ; she manages to appear on internet radio ( Mayer Eisensteins' show, late of PRN, now on Natural News), Fox television, AutismOne, congressional meetings, book signings; she wrote for 'The Mother" magazine ( UK) and was a cover girl for Autism File ( Andy and Pollys' rag).

She has 5 children - one is non-verbal and has seizures. I get the impression that she's not impoverished. I find her to be one of the more vocal and annoying TMs, right up there with the harpy, MacNeil.

Amongst her posts, the topic of countering SB information vorciferously is a constant- whether it originates from doctors, nurses or other parents' ( esp on facebook).Quite a few of her articles instruct novice TMs in the fine art of aggravating professionals by challenging research with mythology or fantasy-based treatments like biomed.. She doesn't appear to like nurses very much.

From the number of times, I've seen her photos posted about I imagine that she is one of the higher-ups in the anti-vaxx hierarchy.

Whilst projection is most likely involved I'd also venture that problems with self-evaluation/ evaluation of others is also a factor. What do D & K say, "In-expert and un-aware"?
Sounds about right.
Perhaps I should add- "And proud of it".

( hope that this doesn't appear as a double)

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Dr Chris:

I believe the correct term is- STRUCK OFF-
but creative neologisms might be apropro as well.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Like these suburban drama queens ever got bullied in their lives? They tripped through life on primrose paths- heck, they probably were prom queens and cheerleaders- and then they freak out because their kids aren't perfect? Yeah, they get no sympathy from me.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

“Tell them first that it was not a study; it was a paper.”

LOLOLOLOLOLOL This comment is pure gold.

Indeed. Ms. Jameson almost owed me a new keyboard. Fortunately, I had swallowed the iced tea I was drinking while perusing the web before I came to that sentence. I might give her some friendly advice: Don't brag so confidently about how you know more about "vaccine injury" than those "vaccine bully" pediatricians you're trying to teach your readers to "refute" and then in the very same post make a statement about the difference between a paper and a study that is full of nuclear bomb-grade burning stupidity and ignorance about, well, science and what a paper and a study actually are that it reveals to anyone with a modicum of science knowledge that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, you truly do not know what you are talking about.


Oh my my my

Back in the day this may have been hard to do. But, with the internet teeming with reliable, scientifically-based data, all one has to do is point out where the studies are. Ginger Taylor gathered studies as did TACA

I am glad that some of my fellow "worshippers of science" [/snark] took the time to read and evaluate every one of the studies Taylor touts, and that I took the time to collate them and publish a series of blog posts.

Those lists of papers that claim vaccines cause autism? They don't show what they claim

@ PGP:

You might want to skim her posts @ TMR. IIRC one called "18 years" ( or similar) features wedding photos with men in kilts**. She doesn't wear a kilt.

** nothing wrong with kilts- btw-/

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

What Jameson actually wrote about commenting:

Do comment. When new parents learn the facts, and as they become more comfortable supporting (and defending) the truth, their voice inevitably will get stronger. Tell your doctor what you’ve learned and that your decision about vaccines, even if it counters his, should be respected. Don’t be afraid to leave your thoughts in the comment section on news articles. If someone is disputing that autism is caused by anything but genetics, tell them what you know! Trolls and shills spend hours and hours countering parents and providers. Do the same. Do it as much and as many times as you can. Don’t tire of it because you never know who is lurking on the thread, article or blog post. Those lurkers may be soaking in everything you are saying.

I am proud to be among that merry band of so-called trolls and shills. And that's why I comment, just for the lurkers.

@Chris - Yes, that is always my reaction, too. I've seen and experienced Actual Bullying, and it's just frustrating to see it belittled by comparing it to Oh Noes, People Think Actual Evidence Trumps My Opinion!

"Never ever give up."

And that is the heart of not understanding the scientific method. Science is all about being flexible and adjusting your hypotheses to accommodate new data. The antivaccine movement is all about sticking dogmatically to your guns regardless of reality.

I was having a discussion on FB with an otherwise-rational but virulent opponent of recombinant DNA modification of food crops. I've done fly-by 'that isn't actually true and this is why' of articles she's posed before, but this time, I decided to actually stick with it, listen to her concerns, and try to address them. At the very end, she was all, "Well, I'm not going to change my mind and you're not going to change yours, so let's just leave it." I had to say to that - quality evidence, in combination with a reasonable hypothesis (which the anti-recombinant DNA modification of food crops movement is severely lacking - "GMO bad" is not a hypothesis), would indeed change my mind. I asked what evidence would change hers, and got crickets. It's just disheartening.

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

I have three words for Jameson "get in the sack."

By oldmanjenkins (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Well technically that was 4

By oldmanjenkins (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

What do D & K say, “In-expert and un-aware”?
Sounds about right.

I believe the title of their paper was "Unskilled and Unaware of It", but yes, the Dunning-Kruger runs strong in Ms. Jameson. And she does seem to be inordinately proud of it.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Make sure you’ve read their (studies) also. Don’t be shy. You’ll need to read them, too, because you’ll want to know how to counter them politely with science.

My first thought on reading this is okay, now she's lost her audience. Alternative medicine advocates in general tend to shy away from any reading skeptical literature. My friends will self-consciously pass around books and articles on the Quackerie-du-Jour, recommending and expounding on their virtues -- but they never offer one to me. That's because they know I'd say "Oh, I'd love to read this -- if you will also agree to read a book I recommend explaining some of the problems with this. Then we can have a great discussion!" Can't have that.

I doubt anti-vaxxers would be any more open minded.

But then I realized what Jameson was asking. She wasn't saying "read Paul Offit's book so you can understand the other side." She was asking them to read the actual studies. The anti-vaxx moms. Who have no background in science and biology. But they're supposed to be able to adequately read and evaluate abstracts in a legitimate medical journal for their flaws.

What, are they going to discover problems with the statistics which the peer-reviewers failed to catch by using the Power of Motherhood?

Arrogance of ignorance indeed. Remind me of a woman who was manning a Young Earth Creationist booth at my local county fair. She told me she knew evolution couldn't work because she read the biology studies herself.
What, actual studies in a biology journal?
Yes indeed.
What's your background -- level of education, area of study, etc.? I mean, I've glanced over a few and it's well above my competence.
Big smile: I'm a mother.

I had the creepy feeling she expected me to nod approvingly, since I had child in tow myself. Yeah, right. I've changed a lot of diapers. Let me in on a post-graduate discussion board on cellular biology and I'LL tell them a thing or two!


@ Eric Lund:

And thus I demonstrate by my non-literal translation semantic memory in action.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Send this woman to boot camp. Preferably at Parris Island.

Then she can talk about bullying.

My goodness...they don't like nurses. I'm devastated//sarcasm.

If the subject is internet bullying, shouldn't they be looking at the Dachel bot and her daily "Media Reviews"? The bot posts her Spam comments on internet articles hours before she alerts her flying monkey to carpet bomb those articles.

O/T. Reuben Gaines at The Poxes blog has been harassed on his job.


The Dachel bot and her krewe must have rather thin skins indeed since they never let any of us post up on their domain (you know, all us "bullies").

By Chris HIckie (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

O/T. Reuben Gaines at The Poxes blog has been harassed on his job.

Not O/T at all; it is a good demonstration of how Jameson's post is just one big projection. They actively try to identify us for no other reason than to harass us at our jobs and attempt to cause us to lose them. They have never experienced that yet she whines about being bullied. Grow a pair Jameson and stop co-opting a real problem of bullying.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

@ScienceMom - I would like to get a legitimate reaction from her regarding the attempts that have been made to get pro-vaccine individuals fired from their jobs......

Maybe Greg can ask for us, hmmmmm?

We currently have an antivaccine troll here “debating” over in another thread. He’s been at it for a couple of weeks and over 300 comments thus far. His technique involves an ever-shifting array of fallacious arguments that seem superficially plausible. He’s wasted a lot of your, my readers’, time with some rather unskilled commenting prestidigitation.

Be fair, now. It's not fair to anti-vax True Believers to compare them to Greg, who's just trolling -- claiming to believe in the cause, for the fun of wasting the time of smarter people than himself.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Since I returned early...

I spent a half hour reading over some of Mamacita's posts @ TMR...
because I'm confident that the weapons grade D-K she exhiibits will impact neither my emotional state nor my cognitive abilities-and lord knows, reading anti-vax anti-science hasn't yet affected my writing skills- ... so

FORWARD! Fram! Prorsum!

She offers a FAQ for autism parents, teaching them ALL about autism -complete with suggested reading material- AutismOne, TACA, GR, NVIC.

She informs us that doctors are "no help" and that she learned her craft from science books, websites and above all PARENTS' blogs.

She fancies herself to be an educator and perhaps an interventionalist (" See something?") who confronts parents she encounters about town when their kids display symptoms ("red flags") of ASD, allergies or asthma. And tells them how to proceed.

She is an astute observer who "stalks autism" ( her words) in her own child and in others' children and can recognise "50 shades of poo". She knows how forbidden foods spark 'meltdowns' and how biomed heals.She has written for Autism File magazine (chez Andy).

She deals with FACTS as well as the "haters" who work against the truth...doctors, nurses ( " "Time to School the School Nurse") and parents who vaccinate ( esp on facebook) .

She has twice discussed the dreaded school shots season ( esp 2013," Updated!") wherein we learn that the VACCINATED kids are really the ones who pose the industrial strength hazard of spreading disease through the process of "vaccine shedding".

YES, gentle readers, vaccinated kids are the problem.

And last and certainly not least, ( esp for PGP, who will groan) the infamous wedding photo is at the post titled "13".

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

I looked at the photo..not sure what it's supposed to prove.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

That she may be as you guess @ 16. A bit too thrilled with herself.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

When did parenthood become a high holy thing? When did popping out a kid give you a license to practice medicine? When did getting knocked up suddenly endow you with wisdom?

I'm not saying parenthood isn't special, but it doesn't come with magical superpowers, for cripes sake.

Khani--If you don't live in the US, the holy cloak of motherhood is now an article of faith in the US. Jenny McCarthy certainly has gotten her mileage out of it. This is such a deeply sexist notion that I won't comment on that aspect, but I will remark that the fundamental anti-intellectual nature of it is deep in our culture. Mothers somehow are conferred with transcendent wisdom and insight by virtue of having given birth in our culture. It's one of the most embarrassing aspects of our society and is cringe-worthy and very obvious among the scantily educated. I am a woman and frankly find this insulting to all women. The acceptance of motherhood as a badge of authority is a huge problem in the US that we need to confront.

DW: Ah. Well most of the vocal people at Age Of Autism are. Sometimes I think Age of Autism is the black hole of Dunning Kruger syndrome.

Khani:When did parenthood become a high holy thing?

My guess is after Roe vs. Wade and after the invention of the pill when parenthood became optional rather than a thing that almost everyone did.
Parenthood makes a nice big stick to hit other women with if you happen to be of the Evangelical persuasion.

And if you're like the Thinking Moms, who are mostly yuppie women who finally found the conditions right to multiply, a non-perfect child becomes very frustrating, because they look at the child and just think of all those years they had to give up at the job.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

I don't think it was that long ago. It certainly wasn't that way when I was growing up, so it'd definitely be a more recent trend. I'd look to more like the last 10-20 years.


When did parenthood become a high holy thing?

In the late 1990’s, when the Sears family launched their publication empire, and it’s only escalated since.

That said - sssssh! Don’t tell my kids I don’t have superpowers!

One of the benefis of living,working and being educated in the great, ancient citadels of liberalism is that no one cares if you have no children. I am not the *rara avis* either.
There's lots of it going around, I hear.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

Well, I want to have kids, but I like to think I won't have a sudden fit of madness and think it makes me *better* than people who don't.

Khani, I think that some of the TMs and AoA mavens have more serious issues that pre-date parenthood. The crisis of an ASD diagnosis and the difficulties of caring for a special needs child may bring out other long term problems that remain silently below the surface as long as life sails along smoothly but emerge when the waters become rougher.
Alt med takes advantage of these weaknesses.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 01 Nov 2013 #permalink

I'm with Denice. You only have to read the articles and the comments on AoA to know that many of these mommies (and daddies), had some skewed thought processes before their children were diagnosed with ASDs.

Chemmomo: "In the late 1990’s, when the Sears family launched their publication empire, and it’s only escalated since"

Actually it was more likely the early 1990s. The Sears patriarch was making himself known, and my family doctor called him a loon. Though he tell me about that particular loon recommended "wearing the baby", which solved problem I had with my younger son for crying all the time (born in 1990).

Of course, as I wore that little guy in a sling, his teeny tiny infant head did meet the hard cold steel of a stair railing more than once. Oops. At this time his projected graduation with a BA in Math is at the end of next spring (then he will work towards a qualification to teach high school math, I don't think I damaged too many brain cells!).

Did someone say "Sears family"? Continuing in the Sears family tradition of untested quackery, the nepotistic son of the paterfamiias--the one who somehow knows soooooo much about vaccines that can create his own vaccine schedules out of thin air-- just made an online appearance in one of those false balance vaccine articles: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/parents-534104-vaccines-health.html. I'm referring of course to Dr. Robert "call me Bob" Sears. The newspaper doing this article apparently couldn't be bothered to remember that they are the ones who exposed in 2008 how it was one of doctor Bob's own unvaccinated patients who started the 2008 San Diego County measles outbreak (http://www.ocregister.com/articles/parents-534104-vaccines-health.html).

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 02 Nov 2013 #permalink

re #s 31 & 33 above:

So Reuben felt repercussions?

It seems that whoever defends vaccination feels the wrath of the harpies. Not surprising.

HOWEVER this isn't called 'bullying' but 'speaking truth to power' or 'investigation journalism. Attempting to influence a professional's employers, publishing home addresses, dominating question and answer sessions at public lectures, acting out at governmental meetings....throwing sceptics out of autism conferences, writing insulting tales of imagined malfeasance It's all fine.

I have found it serendipitous that recently the rage machine has turned in on itself ( the Internecine War drags on). @ Autism Investigated, the MPH berates the MBA in print and over the internet airwaves, courtesy of Natural News' Curt Linderman (links to both sides of the uncivil war @ AI).

The brash youngster lacks one attribute that would forever guarantee the stamp of approval on his scurvy activities: he's not a parent.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 02 Nov 2013 #permalink

DW: And hopefully he never will be.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 02 Nov 2013 #permalink

In all seriousness, why would one of these parents even bother taking their kids to a pediatrician in the first place?

1) They don't trust the pedatricians to have any special knowledge about health and believe the doctors are, at best, misiformed and out to make money for big pharma.
2) They do trust their own "mother power" and Googletastic medical knowledge to the point that they feel they can school actual doctors.
3) And, it's not like they need to see a doctor because doctors are the only ones who can give vaccines.

What would posess them to even make an appointment (except, of course, a grand opportunity to go on and on about how they know so much more)? What would they hope to get out of it?

brash youngster [...] his scurvy activities

It's all caused by vitamin-C deficiency!!

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 02 Nov 2013 #permalink

I just posted on The Skeptical OB blog "Autism and maternal self-blame about the TMR :


IMO, if it wasn't Jake who made the call to Reuben Gaines' employer, then it was someone on Team Jake who posts on his blog...say his new BFF Mr. B*st. Yeah, some of the AoA cranks are quite capable of doing the dirty deed, but "the kid" is the one
Reuben has been posting about.

@Khani - well, we give this maternal fit of madness a name that would translate roughly to "nappy-borne brain inflammation" ;-) And it's not a US-only phenomenon, I've seen it over here, too.

Mention of Wakefield led me to look up what was happening in his lawsuit against the BMJ and Deer.

Wakefield’s campaign website has been taken down.

Arranga's bumbling was superseded by "The Academic Integrity Fund," which itself is moribund aside from a lackluster Facebook presence. There's also "The Defending Academic Integrity and Research Foundation"; whether they're related is a question I'm not particularly motivated to examine. The Facebook page for the latter is a wasteland.

As for the appeal, a decision is past due, reckoning by the average-time number planted in my head a while ago, but that was homogenized and a bit dated. A better estimate would likely result from looking at the timings of recent Third Court of Appeals decisions for cases that had oral argument. How tedious this would be is left as an exercise for the reader.

"Wakefield’s campaign website has been taken down."

Yeah. And his indiegogo fundraiser is at $9,532 out of $200,000 "needed" with only 3 days to go. Still, that's $9,532 that Wakefield should never receive.

By Broken Link (not verified) on 02 Nov 2013 #permalink

At the very least, characterizing doctors' attempts to convince them to vaccinate and to provide information as bullying tells me they know they're a minority, they know the experts disagree with them, and they know their position needs defending (and since they don't really have any good way to defend it with data - the credible data is not on their side - accusation of shilling and attempts to silence opposition seem to be the natural fallback).
And I, personally, found the pride in scaring parents away from protecting their children against diseases more than a little sad. That's your accomplishment?

And I agree that several of the points are good advice to vaccine advocates - know our stuff (and thanks to this blog for helping provide those of us with no background explanations of some of the issues); stay calm; persist in repeating, and remember the lurkers.

Slightly off topic, but you might be interested to know that the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) has dropped the ball in the worst possible way. The science program 'Catalyst' ran an 'investigative' program that claimed that cholesterol was harmless and that statins were fraudulent. In the second episode (After an outcry) they ran a disclaimer saying that the program was not medical advice.

Heart patients have already started throwing away their medicine. I watched the program and got the impression that some (American) lawyers had decided to make a killing by scaring people and riding the fear into a big class action suit.

The story can be read at the link below:


Ms. Jameson is definitely wielding some weapons-grade stupidity, right there.



"@ScienceMom – I would like to get a legitimate reaction from her regarding the attempts that have been made to get pro-vaccine individuals fired from their jobs……

Maybe Greg can ask for us, hmmmmm?"

Let me state unequivocally that the practice of seeking to get pro-vaxxers fired from their jobs is totally outrageous, and reprehensible. It's an appalling act that I in no way, shape, or form support. Venturing to pro-vaxxers' place of employment and seeking their ousting are despicable acts upon innocent people -- 'innocent people', who after the pro-vaxxers get fired, will be solicited to replace them as lying, deceitful, unscrupulous pharma shills!! (I am off -- just couldn't pass that one up before I leave.)

Don't stick the flounce Greg.

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 03 Nov 2013 #permalink

Do excuse me if this has already been noted, but Jameson has a standout in "Social Media, Autism Friend or Foe?"

Autism per se seems to have nothing in particular going on here, but one is treated to some Marc Stephens–worthy examples of how to make an ass of yourself in bright red type.

Ms. Jameson, somehow during the episode in which she twice adumbrated healthcare.gov, seems to have somehow gotten all confusedy about the fact that the screen shot she was dorking was, you know, not from healthcare.gov.

Ms Jameson seems to be confused about the meaning of the word 'bullying'. At least that's the most charitable interpretation I can give, otherwise it would be a rather large insult to those of us who have actually experienced bullying.

By Baron Scarpia (not verified) on 03 Nov 2013 #permalink

Notice how AoA tries to co-opt whatever topic happens to be in the headlines (ACA roll-out snafus, Internet bullying, etc) in attempt to do some kind of direct comparison to "autism 'itz de vaczines!!!!'"?

Since they can gain no legitimacy themselves, they gloam on to whatever headlines actually matter to people....pretty pathetic and is a slap in the face to those effected by things like bullying in real life.

This is excellent news.
If Jameson has to resort to flailing like this, it means that the antivaxx movement has weakened. Also, if people were to follow her point 2, they'd soon get shown up.
The outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases and the unfortunate deaths that have resulted have eviscerated two antivaxx arguments: that vaccines don't work and that the diseases aren't that bad. More and more people are realising that vaccines work and that the diseases can be severe, and that antivaxxers are full of brown organic matter.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 03 Nov 2013 #permalink


What would posess them to even make an appointment (except, of course, a grand opportunity to go on and on about how they know so much more)? What would they hope to get out of it?

Cognitive dissonance combined with the all-mighty "they know how to fix things in an emergency, but they know nothing of the day-to-day or chronic".

So you know, the doctor can deal with that boo-boo on the kid's leg, but allergies, heck no!

Also, their kids never get sick, cause they do all the right things at home (diet, etc) so why go to the doctor for any reason anyway. (Here I interject with an idea: they just want to be patted on the head and told they're good parents and they're doing the right things... is it me or does this sound a tad Munchhausen by proxy?)

Will wonders ever cease: one of Orac's minions, PGP, made it through AoA's censor @ Jameson's "bully" post commenting much as she did here earlier. I don't think that they like her very much.
Take a bow, PGP.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 04 Nov 2013 #permalink

@ Denice Walter: I'm only seeing 8 comments on Jameson's "bullying" post...the most recent is October 28th.

I hope you or pgp has a copy of her comment or a screen shot...because her comment is not there.

Nice one, PGP. If you go over there again, maybe you can ask them what I should do about my vaccine injury. I got a flu shot today and now my left shoulder really hurts.

By Edith Prickly (not verified) on 04 Nov 2013 #permalink

How about we call 4th of November the international flu vaccination day? I'd be interrested into having more autistic pals <Grin> ;)


DW: Ah, thanks. I think they're a little bored. Oh, well, I made it through the filters, though it probably won't last long.

Edith Prickly: Somehow, I doubt they care about adults. Though I do wonder what's with the flu shots, seems like they make them extra stingy lately. I gotta remember to go to the doctor soon; get my shot and make sure my ankle's healing up right.

Alain: You should migrate down here sometime.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 04 Nov 2013 #permalink

I have been in nursing for over 6 years including working in a hospital. I recently made the mistake of getting involved in a conversation with a bunch of Anti vac quacks..where I was called a stupid nurse and the told that my degree was paid for by pharmaceutical companies. .(wish that they had been around to pay back the student loans) all because I was pointing out how all of their facts were incorrect, out of date and given by doctors who had lost their medical license. Anyhow I can across your blog and just wanted to say Brilliant and that I will continue to follow you. Thank you!
Oh and by the way all of these anti vac people earned their medical degrees via the World Wide Web!

By Kristen Lindop (not verified) on 04 Nov 2013 #permalink

Denise Walters: Skimming the comments, I was reminded of one of Jameson's posts, where she stated that kids with dark circles under their eyes had wheat allergies. I laughed- I was that kid, but I never had an allergic reaction to anything, I just stayed up late reading.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 06 Nov 2013 #permalink

If "wordsmithing" means "using words correctly," then yes, I do enjoy that!

(I've given up on trying to understand the cognitive dissonance of people who rant about pharma shills while credulously shelling out cash to any biomed peddler with a cheap website and a few testimonials.)

@ Kristen Lindrop:

Welcome aboard!!!

I've been labeled as a pharma shill, pharma whore...and a saloonkeeper (by one of the cranks at Age of Autism who thinks I reside in Texas. :-)

lilady, RN BSc-Nursing

Oh dear...in a week moment I started to mentally cast all the regulars here for parts on "Gunsmoke."

Who wants to be Chester?



When my now fourteen year old son was diagnosed with autism when he was five, I was desperate to understand why he has it. I pestered the doctors with "Did I do this? Could I have done something different?" questions at every visit. Then I heard about the vaccine study, and almost jumped on that train, of course the vaccines did it! But I also happen to be a fairly intelligent person with an inquisitive mind so I started to do my own research. Without a family history of autism or any like disorders, I've come to the conclusion that in my son's case, it just happened.

But I would never ever suggest not getting your child vaccinated. My father was a victim of one of the last polio epidemics in NYS (1950) and struggles with the after effects to this day (post polio syndrome for example). Now look at the news. There are polio outbreaks in Syria, a country that refugees are fleeing from. I can expect a lot of these refugees to end up in the United States, bringing the live polio virus with them. Should we turn them away? No, we're America, we're founded on the "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" concept. But I can protect my child from going through what his grandfather is now going through. He is fully vaccinated, and his autism, by the way, has not gotten worse with subsequent vaccinations and boosters. With therapies, work and patience, he is learning to deal with the real world and I couldn't be more proud. He may be autistic, but he will remain polio free. He will not die of preventable illnesses like measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, (insert your favorite vaccine preventable disease) because I have been a responsible parent.