The Woo Boat, part 2: Andrew Wakefield versus the skeptics

About six months ago, I was highly amused to discover something called the Conspira-Sea Cruise, which I referred to at The Woo Boat. As I said at the time, file this one under the category: You can’t make stuff like this up. Certainly, I couldn't.

I've never been on a cruise. Quite frankly, the very concept of a cruise doesn't much appeal to me, at least not an ocean cruise. My wife and I have considered doing a Viking River Cruise, because a river cruise where you get to stop at multiple historic European cities and watch the countryside roll by while on the ship sounds far more appealing to us than an ocean cruise. However, that was before I knew there existed a cruise like the Conspira-Sea Cruise, a cruise custom-designed for people who love Alex Jones and Mike Adams and agree with their rants that there is a New World Order trying to suppress the rights of you sheeple; people who strongly believe that vaccines not only cause autism, sudden infant death syndrome, a shaken baby-like syndrome, autoimmune diseases, sudden ovarian failure, and even outright death but are a depopulation plot hatched by Bill Gates and the Illuminati who support his agenda; people who believe that black helicopters are keeping an eye on those who have discovered this plot. To you, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are part of the same plot, pure poison and pure evil; and—of course!—people who just know that there is a cure for cancer—nay, cures for all diseases—out there but those evil pharmaceutical companies are keeping them from the people, the better to bolster their profits, just as they are preventing Brave Maverick Doctors like Andrew Wakefield, Mark Geier, and Sherri Tenpenny from telling the world the truth about vaccines.

OK, my interest in such a cruise is a bit more—shall we say?—clinical in that I would have been interested far more in studying the quackery, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and paranormal beliefs than in engaging in them. Also, I have a serious problem with keeping a straight face in response to sheer looniness, and it doesn't help that antivaccine "luminary" Andrew Wakefield knows who I am. Although I have no idea if he knows what I look like, I do know that he knows my name and what I've written about him over the years. (Just type his name in the search box of this blog if you're wondering.)

So, lo, those many moons ago, I had to console myself over the fact that there was no way I could go on this cruise, even undercover, with the amusement that came from reading about the cruise. Fortunately for skeptics, at least two journalists, Bronwen Dickey and Anna Merlan, as well as a skeptic and former attorney named Colin McRoberts (whose wife Jennifer Raff runs the blog Violent Metaphors) were on the cruise, the reporters for the story, McRoberts for the experience and research for a book he is writing about irrational beliefs. I am hard-pressed to think of a better bit of research for such a book, making his appeal on a GoFundMe page worthwhile. I was definitely looking forward to everyone's reports, particularly about Andrew Wakefield. Who would have thought that Wakefield would have fallen so far, to be doing a cruise like this with a bunch of New World Order conspiracy theorists, crop circle believers, people who think HAARP is a form of mind control, and HIV/AIDS denialists?

On the other hand, it's totally appropriate.

I haven't been able to find Dickey's article yet, but yesterday published Merlan's story, entitled Sail (Far) Away: At Sea with America's Largest Floating Gathering of Conspiracy Theorists. Earlier, McRobert posted a series of posts on Violent Metaphors, most prominent of which (for me, anyway) was an interview with the chief antivaccinationist himself, Andrew Wakefield. Liz Ditz has a running tally of the coverage, including interviews with Colin by April Glaser and Kylie Sturgess.

If you want to get an idea of the vibe of the entire cruise, I can't think of a better example than the Sean David Morton speaking to the attendees and telling them:

“Conspiracy theorists are always right,” Morton told the room. He spoke with the jokey cadence and booming delivery of his profession; he’s basically Rush Limbaugh, if Rush Limbaugh claimed to have psychic powers (Morton practices a form of ESP known as “remote viewing,” which he says he learned from Nepalese monks). It was a bit of a pander, since the room was filled with conspiracy theorists.

“In 40 years,” Morton added, “as many people will believe a bunch of Arabs knocked down the World Trade Center as will believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.” A lot of people nod.

The things that everyone thinks are “crazy” now, he said, “the mainstream will pick up on them. 2016 is going to be one of those pivotal years, not just in American history, but in human history as well.”

This is a phenomenon shared by nearly all cranks and conspiracy theorists, so much so that I have to wonder if it is one of their defining traits, that I even coined a term for it (at least I think I was the first to coin this term), the fallacy of future vindication or, as I sometimes call it, the "I'll show them" fallacy. Basically, it’s the idea that someday, in some far-off (or not-so-far-off) future, the medical and scientific community will realize that, for example, antivaccine cranks are not cranks at all, that they were right all along and that vaccines are the horrible thing that vaccine-autism conspiracy theorists claim them to be. It’s the fantasy that antivaccine quacks like Andrew Wakefield will cease to be viewed as quacks and cranks and be recognized for the forward-thinking geniuses that the antivaccine movement believe them to be. Yes, this fantasy says, these doctors today are shunned, viewed as pseudoscientists and quacks, but someday their brilliance will be undeniable. You see the same sort of thinking among 9/11 Truthers, creationists, quacks of all stripes, believers in the paranormal, and basically any crank you can think of.

There is also the idea of "otherness," which apparently leapt to the fore during one of Andrew Wakefield's talks:

The wider world hasn’t been kind to Wakefield, who lost his medical license in 2010 and is widely described as a one-man public health disaster. Here, though, he was treated as a battle-scarred hero. The room hung on his every word.

“One in two children will have autism by 2032,” he told us, to horrified gasps. “We are facing dark times. The government and the pharmaceutical industry own your bodies and the bodies of your children.”

“There are no [vaccine] exemptions anymore,” Sean David Morton piped in. “Not even if you’re Jewish. But I think Obama made an exception for Muslims.” He switched into what may have been an impression of someone with an Arabic accent: “Ay yi yi!”

Racist much, Mr. Morton? Then:

He dropped back down to his normal register. With vaccines, he said, “They rape your kids. They are literally raping your kids. They literally jam something into their bodies that makes them sick.”

Rape. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Yes, this is a particularly vile metaphor that antivaccinationists have latched on to. In particularly, this particular analogy became more popular during the political battle over California SB 277 (I'm talking to you, Mary Holland), the bill now passed into law that eliminates non-medical exemptions to school vaccine mandates, although I had seen it before. Unfortunately, it is part of the violent rhetoric increasingly prevalent among antivaccinationists that leads those of us on the pro-science side to be a bit worried that one day an antivaccine activist will actually act on it.

Obviously, I'm concentrating mostly on Wakefield here, because the antivaccine movement is what I'm most interested in and because it amuses me to no end to see Wakefield reduced to such a state. Merlan's article acknowledges this, by noting where Wakefield pointed out that he had a promising career but that he "flushed it down the toilet," which is entirely true. While Wakefield thinks he flushed his career down the toilet in the service of truth, science, and justice, in reality he flushed it down the toilet in the service of pseudoscience. One trait that he shares with a lot of other conspiracy theorists, a trait that could well be another defining characteristic, is an unwavering faith in his own conspiracy theories:

Wakefield’s belief in his own theories has never wavered. He has an intense following among parents who believe their children were injured by vaccines (one told the New York Times in 2011 that he was “Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one”). In a presentation that lasted an hour and a half, Wakefield told the cruise audience that the Centers for Disease Control was ignoring evidence that the MMR vaccine increases autism rates, especially among African-American boys. His main source, a CDC whistleblower, has said in a statement that he “would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race.”

Wakefield disagrees: He predicted a future where “80 percent of American boys” will have autism in 15 years.

This is the sort of prediction we see every time the CDC releases new figures about autism prevalence that are higher than the last time. For instance, when the CDC estimated autism prevalence at 1 in 68, immediately we saw all sorts of apocalyptic rhetoric about how half or most children will be autistic by 2030 or so. Perhaps the most hilarious example of this occurred during a debate I attended to support Steve Novella debating all-around quack Julian Whitaker back in 2012. There, Whitaker showed a graph that showed autism prevalence reaching 100% by sometime between 2032 and 2041. It was a graph so ridiculous that it probably lost the debate for him, as the audience, even though it was full of people sympathetic to the view that vaccines cause autism, was clearly convinced how ridiculous it was by Novella. I personally pushed Whitaker for the source of his figures, as well. Let's just say that his answers were...unconvincing. That Wakefield parrots a version of this particular idiocy—after all, if 80% of boys will be autistic by 2030, that's pretty close to Whitaker's estimate of 100% of boys by 2032 and 100% of girls by 2041—does not speak well of him. Of course, nothing much speaks well of him.

Neither do his statements in his interview with Colin McRoberts. Regular readers will recognize immediately a lot of the misinformation and lies that Wakefield regularly traffics in, but even so it's worth taking a look. In particular, I was interested in the so-called "CDC whistleblower" documents Wakefield claims to have. Matt Carey and I both have the documents (as do many others now), and we concluded that there's just nothing there. Even William Thompson (the CDC whistleblower himself) doesn't appear to believe the spin he tries to put on the documents.

Among the same ol', same ol' that we always hear from Wakefield, we do learn some tidbits. For example (question in bold, Wakefield's answer in normal text):

And then do you know if there are documents you have from Thompson that Posey does not?

I have documents that Posey does not because Thompson and I were in private correspondence.

And when you say that, are they documents that were that correspondence, or were they documents from the DeStefano days?

They are correspondence between us.

So Wakefield and Thompson were in correspondence with each other. Wakefield's being squirrelly (as he usually is) about exactly when, but given what I saw in the data dump of the "CDC whistleblower documents," I'm guessing Thompson's correspondence with Wakefield goes back to the days of the DeStefano et al study that provoked Thompson's wrath and that he used as an excuse to run into the arms of antivaccine cranks like Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield. As you might remember, that led to Brian Hooker's infamous "reanalysis" of the DeStefano et al data that claimed to find a four-fold increase in autism among African American boys vaccinated before 36 months.

As I pointed out at the time (as did many others) Hooker's statistical analysis was incredibly simple and totally wrong, not the least of which because he analyzed data collected for a case control study as a cohort study. Get a load of Wakefield's response to questions about this:

I’ve heard, and again I’m not qualified to even understand the criticism, that Hooker misunderstood how to analyze case control studies. Are you familiar with that criticism?

No I’m not. The criteria for the, if you go to the criteria for the journal, Translational Neurodegeneration, it says papers will be published on the basis of expert peer review. And only when they pass that expert peer review will they be published. The paper went expert peer review which included a statistical analysis and whether he used appropriate methodology. So it passed muster on the basis of the journal’s own rigorous criteria. That gives me cause for concern, because there was nothing in Hooker’s analysis which substantiates or supports the contention that he did not know how to analyze a case control study.

In response to this, Matt Carey speculated about something I now wonder about ever since I wrote my most recent post about peer review. There's a practice that is widespread among journals that really should be abolished, specifically requests for suggestions for peer reviewers and the whole issue of fake peer review, in which peer review requests, thanks to security flaws in various platforms used for peer review, can be funneled to specific reviewers—or even back to the authors themselves. I agree with Matt; I'm not saying that this is what happened, but given how bad Hooker's paper was, how incompetent the statistical analysis was, I have to wonder if that happened.

Another interesting tidbit we learn from Wakefield is this:

If you’re comfortable saying so, are you still in contact with Thompson?

No. When we – let me qualify that. I write to Thompson. Updating him on our progress. I do not anticipate a response. Because in getting him or encouraging him to get a whistleblower lawyer, his lawyer advised as any good lawyer should that he should make no further comment until a congressional hearing or the equivalent. And therefore I have not heard back from him.

So Wakefield is informing Thompson of his "progress." Lovely.

Perhaps the most informative part of this interview is a series of questions near the end where McRoberts asks Wakefield if there is anything that would change his mind about vaccines. After the first question, about vaccines and autism, Wakefield essentially punts, not really answering the question. After that:

The positions and the rhetoric that you’ve taken at this conference make it pretty clear you feel that there is extremely good reason to believe that the MMR vaccine in particular, and possibly vaccines in general, and possibly GMOs as well, have a causative link to autism.


What would change your mind?

That is because I’ve sat in this field now for twenty years, and nothing has persuaded me that the science is wrong. And what now convinces me that there is a real cause for concern is William Thompson coming forward and saying that a hypothesis that I put forward in the year 2000 is proven to be correct by the year 2001 and was kept concealed for 13 years. How would you feel in that position? Would you feel that it reaffirmed your concern that the parents’ story was right? Or would you think, well, we can dismiss that because – no. It is quite clear that there is a problem they have covered up. So it makes me feel more strongly than ever that we need good, independent science—and I mean independent, independent of the CDC, independent of influence by government or the pharmaceutical industry—that gives us the answers. Will we ever get that? No. We will not get that. Why? Because the system is so distorted, and that’s very very sad. And I’m a scientist, I’ve published 140 papers and I’ve never committed fraud in my life. And I’ve published papers which suggest my hypotheses is wrong. Very few people do that. I publish them. I publish papers – and you can look them up, in the Journal of Medical Virology, saying “we do not find this virus in these tissues.” Despite that being our hypothesis [inaudible]. So I’m perfectly open to the counter-argument. But nothing so far has persuaded me that there isn’t a link, and Thompson’s revelations have reaffirmed to me that there is a link. There is no question, there is a link, they’ve found it. [inaudible] So there we are.

So basically, Andrew Wakefield is admitting that there is nothing that will change his mind, even as he misrepresents what Thompson said. Thompson, for all the opprobrium I've heaped on him that I now believe he deserves, never actually said that vaccines cause autism. He merely thought (mistakenly) that the data published by DeStefano et al supported a correlation that needed further evaluation. But notice this statement, "Nothing has persuaded me that the science [linking vaccines and autism] is wrong." Will we ever get "independent science" on vaccines? No, according to Wakefield. Therefore, he doesn't see anything that would make him change his mind and defines the sort of science that might make him change his mind so narrowly that it will never exist.

Reading that interview with Wakefield and the description of the Conspira-Sea Cruise, I must say that I now believe that Wakefield (not to mention Sherri Tenpenny, another truly out there antivaccinationist) totally belongs with the JFK assassination conspiracy theorists, 9/11 Truthers, crop circle chasers, and the like. Indeed, since he was pushing a movie project, he reminds me of this:

After the film, things got weirder: Kane and Horowitz called Litovsky, the photographer, to the front of the room and accused her of taking photos of the wrong parts of the movie, the parts with photos of the websites where they sell their products.

“Why would you take photos of our sponsors?” Horowitz demanded. “”

Suddenly, everyone was yelling. Kane and Horowitz were yelling at Litovsky. Other people were yelling at them to stop. A lady got up and yelled that the flash from the camera made it hard for her to concentrate. The group’s yoga instructor, Abbie, an incredibly nice woman who happens to be Shumsky’s niece, yelled that Horowitz and Kane were guaranteeing a negative article.

“They could’ve written something really nice about this cruise, and now it’s going to be a negative spin, because of what you did,” she shouted. “You humiliated them!”

“Who are you?” Kane demanded.

“She’s a plant!” a woman yelled from the audience.

“She’s the yoga instructor,” Shumsky corrected, who’d come in during the middle of all this and was trying, occasionally, to intervene.

Yes, the sort of person who's a headliner on a cruise like the Conspira-Sea Cruise always has something to sell. Yes, Wakefield does fit right in just fine, as do most antivaccine heroes.


More like this

Hard as it is to believe, it’s been seven months since the Conspira-Sea Cruise, or, as I called it when I discovered it before it set sail, The Woo Boat. After it set sail and I started reading reports about it from two reporters who took the cruise in order to report on it, Anna Merlan, Bronwen…
When last we left Andrew Wakefield, hero to the antivaccine movement, he was a headliner on the Conspira-Sea Cruise, a cruise filled with conspiracy theorists, crop circle chasers, cranks, quacks, and antivaccine activists. It was a huge come down from his formerly exalted position as chief…
File this one under the category: You can't make stuff like this up. (At least, I can't.) Let's say you're a die hard all-conspiracy conspiracy theorist and alternative medicine believer (a not uncommon combination). You love Alex Jones and Mike Adams and agree with their rants that there is a New…
Ben Swann, anchor of the evening news for the local Atlanta CBS affiliate and the face of his Truth In Media series of videos, thinks himself an investigative journalist and a truth teller, but much of what I see him reporting more closely resembles reporting as though done by a cross between Ted…

So basically, Andrew Wakefield is admitting that there is nothing that will change his m

He can't admit anything else or he'll lose his sycophants followers.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

So, here's my question -- why? Why do people think the CDC wants a population of mostly autistic people. I mean, as someone on the autism spectrum, I can think of some benefits*, but these people hear autism and they don't think of people like me (the 'quirky scientist'), or adults at all. They think of a toddler or preschooler who is completely non-verbal.

* People stop insisting that my stims and lack of eye contact are weird.

By Becca Stareyes (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

Did it never occur to this lot that they were just asking for the evil conspirators to sink the boat and get rid of all these brave mavericks once and for all?

I wonder what they paid him?

I knew fellow who was quite a celebrity amongst yoga aficionados who often was a featured lecturer / instructor on cruises : he said they don't pay you much as you get a room, meals and get to visit exotic locales in the Caribbean or places like Bali.

I understand that Andy took his wife so that would be two fares; having looked over the prices a while ago I recall that they were rather high. So my guess is that he was given a few thousand USD plus a vacation- where he could work on his tan and use the gym frequently.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

re that figure about increases in autism:
could that be a projection from Seneff?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

Too bad we have to wait another 9 years to see how the anti-vaxers react when the autism numbers aren't "1 in 2."

Did it never occur to this lot that they were just asking for the evil conspirators to sink the boat and get rid of all these brave mavericks once and for all?

Oddly enough, nothing of the sort happened. Maybe The Man isn't so all-powerful after all, or maybe they aren't as dangerous to The Man as they think they are. :-)

I was at least hoping for a bout of Norovirus.....

Did it never occur to this lot that they were just asking for the evil conspirators to sink the boat and get rid of all these brave mavericks once and for all?

That thought occurred to several commenters, myself included, on the original post. The flaw in that line of reasoning is that it uses a form of logic, admittedly the strange form that conspiracy theorists often use. But logical consistency is generally not a strong point of conspiracy theorists.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

I am really curious about the economics of the ConspiraSea. There were somewhere around 30 speakers; Colin McRoberts and Anna Merlan have confirmed that the total participants (speakers plus paying guests plus the seven reporters) totaled about 100 people. Presumably the speakers did not pay for the cruise's approximately $2,000 cabin fee. How did this cruise make money for the promoters?

@Orac (#7):

GMOs would make half of all children autistic by 2525,

If man is still alive...

By Richard Smith (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink


Did it never occur to this lot that they were just asking for the evil conspirators to sink the boat and get rid of all these brave mavericks once and for all?

More importantly, do they get a refund if it doesn't sink?

But remember that usually numbers are not these folks' strong suit.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

To bad Wakefield can't fade away like the song "In the Year 2525"!

It appears that a Seattle elementary school has an outbreak of chickenpox. At least four students (may be 5) have confirmed chickenpox; one vaccinated and 3 unvaccinated. The school district says not to worry, chickenpox is usually a mild disease. That is not how I remember it when I had it 50 odd years ago.

What a delicious opportunity for head-games, had anyone wanted to take advantage of it. For example, what happens if you get two people together to talk about their respective conspiracy theories that contradict each other? For example how quickly can you spread a new meme in a crowd?

There's exactly no way I'm ever going on a cruise to find out, much less another Conspira Sea Cruz: just say Noro and I say No Thanks. But I've got the "Sail (Far) Away" article bookmarked for later entertaining reading, safe & sound at home where washing hands before preparing food is the rule.

BTW, when someone calls you a plant, reply "No, I'm an animal. Next question?"

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

@Denice Walter

I wonder what they paid him?

Or another question: I wonder how they paid him. Given the financial and legal issues for Morton and his wife (they were arrested on tax fraud charges right after the cruise), I wonder if they didn't have the speakers pay them.

@ProgJohn #3:

Did it never occur to this lot that they were just asking for the evil conspirators to sink the boat and get rid of all these brave mavericks once and for all?

Yes, they were very much aware of the likelihood and had started buying anti-diver nets to block the dolphin-human GM chimeric saboteurs. But the astrologers convinced them that an attack wasn't scheduled.

By Rich Woods (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

The comments on Anna Merlan's article are hilarious.

Many of the ones on Colin McRobert's interview: not so much. One guy is pulling out every single anti-vaccine trope from the last twenty years. He cannot be convinced that the Geiers, RFK, jr and Yazbak are all cranks. He also just invoked Scopie's Law.

They should have made that ship run on "homeopathic" fuel. Then they could have accused Big Brother of sabotaging their cruise using their own weapons...

Reading about Colin's crowd-sourced adventure, I wonder if anyone** would be brave enough to take up the Ultimate Woo Challenge (tm) and crash one of Gary Null's retreats?
I know that Dr Barrett would like first hand information.

Here's what it is:
people give money to a radio station and ( if I understand it correctly) the woo-meister gets a 40% cut.
You hand over your life to the loon and his accomplices to get health counselling, "gourmet vegan cuisine" ( eaten in silence), juices, yoga, exercise classes, spa treatments ( some at extra cost) and nightly lectures at one of the Master's estates ( Texas or Florida) for a week. You can also play with the animals at his private zoos.

He charges 2000-2500 USD and half of that for "work-study" where attendees serve as cleaner uppers and food preppers but can participate in activities..

There will be one in Texas ( both estates are viewable at his website) in April. Guests are screened by his woo-nurse. Supposedly an oncologist attended a recent one so she could learn his methods of energy healing and other treatments. Some of the attendees have serious illnesses.

His nurse regularly announces her number so you can apply.
I just heard it at the end of today's show which I imagine will be posted at

** certainly NOT me- although I could fake it for a few hours I couldn't remain still whilst the lying and drivel continued on and on, my ire could not be contained and I couldn't tolerate wankers trying to teach me nonsense about psychology, economics or modern dance. Please!

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

Quite frankly, the very concept of a cruise doesn’t much appeal to me, at least not an ocean cruise.

You should really consider one, particularly if you can get a group to go along. Alaska cruises don't go all that far from shore, and you can observe wildlife much of the time. Shore visits are great. We found that just hanging out with friends/family near the drinks and food playing board games is also a great way to spend a day at sea.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

"Wakefield thinks he flushed his career down the toilet in the service of truth, science, and justice, in reality he flushed it down the toilet in the service of pseudoscience."

Well, let's not forget that greed and massive ego were contributing factors.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

@ Mephistopheles:

I don't think that cruises are for me either:
one of the things I like most about travel is exploring new places and being my own director so to speak -
cruises seem too programmed to me. To have an outside excursion, you have to book one. You're a captive audience.

I usually seek out ways to mingle amongst the locals and find interesting places where I can see art, architecture, nature and historical spots. I also want to find restaurants that exemplify the culture.

OBVIOUSLY I spend time researching things.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

Since this is a Woo-boat it must use woo-fuel. Just following the dilution method and the water will remember that it is now bunker fuel. Fuel cost are now close to zero, so they make more money. They might even get an environmental credit from EPA (if the ship US flagged).

I think my head just did a explosion from the above misbegotten idea.

@Denice Walter - I suppose it depends on the cruise, but on the two I've been on there was no requirement to book a shore excursion through the cruise line. It was convenient to do so if they had something you wanted to do, but nothing prevents you from wandering about and mingling (as we did) either before, after, between, or instead of paid excursions. Likewise, with the exception of lifeboat drill on the first day there were no mandatory events on ship (not even meals).

The only mandatory event in port is getting back to the ship before they cast off. This may not suit your preferred schedule if you want to experience the local nightlife.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

In the 'sail far away' blog, there is mention of Wakefield saying he was going to rope in Leonardo Di Caprio as one of his backers (but then mysteriously denied it when questioned afterwards).
Likelihood is he was making it up to get his eager deluded admirers to go "ooh yes Mr Wakefield, we're in, of course we#ll donate to your next kitchen extension", and will not mention it again once the lawyers rock up at Wakefields office saying tut-tut.
But does Di Caprio have any antivax background? Not that I'm aware of.

. Given the financial and legal issues for Morton and his wife (they were arrested on tax fraud charges right after the cruise),

Karma working overtime. Unfortunately, odds are that some of Morton's audience are going to try his tactics and suffer the utmost damned astonishment (as Mark Twain once said) when the IRS lowers to boom on them.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

"the" boom.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

@ Mikeh:

re Di Caprio

AFAIK he's not anti-vaccine BUT he is very interested in ecological issues and AGW- he financed/ worked on a documentary along these lines which employed my cousin as a technical film editing person.
Sometimes those two interests, green and anti-vax, go together , sometimes not.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

Denice and MO'B:

I'm with Orac and Denice on this one. My experience is that I am not well-suited for package tourism, and cruises (especially blue-water ocean cruises) strike me as the ultimate package deal. I do better seeing things at my own pace, and I generally prefer dining in the sort of restaurant the locals would patronize. Regarding the latter: the best meals I had in Japan were in little restaurants that, when it was time to order, invited me to step out to the display case and point at what I wanted. The worst restaurant I ate in when I was in China was the one on the way to the Great Wall where all of the tour buses stop--the food wasn't as good as I can get in Chinese restaurants around here, and considering that I live in New Hampshire, that's saying something.

It's one thing to do a cruise to places like the Galápagos or Antarctica, which you really can't see any other way. But if I can do it some other way, I would prefer that. Even Southeastern Alaska can be done without booking a cruise--you're constrained by the ferry schedules, so you may have to spend more or less time in certain places than you would have preferred, but it can be done.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

I have documents that Posey does not because Thompson and I were in private correspondence.

"I have this secret source of information that would totally vindicate all my claims and restore my tattered reputation. No, I'm not going to release it, why would I do that?"

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

@ Eric Lund:

But I do actually enjoy riding on boats-
meaning smaller vessels not gigantic behemoths of the seas.

For example, you can take a ferry in NY or SF or a short ride on the Seine or a trip to an island from the mainland or between islands in the Caribbean- I like that but I wouldn't want to *live* on a ship for a week.

I always wanted to see nature preserves off the California coast such as to the Farallon Islands but I understand many passengers get very sea sick and that the trip is often re-routed to stay closer to shore when the weather is rough
( I've already seen those places several times).

And I suppose that Santa Catalina is waiting for me also.
*Y Cuba*.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

@Eric, Denice,

To each her or his own. My interest is only in people making decisions based on valid reasons rather than invalid impressions.

I merely share my experience that, in two cruises spread over many years (and taken with people I know) that I enjoyed it and did not feel at all regimented. Or particularly seasick, even when the seas were quite rough (I cannot say the same for my time in a submarine).

I am not shilling for Big Cruise.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink


Did it never occur to this lot that they were just asking for the evil conspirators to sink the boat and get rid of all these brave mavericks once and for all?

I was just reading in the weekly NWO newsletter that this was tried several times but they were all unsuccessful. Merlan's article has a hint as to why that was:

(He later revealed, in a low-key manner, that he’d been praying for us, and that a crowd of angels had descended on the boat for protection.)

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

I suspect those "documents Posey doesn't have" are saved emails that say things like "Dear Andrew, I am busy Thursday afternoon. Can you call me Friday at 10:30?"

Or he may mean copies of his own income statements, or letters from his own mother: those are documents that he likely has and Posey almost certainly doesn't. (This is the "it's not technically a lie" school of rhetoric.)

I don't think Wakefield is a true believer at all. Remember that this is a guy with a patent application for his own vaccine. He tried to get ahead with fraud and got busted. Now all he has in this world is selling his fiction to conspiracy nuts. If he had something to fall back on, he'd be doing it.

By Douglas Barnes (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

I find it really fascinating that Wakefield is so in love with the CDC whistleblower, since even if you take the incompetent statistical analysis at face value, it only validates the vaccine/autism hypothesis for black boys of a specific age range at the time of vaccination. The same study validates the safety of vaccines for this specific measure in all other race/gender combinations at various ages.

The level of cognitive dissonance required to harp on that one finding, while simultaneously sounding alarms about a future where everyone is autistic, is something we've come to expect from the antivax community, though it's still astounding.

It's not all that hard to accept that someone would think like this when it's coming from someone with no background in science or medicine, or when it's coming from someone who is clearly unhinged, but I'm starting to suspect as others that Wakefield may know how crazy this all is.

Wakefield has proven that he is very skilled at making money, so as much as I'd prefer to think as much, he's probably not possessed by pure burning stupid.

I wouldn't doubt that Wakefield is not enamored of vaccines, and probably dislikes the mainstream medical establishment (at they very least for punishing him for his fraud), but I'd bet most of his rhetoric is aimed at selling his book and his speeches, and promoting his businesses.

I agree with Douglas Barnes and Bob, kind of. Andrew "Fraudypants" Wakefield is and always has been in it for the money not the TRUTH. Two caveats: being an exploitative money whore and being a true believer are not mutually exclusive; and Wakefield has so embraced and cultivated the pariah narrative that I wonder if he's started to believe it himself.

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

I don't understand how autism rates are supposed to increase.
Vaccination rates are high, and can't get much higher. You won't get 30% more vaccines in people, so how are you going to get 30% more autism triggering events (assuming there's a link)?

I'm not really into package deals vacations myself, but this year I'm going on a river-cruise with my dad. He is 87, so this is the best alternative for not going on vacation at all. At least a ship is bigger than a bus and I can retract to my cabin if I feel the need. And when we get of the ship, we mostly have a whole morning or afternoon to spend.
I hope we will like it.

But a conspiracy cruise might be the last thing on my mind to join. I'm affraid it would make want to jump from the ship.

@capnkrunch #35:

(He later revealed, in a low-key manner, that he’d been praying for us, and that a crowd of angels had descended on the boat for protection.)

Did he give any indication as to why the angels needed protection?

By Rich Woods (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

One of the things Mr Lying Trousers Fraudy Pants, as Wakefield must be called, skates over is that he had FA experience or knowledge of autism, being as, while he was still a doctor, he was a gastro-enterologist. 'Cos, as we all know, if you want a medic to make a diagnosis of anything on the autistic spectrum your first port of call is a gastro-enterologist, skipping by any paediatrician or child psychiatrist, same as you head straight for a child psychiatrist with all your GI problems...

Fraudy Trousers Lying Pants will have done a smidgeon of MH stuff during his basic medical training but is highly unlikely to have done much to do with autism and certainly won't once he started specialising.

But you'd never know that listening to him.

Did he give any indication as to why the angels needed protection?

Protection from confused people trying to find out how many pins would fit in the head of an angel.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 27 Feb 2016 #permalink

Something something something...gut-brain connection...something something something...macrobiome.

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 27 Feb 2016 #permalink

These people are mobbed-up with Sovereign Citizens, the ideological grouping that overlaps with the Bundy gang and numerous militia groups.

From the article, "Morton’s argument, which I had to hear a few times before I fully got, was that it’s possible to become a “de jure state national,” someone who isn’t subject to federal law—and, by extension, is free from federal courts, taxes, and criminal charges. " That is straight-up Sovereign Citizen stuff.

Years ago, FBI and the Missouri State Police each published reports saying that Sovereign Citizen adherents represent a very real domestic terrorism threat. So if nothing else, we can be reasonably assured that FBI is keeping an eye on the groups that overlap with Sovereign Citizens, which now appears to include a substantial portion of the anti-vax and related groupings.

Those people really do have to worry about "plants" now. Ha! And if they follow the tax "advice" of people like Morton & Shrout, they are going to get themselves in serious hot water with IRS too. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 27 Feb 2016 #permalink

In other news...

Dan today ( AoA) bemoans the fact that, as a progressive, the candidates he *should* support choose vaccination!

HOWEVER some OTHER candidates are closer to his own heart..
Then he forays into odd speculation ( "what would it take...") and discusses his totally spectacular experiences in media in Washington-
right, I'm sure that working for that outlet gave him incredible insider information and insight into how the inner gears of that town REALLY work.

In the comments, John Stone talks about various PMs' relatives' possible ASDs.
At least, I THINK that's what he says.
Other commenters carry on as per usual.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 27 Feb 2016 #permalink

Dan today ( AoA) bemoans the fact that, as a progressive, the candidates he *should* support choose vaccination!

Danny Boy is on pretty thin 501(c)(3) ice with that one.

Looks like the Mortons got busted hard.

Per the "Sail (Far) Away" article on, Sean David Morton was one of the organizers of the Conspira-Sea Cruise. He was the guy who I cited in my comment 46 above, that the nonsense he was peddling was similar to what you hear from Sovereign Citizens, who are considered domestic terrorists (they have a habit of driving around with hand-lettered license plates, and shooting the cops who pull them over for it).

Well well: the article ends by mentioning that he got busted when the Cruise came in to port, and links to this:…

"Sean David Morton, 58, and his wife, Melissa Ann Morton, 50, are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles on a 56-count superseding indictment that was returned by a grand jury on January 27. The couple was arrested by special agents with IRS - Criminal Investigation in San Pedro Sunday morning after disembarking from a “Conspira-Sea Cruise.”"

On one hand, I feel sorry for them because they are obviously delusional. But on the other hand it's damn good that they will no longer be able to run around and persuade otherwise-innocent fools to indulge in their particular brand of tax fraud.

No doubt their arrest will fuel much conspiracy theory ("CT") about how they were right and The Government is just trying to silence them.

And the cross-pollination between their type and Wakefield's followers will probably lead to some "interesting" developments yet to come. Such as anti-vaxers embracing various forms of tax fraud, or meme-swapping with domestic terrorist groups. If this helps to discredit them (and get some of them locked up), good.

What we also need is a blog similar to this one, focused on financial quackery. Between now & then, perhaps Orac can occasionally link or mention cases where anti-vaxers and other medical quacks are hooked up with financial quacks and domestic terrorists. If anything can reach some of the "undecideds" who are pondering whether to get their kids immunized or go "rebel" instead, perhaps the recognition that financial frauds and terrorists are in the mix, can do it. OTOH, some people are sufficiently "immune" to reason, that nothing can reach them. We shall see...

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 28 Feb 2016 #permalink

I'm not sure where to put this...

TMR's Professor ( Zooey O'Toole) claims that SBM supporters got their knickers/ panties in a twist/ knot because of a TINY number of cases of measles last year starting at Disneyland, blaming her cohorts and enacting draconian measures such as the bill in California that limits vaccine exemptions.
NOW, all rational beings understand that SBM went totally overboard: there was no catastrophe or return to pre-vaccine numbers of cases. Just hysteria! she says.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 28 Feb 2016 #permalink

I’m not sure where to put this…

AoA's Linda1 (Disqustink LZ) also today pitches a Conspira-Sea–worthy fit over the perceived world's failure to give her a pony:

I think all the candidates and the media have been warned that to engage in vaccine talk is to threaten national security. I further believe that warning has come with a gag order that they are not allowed to tell a soul about the warning or the gag order.

According to the Dept of Defense, vaccines protect the populace from disease, therefore disaster, and vaccines are a military defense against terrorism. That's what I think is going on - why there is no vaccine talk outside of the safe and effective, savior of mankind script.

JerryA @48 - thanks for the biggest laugh I've had all week. I gave myself a coughing fit.

By Emma Crew (not verified) on 28 Feb 2016 #permalink

This whole thing seems like a great plot device to build a King of The Hill-episode on. Can't ya'll just see Dale Gribble fit right in? Maybe he's offered to take them all on a cruise only for them all to discover (too late) that they are on the Woo Boat! Hank would go nuts!

....I miss that show sooo much...

The "Ill show them" fallacy is very reminiscent of the Galileo gambit.

"I'm being persecuted because my ideas are ahead of their time" kind of argument. "But one day, everyone will see I was right"

By Tal Even-Tov (not verified) on 29 Feb 2016 #permalink

It should have been called the Ship of Fools cruise.

For those wondering about the economics of the cruise, my understanding is that the speakers did NOT get paid. Attendees were asked if they were signing up for a particular speaker, and the speakers got a discount off of their ticket based on how many people signed up under their name. Drive enough registrations and your own berth is free, so you get a free cruise for the price of some promo work and a couple of lectures plus you get to sell your books, DVDs, magic healing water, whatever to attendees on board. Speakers who didn't drive any registrations at all would have to pay full price just like attendees. And at least one speaker dropped out for that reason, didn't get enough registrations.

That information is third-hand, I heard it from someone who heard it from someone, so I could be wrong. And even if I'm right, Wakefield might be an exception, since he's famous.

I hope it is correct, because it means my ticket money went to the cruise organizers rather than the really harmful speakers. And the organizers were alright, for the most part. Harmless new age types, more interested in spiritualism than alternative medicine--most of these cruises are "let's go commune with Mayan shamans" rather than "let's make people scared of vaccines and GMOs."

The Linda1/LZ AoA Crazy Train has reached the coveted "Monkey and the Engineer" level:

I think polling of any kind is illegitimate. It leads, manipulates and destroys the process. You know how judges will sequester jurists so that they can't be influenced by the press or by public opinion? That's how elections should be run.

This is going to require a lot more hotel rooms. The voir dire also seems as though it's going to be pretty onerous.

That’s how elections should be run.
There is always someone who's willing to argue that elections run more smoothly without the influence of public opinion.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 29 Feb 2016 #permalink

<i.According to the Dept of Defense, vaccines protect the populace from disease, therefore disaster, and vaccines are a military defense against terrorism. That’s what I think is going on

Speaking as someone who has worked both in the DOD and in public health...I have to ask does anyone have a clue what this woman is nattering on about?

By shay simmons (not verified) on 29 Feb 2016 #permalink

Borked the html. Kwap.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 29 Feb 2016 #permalink

"I now believe that Wakefield (not to mention Sherri Tenpenny, another truly out there antivaccinationist) totally belongs with the JFK assassination conspiracy theorists, 9/11 Truthers, crop circle chasers, and the like."

That is COMPLETELY unfair to the fine folks who hypothesize about 9/11, JFK and Crop Circles.

They are NOT DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE for the death or maiming of hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent children.

Can I just hypothesise that if 100% (or more!) of the population becomes autistic then that will be the new normal? So really all these people are saying is that potentially the definition of neurotypical will change? Archaeologists have suggested that this has happened at previous points in our evolution such as when we develop language or culture and celebrate these purported shifts so why is that something to be feared?

Besides, who the hell is doing the diagnoses? Probably the same people doing the deeply unconvincing stats in the first place.

Cate K: "Besides, who the hell is doing the diagnoses? Probably the same people doing the deeply unconvincing stats in the first place."

Like the math incompetent fool who made this graph:…

So, since when are "Girls" not part of the total population?

(by the way, there is a difference of who does the diagnosis, something I found out about in the real world --- a psychologist at the university's autism clinic is a much better choice)

Age of Autism's Anne Dachel wrote this today.

Regarding his research, Andy [Wakefield] said, "There was absolutely nothing fraudulent in the Lancet paper. . . . Everything in that paper has proven correct, and if you doubt it, if you truly want to behave as a responsible journalist, then go to Travis County Court and look up Wakefield v. The British Medical Journal, Brian Deer, and Fiona Godley. We attempted to sue Brian Deer and the British Medical Journal for malicious defamation . . . but the courts decided this should really not come to trial.BLOCKQUOTE>That's right: Wakefield contends that his failed hypothesis and his fraudulent work were "proven correct" because his libel suit was dismissed. (And that makes sense to Dachel.)

Speaking as someone who has worked both in the DOD and in public health…I have to ask does anyone have a clue what this woman is nattering on about?

I was able to follow those two just fine, but I am utterly perplexed about this item, which I only recently noticed:


Good to see that AP journalists are investigating and reporting to the public. They are not getting the information that they are requesting. That the man had health problems as a reason for not investigating his death and doing an autopsy is baloney. Any judge because of his line of work is guaranteed to also have enemies - a situation which ranks right up there with health problems as a potential cause of death - especially a Supreme Court Justice.

And that makes sense to Dachel

More nonsensical things have made sense to Anne Dachel.

What Wakefield failed to mention was that his case was dismissed because he failed to provide any real evidence as to why the court should hear the case.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 02 Mar 2016 #permalink

Age of Autism’s Anne Dachel wrote this today.

Ah, but it gets better. The video appears to be neither more nor less than the Conspira-Sea session that Colin has described. (Wakefraud is wearing a "Los Cabos" T-shirt and looking worse for wear.)

The real paydirt, aside from the Dachelbot's "small group of reporters" line, comes again from none other than Linda1/LZ:

In his presentation, DR. WAKEFIELD IS APPLAUDED BY REPORTERS after he answers their respectful, substantive questions. They sound eager to know the truth. Very significant.

I would instead characterize the end of the Q&A as a "smattering" of applause. Oh, and not reporters.

I watched nearly the entire cavalcade of spittle-drenched self-service until, mercifully, the video player adamantly refused to allow him to continue any longer
( in the last 5 minutes or so).
Wasn't that shirt an eyesore?
Colin is to be congratulated for his fortitude.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Mar 2016 #permalink

Oddly, they seem to have yanked the post.

Andrew Wakefield's next gig seems to be something called California Jam run by Billy DeMoss and other "highly motivated" chiropractors later this month.

Andrew Wakefield's biography for the event makes some interesting reading - particularly the last couple of paragraphs. It is clearly sourced from Wikipedia, and one wonders who approved it.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 03 Mar 2016 #permalink

Thanks for the heads up, Chris. "Doctor" Wakefield's bio has been saved, and filed under 'With friends like these, who needs enemies'.

Well, Johnny, to people deeply into conspiracy theories and woo, that the medical establishment and the media criticize him counts in Wakefield's favor.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 03 Mar 2016 #permalink

Also the title of that article...

“This is the Worst Medical Fraud in the History of the World”
-Wakefield on himself

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 04 Mar 2016 #permalink

@ Chris Preston:

Unfortunately, California Jam is not a delicious conserve of local figs, lemons and berries prepared according to the instructions of Alice Waters but is in fact a woo-fest that will features Andy, Mercola, Erin Elizabeth, the Drs Wolfson and various other chiropractors.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 04 Mar 2016 #permalink

@ Narad:

According to AoA, Andy wanted the post tossed because of 'copyright issues' so OUT it went!

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 06 Mar 2016 #permalink

@ Denice Walter:

According to AoA, Andy wanted the post tossed because of ‘copyright issues’

What's the betting the real reason is because Andy realised that it made him look bad? ;)

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 06 Mar 2016 #permalink

@ Julian Frost:

Or perhaps he realised that hilarity has ensued in reaction.
Not that that's ever stopped him. ( or Dan for that matter).

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 06 Mar 2016 #permalink