In which antivaccine activist J. B. Handley thinks attacking Andrew Wakefield's movie "backfired"

Nearly two weeks ago, a story that I had been blogging about almost nonstop for a week reached its conclusion when Robert De Niro decided to pull the antivaccine movie Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe from the Tribeca Film Festival, of which he was one of the co-founders. Before that, he had revealed that it was he who had bypassed the festival's regular selection procedures and asked that the film be shown. All of this happened after an uproar over a film so full of antivaccine quackery, conspiracy theories about William W. Thompson (a.k.a. the "CDC whistleblower" in antivaccine circles), and an attempt at disingenuous and unconvincing spin from the PR people at the Tribeca Film Festival. Not surprisingly, the antivaccine movement, as it it wont to do, cried "Censorship!" apparently not realizing that criticism of a film and a respected film festival's decision to screen it does not equal censorship.

Once the decision to drop Vaxxed had been made, I myself more or less decided to drop my coverage of the film. Well, that isn't quite true. I couldn't help myself and chronicled the reaction of everybody's favorite quack with an over-the-top style that I find highly entertaining in small doses, Mike Adams. Just as entertaining, if not more so, was the reaction of Del Bigtree, the producer of Vaxxed, who dishonestly tried to convince Andrew Wakefield's supporters that he had somehow been "censored" by ABC News when it only used a snippet of conversation from his interview with one of the producers of a news report.


Yes, even though there were developments. One such development was Robert De Niro appearing on WNYW Fox 5 NY:

First of all, I found it highly irritating that the narrator said that a "lot of good, responsible people think there is a link" between vaccines and autism, as if the only reason we shouldn't believe that there is a link is because Wakefield has been discredited. On the other hand, as I've said so many times before, as much as I would rather discredit the vaccine-autism link based solely on the science (which does indeed discredit the link), Wakefield's disgrace is a useful shorthand in media reports that, unfortunately, is more compelling to most people than the evidence. In other words, it's easier to say that the vaccine-autism link has been discredited because Wakefield committed fraud trying to prove it than it is to explain the science showing why, and people will more readily believe you.

In any case, De Niro's answers to questions about the controversy were disappointing. He does actually confirm all along the reason why I thought he was forced to pull Vaxxed: The controversy over its inclusion was drowning out all other news about the film festival. As De Niro said, he didn't want the whole film festival to be about Wakefield and vaccines and autism. De Niro also shows that he's not as bright as I had given him credit for, as he denies that Vaxxed is an antivaccine movie. He then justifies himself by calling the issue "complicated" and saying that he's "still getting information about it." I also got the impression that the filmmakers were complaining about being associated with Vaxxed, and who could blame them if true?

As you heard in the video, another development was that the Angelika Film Center agreed to show the film. The film's opening, appropriately enough, occurred on April 1, complete with Q&A sessions featuring Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker themselves last weekend, and the film is still running there. I assiduously ignored further developments. OK, I didn't exactly ignore them. I knew about them. I read some of the stories about them. I simply chose not to blog about them, mainly because I was tired of the whole thing. It's taken this long for me to start to be curious again just what's been going on. I was quite amused at the cries of "censorship" and conspiracy from the antivaccine movement. I was even more amused by the terrible, terrible reviews Wakefield's movie got. It turns out that Wakefield and Bigtree were so incredibly heavy-handed that even film critics could recognize it for the scientifically bankrupt propaganda dreck that those of us familiar with Andrew Wakefield knew that it had to be. Apparently we were correct, although I can't know for myself until the film hits some public online venue that I can access, preferably for free.

More recently, the conspiracy mongering has started to ramp up again, reaching hysterical levels. Before I get to it, let's recap, step by step, to see how we got where we are today. First, Robert De Niro got his Tribeca Film Festival to screen Vaxxed. Second, three weeks ago, the lineup for the Tribeca Film Festival was announced, including Vaxxed. The antivaccine movement went crazy with glee. Controversy and criticism of the decision grew, leading the Tribeca Film Festival to make up BS excuses and the antivaccine movement to go into full conspiracy mode. Finally, Robert De Niro, under pressure (whether from just the negative publicity or sponsors is not known) decides to reverse his decision and pull the film, driving the antivaccine movement into even greater heights of crazy. The end result was that Andrew Wakefield lost the prestigious venue in which he had hoped to show his film. It would have been one showing at the end of the festival, but it might have netted him a distribution deal. As a result of the decision to ax Vaxxed, instead Wakefield and Bigtree pulled in $28,000 over the weekend and got a hell of a lot of publicity.

So was this outcome better? Did Andrew Wakefield "play us," knowing full well the furor that the announcement that Vaxxed would play at Tribeca would cause? When I hear that, I laugh. The reason is that such a view gives Wakefield way too much credit. Sure, he's clever, but he's not a chess player. He doesn't plan ten moves ahead. Also, Wakefield is an egomaniac. Even if the blowback did ultimately allow him to garner more attention for his movie and make more money, I'd be willing to bet that, after having somehow conned either Robert De Niro or his wife Grace Hightower to put his film in the Tribeca Film Festival, an effort that might well have required prolonged persuasion, it was a hard blow indeed to his massive ego to see De Niro yank it so ignominiously. In other words, it wasn't planned; I'd be willing to bet that it wasn't even a "Plan B." That the film was picked up by the Manhattan Film Festival is unlikely to assuage the blow. What typically happens with crank conspiracy films like this is that they do get picked up by smaller film festivals.

And the hits keep coming, leading to still more conspiracy mongering. Once again, it comes from our favorite quack, Mike Adams, in the form of an article entitled subtly as Mikey is wont to do Powerful forces threaten Houston film festival to pull VAXXED documentary... 'heavy handed censorship' by government officials who resort to financial extortion to shut down public screening. Yes, apparently, another film festival in Houston picked up Vaxxed. What happened next, if you believe Adams—something you should never do, given his track record—is that Vaxxed was "censored" by unnamed high ranking Houston government officials. This accusation is based on an e-mail from Hunter Todd, Chairman and Founding Director of Team Worldfest, claiming that he was called and threatened. Is it true? Who knows? One can't help but notice that he doesn't name names and he did it because their "actions would have cost us more than $100,000 in grants." Not surprisingly, Adams got this report from arch HIV/AIDS denialist, antivaccine activist and all-around conspiracy crank Celia Farber. More on this in a moment.

Perhaps the most amusing development since the last time I blogged about this is the elevation of stature of a certain very close friend of the blog from our old friend J.B. Handley. JB and I go way, way back, to near the very beginning of this blog. Indeed, if memory serves, I believe that the first time I encountered him was in 2005, around the time I was pummeling Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s dishonest article about thimerosal in vaccines. Founder of Generation Rescue, one of the loonier antivaccine groups and one originally focused on fear mongering about mercury in vaccines, it was later headed (and still is) by Jenny McCarthy.

Those of us who have encountered JB know that he's not exactly a man who keeps his emotions under control. In fact, he's well known for his "bull in a china shop" approach to what he calls "vaccine safety" advocacy (or, as I put it, being a complete asshole) but what is really antivaccine advocacy. Along the way, he's been known for his extreme misogyny, complete with roofie and rape jokes about female journalists.

So what's he up to this time? Well, so great is his hatred of a certain friend of the blog and so eager to argue that all the criticism of Vaxxed has "backfired," that he takes a quote from that person from an article that appeared in the LA Times:

The beauty of it is that I played a major role in bringing the story to public consciousness, followed the story as it evolved, and now can provide a fairly complete recounting.

Which was all true at the time it was said. Next, to paint a picture of a conspiracy to "silence" Wakefield's film, Handley quotes an article from The Guardian:

Within half an hour of Robert De Niro’s Tribeca film festival posting on Facebook that it had scheduled an April viewing of Vaxxed, the highly controversial anti-vaccine documentary, a well-oiled network of scientists, autism experts, vaccine advocacy groups, film-makers and sponsors cranked into gear to oppose it.

At the center of the network was a listserv group email list of more than 100 prominent individuals and science research bodies run out of the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) based in St Paul, Minnesota. The listserv acts as an early warning system that sounds the alarm whenever the potent conspiracy theory that autism can be caused by vaccination surfaces.

Through the listserv, conference calls were quickly organized among top scientists across the country to discuss how to respond to the news that what was seen as a scurrilous and misleading film was to be given a high-profile airing. Leading figures in the documentary world were also enlisted to add their objections to the showing of Vaxxed.

I saw this article when it came out, and I remember having a distinctly annoyed reaction. Specifically, I wanted to know why the hell I wasn't on this conspiracy. I mean, come on! I've been ranting, debunking, talking science, deconstructing bad antivaccine arguments, and mocking antivaccine twits for over eleven years now! Isn't that worth anything? A shill check isn't enough, man! I want respect for my efforts in the service of our reptilian pharma overlords. I want a seat at the table, dammit!

Of course, I've never heard of this listserv, and, to be honest, neither had anyone I asked (and, believe me, I did ask); so I really wonder where the heck this reporter got this information from. Of course, it wouldn't surprise me if there were listservs about immunizations where various issues with vaccines and the public acceptance of vaccines are discussed, but this is yet another story that doesn't really pass the "smell test." Remember how I said that those who think that Wakefield is so clever that he foresaw the backlash against Vaxxed being screened at Tribeca give him all too much credit? Unfortunately, the same thing is going on here. People like Handley, who apparently think there is a highly organized cadre of scientists and public health officials out there just waiting for news like this in which an antivaccine film by Andrew Wakefield is set to be screened at Tribeca, so that they can all organize and swoop down to censor it. Would that the pro-vaccine forces were that organized and ruthlessly efficient!

Not surprisingly, Handley plays the "Help, help, I'm being repressed!" card coupled with the "Please repress me" gambit:

...the “listserve” crowd, so proud of their accomplishments 8 short days ago, may be singing a different tune today. I’m an extremely proud American, and one of the things I know about Americans is that we all care deeply about freedom, and we all hate being told we can’t see or do something. If the “listserve” hadn’t jumped into action and turned Vaxxed into an international controversy in the media, it likely would have had it’s single showing at Tribeca and moved on into obscurity. But that’s not how it happened.

No, Mr. Handley, it was not the bloggers and nonexistent "listserv" crowd that caused this. It was Robert De Niro, who bypassed the usual selection procedure to show Vaxxed at Tribeca. I truly believe that De Niro was duped by Wakefield, who preyed on his love of his autistic son, but, make no mistake, it was De Niro's fault that Vaxxed grew so big, and no one else's. If De Niro hadn't selected Vaxxed for Tribeca, there wouldn't have been an uproar, and he wouldn't have ended up deciding to shut down the screening, generating more publicity for the film. On the other hand, I'm not sure that all this publicity did Wakefield and Bigtree all that much good, as the wider exposure resulted in many more highly negative reviews than they otherwise would have had to deal with.

On the other hand, Handley does reveal something important. He reveals a response to an inquiry by an antivaccine activist named Ginger Taylor to the Houston Mayor's office:

The mayor asked that it be removed from the lineup. I believe Judge Emmett did the same. The film festival is being funded in part through a grant from the City of Houston. The mayor felt it inappropriate for the city to endorse an event that would be screening a film that is counter to the city’s efforts to ensure children receive vaccinations.

The film was also removed from the Tribeca Film Festival lineup so Houston is not alone. In fact, it was that move that raised the concerns locally.

Janice Evans-Chief Policy Officer
& Director of Communications

On the one hand, I can totally understand why Mayor Sylvester Turner might have done this, particularly if city funds were being used to support the film festival. After all, the movie is directly opposed to a major function of the city's health department, which is to prevent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, and if the city is partially funding the festival, there is an appearance of endorsement, even if there is no explicit endorsement. On the other hand, on a strictly political, public relations level, this was an incredibly boneheaded thing for the mayor to have done. Private nonprofit corporations can host whatever speech they wish or decline to host whatever speech they wish for whatever reason, but it's a very dicey proposition for the government to pressure a provate nonprofit not to host certain speech. If this is what happened, arguably Mayor Turner screwed up badly. This is a propaganda victory that will spawn antivaccine conspiracy theories for a decade to come. It makes me want to fly to Houston, march right down to city hall, grab the mayor by his lapels, and yell right in his face, "What the hell were you thinking? You've just made the job of pro-science advocates so much more difficult!"

In the end, Handley "thanks" a certain friend of the blog and the "listserv" for making Vaxxed an "international phenomenon." Let's just say that Handley is exaggerating a bit here. The person whom he thanks surely doesn't have that sort of power. Believe me, we wish we had that sort of power, but we don't, except in J.B. Handley's fevered delusions, and certainly this person never ever called for Tribeca to yank the movie. (Quite the opposite, in fact.) However, Robert De Niro does have that much power. Believe me, if Robert De Niro hadn't agreed to screen Vaxxed in Tribeca, all the blog posts in the world from this person's blog would have been incredibly unlikely to direct that much attention to the movie. Sure, the movie made $28,000 so far, but it's not being shown internationally, and the only international reach of this movie seems to be the easy debunkings of its central conspiracy theory that are available online. None of this stops, however, the merry band of antivaccine conspiracy theorists at that wretched hive of scum and quackery, Age of Autism, from weaving the same threads together about the IAC and the Houston film festival and asking Did the CDC censor Vaxxed? No, did it really? Betteridge's law of headlines appears to apply here.

Andrew Wakefield's movie is a load of conspiracy mongering pseudoscience-laden nonsense. I can be pretty sure of this without having seen it just based on the trailer, reviews, and a healthy background knowledge of the whole CDC whistleblower conspiracy theory. Through a combination of cynically playing on the love of a celebrity for his autistic son, luck, and a whole lot of lying, Andrew Wakefield has gotten a fair amount of attention. It will, however, be short-lived. Once its initial run at Angelika ends, my guess is that Vaxxed will be more or less relegated to the conspiracy film circuit, Alex Jones and Mike Adams, and and the antivaccine underground. None of this is to say that it is not very much worthwhile to put information out there refuting the misinformation and lies in the movie, but let's just remember. This is Andrew Wakefield. We need to keep hammering that home.

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Over the last three days I've been complaining about how the Tribeca Film Festival selected for screening Andrew Wakefield's antivaccine propaganda- and conspiracy-laden quackfest of a documentary entitled Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe. I also took TFF to task for its extremely disingenuous…

So disappointed in De Niro right now. "I'm not anti-vaccine, but pro-vaccine safety". Also, those two in the video clip are some of the most obnoxious "reporters" that I've heard in a good while. I wanted to reach in through the monitor and punch both of them!

Handley has his own extreme level of paranoid/delusional conspiracy-driving fear mongering. That he manages one of the most heavily censored anti-vaccine blogs in existence while crying "censorship" regarding "Vaxxed" has certainly blown some irony meters.

And the Houston film festival pulled "Vaxxed" late yesterday. Nominally because they realized it was not a "premiere" of this movie (… ). That works for me even if the real reason was more likely pressure from even sponsors. Even better, a scathing article from the Houston press calls "Vaxxed" a "tragic fraud" (… ).

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

I'll disagree with this bit here "Government to pressure a provate nonprofit not to host certain speech. If this is what happened, Mayor Sylvester Turner screwed up badly. This is a propaganda victory that will spawn antivaccine conspiracy theories for a decade to come."

The government has responsibilities in relation to public health and if they openly ask the withdraw their funding from an event they openly were supporting, this is not a conspiracy - it's transparency.

Haters will hate, loonies will.. loon... (?).

No matter what happened in Houston, there would always be an angle to be exploited by the conspiracy people. The authorities have a more permanent responsibility to put their weight behind good events and propaganda (yes, propaganda in its literal and original sense - not my fault it's a loaded term) and in this case, to withdraw said support.

By The Vodka Diet Guru (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Whilst they rant about a listserv that instructs all of their opponents into taking action**, don't Andy's supporters have a web all their own e.g. Mikey learns from Celia, Null received an e-mail from RFK jr about the pressure RDN felt ( noted in his article on prn/fm: 'Why is the CDC Petrified of the film Vaxxed; Null/ Gale)?

I've read quite a few reviews of the film and loads of conspiracy mongering at all of the usual outlets and they appear to have the same talking points. Maybe they have a listserv from higher-ups as well.

From whom are you taking orders, oh merchants of woo and deceit?

** as if SB supporters couldn't come up with criticisms on their own

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

@ The Vodka Diet Guru:

"loonies will..loon,,,,?:

try 'lunicise' or 'lunesce;

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

It should be noted that getting VAXXED into such a prestigious film festival was a coup for AJW:
usually I read about woo-fraught entries being shown at
little-known small festivals that will probably accept anything.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

@ The Vodka Diet Guru

yes, propaganda in its literal and original sense

As Frank Herbert pointed our in Dune, even good guys need some way to get the word out.
To paraphrase Duke Leto Atreides (with my poor, addled memory) , "of course I have a propaganda agency. If I don't tell my people how good I am as their leader, who else is going to tell them?"

By Helianthus (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

I’ve read quite a few reviews of the film and loads of conspiracy mongering at all of the usual outlets and they appear to have the same talking points. Maybe they have a listserv from higher-ups as well.

Oh, I have no doubt that they do, likely several. The talking points are all too similar, as tightly controlled as talking points from the major parties about political issues.

He who controls the Woo, controls the universe.

The Woo must flow.

Thanks @Denice, Helianthus

"Lunicise" sounds perfectly cromulent to me, although "loonificate" has its merits as well.

I will do my best to propagate this.

Have a nice weekend.

By The Vodka Diet Guru (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

"a well-oiled network of scientists, autism experts, vaccine advocacy groups, film-makers and sponsors cranked into gear"
Dang, that's amazing! I can't get three scientists to agree where to go for lunch!
Because scientists are so...biddable.
And I love "lunesce"--that will appear in conversation today, I'm sure.

@ Amethyst

The sheeple must awaken.

To elaborate on the freedom-of-speech point,

it’s a very dicey proposition for the government to pressure a private nonprofit not to host certain speech.

I agree it's a big can of worm.
If the relationship between the government and the nonprofit are limited to the minimum (say, a blank approval which only hinge on the nonprofit venue passing local laws on sanitation and security), then any further interference from the gov' is censorship.
Same thing if any funding the governement is providing comes with a "no strings attached" clause.
OTOH, if the funding - or the charter of the nonprofit - comes with specifications about the type of events to be hosted, say, jazz music, then as one of the financial backer, the government has some right to have expectations on how its money (well, taxpayer money) is being spent. In this context, asking the nonprofit not to host rock'n roll is not censorship.
Now, if the government uses this oversight right to promote events I don't like or ban things I think are right, I may waver in my position....

@ janet

Dang, that’s amazing! I can’t get three scientists to agree where to go for lunch!

It's the part on how the story is retold in the Guardian article which is annoying me.
That there are lobbying groups of scientists, autism experts, etc, and one - or a few of them - were instrumental in Tribeca's decision reversal, I could accept.
That most, or all of the reactions were emanating from one unique, well-coordinated, faceless group... Err, no.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

What The Vodka Diet Guru@3 said. It's the state's responsibility to limit what individuals do on its – i.e. the taxpayers' – dime. For instance, "science" teachers teaching kids creationism or "history" teachers teaching holocaust denial in public schools can expect to be censured or kicked out of their jobs fairly quickly. Military employees (the ones without sufficient stars anyway) who blab about things they shouldn't will quickly find themselves enjoying a lengthy stay in military prison. Heck, just ask Edward Snowden about the limits the state imposed on his speech, and the price he'll be paying for the rest of his life in return for putting the public interest before the US government's. You may argue case by case whether the state is in the right or in the wrong in other respects, but none are freedom of speech issues.

Had the festival been fully privately funded – or were the state punishing them for, say, screening an honest documentary on police brutality – it would've been a different matter. The mayor might still express concern and disappointment as a public representative and government spokesman, but going any further would be clearly overstepping bounds and [rightly] bring down a world of First Amendment hurt. But that's not the case here, and it would've been a clear dereliction of duty for the state to fill Mr Wakefield's pockets with taxpayer money and not say or do anything about it. A fraud's a fraud, and there's enough of them already gouging the public purse whenever they possibly can; no need to welcome another one to the trough.

Whilst they rant about a listserv that instructs all of their opponents into taking action

Projection at work again. As you and Orac note, talking points among the pro-Vaxxed crowd are sufficiently similar for a reasonable person to believe they have a listserv. So they assume that our side has one as well.

a “lot of good, responsible people think there is a link”

That's a big steaming pile of, to put it politely, YMMV. Most people like to think they are "good, responsible people", and tend to think of others with similar opinions as being "good, responsible people". In the US we seem to have a particular weakness for people with London or Oxbridge accents, which I imagine applies to Wakefield (I've not actually heard him speak), and tend to think of them as "good, responsible people" even when there is significant evidence to the contrary. But many of the people who think of themselves as "good, responsible people" are anything but. The Dunning-Kruger effect comes into play (e.g., a majority of US drivers think they are better-than-average drivers), but the anti-vax crowd goes beyond this: they are recklessly endangering other people based on an idea that has been thoroughly falsified.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Amethyst@9 & Helianthus@11: Hate you. When the great revolt comes, you'll be first against the wall.

As several others have said all this suggests to me is that there is indeed a listserv of anti-vaxxers. I have suspected this of other um, fringe belief groups in the past, for instance the Guardian once seemed to get flooded with comments about Armageddon and the prophecies of Revelations after reporting on comments by the current Pope on climate change. Which seemed a little unlike its normal readership.

Their science reporting is sometimes not so good though, in that way of trying to appear balanced but giving a platform to loons.

You're very right that these people don't know the meaning of censorship either. Somehow they manage to believe they're being brutally repressed while simultaneously flooding alt health and "wellness" websites, Facebook, YouTube, and publishing companies with their nonsense. Perhaps they meant that they were being prevented from making any money from ticket sales at Tribeca?

"The authorities have a more permanent responsibility to put their weight behind good events and propaganda (yes, propaganda in its literal and original sense – not my fault it’s a loaded term) and in this case, to withdraw said support."

I think many people would disagree with you on this point. If government is engaging in government speech, say a campaign to get people vaccinated, then not paying a printer who added an anti-vax statement is reasonable. But the Houston film is not government speech. If Houston provides a grant to the festival for economic reasons, then Houston does not get to say that only speech approved by the mayor may be screened at the festival.

Government censorship or government viewpoint discrimination in speech is clearly unconstitutional. Recently a mayor in California has stated that he or she would deny permits for Trump to host a rally there because of Trump's viewpoint. His viewpoint and speech is wrong, but it is far more wrong for government to try to censor it. Same way with the anti-vax film.

Had the festival been fully privately funded – or were the state punishing them for, say, screening an honest documentary on police brutality – it would’ve been a different matter. The mayor might still express concern and disappointment as a public representative and government spokesman, but going any further would be clearly overstepping bounds and [rightly] bring down a world of First Amendment hurt.

Here's the problem: Were there any preconditions on the government grant to the film festival? Is there a clause or are there clauses specifying what kinds of movies that the festival will show? If there were not, then I would argue that, if the version being relayed but antivaxers has any resemblance to reality, it is very dicey indeed for the mayor to lay so much pressure, to the point of threatening to withdraw funding, on the organizers for showing Vaxxed. Sure, the city could yank future funding, but the implication seems to be that the mayor was threatening this year's funding.

The Guardian article was written by Ed Pilkington. His "source" for the "well oiled machine" and crediting the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) appears to have been Alison Singer, who is not universally admired in the autism community.

I'm not on the IAC listserve either. However, I highly doubt that there were "discussions of planned joint action." What is far more likely is that local grassroots and individual experts who may have had access to DeNiro's people got that film pulled.

A good article (kind of like an antidote to Pilkington's nonsense is Chelsea Harvey's piece at Mashable,…

But herein lies the sticking point: When communicators of any sort, journalists or otherwise, give an equal voice to unsubstantiated or even discredited ideas, they’re actually introducing bias — not removing it — by presenting a contrarian viewpoint as though it has a credible weight in the discussion.

This type of mistake is particularly egregious in the world of science communication, which by nature should be driven by data and hard evidence rather than feelings. And yet this is by no means the first time it’s been made.

No matter what happened in Houston, there would always be an angle to be exploited by the conspiracy people. The authorities have a more permanent responsibility to put their weight behind good events and propaganda (yes, propaganda in its literal and original sense – not my fault it’s a loaded term) and in this case, to withdraw said support.

Exactly. My guess is that the Houston grant funding the festival didn't have any conditions attached specifying what kinds of films can and can't be shown, because if it did I doubt any self-respecting film festival would have accepted the money. Consequently, adding such conditions after the contract has been signed is problematic. Sure, Houston could yank funding for future years if it didn't like what the festival's organizers were showing this year, but the implication (perhaps not accurate) is that the mayor was threatening to yank this year's funding. Again, that's highly problematic, if true.

So, the whole whole film ado was a carefully crafted scheme by the genius and mental giant who planned it as "Please don't throw me in the briar patch? As an investment, it seems to have worked magnificently, since the $28,000 take on its debut weekend must be an order of magnitude greater than the money put into it.

I left out a thought in comment #20.

Look, there is an expert on the Hooker-Thompson-Wakefield manufactroversy, Matt Carey, who writes the blog LeftBrainRightBrain. He is known to members of the IAC, including Alison Singer. Was he quoted? Was he interviewed? No to the former, and almost certainly not to the latter (I have not asked him.)

Here is what he wrote about the film, and about Hooker and Wakefield's activism.

Let’s take another step back, a step away from the film. Here’s the thing about this from my perspective as an autism parent–if you believe this represents a real effect (that the MMR causes autism in African American males), you act very differently than Andrew Wakefield. You try to answer the question. Wakefield was at one point running a charity whose stated purpose was autism research (in the end, about half the money went to Wakefield’s salary). He is reported to have raised $400k for this film. Four hundred thousand dollars. I have seen no effort whatsoever by Mr. Wakefield to investigate this claim of a link between MMR and autism in African American boys. Instead we keep hearing about efforts on getting a congressional hearing on the subject. For those outside the autism community: there have been two autism related congressional hearings in recent years. While they have provided much YouTube footage for people pushing the idea that vaccines cause autism, they haven’t done anything to make life better for the autism communities. Nothing.

I wish there was some way of warning RI visitors when a new blog post features a photo of Andrew Wakefield. Seeing that smarmy, smirking face makes one want to forcibly expel breakfast.

Although a photo of J.B. Handley might not be an improvement.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

# 3 The Vodka Diet Guru

I agree with you. In fact, it would be a dereliction of duty to allow the presentation of such a film to be subsidized by the City of Houston if it could be prevented. If it was totally indepentently funded that would be another matter, I suppose though it could be argued that a representation to the film group pointing the problems and lies is well within the responsibilities of the city government or public health agency.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Wakefield's research was largely discredited.

I seldom watch TV, and I think I have only seen 2 other Faux News reports (fantasies?), before, both of which had me laughing hysterically. I am pleased to see this last one lives up to the their outstanding failure to report anything important.

Didn't I read about a study that reported that Fox News viewers actually know less about national and world events than those who don't follow the news at all?\

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

While I do not exactly believe in a physical listserv for anti-vax, there is something far more insidious and multi-functional which I have observed over the past 8 ears or so:

- they read the same people and listen to the same people.
Sites like AoA, TMR, Mikey, attract them and " in the darkness bind them" together in ignorance. Look at their sources.
- they use facebook and twitter to spread the wealth ( of mis-information) TMR has of late over 50K, the Vaccine Machine approaches that. Individuals in the fold work alone as well. They make use of more private forms of social media.
- Some acolytes strike out on their own as voices against vaccines. Some seek career opportunities. They write books that are published by Skyhorse. They start their own groups as well, relishing their tawdry celebrity status.
- The entire Schmear functions as a social network- a circle of friends and enablers -
they have lectures, book tours, conferences and films to attend. Many parents of children with autism may be alienated away from regular kid activities sponsored by school and civic groups like the scouts and sporting teams, making them feel isolated. Family members may shun their difficult situation.

I find the interconnections between the individuals and groups fascinating altho' extremely redundant

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink


By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Oh, I have no doubt that they do, likely several. The talking points are all too similar, as tightly controlled as talking points from the major parties about political issues.

I have zero doubt that's the case. I also wouldn't be shocked if these clowns had their own dark overlords as well, whether they be people who have a vested interest in peddling autism therapies or finding you anti-vax sympathetic doctors.

Or even, at the most cynical, creating anti-vaccine activist groups for the sole purpose of stroking their own ego and skimming a few bucks off the top for "education".

@ a-non:

Around Christmas each year, AoA lists books written by many of their leaders and followers: it's enlightening to see how much they are invested - spending time and effort to write a book, get it published, promote it etc.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Conspiracist Jon Rappoport has another idea:

So it could have gone this way. A player at NIMH calls the NYU Center; “I understand the Tribeca film Festival is going to show an insane film about vaccines causing autism. Craig Hatkoff, Jane Rosenthal’s husband, sits on your Board. Talk to the man. Straighten him out. Get him to come to his senses. What’s next? Is Tribeca going to sponsor a positive film about gun-toting militias taking over three Western states?”

That’s the way things happen.

Meanwhile, the CDC and the Sloan Foundation were making their pitches to shut down the film, but there is a strong probability those efforts were passing through Hatkoff or Rosenthal, too, because they’re very close to De Niro, and he was the one who needed to be convinced.…

A. ERRR...

It would have been one showing at the end of the festival, but it might have netted him a distribution deal.

Vaxxed had a distributor well BEFORE Tribeca. Contracts and what not had to have been signed. Cinema Libre was negotiating with the Angelika BEFORE the Tribeca screening was announced, and I'm betting BEFORE Wakefield cashed his personal-favor chips with De Niro to get the crappy slot at Tribeca.


Having studied Wakefield for years, [the notion he 'played' skeptics] gives him too much credit. He’s clever, but not that clever. He’s a short term con man, not a chess player who plans several moves ahead.

I was actually using 'Andy' there as a shorthand for what better be described as Team Andy. Wakefield himself may not be that clever, and I doubt he knows frak-all about the film biz and the film community, but he's now got peeps that do. I doubt Wakefield got hooked up with Cinema Libre on his own. But Del Bigtree, who's the producer of Vaxxed (meaning it's his show as a 'property', not Wakefield's, and he makes the deals, signs the contracts...) is in with CBS Televison Distribution, and Dr. Phil. Bigtree was a producer/director for The Doctors, so he might know more than a little about how pimping 'controversy' translates into 'eyeballs', i.e. marketable product. But then, I already said "Dr. Phil".

Robert Rodriguez could also be giving 'Andy' pointers. As much time as he's spent with Tarrantino, RR knows the value of stirring the pot. Cinema Libre may be a small-time distributor, but it would have gone belly-up long ago if it's honchos didn't know how to 'play' any variety of games. Hell, everybody who survives in the rank and file of 'the biz' is playing people all the time. If they don't, they get eaten for breakfast.

Hindsight is 20/20, and no doubt a Tribeca screening seems like a bigger deal than it is to the public-at-large. The real coup for 'Andy' was getting the Angelika to even consider booking Vaxxed for a commercial run. We didn't know that was already in the works, but Andy and his crew did. With much bigger fish on the line, you don't have to be all that clever to realize the publicity from a hassle at Tribeca is worth more than a quiet screening.

Handley's right about one thing, w/o the "international controversy in the media, [Vaxxed] likely would have had it’s single showing at Tribeca and moved on into obscurity." Though on this case "obscurity" means non-commercial showings at a handful of other secondary festivals...


I’d be willing to bet that it was a hard blow indeed to Wakefield's massive ego to see De Niro yank Vaxxed so ignominiously.

Remember that RDN got Vaxxed onto the schedule on the QT, so it didn't have his imprimatur, and lots of us speculated some weird quirk in the anonymous programming process might have let the thing through. The controversy pulled De Niro out in the open, giving Andy the opportunity to share the stage and go toe-to-toe with ROBERT-FREAKING-DE NIRO! And he punk'd mr.-you-talkin-to-me-make-him-an-offer-he-do't-refuse-you-never-got-me-down-Ray for all the world to see. Andy left De Niro looking like a sad tired clown. Andy went from the ignominy of being cruse-ship entertainment on a nutter boat sailing over the edge of sad irrelevance to headlines in respectable Very Big Media publications: NYT, WSJ, Forbes, no less than three articles in The Guardian. A blow to his ego? Or blowing up his ego to the size of a Macy's Parade balloon? And that's even before he'd played the trump card hidden in his pocket with the Angelika.

You say Andy's not that clever. I say nobody gets that lucky. Moving on...

CONSPIRACY? ARE YOU INSANE J.B.? (don't answer that)

Why the hell I wasn’t on this conspiracy. I mean, come on! I’ve been ranting, debunking, and mocking antivaccine twits for over eleven years now! Isn’t that worth anything? A shill check isn’t enough, man! I want respect for my efforts in the service of our strike>reptilian pharma overlords. I want a seat at the table, dammit!

Now that's some mighty fine Insolence! Everything you said about that listserv conspiracy nonsense is so spot on. That Guardian article was just the most putrid form of clickbait. I was really disheartened Brian Deer was worried there might be something to it. People send group emails. They call certain things to each other's attention. Maybe even (gasp!) express an opinion. Then maybe one or more of them get ideas on their own to do something. That's not a conspiracy. The bat guano premise at work here is that anybody would need any kind of organizing to get upset about Vaxxed screening at Tribeca, or to pick up a phone to shout a head's up if they knew anyone on the Tribeca board or with the ear of a sponsor. And while I'll pass on "ruthlessly" ("I wonder where Ruth is?"), to: "Would that the pro-vaccine forces were that organized." First, can we give Orac a totally secular AMEN! on that, and second, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! Son-of-FSM, how does J. B. Handjob think anything gets done? If I need to elaborate that, sorry, but I'm too apoplectic. Moving on...


Mayor Sylvester Turner screwed up badly. This is a propaganda victory that will spawn antivaccine conspiracy theories for a decade to come.

Isn't that my line? Do I hear an echo? :-)

Honestly, I'm not sure on this one. The AV conspiracies don't need anything resembling substance to spawn, and The Vodka Diet Guru has a point about the public health responsibilities of government. If the city signed a contract with the festival that promised funding without interference in 'creative control', reneging on those payments is not cool, but it's not like sending the cops to confiscate the digital print and lock the doors of the theater. The festival would still have other funding sources, and if they believe that strongly that Vaxxed needs to be on the schedule they can try to go raise more money to erase the budget deficit. It's Texas, Andy has some flush friends there, right?

More likely than pulling support this year, which would probably take a council resolution, a couple public officials just askedfor the film to be withdrawn, as in 'we can't make you do anything, but if you show bad judgement with public money, we'll have a hard time supporting the renewal of your funding for next year'. Hard to say that would be 'wrong'.

A few things make this different from the Tribeca withdrawal. That was a premiere, and pulling it seemed to present the possibility it would never be seen by anyone – well, except for that Internet thing, which sort of moots all the points. But if we forget the Web, Vaxxed has still already been seen by a lot of people in NYC, at a commercial theater no less, and there's nothing keeping a cinem in Houston from booking it. The Angelika has locations in Dallas and Plano, btw, so cry me a river over your lost ticket sales Hunter Todd, because Houston does not need you to watch Vaxxed.

Another difference, which may seem counter-intuitive but c'est la vie, is that the Tribeca was the target of outrage from outside. The sponsors could be seen as folding to pressure from that 'Big Pharma shill science cabal'. Totally absurd, but it plays, kind of... On the other hand, if you're paying for it, it's your festival, and if you have your own organic reasons for making choices, you're standing up, not folding. Nobody was ripping the City of Houston over Vaxxed, so they weren't pressured. They did it themselves.

Which is not to say that I think cancelling a screening is the best choice. It might not be a propaganda win for the AVs, but it might be a propaganda toss. And I'd certainly feel a lot better about it if the City had said they wanted it cancelled because it's chock full of fraudulent misrepresentation, not because it's thesis runs counter to policy. That's not good.


I’m not sure that all this publicity did Wakefield and Bigtree all that much good, as the wider exposure resulted in many more highly negative reviews than they otherwise would have had to deal with.

THIS is the nitty gritty: What did AV get out of this? A win or loss for them, or a bit of each? What did 'Andy' get out of this, because his interests are not the same as 'the movement's? How bad, if at all, is the outcome for public health advocates? Regardless, could public health have had a better outcome if it's advocates had taken a different course? I'd love to get into all that, but I have to go somewhere now, so it will have to wait. Ah'll be baackk!

I view the Houston bit as one of the essential conflicts in executive programs.
Where an executive program conflicts with another executive program, the executive then has to choose the path of least harm to the greatest number of people or strategic goal.
In this case, the mayor decided that undermining a vaccination campaign wasn't in the best interests of the strategic goal of higher vaccination uptake. As I don't have the compliance data for Houston and the Houston area, as well as public health guidance for current strategic goals onhand and lack the time to research them, I can only make a first blush estimate that the mayor has the goal of increased vaccination in the face of flagging vaccination rates and outbreak increases nationally.

As for a remark about Snowden, one can report concerns via the appropriate political processes without penalty. Each house of Congress has oversight committees and non-committee membership represented on each government network level, unclassified, secret network and top secret and special compartmented information networks.
So, one can send to the committee or non-committee member their concerns about classified programs, present classified data and other information and never face reprisal, as that is the appropriate method. I've personally utilized that process in the past.
He could have even followed "The Pentagon Papers" route, using the US press. He did himself no service by approaching foreign media. But, there still are no charge pending, no warrants outstanding, he remains abroad without any wants or warrants against him.
That said, I'm quite certain that if he came back to the US, he'd get a warrant against him in a New York minute, be arrested and endure a trial for releasing some of our more sensitive information without authorization.
That said, the courts are sensitive to politically charged events and charges and do take into account the political process and hence, "The Pentagon Papers" stayed in our press and no prosecutions ensued successfully or unsuccessfully.

Now I'm never one to scoff but....

I suspect that the Houston World-Fest may not be the most vaunted of festivals or the most difficult notch for film makers-

Why would I say that?

Something about the name rang the bell of recognition for me:
a little investigation revealed -
that this same festival has- in the past decade- accepted several documentaries by and given awards to Gary Null.

His "Poverty Inc." won the Jury Award/ Best of Festival
"Silent Epidemic" won the Jury Award/ Higher than Platinum
"Seeds of Death" won the same
"War on Health" won the same
"American Veterans" won the same
"Knocking on the Devil's Door" won Best Documentary/ Gold Remi ward
"Death by Medicine: won the same
"Autism Made in the USA" won the Best Documentary/ Bronze Remi
and other entries won too
( from Gary recent awards)

I imagine that Andy's work would fit right in.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Which only bolsters my argument that the mayor probably shouldn't have so obviously strong armed the organizer, given that Gary Null has produced and shown antivaccine films at the festival. A smarter approach would have been to wait until the festival was over and then simply yanked funding, based on the various films mentioned above and citing Andy's film as the last straw that led the city to reassess the festival as a whole. :-)

Speaking of "a well-oiled network" check out the leadership team of Health Choice:

Health Choice Team

Mark Blaxillis the father of a daughter diagnosed with autism, Chairman and co-founder of the Canary Party, Editor-at-Large for Age of Autism, a former director of SafeMinds and a frequent speaker at autism conferences.

Dan E Burns, Ph.D. (English), served as a writer-producer for Eastman Kodak Company, as a speechwriter for Diamond Shamrock Corporation/Maxus Energy, and as Adjunct Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, teaching systems analysis.

Patti Carroll is a parent of two incredible teenagers, one of whom suffered permanent brain damage from his "Well Baby" vaccines. She is an outspoken advocate for vaccine safety, health freedom, and informed consent on potentially dangerous medical procedures.

Allison Chapman attended Northeastern University and was formerly a restaurant and bar manager until she became the mom of 3 beautiful children, 2 daughters and a son with regressive autism, seizures, apraxia, gastrointestinal and esophageal inflammation.

Teresa Conrick MSEd, has worked in the field of education for over 25 years. Her older daughter received an autism diagnosis in 1995. Megan was a normally developing child who began to lose skills and show signs of regression, after receiving vaccines at 18 months.

Lou Conte is the father of triplet boys, two with autism. He is the Director of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Justice Project and a founding advocate member of EBCALA.

Anne Dachel is married and the mother of four, including two who were vaccine injured. She's a teacher and she monitors how the press covers autism. She's media editor for the daily online autism news blog, Age of Autism. Anne and her family live in WI.

Rebecca Estepp is the mother to two boys. Her oldest son, Eric, is a teenager with autism. Rebecca was an early member of Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) who assisted in the launch of the San Diego TACA Chapter in 2001. (Director of Communications for Health Choice.)

Heather Fraser is a vaccine choice advocate. Her son was injured in 1994/95 by an unlicensed Canadian vaccine called PENTA ( This vaccine resulted in over 11,000 reports of injury that included 15 deaths before it was removed from use.

Laura Hayes is the mother of 3 young adult children, now ages 22, 20, and 18. Her children were born not long after the tripling of the vaccine schedule in the U.S., which included decimating levels of the neurotoxins mercury and aluminum, completely unbeknownst to her.

Rolf Hazelhurst is the father of Yates and Sarah Hazlehurst, and an assistant district attorney general for the state of Tennessee (Criminal prosecutor). His son's case, Hazlehurst v. HHS was the second test case in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding.

Kent Heckenlively is a former attorney, a founding editor of Age of Autism, and a science teacher. During college Heckenlively worked for U.S. Senator Pete Wilson and was the school's Rhodes Scholar candidate.

Nancy Hokkanen lives in Bloomington, Minnesota with her husband and son. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications, and has worked since 1977 primarily in publishing, advertising and graphic arts.

Mary Holland, Legal Advisor, Advisory Group Chair, Mary Holland, Esq. is Research Scholar and Director of the Graduate Legal Skills Program at New York University School of Law. She is a founding board member of EBCALA.

Cathy Jameson is a former educator. Having stepped away from the classroom to raise her five children, Cathy is now a full-time mother, advocate, and writer. (Legal Advisor, Advisory Group Chair)

Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism. Julie has a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and two master's degrees from St. Xavier University in Chicago.

Jennifer Larson is the mother of 14 year old with regressive autism, and the President of the Canary Party. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in marketing, psychology and speech communication.

Dan Olmsted is the editor of the web site Age of Autism ( He has been a journalist for over thirty-five years. He was an original staff member of USA Today and senior editor of USA Weekend and United Press International.

Maureen McDonnell has been a holistic, nutritionally-oriented registered nurse for 37 years, working n the fields of: childbirth education, labor and delivery, pediatrics and clinical nutrition. (Medical Advisor, Advisory Group at Health Choic)

Sylvia Pimentel is the mother of two teen boys with regressive autism. She is an advocate for vaccine safety and vaccine rights, and is an active member of several autism organizations.

Andrea Rupert is the mother and 24/7 caregiver of the now-adult Holden Rupert, who was nearly killed by his DPT shot, age 4 months. While he achieved nearly normal development up to age 11, thanks to the ketogenic diet, he regressed back to infancy as a result of a hospital-coerced antiepileptic drug trial.

Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism, author of All I Can Handle I’m No Mother Teresa A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism and the novel House of Cards.

Jennifer Stella holds a degree in microbiology and worked in the field of molecular infectious disease diagnostics before starting her family. She started looking more thoroughly into vaccine health impacts/injury recovery options and "alternative" health choices after her son reacted violently to his baby shots.

Emily Tarsell, LCPC, ATR-BC is a Maryland resident, mother, artist and licensed clinical professional counselor. Emily has worked professionally to assist families, children, adolescents and adults with social/emotional issues such as ADHD, autism, anxiety, trauma, mood disorders, attachment and relationship issues and developmental delays.

Wayne Rohde is a co-founder of Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, Autism Advocacy Coalition of Minnesota, and national advisory member of Health Choice.

Kim Mack Rosenberg is a litigator at a major New York City-based law firm, where her practice focuses on products liability, class actions, insurance coverage and general civil litigation.

Laura Rowley is the mother of three children who have all been diagnosed with regressive Autism Spectrum Disorders. She has recovered two of them and they remain her driving force to educate and institute change. (Director of Development at Health Choice)

ohn Stone has an adult autistic son, lives in London and has been UK correspondent of Age of Autism since 2008. His reporting has focussed on the misrepresentation of events and of science surrounding the autism crisis and vaccines.

Ginger Taylor is an author, speaker, new media writer and activist. She writes on the politics of autism, health, vaccination, informed consent and both corporate and government corruption

Katie Weisman is the mother of 15 year-old identical triplet boys, who all have autism as a result of thimerosal poisoning. They are fantastic kids and she is very proud of them.

Dorian Yates has worked on environmental and health issues for thirty-five years in the non-profit and for-profit sectors, covering a range of green and ecological issues including food, travel, energy and health care.

Speaking of “a well-oiled network” check out the leadership team of Health Choice:

Slippery turds in a steaming stew of steatorrheal stool is what I'm seeing with this list.....

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Erin Elizabeth is soilciting donations to help her make a movie about the Holistic Doctor Deaths.

"Scene from the upcoming movie on Holistic Doctor Deaths"

She inserted her appeal in the official Jeff Bradstreet Hagiography Page. In the next entry on that page, Bradstreet's fellow-grifters admit that they collected $50000 from gullible suckers to find suspicious circumstances in his suicide, found nothing, and need more money to keep looking:

In response to the reader question asking if any info has come out this month, all we can divulge is that any new information is consistent with an investigation being worth pursuing.

It all has much in common with what Rick Perstein called "the long con".

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink


Echoes of Steorn. "We're so close. We need just a little bit more money." (five years later) "Almost there. Just a little more money needed."

Interesting how woo-meisters and alties want to become FILMMAKERS. I wonder why that is?

After scanning/ viewing several of the Null oeuvre, I would guess that it's an easy way to create a sell-able product that simultaneously enlivens your personal self-aggrandisement agenda:
you can be writer, director and producer: see you name more than once in the credits and sit in a fabulous canvas- backed chair for photo ops. You can interrogate people and answer questions from the media. You can be in film festivals and win prizes!
It brings the spotlight to YOU! ( But it sure ain't 'Spotlight' the film).

Certainly these marvels can be achieved on a shoe-string budget: if you film people in their homes or on the street. Use film students to do the more technical stuff. Then you can charge customers real money for copies ( which -btw- cost virtually nothing to make- I just looked at an analysis of that).

If you make more than one film you can use footage interchangeably. I think that I've seen the same material more than once.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

No true skeptic - or for that matter, not even a person who counts themselves as sufficiently cautious - would ever allow themselves to make sweeping statements and assumptions about a film they haven't seen. In fact, the more hype that surrounds a film, the more a genuine skeptic would make sure to reserve judgement until it's been viewed (known as exercising integrity).

All thinking people are skeptical. That does not make them skeptics.

You are not a skeptic, Orac. That much is clear.

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Except, Eddie, we all know the answer to this question: How do you know Andy Wakefield is lying?

His lips are moving.

One thing is quite clear about Eddie Unwind, he is a Wakefield fanboi.

It brings the spotlight to YOU! ( But it sure ain’t ‘Spotlight’ the film).

Description reminded me more of Limelight the film rather than Spotlight. (Limelight was one of Charlie Chaplin's last films in 1952, and he was not only the male lead, he was screenwriter, director, producer, songwriter, and choreographer. Then again, Chaplin was actually competent at all of those things. And he had help with the choreography for the ballet dancer.)

By Jenora Feuer (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Eddie Unwind says (#44),

You are not a skeptic, Orac

MJD says,

Orac & Minions (a.k.a. Mork and Mindy) should make a film about why vaccines can't cause autism.

I'd give a month salary to help with production cost and a month salary to see that film.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Right, neither Orac nor his minions- AFAIK -have seen the film BUT
we have read what Andy writes and what he says in public, have seen his videos- including one about the whistleblower- and know what his cherished beliefs are. We know that he sues people who criticise him and that he raises money for his various projects from those who believe in his spiel. We know on what grounds he objects to what SBM has shown to be true and how he defends himself.
In short, we know where he's at.
I doubt that the film will reveal anything discordant.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

sweeping statements and assumptions about a film they haven’t seen

If the trailer gives a false impression of the contents of a film, whose fault is that?

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

I also haven't saw an ebola virus, it doesn't mean I'd lick a culture of the shit.

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

In reply to by herr doktor bimler (not verified)

Here's what's come up in my local facebook feed this morning…

A little boy whose mother is a nurse (and has studied naturopathy - whatever that means) and the parents' refusal to submit him to chemo ending up in a court order. Apparently he's also on the airport watch list.

She's right to be concerned about side effects of course but treatments keep improving and doctors don't just want to let him suffer.…

A search for a more questioning source finds that the mystery American treatment she insists on trying is nutrition.…

This is why I spend half my days looking for the facepalm emoticon!

By Mama-Don't-Sleep (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

I'm a father and grandfather to three wonderful grandchildren.
The parents in this case want to simply give up and attempt woo treatments, rather than treatments that have been successful, albeit at a relatively low success rate.
A slim chance beats no chance whatsoever and his fears would have been greatly alleviated if his parents had sat down with him, explained, accompanied him and supported him, rather than playing the victim for him and causing him to panic.
They seem to be all about "I want my woo and I'll keep agitating my child to get it until he dies, then I'll blame you for not having woo, to hell with your real treatments!".

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

In reply to by Mama-Don't-Sleep (not verified)

@ MJD:

Oh come on, Michael, you know you want to hang out with us! You want an invitation to the premier's after-party.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

# 35 Wzes1

OT a bit but Re: Snowdon

He could have even followed “The Pentagon Papers” route, using the US press. He did himself no service by approaching foreign media.

Thanks for my daily ration of humour. No one outsider the USA thinks that the US mainstream media has any credit as viable reporters of fact in a case like Snowdon.

I am reminded of the lead-up to the Iraq War. It was completely clear to anyone outside the USA with even a cursory interest in the subject that the USA and Tony Blair had no case. The US media obediently parroted the American Government's lies.

On other subjects the US media is not all that bad but in what would be seen as a national security case, unh un.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

jrkrideau, I recall that entire debacle all too well, being on the receiving end of military orders in that time period.
That said, do you think that "The Pentagon Papers" is no longer possible in US journalism?
That's a hell of a lot of media outlets to buy off in the US!

That said, I tend to also review BBC and Al Jazeera for news.

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

In reply to by jrkrideau (not verified)

#38 Liz Ditz

Heather Fraser is a vaccine choice advocate. Her son was injured in 1994/95 by an unlicensed Canadian vaccine called PENTA (

What the blazes? It (PENTA or what seems more accurate pentavalent?) seems to have been so bad that it was approved for use in Canada in 2004. Oh dear, the stores about Health Canada and Big Pharma are TRUE!!!!…

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

I suspect that the Houston World-Fest may not be the most vaunted of festivals or the most difficult notch for film makers-

I couldn't recall ever hearing about it. There are now multitudes of film festivals and a lot of them are rackets: a sort of vanity press for wanna-be filmmakers. They charge high submission fees, and accept pretty much anything. A lot of these give themselves names similar to good respected festivals. Like if the Smallville Film Festival is A Real Thing, a bogus Smallville International Film Fest will pop up. I don't have the energy to check on Houston World-Fest. if it's been around for over a decade, it's probably a bit more legit than some. But with Null getting all those awards, either they're just not getting submissions from real doco makers, or they're doco 'juries' are a little CT nest, and maybe on the take from some well-heeled funder... Setting science aside, the statement from Hunter Todd doesn't pass the smell test from a doco perspective. There's a sketchy agenda there.

Interesting how woo-meisters and alties want to become FILMMAKERS. I wonder why that is?

Nothing unique to woo-meisters there. It's the siren song of media glamor. You wouldn't believe how many completely unqualified people think filmmaking is easy, the world is dying to see and hear what they have to say, dump their savings and max out their credit cards to create their magnum opus, in full confidence it will conquer Sundance and then go to theaters, only to never get anything finished, or wind up with a piece of junk that has nowhere to go but those fake-fests. The 11,000+ yearly submissions to Sundance are the tip of the iceberg.

It's a kind of mass delusion. There is no spotlight. You can get a 'jury award' at some of the low-grade festivals, and all that yields is one screening off a lousy video projector in a small theater with maybe 15 people in the house, half of whom leave in the middle. A film I co-authored got it's first screening in a halfway-decent festival, so we went, and the 'tech' guy they'd hired was so clueless half of the films were shown in the wrong aspect ratio.

It sounds like Null has a 'special relationship' with Hunter Todd, but I wouldn't be surprised if his films, no matter how inept they may be compared to docs you're used to seeing, are less inept than 95% of what gets submitted.

I don't know anything about Null, never seen his stuff, but if I had to guess, I'd guess Todd-ian festival directors are milking his delusions that if he just keeps trying, he'll become the next Michael Moore. Ain't gonna happen. The generic AV films will find their niche audience on the web. They don't need festival screenings and don't get much out of having been screened beyond a little puffery to ad to their websites, and maybe move up the pecking order vs. other AV films. But if there's a local community of CT activists who'll turn out for a celebratory screening – it would only take 100 or so – the festival makes out on ticket sales.

Vaxxed is another creature altogether, because Del Bigtree is a well connected professional, and it had a professional distributor on board out of the gate. This, much more than the Tribeca scheduling, will gall non-commercial filmmakers (i.e. most documentarians). We make good films, get into good festivals on merit, win awards at some of them... and getting any kind of distribution is still something like a 1 in 10,000 long shot. Mostly we wind up self-distributing, i.e. selling DVD-Rs out of our trunks to friends.

Hey, now I have a documentary maker!
You can do a documentary on *real* chemtrails, sadmar.
It'd be short and a full documentary of the few true chemtrails that have ever existed, from the SR-71 and U-2. Slightly different fuels, similar additives to lower the radar signature of the exhaust, aka contrail that pointed directly to the exhaust of the jet engine. ;)
Like I said, it'd be a short film, with a plenitude of real, US government documents that list the ingredients. :P
Add in a few professionals to discuss the contributions of the various compounds, it'd even double as a general anesthetic.

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

In reply to by sadmar (not verified)

Re the pic in the OP:

I never knew Andy Wakefield was "Q". Explains a lot!

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Not entirely unrelated, British HIV/AIDS denialist Joan Shenton has been trying to get her latest film shown at the London International Film Festival. ... tival.html

It seems this might have just been summarily pulled from the festival as well. No doubt the HIV/AIDS denialists will try to leverage this "censorship" into publicity. ... 131198187/

Unlike with VAXXED, you can actually watch Shenton's film on youtube. SPOILER ALERT: of the five HIV positive people featured in the film who have been supposedly living for decades without treatment, one was never actually HIV positive, one died before the film was released, and two others have actually been on long term antiretroviral treatment on and off. The film it seems was funded by Peter Duesberg's wealthy friend Robert Leppo and Austrian denialist Christian Fiala.

By Mrs Pointer (not verified) on 08 Apr 2016 #permalink

Seeing that smarmy, smirking face makes one want to forcibly expel breakfast,

That pics been photoshopped by a graphics artist named Oscar (even) Wilder. Thereal Andy looks a bit different.

PENTA or what seems more accurate pentavalent?

It's a very poorly designed site; this is the "original packaging" image that they link to (which does say "PENTA" on the side panel).* It's rather clearly two vaccines and not one.

Their reference to the "just one study on safety prior to the release of PENTA" (which I'm not going to haul myself out for a copy of just now) is similarly obscure, and the underlying claim is undocumented.

* Don't get me started on the typesetting system of the same name.

^ Ah, looking more closely at PMID 8072815, I realize that the question was drawing the two into a single syringe, with the lone-injection-site approach underperforming. This really isn't adding up for me.


By their actions shall ye know them...

Wakefield committed a huge scientific fraud, he stamped all over our rules on informed consent to the point that he pretty much committed assault on those bairns, he distorted results, he lied for his own financial gain while trying to hide his financial conflicts of interest, he has tried to sue those who point out the facts of his egregiously fraudulent behaviour, he was struck off by the GMC (which does not happen to many), he has been removed from his fellowship of at least one of the Royal Colleges (you have to really go looking to find that out)...

And yet we have heard not a peep of contrition nor apology from him.

Until such time as he does thoroughly acknowledge all of the above I reserve the right to dismiss anything and everything he says as self-serving lies.

And yet we have heard not a peep of contrition nor apology from him.

I see that Jake has revisited a related matter.

I see that Jake has revisited a related matter.

Taximum in that thread is worried that AJW would find himself on the Big Pharma Assassination List if he did achieve the relicensure stunt; while Hans Litten recommends that antivaxxers arm themselves with this latest demonstration of the standards of OMICS journals:…

Truly Jack has some prize pumpkins in his patch.

The paper in question being the latest emission from Kevin Galalae (who attracted Orac's attention back in January).…

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink

Over at the Age of lying about autism, Dan Olmsted is waxing lyrical down memory lane about his brushes with scientists on the origins of autisms. He mentions long conversations with Mary Honig who explained patiently to him why MMR was not the cause of autism.

Olmsted concludes with "I strongly believe the MMR can trigger autism in vulnerable kids"

He believes this despite being provided with evidence to the contrary, apparently because he does.

Well that settles that.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink

#55 Wzed1

I recall that entire debacle all too well, being on the receiving end of military orders in that time period.

My heartfelt sympathies.

That said, do you think that “The Pentagon Papers” is no longer possible in US journalism?

Not impossible but very unlikely, unfortunately. Some of the smaller internet ones might very well report it. The main US media outlets such as MSNBC or CNN or the New York Times and so on, well on their record it seems a bit unlikely. However, as it would not be an external “threat” as Iraq was, maybe.

Fox would, probably, be leading a lynch mob but have gotten the name wrong and Snow White would have had to appeal to Monaco for asylum.

After Guantanamo and the secret extradition of people to places like Syria, I'd not risk it. I'm Canadian and remember Maher Arar and Omar Kadhr.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink

@ Chris Preston:

Dan tells us that he is " a trained observer".

I wonder if that relates to precisely reporting each and every one of his speculative fantasies as well as the tiny details of his over-wrought belief system?

I could write very complicated observations in relation to my thoughts about sea dragons in the North Atlantic but that doesn't mean that there any sea dragons in the North Atlantic or anywhere else.

Dan doesn't get that.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink

Denice Walter: "Dan tells us that he is ” a trained observer”."

Is this the same guy who missed the "Clinic for Special Children" for his first "Age of Autism" article about the Amish and autism? That is just hilarious.

“Dan tells us that he is ” a trained observer”.

Trained by whom?

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink

Olmsted is a man entirely without integrity, who will viciously lie to advance his economic interests, so this point is not hugely consequential, except that it illustrates what a fool he is. But the following statement, above, is tautologous:

“I strongly believe the MMR can trigger autism in vulnerable kids”

It is self evidently true that in a kid vulnerable to autism from vaccines, a vaccine could trigger autism.

His problem is to prove a case. Which he can't, and nobody can. Hence vaccine court.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink

“Dan tells us that he is ” a trained observer”.”

Any untrained yahoo can observe things that are there.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink

Over at the Age of lying about autism, Dan Olmsted is waxing lyrical down memory lane about his brushes with scientists on the origins of autisms.

It turns out that there's also been some amusement in the past week involving Surgical Neurology International courtesy of newish E-book promoting, long-winded commenter Kostoff.

Back on an earlier thread, Hellanthus wrote:

Skeptics are far from being united. And as a whole, far from being Machiavellian enough for the cold calculation of PR benefits. I know the old saying about hanging together to avoid being hanged alone, but… Maybe the “skeptics” non-united community is for the best. Independence of thoughts is supposed to be part of being of an inquiring mind. I don’t think I want to be part of some sort of Borg collective.

Let's start here: Vaccines save lives. Anti-vax ideology is a problem because within anti-vax clusters community immunity can break down, leading to VPD outbreaks, causing the vulnerable to become needlessly seriously ill, and possibly die.

High stakes. Standing against that possibility was a clear theme in comments about the Tribeca scheduling here and elsewhere:

"We know what will happen if this film is promoted or given any sort of credibility... kids will get sick and some will die." - titmouse

Any of us who seriously consider anti-vax to be threat to public health that can cause the death of innocents must ask. "What is to be done?"
And I submit that non-unity and absence of strategic thinking are luxuries of privilege that truly caring for those who stand to get sick and die cannot let us afford. You don't really know the Franklin quote* until you've stared right at the naked hard fist of harm.

Far from being any Borg collective, the colonists who came together to sign the Declaration were an extremely contentious lot that didn't agree on much of anything besides getting out from under King George's thumb. So has it been throughout the history of 'progressive' organizing, certainly in any 'movement' with which I ever had an affinity: anti-Vietnam war, progressive labor... More diverse, inquiring and argumentative than any group you'd find in the business world by far, and most of 'the scientific community' or 'medical community.' (Not that either = 'skeptics' by any means).

Machiavellian thinking refers to cynical manipulation for the purpose of stifling democracy and maintaining autocratic rule, injustice and inequality. 'Public Relations' is mainly a Orwellian euphemism for this sort of thing. What I'm talking about is actually relating to the public – learning how to talk to people in ways that will bring them into the tent of diverse independent thinkers who still find common ground in common values and common purpose. This is anything but cold. Read Thomas Paine, listen to Martin Luther King.

As I understand the Skeptic creed, the idea is not to repress emotions in favor of cold calculation, but to make sure that rational thought and principles of evidence serve as the ultimate guide to action. These pages are full of rather glaring violations of those principles, where passions overwhelm reason and 'objectivity'. Neither ice nor fire are conducive to wisdom.

An inquiring mind aims to consider multiple plausible explanations for observed phenomena, and in human affairs, unlike the hard sciences, definitive answers are often off the table altogether. The OP above fails in it's attempt to resolve contradictory views about screening Vaxxed at Tribeca and at Houston World Fest, and it's only the attempt at resolution that's a problem. On one hand we have the thesis expressed by titmouse: that Vaxxed should not be shown because it will lead to the spread of anti-vax ideology, which will lead to disease and death, thus the Tribeca withdrawal i response to criticism was good. On the other hand, we have the thesis that criticism driven withdrawal from Houston is bad, because it will be a propaganda coup for antivax ideologues, allowing the ideology to spread lading to disease and death. Neither of these theses are necessarily 'right' or 'wrong', but they do pose a decision fork, suggesting different strategies of countering anti-vax ideology, one which may be more effective than the other.

Taking a 'PR' angle is simply asking to apply the tools of reason and evidence to the question of 'what works best?' in pursuit of agreed ends for the good. In this case, as in most matters of 'public opinion' were looking at a very complex dynamic, any tack will have pluses and minuses, and open-minded rational argument – rather than any sort of hive-mind conformity – will be required if we are indeed to have any success in reducing the risk of VPD outbreaks.
* "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." Bejamin Franklin, to The Continental Congress in 1776,, appealing for signatures to The Declaration of Independence.

Oh look, "investigative journalist" Jon Rappoport is touting a 2006 Daily Mail article as (a) current (b) validating all of Vaxxed.

Boom: another vaccine whistleblower steps out of the shadows
by Jon Rappoport April 7 2016
MMR vaccine dangerous
Vaccine Empire wobbles on its foundations
The new film Vaxxed (trailer) highlights one whistleblower, researcher William Thompson, who publicly admitted he and his CDC colleagues lied, cheated, and committed gross fraud in exonerating the MMR vaccine and pretending it had no connection to autism.

Now we have another: Dr. Peter Fletcher. The Daily Mail has the story (3/29/16): “Former science chief: ‘MMR fears coming true’”.

Rappoport goes on to fantasize:

I’ve been working as an independent reporter for 30 years, and I can tell you that at this point, the whole vaccine propaganda apparatus is like a porcelain vase sitting on a table. And an earthquake is commencing.

Somewhere, right now, as I write this, a vaccine expert none of us yet knows about is sitting in his office thinking: “Thompson and Fletcher have come forward. It might be time for me to tell what I know, what I’ve been hiding all these years.”

He isn’t a hero. He’s a chronic scientific liar who can’t stand the conspiracy of silence any longer.

He’s remembering what a conscience is.

And he’s calculating the relative consequences of voluntarily coming clean now vs. being exposed later.

He’s sniffing which way the new wind is blowing.

I don,t like pseudo-science, Anti-gmo are one of those I really don't like, but anti-vaccine a so much worst.

I log out of my hotmail today and TADAM, what good word of news MSN news site bring us? ( not that it's a good news source normally, I mean there's always ghost stuff, "proven UFO", psychic Alouette). This nice news that we will see trolling Facebook ( I will) : ( the article In french sorry about that…

I came from Paris Match. I don't think its surprising but that's disappointing of course from a big media outlet to make fear mongering like that

By Frederick (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink

I'm glad that readers seem to have enjoyed Dan's quote as much as I did. Heh .

OT but why not? it's late.
I spent the afternoon driving around an area I hadn't ventured into for many years altho' I have seen it from a distance of several miles-
it used to be a working waterfront with ancient warehouses, ferries, entangled railroad connections, piers and docks, decrepit but
industriously functioning: blackened weather-worn buildings, cobble stones and iron fences, barges floating on dark waters. It might be a place about which Jack London wrote, or, if we erased the electrical street lamps, even Dickens.

As you approach it, the new city rises like a mirage, icily silver and blue, shimmering through pearl grey mists: it's an island of skyscrapers, dozens of them, perhaps nearly a hundred, steel, mirror and glass, of varying heights with differing facades and apices, gathered together tall and frighteningly perfect, a vista seemingly from a science fiction novel, yet eerily present and made of money.
Memory is a strange phenomenon- for I can 'see' both cities in my mind's eye.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink

I checked figures on Box Office Mojo, and $28K weekend gross for a single screen is apparently quite good. Vaxxed grossed $41,250 for the week, which works out to over 2,845 paid admissions (can't tell exactly, because senior tickets are $11.50 vs. $14.50 for adults...) The Angelika has extended the run for a second week, so it's still playing, at least through Friday 4/15.

Frederick #80:
This nice news that we will see trolling Facebook :

This Stefano Montenari dude seems to onto a new scam, with his nanoparticle-laboratory grift.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink


I checked figures on Box Office Mojo, and $28K weekend gross for a single screen is apparently quite good.

True, but remember one thing: it's only available on one screen, which means that anyone who wants to watch it has to go to the Angelika. It's artificial scarcity, so of course it's good for a single screen.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 09 Apr 2016 #permalink

Sadmar quotes Benjamin Franklin (#77),

We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.

MJD says,

Benjamin Franklin is also credited with saying, in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.


In the near future can we expect that nothing can be certain except death, taxes, and vaccines?

In the human experience, vaccines appear to be one more certainty to celebrate or complain about.

It may play out that dissimilar vaccine-ideologies counteract and bring solidarity to our vaccine nation.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

@ herr doktor bimler:

That video is a keeper.

The loons I survey have been on to this for a few years- the psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists in positions of power are amongst their fondest topics for seething rants. I believe that this was precipitated by a book by a psychologist
that showed up in various pop psych media.

Mike has an article ( NN) June 2012 about how to spot one.
Null was interviewed by a Rob Kall ( Op Ed news April 2014)
about how these creatures function in corporations and in government. Many of his prn shows involve the analysis of narcissists in action- perverting science, the media and everything else. He even discussed a few sceptics we all know and love I find it hilarious when either of them enumerate the traits by which one can identify a narcissist or psychopath.

( -btw- nice photo - your hair is nearly as fabulous as mine- but neater/ i.e. easier to comb)

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

Thompson at least had data to (mis)interpret. Fletcher has nothing but his own confusion of correlation with causation (and not even much of the former). From the Daily Mail* article:

"Now retired after a distinguished 40-year career in science and medicine in Britain, Europe and the US, Dr Fletcher said that without such research, health authorities could not possibly rule out fears about MMR."

So this guy was involved in evaluating vaccine schedules 40 years ago. I think we are dealing with another case of Emeritus Crank Phenomenon here, a la Boyd Haley.

*if the Daily Mail is your go-to source for science/medical information, there's something wrong.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

I searched for Del Bigtree and learned ( via a you tube video by a high school student journalist ) that VAXXED has finally broken through the red tape/ barbed wire of governmental-corporate censorship and will be shown TODAY!!! at the Silver Springs IFF TWICE !

A few of the A-V twits mention 'Ocala' which lines up with SSIFF it seems.
It's the BIG Time for Big Tree. Woo hoo.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

They've really got the big-pharm establishment on the run now.

[Null] even discussed a few sceptics we all know and love I find it hilarious when either of them enumerate the traits by which one can identify a narcissist or psychopath.

LOL, why is Wakers even bothering with some scuzzy NY dog house when he could shove his trash up Null's ass and just project it onto the moon?


It's not a question of scarcity. Look at the box office chart, and make your own analysis if you like. The point is that Vaxxed sold enough tickets for the theater to extend the run. If this was any other film, that would be an indicator of general commercial viability for theaters like the Angelika: 'art' cinemas in cosmopolitan areas that have smaller screening rooms. In this case, though, NYC may just have had enough passionate AVs turning out for the 'I'm going because they don't want me to see it' that the gross represents a novelty factor that wouldn't necessarily follow to other cities and later dates.

Vaxxed will be opening for a one week run this coming Friday at the Laemmle Monica Film Center in Santa Monica, CA. This is the Los Angeles area, on the ocean, just SW of Beverly Hills. The Laemmle Monica is an old neighborhood theater that was multiplexed into 6 small auditoriums, seating 124, 63, 42, 41, 30, and 27 respectively. They'll be showing Vaxxed five time a day, Andy and the gang will be doing 2 Q&As each on Friday and Saturday, and one on Sunday. Those are all already sold out. This booking is no surprise, as anti-vax is still a Thing in a subpopulation of 'Hollywood'.

This info doesn't lead to any significant conclusions about how widely Vaxxed will be screened, how many people will see it in theaters — whether the viewers will overwhelmingly be already committed AV faithful, or how many general audience viewers will wander in out of curiosity about the topic or just hearing that it's supposedly dramatic and moving in the depiction of families with autistic kids (which I'm guessing from the trailer involves some ugly stereotyping of 'broken' children... yuchh).

It only disproves what was hinted in reviews that cited small attendance at the early Friday Angelika screenings: that nobody gives a hoot about Vaxxed and it would tank and disappear quickly. It certainly would have been a blow to Wakefield, and a sign of anti-vax being near death, if they'd held a big party in Manhattan and only a few stragglers showed up. But that was just wishful thinking.

So far Cinema Libre's distribution strategy seems to be working, though it remains to be seen how far it will go. The plan, pretty obviously, was to get Vaxxed in some festivals by hook or crook, starting with the biggest market in NYC. For some reason, the idea of festival screenings is taken to more offensive than a commercial showing, thus raising a stink that generates lots of publicity and increases demand for commercial presentation. It doesn't matter much if the festivals cancel or go ahead and show it. The withdrawals are better for Cinema Libre, as the commercial houses get the local premieres, and none of the potential audience has been siphoned off. But lets say Tribeca had gone ahead despite all the negative press. They probably would have sold out their one screening, and had many many more requests for tickets than they could fill. That volume of interest could have secured the Angelika run anyway.

Whether successful runs at the Angelia and the Laemmle will lead to bookings in cities without a significant anti-vax contingent is an open question. Even for cities with a potentially profitable AVer audience at hand, theaters may decide they don't want to party to cinematic fraud. This is going to take awhile to play out, and it's going to be interesting to see how it does.

Meanwhile, over at AoA, John Stone has just coughed up a genuine howler:

Here's an exciting project:

"New Delhi, Apr.8 (ANI): Four scientific institutions - University of California, San Diego, J. Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology and The Scripps Research Institute - have teamed up to create the "Mesa Consortium," a new scientific hub for the Human Vaccines Project....

Why all these people from San Diego are suddenly descending on Delhi is a sinister question in itself. Could it be that that Indian government are selling its people for experimentation?

That's right, if Asian News International picks up a press release,* the project is automatically based in India.

It's a wonder to behold.

* "San Diego to Be Research Hub for New Human Vaccines Project."

#90 Denice Walter -
They're just building momentum going forward to the finale triumphant showing at the Swine Holler, Tennessee International Flicker Show (SHIFS).

It is okay with me if Vaxxed plays at some mediocre film festivals with other crockumentaries. I just do not want it to be taken seriously in some grown-up forum.

I went to the SSIFF's website:
they're presenting Andy's film as CENSORED! this evening.

The festival appears to be small, sponsored by local business and features a 1960s(?) film that was filmed there.
I couldn't find a list of the other films being shown.
Take a look at their website.

@ Reality- this may actually BE Swine Holler.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

#89 @Dangerous Bacon:. The Peter Fletcher article in the Daily Mail ran ten years ago, but some kind of glitch with their website periodically republishes it with a new dateline.

The cranks have gone wild about it, thinking that its current.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

So this guy was involved in evaluating vaccine schedules 40 years ago. I think we are dealing with another case of Emeritus Crank Phenomenon here, a la Boyd Haley.

Oh no. As Liz Ditz pointed out at #79, Fletcher was being paid UKP40,000 to testify against MMR as part of Wakefield's lucrative litigation to replace existing vaccines with his own snake-oil substitute.

The cranks have gone wild about it, thinking that its current.

Please, no-one tell them otherwise. Not that they would listen if you did.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

Is there an approved term in antivax circles for an individual whose beliefs are negotiable and whose testimony is purchasable? Asking for a friend Fletcher.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

The cranks have gone wild about it, thinking that its current.

To his partial credit, John Stone realized that it was dated, although he didn't figure out the basic issue.

@ Denice #88

Mike has an article ( NN) June 2012 about how to spot one.

A full article? What did he write after "Step one: stand in front of a mirror. " ?

By Helianthus (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

Descriptions of Fletcher are more entertaining if you mentally replace "whistle-blower" with "rusty trombonist".

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

@ Helianthus:

No, he explicates 10 detailed clues that will help you identify one.
HOWEVER nothing about self-awareness of possible d-mning traits and ability to self-evaluate as a condition of adult mental health.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

@Denice Walter #88:

The loons I survey have been on to this for a few years- the psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists in positions of power are amongst their fondest topics for seething rants. I believe that this was precipitated by a book by a psychologist that showed up in various pop psych media.</blockquote.
"Snakes in Suits" by Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare?

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

@Denice Walter #88:

The loons I survey have been on to this for a few years- the psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists in positions of power are amongst their fondest topics for seething rants. I believe that this was precipitated by a book by a psychologist that showed up in various pop psych media.

"Snakes in Suits" by Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare?

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists in positions of power ... precipitated by a book by a psychologist that showed up in various pop psych media.
“Snakes in Suits” by Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare?

The authors might be right; there may be any number of psychopaths in positions of power, undetected by simple tests... it doesn't help that the pop-psych understanding of psychopathy has been sent down the wrong track for the last couple of decades by a chap called Bob Hare, and many of the widest-used checklists purportedly scoring for psychopathy were written by one Bob Hare, and are complete rubbish tests that really score for criminality (with lots of items along the lines of "Hangs out with criminals).

Allowing Hare to reach the conclusion that "psychopathy is over-represented among the criminal under-class" (because poor impulse control, no concern for consequences, therefore getting caught), seemingly oblivious that he had built this conclusion in from the start.

It may be that he's done some work that isn't junk science. Perhaps I was reading the wrong papers.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Apr 2016 #permalink

Helianthus@102: Alas, The Mirror Crack’d.

@ hdb #68

The paper in question being the latest emission from Kevin Galalae

"Emission" is the word. It was an interesting read.

Even setting aside the deep nuttery of his ideas, just the writing was awful. Cut-and-paste errors (well, I assume there was something in this mid-sentence change of topic), graphs without legend, a picture of a guy in the 60's receiving a vaccine (I don't know what's supposed to illustrate)...
Poor pope Francis coming stage left, exiting right, coming left side again...
The "methods" section - well, a single paragraph - which is actually a summary of the author's theory. There is not even a method to his craziness.
About half the paragraphs let me the impression to be a lengthy sentence missing an important part, like the main verb. Oh, I'm sure in most cases it was there somewhere, likely hiding in shame.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

Oh, I’m sure in most cases [the main verb] was there somewhere, likely hiding in shame.
I wish I'd said that. No doubt I will.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

Chris Preston @69:
Dan Olmsted [...] mentions long conversations with Mary Honig

[Mady Hornig] authored the famous mouse study that showed auto-immune-susceptible mice given thimerosal chewing on each other and otherwise behaving like out-of-control autistic mice might be expected to behave.

"Chewing on each other" is not actually a behaviour associated with autism. Mr Olmsted appears to regard autists as uncontrollable hyper-predators, a sub-species of zombies.
Bless his heart.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

On the other hand, sporadic bouts of cannibalistic violence is a behaviour associated with nerotypical rats (if there is such a classification for animals)... perhaps with mice, too?


Why yes, it is a behaviour expected from the male SJL/J mice Hornig was using -- the supplier warns that "This strain is also characterized by extreme aggression in males".

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

@ Julian Frost:

No, I'd remember a title like that. It was much more mundane.

Interestingly, these fellows spend a great deal of time harping upon the nefarious activities of psychopaths and the rampant corruption infiltrating institutions - as well as discussing how inadequate the educational / university system remains and the general level of ignorance across the populace.
Which is like Dan O decrying the poor quality of journalism -altho' they do that as well.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

@ Amethyst

On the other hand, sporadic bouts of cannibalistic violence is a behaviour associated with neurotypical rats

And a few other social animals. Pigs tend to bit one another when frustrated. Horses will bite everyone in range.
Antivaxers could be very frustrating. I suspect the poor mice were trying to commit suicide.

I'm half-joking. The way the animals were handled (or rather, manhandled) has very critical consequences on their behavior. There was this study a few decades back, where students were entrusted with rats (or mice, not sure), and told that half the animals came from a very intelligent strain. Sure enough, after a few maze tests, the students could tell if their rat was either very smart and dumb as a brick. Except that all rats were from the same line.

@ hdb

Mr Olmsted appears to regard autists as uncontrollable hyper-predators, a sub-species of zombies.

You jest, but sadly it's on par with the AVers' whole shtick of autistic people being "brain dead".

By Helianthus (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

Julian Frost @ 105, 106,

Excellent book which allowed me to figure out if I've met real life psychopath (I did, this book confirmed my doubts) and I think all his books are excellent ressources too:



Do you have a better resource to recommend as compared to my previous post (Hare)?


Notes from the Fascist Front...

Hilariously, today/ Gary Barnes reveals who was behind the sabotaging of VAXXED's NY premier:
it's someone we know ( photo) and thus, we are all implicated through our connection.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink


Mr Olmsted appears to regard autists as uncontrollable hyper-predators, a sub-species of zombies.

You jest, but sadly it’s on par with the AVers’ whole shtick of autistic people being “brain dead”.

Now there's a movie I would watch. Imagine the autistic zombies' horror as they chomp on Dan Olmstead's head, only to discover it's even emptier than they are

it’s even emptier than they are…

Has, could you confirm that by the key word: they, are you referring to autistics? It read to me that way...


Hilariously, today/ Gary Barnes reveals who was behind the sabotaging of VAXXED’s NY premier:
it’s someone we know ( photo) and thus, we are all implicated through our connection.

The whole "Megan Media" thing is pretty amusing, as well. Note that (1) the address bar in the "screen shot" doesn't point to the actual site and (2) isn't a real domain.

Alain@121: Correct. Because as we all know, autistic people are sucking black hellpits of horror and despair. Perhaps it loses something in the translation?

Just to correct some _possible_ miscommunication here.

Plenty of peoples (both AV and elsewhere) has referred us (autistics, that include me) as empty shell in their own world. The reality is more complex than that because, for a first, we dispose of 23% more brain cells compared to normal (ok, what's normal? But in the context of research, that mean healthy. Source: ).

The lab I worked in was specializing in perception research in autistics and aspergers clients and has a large body of publications (a subset: for which the hypothesis was that autistics have better perceptual abilities. Work in progress and of course, both the increased number of neurons and better perceptions and memory create a whole host of issues (how you'd react to Gunnery Sergeant Hartman holding a megaphone to your left ear delivering his orders :D?). Which bring me up to level of endorphins but that's better addressed in a followup comment (or not, I'll see but for now, it's not important).

In our world? Yes, sometime, we need to when doing heavy mental computation. Other time, no. Speaking about emotion, it is a lot more probable that we all have the range of emotions that a normal (?) human have, sometime, with a megaphone hooked to the limbic system, sometime not. It depend :D.


Has: thanks :)

That said, our brain is a lot tastier to the zombies and Hannibal Lecter of this world as compared to the brain of, who again? Dan'O'Man :D


Work in progress and of course, both the increased number of neurons and better perceptions and memory create a whole host of issues

I have long suspected that I am not exactly neurotypical. (Well, I definitely am not, as recent events have shown.) I've always had a "tape recorder" of a memory; many people have commented on this. I do have some amnesia from the manic episode, which kind of freaks me out. I remember enough of it to never want it to happen again, though.

^ Ah, there is a stop in there, so it's, which is a Bitly branded link shortener. Strange that nobody bothered to actually archive the original page or the putative link target.


Well, Humans have a pretty similar brain architecture but which finer details (brain cell & minicolumns) differ and thus, create a difference in the processing of both internal and external stimuli which can result in mental issues or outright illnesses. The key point is to separate the neurodevelopmental architecture from the resulting effect on behaviors but alas, this research, in my opinion, is still in its infancy. Same issue with the research methods.


The key point is to separate the neurodevelopmental architecture from the resulting effect on behaviors but alas, this research, in my opinion, is still in its infancy.

I have wondered if my brain would look differently from that of most people if one took a picture of it or whatever researchers do when they peek at brains. Psychiatry, on the other hand, is based on identifying behaviors and assigning diagnoses based on the behaviors. This, I'm guessing, is what you were pointing out?

(Maybe one day they will come up with some sort of a test or scan that can identify a tendency toward mania before, say, starting an aggressive course of an SSRI. Would that such a thing existed this past summer before we took the Zoloft up to 200 mg.)

(Maybe one day they will come up with some sort of a test or scan that can identify a tendency toward mania before, say, starting an aggressive course of an SSRI. Would that such a thing existed this past summer before we took the Zoloft up to 200 mg.)

If I had to bet on the most likely piece of technology, I'd say genetics data plus the software + hardware framework to use genetic data to simulate a minicolumns with all its cell (, they do have the software pipeline).



how you’d react to Gunnery Sergeant Hartman holding a megaphone to your left ear delivering his orders :D?

Before or after the #3 cup of weapon-grade coffee? 'Cos these days Jesus Christ Himself with a Bazooka would barely register first thing in the morning. Honestly, there's now housebricks more perceptive than me.


Lol....After :D

I so need weapon-grade coffee too. All day.


JP @126 -- Well, the fact that you could speak Russian with essentially no accent after relatively little exposure (remembering a post from long ago) suggests you're not entirely neurotypical. That's just freakin' awesome.

By palindrom (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink


Thanks. Several friends have floated a past life theory; in my branch of Buddhism, we (in our saner moments, heh) tend to try to keep relatively mum about such ideas. Could be, maybe not, who knows, is the general approach. My old (late) teacher used to talk about "ineffable karmic affinity": apparently he had something of the sort for Austria. (Of all places.)

And thanks for the kind words. I just spent some more time in the hospital for the severe depressive side of things, so kind words are especially appreciated right now. At least my friends are being very supportive; they were incredibly supportive even during the manic episode when I was, how to put it, being rather difficult. They all keep remarking on how great it is to have the "original Jamie" back. I'm glad to be sane, but the return to the chronic depressive state of things is a little, well, depressing.

^ "It's so great to have the original Jamie back," a friend who was visiting me in the hospital remarked. "Version 2.0 was, um... a little buggy."

He even offered to help me out with money if I should need it. He's a doctor (internal medicine, hospitalist), so I guess he can afford it. Keeping it in the family for now, though.

Paul Offit reviews VaxXed at The Hollywood Reporter.

Whistleblowers are supposed to blow the whistle on malfeasance that has resulted in harm. In this case, there was no malfeasance and there was no harm. Which is probably why the whistleblower never really blows the whistle. Others in the movie try to blow it for him but without much sound.

JP: glad to read that you are back to Jamie v.1.0.

@ JP:

There's a laboratory of neuro-imaging ( LONI) USC/ UCLA
imagery by Sinead Kelly may be of interest.

It's quite intriguing.
Hope you're doing better,

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

Hope you’re doing better,

Better is as better does, I suppose. I'm back to my old bad habits, and only out of the hospital today. The same friend who was visiting me at least had a sense of humor about it, saying that if I kept drinking PBR by myself he might have to stage an intervention and bring me some craft beer.

Well, I only have to take care of myself for a few days, and then I'm flying out to my mom's place on Friday, where I will take a long vacation. (Three or four weeks.) A friend from grad school who now lives in San Jose and is working as a teacher (her husband works for Apple) offered to buy me a ticket down there to visit for a while, so I might take her up on that.

Well, San Jose isn't exactly my cup of tea but I guess it's the company that counts but you won't be far from SF.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

but you won’t be far from SF.

The idea at the moment being to save as much as I can now for the summer (things will be tight), I imagine we will be hanging out at home a lot and doing Jamie-and-Renee things like watching a lot of Star Trek. (It's kind of what I need, anyway; she even offered to fly out to Ann Arbor and stay with me until I fly out to my mom's if I need that.) That and, having gone cautiously back on an SSRI (low dose, one that I've tolerated well in the past) I sort of feel like I should avoid areas where the temptation to spend money is strong. Heck, if it hadn't been for this recent manic episode, I'd be doing quite well financially, with the money I made last summer...

The previous was meant for JP. OH for an edit feature plz.

Strictly speaking, this would be off topic, but this is the most recent thread to mention Jake and his blog, I hope for forgiveness.

Jake has announced that, because Bernie Sanders doesn't believe vaccines cause autism...

...any comments of support for his candidacy will not be allowed at Autism Investigated from here on out.

“Version 2.0 was, um… a little buggy.”
Wait until v. 2.3 is available.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

@ Johnny:

I was beginning to worry about Jake- no posts for months on end but lo! and behold!
Trumpie woke up him from his doldrums.
-byw- Jake didn't approve of "censoring" at AoA when HE was the target.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

ake has announced that, because Bernie Sanders doesn’t believe vaccines cause autism…

Has he been using the bizarre authoritarian tone as some sort of distancing mechanism for long?

"Even more disturbing is how Autism Investigated has come under fire by Bernie supporters on Facebook for supporting Trump."

Liz Ditz@136: Well, there went my evening then… You rotter, you. :p

JP@134: Yeah, being monopolar sure sucks monkey nuts… But hey, just look on the bright side: now you're only a bloody menace to yourself, instead of to yourself and everyone around you too. :)


(What can I say; I'm the glass half-empty type too. Though thankfully it's only the bottom half.)

Yeah, being monopolar sure sucks monkey nuts…

Sigh. "Polarity is selected at will, for I am not ionized and I possess not valence."

There are no version numbers.

Yeah, being monopolar sure sucks monkey nuts…

Oh, I would take a strictly unipolar depression over the hell I've been through any day. It's having the fallout of a manic episode on top of a nice, rollicking depressive episode that really takes the cake, though.

I mean, at least when I'm depressed I'm in possession of all my faculties. Being floridly psychotic is not fun for the person who's experiencing it, any more than it is for the people around that person. And can put one in harm's way, too.

Alain, tsk, tsk. Gunnery Sergeants don't need megaphones.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink


They sure as h*ll don't but I can't escape the one in my head...



Given that my new hero is Kevin Spacey in his role of Frank J Underwood in House of cards, if I display a similar attitude and behavior as him (slickness, pragmatism and ruthless...essentially, being a smart*ss), would I find myself doing 50 push-up every 30 minutes, running 40 miles a day and cleaning the bathroom with a toothbrush every day if I find myself enlisted?

Just curious about current practice to rein in smart*ss :)


Alain, in the military, we gave them increasing amounts to do until they learned to reign in their attitude or collapsed from exhaustion at the end of their extra duties.

As for any Gunny that megaphoned in my ear, he'd be quietly advised once only, do that again and you'll be a Staff Sergeant on the next syllable. I outranked a Gunnery Sergeant. :)
A Sergeant Major wouldn't do such a thing, so that is outside of discussion.

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

In reply to by Alain (not verified)


Good to know, I usually refrain from being a smart*ss and it showed at my previous workplace were I took a royal lot of work because I was able to do and wanted to (I wanted to test myself) but once I got contradicting orders and being told I'm doing too much is when I took care of learning as much of the politics at work and took extra care of my own limits before doing a burnout.

They offered me to work again there but I don't want to.


Heh, I've been long infamous for taking the two man jobs and tackling them myself successfully, as well as working OT without complaint.
Someone has to get it done.
In the military, that meant grabbing a small team and getting in front of an outbreak, in civilian life, taking care of a tedious job that nobody else wanted to do or fixing something nobody else could figure out what was wrong with.

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 11 Apr 2016 #permalink

In reply to by Alain (not verified)

Interesting talk last night from Professor Ingrid Scheffer:…

Her research is mainly in tracking down genes that do weird things to ion gates and neural development, resulting in epilepsy, but she went off on a tangent about "vaccine encephalopathy".
The vast majority of supposed vaccine-damage cases turned out to have all the pre-vaccine symptoms of Dravet's Syndrome, and a mutation in the gene fro Dravet's syndrome.

Professor Scheffer is not a big fan of vaccine hysteria.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Apr 2016 #permalink

@ Frequent Lurker:

Right, I saw that too.

So he is a fellow traveller on the road towards Andy-ville.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Apr 2016 #permalink

@ Denice & Lurker;

Jez piece offers strong suggestion Grace Hightower is driving the anti-vax train, and RDN is being dragged along out of loyalty to his spouse, and to keep her out of the spotlight.

If we take De Niro at his word — and I do, fwiw — he's only going part-way down the anti-vax road, and may not be heading to Andy-ville at all. His wife is probably convinced 'it was the vaccine!', so what can we expect him to say, other than 'I want more questions, so I was going to show the film to stir the pot'? He didn't say he buys the premise of Vaxxed — he said he thinks there's "something there" about autism "that people aren’t addressing," and all he wanted was, "for the movie to be seen. You can make your own judgment."

Presumably the medical experts who he reviewed the film with told him how fraudulent it was, and on that basis he did the right thing and withdrew it from Tribeca. As he said, being a fraud, it fails to address the questions he wants to discuss. But he wants people to see it anyway. Now, I can't read his mind, but that would make sense from his perspective — if he's being honest — because it puts the question of race and autism on the table, and eliminates by exposure and debate a false answer to the question.

As Orac wrote when Hooker's paper appeared, it appears to rebut the Wakefieldian thesis that the MMR has any connection to autism generally, to advance the thesis that African-American boys have some specific vulnerability. De Niro says, "my child is autistic, and every kid is different," and responds to the assertion of the 'broad scientific consensus that vaccines don’t cause autism' by saying, “I believe it’s much more complicated." What I take from that is that he doesn't say he thinks that consensus is wrong on the whole. 'More complicated' is exactly what you would say if you suspect your kid might be an exception to the general rule.

Now, I'm not saying there's anything but bad science to Hooker's thesis, just that De Niro taking an interest in Thompson's complaints and Hooker's 're-analysis' is both more understandable and forgivable than full-on anti-vax conviction.

Regardless, I not only think De Niro and Hightower are less fellow-travelers than victims of a venal con-game that preys on emotionally vulnerable people, I submit that the best way to counter anti-vax hysteria is to give folks like this the benefit of the doubt, and treat them with sympathy. Backing them into a corner with attacks is only going to get them to put up fences and double-down. If we can show the ability to 'walk in their mocassins', we may be able to show them that they were indeed fooled by unscrupulous charlatans. And hopefully make persuasive allies, not enemies.

In that, I note nothing De Niro said on Today would preclude him from making a public statement about the fraudulent elements in Vaxxed that led him to pull him from Trbeca. Because, yes, it's still possible to "question vaccine safety" and realize that Andy is nothing but a crook seeking to exploit that for money using the most damnable lies.

Sorry Sadmar but I have to heartily disagree with you there. I'm sure more will come to light on this that may make you re-think. DeNiro is a true believer, perhaps not to the extent of Grace Hightower but is nonetheless. He is not interested in what the science has settled because he, like his fellow travellers, just knows. C'mon, what rational person would think for a second that such a massive fraud would go completely undetected or unreported only to have the light of day shone on it by the heroic maverick ex-doctor Wakefield et al.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 13 Apr 2016 #permalink

sadmar, I have to disagree.
De Niro is now reciting the "my son changed after his shot" line. He is a "true believer". There comes a point when benefit of the doubt fails, and that is it. He has bought into the myth.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 13 Apr 2016 #permalink

That and he's trotting out the "I want safer vaccines" line, which our host and others have repeatedly pointed out is pretty much the polite face of an anti-vax stance...

@ Science Mom;

I hope more does come to light, and I'm always willing to re-think on the basis of good evidence. But I don't think an unwillingness to accept settled science = 'just knowing' otherwise, any more than complete contradiction of Biblical literalism by science means the world splits into atheists and fundies with no agnostics in between. Maybe Hightower's a true believer in anti-vax, but De Niro's just a vaccine agnostic. Neither would exactly be on board with science, but it could be a difference that makes a difference.

What rational person would think for a second that such a massive fraud would go completely undetected or unreported?

My tongue-in-cheek answer would be 'the star of Wag The Dog maybe?', or, to put reality with cheeky, 'anyone who read Judith Miller's coverage of the Iraq War in the NYT, maybe?' But my non-cheeky answer is a sort of variant of Hanlan's Razor: you could think "there’s a lot of things that are not said,” and “there’s more to this than meets the eye" without necessarily thinking there's any fraud at all – just screw ups, pride, and thought stuck in a rut. As near as I can figure, Thompson was abiding and feeding Hooker's ideas about conspiratorial fraud at CDC, working Hooker in the hopes of getting a Congressional hearing via Hooker's connections at which he could air his own grievances. However, Thompson never believed the De Stefano paper was bogus, just incomplete, and his colleagues were primarily guilty of arrogance and over-confidence. I don't see why someone like De Niro couldn't think that was why 'things haven't been said.' We're used to the AoA school of AV, which begins with rock bottom absolute faith in 'vaccine damage', brooks no real questions whatsoever, and holds Wakefield as it's patron martyr. We may the face the danger of turning into the hammer to which everything looks like a nail. Just because the movement AVs are faking 'asking questions about vaccine safety' doesn't mean some folks don't buy that line and take it seriously,.For such folks the mysterious Thompson, not Wakefield, would be the hero, and the reason to give Vaxxed some attention.

In the end, even if De Niro has bought into a 'fraud' CT, unless people in his position get really nasty with AoA-Jenny-McCarthy-style anti-vax action, I'm still inclined to take them as victims, and extend them some sympathy. As I said, I could justify this on strategy alone, and even hold my nose against a certain stench of revulsion if that's what I felt. But I've had people close to me taken in by cons of various sorts – from vacuum cleaner salesmen to Glen Beck – and while I may have shook my head at the gullibility, my animus was always against the scumbags who exploited the pain of my loved ones, for that's exactly what they did.

In the movies, con-artists usually deliver moral lessons by exploiting greed and selfishness in their marks. In real life, though, con-jobs often turn the best parts of people's nature against them – their desires to be useful to others, to make things right. to see a better world for the next generation... They sell false hope, false truth, and false confidence to the emotionally needy or injured. I think it goes without saying that people who fall for this aren't thinking rationally. But when I think of the "suckers" I've known, and why they were vulnerable, if they could have managed that sort of rationality on their own, without intervention, under the circumstances, I'd probably have found them cold to the point of horror.

@ Julian

De Niro said his wife believes their son, who has autism, “changed overnight” after being vaccinated. “I don’t remember..."

Dude is being a gallant hubby, carrying water for his wife because he loves her.

Tell me exactly what good comes out of uncharitably eviscerating vulnerable people taken in by Andrew Wakefield? Do you expect to frighten other folks out of their gullability by the threat of feeling your wrath?

@ Murmer
So? What have you got there besides an 'all men are Socrates' quality stinking-obvious logical fallacy? Besides, De Niro didn't say “I want safer vaccines” (who doesn't, btw?), which in the context of autism would presume current vaccines are not safe enough. He said, “I want safe vaccines”, which is consistent with mere worry about the safety of any present or future vaccine, and a desire to have that verified. In his case, that could amount to no more than further inquiry into the Thompson/Hooker assertion about African-American boys. Or not. I don't know. But neither do you.

Tell me exactly what good comes out of uncharitably eviscerating vulnerable people taken in by Andrew Wakefield? Do you expect to frighten other folks out of their gullability by the threat of feeling your wrath?

That is a straw man argument sadmar. Calling someone out for spewing antivaccine nonsense is not the same as eviscerating them. I have great sympathy for Rolf Hazelhurst and Michelle Cedillo's parents. That doesn't mean I'm not going to call them out when they insist that vaccines caused their children's autism.
The point is that De Niro is a celebrity. He has an elevated profile, and in this world people listen to celebrities, even when they are demonstrably wrong. His comments have the potential to do harm.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 14 Apr 2016 #permalink


I presume you have now had chance to read our host's latest piece? Which went up a couple of hours after I posted that comment.

And do, please, try to spell my 'nym correctly...