Jun 21 2010

Age of Autism Witch Hunt

I am out of town this week on a special project – more details will follow when I have the green light to start promoting it. So my posting will be a bit erratic this week.

Just a quick post for today. I want to point out that Age of Autism, the anti-vaccine propaganda blog of Generation Rescue, has really gone over the top in their witch hunt against anyone who dares try to educate the public about vaccines and correct the constant flow of misinformation that comes from the anti-vaccine ideologues. Their chosen method of attack is alleged conflicts of interest – and it is truly a witch hunt.

The core features of a witch hunt are that the accusation of guilt is treated as being equal to guilt, and that the rules of evidence of so fluid and vague that even “spectral” evidence is accepted – anything that creates even the impression of guilt.

The target of their latest smear is my colleague David Gorski, in a post by the truly clueless Jake Crosby. David saw this one coming, and even tried to head it off by telling Jake, both privately and publicly over at SBM, that his information is incorrect or at least misleading. Jake, apparently, is uneducable.

Jake is running a particular witch hunt known as the “pharma shill gambit.” The game here is to find any tenuous connection between a scientist and a pharmaceutical company and then try to pull the Jedi mind trick on readers and convince them the connection is a genuine conflict of interest. Jake would have his readers believe that because David is employed by Wayne State University, and because Wayne State received research grants from Sanofi-Aventis, and Sanofi-Aventis manufactures vaccines – therefore David indirectly receives money from the vaccine industry, and this is an undisclosed conflict of interest (which he has already disclosed, but explained is not a conflict). Got it?

Keep in mind, David does not get research grant money from Sanofi-Aventis or any pharmaceutical company. He has not received any pharmaceutical money at all in 14 years – somewhat unusual for an academic medical researcher. He has never done vaccine research. He has never been paid to consult for vaccine, lecture about vaccines, or express an opinion about vaccines. He is squeaky clean.

But according to Jake – everyone salaried by every university that has ever received money from any pharmaceutical company that has ever produced a vaccine – is a shill for the vaccine industry.

It would be laughable if these clowns were not actually using this kind of spectral evidence to conspiracy-monger and scare parents away from a safe and effective health care measure.

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30 responses so far

30 Responses to “Age of Autism Witch Hunt”

  1. superdaveon 21 Jun 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Jake’s arguments really crossed over from annoying to amusing to now just plain sad.

    Hey Jake, my first year of grad school I received departmental funding which I believe came from Johnson and Johnson but I’ve managed somehow to not be a proselytizer for toothpaste and band-aids. Explain that!

  2. Nigeon 21 Jun 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Oh well I’m a shill for a Vaccine company then and I’m a zoologist :S . Luckily my grant money is from an Inter reg EU Grant so I can prove that my work on Salmon and Sea Trout isn’t an Evil Big Pharma conspiracy. Wacko’s the bunch of them!

  3. superdaveon 21 Jun 2010 at 12:13 pm

    But really, what professional in any field doesn’t stand to benefit from excelling in his own work? Jake’s accusations of COI are almost at that level.

  4. colli037on 21 Jun 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Never mind that “jake” is shilling for both “Big Supplement” and “Big Homeopath” (or “Autism R Us”)

  5. lizditzon 21 Jun 2010 at 1:02 pm

    The comments are even more witch-huntering than the article. The editor, Kim, is urging readers to email a protest to the university’s board of directors

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2010/06/david-gorskis-financial-pharma-ties-what-he-didnt-tell-you.html?cid=6a00d8357f3f2969e20133f188083f970b#comment-6a00d8357f3f2969e20133f188083f970b

  6. daedalus2uon 21 Jun 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I think the only trouble Dr Gorski could get into would be if the university administrators didn’t get their cut from Big Pharma too ;)

  7. kwombleson 21 Jun 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I rebutted Crosby’s inane and laughably weak post at Countering and have added a blog listing those bloggers coming to Gorski’s defense. As bas as Crosby’s post is, the comments are over the top in their zealousness to attempt to make trouble for Gorski.

    While it’s unlikely that AoA’s latest efforts will negatively impact Gorski’s work, it ties up people’s time and it creates a headache for those involved in the inundation of angry rants from the wackaloons. It’s an attempt to intimidate not just Gorski, but anyone who has the temerity to speak out against the thoroughly debunked idea of vaccine-caused autism.

    Since no one who is evidence-based is trying to shut the wackaloons up by causing problems for them at their places of employment, it certainly speaks to the lack of ethics on the wackaloons’ part that they do so.

  8. zen_arcadeon 21 Jun 2010 at 5:07 pm

    I hate to say it but reading the comments on this post over at AoA got me thinking “What’s the mean number of years of post-secondary education in any field for a) Science-Based Medicine writers and readers, and b) AoA writers and readers. I’m not trying to make an argument from authority — the epidemiological data is clear enough — but I do think the reason so many of these parents (notice they’re all parents of autistic children and not disinterested researchers?) have a hard time interpreting and understanding the science is because, like many Americans, the basic science education they have received is woefully inadequate.

    That said, you can still pull a Linus Pauling and ignore everything you’ve learned in favor of embracing the irrational or overwhelmingly unlikely when what’s at stake is the life of yourself or your child. Can’t underestimate that.

  9. Eternally Learningon 21 Jun 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Just out of curiosity, has anyone else tried to post to Jake’s comment section? I’ve seen a number of posts roll through seemingly ahead of mine, and none of the posts there do anything but agree with him and each other. Maybe I’m just jumping the gun, but I figured I’d ask.

  10. Adam_Yon 21 Jun 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I hate to say it but reading the comments on this post over at AoA got me thinking “What’s the mean number of years of post-secondary education in any field for a) Science-Based Medicine writers and readers, and b) AoA writers and readers. I’m not trying to make an argument from authority — the epidemiological data is clear enough — but I do think the reason so many of these parents (notice they’re all parents of autistic children and not disinterested researchers?) have a hard time interpreting and understanding the science is because, like many Americans, the basic science education they have received is woefully inadequate.

    I wouldn’t blame a lack of basic science education on the idiocy that occurs at Age of Autism. Their antics remind me more of conspiracy theorists more than it does your basic creationist.

  11. Adam_Yon 21 Jun 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Just out of curiosity, has anyone else tried to post to Jake’s comment section? I’ve seen a number of posts roll through seemingly ahead of mine, and none of the posts there do anything but agree with him and each other. Maybe I’m just jumping the gun, but I figured I’d ask.

    They censor their comments.

  12. SquirrelEliteon 21 Jun 2010 at 5:43 pm

    @Adam_Y,

    You should probably post a copy of your comment on Silenced by Age of Autism:

    http://silencedbyageofautism.blogspot.com/

    You might need to ask Todd W to put a comment thread up for this article. I didn’t see one started just now.

  13. gmslomanon 21 Jun 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Is the author at the AoA implying that people are attempting to cause autism for financial gain? right…..

  14. Eternally Learningon 21 Jun 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Wow… if that doesn’t say something about their integrity than what will? I mean, I even tried to leave my comments as ambiguous as possible about the substance of the debate, and only commented on how people were arguing in the comment section. If they can’t even post an opposing point of view then how can they even claim to be objective? Thanks for the heads up with the link btw!

  15. shawmutton 21 Jun 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Ugh, I saw this article thanks to Google news alerts. If the commenters aren’t shills themselves, it’s sad that folks fall for that crap.

    @Eternally

    I don’t think they make the claim to be objective.

  16. Kimbo Joneson 21 Jun 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I once *attended* a university that received funding from drug companies for research like almost any other graduate-level university ever. I was even taught by some of the professors spearheading that research. Who knows what I’ve been brainwashed with, with their fancy PowerPoint presentations…

  17. Adam_Yon 21 Jun 2010 at 8:29 pm

    You should probably post a copy of your comment on Silenced by Age of Autism:

    http://silencedbyageofautism.blogspot.com/

    You might need to ask Todd W to put a comment thread up for this article. I didn’t see one started just now.

    Well it wasn’t me. I was pointing out that if your comment hasn’t gone through there is a chance it just never will.

  18. HHCon 21 Jun 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Conflict of interest is used to describe fiduciary interests which conflict with official responsibility. When the parent or guardian of a child, acts in his fiduciary capacity to restrict a child’s access to standard medical care, he is acting not in the best interests of the child, and he is guilty of medical neglect.

    If the readers at AOA are encouraged by Jake to write letters which they hope will cause the firing/disciplining of a researcher which they do not like, they are guilty of harassment. If they succeed in their one man campaign, Jake and AOA are responsible. Employment lawsuits do happen, would Jake and AOA like to be defendants?

  19. sheldon101on 21 Jun 2010 at 11:30 pm

    I don’t live that far from the Aventis Pasteur industrial campus at Steeles and Dufferin in Toronto. Aventis Pasteur is part of Aventis Sanofi. The campus was originally the farm for Connaught Laboratories which has been making vaccines there for almost a hundred years. Now it does R and D and production of vaccines.

    Anyhow, I pay taxes to the City of Toronto. Yes, Aventis Pasteur has gotten a nice chunk of change recently from the Province of Ontario — but Aventis is paying taxes at a rate which typically subsidizes homeowners.

    So following Crosby’s logic, I’ve got an undeclared conflict of interest when I don’t explain this at my blog or at Huff-Po where I hang out.

    And don’t say this is ridiculous. That’s an elitist value judgement and post-modernists like Jake Crosby have moved beyond such bourgeois limitations.

  20. SquirrelEliteon 22 Jun 2010 at 1:11 am

    Sorry, Adam_Y,

    I guess I misread your comment and didn’t realize you were quoting.

    I think it was Eternally Learning.

    Anyway, Todd W offers a good resource for people whose comments have vanished into the black hole at AoA. It helps those remarks see the light of day somewhere.

    I remember posting one comment there which I tried to keep relatively mild and unargumentative. It seemed to show up right away, but when I went back to see if anyone had responded to it, it was gone!

    So I reposted it at Silenced…

  21. Todd W.on 22 Jun 2010 at 7:58 am

    For those who are interested, I put up a post for Jake’s article over at Silenced, in case you wanted to have your comments see the light of day.

  22. Todd W.on 22 Jun 2010 at 8:08 am

    I took a look at some of the comments on Jake’s article and had to shake my head in despair for the intellectual rigor of our society. Although, I did get a bit of a chuckle from a comment by Kim Stagliano:

    Heck there’s even a bizarro world version of AofA and one by some forlorn guy who doesn’t get his comments run here any longer. He started his own echo chamber for the comments we brush into the dust bin.

    Perhaps she doesn’t realize that if AoA actually allowed dissenting voices through and [gasp!] stuck to facts, the “bizarro” AoA (I’m assuming she means Countering Age of Autism, or maybe one of the numerous blogs that have popped up to show why AoA is wrong) and the one by “some forlorn guy” (I think she means my Silenced by Age of Autism blog) would cease to have any reason for existing.

  23. BillyJoe7on 22 Jun 2010 at 8:31 am

    Eternally: “Just out of curiosity, has anyone else tried to post to Jake’s comment section? ”

    Adam: “They censor their comments.”

    Or they let you post a few exchanges with one of the regulars and then cut you off from any further reply when the regular says something completely irrelevant that has the faithful clapping in blissful ignorance. This way they have you lookng like you are clueless to reply even when you gone to the effort of submitting a knock out rebuttal.

  24. superdaveon 22 Jun 2010 at 11:23 am

    “Or they let you post a few exchanges with one of the regulars and then cut you off from any further reply when the regular says something completely irrelevant that has the faithful clapping in blissful ignorance. This way they have you lookng like you are clueless to reply even when you gone to the effort of submitting a knock out rebuttal.”

    that was what ultimately stopped me from posting on there. happened many times to me.

    a commenter posted a link to a pubmed abstract that when I read carefully actually saw that it was counter to his own argument, but alas I could not point this out to him.

  25. FOCUSPLEASEon 23 Jun 2010 at 3:26 am

    I live in Western australia and tried to respond to some incorrect statements made regarding flu vaccine issues we have recently been having.

    My item has not been posted 2 days later….. sound of crickets…..

  26. Todd W.on 23 Jun 2010 at 9:18 am

    @Focusplease

    Feel free to copy your comment to other sites, like here, Silenced, etc.

  27. stompsfrogson 24 Jun 2010 at 10:56 am

    My censored comment was to remark that the name “Respectful Insolence” was an oxymoron, and I gave the definition for both words. A bit touchy, aren’t they? I’m going to go repost it at “Silenced,” thanks for the link!

  28. Bronze Dogon 24 Jun 2010 at 4:33 pm

    @stompsfrogs: Did you post two or more hotlinks? Those get caught in the spam filter and wait for approval. Why? Because spambots like to leave lots of links to their herbal viagra and stuff.

    Orac’s place lets in far worse stuff than unoriginal snark over dictionary definitions.

    And we always see some nut every week who posts a big whine about how his linkfest [usually to evidence that contradicts his claims] got censored because it didn’t show up instantaneously, as if Orac really were a machine capable of running one task for 24 hours.

  29. Todd W.on 24 Jun 2010 at 6:32 pm

    @Bronze Dog

    I believe stompsfrogs was referring to a comment over at AoA not appearing, since Jake Crosby made some comment about Orac’s blog title/subtitle supposedly indicating that Orac didn’t post facts.

  30. trrllon 24 Jun 2010 at 6:59 pm

    I’d be surprised if there are any major academic biomedical research institutes that have not at some time received some money from a pharmaceutical company that makes vaccines. Of course, if any academic researcher were told to change what he wrote because it might impair the ability of somebody else to get money from a pharmaceutical company, it would be a major violation of academic freedom. I’ve never heard of such a thing happening, probably because administrators are well aware that university facutly are notoriously hostile to encroachments upon academic freedom, and any attempt to muzzle a researcher would simply enrage him–and pretty soon there would be a committee of facutly investigating administration attacks on academic freedom, complaining loudly to the media, and hinting about lawsuits.

    Of course, playing six-degrees-of-separation with pharmaceutical companies is just another example of the cherry-picking that virtually defines the thought processes of the crank. Needless to say, the very same people who are quick to deplore any connection, no matter how tenous or indirect, to the pharmaceutical industry, the CDC, or the FDA as a conflict invalidating anything said by people they dislike will ignore quite direct conflicts of interest, such as the involvement of many anti-vax spokesmen and web sites with businesses selling questionable autism “therapies” and lawyers trying to make money on vaccine-injury lawsuits.

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