This article about threats to sue Dr. Peter Hotez by anti-vaccine journalist Sharyl Attkisson was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.
Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.
Litigation threats by anti-vaccine activists are not new, nor are they unusual. Recently, anti-vaccine journalist Sharyl Attkisson sent a litigation threat to Dr. Hotez, a threat she then published online. Her chances, if she actually sues, are slim, but that does not seem to be the point of such threats.
As best as I can tell, litigation threats by anti-vaccine activists serve two purposes, neither of which depending on the validity of the claims. First, towards the target of the threat, the threat can serve as a deterrent to engage with the anti-vaccine activist. Second, in relation to the anti-vaccine activist’s own followers the threats can both serve to create a narrative of victimhood (“I’m targeted by ‘them’), and second to present themselves to their followers as bravely fighting back against attacks.
This post will describe the events, then put them in the context of previous litigation threats by anti-vaccine activists and previous such behavior by Sharyl Attkisson, then make some suggestions to any reader targeted by similar threats.Continue reading “Anti-vaccine Sharyl Attkisson threatens to sue Dr. Peter Hotez for defamation”