Once upon a time, I was told of an article published on the website of “journalist” Sharyl Attkisson where she accused a lot of people of being astroturfers, including this old snarky feathered dinosaur. Now I admit to not being up-to-date on every cultural term that flows through the internet every day (who could?), but I had to find out more.
Well, what is an astroturfer? Supposedly, it’s a pejorative term that describes a fake grassroots effort. Astroturf is fake grass, so that’s its roots (pun intended).
I’m not really sure of the logic of placing science writers and evidence-based websites into the “astroturf” category, but she does it. It’s like the Big Lie, I guess if she keeps repeating it, people will think it’s true.
Of course, let’s not forget that if we’re going to accuse any person or group of being astroturfers, we should straightaway look at anti-vaccine groups led by Del Bigtree and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. I mean they are the epitome of astroturfers. To quote Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
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.
This blog, and by extension this writer, has been skewered by anti-vaccine trolls so many times, it has become a badge of honor. I mean, I don’t really take myself too seriously, the whole point of this blog is mock pseudoscience.
Let’s see. I’ve been accused of being a shill of Big Pharma (about a thousand times), Kaiser Permanente, and Monsanto (another thousand times). These anti-vaccine trolls certain believe I must be rolling in the gold bullion from these companies.
One more silly accusation and I believe I get the skeptic merit badge for Laughing at Ad Hominem attacks. I’ve been working hard on it thanks to the anti-vaccine trolls.
But most of the junk science that comes my way is fairly easy to mock. It writes itself, as they say. Frankly, there’s just too much out there on the internet. I bet most skeptics ignore 99% of the silliness on the internet. I mean Natural News would require 24/7 debunking.
For those of you who don’t know about Sharyl Attkisson, she’s a former CBS newsperson who has headed down the black hole of the anti-vaccine movement. She retreads old anti-vaccine tropes, like lame conspiracy theories – Attkisson, according to Orac, “through her promotion of antivaccine conspiracy theories, Sharyl Attkisson was, is, and will continue to be a danger to children and public health.”
So Attkisson’s anti-vaccine trope of the day is this pseudo-math (probably not a real word, but I’m going to use it for this article) about vaccines. Not only are her claims based on fake data, but those claims also rely upon the complete misuse of simple math and statistics.
I do not want to be that guy that invents a conspiracy, because I am not that guy. But as the tin-foil hat crowd are known to proclaim, “just connect the dots.” Well, I will reluctantly follow their advice and connect the dots. And it’s going to be hard to not feel nauseous as we do follow those mysterious dots regarding the murder of Alex Spourdalakis.
In that article, she claimed that human DNA in vaccines may incorporate themselves into human genes, express themselves, causing autism. This was based on research published by Helen Ratajczak in a low impact factor journal (63rd out of 85 journals in the field). Wow.
Dr. Ratajczak and her best buddy, Attkisson, seem to have no clue how hard it is to incorporate foreign DNA into the human genome. And they seemed to believe, with no evidence whatsoever, that the same exact DNA sequence exists is in all vaccines, and it somehow all incorporates that DNA sequence over and over through all of human cells. If it were this easy, gene therapy would be the hottest disease-fighting tool on the planet, because just get some healthy DNA, inject it into someone who has Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, voila, we’re done. Doctors and Big Pharma could sit in their big chairs, light up cigars, and celebrate how easy it is. Apparently, some other researchers thought this was bad science.