This week, the Tribeca Film Festival, a New York City based film festival that focuses on independent films and documentaries, is highlighting one documentary, Mr. Andy Wakefield’s fraudulent anti-vaccination movie “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Controversy.”
The movie, directed by the cunning con-man Wakefield, promises to feature “revealing and emotional interviews with pharmaceutical insiders, doctors, politicians, parents, and one whistleblower to understand what’s behind the skyrocketing increase of autism diagnoses today.”
There’s been a lot of criticism by the pro-science community about this film, including this series of three articles by the enigmatic and inscrutable Orac:
- “What’s going on here? Andrew Wakefield’s antivaccine propaganda film to be screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.”
- “The Tribeca Film Festival’s disingenuous excuse for screening an antivaccine propaganda film by Andrew Wakefield.“
- “Andrew Wakefield and the Tribeca Film Festival: Criticism of a bad decision ≠ “censorship.”
Although you should definitely read all three articles, the Delphic Orac’s response to Tribeca’s implication that the movie represents part of the “debate” (there is no debate) about vaccines and autism is legendary:
It’s a common excuse made by, for example, reporters for “telling both sides” about scientific issues. Here’s the problem. This sort of attitude might make sense for social and political issues, but science is different, because in science there is often a right and a wrong answer.
You can have all the “dialogue and discussion” you want about a scientific topic, such as the question of whether vaccines cause autism, but at the end of the day there is a correct answer based on science.
In other words, there is no debate in science.
The Los Angeles Times, which has a long history of fighting the ignorance against vaccines, published an editorial entitled “Has Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival sold out to anti-vaccine crackpots?” They follow the trail of Andy Wakefield from his fraud to this “documentary.”
And of course, the website, Age of Lying About Autism, made up of Wakefield sycophants who deliver deceitful garbage about vaccines, is having a huge orgasm over the featuring of this movie.
I don’t want to tread on what other’s have written. From the oracular Orac, you can get the whole story, the criticism, and the debunking of the “this is censorship” nonsense.
I just wanted to give people a quick list of the facts about this story, a quick debunking tool, if you will. Let’s talk about Wakefield’s Vaxxed.
Andrew Wakefield is a fraud
- Wakefield’s article in the Lancet was disowned by his coauthors and eventually retracted by the journal.
- BMJ, once known as the British Medical Journal, published a series of articles, written by Brian Deer, about Wakefield’s despicable deceit. You can read about it here, here, and here. Basically, Deer uncovered the massive fraud by Wakefield, which included things like working for attorneys who were suing MMR manufacturers, and trying to patent his own version of measles vaccine.
- Wakefield continues to litigate against BMJ, just because, according to Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a legal scholar, he’s trying to make it appear that there is a legal debate about vaccines and autism – we’re on to him.
- Vaccines are unrelated to autism. Let me repeat that – there is absolutely no reliable scientific evidence that shows that any vaccine has any link to any part of the autism spectrum disorder. The only reason that we even spent one nanosecond thinking about this issue is because of Wakefield’s fraud.
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says, “Currently, there is no scientific evidence that vaccines or any material used to make or preserve vaccines causes or contributes to ASD. A great deal of research projects have come to the same conclusion, including those conducted independently and recently.”
- With the advent of Wakefield’s claims, people believed that one of the safest vaccines that prevent some dangerous diseases was bad for their kids. And despite all of the science that has refuted the original lie, it’s always the original Big Lie that stands, and the truth, that the MMR vaccines does not cause autism, gets lost in the noise.
- Because of Wakefield’s fraud, vaccinations against measles has dropped, and the incidence of measles has skyrocketed. Thanks Andy. Good job there harming children.
- In 2014, there were 644 measles cases in 27 states. Thanks to Andy Wakefield, a disease that was nearly extinct is roaring back.
The “CDC Whistleblower” manufactroversy
- Wakefield attempts to created a manufactroversy about a so-called CDC whistleblower, William Thompson, a CDC scientist who was critical of a 2004 study that failed to establish any link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
- Matt Carey, of the blog, Left Brain Right Brain, demonstrated how Wakefield “creatively” edited recorded statements from Dr. Thompson to give a very different impression than what can be seen in the real transcripts.
- Dr. Thompson has never accused the CDC of fraud. Apparently, he thinks that the study needed to be fixed, but he never once has requested that his name be removed from the 2004 paper, one of the first steps of denying involvement in research.
- One of the co-conspirators in this manufactroversy, Dr. Brian Hooker, wrote an article claiming that the 2004 study actually showed that vaccines caused autism in African American kids. His research and statistical analysis was based on a tiny population (less than 10), so it really had no support. In fact, On 3 October, 2014, the journal, Translational Neurodegeneration (a really low impact factor journal) formally retracted the article by Brian Hooker.
- This story has no legs. It has no evidence.
- Hilarity ensues.
Tribeca Film Festival’s delusions
In a prepared statement, a festival representative said “Tribeca, as most film festivals, are about dialogue and discussion. Over the years we have presented many films from opposing sides of an issue. We are a forum, not a judge.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, the World Health Organization, a vast mountain of published scientific evidence, and world-class physicians across the world agree that vaccines are safe and effective at preventing diseases that kill children and adults.
But of course, the scientifically ignorant crowd at Tribeca thinks that a dangerous fraud, and an invented controversy, constitute a legitimate “opposing side.”
What next Tribeca? You want to show a film that astrology can predict the future? That the world is flat? That a teapot actually does float above the far side of the moon?
I hope the audience at the Tribeca Film Festival for “Vaxxed” is filled with skeptics, and they point out that this film a giant lie from top to bottom.
But let me end with a quote from the LA Times article I mentioned at the beginning of this post:
Careless actions such as those of the Tribeca Film Festival don’t contribute to “dialogue and discussion,” as the festival’s PR would have it; they just spread misinformation and pseudoscience and undermine public health.
No one would say that Wakefield’s film should be suppressed. But the question is whether it deserves to be shown under the imprimatur of a respected cultural institution — or if that institution, the Tribeca festival, is sullying its own reputation by giving Wakefield a platform.
In case you aren’t closely following this story, Robert De Niro and the Tribeca Film Festival removed the documentary from the schedule. They listened. Vaxxed is gone.
- Retraction–Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet. 2010 Feb 6;375(9713):445. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60175-4. PubMed PMID: 20137807.
- Deer B. How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed. BMJ. 2011 Jan 5;342:c5347. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c5347. PubMed PMID: 21209059.
- Deer B. Secrets of the MMR scare . How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money. BMJ. 2011 Jan 11;342:c5258. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c5258. PubMed PMID: 21224310.
- Deer B. Secrets of the MMR scare. The Lancet’s two days to bury bad news. BMJ. 2011 Jan 18;342:c7001. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c7001. PubMed PMID: 21245118.
- DeStefano F, Bhasin TK, Thompson WW, Yeargin-Allsopp M, Boyle C. Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan atlanta. Pediatrics. 2004 Feb;113(2):259-66. PubMed PMID: 14754936.
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