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Did the Dominus Effect Begin with Seth Mnookin’s Uncle Bob?

NewYorkTimesLogo By Jake Crosby

The saga of Seth Mnookin and his uncle, Robert Mnookin just gets weirder and weirder. First it has been revealed that Robert Mnookin is close colleagues with Linda Singer - the mother-in-law of pharma-funded wife, Alison Singer - and Michael Lewis, who sits on the board of her fake autism charity/pharma front group, “Autism Science Foundation.” (HERE) 

Now, the latest installment of this bizarre tale comes in the form of a smear piece against Dr. Andrew Wakefield in The New York Times Magazine authored by a reporter named Susan Dominus. The title speaks for itself: “The Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru.” Apparently, the previous title,  “Autism Guru Fights for His Reputation and Theory,” was too balanced for The New York Times, which has since changed the headline.

It was certainly too balanced for Seth Mnookin, who tweeted about it, “Unfortunate head on Wakefield profile in @nytimes mag: Autism Guru Fights For His Reputation & Theory (HERE).”

Then the title was revised to be more disparaging to Dr. Wakefield. 

The article gives Seth Mnookin’s book a plug:

[Andrew Wakefield] is very good at what I call whack-a-mole arguments,’ says Seth Mnookin, author of ‘The Panic Virus,’ a history of the controversy over autism and vaccines.

But Seth Mnookin is not the first Mnookin to have received a favorable quotation in The New York Times Magazine by Susan Dominus. In a 2005 article she authored for the magazine entitled, “The Fathers’ Crusade,” she gushed:

 Robert Mnookin, director of the Harvard Negotiation Research Project and a professor at Harvard Law School, is the rare expert who concedes that each side has legitimate concerns. A presumption of joint physical custody would have ‘’some nice symbolic attributes,’’ he told me; but he worries about how it would play out in practice. He notes that the parents whose custody negotiations end up going all the way to court tend to be the parents who fight the most. In those cases, he argues, forcing judges to implement joint physical custody is a bad idea for the kids, since it only perpetuates their exposure to the conflict. He contends, however, that if divorced parents know that a judge is disinclined to award joint physical custody in circumstances with a high degree of conflict, it creates an incentive for a parent who wants sole custody to create conflict. Mnookin says he doesn’t favor the presumption of joint physical custody, although he concedes that without one, the system gives mothers an advantage. ‘’In times of cultural transition like this,’’ he said, ‘’the law struggles.’’ (HERE)

Seth Mnookin’s uncle Bob liked this description of himself. In fact, he liked it so much that he listed a link to a special page containing the excerpt in the press section of his personal website. The chronology of the press list on his website suggests this was the first time he received such a favorable plug in the popular press. (HERE)

Now, in 2011, Robert Mnookin is in a position to pull his weight at The New York Times. He coauthored an article for The International Herald Tribune, a New York Times Company-owned newspaper, and just last year, his latest book received a glowing review in The International Herald Tribune which also ran on The New York Times website. Could Seth Mnookin’s uncle Bob have played a role – direct or indirect – in Susan Dominus’ current New York Times hit piece on Wakefield?

The Dominus Effect has apparently influenced other writers at The New York Times. In 2010, Dominus’ colleague Lisa Belkin posted a hostile screed against Jenny McCarthy by Liane Carter, a member of Alison Singer’s front group on a New York Times blog. When Dominus’ article on Andrew Wakefield was published online, Belkin publicized it on her blog, the subtitle of which read, “Why some still won’t accept that Andrew Wakefield is wrong.”

The piece was further publicized on MSNBC. In fact, Seth Mnookin tweeted about it:

“Today 3:30EST, I'm on Martin Bashir @msnbc with @nytimes Susan Dominus talking Wakefield profile  (HERE)

Fortunately, Mnookin called in sick:

“Correction: I actually won't be on @msnbc at 3:30. I seem to have caught a bug. Susan Dominus still will be, though.”

There are people at The New York Times, however, who would probably promote Seth Mnookin with or without the connection to his Uncle Bob. Dr. Abigail Zuger, who as Katie Wright wrote, “is blinded by her adoration for the medical community” is one such example. Dr. Zuger sits on the advisory board of a journal called Clinical Infectious Diseases, which has a section on vaccines co-edited by Dr. John Modlin - the former chair of the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) when its membership included millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit.

According to the August 21, 2000 Majority Staff Report - Conflict of Interest in Vaccine Policy Making - by the Committee on Government Reform, Dr. Modlin owned $26,000 of Merck stock and sat on Merck’s Immunization Advisory board while chairing the ACIP as well as the Rotavirus working Group – voting “yes” eight times including the policy to routinely recommend the rotavirus vaccine Rotashield, later banned for causing intussusception.

Yet despite being The New York Times monthly “Books” columnist, Dr. Zuger does not mention her vaccine industry affiliations anywhere in The New York Times – only that she’s an “infectious disease physician in Manhattan.” To accompany her column, The Times published the entire introduction from Seth Mnookin’s book. Mnookin has written quite a few book reviews for The Times himself.

Still, the overarching theme at The New York Times remains – Mnookin seems to be steering the newspaper’s current reporting of this controversy. It is Susan Dominus who has done the hit-piece writing, this time against Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Even though Seth Mnookin says he has “mixed feelings” about the piece, he is certainly getting a lot of publicity out of it.

Even so, this has clearly not been a good week for the vaccine industry on the public relations front. With Robert MacNeil’s PBS NewsHour Series, his subsequent interview about it on NPR of all places, the indictment of Poul Thorsen, publicized by Reuters and other media outlets, UPI’s report that most doctors support spacing out vaccines and the report from the Orange County Register that Paul Offit lied about the CBS News coverage of his undisclosed conflicts of interest – the Dominus article is certainly a glimmer of light for big pharma in a tunnel of darkness.

A hit piece against someone the industry despises may not turn back this tide of events, but would certainly help, and The New York Times is more than happy to provide the ink. I’ll bet Seth Mnookin’s uncle Bob is proud.

Jake Crosby is a college student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University majoring in History and Health: Science, Society and Policy, an intern at Northeastern University and contributing editor to Age of Autism.

Comments

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Thanks Jake! You are an inspiration for sure!

What I cant believe, in this day in age, where things are recorded, easily searchable and viewable right from your home online, WHY are so many "people" in the media still trying to use the old, "the sky is purple, you might see it as blue, but it's really purple" argument???
I mean, does ANYONE other than them really believe that Dr. Wakefield WAS THE START of this "debate"? Come on! The fight for vaccine safety and full disclosure has been going on for decades! I remember watching tv reports as a child with Moms Agaismt Mercury and so many others, WELL before Dr. Wakefield's paper was even thought of! And seriously, anyone who ever watches the "debates" or "interviews" (boy I am DROOLING for an actual fairly moderated REAL debate between Wakefield and ANY of those who have "blamed" him, or denounced his very important work!!)...because anytime I have seen Dr. Wakefield on tv/video, the "piece" is obviously biased, and the other side usually has the most time/etc, BUT I think the BIGGEST "proof" is in the body language, and the demeanor of the person being interviewed!
I am always impressed and ine AWE of Dr. Wakefield's calm, to the point, and with a respectful demeanor.(still after all of this time, after all of the lies and accusations)..then they usually cut his answer/reply off just before he starts to proove his point, and flash to someone who will reply and deny no matter the truth or not..and EVERYTIME, 100% of every thing I have seen (would LOVE someone to show me otherwise) that the person responding to Dr. Wakefield is normally in an uproar, leaning forward angrily, obviously upset, irritated, and the OPPOSITE of calm and respectful...I have sworn there was a time where I thought Paul Offit was actually going to start foaming at the mouth! LOL!

I personally have more and more respect for Dr. Wakefeild every time I see/hear about him. He is just like all of us parents out here, because, out of this whole thing, WHAT DOES HE HAVE TO GAIN really from this fight? ..especially, the CONTINUED FIGHT? I am always in awe of how calm he is, especially encase usually I am yelling at the screen here at home!

I am not sure just how we are going to ever properly THANK Dr. Wakefield for standing up for not just himself and his research BUT for our kids and for all of the future kids that we all want to save from terrible GI pain and illness! ...and how to THANK all of the other professionals, media, and doctors who are LISTENING to us, and REASEARCHNG and DOING something to help oir kids and prevent more kids and families in pain!!!

The day is coming, I feel it in my bones! Work like yours here Jake, AoA, and the like, it's all making it possible! I know I am personally in debt to all here in this battle for healthy kids and families! THANK YOU!

Angie
Mom to Ethan, Alex, and Megan

Thanks Twyla ,it wasnt the e-mail i.d. thing, It was the content as I said I know of another at least 20 people who tried to post,nothing appeared.They all were supporting Dr Wakefield and the kids, and not the junkies at the Times.

Thanks again, Jake. I'm always impressed with all the threads you are able to trace through the tangles.


@Jen: Were too many people refusing Varicella, so they had to make it harder to vaccinate in moderation? I thought they wanted the varicella antigens for all those high dose shingle vaccines, and I was actually a little relieved that they halted production of MMRV, apparently only temporarily.

They tested the MMR with Varicella given as separate vaccine together and MMRV in two groups and found a double risk of febrile seizures in the first two weeks for the MMRV group, but they're sure there is no increased risk in the long run, something like an entire 42 days of follow... and of course we have no idea what the risk of neurological injury is for either group, nor compared with just receiving MMR, and more importantly compared with a true never-vaccinated control group.

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/724253

Angus Files, maybe you've been blocked. Try posting with a different name and email address.

The pediatricians do not buy the books they are sent to them. Paul Offit sent his book to pediatricians and pediatric neurologists across the country with a little note that he hoped they enjoyed it. Some of them were even "asked" to write reviews on it. Kind of funny when you consider that they are willing to write a review on a book about a subject the author admits he knows nothing about! Shows you how easy it is for pharma to manipulate.

Gosh. If I ever decide to become a crook and a liar, I'll sure be careful not to get Jake Crosby on my trail.....

More great work, Jake!!! Thank you so much!

so who are we to believe? a junkie from the lucky sperm club with contacts high up at NYT or Wakefield? ez choice.

It looks like "Wakefield has been discredited!" is the new "they've removed the mercury from vaccines!"

Maybe one day we'll get lucky and the IRS will give these guys the Poul Thorsen treatment.

Liz and Stagmom
They can promote a pro vaccination book all they want, but the only ones that care and would buy a book; period - about vaccines, are the ones that have witnessed the damage of vaccines.

Soooo who is buying these silly books, or are publishing companies just taking a loss on them? I wonder if there is anyway to find something like that out?

Perhaps all the peds either out of duty, or maybe mafia headed board of pediatrics forces the peds to buy them. It would not be a total lose, not like free magazines on immunizations articles, but still they could put in provaccine books in their offices as some type of forced reading material for the patient's parents who are waiting and trapped.

Hmmmm, of course reading in a ped's office with a vaccine damage hyperactive kid that you have to peel off the ceiling doesn't leave much time for reading.

Yet, again, the parent may read this stuff and beleive it before they have to peel the kid of the ceiling.

Hmmm, then again as the vaccinated damaged kids gets a lot older there is a lot of time, and I mean a lot of time to be spent in all kinds of doctor offices.

Maybe the peds share office space with heart specialists, neurologists - GI docs, rhuemie docs would be a good one to share with. They could all share these loser books??????

Boy, it strikes me what a convenient target Dr. Wakefield has become. Just yesterday at our Easter bash my young friend was telling me about her last trip to the public health nurse for her child's vaccines. Her kids all have fairly serious health issues (premies, asthma etc.) so she has been cautious wih respect to vaccinating. While getting some kind of meningitis shot the nurse tried to convince her to get the MMR. One hitch-she had to get the MMRV (chicken pox included). She said no thanks and unfortunately her child reacted quite badly to even the meningitis shot so the nurse did not push the MMRV at all. My friend was really disappointed that the nurse told her there was no MMR option any more. Sure enough I googles it up and saw lots of talk about that on mom's boards. They are shooting themselves in the foot by taking options away from the parents. The moms do not seem happy about it at all.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/health/29excerpt.html

Liz, better than a review which many people skip - it was in the health section, lending it more "credence."

"If the Mnookin family is so powerful at The New York Times, why wasn't Seth Mnookin's book reviewed there?"

It was:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/health/views/29zuger.html

Accompanying the whole republished intro from Mnookin's book:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/health/29excerpt.html

Erik

You are far too generous. They are just using Andy as a punch-bag now, helping him gently to his feet before delivering another thudding great punch to the solar plexus. Of course the self-regarding Ms Dominus, had to pretend to be fair. But what these people will never do is report any of the substantive elements of the defense. So he can even be relatively nice man so long as he is ultimately portrayed as deluded. But the most important point for these thugs is that having him there so that they can continue to deal out the punishment is just too useful.

I second Sarah's comment but would add I too commented unsuccessfully on the NYT article.
Are these people journalists or fiction writers?

If the Mnookin family is so powerful at The New York Times, why wasn't Seth Mnookin's book reviewed there?

I was so disappointed in Dominus' article.

Rather than presenting a remotely fair/ accurate portrayal of our families only the most outrageous quotes were included. I have so had it with the families are dumb/ desperate/ easily manipulated angle. And again no discussion of Deer's funding sources.


Among of the many things I admire about Andrew Wakefield is that he says the media attacks on him are merely a distraction from the real issue which is helping the kids.
He is absolutely correct.

Wakefield could care less what the media thinks of him because, in his mind, it's never been about him. He wears a suit of armor that man.


In the scheme of things, Seth Mnookin is both a latecomer and a footnote to the autism story. This is not about Seth, his Uncle Bob, Susan Dominis, the Singers, the NYT or the rabble of journalist who try in vain to sway the public opinion by attacking Wakefield. They would never be able to openly debate Wakefield in public so they hide behind hit pieces. They censor dissenting opinions because their position is weak.

Like Wakefield said: these are mere distractions... it's about helping the kids.


Jake, you are the Trifecta when it comes to investigative reporting on pharma industry and front group ties and who's who in the autism and vaccine controversy.

1) You have Aspergers.
2) You are relentless in your pursuit of truth and exposing industry corruption and undeclared financial ties among key players, and
3) You are a student of Brandeis University doing Louis Dembitz Brandeis proud!

I recently read a brief bio on the famous supreme court justice for whom your university is named. Brandeis was well respected for his tireless crusade for social justice. He directed his attention and reform efforts on big business gone awry. He had a deep mistrust of big business and exposed their influence on corrupt policticians. He exposed insurance scams and ended insurance fraud on the part of the companies and helped millions with his reforms. He took on monopolies and defended people against the tyranny of industry.

He was a champion of the rights of "the little guy" over the greed of "the big guy."

Brandeis is remembered throughout the world as a truly righteous man, and I'll say it again, I am certain he couldn't be prouder of your work as a student of the University that holds his name.

Keep up the amazing work!

Don't bother with NYT. Read this piece by Helen Epstein in the New York Review of Books instead:

"All pharmaceutical drugs are tested by randomly assigning one group of patients (in this case flu sufferers) to take a test drug (in this case Tamiflu) and another to take a placebo that looks the same. It is crucial that neither the patients nor their doctors know who is getting which, because if they did, they might be more inclined—consciously or not—to overrate any improvements in the group receiving the test medicine. However, epidemiologists are becoming increasingly aware that even after the patient data has been collected, the statistical analysis of that data can be sensitive to the same wishful thinking. For example, since most trials are conducted at several clinics, a statistician might select for analysis only those clinics, or subgroups of patients, in which outcomes were superior in the test-drug group—even though the results from all the patients and clinics originally enrolled would have shown no such effect. Or the person reporting the statistics might select for publication only those trials showing that the test drug had a positive effect, while suppressing the findings of the others. Data analysis is a subtle art, and some companies even use 'data-mining' computer programs to extract positive findings from unpromising data."

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/may/12/flu-warning-beware-drug-companies/?page=1

I tried to post last week ,at least 11 times denouncing the diatribe against Dr Wakefield .Not one of my posts were put up which were all balanced and well written.

I just counted the comments quickly ,if someone has the time to go over it the comments are very weird. At around 76 for the times and 15 for AW you have comments complaining about the amount of pro- Wakefield support yet the blog does not indicate that scenario ..?

For the Times 195 comments

Supporting Dr Wakefield 70 comments (had to use a broad brush here)

Others 3

I know of at least another 20 people who also tried the same no luck not a single post was published

More than half of Dr Wakefield’s support came in the last 2 pages of comments as if the Times had been rumbled and tried to make it more balanced rather than the biased filtering which was obviously going on.


Angus Files

I wrote Susan Dominus an email thanking her for writing a more balanced article than Dr. Wakefield usually gets from the Times. That was BEFORE the title change.

I didn't even like the old title. Dr. Wakefield isn't an "autism guru," that's disrespectful. He's an academic gastroenterologist... who happens to know a lot about autism. "Guru" sounds mocking and dismissive.

What I did like about her piece is that she acknowledged that Dr. Wakefield believes in what he's doing... although she paints it as self delusion...

It was a "soft hit piece." It's up to us to educate her and other journalists.

I think a family tree of connections would be in order at this time. Anyone want to try?
Thanks, Jake. Your articles are always fascinating.
Maurine

Jake .. I wholeheartedly agree with all the reasons you gave describing the pro-vaccine zealots week of bad "public relations".

Hopefully .. their "bad public relations" are going to continue because Dr. Andrew Wakefield has the personal courage and perserverance to speak out in his own defense. I defy anyone with an open mind to listen to Dr. Wakefield's comments and not be moved by his calm, reasoned, extraordinarily confident personna.

This is an excellent example of what I mean .. it is approximately 1 hour in length and well worth taking the time to watch it ..

http://www.youtube.com/user/bravenewbooks

The irony is the type of women who read the New York Times are exactly the type of women who are selectively vaccinating. Didn't Manhattan schools have some of the lowest uptake of flu shots last year? One wonders who this article is really aimed at, readers or advertisers. I used to be an avid Times reader, but since my sons illness I no longer bother with mainstream media.

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