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Weekly Wrap: Mark Blaxill on the Canary Party and Congress, Michael Specter on "Silly" Footnotes

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

My friend, AOA colleague and co-author Mark Blaxill was on the Linderman Unleashed radio show on the Natural News Network this week. He and Curt Linderman Sr. talked about the Canary Party, of which Mark is chairman, the congressional hearing last year and another coming next month, as well as recent controversies within our own autism advocacy community.

Mark says fighting amongst ourselves is misguided, and makes the useful distinction between standing up for oneself against untrue allegations (which he does) and infighting (which he doesn't, we don't, and nobody should). Catch the interview here -- it's the second half hour. Peace, friends.

--
Michael Specter doesn't think much of people like us -- people who believe that evidence and  experience point clearly to excessive vaccination, and vaccine-type mercury, as the cause of the autism epidemic (which, we also believe, is all too real). Specter wrote his book Denialism in 2009 to make that case, lumping us in with all other manner of supposed unscientific quackery.

Specter was at it again in a talk this month in Canada, preceded by a Q and A in the local paper. "Rejecting science a perilous path, writer argues". The piece begins:

"From an unfounded correlation between vaccines and autism to a spreading fear about genetically modified “Frankenfood,” Michael Specter is a staff writer for The New Yorker who has been documenting what he believes is a dangerous denial of scientific evidence in the world today." (I may be a dangerous know-nothing scientifically speaking, but there's no denying that sentence is not so good English speaking.)

A short flavor of the thing:

Q: What is the danger of having people deny the evidence of science?

A: People who don’t get vaccinated are getting sick. We have measles, whooping cough. These things had disappeared. For a particular parent not to vaccinate their kid is bad, but it also affects my kid, because if you go to school with my kid and you’re not vaccinated you could be infectious.

Q: How much damage is done by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Oz who preach their own take on science?

A: A lot of people who are seemingly intelligent or, in the case of Jenny McCarthy, popular for a reason I couldn’t explain, are looked up to. I don’t think we should live in a society where what a Kardashian says is how we decide to deliver medicine.
--

You get the idea. Evidence is everything. Kim Kardashian causes measles. Which reminded me, when I wrote about his book back in 2009, pointing out some evidentiary issues -- i.e., mangled facts, copying Paul Offit's words as his own -- I noted it lacked footnotes but that his website, michael specter.com, promised the goods: "Footnotes coming soon".


Denialism


His website still says that nigh unto four years later, which, let's face it, is not too cool for someone who keeps pounding us for alleged failure to respect the importance of evidence. So I sent him an email this week:


Hi Michael,

I'm writing a piece about your recent critique of the vaccine-autism hypothesis, and saw that your website still says "footnotes coming soon," which is what it said back in 2009. I'm going to point out that they still are not posted, and would welcome a comment from you about this.

Best,

Dan

He wrote back: "Never did it then seemed silly as time went on. I always supply sources when people with legitimate questions ask"

One can only imagine what "legitimate questions" might be, and from whom. Now, the book that the above-cited Mark Blaxill and I wrote had more than 700 of those suckers, and let me tell you they are a pain in the patooti, especially for a first time author like me.

It seems Michael forgot to take his crabby pills -- perhaps because Paul Offit has banned supplements for all right-thinking people? He emailed me again: "Also curious which "recent" critique. I have not altered my position, or approach to that position for years"

Dude, no one accused you of altering anything. I sent him the link -- you know, the evidence, the citation, the footnote, Montreal Gazette, October 15, 2013. Didn't hear anything more.

Let me quit picking on poor Michael now and say something about the idea crystallized in that ungrammatical sentence (op. cit.) that it's dangerous to deny "the evidence of science" because, logically, it causes measles, and, more broadly, creates a class of citizens who will believe just about anything. What's dangerous, in my view, is to talk about the evidence of science as though it were the Teachings of God Almighty declaimed in The Jumbo Book of True Scientific Facts.

As Mark Blaxill (cf.) points out, what there really is, is good evidence and bad evidence. To treat science, small s, developed through the iterative process of guessing and testing by mere mortals, as some Holy Writ, capital H capital W, which only the priestly caste may interpret, suggests a lack of honest to God scientific literacy, a willingness to take the proclamations of Experts on trust, and a contempt for the observations of fellow citizens who may or may not wear the purple robes before whom folks like Michael Specter genuflect.

Abandon Moloch and the false gods of unearned authority, all ye who wish to see the face of truth!

Amen (ibid.)

--
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

Comments

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I think it's horrible that Mark has to spend anytime defending himself. He has done so much in the past and to this day. For those who continue bashing him -- you look ridiculous. It's utter nonsense and my energy - everyone's energy - needs to be on our kids and the arena of prevention, education and helping so many sick kids!

I respect Mark and will forever be grateful for his passion, determination and courage. I also stand by him, always.

Let's not forget to consider the real source of attacks on AofA, David Kirby and other organizations and individuals involved in the vaccine safety movement- Tim Bolen. Bolen has been circling the vaccine injury/autism arena for quite a while, trying to sniff out any disgruntled members who might be longing for a sympathetic ear to listen to their complaints which, believe me, every activist movement in history has in spades due to the fact that they're made up of human beings. And every activist movement in history has also had these scavenger types who look to enter into and take over what they could never create on their own by exploiting the complaints that every human institution will generate.

That's not to say that existing problems within any activist arena might not require attention-- just to say that the scavengers never solve any of them. Scavengers only know how to wreck, not build.

And I've come to believe that Bolen's chief complaint about the existing movement is not what has been openly stated at all but instead is due to the fact that AofA and the existing movement resist being controlled by or attached to politically extreme factions. That hasn't been easy. Every extreme politicized agenda likes to cultivate the cover of a humanist cause and especially to step in at the eleventh hour and play hero for a cause others have built from the ground up. If it's about kids, all the better. So I suspect the real problem Bolen has with existing structures is the existing arena's general political and religious agnosticism, which is the very thing that has made the movement even a little bit bulletproof against the industry black PR campaign.

I have absolutely no idea why anyone would associate with Bolen. I have no idea why Jake Crosby would associate himself with such a figure much less start to borrow from Bolen's spurious style: the implication that, say, David Kirby and Dan Olmsted "helped" vaccine makers by offering principled support for journalists' protected rights to keep sources private (the issue at the center of global controversy today with attacks on Glen Greenwald and Snowden and the prosecution/persecution of whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and journalists like Barrett Brown, etc.) *even when they fundamentally disagreed with a particular journalist* (in the case of Seidel), is not only sensational, dishonest and cheap on Jake's part but runs afoul of the embattled movement to protect constitutional rights in the US.http://www.autisminvestigated.com/dan-olmsted-lawsuit/ With that claim in particular, Jake has lost any credibility he ever had within wider political freedom/consumer freedom movements that will, by necessity, put protection of the fourth estate above the vaccine injury cause. This is because NO consumer movement would gain any traction without the press's right to shield sources. It's as if Jake would go to anyone willing to support his general complaints or stoop to anything to cause divisions in a bid to get support for himself-- even if the price is to taint and compromise the wider cause and even the overarching cause of constitutional rights by association.

But Jake is really a minor (and badly misused) figure in all this. Since Bolen began randomly gay-bashing on his blog, I've suspected he's either taking money from some radical bigoted Dominionist group that's trying to hijack the vaccine safety issue for political purposes or is auditioning for that kind of backing by echoing prejudiced rhetoric. It's filthy.

Granted the Skeptics have a thread of sexual abuse running through their history starting with Skeptic icon and vaccine defender James Randi, allegations that were dug up more than a decade ago in a lawsuit against Randi and published openly in the news. Bolen didn't uncover those reports or the associated sex tapes-- they've been circulated on the web for years. But as recent allegations against Skeptic Mag founder Michael Shermer and others in the Skeptic ranks show, the alleged abuse isn't exactly gender specific.

If Bolen was trying to create some philosophical allegory between rape and pharmaceutical exploitation of children, you would think he'd discuss the recently alleged rapes and sexual assaults on young women within the Skeptics ranks as well, though there's no mention of that in his blog. It's curious. This isn't to argue whether or not mention of rampant sexual abuse is relevant to a front group's scientific positions, just to say that by deliberately and repeatedly twisting the issue into a stick to bash homosexuality itself, Bolen has made himself and his agenda deeply suspect.

Though Bolen does mention rape threats and death threats against Australian vaccine safety activist Meryl Dorey, even this is spun within the "gay psychopath sex abuser" theme that Bolen repeatedly attaches to the Skeptic front. Even when reporting on the Skeptic-affiliated "False Memory Syndrome Foundation" and its professional defense of accused child molesters, Bolen will start off a discussion of the rape of *female* children by first highlighting the so-called Skeptic "gay agenda." It's quite clear what the takeaway is and one begins to wonder whom he's trying to appeal to with this particular spin. Rape is rape, child molestation is child molestation. To quote Red from the Shawshank redemption about whether the prison rapists were "homosexuals," Red states, "They'd have to be human first."

It seems pretty destructive to use the issue of child sexual assault to promote prejudice and it makes Bolen's site untouchable even for the few issues he addresses that might give his site any value. You can't cite it, you can't share it or link to it without looking like a unprincipled bigot, so why would anyone associate with such a person unless they're also promoting the totally irrelevant hate content that comes with him? You would also think that the rampant Islamophobia and racism displayed by the Skeptics would serve to illustrate corruption within the Skeptics, but Bolen never alludes to it and it's made me wonder if this is because whatever backers Bolen might be appealing to with the homophobic references happen to share Skeptics' Islamophobia and, save for a difference in position regarding vaccination, the Skeptics and whomever Bolen is trying to appeal to are literally two sides of the same prejudiced coin.

I don't know if Bolen's prejudiced rhetoric is sincerely held or he's merely parroting the views of the most promising backers. But it warns that he would twist the life and death cause of vaccine injury itself for expediency, just as he's already tarred serious whistle blowers like Wakefield with the same brush used to defend less scientifically sound paying clients like Hulda Clark.

Maybe someone could argue that, for a muckraker, Bolen is the leper with the most fingers because he's dug up some interesting dirt about Skeptic astroturfers and their affiliated Quackwatch. But the enemy of one's enemies isn't always the best "friend." The vaccine injury movement is terribly embattled, so it would be tempting but short sighted to take whatever support comes along. In this case, the "support" seemed only bent on tearing apart existing structures without bringing anything more meaningful to the table. Does Bolen's blog discuss denial of insurance coverage for affected children? Institutional abuse? The plights of children aging out of the system? The changes to the DSM? Attacks on vaccine exemptions? Specific legal advice in fighting for educational services? A database of helpful practitioners? Reports on new treatments? Exposes on pharmaceutical drugs being pushed on affected individuals?

AofA and affiliated nonprofits haven't attached themselves to some fundamentalist agenda, neither taking the position that the concept of preventive medicine is "the devil" nor attaching it to any extremist platform. It's covered the above issues of insurance reform, school abuse, hyper-drugging, denial of medical care, etc. I'm sure everyone wishes more could be done and the funding is scarce. Is the answer to that to grovel to any prejudice to get backing?

Whatever Bolen does do, it seems dangerously in service to an agenda that could deliver the entire vaccine injury realm into the hands of the "strawman" PR engineers who would like nothing more than to cast the entire movement as some survivalist fundamentalist radical-irrational faction the better to smear it out of existence.

It really should be noted that the Beth Clay/Safeminds report on Poul Thorsen submitted to the hearing is a hard-hitting, well organized document. It cannot have been submitted with the purpose of subverting the committee's focus on vaccine fraud by the CDC, and may well have been what lay behind Congressman Posey's trenchant comment.

http://www.safeminds.org/government-affairs/documents/Thorsen%20Background%20Report%20-%20Nov%202012.pdf

Revisionist history and Monday morning quarterbacking help no children - Mark Blaxill has spent over a decade trying to help his daughter - and my children - countless dollars of his own money, logged thousands of air miles, has put himself in the spotlight even when the glare was blinding, taken hit after hit from all sides and remained steadfast. Many well to do autism parents quietly work behind the scenes only for their own kids or donate simply to big Blue as if that's enough. Not Mark. If you dislike his work - it's a big playing field - suit up - the clock is running.

Kim

Jake has now accused Mark Blaxill, David Kirby and Dan Olmsted of working against the causation model of mercury and autism. Any objective person would look at this and see how ridiculous it is. These men have worked to popularize and bring these ideas to the mainstream. These are the people that investigated, took their personal time and resources to try and create change. Jake has an opinion. Opinions are fine, but he is manipulating information to fit his narrative. He is now making slanderous accusations and trying to ruin reputations. The people that reinforce and support him should should be ashamed, especially the parents who should know better. True change will come when we are all moving forward. I hope everyone is sick of this diversion. This is a total waste of time and energy. This infighting does nothing for our children.

Thank you, Dan, for the reminder that Mark is here to find the truth and to help sick kids. It's why I am here too.

By the way after I did some thinking on this -- plenty of time to think when doing mindless chopping of celery -- only thinking here is should I ferment it while it is in season???


But the subject of the next Congressional hearing this Novemeber would be exactly what CONGRESS would decide upon.

After all the Compensation vaccine court was Congress baby in 1986 -- that was their answer in 1986 --

and at the end of hte 2003 Congressional hearing it was their answer again -- they sounded so kind did not the JERKS as they said for the vaccine court to get it all cleaned up.

And it will be their answer again this time around.

Hey we are compensating these guys ---and we are making sure it works -- look how we blistered these lawyers ears to get it to work!

They can't compensate all the people they have damaged. They are beyond counting; if they every get counted. There are some mild ones out there. Not mild enough that it won't be a disability, just that most can walk and chew gum at the same time.

I listened to both too.

Jake knows so many people's names and details it is impossible for little ol'e me to get the feel of it.

There were however some criticism by Jake of Mark that I know is unfair.
I know that Poul Thorsen was mentioned -- by the Congressmen himself -- and in a way that was more shocking than anything Mark Blaxill could have delivered in his 3 minute or was it 5 speech. So that would be a waste of Mark's time.

The thing that I remember from Mark's speech were the words "you cannot have a genetic epidemic".

Which is what my whole damn community needs to hear --

In this next meeting coming up in Congress next month -- does anyone know how and why did it come up to be on the subject of the National Vaccine Compensation Plan?

If it was Safe Minds or the Canary Party that were able to get this choice - which -- I don't know -- how much influence -- but say if they did, if they could ---

Would it be because they think either:

If the federal vaccine court was made to work - that there would be so many to be compensated -- that it would bankrupt the system and break it?


I don't know -- there have been so many that have not even been able to file -- and the milder cases of autism that won't file or their families don't have a clue -- is it okay to not compensate a mild brian injury and just the severe. Sorry I know what severe means and I know many severe are not being compensated either.

Or that Congress would learn that this system has been abused, and that Congress has warned them about it a decade ago to get the mess cleaned up and didn't. So, Congress will start a process to get it abolished. Something by the way that the Supreme Court would not do and in which God will condemn their souls for that decision.

So the first step is to either make the Vaccine court work or get rid of it and the rest will follow???


I have never known Mark to be anything but up front, honest, and 100% dedicated to our cause. He is the James Brown of Autism Advocacy (the hardest working man in the biz). I can't think of any other individual that has done more. He got me interested in getting involved back in 99, when I started doing my small part here in California.
He is a good guy.

Since I began working with mark a decade ago, he has impressed on me two goals -- find the truth and help sick kids. Oh, and epidemics are simple. Based on that, and encouragement from Bernie rimland who held those same beliefs, I've thrown myself into this issue ever since. Any idea that mark (or myself, for that matter) has acted otherwise is, I know for a fact, false. In fact, it's delusional -- a fixed belief system for which there is no evidence. Let's not settle for delusions. Let's find the truth and help sick kids.

I too have listened to both the Lindemans radio shows.
Jake appears to me to have uncovered something solid. Mark appears compromised by those recordings and with this issue there is no compromise.

I cant in earnest support Mark any further I dont believe he is on message with me and many other parents.

I finally had the time to catch up on the interview of Mark Blaxill and Linderman.

I guess I will compare this to the separation of Paul and Barnabas

A dispute that developed between these Christian brothers.
Disagreements that Do Not Involve Doctrine
This dissension between Paul and Barnabas was not over a doctrinal issue. The rupture involved a personal dispute based upon a judgment call. To their credit, neither Paul nor Barnabas let the conflict distract them from their respective efforts of spreading the gospel.
Good brethren will disagree in matters of opinion. The important thing is to keep focused on doing the will of Christ. That is what Paul and Barnabas both did. As a result, perhaps even more work was accomplished for the Lord because of the manner in which their disagreement was handled.
They parted ways and never saw each other again. But in the parting they covered more ground.

If he posted "footnotes coming soon" then he should post the footnotes, preferably soon. And not just for those asking questions. I would think since he is so big into sources of information, he'd want to post them.

"The Jumbo Book of True Scientific Facts" hahaha that's awesome.

But the most important thing is that measles and pertussis are nearly always fairly mild diseases, have both become much milder in the past century, and having the natural diseases confers benefits both in terms of gaining permanent immunity and educating the immune system to become stronger and more competent. Who cares who gave what to whom, or who had or did not have the vaccines or the boosters, or if they were still effective, had lost effectiveness, or were never effective to start with? Everyone should be free to get and recover from these diseases: this was nature's plan for creating optimally healthy populations, and it's what we need to get back to.

I wonder what makes it so hard for people such as this Specter to think for themselves. And if you say you are posting footnotes you should do so. Unless you really can't back up your position or raving as the case may be.

re Specter:

The impression created by such responses to vaccine concerns is that footnotes, documentation, gold standard research, testing with a control group, that kind of thing doesn't help the case of there's-nothing-to-see-here-just-take-your-shots proponents. Not really reassuring.


"La Cucaracha"..more like ..just limp along as they do...

Bob Moffitt,

I always enjoy your astute and articulate comments. Please keep them coming...you're awesome!

Dan, thanks, as always, for your dedicated reporting and for calling a spade a spade.

Vaccination will magically protect you when you go to a country where vaccine uptake may be low but it can't seem to protect the vaccinated back in N. America where uptake is quite high.

I wonder if Michael thinks about that when he travels?

And I wonder, why do people like Michael only mention unvaccinated children? What about unvaccinated adults or adults who haven't had boosters in years?

Specter is indeed a denialist - denying all evidence contrary to his fixed views. Ironic that he rants against denialism.

Interesting how Spector jumps from Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Oz to Kardashian, as if the brains of the popular and attractive are interchangeable. How insulting to them and how shallow of Spector.

To Mr. Spector: Jenny McCarthy is popular because she is just as beautiful a person on the inside as she is on the outside.. She is talented, intelligent, funny, courageous, a best selling author, and has helped and continues to help many to cope with a terrible illness by sharing her experience and founding Generation Rescue. How many charitable organizations have you established?

And never mind that Dr. Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia. According to Spector, he's "just" an irrelevant celebrity who shouldn't have his "own take" on science.

"What's dangerous, in my view, is to talk about the evidence of science as though it were the Teachings of God Almighty declaimed in The Jumbo Book of True Scientific Facts."

That needs to at least go on a billboard.

Last month The Dallas Morning News ran a front page article. There was an outbreak of whooping cough, and 86% of the people coming down with whooping cough were FULLY vaccinated. Facts do get in the way of a good story sometimes, don't they?

A: People who don’t get vaccinated are getting sick. We have measles, whooping cough. These things had disappeared. For a particular parent not to vaccinate their kid is bad, but it also affects my kid, because if you go to school with my kid and you’re not vaccinated you could be infectious."

Scientifically speaking .. if your kid is vaccinated .. why should you be concerned about the unvaccinated kid who could be infectious?

Unless .. scientifically speaking .. you are in denial regarding the efficiency of the vaccines your child received .. and .. you fully recognize .. scientifically speaking .. the vaccines do not protect your child effectively as public health officials pretend they do.

And so .. if anyone deserves the label of "denialist" .. it is Mr. Spector .. who religiously believes vaccines protect children from infectious diseases .. yet .. acknowledges his vaccinated child has the very same opportunity to contract an infectious disease as the unvaccinated child.

Admittedly, that is simply common sense .. not .. to be confused with scientific gobblygook.

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