The War on Science – The British Medical Journal & Dr. Wakefield
In January 2011, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a blistering 3-part series (here, here, here) and an editorial (here) accusing Dr. Wakefield of committing fraud in his study of bowel disease.
The tone is harsh, the articles lengthy and involved, the findings absolute, and the judgment final. Dr. Wakefield is a fraud. To top it off, it’s published in the British Medical Journal – one of the UK’s most prestigious journals. There’s only one problem. It’s a manufactured piece of gibberish with no basis in fact.
Dr. Wakefield is being attacked in an attempt to suppress science – specifically his Lancet study (here) that was published in 1998. Wakefield found bowel disease in children with autism spectrum disorder and raised questions about the safety of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. The study is valid and scientifically sound.
The British Medical Journal’s campaign to discredit Dr. Wakefield may be the greatest suppression of science episode ever attempted. It is estimated that over 150 million Americans were duped into believing the claims made against him.
The attacks on Dr. Wakefield are a crude reminder that there has always been conflict between those who serve science and those who want to censor it. Science advances at a cost, and the British Medical Journal has shown they are willing to pay any price – to sacrifice science itself – in order to declare victory on the battlefield of autism and vaccines.
Dr. Wakefield is a man of honor, principle, and integrity. He came to the US in 2004, as many scientists do, to continue his research without fear of reprisals. Seven years after leaving the UK – and 13 after his Lancet study – the British Medical Journal pursued Wakefield across the Atlantic in a campaign to silence him once and for all. Science be damned.
The British Medical Journal misjudged Dr. Wakefield’s commitment to science and picked a fight with the wrong guy.
Why Pick a Fight Based on a Lie?
Culture is a tricky thing. Did the British Medical Journal think it would just blow into town and tell a lie so big no one would notice? Did the editors seriously believe the same type of tabloid journalism that is standard practice in the UK would find a welcome home in the US?
Obviously they did. The allegations, the character assassination, the sensational overblown trumpeting of “Wakefield the fraud,” and the claim of unbiased investigative journalism had, after all, been spoon fed to the British, with nary a hitch. The British public had been duped. Why not the Americans?
To any student of Anglo-American history, this was a risky venture. Americans are fiercely independent – the British not so much. We don’t take kindly to other nations targeting Americans. Europe, on the other hand, is a swirling pot of nations, used to shooting at each other for centuries.
The greatest difference between the US and UK lies in how Americans fight to protect their freedoms. It’s a strange and somewhat dangerous concept to outsiders looking in. But it’s a value that shapes our thoughts and actions from cradle to grave.
We take our freedoms seriously, particularly the freedom of speech. The BMJ’s campaign to silence Wakefield flies in the face of what this country holds most dear.
In the UK, one learns one’s place at an early age. It’s a stifling society with a rigid class system made up of the nobility and commoners; it hasn’t changed all that much in the last 300 years. Lords, dukes, earls, and sirs fill the top slots of industry, academia, and government, reminding everyone else of their betters.
Creativity takes a back seat to etiquette, and etiquette flows from the top down. Manners, a stiff upper lip, and being proper are not mere courtesies – they are the life blood of British society. When creativity does make an appearance, it comes out sideways in that very British “Pink Floyd” or “Monty Python” way. The British know they are oppressed, and they scream at it or laugh about it. What they don’t do is challenge it.
We have old-boy networks in the US, but nothing compared to the permanent insider track to power, money, and privilege bestowed by birth in the UK. The one word to describe Britain is “club.” Like the Cosa Nostra, the first rule is “omerta”: absolute silence and secrecy must be kept at all times.
Challenging the status quo is an affront to the established order. When one is called “Lord This” or “Sir That” all his life, it creates pomposity – a breeding ground of arrogance. Something is right by virtue of you having done it. Multiply that a thousand times over and you have a taste of the arrogance of the upper class. Mere commoners are to know their place and to keep their mouths shut.
Unlike anything published in US science, the British Medical Journal articles are personal and vindictive. When the code of silence is broken, the Cosa Nostra leaves a dead fish wrapped in a newspaper (signifying the person sleeps with the fishes); in the UK, the British assassinate the person in the press.
In a series of major missteps, the BMJ underestimated Dr. Wakefield’s integrity and commitment to science, ignored how Americans feel about freedom of speech, and allowed class arrogance to run roughshod over common sense.
Although active and willful ignorance both played a part, neither can fully explain the reckless transatlantic pursuit of Wakefield. The BMJ articles were carefully calculated. There must have been reasons big enough to compel the British Medical Journal to roll the dice and press the attack 13 years after the Lancet study was published.
A Dirty Little Secret
Dig a little deeper and, sure enough, it was in the best interest of the UK to silence Dr. Wakefield. The elements of a “crime” are coming together: means, motive, and opportunity.
In 1988, the UK began the country’s first mass measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunization program with a vaccine that the National Health Service knew to be defective. Canada suspended the vaccine’s license in 1987 due to adverse events, and a number of other countries also raised serious concerns about the vaccine’s safety.
Science be damned. The UK introduced the defective Urabe strain MMR vaccine and the program was a disaster. Thousands of British children suffered severe adverse reactions, and the government denied the damage.
Unknown to the public, UK regulators had indemnified at least one pharmaceutical company, the UK producer of the Urabe MMR, from civil lawsuits. The government itself, and its regulators, were on the hook for the foreseeable damage. What was already a public disaster had the potential of turning into a personal one for health officials at the highest level.
The cover-up is often worse than the crime. So it was here. Health officials could not admit the vaccine was defective. Doing so would nail the government for millions of dollars in liability and expose the dirty little “indemnity” secret regulators had so generously given the UK manufacturer.
The dam of denial seemed to be holding until Dr. Wakefield published a study suggesting a possible link between the MMR vaccine, bowel disease, and autism. (Some of the children in the study had been damaged by the Urabe MMR.) Wakefield’s paper created a firestorm. And the bastard wouldn’t shut up. Wakefield was in the papers, he was on TV, he was all over the place cautioning parents about the risk of the MMR.
The government removed the defective MMR vaccine from use in the UK in 1992, four years after its introduction. The last thing health officials needed was someone kicking up a storm – especially a respected research gastroenterologist at the Royal Free in London.
But denial was no longer enough. Denying a mother’s claim of injury was one thing, fighting a scientist quite another. Adding injury to insult, Wakefield was not only raising scientific questions about vaccine safety, he knew about the secret 1988 deal to indemnify the UK manufacturer.
The campaign of denial shifted to attack mode. Enormous pressure was brought to bear on Wakefield to withdraw the study’s findings, but Wakefield refused – the science was good. In 2001, Wakefield left his position at the Royal Free, ending his career in the UK.
Wakefield’s attempts to alert the public about the defective MMR Urabe strain vaccine fell on deaf ears. The political pressure to continue the cover-up was too great.
Seeking refuge from politically-motivated censorship and retribution, Wakefield did what millions of others have done before him: he came to America to continue his work.
Dylan Thomas called it “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.” The irrepressible search for truth is another way to say it. America offered Wakefield new opportunities to continue his research. The UK was too compromised to allow him to pursue the truth. Wakefield packed up his family and headed to the US to find and publish the results of wherever the science led him.
Continuing the Fight
The brouhaha in the UK continued, although Wakefield was now long gone, and in 2010, the General Medical Council (GMC), the regulators of the UK medical profession, yanked Dr. Wakefield’s right to practice medicine in the UK. The biased tribunal included many of the officials who had originally approved the defective Urabe strain MMR vaccine.
But it was not enough for the UK medical establishment to strike Wakefield from the medical register. There was still too much at stake. The Urabe disaster would not go away, and Wakefield was building support in the US – talking, publishing, and naming names. The bastard would not shut up.
It was the perfect storm to sink the HMS Wakefield. The BMJ provided the means; self-preservation on the part of the government officials the motive; and the GMC tribunal’s findings provided the cover. There was one little problem. The HMS Wakefield was no longer moored in the UK.
Wakefield is a US resident, protected by US law, living in Texas – attacked by a foreign publication on US soil. This is where it starts to get interesting.
Y’all take care. We’ll talk soon.
IT was not lost on me that your almost last sentence said;
"This is where it starts to get interesting!"
So, something in the works that will make the BMJ and Fiona or Fioneee or whatever squirm?
Posted by: Benedetta | December 09, 2011 at 04:30 PM
In my opinion if this is your idea of how to lead the autism movement, it is shameful, pointlessly divisive and embarrassing.
A hate campaign against the British is not what anyone needs, and anyone who has watched the US government or media in action over this can scarcely contend that it is a fair analysis to blame it on the British, as if the agencies in both countries did not work closely together, with equal malevolence (for which there is copious evidence).
It must be said that the idea of Britain that you presented in your article belongs curiously to 50 years ago and its contemporary problems are entirely different.
I believe this is unhelpful to everyone in both our nations.
Posted by: John Stone | December 09, 2011 at 04:26 PM
People I appreciate the dialogue. It’s helpful and educational.
What I’d like to do is focus exclusively on the “problem.” If we can’t define the “problem,” we can never define the solution.
To me, the single biggest problem facing the autism community are the fraud allegations hanging over Dr. Wakefield. They affect everything from dismissing biomedical treatments to increasing the call for mandates. What I’m dealing with are problems that are unique to our community and can be solved. Not problems like “people are greedy.”
How did this get to be the problem? I contend, in a series of articles in the London Sunday Times and the British Medical Journal Dr. Wakefield was publicly tried, convicted, and executed.
Yet, the people of the UK never came together to legally defended Dr. Wakefield from the attacks made in the London Sunday Times. Why? What was then the inkling of a problem began to grow.
The people of the UK never came together to legally defended Dr. Wakefield from the attacks made in the British Medical Journal. Why? What was a problem became a bigger one.
If we are going to solve the problem we need to properly identify the problem’s source. To Americans it is the BMJ.
Posted by: Ed Arranga | December 09, 2011 at 03:50 PM
North of your border this is what freedom (as it pertains to vaccination) looks like:
HC:"Hello this is the Health Centre calling. Your oldest son is due for his kindergarten boosters"
Me: "As my son has suffered vaccine induced injuries resulting in an autism dx, we won't be vaccinating him any further"
HC: "Okay, we'll write that in his file"
Just recently the HC sent home, via the school, consent forms for grade 9 vaccinations. In black sharpie I wrote "refused" across the forms. Two weeks later the HC called me:
HC: "Hi. We just want to verify that you are declining the grade 9 vaccinations."
Me: "Yes, that is correct".
HC: "Okay, thanks".
Freedom of speech.......just saying or writing no thanks.......no other forms, exemptions, notaries, CPS at my door, gnashing of teeth or a strained doctor patient relationship.
As our system is based on the British one, I wouldn't think it is any different in the UK. Socialized healthcare and the freedom to choose.....who would have thought?
Posted by: What does freedom look like to you? | December 09, 2011 at 11:55 AM
As a British Citizen, I feel I have to answer some of these statements.
"In the UK, one learns one’s place at an early age"
Not true, none of my children were ever told you are working class and this is where you will stay. Know your place, don't talk back to the establishment etc.... I have no idea where you got that idea from. Okay so we still have Lords,Dukes, Barons etc but that is part of our hertiage.
Mere commoners are to know their place and to keep their mouths shut."
Huh???? Not on your nelly lol
As to Dr Wakefield, I believe what he said and so do thousands (could be millions)of people in the UK, the BMJ and what they did just made more people aware of him.
In the UK we do not have to have our children Vaccinated before they start state schools unlike the USA...
In the U.S., all states require children attending public school or state-licensed day care facilities to receive a series of vaccinations. Specific requirements vary
from state to state. (Some states specifically include private schools in these requirements, while most private schools voluntarily adopt similar, if not identical, requirements for their students.) The term "mandate" is somewhat misleading when applied to vaccination, however. The last time the U.S. required vaccination without exception--a true mandate--was during World War I.
Today, all states except Mississippi and West Virginia have procedures which allow parents to exempt their children from state vaccination requirements on the basis of
religious and/or personal beliefs.
Parents who refuse vaccination on philosophical grounds point not to religious beliefs but often cite their right to determine the medical care of their children without
government involvement. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that state vaccination requirements are permissible, writing that "the very concept of ordered liberty precludes allowing every person to make his own standards on matters of conduct in which the society as a whole has important interests.
My child has not had the MMR, nor the measles, or the whooping cough injection. He goes to school regardless.
The greatest difference between the US and UK lies in how Americans fight to protect their freedoms.
You really believe that? Have you read this....?
Senate bill 1867 military will have right to arrest anyone, anywhere without a warrant, without a charge, without a trial, without the right to representation, indefinitely? They will be able to arrest anyone in the world, whenever they want to and imprison them forever?
By the way the FEMA Camps are being activated!
Maybe you could try researching them and how your government is eroding YOUR FREEDOMS!
Posted by: Tricia | December 09, 2011 at 06:46 AM
Ed did make a very important point. Dr. Wakefield took it on the road to America and thus made a much larger fire for those "evil doers" in UK to stamp out.
It was a good article and as usual we all learned something from the great blogs!
Uk is Machiavellian-- sounds right to me!
France has always belonged to the bureaucrats which is perfect breeding grounds for psychologists. Psychocrats then?
What is the United States then? -- Maybe what ever the Aztec government was - Sacrificing a few to keep the sun glowing? What do you call that?
Bella Tommey, thanks for your story; glad to know you exist!
Posted by: Benedetta | December 08, 2011 at 11:40 PM
Ed, you know how much I respect you for everything you do for all of our kids but I have to say that I can see why many across the pond were offended by this. Need I remind all that it is American media that is even more controlled by the pharmaceutical companies? They don't allow commercials for pharma in Europe. A news story just printed today shows the "secret" meeting between HHS and religious leaders here in America to push vaccines. Our federal agencies are as corrupt if not more so, than any on this planet.
I too am a proud American. But this ain't what it's supposed to be and to think that Americans have the "corner on the market" in a belief in freedom, justice and rights it what is probably offensive to most that have had problems with your piece. These are HUMAN qualities. These are human rights. I don't believe there are many that are happy to live under authoritarian rule or tyranny. This is NOT an American trait, it's what we all believe and strive for.
I'm quite sure you didn't mean to offend anyone but you did. And if Andy approved this article, he should be ashamed of himself.
To all my brothers and sisters fighting the fight all over the world, I stand with you with a whole lot of good ol'American kick ass waiting to fight the good fight.
To Bella, you have turned out to be one helluva fighter and sister.... you are my hero!
Posted by: Curt Linderman Sr | December 08, 2011 at 10:50 PM
Yes, this is essentially the effective lobbying and control of government and public bodies in both countries by private interests for private interests. Over the last 3 years I have certainly tried to explain in AoA how some of this works in the UK. Some of the social games are different, more often the institutions. Certainly the UK is very centralised, but oddly I don't recognise either the social rigidity or the deference that Ed projects on to us. If snobbery were the prevailing culture I doubt whether Brian Deer would do either. I don't think authority survives in our country in that way: it survives in spite of the lack of it (Machiavellian rather than overtly authoritarian). And actually there is real social resistance now to the government class which is having interesting effects.
I am not sure what Ed is saying is particularly germane. A lot of this in this case is about how a few people are operating in geographically speaking Westminster, Whitehall and Bloomsbury a little way to the north.
As to the Union Jack - it might have a festive function but you won't find many people outside the military saluting it.
Posted by: John Stone | December 08, 2011 at 03:26 PM
For goodness' sake, of course there have been many admirable, active, strong, sincere, and steadfast advocates on this and related issues in the UK, whom we greatly appreciate. Let's focus on this: the unsubstantiated and politically conflicted drivel of Godlee and the BMJ et al. should not have been afforded transatlantic license to persecute the honest scientist Dr. Andrew Wakefield and the vital messages of his work. Please try to see that point in Ed's piece. Ed was not trying to be divisive or disparaging of advocates for Dr. Wakefield, so many of whom, indeed, have been self-sacrificing on behalf of the children, the families, and the truth. And, admittedly, there are glaring gaps in the merit of both UK and US "news" outlets. This transatlantic attack clearly "shows the hand" of the forces and history involved in the UK with regard to this situation as well as indicating related murky relationships on both sides of the pond.
Posted by: Teri | December 08, 2011 at 02:42 PM
As a nation I would presently characterise the British as almost entirely cynical about their politicians, their abilities, their integrity and their motives, although they no doubt remain duped by some of the agendas. If you read the newspaper blogs there is almost no deference on display anywhere, and there is a huge disconnect at the centre of public life between people and their representatives.
Posted by: John Stone | December 08, 2011 at 02:38 PM
No, John Stone. I don't think you are anti-American, but I wouldn't care if you were. I am disgusted by what goes on in this country, so I would probably agree with anyone who criticizes us. There is plenty wrong in the UK, too. So, we probably shouldn't compare our people or our countries. Corrupt government in both places is a given. Even though the whole sorry mess that discredited Dr. Wakefield began in the UK, I wouldn't give the US a pass on guilt. The media in this country wasn't satisfied with discrediting him, they crucified him- then demonized him. Shame on all of them.
I think you do a good job of keeping on top of this story and informing the rest of us. Keep up the pressure on BMJ. Somebody eventually will crack.
Posted by: ct teacher | December 08, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Good morning. I have one question for the folks in the UK.
Do you think people in the UK, as compared to the US, are more, less or equally deferential to authority.
Posted by: Ed Arranga | December 08, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Good for you!
More Americans needs to stop sitting on their behinds and vote with their feet too - as I think should have happened at the meeting that Jake was booted from.
Posted by: Benedetta | December 08, 2011 at 11:37 AM
No, John Stone; I think you are not anti American.
Thanks for answering my question, which is amazing!
That is the reason that I went on ahead and allowed my son to have that finally DPT shot, because I thought he could not attend public school or any school for that matter.
There is something basically, morally wrong when a perosn is going along with their life and they get a phone call at their work place (a place which changed daily by the way, so it must have been hard to track me down), or even phone call at home --- from of all things - a school nurse-- telling your child's vaccine shots are not up to date.
Which happened a lot with two kids as sick as mine, and during a time when more add on boosters for the MMR shots were being required. It gave me a deep, down in the chest, squeezing tight and heavy, but can't do nothing about it anger. Esp with one nurse who was so unkind as to tell me that I had to go to the doctor and get a letter stating my son was exempt, and another nurse tracked me down once or twice a week for a month, telling me that she could give the MMR shot at school to my daughter.
Don't sound like America is all that to me - and I am not anti-American either.
Posted by: Benedetta | December 08, 2011 at 11:32 AM
"I recently refused to sit a lesson more in my A Level Biology class because of the wall posters claiming he was a man that had committed fraud."
Bella-You are an absolute STAR!!
Posted by: Jenny Allan | December 08, 2011 at 11:24 AM
'In that sense Ed is completely wrong: we don't have the same activity because in this respect the UK is a freer and more libertarian country than the US.'
John Stone is correct. There have been a few attempts to force mandatory child vaccinations on our UK population, not least of which was one attempt by Surinder Kumar, chair of the GMC panel which struck off Dr Wakefield and his colleague Professor Walker-Smith. Dr Kumer owned shares in GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturers of the MMR vaccine, and yet the GMC panel had the nerve to find Dr Wakefield guilty of not declaring a 'conflict of interest'.
However, as the UK Government has assured us several times, there are NO plans to introduce mandatory vaccinations, and I have in my possession a letter from Health Minister Andrew Lansley endorsing this statement.
The coalition government in England knows full well that the British people would NOT stand for this.
Posted by: Jenny Allan | December 08, 2011 at 10:55 AM
. It’s great to know that the younger generation are courageous too and well spoken.
Posted by: Joan Campbell | December 08, 2011 at 10:39 AM
This is well said. The war for science is international, it has no boundaries and Jim is a wise man.
Posted by: John Stone | December 08, 2011 at 10:03 AM
I am bewildered by Ed Arrangas piece. As a 16 year old trying to make a difference to people with autism I often read AOA to educate myself so I will be of more use to the autism community. Ed says that this is a piece about Dr Wakefield and a fight that has had to move to the US but surely the fight is continuing here in the UK, US as well other countries around the world? I meet through my parents and on UK groups many parents, professionals and organisations who have dedicated years of support and campaigning for Dr Wakefield. I have seen parents with little or no money find their way to the GMC and stand for days in the freezing cold. There are so many Brits that work tirelessly behind the scenes to help put right what is clearly so wrong with the way Dr Wakefield has been treated. But more than that, I see parents on a daily basis come to my dads clinic with very sick children with autism, children the parents claim have been vaccine damaged. We are not only supporting Dr Wakefield in any and every way we can but also fighting for the truth of what happened to my brother and my friends siblings and the countless children that visit my dad. And there are the teenagers too that support Dr Wakefield, I recently refused to sit a lesson more in my A Level Biology class because of the wall posters claiming he was a man that had committed fraud. My friends, who understand why I feel this stood up and walked out of the class too. The next day the posters were down. You see Ed, the Brits aren't all bad, we work closely together as a team and Dr Wakefield couldn't have a stronger support group than the people here. I am proud to be a junior board member of The Autism Trust USA and love working closely with my friends in the USA to help make a difference. It is imperative that we all work together and not 'eat our own' as our close family friend Jim Moody told us one day, we need each other so we can help my brother Billy and so many like him. I think maybe you didn't mean the piece to sound like it did?
Posted by: Bella Tommey | December 08, 2011 at 09:55 AM
No, state schools can't check your vaccination records in the UK and admission is not dependent on getting your shots. This is, I believe, the main reason why the position is much less politicised in the UK, and not the civil rights issue that you have. Of course, there can be pressures, but it is nothing like the same.
In that sense Ed is completely wrong: we don't have the same activity because in this respect the UK is a freer and more libertarian country than the US.
I must emphasis that I am not saying this to be pro-British or anti-American (does anyone here think I am anti-American?) but as an objective political observation.
Posted by: John Stone | December 08, 2011 at 09:50 AM
ps: To make perfectly clear, the annual $70 Billion I cited is now spent for U.S. advertising/promotion of Prescription Drugs, not all advertising
Posted by: david burd | December 08, 2011 at 09:42 AM
Does that mean that in the UK, when a child enters school there is not a school nurse checking the vaccine records to see it the vaccines are up to date?
That when you enter a child in school in the UK, you don't have to bring along with birth certificates the vaccine records too?
Posted by: Benedetta | December 08, 2011 at 09:37 AM
Jenny Allan, Sarah, everybody. The New England Journal of Medicine from August, 2007 (N ENG J MED 2007, 357: 673-681 by Donohue, Cevasco, Rosenthal, titled A Decade of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs had the following stats:
The last 5 years ending 2005, Donohue et al. showed a Chart citing $29.9 Billion (18.7% of sales) was spent for "Direct-to-Consumer Advertising and Promotion to Health Professionals." That year, 2005, the sales were $160 Billion.
The percentage of money spend for this advertising was steadily rising and by now has assuredly reached over 20% of sales. The Kaiser Family Health Foundation (a major authority on U.S. health spending) cited that $300 Billion was spend for U.S. prescription drugs in year 2010.
Using these figures, it is fair to say that over $70 Billion dollars a year is now spent in the U.S. by for advertising/promotion.
As the mainstream media is so dependent on this gigantic amount of drug company advertising money, there is no way in Hell for them to be honest or objective, or air positive stories on such as the good Dr. Wakefield and his 12 colleagues authoring their seminal 1998 Lancet Paper.
Posted by: david burd | December 08, 2011 at 09:34 AM
Posted by: Joan Campbell | December 08, 2011 at 08:54 AM
Ed Aranga says
When creativity does make an appearance, it comes out sideways in that very British “Pink Floyd” or “Monty Python” way. The British know they are oppressed, and they scream at it or laugh about it. What they don’t do is challenge it.
I am not impressed or laughing.
Google my namewith MMR after it and you will see what I have done and hundreds of others over here in the UK have to challenge this injustice.
Posted by: Joan Campbell | December 08, 2011 at 08:42 AM
IF they published false accusations against Dr. Wakefield???
Are you serious?
If Dr. Wakefield sued the BMJ and Brian Deer under English Defamation law, any accusations that the BMJ made against Dr. Wakefield would be presumed to be false and the onus would be on the BMJ and Brian Deer to prove their validity. That's the way defamation lawsuits work in the UK.
From what I've read on AoA it certainly sounds like such a defamation suit in the UK would be a slam dunk.
Someone should really get Dr. Wakefield in contact with the law firm of RadcliffesLeBrasseur. They probably still have documents on file from the last time Dr. Wakefield sued Brian Deer for defamation. (Apparently that time it wasn't a slam dunk.)
Posted by: RTContracting | December 08, 2011 at 08:35 AM
I have been trying to analyse this. If there is one single, simple reason why there is a big focussed row going on in the US which we don't have in the UK it is because of the vaccine mandates.
When the prospect of compulsory vaccination was raised in the main BBC political discussion forum Question Time in 2009, seven out of seven panellists (all experts of course) declared MMR to be safe but said the UK did not want to go down that line. There are different political patterns in our countries and of course the BBC packs panels with safe people, but they know that if they did go down the compulsory line there then would be unpleasant rows.
For instance, if you made entry to the state school system dependent on being vaccinated people would be very alert to the problem that the socially advantaged were better placed to opt out. But if you make it law that everyone vaccinates and the powerful have to vaccinate their own children they are going to back off.
There are, of course, these arguments happening in Australia and New Zealand now, but I think it would be harder to push the UK down this line, which is why so far it isn't happening (although it might).
Posted by: John Stone | December 08, 2011 at 07:14 AM
Ed Arranga says:- "This is about Dr. Wakefield and a fight that has, by necessity, moved to the US."
Sorry to disagree Mr Arranga, but this particular fight is very much 'in the UK' at the present time; indeed it has always had the UK as its 'epicentre', although the seismic tremors have now spread throughout the world. Vaccination programmes are worldwide and use the same vaccines. It follows that vaccine damage is also a worldwide issue, although 'Urabe' is very much a British issue due to the UK Government's dilatory incompetence back in 1988-ten years before the Wakefield MMR Lancet article!!
Much of the actual 'fighting' takes place behind the scenes. Most of my campaigning actions are 'hidden' from the general public. Certain UK persons and factions are presently attempting to extricate themselves in facesaving ways from what is about to 'hit the fan'. This would be quite comical in other circumstances, but these issues are far too serious and important for levity at the moment. They are also far too serious for silly 'infighting'. I agree we all need to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' worldwide.
Sarah - Our message is not getting through because of a vitual press embargo on any Wakefield friendly articles. Press and media companies rely heavily on pharma advertising and sponsorship. I am not just talking about headache pills, but the 'beauty' industry is also linked to this, hair dyes, botox, fillers etc etc etc. Just count those ads on the TV and in newspapers and magazines and you will see what I mean.
Everyone!! Sign the avaaz petition to STOP US Congess from passing dangerous proposed legislation to curtail internet websites like this one. They already have a million signatures from all around the world. Please add yours:-
Posted by: Jenny Allan | December 08, 2011 at 04:21 AM
Dear Commentators –
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. First, I would like to like to say I’m British. I was born and partially raised in the UK. Half my family is there. I come to my observations from experience and I am rightfully ashamed of my homeland. The last decade has not been Britain’s “finest hour.”
Some of you, it seems, felt they were wronged and wrapped themselves in the Union Jack or pointed out this country’s shortcomings. Neither helps. Each misses the point.
Many of you fought and continue to fight the good fight and should be rightly proud. Advocates on both sides of the Atlantic need to stand shoulder to shoulder. This is about Dr. Wakefield and a fight that has, by necessity, moved to the US.
Let me know if you want to help.
Posted by: Ed Arranga | December 08, 2011 at 02:14 AM
I think that overall it's only slightly better here in the US, but not by much.
The UK may be the birthplace of the conspiracy to cover-up injury from the MMR vaccine, but the conspiracy to cover-up harm from mercury in vaccines was born right here in the US of A:
And let's not forget that it was Merck, an American corporation, that originally introduced the concept of giving three live viruses (and now four including chicken pox) at one time, and were it not for that the Urabe strain in versions made by foreign companies would not have been able to cause viral meningitis as it did in the Canada, Japan, the UK and now the third world.
Posted by: Jake Crosby | December 07, 2011 at 11:27 PM
What is confusing to me is that aside from Age of Autism, this story is really being ignored in the mainstream press. If you do a google news search on Wakefield "British Medical Journal", the only articles are either anti-Wakefield or written by Age of Autism. I don't understand this. Your message is somehow not getting through.
Posted by: Sarah | December 07, 2011 at 09:54 PM
The USA plays the pot to the UK's kettle.
Posted by: Theodore Van Oosbree | December 07, 2011 at 09:53 PM
As an ex pat Brit in New Zealand, I was prepared to be insulted, but then one can see that the author has it wrong about America as well, because there are many nations that rue the American boot in their faces. Pity they did not care for other nations freedom as they care for their own.
All is forgiven .. a good fist for Dr Wakefield !
Posted by: Ivor Hughes | December 07, 2011 at 09:04 PM
Frankly I find Ed Arranga's piece distasteful. There are several things that could be said in support of the British response, but I don't think explicit conflict between US and UK advocates helps anyone very much, beyond fluffing a few patriotic feathers.
But, just for the record, anyone labouring under the misapprehension that Wakefield is being treated any differently by the US press should take a look at the Austin Statesman sometime. They're coverage started in about 2006 if I recall. So about 5 years ago.
Posted by: Carol Stott | December 07, 2011 at 08:02 PM
I just watched the video of Dr. Wakefield speaking at Brandeis University. I agree with PJCarroll that his continuing research probably had a lot to do with the media frenzy in the U.S. over the BMJ campaign. I also believe his story in totality is a compelling argument against the mainstream portrayal of the MMR-autism link. Why would a researcher working in a promising research position with the world's leader in pediatric gastroenterology and a dozen other researchers, nearly 200 research publications behind him, just throw all that away along with a place in his homeland through an "elaborate fraud?" Another compelling argument against the mainstream position is the very fact that they have resorted to pitching Brian Deer's "investigation" as a counter-measure to the possible publication of the only animal model study on the safety of the U.S. vaccine schedule ever performed.
Posted by: Jeannette Bishop | December 07, 2011 at 07:36 PM
It's impossible to admit a mistake
after selling your soul to the devil.
Posted by: paul shapiro | December 07, 2011 at 06:07 PM
All parties in the UK, "ALL" have stood for election in England, Scotland ,Wales,(not in any order) and not one has made a bit,of difference to anything .Simply because they were all bought, before getting elected...
Is it not the same in the US they are bought to the highest bidder ..PHARMA
Posted by: BRIN DEER | December 07, 2011 at 05:50 PM
Have to agree with GH here. Trotting out offensive cliches about the British isn't helping anyone.These statements are as inaccurate as characterizing Americans as uncultured, loud and money obsessed. Which is no more true of the majority of Americans than your comments are about the majority of British.
And unfortunately legal aliens like Dr Wakefield now have fewer protections under the American legal system than American citizens.At least in the UK, everyone legally in the country has equal rights for justice; Bush passed legislation that took away some basic rights from Non American legal residents. And barely a complaint from within the "land of the free".
In both the UK and the USA, brave individuals are speaking up; in both places, the majority are scared to do so.
Must admit, it would be nice though, to see Dr Wakefield sue the BMJ.
Posted by: lets be fair here | December 07, 2011 at 05:14 PM
RTContracting wrote:".. If the BMJ did publish false accusations against Dr. Wakefield...."
IF they published false accusations against Dr. Wakefield???
Are you serious?
Posted by: Barry | December 07, 2011 at 05:10 PM
It is a mistake to think that the BMJ or the Murdoch empire are dominant players in this affair, significant players yes, but the refusal to openly discuss the adverse health consequences of vaccination extends across all the American health authorities and media groups, and the most recent attack on Dr. Wakefield was carried extensively by US networks but barely mentioned in the UK.
Over the last eighteen years I have lived and worked in about half of US states, and a common theme across the heartland is meeting people who live in an area where every town for several hundred miles in any direction looks remarkably similar to their own, and whose knowledge of the outside world is determined by what comes into their house on their television. Over the last few years that has started to change as more information has spread over the internet, and there are signs that the time of all of the people being fooled is starting to end; the more people openly speaking the truth online the quicker the message will spread.
But it is important to be accurate, and this article is a shining example of what to avoid - there are no dukes and earls in British academia, and knighthoods are earned titles (at least by academics who can't afford the bribes paid by captains of industry). The role played by the aristocracy in the economy ended not long after Lloyd George and Winston Churchill launched their war on dukes a hundred years ago, and modern British people are as socially mobile as anybody else in the western world. And as for fighting for freedoms, the author would do well to do an online search for 'The Blitz'.
This article needs to serve as a reminder of the importance of sticking to the subject, as it is by far the biggest piece of gibberish I have read on AoA, and more likely to turn people away from the core message than onto it.
Posted by: GH | December 07, 2011 at 03:39 PM
As an American student of British history, I wish I could say that my country is freer and less establishment-dominated than the UK, but I'm ashamed to say it isn't. Yes, the First Amendment offers some protection to dissenting voices, and yes, the lack of socialized medicine means that US doctors are freer to employ unconventional treatments for autism, like chelation. But we have nothing in the US like the Daily Mail, a major national newspaper that has gone to bat for Wakefield. In fact we have only three national papers -- the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today -- and all three are implacably hostile to us. And we certainly have an Establishment, consisting of former government drug regulators who now work for drug companies, media outlets addicted to pharma ads, and politicians (like Rick Perry) who do pharma's bidding for astonishingly small bribes. They pretty much have a lock on things. And now Congress is considering the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is fervently supported by the drug industry precisely because it could be used to shut down websites like this one. So much for the First Amendment.
Posted by: Jonathan Rose | December 07, 2011 at 03:34 PM
Thank you Ed and AoA for continuing to report on this travesty. Suggest every AoA reader post this article, as well as Dan's series, on facebook and other social media.
Social media is largely uncensored. it scares the living piss out of the power elite, just ask Mubarak.
As a bonus, it drives to sputtering, impotent rage the Mnookins, Offits. Deers,and Godlees of the world, because, goddamnit, they cannot stop or control what is being posted, read, and considered by potentially millions of individuals worldwide.
So, people- get busy and get posting!
Posted by: ottoschnaut | December 07, 2011 at 11:38 AM
I'm afraid the UK class system got shot to hell with the last Labour government's House of Lords reforms.
These created some new 'lords' whose ancestry did NOT include ANY connections to the aristocracy!
I leave you to read about Lord Gorbals Mick!!
Another new 'peer' of note is John Reid, Minister of Health during the Wakefield furore and 'credited' with instigating the GMC investigation which resulted in Dr Wakefield's deregistration.
In the UK the peasants are now the peers. It gives a whole new meaning to 'peer review'!!
Posted by: Jenny Allan | December 07, 2011 at 11:32 AM
Yes. Another point is that we have had in post-war era a great tradition of social mobility in the UK and people even wondered whether the Etonian Cameron could/should be elected (we'd had 3 lower middle class Conservative Prime Ministers on the trot). It was perhaps the pure coincidence of Hugh Grant playing the Prime Minister in the film 'Love Only' that sold the imaginative proposition. For a long time - until he was elected of course - Cameron pretended to be in touch with ordinary citizens. A likely story!
Posted by: John Stone | December 07, 2011 at 11:05 AM
While there may be more than a grain of truth in what Ed says the total reality is bit more complex. For one thing I do not believe the US media has distinctly better record in reporting this affair, and the malignant shadow of corrupt institutions and crony politicians is equally manifest in the US as well. We also in the UK have a tradition of freedom of speech but as in the US this increasingly happens outside the mainstream media. Of course, we have different institutions and different patterns of corruption.
One difference is that in the US it would have been harder to set up the political show trial of the GMC. Another is that in the UK we are perhaps even more under the thumb of the providing institutions, and have generally less medical choice. I suspect also in the US relative freedom might also depend on which state you are living in.
Mind you, we are still allowed to forego vaccination in the UK.
An interesting talking point, however.
Posted by: John Stone | December 07, 2011 at 10:57 AM
I think the description of the British is too narrow here. They certainly know that their upper class leader are full of crap and unlike in the US, they can actually skip vaccination.I think Americans are much too trusting in their leaders, in general, and tend to follow them blindly as much as or more than the Brits.
Posted by: Doodle | December 07, 2011 at 10:53 AM
Great summary, Ed!
I have long felt that the answer to your question "Why Pick a Fight Based on a Lie?" has more to do with the research Dr. Wakefield has done more recently. (And has yet to do)
For example, the monkey study results are far more damning to the vaccine program as a whole, so I see this recent character assasination as a pre-emptive strike.
You know, "If you can't trust the researcher, you can't trust the research", right?
Posted by: PJCarroll | December 07, 2011 at 10:23 AM
Selective hearing video featuring BRIAN DEER!!
Posted by: Jenny Allan | December 07, 2011 at 10:15 AM
Yes, Jenny Allen:
Anderson Cooper ---- CNN is always the station the doctor's offices turn too, and force us all to watch as we wait in the doctor's offices. Land of the free indeed. For now on I am changing the station or requesting it changed. At least the 50 people in the waiting room that day got to hear my freedom of speech expressed. I had an opinion and no one stopped me.
People deserve the government they get. People deserve what freedoms they get. You sit around and say nothing as someone is dragged out of a meeting, or banned from a website - with them not heckling, but just trying to debate or voice an opinion; there is going to come a time when it will happen to them too. Everyone that says nothing deserves no freedom what so ever.
Posted by: Benedetta | December 07, 2011 at 09:03 AM
Thanks for exposing the BMJ and its cultural underpinning, and reinforcing Dan Olmsted's series (and others' AoA contributions) vindicating Andrew Wakefield. New AoA readers should go back and review Dan's series.
I must add that it is critical (to my way of thinking) to loudly publicize Dr. Wakefield was one of a team of 13 of England's finest experts/doctors that made vital contributions and were signatories to the 1998 Lancet paper. Yet, America's media has made Wakefield a solitary villain! This lack of disclosure alone shows how corrupt America's media is.
Posted by: david burd | December 07, 2011 at 08:57 AM
Dynamite! Wonderful stuff, Ed!
Posted by: Mark Struthers | December 07, 2011 at 07:47 AM
Great introduction. In anticipation, this seems headed toward the BMJ's sins. Or as Tennyson wrote: "... a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies."
Posted by: Jim Thompson | December 07, 2011 at 07:15 AM
'The greatest difference between the US and UK lies in how Americans fight to protect their freedoms. It’s a strange and somewhat dangerous concept to outsiders looking in. But it’s a value that shapes our thoughts and actions from cradle to grave.'
As a born and bred British Citizen, I like the factual content of your article Mr Arranga, but I take exception to the suggestion that us oppressed Brits do not fight to protect our freedoms. Believe me WE TRY!!
Andrew Wakefield and his dedicated little army of supporters, many of them parents and relatives of MMR vaccine damaged children, and now these damaged grown up children themselves, have been fighting for Wakefield et al justice over the last 13 years. The JABS vaccine damaged group, was started by Jackie Fletcher long before the Wakefield et al 1998 Lancet paper was published. My own daughter was involved and managed to get quite a lot of publicity via newspaper letters and articles. Public disquiet about MMR vaccine, following the Urabe scandal, was widespread in the UK, in spite of the culpable UK government doing everything in their considerable powers to cover up the terrible Urabe Meningitis and seizures damage.
Recent demonstrations outside the GMC premises, in support of Dr Wakefield and his colleagues, were reported on Sky News and ITV London Tonight, including interviews with parents and relatives. These filmed reports were ALL PULLED... within a day by these television stations, after presumably Murdoch and political pressure was applied!! What chance did we have? I was one of those interviewed.
The Brian Deer Murdoch Sunday Times articles were not widely read by the general public. The Sunday Times is an expensive broadsheet with a very limited readership. It loses an absolute fortune, but presumably Murdoch bought it to give his press empire some respectability. His other vile 'rags' The Sun and News of the World,(the latter now abandoned due to the phone hacking scandal), have kept up the Wakefield vilification in typical Murdochesque style. These 'lad's rags' still have bare breasted page 3 girls.
The 3 2011 Brian Deer BMJ articles under the collective heading 'Secrets of the MMR scare', went down like a 'lead balloon' in the UK. Only the Telegraph published a verbatim report of the first article 'How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed. The Sun, of course had a double spread of Wakefield vilification, but that was as nothing compared with the CNN Anderson Cooper assassination, which would have ended with a public lynching a few years ago. Someone suggested the electric chair as a suitable end to the Wakefield saga. Pardon me, but I have not heard ONE WORD of apology from the 'powers that be in the land of the free'.
I am not going to dwell on the other 2 Deer BMJ articles, because they have not been mentioned in the UK press at all, because of the vile litigious content of them. This did not stop Paul Offit from quoting some of this Deer rubbish in his Deadly Choices book. Result? A VERY EXPENSIVE pulping and cancellation of a UK book launch, after a legal challenge.
We are all EXTREMELY grateful for the US site 'Age of Autism' which has taken up the Wakefield cause with enthusiasm and some brilliant reporting. Other groups in India and Australia are also making their presence felt. Fiona Godlee was even recently forced to defend her BMJ position via an AoA comment thread. I have no doubt at all that we are winning this fight, which is no longer a 'British' one but a worldwide one, which transcends race, colour, matters of religious beliefs, or supposed national character traits. We MUST and SHALL win TOGETHER.
Posted by: Jenny Allan | December 07, 2011 at 07:02 AM
If the BMJ did publish false accusations against Dr. Wakefield, then maybe he should look at suing Brian Deer and the BMJ in a UK court rather than the US.
In the UK it is relatively easy to win an defamation lawsuit. Unlike in the US, in the UK a defamatory statement is presumed to be false, unless the defendant can prove its truth.
I could even suggest a London law firm that is familiar with both English defamation law and health care issues. It can be found at http://www.rlb-law.com/.
Posted by: RTContracting | December 07, 2011 at 06:39 AM