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Popular Science To Cease Unpopular Comments

Popular Science 1955By Nancy Hokkanen

The 141-year-old magazine Popular Science announced recently it was shutting down the comments section that follows its articles. Online content director Suzanne LaBarre blamed “trolls and spambots,” claiming that “even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story.”

Popular Science is but one more magazine struggling with shrinking ad revenue, market share and staff. Surely a lack of staff also played a role in the decision to close off comments, but one wonders whether troll patrol could be handled by interns or trusted volunteers. When once-venerable publications like PopSci shut down all reader dialogue – especially on global and personal topics, such as vaccine safety issues – they risk reader alienation and lapsing into bully pulpits for hire by industry.

 “The best scientist is open to experience,” said science fiction author Ray Bradbury. Yet in capitalistic America, science is frequently co-opted by industry for profit. Online publications that offer readers democratic input can be threatening to industry’s bottom line, particularly when consumers report adverse reactions to products.

And with journalistic objectivity increasingly replaced by advertorial and press releases, media consumers ingest more persuasive articles with polarizing terminology steeped in the subtext of social control: We talk; you listen. We have the science; you are not experts. Our experiments are irrefutable; your experience is irrelevant. Then (as the first rule of advertising states) they repeat, repeat, repeat, hoping to drown out opposing voices.

Closing off article comments echoes a popular tactic used by schoolteachers and drill sergeants: punishing an entire group when one person breaks a rule. The goal is to engineer peer pressure – to coerce the majority group into using whatever means necessary to bring the outlier into conformity.

A July PopSci column, “How To Argue With The Anti-Vaccine Crazies,” attempted to arm readers for waging war with words. But the bibliographic “blanket party” merely amounted to a laundry list of flawed and fraudulent CDC epidemiology, intermixed with surprisingly frank admissions of vaccines’ imperfections. Oddly the author’s first attempt at refuting the so-called “crazies” began with the disturbing confession that “some older vaccines had severer side effects than current ones do.” And in sad real-life corroborations, earnest commenters reported severe vaccine injuries to family members.

In the eye of each media beholder, such vaccine adverse reports become defined either as valid empirical observations or coincidental fearmongering anecdotes. To believe, or not believe? That is the question… and unanswerable by corporate science, as long as researchers manufacture fallacious epidemiological studies rather than examining victims (or at least their medical records). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s statistical conflations are designed to comfort busy or simple-minded folk who seek information confirming all is right with the world. Proceed with business as usual.

A key media tactic for squelching public outcry is to frame autism as a celebration of quirky savant loners – handily ignoring the U.S. autism epidemic affecting 1 in 50, the special education rate of 1 in 6, and countless children ill with asthma, allergies, autoimmune conditions, toxic metals levels and gastrointestinal dysfunction. PopSci’s gushingly headlined article “Drone Club For Kids With Autism Is Really, Really Awesome” promises “[t]hese videos will make you smile.” Other stories chirp that children with autism are “so good at math” and enjoy interactions with robot substitutes for warm, caring humans (bearing a creepy gray face and metallic eyes shimmering like neurotoxic mercury).

Shiny, happy “Autism Lite” articles validate the worldview of those readers uncomfortable with confrontation, fearful of societal censures wrought by speaking out about autism causality controversies. Denial permits one to live unfettered by guilt or concern. But denial also allows stressed autism parents to get through each day by painting pretty pictures over bleak scenarios. However that excuse does not apply to journalists who abandon ethics while perpetuating cultural illusions intended to halt investigations into vaccine policymakers’ malfeasance.

Regarding the study of autism, PopSci tries to reassure readers by insisting that altruistic scientists are on the case – distracting one from asking why University of Minnesota researchers require “hours upon hours of observation” (plus abundant funding) to determine whether a child has autism. Passive scientific acceptance of the autism-as-behavior model ensures that children’s undiagnosed medical conditions continue to cause them misery.

The Alliance for Human Research Protection website offers readers this admonition: “For the triumph of evil it is only necessary for good men to do nothing.” Corporate media censorship indicates that autism advocates are making a public relations impact by personally investigating causality, treatment, and perpetrator justice, and publishing their findings far and wide. (Ironically studies of online vaccine comments and public health conferences are now promoting anecdotal evidence to convince consumers to buy more shots.)

Industry PR flacks pejoratively portray vaccine safety questioners as uninformed or irrational. However, many autism advocates devote hours daily to investigating research studies and scientists, thus amassing large in-home science libraries. A keyword search of just my own computer found this telling aggregation:

     Autism = 3,252 items

     Vaccine = 2,916

     Mercury = 2,221

     Study = 1,308

     Conflict of interest = 122

     Vaccine + Death = 485

As hard as corporate-biased writers and editors try, they cannot control readers’ skepticism about who determines what information and research constitutes science bedrock. Despite the high-sounding defensive rhetoric of so-called “science writers,” one cannot always believe what one reads. Cognitive dissonance is inevitable when readers discover vaccine and autism research that:

Then factor in government and industry’s complete failure to physically examine the medical condition of vaccine injury victims, for purposes of treatment and prevention. Ask the victims eventually granted compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation whether policymakers or manufacturers have ever showed any interest in finding out why the vaccines failed.

The illusory “heroic myths” perpetuated by the vaccine industry’s PR fabricators compare unfavorably with honest reality – the independent science and investigations, combined with multitudinous field reports from families living 24/7 in autism’s trenches. Censoring comments will not silence truth.



No doubt about it the US has the finest government money can buy. Our magazines find this a great model. Still it is so sad to see everyone selling out. Everyone but us and a few hundred million more truth seekers that is.

Cherry Sperlin Misra

To Jeff C., I dont know much about the food pyramid, and you could be right. I have another possibility for some of the type 2 diabetes cases- mercury coming off of dental amalgams. You can read about this situation by googling on amalgam sickness or mercury + dental amalgams. The people in this field are way ahead of almost everyone else in their understanding of the health problems that mercury can cause. Apparently some of the people involved have had improvement in their diabetic status after removal of amalgams.


Jeannette Bishop is right about the name of the magazine.
How do you have popular science?
The mentality for years has been or suppose to be where ever the science leads us, no matter how we feel about it.

Popular Science is a rare magazine -- easily confused with the magazine "Popular Mechanics".

Which is not a rare magazine.


For For Jennifer,

Circulation does not equal copies sold. There are paid subscriptions, copies sent to newsstands, and complimentary copies (ex. freebies to various offices) included in that count. AND that count is for ALL of North America. It sounds impressive but the efficiency is probably around 30% (percentage of copies sold of what was distributed).

Jeannette Bishop

Thank you for a persuasive commentary. Popular Science as opposed to the unpopular kind? The name has always struck me as suggestive of something working to promote consensus more than truth, though I can't say I've read the magazine enough to know if that impression was generally just. Maybe wasn't, but what about now?

For Jennifer


Actually Wiki gives the circulation as of Dec 2012 as 1,323,041, and presumably that's just the print run.


I had no idea Popular Science was even published anymore. Not even one store in my town carries it. This is not even an issue because this magazine is no longer important enough to be relevant.

Bob Moffitt

@ White Rose

The most recent Nobel Prize winners .. and .. the critical discoveries they published regarding true "scientific understanding" of mankind's evolutionary development .. will probably be ignored or forgotten .. just as many former Nobel Prize winners were.

Here is Charles Richet's .. 1913 .. Nobel Prize award acceptance speech regarding his discovery of "anaphylaxis":

Every time I read of another SIDS death .. I am reminded of Richet's discovery of "anaphylaxis" .. wherein Richet states that every child inherits an immune system that is unique to
each child .. much like the child's fingerprints or DNA.

Which means .. as I understand Richet .. there is no such thing as a "one size fits all vaccine" because some children will prove incapable of being exposed to substances that other children can easily tolerate.

If a child is exposed to such a substance one time .. it may not harm that child. However, if the child receives a subsequent exposure to the very same substance .. the child's immune system will react accordingly .. and .. death is a likely result.

Cherry Sperlin Misra

to White Rose, Beg to differ- It seems to me that science knows a great deal about the cause of autism. The problem seems to be that this does not translate into our doctors or public health slaves knowing anything about the cause of autism. And unfortunately there are a great many other disorders in the same sad category. It's just that we here at AOA tend to focus only on autism. Mainstream medicine needs an overhaul.


Excellent article. I just want to make one comment about your link to CSPI's Integrity in Science Project ("science is frequently co-opted by industry for profit"). After decades of thinking highly of Michael Jacobsen, who started CSPI, Citizens for Science in the Public Interest, in 1971, I realized that it was CSPI who were the ones to oppose labeling of GM foods back in, I think, 2000. I think they sued to stop labeling. Isn't that something? I found out that CSPI has a "Director of Biotechnology" who apparently thinks GMOs are just fine and no one needs to know what they're eating. Sodium, fat, protein, trans fats, all need to be spelled out, but GMOs? No. We might get confused and think GMOs are bad and then not buy the products. So I have lost all respect for CSPI. I consider CSPI to be Citizens for Science in the CORPORATE Interest, which makes the fact that they are conducting such a project very interesting. Gives new meaning to the word, hypocrit.

White Rose

Three scientists have won the Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology after discovering how cells precisely transport material.

James Rothman and Randy Schekman, both from the US, and Thomas Sudhof, from Germany, shared the prize.
They found the way "vesicles" act like a fleet of ships transporting their goods to the exact destination.

It is crucial for the way the brain communicates, the release of hormones and parts of the immune system.

Nobel Prize Winner
The billions of cells which make up the body are not empty blobs, instead they are packed with precise machinery. In order for a cell to function properly it needs the right materials in the right place at the right time.

Vesicles are tiny bubbles of fat which act as the cell's internal shipping service. They can send material such as enzymes, neurotransmitters and hormones, around the cell. Or they can fuse with the outer surface of the cell and release their contents into the wider body.

The prize committee said the findings: "Had a major impact on our understanding of how cargo is delivered with timing and precision within and outside the cell.

"Without this wonderfully precise organisation, the cell would lapse into chaos."
A defective vesicle transport system is implicated in diabetes and brain disorders.

Prof James Rothman, from Yale University, found proteins embedded in the vesicles which act as the docking mechanism meaning the cargo is released in the correct location.
They have revolutionised understanding of how cells are organised which is fundamental to huge number of diseases”

Dr Lisa Swanton
University of Manchester
Prof Randy Schekman, from the University of California at Berkeley, discovered the genes which regulated the transport system in yeast. He found that mutations in three genes resulted in a "situation resembling a poorly planned public transport system".

After hearing of the award he said: "My first reaction was 'Oh, my God! That was also my second reaction."
Prof Thomas Sudhof, originally from Germany but now at Stanford University in the US, made breakthroughs in how the transport system works in the brain so that neurotransmitters are released at the precise time.

Dr Lisa Swanton, from the University of Manchester, said: "Vesicles are like a postman's bag, they have to get to a specific address.
"They have worked out the mechanism of sending to the right location, they have advanced the field enormously.
"They have revolutionised understanding of how cells are organised which is fundamental to huge number of diseases."

And still science is clueless on Autism.


Perhaps the Univ of Minnesota ought to hire the local special ed screening teacher who diagnosed my son's autism after observing him for say, 15 seconds. It would save considerable time, trouble and money.


"That is the question… and unanswerable by corporate science, as long as researchers manufacture fallacious epidemiological studies rather than examining victims..."

So well said. Great article!!

Jeff C

I forgot to say how good the article is. Nancy really nailed it, particularly in summing up their message:

"We talk; you listen. We have the science; you are not experts. Our experiments are irrefutable; your experience is irrelevant."

Jeff C

It's not just vaccines, Popular Science is one of the major mouthpieces of the scientific agenda. This is the alliance between government, academia, and industry that promotes agendas dressed up as science in order change public policy. (Think 49 vaccine doses by kindergarten to prevent a return to the "days of the iron lung", one-fifth of kids have ADD and need stimulants to help them think straight, or the ridiculous food pyramid that turned us into a country of obese diabetics.) Rather than science being the noble pursuit of truth even if we don't like the answer, these people use the guise of "consensus" to drive public behavior in a direction they like.

Popular Science's problem is that many intelligent, well-informed individuals used the comments to immediately poke holes in the drivel they published. Rather than debate the merits of the argument (as is done in science), they shut the argument down. Doesn't sound like science to me.


Great article, Nancy!

Jim Thompson

Thank you Nancy.

Censorship includes industry scientists in academia. Look this cash arrangement set up by university professors.

They charged Pharma up to $25,000.00 a seat for a "private" meeting with FDA!


John Stone

In the UK it is done less by purse strings and more by professional intimidation:

Also, in parallel we used to find many opportunities to comment, particularly in Guardian CiF which have largely evaporated since 2010 (perhaps after the debacle of their 'Genetics of Autism' Story Tracker). I think we were too good for them.

The BBC is just toxic - the better news is perhaps that an awful lot of people probably realise that now. A decade ago I used to switch on the Today programme in the morning (the habit of a lifetime). Now I just surf the web for news trying to assess stories on their merit and their likely bias. I think for a lot of people it's the same.

White Rose

I dont believe the excuses . We must be concerning the (criminal) authorities with our sheer numbers & persistence.

For me , this is exactly the kind of tactic I expect them to employ .

In the UK there is a blanket state censorship of this state poisoning . Its completely silent here , nothing .

The BBC had to run a small piece the other day about swine flu vaccines and narcolepsy but the only reason they did so ,was because Finland allowed the cat out of the bag a year or two back . The BBC relegated the story as quickly as they could and made sure as few as people as possible noticed the direct evidence of Vaccine injury .

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