I am publishing this brief correspondence to highlight how our higher educational institutions are becoming the enemies of freedom of speech and intellectual curiosity, not to mention purveyors of falsehood. I am not suggesting that Exeter University is particularly unusual: there are lots of publications of this kind from many academic sources, arguing how to limit and close down debate while using ad hominem tactics posing as hard science. It is interesting to note how the university dealt with this matter. The vice-chancellor and CEO, Sir Steve Smith - who is an expert in the politics of globalisation - handed the matter on to the provost, Prof Janice Kay, a cognitive neuropsychologist, who does not really tell us what she thinks, but passes the buck to the politics department, the publishers and the peer reviewers. She must however know that our schools are by now drowning in unprecedented and unexplained neurological impairment. It seems that the university's coat of arms with the motto lucem sequimur 'we follow the light' has fallen into disuse, and frankly the spirit of enlightenment is dead as GSK and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation take over the world.
From: John Stone .....
Sent: 24 October 2018 16:20
To: Vice Chancellor.....
Subject: Harassment and silencing of vaccine and GM critics
To Prof Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and CEO University of Exeter
Dear Sir Steve,
I would like to express grave disquiet regarding the paper by Lyons et al and the additional publicity given to it by your university. It really will do no good to target people while not addressing their arguments - it is to say the least an open question who is indulging in "innuendo" as your publicity department put it.
A case in point would be the paper's attack on the competence and integrity of Robert F Kennedy Jnr. The article does not address any specifics of Kennedy's argument in his article while labelling him as "a conspiracy theorist". In this regard it is worth noting that by 2004 the British government, without of course admitting any error, had removed mercury from vaccines - the subject of Kennedy's article - and it was only to make a return to doing so in the highly unfortunate and still unaccounted Pandemrix episode. The safety of using the mercury salt preservative thimerosal/thiomersal has been criticised in many scientific publications.
A further problem is that if people are not allowed to express their concerns - or even their unpleasant experiences - a class of product becomes protected and the hazards to the public increase. There can be no automatic assumption that products are safe, and what is proposed is the intellectual and social suppression of views, experience and knowledge inconvenient to global interests and governments. This does not mean that all opinions are equally valid but it does mean that public debate should be tolerated. The very failure to tolerate debate places a question mark of the motives of the people trying to deny it, and it leaves the public in a dangerous position. It is always possible that this or that product has been slandered, but it does not mean that all products or all public bodies meet the standard, and we cannot proceed on this basis.
I believe by promoting "research" of this kind the University of Exeter is placing itself in an invidious historical position, and I look forward to your views.
John Stone, UK and European Editor, AgeofAutism.com
On 26 Oct 2018, at 15:18,
Dear Mr Stone, (if I may?)
Thank you for writing regarding article ‘Not Just Asking Questions: Effects of Implicit and Explicit Conspiracy Information about Vaccines and Genetic Modification’.
This piece has been written by academic colleagues in our Politics Department and is part of a wider research project about scientific communication. The article focuses upon perceptions of the public about news coverage they read about controversial science and theories around Zika and vaccines were used as part of the study.
I can assure you that Health Communication, which has published the article, is an international, peer-reviewed journal which includes “blind” peer review by two reviewers.
I hope this is helpful.
Janice Kay CBE
Provost & Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology
26 October 2018, 8.25pm
Dear Prof Kay,
Thank you for responding. However, I am not sure that it helps to put the responsibility on the journal which published the article (and its peer reviewers), rather than what goes on in the University of Exeter. The question is one of intellectual freedom and the manifest intention of de-legitimising, marginalising and censoring opinions with which the authors disagree. You make the point that the authors are from the university’s politics department, so perhaps they are only deferring to authority, but that is not good either.
You mention Zika and it is certainly not surprising that gene editing is a controversial topic which ought to be freely discussed, but I raised as an example from the article (because it was relatively simple but just as germane) the treatment of Robert F KennedyJnr and his concern as a long term environmentalist about injecting mercury in quantities into humans, and infants in particular. The article characterised Kennedy as “a conspiracy theorist” ie someone concocting paranoid theories for possibly improper political advantage or otherwise incompetent, but the article did not even begin to establish this is true, nor have you so far defended it. It was as far as I can see pure ad hominem and the tenor was that of reducing debate about important scientific issues to a “four legs good, two legs bad” level - how do today’s technocrats trounce anyone who comes in their way, without necessarily understanding the issues themselves.
In essence this remains a question for your university and many others at the present time: will there be open and respectful debate about public issues - even if they are technical - or are you as an academic establishment going down the route of hate rhetoric and suppression of inconvenient opinions (which is what this article does)? It does not seem that academic institutions are held by traditional standards anymore. And you have not answered.
John Stone (UK Editor, Age of Autism)