Antivaccine nonsense Autism Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

Here’s another slam on Andrew Wakefield…

…from, of all places, a Daily Kos diary.

Although the post itself is quite good, some of the comments make baby Jesus cry. There’s even one repeating the old myth about H. pylori and how Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were supposedly “ostracized” for their “heresy” back in the 1980s.

Still, it’s good to see that the GMC ruling is having an effect as far as spreading the message about Andrew Wakefield.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

34 replies on “Here’s another slam on Andrew Wakefield…”

You sound surprised that this was on dKos, but I can tell you that the general consensus over there anymore is that the anti-vax crowd is nuts. There are still dKos members who buy the “vaccinations are bad” koolaid, but whenever autism and/or vax diaries come up those commenters are often ridiculed.

I really, really hate it when people post off-topic, but I’m going to do it just this once, because I’ve just been listening to the BBC radio show Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service on the iPlayer, and I have just come across the most sensational woo.

It was in a reading from Greg Milner’s book Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music where Milner went to see a doctor (called Dr. John Diamond – how I wish the author of Snake Oil was alive today to see this quack tarnishing his name) who described himself as sounding the alarm about one of the modern world’s most serious health risks – digitally recorded music.

Yes, apparently if you listen to a CD rather than a vinyl LP, you’re interfering with the body’s acupressure points, which can cause you to become irritable and violent. In fact, the epidemic of violence in today’s society (Diamond just seems to take it for granted that society is more violent now than it was before CDs, incidentally) is mostly down to the horrors of digital recording! It was amazing. Cocker, for his part, didn’t seem to take it tremendously seriously and joked about how he was scared to play the next record afterwards.

Can any of Orac’s British readers excerpt this? It’s still available on iPlayer until Sunday morning, but unfortunately iPlayer only works for UK residents. It starts at about one hour fifty minutes into the show – it is hilariously bonkers stuff and I would love for Orac to hear it.

I’ll second what Mark F said.
Doing a search of diaries with vaccination/vaccine in the title and sorted by # of recommendations:
The first anti-vaccination diaries I see are 17 & 24, recommended by a grand total of 15 and 10 people respectively.

You might also recognize the #3 poster who got a reasonable 157 recommendations.

DailyKos isn’t as bad as it might seem when it comes to antivax woo. I think it gets kind of lumped in with HuffPo (which IS that bad) because of the politics but I don’t think they pull the same, “LOOK! CELEBRITIES WRITE WORDS ABOUT STUFF SO IT MUST BE TRUE!” trick as often.

That said, some of the comments were so bad it makes me wonder if all these people just cruise around the Internet all day looking for posts to troll. Whoof.

Over at DKos we’ve gotten much better in the last year or so at smacking down antivax diaries. I’d have to say the Comment of the Century award goes to commenter Caj, who wrote

It’s odd how Internet people can take such an everyday concept as being paid to do what you do for a living, and spin it into some eyebrow-raising impropriety. It makes you wonder how much of the anti-vax movement are familiar with employment.

There are some quite good posters at DKos. DemFromCT has posted quite a lot of respectable science diaries, and was promoted to front page diarist. He’s done a lot of good vaccination diaries.

I am of course always unhappy to see wootastic posts from my political allies. (I realize that they are not your political allies, Orac.) Even though it irritates me to see the anti-vax comments and their “recommend” ratings, it still trends against the anti-vaxers.

Some posters even link to blogs of noted Conservative Science Bloggers…

Note that there were more recommends for the (sometimes harsh) criticisms of the anti-vaxer than there were for the anti-vaxer herself.

You can get 20 recommend ratings for arguing that Daniel Hauser’s parents were committing child abuse.

Daily Kos is not the Huffington Post.

What’s surprising from the list I’m keeping of blogospheric responses to the decision is how wide the response has been. Here’s a sample:

A UK frivolity site, Anorak News posted Dr Andrew Wakefield And MMR: The Making Of A Media Scare Story

Someone writing as “Crankylitprof” posted posts A**hole doctor responsible for false MMR/autism claim gets his.

Ronald Bailey at the Reason Magazine Blog posted Researcher Who Sparked the Vaccine/Autism Scare “Acted Unethically”

“Can any of Orac’s British readers excerpt this? It’s still available on iPlayer until Sunday morning, but unfortunately iPlayer only works for UK residents.”

Works fine for me in the U.S.

BBC’s iPlayer works in the US for “most” radio programs, but not video. If you’ve been able to get video, let me know!

“Make baby Jesus cry” means something completely different where I come from. Eeew!

Quoting daily kos as a source of verity and sanity seems a contradiction in terms. Somehow I had an image of a roomful of monkeys hammering away on typewriters until one finally writes something coherent.

If it seems a contradiction in terms, epador, you’re responding more to prejudice than actual observation. Some Kos diarists are nutty, others unthinkingly left-wing, and still others are Democratic political-wonks-in-training, but a fair number have their feet pretty firmly planted in reality. It’s a community.

Skipbidder, I’m not sure that Orac could ever have been described as a “Conservative”, from what I’ve read over the past few years he was a moderate Republican but would now be described as an Independent, just look over his posts on issues such as health care reform and abortion…they are hardly written from a conservative POV.

Liz Ditz – would love an updated link for your post. Looks like we’re on the same page. 🙂

@Jen (14), morning, Jen (which one are you? in TX, Canada? Please clarify 🙂 ). As far as Liz Ditz’s links, click on her name and it will take you to her blog. I can’t access her from work or I would give you the URL.

(None of the above. I think I have to change my posting name 🙂 )

Thanks for the info.


May I suggest “not the crazy one” :)? I, too get confused by the “Jen from TX”, “Jennifer” etc. I have been loving your (?) links about the Wakefield decision (and Liz’s also).

Folks, thanks for the compliments.

I’ve got another collation post going, this time on the reaction to the Lancet retraction:

Keep checking back — only two reactions so far.

Now, oh Orac hive mind: how often are scientific, or specifically medical, papers retracted in this manner? Is it a fairly common thing, or really rare?

The retraction by The Lancet comes a day after a competing medical journal, BMJ, issued an embargoed commentary calling for The Lancet to formally retract the study. The commentary was to have been published on Wednesday.

The BMJ commentary said once the study by British surgeon and medical researcher Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues appeared in 1998 in The Lancet, ”the arguments were considered by many to be proven and the ghastly social drama of the demon vaccine took on a life of its own.”

@ Paul

“Skipbidder, I’m not sure that Orac could ever have been described as a “Conservative”,…”

Shush. I need him to be a conservative for my own political talking points. 🙂

Perhaps he only doesn’t appear to be a conservative in the current US sense of the word because the definition has been careening rightward since the late 70s. Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon wouldn’t be too terribly conservative any more.

My search-fu is quite weak, but I have been here long enough to (mis?)remember some politics. PZ and Orac got into it, IIRC. I’m not really that interested in looking it up even if I was competent to do so. I don’t come here for the politics. It rarely gets in the way here. I just thought that DKos was unfairly a civilian casualty of a bomb that should have been aimed at Huffington Post.


It’s exceeding rare for papers to be retracted. Mostoften retractions are done by the authors of the paper because they have been unable to verify parts of the study or some sort of internal investigation has revealed malfeasance.

An retraction like this one instigated by the editors is exceedingly rare.

Yeah, it’s sad, but left, right or center, in the US there seems to be no particular political predictor of who is in danger of being suckered by woo.

The folks at Age of Autism don’t seem to think that Wakefield’s criminal and shameful behavior is anything to worry about. How sad. Wakefield has misled so many and endangered even more.

Kim Stagliano has a post up at AoA about censorship. I posted the following comment, cross-posted here in case they censor me:


A couple notes. First, be careful about brandishing the “censorship” flag against those with whom you disagree. AoA censors a lot of comments that don’t agree with the party line. I have personal experience of that.

Second, the GMC ruling, based on the findings, was justified. Wakefield performed colonoscopies, MRIs and lumbar punctures which were not clinically indicated. These procedures are not without risk, as evidenced by the child whose bowel was perforated during a colonoscopy (performed by someone other than Wakefield, I believe). He also drew blood for research from children at a birthday party, using undue influence (payment of 5 pounds), without prior ethical review board approval. These are all documented and reflect poorly on Wakefield’s ethical behavior during the study.

Whatever sanctions the GMC imposes on Wakefield, Walker-Smith and Murch will have been brought about by their behavior, not their stand on vaccines. The GMC ruling is not censorship.

The Lancet retraction, likewise, is not censorship. In light of details that came forth as a result of the GMC hearings, the validity of the study has come into question (e.g., method of enrolling subjects). Perhaps Wakefield could replicate the study, following proper ethical procedures and sticking to the approved protocol, and try to publish his results, but the 1998 study has too many issues with it to be a reliable source. Wakefield himself should have retracted the paper, quite frankly, but he didn’t. So the Lancet had to.

This comment will be cross-posted to other blogs, so that if you decide to censor it, at least it will still be available to others to read.

@Not the crazy one

Yeah. I left a comment on Kim’s post on AoA, copied above, that still has not been approved. Censoring brave maverick doctors = bad! Censoring dissenting comments = a-okay!

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