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Holy anti-vaccine radio hormones, Batman!

You might have noticed that I’m a bit late today. There’s a reason, and I bet you know what it is. Yep, yet another grant deadline. As usual, that means I didn’t have time to produce my usual dose of not-so-Respectful Insolence. That doesn’t mean I can’t do some good, though, as yesterday the Bat Signal went up with a call for help. Remember SANEVax? (Oh, no. Not them again!) In case you’ve forgotten, SANEVax is the anti-vaccine group that specializes in Gardasil fear mongering, having come to my attention with an incredibly silly variation of the toxin gambit in which they tried to scare people with visions of HPV DNA in Gardasil.

It turns out that one force behind SANEVax, a woman by the name of Leslie Botha, who is the Vice-President of Public Relations, has a radio show during drive time on 88.9 FM KRFC Fort Collins in Colorado. This radio show, called Holy Hormones Honey!, gives every appearance of being little more than an outlet for anti-vaccine and “complementary and alternative medicine” pseudoscience if Botha’s website is any indication. Brian asked my advice regarding whether to complain or not, and, as you might expect, I encouraged him to try to drum up some listener complaints to the radio station for promoting pseudoscience in drive time. He did, and issued a call to action.

In any case, yesterday (at the height of my grant finishing frenzy), I got an e-mail from Brian with the following appeal:

I started asking skeptics everywhere to write into KRFC to express any displeasure they may have. As I expected, a total of two skeptics, my boyfriend and Linda Rosa are the only people who have written in. However, scores of anti-vax proponents noticed my blog post and have called in to the station in droves to support the show. As usual, apathy in the skeptical community seems to be making the other side win. I am reminded of this by looking at the comments on your recent post asking skeptics to write in to support the decision to drop Dr. Lee. If Orac’s readers are more eager to be proactive than any I have been able to find I’m wondering if Orac may be able to work my request for KRFC to drop it’s SaneVax radio show into a post at some point.

So, my readers, there’s a weekend project for my readers, particularly anyone within range of KRFC. Let the station management know you do not appreciate its giving an outlet to anti-vaccine quackery. Brian has the details of how to do it. As I said to Brian, Botha certainly has freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean a radio station is obligated to give her an outlet to spew her anti-vaccine nonsense hither, thither, and yon.

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]

26 replies on “Holy anti-vaccine radio hormones, Batman!”

I suspect a small deluge of letters, pro or con would merely indicate to most radio stations that wowee, there’s a controversy here that could drive up listenership, so we should definitely keep the show.

If this was a commercial station it would make more sense to contact advertisers, to see if they want to be identified with antivax positions that endanger our children and the community at large. At 88.9FM I suspect this is a noncommercial (NPR?) affiliate with only token advertiser presence, which however could still be targeted.

If protests don’t work, letting the station know that it needs to air responses to dangerous quackery and antivax sentiment might prod it into providing airtime to truly sane people, or alternatively to becoming alarmed that someone will contact the FCC inquiring about just how this station is serving its community by running SaneVax twaddle without giving time to opposing views.

A brief search reveals that KFRC is in fact a public station that accepts the equivalent of sponsors (“underwriters”) who get brief announcements mentioning their business in return for whatever rate they charge.

So I suggest complaints go to their underwriters/sponsors, inquiring whether they want their businesses associated with antivax loonery.

Many Thanks Michelle (X 2 !) for the excellent link to Trine’s article. She certainly has informed her readership about these quack doctors.

I think if we let the anti-vax crowd “do their thing”, we will accomplish a lot more. It would be interesting if the AAP and the ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) weighed in about the pseudoscience of rDNA in HPV vaccine.

I’m not getting involved unless specifically asked because I don’t live in the USA, let alone within earshot of this radio station. However, if I may offer a word of advice, to Brian in this instance, but also to skeptics in general, because it’s not the first time I’ve seen this happen:

While readers of blogs like this are usually intelligent and resourceful people, they are also often very busy people (e.g. important grants and stuff to apply for). It would therefore be a good idea to make it as quick and simple as possible for them by providing a brief standard text which can be copied and pasted into an email, and then modified if wished.

It is also a good idea to provide the contact addresses for emailing.

All this saves time for the people you want to help you. After all, in finding the contacts and preparing your own email text, you’ve already done most of the work, haven’t you? It provides incentive and shows that you’ve thought this out a bit. Campaigning is wearing, especially against a tidal wave of Stupid, as exemplified by the SANEvax wingnuts. If you smooth the path, others will follow you.

Plus you can bet your bottom dollar that the loony brigade is doing this, except their spelling and grammar will be far worse. These ****s know how to mobilise the masses. If skeptics opt for anarchy (and this is ME talking), then we’ll never get anywhere.

I had not known about the NoCO Skeptics before this, so thanks for the tip!
For the record, KRFC is a cute little hippie station of the kind I’ve always felt great affection for — but I also know that alt-med goofiness is part of the package. KGNU Boulder is the same way, with zaniness like Brigitte Mars’ Naturally woven into their programming fabric. There is no hope of getting alternative radio to embrace rationality (there’s a reason they call themselves “alternative”, after all) but efforts such as Brian’s serve the useful purpose of reminding them that their most egregious wackaloonery will not go unchallenged. I’ll do my part.

Hey, on the brighter side — we went to see Tim Minchin at the Boulder Theater last Sunday, and the crowd went rabid batshit over his show — so there is a reality-based contingent here as well.

^ I had the same feeling when the Tim Minchin show in SF was sold out and highly enthusiastic. I sometimes despair at the amount of whackaloonery in the Bay Area, and it’s lovely to get a concentrated dose of rational fun.

efforts such as Brian’s serve the useful purpose of reminding them that their most egregious wackaloonery will not go unchallenged.

And just in general let them know that their listeners include rationalists. I have a definite hippy peace-and-love KPIG-listening streak, and I don’t like having it automatically assumed that I want a heaping helping of pseudoscience on the side.

Way back when Brian first commented about this @ RI, I commented back about campaigns opposing woo on the air waves that I know about and how difficult they are; nevertheless, I recorded my objections to the anti-vax show when I called the station on his behalf. Problems here: FC is near Boulder and Ms Botha has another job at the station (PR?) therefore *pull*. Good luck anyway.

In other anti-vax news:

Eager to capitalise upon the attention the Wall St (anti-corporate) protestors have been getting by the media, alt medders will:

Stage an anti- corporate GMO rally Sunday in Washington ( Jeffrey Smith, friend of Mike Adams)-

Stage a protest against corporate-powered vax @ Maiden Lane ( Wall St area, NYC) early next week ( possibly Monday am) various groups will horn in on the action.

I sent a quick letter to the station – I figure any letter is better than no letter. At least a few voices should get to the general manager, program director, etc…. Dissenting opinions, regardless of where they’re from, make an impact.

“Rational Alchemy” is a horrible name for a skeptic site. If he wants to campaign for anything, he needs a serious makeover.

My hubby’s basic places to get all kinds of woo are talk radio. The fact that it is announced BEFORE the ‘show’ that it is actually paid for by the person having the show is of NO INTEREST to him if you point it out. Instead he says, “this has to be right or they couldn’t say it on the radio.”

Seriously – there’s one guy who has an “economics” show that never says anything but doom and then, of course, at the end of his show (and occasionally in the middle) he tells you the safest thing is to invest in gold if you can, silver if you can’t, and what he is offering at what prices that day.

Poor hubby listens to it and assures us even though he has a very safe job that we’ll be living hand to mouth without electricity or running water within six months.

It’s the easiest way to “get” the gullible – get on a radio show or television show and pronounce outdated theories that were once published a lot (and since proven wrong; but don’t mention THAT) and emerging theories that are about things that can be done with supplements that haven’t even gone to mouse models and declare them fact. All the innocent “obviously they couldn’t say it if it wasn’t true” people out there immediately get out their credit cards and order stuff by the boatload.

It makes me SO ANGRY that people are allowed to profit off of others like this in the name of “capitalism.”

Okay I’m reading this:

and it says,”If one does the quick math, it becomes obvious that nearly 10% of the women who received the Gardasil® vaccination experienced an adverse reaction..”

I did the math, dividing 7802 by 8,000,000 (the article said nearly 8000 but at another place stated 7802 and used an estimate of 8,000,000 received vaccine since 2006) and came up with .097% – how is that nearly 10%? It not even nearly ONE percent?

Is my math off or are they assuming people don’t have calculators and/or don’t realize what a “percent” is?

@ Lisa J:

Econo-woo ( like medico-woo) gets people to spend their money, attention, and time on remedies that could prove harmful in the long run: if many people invest in silver and gold, the prices will rise until…. people stop investing and prices drop like a stone. Interestingly enough, I’ve discovered that since the 2008 fiasco,some of those who sell health remedies have somehow also become prognosticators on the economy *and* politics as well.

How likely is suddenly becoming an economic expert virtually over-night just as your audience is becoming as frightened about their economic future as they are of getting cancer?

Off topic (except for the woo): While channel surfing this afternoon, I was dismayed to see Stanislaw Burzynski’s infamous video being run on the Documentary Channel, in its full deceptive, one-sided glory. Yes, it was the very same video run by Mike Adams and among others, portrayed as a legit non-biased documentary. This is a video that sends the alties into a veritable hornet’s nest of anger against the FDA. Here is the link, although I really don’t recommend watching it.

@ Ism: I bypassed the entire video, but did visit Ella Taylor’s review of the film.

I think this film reviewer was out of her league when attempting to review the Burzinski film…especially since it doesn’t appear that she actually viewed the film.

Unfortunately, I agree with many of the 108 comments…she lifted much of her information from a skeptic site…possibly Quackwatch…and just parroted some catchy phrases.

As you know, I am not an advocate for alternative cancer treatments. The Village Voice should have had a science reporter or a cancer researcher (at Sloan Kettering or Orac), review the film.

I’ve done what I can.

I find Botha despicable. I’ve had interactions with her before, and she is one of the types who is very convinced of her own intelligence, education and rightness, and completely uninterested in anything which contradicts her given opinions; no evidence is ever good enough if it disagrees with her, and any “evidence” at all will do if it supports her opinions. She was even active in promoting Andrew Moulden.

She put out her alert with almost as much vigor as Tony Bateson has spent looking for non-vaccinated autistic children.

And yet she is surprised that only 2 people responded to her first call?

I’m sorry, but I cannot get this out of my head . . . .

“Many Bothas died to bring us this information.”

I know, it’s “Bothans” that were mentioned in Return of the Jedi, but it’s one of those puns which, once noticed, cannot be un-noticed, and I had to post it in an attempt to purge it from my brain.

Hi, all. As many of you have said, KRFC is basically a hippie station that has no idea hhat it has in Holy Hormones Honey. What worries me the most is what could happen to the station if someone does go to the FCC. I like KRFC and wany it to continue, any fine would destroy them. That’s why I haven’t done that myself. I’d much rather see them educated and make the right call. I also like the suggestion of writing the underwriters, I hadn’t thought of that. I don’t really think anything will happen, past experience tells me that the anti-vaxxers are essentially immortal, but I’ll keep trying.

As for my own site…. Yes, it’s ugly. Most listeners use iTunes to download the podcast and never see the site, but I agree it needs a facelift. Someday when I’m not busy. And Luna_the_cat, I see you have dealt with Leslie as well. Fun isn’t it? You must be reasonably local, I wonder if I know you?

KRFC is a community run (volunteer), non-profit station. Maybe we could find someone local who has an interest in radio, and wants to pitch a skeptic show to them. It depends a lot on the politics of the station, so I wouldn’t necessarily hold my breath.

Another tactic would be to find some skeptic or pro-vaccine organizations who could approach the station asking for air time to run PSAs. The station isn’t required to run a specific number of PSAs, but it is one major ways that stations demonstrate to the FCC that they are operating “in the public interest.” One local possibility who might already have a PSA script is the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition.

@ Brian Walsh: anticommagirl (love that ‘nym), has a great suggestion about radio PSAs. There are two sites that you might want to look into:

Vaccines for Children NACCHO has PSA “scripts” and prerecorded PSAs for download

NACCHO (National Association of County & City Health Officials) has prerecorded PSAs. Every County, City and State Health Department Commissioner has affiliations with NACCHO, as do each State’s VFC (Vaccines for Children) Program Coordinator.

@Matt Carey — all very well to complain about what someone else is doing, but what are you doing to help?

@Brian Walsh — there was a point at which I was local. Now, not so much, though I have a connection still. Don’t particularly want to explore the details of that online, though. Could email you, if you want.

@anticommagirl — What you said is part of my frustration. The anti-vaccine show is not considered contraversial and is given a Monday at 6:00 PM time slot. My show, Rational Alchemy, which discusses evolution and religion sometimes (but mostly general skepticism), airs at midnight on Monday morning. I already have a skeptic show and the stations listeners would never hear it. And I guess you haven’t either. 🙂 I’m on iTunes 🙂

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