If there is one aspect of cranks that is almost universal (besides the aforementioned tendency to want to prove themselves through things like “live televised debates“), it’s a tendency to want to shut down the criticism of its opposition. True, such a tendency is a human trait as well and used far too often by, say, corporations, but it’s one that seems to be cranked up to 11 and beyond, as they say, in cranks.
We’ve seen it time and time again. Most often, it takes the form of some sort of legal bullying, such as when the British Chiropractic Association bit off more than it could chew by suing British writer Simon Singh in essence over his use of the word “bogus” to describe chiropractic. Fortunately, they were ignominiously defeated and had to retreat like the scum that they are. Sometimes the legal thuggery takes the form of going after the ISP of whomever the crank doesn’t like, such as when quack extraordinaire (in my not-so-humble opinion) Joseph Chikelue Obi temporarily silenced Andy Lewis of The Quackometer. Other examples abound, such as when the Society of Homeopaths forced Andy Lewis to take down an article criticizing homeopaths in the U.K. for claiming that homeopathy can treat malaria. And don’t even get me started on the vacuous legal threats by a man associated with the Burzynski Clinic, legal threats so hilariously over-the-top and embarrassing that even a man with no shame (Stanislaw Burzynski) was forced to disavow Marc Stephens, the man making the threats against a teenaged U.K. skeptic.
Over and over and over and over again, the story is the same. A skeptic aims the light of reason and science into a crevice of unreason and pseudoscience, the target of that light doesn’t like it and, instead of slithering back under the rock from which he came, decides to try to abuse the legal system to get back at the skeptic. Legal thuggery is a feature, not a bug, of crankery and quackery. Perhaps the most popular new mechanism for silencing opponents, be it by cranks, quacks, or even big corporations, is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. About three months ago, I linked to and embedded an excellent YouTube video by C0nc0rdance. Go to my link right now and try to play the video. What do you see?
This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Merola Productions, LLC.
Yes, apparently Eric Merola has issued a DMCA takedown notice against C0nc0rdance, and Google, as it so often cravenly does, simply complied. At least, that’s what C0nc0rdance has stated, and I have no reason not to believe him. The problem with the DMCA, of course, is that once a takedown notice has been issued, it’s devilishly hard for the YouTube user to contest it, which has led to a cottage industry of bogus DMCA takedown notices. Punishment of issuers of abusive DMCA takedown notices is rare, and ISPs and other web hosts often have little choice but to take DMCA notices at face value because of how the law is written. In fact, C0nc0rdance posted a brief video explaining what was going on, but if you go to that link you will rapidly find this notice:
This video has been removed as a violation of YouTube’s policy against spam, scams, and commercially deceptive content.
Gee, I wonder who complained to YouTube about that video so rapidly, given that it hadn’t been up more than a day or so before it was taken down? Could it be…Eric Merola? That would be my first guess, of course. This is, after all, a man who complained to Bob Blaskiewicz’s university about his online activities opposing Burzynski, an act that was so reminiscent of the Jake Crosby-inspired attempt to get me fired from my job as surgical faculty at my current university three years ago that I completely related to Bob’s discomfort.
Amusingly, though, the Internet, being the Internet, does not react well to bogus DMCA takedown notices. Already, C0nc0rdance’s video about the Burzynski Clinic has been mirrored here, here, and here. I’ll embed one of these mirrored versions of the video for your viewing pleasure. It’s really worth taking a look at because it explains the essence of skeptical objections to Burzynski concisely and clearly, so that everyone can understand:
No doubt Mr. Merola will take the mirroring of C0nc0rdance’s video as “evidence” of some sort of grand conspiracy by “The Skeptics,” given that he has repeated claims about such grand conspiracies at both of his Q&As after screenings of his new movie. Mr. Merola, assuming he really was the one issuing this DMCA takedown notice, should Google the “Streisand effect.” It really is applicable here. There’s no grand conspiracy. There never has been, as getting skeptics—excuse me, “The Skeptics”—to paddle in the same direction on anything is much like the proverbial herding of cats. Mirroring like this and more people writing about the criticisms that Merola has tried to suppress is just what happens on the Internet, in particular on social media, whenever a person being criticized tries to use legal thuggery to silence or eliminate that criticism. The examples are legion and include the ones I briefly mentioned at the beginning of this post. There are more, of course. Many more. In an case, although I’m not a lawyer there was nothing in C0nc0rdance’s video that I could see that was anything more than obvious fair use. Early in the video there was a scene showing a shot that included a low resolution shot of the poster for Eric Merola’s Burzynski propaganda movie. Later, there was another shot with that poster, and some random images associated with Merola’s filmmaking business as well as a photo of what looked like him. Quite honestly, if I were C0nc0rdance, I’d just re-edit the video to remove the Burzynski Movie poster and any images of Merola, replacing them with either cartoons or a blank screen with a notice that the images had to be removed because Merola had issued a highly dubious DMCA takedown notice.
Let me also say this. I know that Eric Merola obsessively reads pretty much everything I write about Burzynski; so I know he’ll see this. I also know that @BurzynskiSaves (whose identity I now think I probably know with around 95% certainty) and Didymus Judas Thomas (whose identity I’m probably about 75% sure of and whose Twitter handles mutate as fast as the genome of cancer cells) also obsessively read anything posted about Eric Merola or Stanislaw Burzynski on any social media. Finally, I believe that people like Eric Merola are hypocrites, feeling free to paint “The Skeptics” as “white supremacists” and puppy-eating evildoers to their heart’s content (from what I’ve heard about Merola’s second Burzynski movie, in it skeptics are all but portrayed as Satan Incarnate) but running like whipped puppies to the DMCA when either they or Burzynski are criticized, no matter how civil, reasonable, or science-based that criticism is (and C0nc0rdance’s video was all of the above). The reason is, of course, clear. Having no convincing science, no convincing medicine, and no convincing evidence to support their hero’s antineoplastons or “personalized gene-targeted therapy for dummies,” they resort to legal thuggery, the difference being, of course, that puppies are cute, lovable, and of great comfort to many people.
Same as it ever was.
One more thing: If Eric Merola, Stanislaw Burzynski, and his crew of sycophants, toadies, and lackeys are offended by my opinion, my characterization of them that I have based on analyses of Burzynski’s claims and observation of the behavior of Burzynski and his propagandist Eric Merola, they should try something different to shut me up. I have just the thing, too. Publishing the results of some of Burzynski’s allegedly completed phase II trials for the scientific community comes to mind first. If Burzynski really has the goods, as Merola and company claim, then he can best shut up critics by bringing the science—solid, convincing science, that is. I’ve said it before many times, and I’ll say it again: I can be convinced by strong preclinical and clinical evidence. I have yet to see anything resembling strong evidence from Burzynski. At least, if he has such evidence he hasn’t published it yet, preferring to publish a mixture of case reports, tiny case series, unimpressive basic science, and the like in bottom-feeding journals, some of which aren’t even indexed in PubMed. A conspiracy among editors of journals is not the reason, contrary to the claims in the second Burzynski movie. Nor is a conspiracy of skeptics—excuse me, “The Skeptics”—the reason why trying to suppress criticism will boomerang on Merola. It’s all because of Burzynski’s own behavior and Merola’s willingness to distort, misinform, and slime Burzynski critics.
ADDENDUM: C0nc0rdance has now posted a “scrubbed,” “Merola-friendly” version of his original video. It’s well worth watching:
Go. Spread the word (and the link)!