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Why won’t you call me, RFK, Jr.? Let’s talk about vaccines!

What’s Keith Kloor got that I haven’t got?

What’s Laura Helmuth got that I haven’t got?

Why won’t Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. call me to complain about all the not-so-Respectful Insolence I’ve directed his way over the years. I mean, seriously. I spend nearly eight years criticizing his antivaccine crank views, and these two get personal attention from The Man after just one post! I don’t even get an e-mail, even though it’s right there: [email protected].

I’m sorry. I’m just feeling a little envious (do Plexiglass boxes of blinking colored lights feel envy?) because both Kloor and Helmuth have been contacted by one of my favorite targets for not-so-Respectful Insolence, an antivaccine political activists who arguably helped launch my blogging career way back in 2005. Yes, I’m talking about Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., whose now infamous article, published simultaneously to and Rolling Stone and consisting of nothing but antivaccine pseudoscience and misinformation liberally sprinkled with conspiracy mongering, Deadly Immunity, “inspired” the first bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence that was noticed by a larger audience. Of course, ultimately, retracted the article, but Rolling Stone did not, and it’s still there on the Rolling Stone website, along with RFK, Jr.’s website. So, in a way, I suppose I have to thank RFK, Jr. for having helped to launch the longstanding blogging phenomenon that is this blog. Remember, back then, I had been at this for only around six months.

So what happened? First, RFK, Jr. gave a keynote address at the antivaccine quackfest (which, by the way, was just as quacky as ever in 2013) known as Autism One back in May. In that speech, he really let his antivaccine freak flag fly. Indeed, Dan Olmsted, the editor of one of the crankiest antivaccine crank blogs out there, Age of Autism, published a glowing report on RFK, Jr.’s speech entitled RFK Jr., Nazi Death Camps and the Battle For Our Future. I, naturally, could not resist such a big, juicy target, any more than a starving pit bull could resist a big, juicy steak; so I let Olmsted and Kennedy have it, asking antivaccinationists if we could please knock it off with the autism-Holocaust analogies, already. Amusingly, sometime over the last two weeks, Olmsted’s article disappeared from AoA. Fortunately, parts of it are still quoted in my post, and the entire thing is still available as a Google cache, so that I can easily remind you how much Olmsted praised some of RFK, Jr.’s vile analogies:

Each of us will have our highlights from last weekend’s extraordinary Autism One gathering in Chicago, but for me it was Bobby Kennedy Jr. saying, “To my mind this is like the Nazi death camps.”

“This” is the imprisonment of so many of our children in the grip of autism. Talk about cutting through the neurodiverse claptrap! When Bobby Kennedy says something, it gives “cover,” in a sense, for others to use the same kind of language and frame the debate in the same kind of way. (Language that reminds me of David Kirby’s phrase, “the shuttered hell” of autism, in Evidence of Harm.)

Those who can advocate for themselves should do so. Move right along, please. Those who cannot have advocates like their parents and RFK Jr. who are sick of mincing words.

And, apparently, mincing words is something RFK, Jr. didn’t do. According to Olmsted’s report, he ranted (actually, that’s my interpretation of Olmsted’s account) about how Paul Offit should be thrown in jail, even going so far as to compare him to Nazi war criminals. At the time I was raining down a bit of my Insolence on Olmsted and Kennedy’s heads, I noted how much I would love to see a video of the keynote address, to get the full impression of what sorts of antivaccine rhetoric RFK, Jr. laid down. After all, one wonders if RFK, Jr. surpassed, for example, Hilary Butler in the egregiousness of gratuitous argumentum ad Nazi-um. Perhaps my favorite part of Olmsted’s account was that if the government didn’t remove even trace amounts of thimerosal from vaccines in one year, RFK, Jr. was going to…publish a book!

Seriously. What’s next? The comfy chair? Oh, no! Anything but that!

But back to Keith Kloor and Laura Helmuth. Keith Kloor blogs for DISCOVER and weighed in with an article entitled Is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. antiscience? (Hint: The answer is yes, yes, yes, much as another answer 40 years ago was “Guilty, guilty, guilty!“) Over at, Phil Plait, taking note of RFK, Jr.’s appearance at the premier antivaccine quackfest of the year, wrote a post pointing out what skeptics had known about RFK, Jr. at least since 2004, namely that he is antivaccine to the core. As a result of Kloor’s criticism, RFK, Jr. contacted him. As a result of Phil Plait’s post, he also contacted Laura Helmuth, who just so happens to be science and health editor for

After that, as they say, hilarity ensued.

Kloor, for instance, points out that Kennedy views his threat to publish a book as no idle threat. Not only does he stand behind his misinformation-laden claim that thimerosal in vaccines is responsible for an “epidemic” of autism, but he thinks he’ll be vindicated. One can picture him cackling wildly, rubbing his hands together, and saying, “They thought me mad—mad, I tell you!—but I’ll show them! I’ll show them all!” He even apparently believes he’s pro-vaccine and reassured Kloor multiple times during the interview that he was. (And I bet he said he was “pro-safe vaccine,” too.) Despite all these disclaimers, though, RFK, Jr. stuck to the antivaccine line, and, according to him, there are lots of scientists out there who agree with him, too:

After I pointed out a second time that scientists haven’t found any causal link between autism and thimerosal in vaccines, he responded:

That’s true that regulatory scientists are saying that. But not the research scientists. I can show you paper after paper in the most respected peer review journals, and all them are gasping, “why is this stuff still available’?

He told me that the book he commissioned has a chapter “we were going to leave out, because it’s so controversial, but the evidence is so strong that thimerosal causes autism,” that he’s keeping it in.

Yet in the next breath he said he wasn’t going to publish the book (even though it has a publisher and is going through edits right now) because it is so explosive that he doesn’t want it to prompt a mass panic: “I don’t want parents to stop vaccinating their kids.” (“I’m pro-vaccine,” he insisted several times during the call.) I tell Kennedy that if he feels he’s marshaled compelling evidence showing a link between thimerosal and autism, then he has a responsibility to show it and not merely expect people to take his word for it. I certainly am not. I also suspect that Kennedy is as objective and open-minded on this issue as Marc Morano is on climate change.

One wonders if these “research scientists” to whom Kennedy refers happen to be Christopher Shaw. Or maybe he means Shaw’s partner in woo, Lucija Tomljenovic. Or perhaps he means Stephanie Seneff, who’s followed Mark and David Geier’s well-trodden path of dumpster-diving in the VAERS database. Or maybe he meant Boyd Haley, a former chemistry professor turned antivaccine crank who even developed a “supplement” that was in reality an industrial chelator, all to treat “mercury overload” from vaccines? Or maybe he means Helen Ratajczak, who wrote a hilariously off-base “review” article that was basically a regurgitation of every major antivaccine pseudoscientific talking point—but I repeat myself—that there is. Yes, I bet RFK, Jr. could find some “research scientists” to support antivaccine views. The problem is that they’re all either cranks doing bad science on vaccines, scientists with no background in vaccines or immunology, or both. I’m sure I’ll have a good time reading that chapter when the book comes out. I wonder if RFK, Jr. will send me a review copy if I ask really nice.

Helmuth’s conversation with RFK, Jr. was a bit lengthier, but I really have to give her props for how she started her article:

There are two sides to almost every story, and sometimes we publish both of them. That’s true even for science. When the new edition of psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual came out, Slate ran stories criticizing it and praising it. We’ve made the case that coal still rules and that it is doomed. But three areas of science are beyond scientific debate even though they are still debated by a lot of people. Evolution and climate change are two. (It makes sense to debate what to do about climate change, but the fact of it has been thoroughly established.) The other is vaccines.

I also like how Helmuth asked for a transcript or video of Kennedy’s infamous vaccine Nazis speech at Autism One this year and noted that neither Kennedy’s office nor the conference organizers provided her with one.

Now, I do have to quibble a little (it is, after all, me here). I know what she’s trying to say here, but neither evolution, climate change, nor vaccines are “beyond scientific debate.” The issue is that the evidence for evolution and anthropogenic global warming is so vast and strong and comes from multiple different sources that converge on the same theory that there is no need to routinely quote people from the “other side” when writing about these topics. Unless some powerful evidence is produced, evidence sufficiently potent to call standard science into doubt and/or sufficiently extensive that it is in the same order of magnitude of the evidence supporting these theories, there really is no reason to take the “other side” seriously from a strictly scientific standpoint. The same is true for the idea that vaccines cause autism. The hypothesis has been tested multiple times and has failed every time. Multiple large epidemiological studies have failed to find a link between either thimerosal and autism or vaccines in general and autism. It can quite correctly be said that, at present, there is not a whisper of a whiff of a hint of a correlation between vaccines and autism. In stories about vaccines, it is not necessary for “balance” to quote antivaccinationists. After all, do we routinely quote flat earthers for stories about geology or astronomy?

In any case, if you have any doubt that RFK, Jr. is a bona fide raving antivaccine loon, read Laura Helmut’s article. You will learn:

The short version of the vaccine conspiracy theory (if you are stuck on the phone with RFK Jr., you will be subjected to the long version) is that a vaccine preservative called thimerosal causes autism when injected into children. Government epidemiologists and other scientists, conspiring with the vaccine industry, have covered up data and lied about vaccine ingredients to hide this fact. Journalists are dupes of this powerful cabal that is intentionally poisoning children.

You’ll also learn that RFK, Jr. either lies or is deluded:

He spoke to one scientist (he named her but I won’t spread the defamation) who, he said, “was actually very honest. She said it’s not safe. She said we know it destroys their brains.”

I asked the scientist about their conversation. She said there is in fact no evidence that thimerosal destroys children’s brains, and that she never said that it did.

(I rather suspect I know who this scientist is.)

He claims that it’s a huge conspiracy and that scientists are lying:

Kennedy claims that scientists admit to him in private that they are lying about the data. When he challenged one university scientist about the accuracy of studies showing that the presence of thimerosal in vaccines had no effect on autism diagnoses, “He folded like a house of cards. Three weeks later I heard him on the radio and he was saying the same things he said to me, which I knew he knew was lying.”

Funny how this is all in private and no reputable scientist will actually come out and admit that he or she thinks vaccines cause autism. It’s always the same old cranks, like Mark Geier, Christopher Shaw, Boyd Haley, and the like. Surely, if so many of them believed that we were poisoning our children with vaccines, one of them would have come forward over the last 15 or 20 years since the initial concern about mercury in vaccines.

Perhaps the most hilarious part of all has to be the belief expressed by RFK, Jr. that he’s the only one who bothers to read scientific papers. Why? Because everyone else is afraid to:

A cover-up of such proportions might sound like Pulitzer bait, but he says journalists aren’t pursuing the story because we won’t read scientific papers. (Phil Plait and I both have science Ph.D.s.) As RFK Jr. explained, “journalists get their information from government officials who are saying there’s no problem. Not one of them has picked up the multitude of studies that say thimerosal is the most potent brain killer imaginable.” When RFK Jr. challenged the university scientist about a study of the biological activity of thimerosal in vitro, which “everybody accepts because journalists hadn’t read it,” the scientist said, “ ‘Oh, yeah, you’re right about that.’ He backpedaled.” That’s because “now he was dealing with somebody who wasn’t afraid to read science.”

Helmuth points out that both she and Phil Plait, for instance, both have PhDs. I’ll point out that, even though I’m not officially a journalist, I have an MD and a PhD. (Ha! So, there!) Moreover, I read papers. I read a lot of them. Unlike RFK, Jr., I understand them. Even more like RFK, Jr., I can put them into context with existing science. RFK, Jr. cherry picks studies, distorts them, and has no clue about science. He seems particularly enamored of in vitro studies, even though, as I’ve pointed out before, in vitro it’s easy to have toxic effects and it’s very easy to kill cells in a dish. And it’s not just scientific papers, either. I read transcripts. For instance, I read the Simpsonwood transcripts, which RFK, Jr. twisted into a massive conspiracy theory to cover up the “evidence” that thimerosal causes autism. Skeptico had even more of a field day with RFK, Jr.’s misrepresentations of what happened at Simpsonwood. (He’s still having a field day, eight years later.)

Finally, something that’s very important is that RFK, Jr. feeds into the underdog narrative, which is very powerful, as is the fear of “unnatural” chemicals. Combine these two problems with the self-aggrandizing, almost gnostic, belief that RFK, Jr. and his follow antivaccine activists possess secret knowledge that no one else does (and that RFK, Jr. won’t show you, either—you’ll just have to take his word for it!) and you’re dealing with a religious belief, an untouchable, unshakeable belief that is immune to evidence, reason, or argument.

There is one thing that I must respectfully, but strongly, disagree with Helmuth on, and that’s her assertion at the end of her article that, because of his fame and cachet within the environmental movement, RFK, Jr. “could reverse the course of the anti-vaccine movement today if he announced that his concern about vaccines had been well-intentioned, but that research has shown that vaccines don’t cause autism after all.” I know the antivaccine movement. I’ve been studying it since the turn of the century. I can tell you with some authority that, were RFK, Jr. to renounce antivaccinationism and state unequivocally that neither vaccines nor thimerosal causes autism, it would not change the antivaccine movement one whit. What would happen is that RFK, Jr. would be vilified as a traitor among antivaccinationists and there would be conspiracy theories sprouting up that the government and big pharma had somehow “gotten” to him. It’s the nature of conspiracy theories.

As for RFK, Jr., this latest incident demonstrates that he is just as much a raving antivaccine crank and conspiracy theorist now as he was in 2005, when I first became acquainted with him. Same as it ever was.

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]

87 replies on “Why won’t you call me, RFK, Jr.? Let’s talk about vaccines!”

It is nice to see a journalist criticize this false fairness and fear of offending dangerously stupid people.

Let them provide valid scientific evidence, not personal stories by people who don’t know what they are talking about.


I love conspiracy theories as narrative. Some of my favorite pieces of media based their plots on the conspiracy theories (if anyone is curious, and even if no one is – Illuminatus trilogy and Dues Ex are good examples). But there is one thing I can not understand about the one concerning the shadowy cabal pushing vaccines. What is a purpose of such cabal?

If it was money I belive it would be more profitable to cut the payments for the shills/maintanace of plexiglass boxes full of blinking lights, admit vaccines cause autism and push V.P.D. medicines instead. This plan has additional advantage of eliminating the risk of someone bailing himself out and betraying the conspiracy.

So, since it is not money, then what are the goals of great Vaccine Conspiracy? Cause I can imagine some more efficent ways to further the world domination plan, than pushing vaccines. Since those activities ommint the “???” step in the planning phase…

Ha, you know, I was just reading that Slate article, and thought “I wonder what Orac makes of this?” Not one minute later, you did a twitter update. (Then I had something to do so I didn’t comment for an hour). Clearly this is proof of the supernatural. One million dollars pls.

Ahem, but seriously, I would have loved to hear that phone call. Her description of it makes it sound highly entertaining, albeit a bit head explod-y. If reputable scientists were really telling him in private how correct he is, you’d think he’d record it or something. Perhaps he’s interpreting people saying “okay…” then edging away as agreement

@TSOL – actually, if you spend any amount of time at AoA you’ll become familiar with the “depopulation” wing of the Anti-Vax Party. These individuals truly believe that a Global Cabal, dedicated to population reduction, eugenics, and mind control, exists and is using vaccines (fronted by individuals such as Bill Gates) to further their goals.

These people are nut-jobs.

One wonders if these “research scientists” to whom Kennedy refers happen to be Christopher Shaw. Or maybe he means Shaw’s partner in woo, Lucija Tomljenovic.

Do Drs Shaw and Tomljenovic have an issue with thimerosal, though?

@Orac: You should check out the website for Kennedy’s talk radio show, “Ring of Fire.” Apart from stuff on global warming and other mainstream progressive issues, the show is filled to the gills with “Big Pharma” conspiracy theories. Kennedy’s co-host is a guy named Mike Papantonio, who makes his living as a trial lawyer, i.e. “ambulance chaser,” so it’s easy to see where all of this is coming from. Papantonio happens to be a contributor to the RT Network like our old friend Mike Adams.

Here is an example of the anti-science paranoia peddled on “Ring of Fire”:

“(RFK Jr.) told me that the book he commissioned has a chapter “we were going to leave out, because it’s so controversial, but the evidence is so strong that thimerosal causes autism,” that he’s keeping it in.”

Read the chapter that was so controversial, it even scared RFK Jr.! Find out what They Don’t Want You To Know!

What a loon.

The only good thing about RFK Jr.’s ravings is that if he continues on his downward trajectory, there’s hope he’ll finally tarnish the Kennedy mystique for good.

If RFK Jr renounced his antivax views it would just provoke outrage and hostility from his followers.

This has actually played out before in the 9/11 truth movement. Charlie Veitch (a bit player by all accounts) started off as a truther activist and had a change of heart along the way and recanted. It became major headlines in the movement and many went apeshit at his betrayal and threw out accusations that he was a paid disinfo agent, a sleeper cell, a plant etc. Just about every nutball rationalization rather than accept the more likely one – that he changed his mind. It’s an almost cult-like mentality with the same sense of betrayal when someone leaves.

I’m sure antivaxxers would turn out equally ridiculous rationalizations for RFK Jr if he or some other prominent voice changed their minds. Not that it is likely to happen.

It appears RFK mostly has problems with thimerosal.
Considering how rare that has become in childhood vaxes, I don’t get how he can continue with that complaint. Autism should have gone way down in the last decade. If ya want sell scary theories about vaccination, this is about the worst one you could pick.
So why has he picked thimerosal? Is it just cause that’s where he got started? Some fetish? More professional cranks have constantly mutating theories instead.

The Smith of Lie,

Some of my favorite pieces of media based their plots on the conspiracy theories (if anyone is curious, and even if no one is – Illuminatus trilogy and Dues Ex are good examples).

Robert Anton Wilson was the letters editor for Playboy for several years, and collected readers’ letters that were too weird for the magazine to print. He and Robert Shea later wove them into Illuminatus! (among my favorite books). I am still occasionally surprised by something that I had assumed they invented, turning out to be real, usually in the sense of people really believing some wingnuttery, though it seems that John Dillinger’s freakishly long penis really may be pickled in a jar somewhere in the Smithsonian (see ‘Schlong Ago’).

It was Slate, not Salon, and from Helmuth’s article, I got the impression that she had to put the phone down a lot and walk away during the rant so perhaps you’re lucky he’s ignoring you.

OT but crankery-related — music legend Joni Mitchell believes she’s suffering from Morgellon’s:

But in recent years, Mitchell’s concerns have been less artistic and more practical as she has struggled with Morgellons Syndrome, a parasitic infestation some doctors claim is delusional. Sufferers have inexplicable painful skin lesions and a general weakening of the immune system.
“I haven’t been doing much lately because I’ve just come through about seven years of a flattening kind of illness. I’m not cured but I’ve found a helpful physician way outside the box. Western medicine says this doesn’t even exist, it’s a psychotic disease. It’s not.”

I don’t really expect an entertainment writer to know this is a crank diagnosis, but it’s still disappointing to see it in print. I sincerely hope the “helpful physician” isn’t just stringing her along.

He spoke to one scientist (he named her but I won’t spread the defamation)

I’m of two minds about this line. Maybe it was a case of he said, she said, for which this is the proper response. But if $SCIENTIST is on record as saying one thing, and $LUNATIC claims she said the opposite, I’d be inclined to name $SCIENTIST and refer to $LUNATIC as “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Rork @10 noticed the same thing I did: RFK Jr. seems not to have gotten the memo that childhood vaccines haven’t contained thimerosal for over a decade, yet autism incidence has not declined, as one would expect if thimerosal caused autism. But then, I suspect that few if any of the ant-vax crowd got that memo.

Probably the only good news is when these nutso types’ rhetoric gets insanely inflammatory (e.g Holocaust comparisons), most rational folks do a reality check on what they are hearing/reading. This of course assumes we still have more rational than irrational folks and those folks have learned enough history to know what the Holocaust was all about.

It was Slate, not Salon

I’m confused at this comment. Nowhere in my post does it say otherwise. I checked. And searched.

@Edith – Joni’s been claiming that for years, I think 2008 was the first time I read of her issues with “Morgellons”.

Morgies are the elite of science-deniers, the nadir of the ableist cohort who can’t have a mental illness because they’re not “psychotic” (a la Ms Mitchell) or “crazy”, they’re “really ill”.

If bathing in Dettol, munching horse dewormers and putting snot under a microscope is not “crazy” then nothing much is.

Like you say, I wish journo’s would be a little less bloody credulous, and I wish humanity in general would drop the ridiculous Cartesian dualism that’s still rife, despite y’know, science!

BTW – Seen the myriad pictures of the “nanobots” that create a “bio-mesh” inside Morgies? Blind Freddy* could see that it’s just glitter, the herpes of craft material.

*Or me, impaired vision, but can spot glitter at a kilometre. I love the stuff, but it gets everywhere, even years after using certain types I’ll find random specks.

Or maybe they’re nanobots trying to enforce the transhumanist agenda. Ahem.


RFK, Jr.,
You make me stronger. You fill me up.

You complete me.

Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihL
Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Pharmaca Magna of Terra, Thimerosoldier of Fortune

Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital


P.S. Just don’t open your mouth, your voice is like my claws on a xthrinx slate.

Morgies are the elite of science-deniers, the nadir of the ableist cohort who can’t have a mental illness because they’re not “psychotic” (a la Ms Mitchell) or “crazy”, they’re “really ill”.

If bathing in Dettol, munching horse dewormers and putting snot under a microscope is not “crazy” then nothing much is.

Indeed, it is dispiriting when you look at the things people will do to themselves all because of a knee-jerk prejudice against the word “delusional”.

Aye. “I’ll show you I’m not delusional!”. Yes yes, by raving at length about chemtrails and nanobots, and insisting that the stuff on their heads and bodies is not hair, no it’s “pseudo hair”, that retracts at night, and then moves around the body in order to “seed” more bots.

And to think that people don’t believe that stigma around mental illness causes real harm, or that stigma about developmental disabilities (back to AOA there) doesn’t kill.

The Midwesterner: “It was Slate, not Salon,”

Yes, Kennedy, originally wrote a terrible article in Salon, repeated at Rolling Stone, several years ago. That is the only time Salon was mentioned by Orac. It got some Respectful Insolence in the original version of this blog:

The most recent articles on how silly Mr. Kennedy is being are on Slate (actually two of them, Phil Plait did one), and on Discover Magazine site. Other than the mention of the Bad Astronomer article, the word “Slate” is in the html links.

“There is one thing that I must respectfully, but strongly, disagree with Helmut on, and that’s her assertion at the end of her article…”

I read this article when Mnookin tweeted it, and I had the same reaction to that statement. If he rejects his anti-vax stance, the anti-vax movement won’t be hurting for leaders. They’ll hang on to his anti-vax writings and forget about the rest.

It was indeed lovely, though, to read a popular science journo come out and reject the ‘false balance’ idea (a la Dara O’Briain and the Carpet Painted By God).

I think midwesterner’s confusion may be that Helmuth’s article is in Slate and RFK’s retracted article was in Salon. Apologies if I’m wrong though.

In connection with the possibility of RFK’s anti-vax apostasy, just think of the flood of superbly researched, faultlessly reasoned, and fantastically persuasive polemics from our dear friends such as young Mr. Crosby et Alia.

“OT but crankery-related — music legend Joni Mitchell believes she’s suffering from Morgellon’s”

I recall hearing some years ago about people claiming that threads were coming out of their skin. Haven’t heard about that in a long time – I wonder if it’s related to Morgellon’s.

@Bonnie – that’s typically the central complaint of the morgies, that threads or fibres are coming out of their skin.

That’s old skool though, now they complain about black oil pouring from their skin, insects coming out of every orifice, microchips in their blood, and hair that attacks them and acts as antennae for the nanobots.

It’s essentially an internet meme. Itchy people, crack and meth users with. drug-induced formication (not as fun as it sounds!), and conspiracy theorists of the worst kind. All collected together, all hyped up on lack of sleep with their bizarre theories bolstered by confirmation bias and by what almost seems like a competition to see who has the most outrageous symptom or theory, or the weirdest 500x magnification of skin/scabs/snot/bodily ooze. That’s the morgies.

The official diagnosis is delusional parasitosis, but morgies have the same reaction to the idea of mental illness as people with other somatisation disorders do.

Or me, impaired vision, but can spot glitter at a kilometre. I love the stuff, but it gets everywhere, even years after using certain types I’ll find random specks.

You would have enjoyed the company of my friend Claire. After the Doktorling Sonja was born, Claire sent us a parcel of infant clothing and such as… rashly, we opened it in bed, not realising that it was also a Glitter Bomb.

Years later we were extracting little ninja-throwing-star fragments from body crevices.

@HDB – Yep, I think that if nuclear annihilation wiped out humanity and all we’d created, future visitors to Earth would still find metric shitloads of glitter.

It’s been a good 18months since I used a smidgen of glittery eye makeup in this room, and it can still be found stuck to various bits of me. Other Mrs elburto is convinced I exude sparkles from my pores. Hmm… maybe I should start taking pics at 500x magnification and documenting it!

@HDB – Yep, I think that if nuclear annihilation wiped out humanity and all we’d created, future visitors to Earth would still find metric sh¡tloads of glitter.

It’s been a good 18months since I used a smidgen of glittery eye makeup in this room, and it can still be found stuck to various bits of me. Other Mrs elburto is convinced I exude sparkles from my pores. Hmm… maybe I should start taking pics at 500x magnification and documenting it!

I am not an especially ardent fan of glitter:
long ago, a group of young friends acquired front row seating for a well-known glam-ish androgyne performer’s gig; one gay guy brought a large bottle of silver glitter with which he had planned to shower said well-known glam-ish androgyne performer at an opportune moment while an accomplice photographed his sparkly misdeed.

To make a long story short, he missed his target and most of the tiny projectiles landed in my hair.
They remained there for a while despite my efforts to rid myself of them. After the show, I had to be seen publicly in a hip restauarant in such disarray.
It wouldn’t have been half as bad if the glitter had been black.

I’ll say this, glitter is hard to remove from clothing. especially if you are not expecting it.

I was at a dance party with a few friends a few years back when some guy decided to pour glitter on me and a few friends.

To this day, I still see specks of glitter on the clothing I wore that night.

I love how it’s turned into a thread about the various despicable qualities of glitter. Sorry Orac!

Yep, lasts forever, that’s why I’m never too surprised to see it in morgiereports.

@Denice – There’s not really a way to make glitter look dignified, is there? Can’t have been fun shedding it like incandescent dandruff during a meal, not least because it tastes foul. Cuts your tongue to shreds too.

I haven’t seen anyone mention this tragic story yet:

A month or so ago, AoA was agitating for a severely autistic young man, Alex Spourdalakis to be moved from Chicago Loyola University Medical Center to a “safe place”, rather than be transferred to a state psychiatric facility.

Andrew Wakefield was drafted in and made a cringeworthy video, appealing for “a safe place” for Alex where he could undergo “necessary treatment” and get “the proper diet”. There’s no mention of what this treatment is.

Shortly after AoA posted this video (27th May), as I understand it, a donor came forward with enough money for Alex’s mother to take Alex out of the hospital, take him home to that safe place and care for him.

Alex is now dead.

On 11th June, Alex’s mother, Dorothy, and godmother, Jolanta Skrodzka were charged with first degree murder; they’re alleged to have stabbed Alex to death before trying to commit suicide.

There are no words to express quite how I feel.

I remember seeing a kidnap/rape/murder case om TV and the biggest forensic link was apparently a very specific glitter that was really rare. It had been sprinkled on her earlier that evening and it got everywhere – the perp’s car, clothing, the gun he shot her with, everything. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of glitter’s tenacity! If only it weren’t so pretty. :/

Sadly, I have to agree that in the extremely unlikely case that RFK Jr had an epiphany of common sense, the antivax cause would just vilify him as a traitor and keep cherry picking his old quotes anyway.

As for Morgellons… I’ve not kept up recently, clearly. Last I heard it was still weird fibres. But retracting hair and government nanobots? Wow… OTOH, everyone seems to know someone who was “misdiagnosed” or “fobbed off” and that just acts as confirmation bias when someone doesn’t want to, or is unable, to believe a psychiatric diagnosis. But I can’t see the stigma and attitude towards mental health changing any time soon, sadly. It’s still seen as shameful, a weakness of character, a failing, or somehow less valid than a “physical” illness, regardless of any likelihood that mental health problems are almost certainly a product of both the physical brain and psychological experiences. It’s terribly sad, as well as frustrating, to see what people do to themselves (or far worse, their children) just to.prove they aren’t “crazy”.

Handy, we saw that programme too! I said to Other Mrs elburto “Those things look like glitter to me”, to which she replied “You’d know!” (the bloody cheek!).

That was such a strange case, and for the perp to then leave the victim’s very distinctive coat next to (or in?) the bin in his garden was not so clever.

And the morgies, they’ve evolved. When I first became interested they were complaining of itching, biting sensations, and coloured fibres. Now it’s a whole new ball game.

Alongside nanobots (glitter) I’ve seen magnifications of obvious sebum plugs from pores (labelled as some kind of insect larvae), tiny pieces of paper, either printed magazine or recycled toilet paper (labelled. as microdots for tracking humans), and obvious pieces of the little tubey-things of skin that are rubbed off when you towel-dry yourself. They’ve probably got a scientific name.

They claim that various insects are breeding under their skin, and pour out of them at night. They state that clear gel oozes from every pore, gushing out onto household surfaces, and chasing other family members, usually little kids.

There was a popular (for morgies and the “chronic Lyme” brigade) written by a guy who’d detailed some impossible “infestations” in himself, and found “fibres” deep under his skin (nerve fibres, ahem). He was in a folie a deux with his girlfriend. They were leading lights for a while, forum moderators, campaigners etc. Then they stopped smoking crack and snorting coke, et voila, no more beasties!

When they told the forum users that it had been nothing but a delusion, the morgies went nuclear. It was oddly entertaining, while being incredibly unsettling to watch them brand their former best buds as “government sleeper agents”.

As for mental illness stigma, I fear you’re right. I know that my issues with mental illness were worse than my current situation, ie. stuck in one spot since Feb 2012. Despite that, I still felt wicked, selfish, wasting my GPs time with my mental health problems. It’s so deeply ingrained in us all. There are people who deride suicidal people (successful or not) as “selfish” or “attention seeking”, they’ll say things like “Who in their right mind would do that?”, not realising that they’ve just answered their now question. As you said, mental illness is seen as weakness, as a personal failing. My brother used to be like that. A while ago I found out he’d learned the hard way about severe depression, and my heart sank. I never want anyone to find out what it feels like to claw at the sides of that black pit, to plead and beg to be rescued from it, and then to give up, sometimes after years of fighting. It’s soul-destroying.

If only it had overt physical signs (I used to wish for a purple tinge to my skin, or a rash to indicate mental suffering). I can only hope that one day, hopefully soon, people will take mental illnesses as seriously as physical ones.

@Rebecca – it’s being discussed on another thread, I believe. I wouldn’t be surprised if the murderers get non-custodial sentences on the grounds that they were “burdened” with Alex, and had “suffered enough”.

A now defunct blog I used to read (one of the only safe spaces online for disabled people, and as such, dreadfully missed)tried keeping track of murders of PWD by parents/caregivers, month by month. They had to stop, the lists were overwhelmingly long, the details of the crimes too distressing, and the outcomes only served to hammer home that message that the deliberate killing of someone with disabilities is a good thing, that we only cause hardship and suffering to our poor, beleaguered families and carers.

Most murderers were either acquitted (a mercy killing your honour!) or, if found guilty, given pathetic sentences that were comprised of time served.

People with disabilities, physical or mental, cognitive, developmental, whatever, are just not seen as fully human, fully deserving of rights, protection, and just, humane, inclusive treatment. Crimes against us are legion, and under-reported, under-punished, and the effects aren’t given the serious consideration they merit.

I can only hope that, in this recent case, justice is done. I doubt it though. Most killers of disabled people would have received stricter punishment if they’d killed a dog.

@Rebecca: A lot of the AoA comment thread are filled with readers sympathizing with Alex’s killers — how “they were at the end of their rope” despite a light being at the end of the tunnel with that donor — and not sympathizing with Alex himself.

@elburto – Thanks. I’m a bit all over the place at the moment and hadn’t spotted it!

the outcomes only served to hammer home that message that the deliberate killing of someone with disabilities is a good thing

It is fortunate that we have words like “gobshite”, in case some troll comes along espousing the “better-off-dead” philosophy.

I do thank Jake for helping provide evidence to support my contention, though. He apparently thinks RFK, Jr. isn’t anti-thimerosal enough because he said he wouldn’t publish his book chapter. Imagine what Jake would do if RFK, Jr. were to renounce thimerosal conspiracy mongering and join the science-based crowd.

Imagine what Jake would do if RFK, Jr. were to renounce thimerosal conspiracy mongering and join the science-based crowd.

Scene: A city street. Two anti-vaccine advocates are waiting at a stop, one, a young fellow (Youth), button-down shirt untucked. The other, a middle-aged guy (Guy) with a broad smile. A city bus approaches.

Guy: So I’ve got this book filled with evidence that thimerosal is the most awful thing ever…even worse than nuclear bombs. I’m not going to publish it, though, unless The Man won’t give in to my demands.

Youth: Oh no! I dropped my pencil case in the street. Could you grab it for me?

Guy stoops down to retrieve the pencil case. The bus draws closer. Youth gives Guy a nudge in the direction of the bus. Guy stumbles and falls. Fade to black.

@ Rebecca: I’ve been following that serialization of Alex’s hospitalizations at AoA for weeks and we are now discussing his murder on another thread here at RI:

Poor Jake, even Nanstiel is leaving him. It wasn’t too long ago the Nanstiel, on behalf of Jake, was challenging a science blogger to a debate.

(Not that it will ever happen)…if Kennedy ever backed down on his mercury fixation, the AoA crowd would just find another standard bearer to carry on the good fight.

Todd W. Good one !

Thanks to Anne Dachel, we have this update (June 11th) list of scientists and doctors and who like Bobby Kennedy, have “concerns’ about vaccines:

“he following is a list of scientists and physicians who acknowledge that vaccines can and do harm some children and/or have some concern about a vaccine, combinations of vaccines, the vaccine schedule, or an ingredient or ingredients in vaccines. These professionals are not anti-vaccine (though some of the medical doctors are) rather they recognize that vaccines, like all pharmaceutical products, carry risks. They also know that scientific inquiry should never cease.”

“They have either spoken publicly about their concerns or have published research that explores safety issues relating to a vaccine, the vaccine schedule, a combination of vaccines or ingredients in vaccines.

While the media attacks Dr. Andrew Wakefield claiming he is the only doctor with concerns about vaccines and that he alone has caused millions of parents to lose faith in vaccinations, this assertion is demonstrably untrue. Rather, hundreds of scientists and doctors have voiced concerns and have published research investigating adverse reactions to vaccines and their components. Placing the blame for parental concerns on Dr. Andrew Wakefield is disingenuous at best and blatantly dishonest at worst. Parents have read the research themselves and this is why they are concerned.

It is time for the media to do their job, read the research and talk with the hundreds of doctors and scientists who have expressed concerns.”

@lilady – if you eliminate PhD’s from that list, it is actually a very short list…..

Shortly after AoA posted this video (27th May), as I understand it, a donor came forward with enough money for Alex’s mother to take Alex out of the hospital, take him home to that safe place and care for him.

No, they had been in that apartment since at least last November. He was going to go “an undisclosed location” in another state. It’s been a looong time since I was divorced (and there weren’t any kids involved), but Dorothy filed on February 7; I recall promptly being required to make support payments during the pendency of the case.

The bit about the anonymous (?) donor coming forth to help the Spourdalakis family is something that I had not seen before.It puts a completely different light on the whole story.Yes they should have jumped on this offer.

That said,I don’t think you can understand where these families have been,unless you have been in a similar situation yourself.Quality of life trumps everything.This is why I support assisted suicide for people with cancer after all science based treatment options have failed.I’m sorry,but those at the mild end of the spectrum,who have been able to work,raise families,have no other serious medical or brain based comorbidities have no clue how bad things can get,or the depths of despair and hopelessness you can sink to,either as a parent or a person with more severe autism.The person with severe autism suffers greatly,even if they can’t communicate it.Have you considered they might not want to live the way they are living,and might choose to kill themselves if they had the choice?

The reason many parents cling to the vaccine/autism myth,is that it gives them some answers and hope.Even if the answers are a pack of lies,and the “treatments”,like Lupron and MMS are dangerous and harmful.

I may be unique.I have come back from a modertate to severe autism diagnosis,and too many regressions to count.I have been found,as an adult,to have a combination of cerebral folate deficiency syndrome and mitochondrial disease.I know all too well what it’s like to face doctor after doctor,who has no clue what the problems are,cannot identify the causes of everything from seizures,to heart failure,and tell you it’s all psychosomatic,because “you have this autism thing”.I have come close to suicide many times,because the sickness,suffering,and above all,the lack of help and understanding,had been too much to take.But I didn’t kill myself,and lived long enough to get some real answers,but not every family is that lucky.A little empathy can go a long way.

A little understanding

Alas poor Jake! ‘A stranger and afraid in a world he never made’.

He has no place to go. He’s probably stewing in his own juices, cursing his fate.

I wonder if we’ll see a Jake Blog or app? He has money.

I know two guys – a 20-something and a 50-something trying to create a business-related social app for a tennis club- it takes time. The company who makes the app creates the schedule , not you. They’re waiting and waiting.

I imagine Jake reads Orac et compagnie.


Reading Jake’s comments on his RFK Jr. post, his back-and-forth with Nanstiel, and his recent twitter feed, the kid is making enemies out of friends. Disagree with him or dare to question him? Unfriended and blocked. I worry about him. Not necessarily for him, but about him. He continues to alienate those around him, making his circle smaller and smaller. I worry that at some point he’ll look around, find himself alone and viewing everyone else as an enemy, becoming more and more radicalized until…

I really do not want him to snap and do something bad.

@ Todd W.:

And I would guess that his upbringing/ belief system would not allow him to entertain the notion of seeking SB counselling.

@Rebecca, @Roger, and @elburto: Before it was taken down, I remember a specific passage from Dan Olmsted’s pean to Kennedy in which Kennedy supposedly used the Bible to suggest that autistic children were better off never existing. The Spourdalakis family lives in Chicago, with the Autism One conference was held, and they supposedly planned the murder about a week after the conference was adjourned. I wonder: did Alex’s mother go to the conference and listen to Kennedy’s speech, and if so, was she spurred to commit the killing after listening to Kennedy or another speaker?

@ Roger Kulp: You’re completely off-base here…when you compare assisted suicide for terminal people and the brutal premeditated murder of a child by his mother and his godmother/caregiver.

The overwhelming majority of parents I know who have children with severe and profound developmental disabilities, love their children deeply, have rearranged their lives to care for their children and are quite concerned about their children, when the time comes when parents can no longer care for their kids.

These loving parents work tirelessly to change the system, to fight for increased funding/resources for in-home and out-of-home respite care, for medical insurance benefits for therapies that have proven track records to ameliorate self-injurious/self stimming behaviors, for physical, occupational, speech/language therapies and for employment opportunities for those adults who have the ability to work.

And yes, these activist parents advocate for alternative living arrangements, nearby, “right at home, right in the neighborhood”, commensurate with the individual needs of children and adults born with developmental disabilities…so that they can live out their lives with dignity and participate in society.

Too bad that Alex’s mother chose to wallow in self-pity, associate herself with others who do nothing to improve the lives of kids and adult with developmental disabilities and engage in pity parties. Too bad she fed on the 15 weeks of fame with the tawdry publicity provided by Lisa Goes, Andy Wakefield and the journalists at AoA and exposed her innocent child for her own celebrity.

Alex’s mother and godmother/caregiver are violent murderers and I hope they stay in jail for the rest of their lives.

@Roger Kulp

Have you considered they might not want to live the way they are living,and might choose to kill themselves if they had the choice?

I have to agree with lilady. There is a big difference between a patient choosing for themselves vs. someone else choosing for you. Yes, they might not want to live the way they are and might choose to kill themselves if they had the choice, but, at least in the case of AS (and similarly affected individuals) we didn’t know what he wanted. Nor did his mother or godmother know what he wanted, presumably, since he was described as non-communicative.

It is one thing for a person, who is of sound mind, to make a decision to terminate their own life, with or without help from others. It is quite different when that person is not capable of making a sound decision regarding living or dying, and where that decision is made for them. In the case of AS, what we see is a very violent murder (four stab wounds, two of which were to the heart, wrist sliced almost off and the family cat killed as well). To equate that with end-of-life decisions/assisted suicide is off base.

The case where I had real sympathy for a parent who killed their daughter was one where the (right-wing anti-social-safety-net government of the) province had outright refused to provide in-home respite care, saying that the daughter in question should instead be institutionalised 300km away.

The support networks have got to be there, and not every kid with CP is lucky enough to have parents who live in an urban area in a jurisdiction that’s actually willing to spend money on social services. The man who committed the murder is out now, and I’m, not glad, but okay with that. As far as I’m concerned, blood is on the province’s hands there (as the parents asked and asked and fought and took it to court and so on for years).

Some of those people are now sitting in Ottawa as far as I know. Canadian lurkers, take note.

The bit about the anonymous (?) donor coming forth to help the Spourdalakis family is something that I had not seen before.It puts a completely different light on the whole story.Yes they should have jumped on this offer.

The problem is that the story as presented by the self-promoting creeps who were feeding on it has so many holes that it’s hard to know what on earth it’s supposed to mean, assuming that it’s true. (Moving from motel to motel? When?)

The fact of the matter is that despite all the happy-outcome tales from Goes et al., they wound up back in the same apartment in the same crappy location. Why was it never mentioned that there was a divorce proceeding under way, which means that you very likely can’t just depart to an “undisclosed location” in another state with the child?

One of the more amusing “ideas” RFKJ put forth was that the press was intimidated by the CDC.
I love it!
This is the same press that puts forward as fact every bit of pseudo- or ascientifc nonsense, or presents false balance.
It’s even funnier to think that the same journalists dodging gunfire in Syria or inhaling Turkish teargas are terrified of Anthony Fauci. Is it because he has an Italian name and is therefore presumed to be mobbed up? Is it is his overwhelmingly evil public demeanor? Is it the army of covert operatives and trained assassins that the CDC employs to take out disease vectors?
I strongly suspect that Mr. Kennedy has to use his toothbrush by attaching it to a sigmoidoscope.

@ Old Rockin’ Dave:

Well, I was shocked to learn from the movie Splash what a ruthless military organization the American Museum of Natural History is, so I guess anything’s possible.

Jake has just un-friended Erik Nanstiel, best known for holding down his daughter and injecting her with Lupron.

Guess who just turned up at the Sun-Times?

Do tell, because all I get is: “To read the rest of the story, please register for free or, if you already have an account, LOGIN to your account.”

Whoa! I can read it in Windows Explorer! I wonder if it sees the cookie I have for my local paper in Firefox, so it won’t let me in?

I wonder if it sees the cookie I have for my local paper in Firefox, so it won’t let me in?

The Sun-Times carefully observed the mammoth failure of the Tribune’s attempted paywall before deciding that it had to be the way to go, so that would be my guess.

Chris & Narad: Dammit, who the h*ll posted at the Sun-Times…before I even attempt to register !

Can you copy and paste the reply for me?

BTW, Chris put the screws to Crosby on the LBRB blog about the Urabe strain mumps vaccine…he hasn’t returned.

(claps hands).

Well, now I can’t get the page. It seems to let me see once, and never again. Lilady, it was Eric Nastiel.

Thanks Narad: Nanstiel is sucking up to the likes of Olmsted and Wakefield, but has gained nothing….thanks to other posters and to Heywood Merton. 🙂

Jake, at his new Twitter account is burning more bridges…

Yes, Todd W….I’ve been concerned for a very long time about Crosby. Crosby himself is beyond redemption. But, the people he has targeted and stalked either in person or through his activities on the internet and/or his email/letter writing campaign, (Orac, Paul Offit, Brian Deer, Fiona Godlee, Ren, media figures and the judiciary, and members of the IACC…among others), I believe, are at considerable risk when this spoiled, petulant, young man decides that he has, by his own words and deeds, become a pariah.

Does anyone want to add to my comment at “ingridzs” posted at Chicacoist. com

(I finally got back on Disqus)

@Roger – how do you know we haven’t been there?

Many people would say my life has no value. That is not their choice to make, and it is not your bloody claim to make for others.

I just went to both Slate’s blogs (Plait and Helmuth) and can’t find the bot’s comment. (?)

Located it. I posted back at the bot and linked to our discussion here…telling her that her pals Kennedy and Olmsted are mentioned by Orac.

You gotta understand that what Kloor is is a hippy puncher on the make, and who better than a Kennedy to punch. He is not your, or anyone else’s friend


So, anything in the article that you think is not factual?

Interested mind would like to know.

Quoting Keith Kloor:

He says he spent $100,000 on the research and writing for the book and $100,000 to have it fact-checked. “Anybody who reads it will say, ‘what the fuck are we doing? We’re poisoning an entire generation.’”

This story sounds familiar. Have we uncovered Smarter Than You?

Yes, but moderation was brief. Thanks!

And I won’t be holding my breath for RFK’s book publishing date. Actually, I suspect I need a TARDIS for it.

If vaccines cause Autism, why is it that there are no cases of a Non-Autistic child becoming Autistic when they get their booster shots in at around 13-14? Isn’t this a fairly obvious question to ask the anti-vaccine cracks? Shouldn’t America be full of newly Autistic teenagers?

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