If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the antivaccine movement over the decade-plus that I’ve been following and commenting on it, it’s that there are many flavors of antivaccine beliefs. These range from the “loud and proud” (and, invariably, incredibly stupid) antivaccine activists who aren’t afraid of the label. They’ll tell you that they’re antivaccine and back that assertion up by demonizing vaccines as not just ineffective but downright toxic and deadly. On the other end of the spectrum are what I like to refer to as “vaccine averse,” parents who have heard the message of the antivaccine movement and believed it enough to have internalized its fear of vaccines but are not necessarily antivaccine (although some are). In the middle are what I like to refer to as the “I’m not anti-vaccine, I’m a vaccine safety advocate” antivaccinationists. They are definitely antivaccine, but they are a bit more pragmatic. They know that being perceived as antivaccine is a bad thing, and they avoid that label like the plague, even as they spew misinformation about vaccines virtually indistinguishable from that of the “loud and proud” contingent. These pragmatists include in particular prominent antivaccine activists who crave legitimacy, such as Barbara Loe Fisher, J. B. Handley, and, of course, Dr. Bob Sears.
The hilarious thing about these “flavors” of antivaccinationist is that the latter two are often in conflict. I described this as far back as 2008, when the die-hard antivaccine loons were interfering with the desire of Jenny McCarthy and the rest of the organizers of the “Green Our Vaccines” march on Washington to present themselves as legitimate vaccine safety activists. In this way, antivaccinationists can be their own worst enemy, so much so that the aforementioned Dr. Bob Sears is apparently unhappy and took to Facebook yesterday to express this displeasure whose message and tone can easily be gleaned immediately from its title, Time to End the Witch Hunt.
First, some background is in order. Last week, Pomona College came under rather severe criticism for hosting an event ostensibly to discuss the newly passed California Law SB 277, which will eliminate nonmedical exemptions to vaccine mandates beginning with the 2016-2017 school year. To give you an idea of the flavor of the event, I simply note that the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism advertised it, as did antivaccine activist Jennifer Margulis, who, not coincidentally, appeared with Dr. Bob and other panelists. The group was to discuss “Beyond Vaccine Wars,” billed as a “discussion on vaccination policy, looking at the intersection of public health, individual choice, and the role of our government.” Other panelists included Hilary LaConte, President, Governing Board, Claremont Unified School District and Associate Director of Public Policy Analysis Program at Pomona College, and Alexander Capron, University Professor, Scott H. Bice Chair in Healthcare Law, Policy and Ethics, Professor of Law and Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, Co-Director, Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics. It looked like the classic “tell both sides” fallacy that pitted two pro-science advocates versus two antivaccine cranks.
Since I didn’t see this panel discussion and I haven’t seen video of it yet anywhere, I’m not going to deconstruct the conference itself. Such was not my purpose anyway. Rather, my purpose was to express amusement at Dr. Bob’s discomfiture. Apparently, someone on “his side” has been directing the “pharma shill gambit” at him because he is insufficiently radical, and Dr. Bob doesn’t like it. Oh, no, not one bit. After complaining about all the “mental energy” it takes him to combat SB 277, Dr. Bob launches into a story that, I must admit, sent delicious chills of schadenfreude up and down my spine:
But within this fight, you know what else I have to spend mental energy on? Trying to figure out why certain people in our movement continue to point fingers at some of the most effective advocates and leaders, criticizing them for being too “mainstream”, and accusing them of being influenced by Pharma. Why do people have to be witch-hunters? Why do some feel the need to publicly declare that so-and-so or the leaders of such-and-such group are not to be trusted, or are working with Pharma? And what are their true intentions or motivations in accusing people? What gives anyone the right to make such serious accusations without any proof? That crosses a line – a very big line. And when it comes to vaccines, why does it need to be all or nothing with this movement? If you support personal liberties and informed consent, it shouldn’t matter what personal vaccine choices you make for your family, or what message you support.
The witch hunt started way back in June when one particular person in this fight decided she would accuse a few of our colleagues of being under the influence of Pharma. Since it was only one person, I didn’t think much of it. But it’s continued since then, and a few others have joined in, and just last week the same finger-pointer encouraged people NOT to attend the Pomona College Student Union event on “Vaccine Wars” I was invited to speak at. She warned online (and to who knows how many countless people verbally) it was indirectly sponsored by friends of mine who are apparently working for Pharma and are providing me with Pharma-approved messaging. I know, right? It was put on by Pomona College. So, Pomona College is Pharma and actually wanted ME to speak there? Sounds a little bit . . . um, I won’t say.
Oh, come on, Dr. Bob! Say it! Say it! You know you want to say it. They’re paranoid. They’re conspiracy mongering. That’s what they are. Such are the people with whom Dr. Bob has aligned himself, and now he expresses surprise that antivaccinationists are behaving the way antivaccinationists always do? I’m shocked—shocked I say!—that certain antivaccinationists would think that Dr. Bob isn’t ideologically pure enough.
So where does the schadenfreude come from? Simple. I don’t have any ties to big pharma, but that hasn’t stopped any of Dr. Bob’s antivaccine friends and allies to try to tar me with the “pharma shill” tag. Indeed, a former member of Dr. Bob’s fan club known as Age of Autism named Jake Crosby accused me of being secretly compromised by big pharma and having an undisclosed conflict of interest, an accusation that resulted in his fans and readers trying to get me fired from my job by deluging my bosses in complaints. So, you’ll forgive me, I’m sure, if I can’t help but take some pleasure seeing Dr. Bob become all indignant about having the same charge aimed at him and his friends by the same sorts of people who direct the charge at me and my friends and allies. At least he has nothing to worry about as far as losing his job; the worst that could happen to him as a result of being subjected to the “pharma shill gambit” is some discomfort and, if anyone believes it, perhaps a diminution of the admiration his fans currently shower him with.
There’s also the fact that Dr. Bob himself appears to believe that big pharma funded the drive to get SB 277 passed, even though there isn’t really any evidence to support such an assertion. Indeed, his very own Immunity Education Group website states:
There is a concerted effort in the legislative, medical, and pharmaceutical arenas to impose mandatory immunizations nationwide. Recent small outbreaks of diseases have provided lawmakers, the media, and well-funded medical and pharmaceutical organizations with the hype and hysteria necessary to make mandatory medical interventions acceptable to the public.
Immunity Education Group was formed to provide a more inclusive and accurate counterpoint to the health information managed and circulated by pharmaceutical-funded health care entities. We seek to shift the public’s perception of infectious diseases and of our immunization system from one of fear and coercion to one of knowledge and empowerment.
OK, so he’s not directly accusing specific people of being pharma shills. That would be too crass and obvious. Even so, he is basically claiming that pharma is behind the push for eliminating non-medical exemptions to school vaccine mandates. After all, he just knows that pharma is behind the push to eliminate non-medical exemptions because…well, he just does.
Then there’s this particularly revealing exchange (click to embiggen):
Notice how, when Renee DiResta tries to get Dr. Bob to be consistent in his dislike of dubious accusations of being a pharma shill, but Dr. Bob will have none of it. He can’t imagine pharma being in “our” (i.e., his) ranks, but he sure as hell believes that pharma is in “our” (i.e., my) ranks because, well, he just knows.
This led to a devastating post calling out Dr. Bob on his obvious hypocrisy with respect to accusations of being a pharma shill, which are just fine with him as long as they’re directed against the enemy but not so cool when directed against the greatness that is Dr. Sears:
This is about as spot-on as can be. I mean, seriously. This is the same man who freely used Nazi analogies when discussing SB 277, and he’s clutching his pearls over being called a pharma shill? How pathetic can you get? Not surprisingly, as of the time I wrote this, Dr. Bob had not responded.
Of course, lest you think my referring to Dr. Bob as being antivaccine is inaccurate, check out this part of his post:
So why do I break character and come out and counter-attack these individuals now? It’s because their efforts are putting children in danger. By sabotaging events and messages, and by encouraging division, they hurt all our efforts. Now I’ve decided not to name names here, but many of you will know who I am talking about, because you have witnessed the bashing, the gossip, and the accusations yourselves. And you’ve had to witness the backlash from those who are being accused. It isn’t pretty, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time. I would say that anyone who is falsely accused of being a Pharma Witch has every right to defend him or herself. For those who don’t know details, consider yourselves lucky; it’s an embarrassment to deal with such things when children’s lives are at risk. And I hope it ends here.
So wait. Dr. Bob thinks that people attacking him as being a pharma shill are “putting children in danger.” How? The only conclusion one can come to after a statement like that is that Dr. Bob thinks vaccines are dangerous and that “forcing” children to be vaccinated will result in “putting children in danger.” Later in the post, he harps on the same antivaccine dog whistles of “parental rights” and “informed consent” (more properly called “misinformed consent” if it is done the way antivaccine activists like Dr. Bob want it done). Of course, those of us who accept science don’t see it that way. In reality, it is antivaccine-sympathetic pediatricians like Dr. Bob who, try as they will to deny it, dissuade parents from vaccinating by repeating claims of vaccine damage that are not supported by evidence, who are the ones who endanger children.
Yes, I said it, and I’ll say it again. Dr. Bob endangers children.
51 replies on “A pharma shill here, a pharma shill there, pharma shills everywhere!”
Poor old Dr Bob. I have this miniscule violin for him.
But seriously, claims without evidence are OK so long as Dr Bob dishes them out, but it is a crime if someone says something about Dr Bob.
What a w_anchor.
The first antivaxer I thought of when reading of poor Bob Sears’ troubles with the pharma shill gambit was Cia Parker.
She’s previously ripped him for being “much too conservative” about vaccines and making a name for himself “by keeping a foot in both camps”, though an outright shill accusation would signify an escalation.
There’s so much extremism in the antivax camp, that there are endless candidates for pointing fingers at one of their own who isn’t sufficiently orthodox.
I made a perfunctory attempt to figure out whom Dr. Bob was talking about in particular, but it really didn’t matter enough for purposes of my post for me to spend a lot of time looking for her. Cia Parker is a good guess, though. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s her.
I do so love watching them turn on each other. The anti-vax movement is its own worst enemy.
Poor, poor, pitiful Sears got his goose cooked yesterday better than most turkeys will tomorrow. As to his “mental energy”, he’s maxed out like a 5-watt incandescent night-light bulb in a rusty socket, which is why he has so little of it to spare.
I raise a glass to the well-deserved misery of one Robert Sears–self-induced by fence straddling (whilst jumping up and down screaming “look at meeee!), that, ironically, fools no one.
I’m surprised Dr. Sears didn’t come to the obvious conclusion – that those who say his ideology is insufficiently pure were encouraged to do so by Philthy Pharma Lucre™.
Both the commentariat here and the anti-vax crowd are quivering in antici…
Yep, they’re paranoid conspiracy mongers. They tend to turn on people who aren’t, in their view, sufficiently pure in viewpoint. Dr. Bob is the latest victim (if that’s the right word) of this phenomenon. He should have known the risks.
I’m putting money on it being Hans Litten / White Rose / Sophie Scholl. He / She’s been fairly frothing at the mouth about AoA and the like being pharma stooges over at Jake’s place. And he/she’s been banned from AoA for life, apparently.
I have been banned from both Dr. Sear’s main page & his Immunity Education Group, for nothing more than pointing out factual inaccuracies in his posts and asking appropriate questions…..he’s a hypocrite of the worst kind.
It’s like the fights between Old Earth and Young Earth Creationists.
…or the People’s Front of Judea vs. the Judean People’s Front (for Pythonistas).
I wouldn’t be surprised if Jake is involved in harassing Dr. Bob. I’ve been looking at him on-and-off since his ouster from AoA and it seems he has alienated even Andrew Wakefield with his hatefullness and extremism.
Reminds me of the broohaha when Jake turned on his handlers – they actively encouraged his paranoia and 6-degrees-of-separation conspiracy theories when they were directed at pro-vaxxers, then had the gall to be offended when they got the same treatment. I suppose that’s what happens when you have a movement that’s not only made up of narcissists (after all, you could say that of any organization involving human beings), but actively encourages and affirms their narcissism.
An example of the extreme backstabbing within the anti-vaccine movement, taken from Jake’s latest comment thread (10/13/15):
Doesn’t that old adage tell us to ” divide and conquer” our opponents?
We need to do absolutely nothing.
There were various wings of the Opposition to SB277. Both Bob and Jay Gordon testified (before different committees); both were excoriated by the “no vaccine is safe, ever” wing because they claimed to be pro-vaccine and revealed that they (gasp) did vaccinate.
From Bob’s April 13 letter to the Senators on the Education Committee:
Cia Parker did not have much impact on SB277. Most of the infighting occurred on closed Facebook groups; the names of the combatants would be unfamiliar to most, as they had not been publicly opposed to vaccinations prior to SB277.
I am not one to make a diagnosis on someone I have never met,but Jake Crosby’s writings,and public action,bear all the signs of someone with Paranoid Personality Disorder.Poor Jake needs some serious help,before he does something drastic.I know all too well,from my own family,how psychiatric disorders can exist as comorbid conditions to high functioning autism or Asperger’s.One cannot help but wonder if Jake has treated his family the same way.With what I have experienced with my own relatives,I sort of feel sorry for him at this point.
This is all turning into GK Chesterton’s “The Man Who Was Thursday”, isn’t it?
Big Pharma black ops are actually running all these groups to make the “opposition” look utterly ridiculous and thus discredit any real opposition.
Why, yes, I did spend a bit of time around UK-ian far left groups back in the early 1980s. Why do you ask?
If you check out Jake’s ramblings, he hasn’t changed much, if at all, from his days as the AoA attack dog.
There isn’t even a point in commenting over there – and “Hans Litten” aka “White Rose” has filled each and every comment section with her insane ramblings and accusations of a worldwide mercury holocaust.
Brandy Vaughn started something called the “Council for Vaccine Safety” this summer. She claims it has been recognized as a tax-exempt organization (which can take up to a year).
This is the quality of Vaughn’s thinking…
Vaughn variously blamed “Big Pharma” and people within the Opposition to SB277 who were uhm, not really in opposition to SB277, but who were undercover supporters who were trying to torpedo the opposition….
There’s no love lost between Brandy Vaughn and Jude Tovett, who thinks Vaughn’s Council for Vaccine Safety is misguided at best and a diversion from more effective tactics.
On the other hand, Jude Tovett is regarded with suspicion by other factions. Here is Jake the Wonder Boy’s report:
Did anyone attend the Pomono panel? If there’s no video, are there written stories of the ‘highlights’ anywhere? I wonder how Dr. Bob is framed his position in this context, what Hilary LaConte and Alexander Capron said in support of SB277, and what kind of exchanges might have taken place. I also wonder how many people showed up, and what the breakdown was between anti-vax, pro-vax, just curious, and those just hoping for a good show.
@ Roger Kulp:
Altho’ I shouldn’t dx anyone that doesn’t mean that others – esp those who have to interact with people like him- shouldn’t use psychological taxonomy to UNDERSTAND other people better and to PREDICT how they will behave.
It can be a useful guideline if you don’t regard it as Holy Writ.
Suppose you have to work with someone who appears to be extremely anxious most of the time- which can be related to several conditions- understanding these condition may help make your life a little easier-
and who wouldn’t want that?
I personally have interacted ( virtually- @ RI) with Jake and found him to be quite adamantly rigid and impolite. He’s not a barrel of laughs or an interesting opponent. And he COULD have a serious dx. I doubt however that he’ll get appropriate help- which is a shame because his family has money and he’s still young enough to change his beliefs and life. I don’t feel though that he’s in any “danger” of harming himself or others ( if that’s what you mean) – he basically pesters people and arrogantly parades his own *idees fixes*.
” Most of the infighting occurred on closed Facebook groups,”
Liz, I think that there’s much more private communication going on ( e.g. also Me We/ TMR to shield their conversations from pharma shills ) going on these days. A few of the TMs discussed their advising capacities ( Autism One panels) which I don’t see in the usual places. Now they also have TMR TV. Yiii!
Bob Sears’s work in opposition to SB-277 was been sponsored in part by an anti-gay hate group, SaveCalifornia [dot] com that advocates for reparative therapy for homosexuals. Such therapy has been condemned by the American Medical Association.
As noted in my previous post, Sears acknowledges that vaccines work. In a a Reddit “Ask Me Anything”, the following question was asked and answered as follows:
[email protected]: There’s another one advising against interrupting your opponents when they are in the process of making a mistake. That sounds like good advice in this scenario, too.
White Rose / Sophie Scholl?
Do these people have some kind of WWII complex? Are they Godwinning to much? Please anti-vaxers, don’t compare yourself with real heroes, who were killed for their resistence. Your lives are not in danger.
Yeah, if it isn’t freedom fighters against the Nazis, it’s Aragorn fighting against the Dark Lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings.
@ Liz Ditz #19: Reasonable Hank mentioned Brandy Vaughn recently on his blog. She appeared on an InfoWars broadcast to rail against giving neonatal Vitamin-K to newborns, refusal of which has actually led to at least one newborn death. Here is the video: https://youtu.be/7OfX7CTdXio?t=4m41s
@ Orac #27: I remember when Kent Heckenlively compared anti-vaxxers to Egyptian protesters and the CDC to the Mubarak regime.
@ Murmur #17: I was more thinking of that Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.”
Just watched 7:36 of that Infowars video. WHY WHY WHY
As a carrier of Hemophilia A and someone with a long family history of said disease, all I needed to know about the vitamin K shot whilst pregnant was “uncontrolled bleeding, sometimes without warning, often not easy to detect, dead baby.”
I actually wrote to the college, weeks before the event took place. I wrote to the person in charge of the event. I also wrote to the two professors on the pro-science science. They all knew ahead of time about Bob. I gave them plenty of links to his ideas and philosophy.
hit return too soon
Anyway, I was very surprised they were going to speak with him. Everyone claimed this was just an informative gathering, a talk.
But you are correct. Kim’s post is excellent.
Terrified by this point, Vaughan decided not to stay there any longer. When she returned home two days later to pack up some of her belongings, she discovered that her computer had been removed from its hiding place and laid blatantly on the kitchen floor.
IIRC, similar things happened to Bob Arctor in “A Scanner Darkly”, and it was all inflicted by an alternative personality. Has Vaughn been over-doing the Substance D? Spending too much time in a scramble suit?
If we were really mean people, we’d post a parody version of the infamous AoA Thanksgiving Nightmare of a few years back.
The new one would show photoshopped images of antivaxers gathered around the holiday table waiting to plunge sharp knives into the Thanksgiving turkey (who is none other than Bob Sears).
Aaaaaah, we ain’t that mean, though.
I had a brief look at Vaccine Liberation Army, where the Alex Jones vidie with Vaughn is featured. I found this:
If you look at the Hospira insert, it does mention aluminum in the Warnings section. There is no aluminum compound listed as an ingredient. It is listed because USP boilerplate language requires it to be listed, apparently even if there isn’t any (possibly because USP allows some minuscule amount amount of aluminum in Water for Injection).
Vaughn, as a former pharma shill, should know this.
A hiding spot for your computer? Someone is just a wee bit paranoid.
As I said in a comment elsewhere, if you spend your whole life reading Natural News and watching Infowars it is probably unsurprising that you have a less than full grip on reality.
re ChrisP’s “less than a full grip on reality”
Actually, I, this day, scanned over** both Mikey’s latest 4 part audio ( Natural News, today) and Null’s broadcast (PRN.fm/ yesterday’s) and BOTH of them warned audiences about the rapidly approaching catastrophes- ( earthquakes, flood, fires, nuclear plant meltdowns, power grid failure, solar flares, economic collapse, gang war, drought, the four horsemen – just joking about that last one)
– soon to devastate us
AND how to prepare.
-btw- both are hawking products designed exactly for that purpose. Mike has a new website selling prepper gear and the other idiot sells a package deal : videos/ survival food.
** it means that I don’t listen to every second but move the cursor as I listen to selected excerpts
Denice is so beautiful and smart and funny. And she has damn good taste.
Renate…I know. It’s revolting to anyone with a knowledge of 20th century history.
LIz [email protected]
Post is down. WayBackMachine has it though.
Chris [email protected]
And a wee bit … uneducated I guess. There’s a smart way to go about being paranoid with your computer; hiding it is not that. This story reminds me of Sharyl Attkisson being ‘hacked’.
So who’s the Popular Front in this scenario
@renate – #26
Don’t forget Hans Litten… HL/SS/WR are all the same deranged wingnut.
I didn’t know that about Hans Litten. I read a book about Die Weisse Rose and Sophie and Hans Scholl and of course I’ve read some other books about the war. With a late grandfather who helped the Americans (we have a thank you letter) and a dad who has experienced the bombing of Rotterdam, you can’t get away from WWII.
When one of them starts identifying as von Stauffenberg, a call to the FBI might be in order.
Bob Sears is another anti-vaxx wingnut who lacks any self-awareness: https://www.respectfulinsolence.com/2009/08/18/dr-bob-sears-stealth-anti-vaccinationist-1/
They could identify with Otto and Elise Hampel, which would be just as wrong.
Your not connected to big pharma ?
Weren’t you just outed by anonymous?
What have you got to say about that ?
That you are illiterate
Another genius who thinks The Spudd is a real news site?