Ben Swann, anchor of the evening news for the local Atlanta CBS affiliate and the face of his Truth In Media series of videos, thinks himself an investigative journalist and a truth teller, but much of what I see him reporting more closely resembles reporting as though done by a cross between Ted Baxter, Ron Burgundy, and Alex Jones. For one thing, Mr. Swann sure does love him some conspiracies, and he sure is susceptible to antivaccine nonsense, no matter how nonsensical. I first saw him in action nearly three months ago, when he credulously regurgitated the antivaccine talking points on display in the antivaccine protest in Atlanta in which Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Barbara Loe Fisher, and whole gaggle of the usual antivaccine suspects converged on Atlanta and the CDC with Scientology-allied Nation of Islam minister Tony Muhammed to protest…well, what the protest was about wasn’t exactly clear. Ostensibly, it was about the so-called “CDC whistleblower,” a CDC scientist named William Thompson who was involved with a number of CDC studies that failed to find a link between vaccines and autism back in the day. Yesterday, he published the culmination of his “investigation” (and I do use the term loosely) on his Truth In Media website as a story, CDC, Vaccines and Autism. As was the case with Swann’s previous reports on this issue, it’s largely a load of misinformation, shoddy reporting, and lying by omission, only stretched out to 25 minutes. In fact, I was rather disappointed by it, after having looked forward to it for two weeks after Swann had announced it, so much so that I wondered whether it was even worth blogging. Then I realized that this sort of stuff needs to be countered, and as a fairly high profile medical blogger I had an obligation to address this specific video, even though there really is nothing new in it. But first, some background.
I’ve discussed Thompson (a.k.a. the “CDC whistleblower”) and his claims in considerable detail on multiple occasions since his existence was first revealed by the antivaccine tag team of Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield in a truly despicable video in which Wakefield likened the vaccine program to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Why did he make this claim? Why has Thompson been trumpeted as the “CDC whistleblower” since Wakefield’s video was released in August 2014? I like to think it’s because antivaccinationists think that he’s revealed actual evidence of what I like to call the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement, namely that there is “smoking gun” evidence out there that vaccines cause autism but the CDC (or government or big pharma or all of them in cahoots) is covering it up. In this case, for whatever reason, William Thompson had a number of telephone conversations with biochemical engineer turned incompetent antivaccine epidemiologist Brian Hooker over many months, in which he apparently ranted against his colleagues at the CDC and claimed that a finding had been suppressed in a paper by DeStefano et al on which Thompson was also coauthor that was published in 2004. Apparently with Thompson’s advice, Hooker undertook a reanalysis of the data in this paper that was so incompetently performed that epidemiologists everywhere mocked him mercilessly. Let’s just say that Hooker analyzed a case control study as a cohort study and ignored one major confounder, which left him with the almost certainly spurious finding that receiving the MMR vaccine before the age of 36 months was correlated with a 3.4-fold increased risk of autism in only one subgroup, African American males. Of course, as I put it at the time, other than that spurious result, Hooker had just proven Andrew Wakefield wrong when it comes to all children other than African-American males.
In any case, it wasn’t long before Thompson lawyered up and claimed whistleblower status. Around the same time, he gave a number of documents to Representative Bill Posey (R-FL), who made a pointless speech on the House floor a few days before summer recess about them when few were listening and otherwise did basically nothing with them. Meanwhile, as more and more of Thompson’s statements were made public, it was hard not to get the impression that he had turned antivaccine. In any case, Ben Swann swallowed the CDC whistleblower story that claimed those documents held a “smoking gun” in which Thompson’s colleagues had altered the research plan for DeStefano et al after the study was underway in order to “hide” the result in African-American boys and had destroyed a bunch of data in order to prevent that from becoming known. Two months ago, we learned that Swann had obtained all the CDC whistleblower documents from Rep. Posey’s office and was planning on doing a report on it. Unfortunately for Swann, Matt Carey beat him to the punch, obtaining all the documents himself and doing an excellent analysis that shows that there was no coverup. For your edification, he even provided a link to download all the files yourself if you wish. It’s right here. I myself also reviewed the CDC whistleblower documents and agreed with Matt that there’s a whole lot of nothing going on there, noting from the documents’ contents that even William Thompson doesn’t appear to believe that the result in African-American boys was real.
So when I learned that Swann was going to post his CDC whistleblower report on January 26, I was actually looking forward to it. Maybe he’d come up with a new antivaccine spin on the story that I hadn’t heard before. Alas, it was not to be, as you will see if you watch Swann’s video, which unfortunately doesn’t allow embedding. Before I get to the video, there’s one thing I noticed in the text:
For over two years, Truth In Media has explored the allegations of Dr. William Thompson, a CDC scientist who came forward in 2014, hired a whistleblower attorney, and claimed that important data regarding a study on vaccines and autism was eliminated.
For over two years? The CDC whistleblower was unknown to the public until August 2014, a mere 17 months ago. Either Swann is clueless (quite possible), or Swann was in on the scam with Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker before Wakefield went public (also possible, although I tend to doubt it). It’s not a really important point, just interesting and worth a quick mention. A second thing worth mentioning is that it’s hard to tell whether the documents made available for download by Swann are all the same as the ones Matt Carey obtained. When I first downloaded Swann’s files, I was annoyed to find multiple files and ZIP files within ZIP files. I also noticed that the overall size of the files was at least 50% greater than the files in Matt Carey’s. The next thing I noticed is that Swann has placed “Truth in Media” watermarks on all the pages of all the PDF files (at least all the pages I’ve looked at so far). Certainly, that could account for an increase in size. Finally, Swann has rearranged the folder structure and renamed a lot of the files, making figuring out whether he has included all the same documents as Matt, left some out, or included additional documents difficult to tell without taking more time than I had last night to go through them all. (Gee, one wonders if that was the reason Swann did it, to make it difficult to directly compare the two sets of PDFs and determine if they all contain the same documents.) It’s annoying, and Matt and others have been discussing it in the comments section of another post. I guess we now know why it took Swann two months to regurgitate Brian Hooker’s talking points basically verbatim.
So let’s go to the video. When hyping his story, Swann claimed that he would be having doctors, journalists, authors, and former CDC specialists assisting in his analysis of “every document that was handed over.” The amusing thing is that Matt Carey went over every document, and I went over most of them in far less time. In any case, Swann starts his video as you would expect, falsely labeling vaccines as highly controversial, complete with excerpts of Brian Hooker, who appears to have been Swann’s main “expert” who helped him. It also doesn’t bode well that Swann starts out with Andrew Wakefield’s Lancet study and another study of his, basically reported without skepticism. For instance, he fails completely to mention that Andrew Wakefield was basically paid a large sum of money by a trial lawyer seeking to sue vaccine manufacturers and that Wakefield’s work was later shown to be fraudulent.
Perhaps the absolute dumbest part of the video occurs around 3:45, when Swann compares Wakefield’s Lancet case series with DeStefano et al. Before that, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the hackneyed device Swann used, showing a scientist making colored solutions, when the epidemiological study to be discussed had no wet lab work. Oh, well, I guess nothing says science like some dude in a white coat swirling beakers of colored solutions for the camera. In any case, check out these screenshots:
Next, Swann says that the CDC did a case control study in which they didn’t look at any actual children, as though to imply that a case control study was not as good as a small case series:
This is, of course, nonsense. It’s scientific ignorance of the highest order. Indeed, in the hierarchy of evidence, small case series are near the bottom, just above single case series, and well-designed epidemiological studies are much higher. Wakefield’s crappy case series was in no way a better study than DeStefano et al. Swann also claims that people viewed the case as settled after DeStefano et al; that is, until 2014 when the CDC whistleblower arose. That’s utter nonsense, too. The case that MMR doesn’t cause autism was settled based on many studies. No one study is definitive, including DeStefano et al, and no one study is indispensable. If DeStefano et al were never carried out, we’d still have plenty of evidence to demonstrate that the MMR isn’t correlated with autism. Heck, it every lie Swann regurgitates about DeStefano et al were true, all it would mean is that DeStefano et al was not a study we could rely on and there’d still be plenty of studies to reject a causal link between MMR vaccination and autism. Of course, it wouldn’t serve Swann’s story to tell the truth about this because for the CDC whistleblower story to matter, DeStefano et al must be portrayed as the be-all and end-all of studies failing to find a link between vaccines and autism, which, if discredited, reopens the scientific question. Again, science doesn’t work that way, although conspiracy theories do.
Next up, is a segment on the claim that the research protocol had been altered. This has been discussed several times before, both here and by Matt Carey. I’m not sure I want to go through the details again. If you’re interested, compare Swann’s timeline to these discussions, which show that the documents do not support the claim that the protocol was changed (particularly given that the first date in Swann’s timeline is October 15, 2001), which is after the final protocol had been published. No, DeStefano and colleagues did not break protocol. There’s no evidence that they did in any of these documents.
Perhaps the most hilarious part comes right after this, when Swann claims that he got together the aforementioned team of journalists, scientists, and ex-CDC staffers to analyze the documents and then supplemented it with an “independent” investigation by Brian hooker. Let me say that again. Swann calls Hooker’s investigation “independent.” Try not to laugh too hard. (I do hope you weren’t drinking anything when you read that.) Hooker is an antivaccine loon. More pertinently, he’s an incompetent epidemiologist, as has been demonstrated time and time again. The very fact that he analyzed data collected for a case control study as a cohort study ought to tell you that.
Perhaps the most curious segment is the segment in which Swann interviews what appear to be two retired CDC scientists (they’re both old and advertised as having between them many years of experience). One is Stephen Fitzgerald. What he talks about appears to have little to do with anything related to the CDC whistleblower story. Ditto David Newberry, billed as a former head of the CDC Immunization Branch for 45 years. A Google search on him showed him as being with the CDC infectious disease unit for 25 years. Fitzgerald and Newberry have also done lectures together on epidemiology. What they ended up discussing was not the documents, but rather what both of them perceived as the politicization of the CDC during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the implication being that vaccine studies are just as politicized and just as much guesswork, when they aren’t. One has to wonder whether Fitzgerald and Newberry knew their interview would be used in an antivaccine report, because what they were interviewed with was only related to what Ben Swann was reporting by coincidence and conspiracy mongering.
This segment then segues into the claims reported by Rep. Posey, which I’ve dealt with before, which segues into Hooker describing Thompson’s e-mail to Julie Gerberding, who was the director of the CDC at the time. I’ve dealt with this too more than once. Basically, Thompson e-mailed the CDC director, and not much happened. Swann tries to make it sound as though Thompson was suspended for that e-mail, but as we know from the documents it was a lot more than that, including a verbally violent confrontation in the parking lot with his superior, Walter Orenstein, refusing to cooperate in modifying a PowerPoint presentation when requested, and sending e-mails to Dr. Orenstein demanding an apology and e-mails to senior staff accusing him of harassment. He also neglects to note that this was not a suspension. Rather, it was an administrative leave with pay granted because his superiors were concerned that he was under extreme pressure and needed a break.
When the video was over, I was stunned. No, I wasn’t stunned by the revelations or by Swann’s willingness to lie and distort the contents of the documents. I expected that. What I was stunned at was just how unimaginative Swann was. I was also stunned at how Swann didn’t even really attempt to do real journalism. He basically took Hooker’s misinformation, prettied it up with some graphics, and reported it as true. Hooker was the only “scientist” directly addressing the documents. Other major failings that didn’t really surprise me included failures to disclose: the retraction of Wakefield’s Lancet paper and his later being struck off; Hooker’s NVICP claims, which are a conflict of interest; and that Hooker’s reanalysis was retracted by the first journal it was published in. Other than the retired CDC scientists (who didn’t comment on the documents) and Hooker (who, unfortunately, did), Swann doesn’t identify any of the other journalists, writers, etc., who helped him out, although he does thank Mark Blaxill in the credits.
No wonder the station where Swann works at his day job wouldn’t take this report. There’s nothing there, and Swann has to distort, selectively report, and leave out information in order to spin it into a story of CDC corruption and malfeasance. Will it work as propaganda? I don’t know. I’m sure it will be shared widely on social media by antivaccine activists, but most likely they will just be preaching to the choir. Whether anyone “on the fence” will believe this propaganda is harder to predict, but right now Ben Swann is sure trying to give Sharyl Attkisson a run for her money as the journalist most susceptible to antivaccine conspiracy theories in the US.
184 replies on “Ben Swann’s long-awaited report on the “CDC whistleblower” goes over like a lead balloon of antivaccine misinformation”
Utterly disgusting. If some “thinking mom” gets convinced and refuses to vaccinate, leading to the death or serious injury to her child(ren) from a preventable disease, couldn’t (and shouldn’t) people like this be held somewhat accountable for spreading such misinformation and lies..?
“in at least 12 physical children”
… as opposed to mental children? Metaphorical children? Energy Beings from Vega?
I am wondering where the uncertainty responsible for the “at least” came from. You would think Swann would at least be able to read Wakefield’s feckin paper and see how many Physical Children were involved.
I would have to think that if sensible people wrote to the Atlanta station where Swann works, and set out what he has wilfully left out of his report, and could persuade producers to actually view his film, he would have great trouble getting away with this again.
In Britain, TV is regulated such that dishonest journalists are finished if they try these kind of stunts. But in the US producers and good editors often take their responsibilities very seriously.
A professional looking at that film would instantly see that he had shown no evidence from his supposed experts who studied the documents, and misused the footage from the retired CDC staff.
I can see from Thompson’s own statements that he makes no allegation of fraud, says that reasonable people can disagree about the data that should have been included in the published paper, that the anomaly in the data for black kids 24-36 months does not evidence that the phenomenon is real, and confirms that no data was destroyed.
When I made TV shows, I can tell you I would have been required to disclose that information to viewers. I’m pretty sure the Atlanta affiliate would say the same.
As for the fact that the film was in part paid-for by anti-vaxxers, would, in the UK, finish the journalist. Certainly, if I had taken money for an item of journalism from anyone other than my media employer, I would be finished. Even if I was doing consultancy work, or PR on the side, or anything like that for people with an interest, I’d be done.
This guy has crossed the line in so many ways.
On Swann’s page, I see AIDS denialist Celia Farber’s turned up in support. Hilarity ensues.
@4 Rebecca. If you mean her citing a letter published by “Sanevax” and asking if the woman is crazy, I notice that Ms Farber evidently pays no attention to the woman’s qualifier to her complaint:
“Should the information in this letter prove to be accurate”
Why is it that Ms Farber’s lack of similar caution doesn’t surprise me?
#3 – “A professional looking at that film would instantly see that he had shown no evidence from his supposed experts who studied the documents, and misused the footage from the retired CDC staff.”
Professionals such as our gracious host of blinking lights…?
Whether anyone “on the fence” will believe this propaganda is harder to predict…
Probably not, facts trump propoganda,
But for some, it may be difficult to stay “on the fence” knowing that in 2015-2016 Novartis plans to deliver a baseline supply of 33 to 36 million doses of influenza vaccine having a [email protected] warning.
“CDC study” screenshot
Oooh, scary needles-and-syringes.
I wonder why is that? Wakefield used a lot of needles and syringes, too.
“did not look at actual children”.
Yeah, all of these school records and birth certificates were actually whose of the smurfs living in my backyard.
I noticed that and I consider myself a rank amateur in filmography.
“did not look at actual children”.
Yeah, all of these school records and birth certificates were actually whose of the smurfs living in my backyard.
They were virtual children, potential children who were studied as they popped in and out of the quantum vacuum.
The one thing I couldn’t figure out if it was billed out as a CBS news story/documentary. I saw some posts promoting it as a main-stream story, but couldn’t find it. It appears not to have that support, is that correct?
#11 – They were Schrödinger’s Children; they are both existing and not existing at the same time (also, smurfs!).
Since Swann presented this silly video on his own outlet and CBS appears not to have anything to do with it, complaining to CBS isn’t appropriate.
It was fairly clear from the video that Swann doesn’t seem to know what “significant” means when it comes to statistical analysis. The way he used the word implied “important”, rather than “unlikely to occur by chance”.
And, yeah, his descriptions of the Wakefield and DeStefano studies was just…weird. Very awkward word choice.
The other thing that struck me, in regard to the former CDC employees being interviewed, was that not only did they not talk about the documents or the whole “whistleblower” thing at all, but that it almost seemed like reused footage. It really did not seem like original material captured for this video. I would like to see the full interview with Fitzgerald, Newberry and the unnamed third man. You know…for the sake of transparency.
Oh, and I agree with Science Mom. Complaining to his CBS affiliate would be highly inappropriate. Go ahead and mock him for engaging in yellow journalism, but don’t formally complain to his employer. That’s something anti-vaccine activists would do.
“Oooh, scary needles-and-syringes.
I wonder why is that? Wakefield used a lot of needles and syringes, too.”
Images of syringes and needles are often used as front cover “art” for antivaccine books.
The apparent purpose is to appeal to the needle-phobic. Few of us actually feel comfortable about the idea of needles puncturing our skin, but there is a subset of antivaxers for which belonephobia (it’s listed in the DSM-IV) is a strong motivating factor.
Swann inflates Thompson’s position which is easily falsifiable if one cares to look. Swann states that the CDC team who conducted the 2004 study was, “lead by Thompson”. Why is it called DeStefano et al. 2004 for starters then? Swann also uses Thompson’s notes (years after the fact) on the documents as evidence of wrong-doing when the timeline of the protocol is also right there in the document dump and clearly demonstrates how race will be used and how that took place prior to any analysis as Matt Carey has already blogged about extensively. The fact that Swann doesn’t even show any documents supporting his allegations should be a huge red flag. And the one he does show (the so-called “hush money” document) doesn’t even support the allegation.
Thompson was initially the lead investigator of the study.
Thompson was never lead investigator of the MMR study. He was lead for the thiomersal study after that though.
I DO wonder what his employer makes of his independent efforts.
Whatever he does on his own carries the implied weight of the station because – in fact- he was hired by them and kept on because of his presumed talents and abilities and hey, if he works on his own, well, he’s still using his supposed judgment, sense,talent and abilities.
Wouldn’t a person on his level have some say in what stories are produced for the station? Or is he just another pretty face?**
Why this is so hilarious to me is that Ben seems straddle the middle ground between real journalism ( because he works for a station with fact checking and a basis in reality I believe) and the alt media BS which I peruse courtesy of NN and PRN.
** not really
Dude, you are so unfair!
Led Zeppelin was a great band. You should not cast such aspersions as to lump anti-backers with lead balloons.
Who said anything about Led Zeppelin? That saying and image existed long before Zep did.
Ben has 3 additional political videos at Truth In Media:
it’s quite clear which side he’s one.
Hint: he’s not a socialist.
I think the preferred term is ‘talking head’.
Looking at the TiM site, there is no mention of Swan’s current employer. If you only looked at the site, you could reasonably draw the wrong conclusion that the site was his sole professional activity. No doubt in my mind his current employer insists that this be the case, that they are aware of his activities, and that there is nothing they can do about it.
Ooh, I’ll have the Truth in Media with a side order of Evidence Tampering, please!
Wakefield is out in the Pacific on a cruise ship (the so-called “Conspira-sea” cruise) this week. That Wakefield felt it more opportune to give his con-artist talk to a bunch of dowsers, astrologers, AVers and “global alchemists” says volumes about how little even he thinks of “whistleblower”.
@ Dangerous Bacon
My question was rhetorical 🙂
I don’t like much needles myself, so the underlining message was not lost on me.
Swann choose this design instead of something else; it’s not a neutral, or meaningless, choice.
Given Wakefield’s callous disregard in his use of needles, between drawing blood at birthday’s parties or puncturing the bowels of children during biopsy, I found this choice slightly hypocritical.
Belonephobia. I learned a new word.
ben-swann.com (his own joint?) links to RT ((shudder)) and Fox 19.
You can use Youtube-dl to download the video, there’s even a GUI for it. The HD version has ~ 790 MB.
@Dino Ramzi, not only does the saying predate the band, the band took its name from the saying.
You know, looking at the screenshot I took of Ben Swann, I think I chose the wrong joke. I shouldn’t have done a Ron Burgundy joke. I should have done a Zoolander joke, what with the movie coming out soon and all. Swann sure looks as though he’s doing a Ben Stiller pose for Zoolander in that shot. 🙂
I was only reading about the new film yesterday: Vogue featured “Derek” modelling. Alas! They couldn’t get Karl L
To view the aforesaid fabulousness –
see vogue.com Derek Zoolander Lands his first vogue cover…Penelope Cruz
Todd W. @ 16:
“Oh, and I agree with Science Mom. Complaining to his CBS affiliate would be highly inappropriate. Go ahead and mock him for engaging in yellow journalism, but don’t formally complain to his employer. That’s something anti-vaccine activists would do”.
I’m not sure I agree with this for two reasons:
– remember that the original bucket o’ excrement was broadcast on CBS46, and
– any violation of journalistic ethics, whether on the air on off, should be of concern to a real news organization*.
*May not apply to CBS46.
The might not be able to fire him but they can certainly decide to not renew his contract.
I had a CEASE therapy touting homeopath send me the link to the video with the simple comment: #suckitup
That was amusing…
I suppose it would all depend, then, on CBS46’s rules and contract agreements. If someone could verify if there is anything he’s done that violates CBS46’s rules, then there may be justification for contacting them.
However, I still don’t think that it is an appropriate thing to do. Going after someone’s employment is a dick move. That’s especially true if they are acting as individuals and not representatives of their employer. As I said, by all means publicly denounce his activities and point out the failings of this report. If someone wants to publicly question why CBS46 would employ him, go ahead. Public opinion and commentary are fair game. I would draw the line at a formal, private complaint to CBS46.
@ Brian Deer,Opus
I do wonder why CBS46 as kept Ben Swann on as an anchor,instead of tossing his sorry butt out on the street by now.You know the management must have gotten some complaints from locals about Swann and his conspiratorial brain droppings.
Complaints to news editors/station management about inappropriate/unprofessional activities of reporters and anchors are, in my opinion entirely appropriate, especially when they involve on-air shenanigans.
Off-air activities are less clearly game for criticism to higher-ups, but at least in some circumstances should spark protests. Does anyone really think that (for hypothetical instance) it would be wrong to inform station management that a reporter is posting YouTube videos promoting white supremacy or legalization of child porn?
I would be most concerned that Swann’s CBS affiliate pay stricter attention to what is going out over the airwaves in their name.
Doesn’t Mr. Swann work for the local CBS affiliate? He might be running afoul of a non-compete clause, if there is one in his contract. He might be able to justify it if it’s in his biographical sketch and he also links to his current employer. Anything else is highly irregular.
It’s not clear from comments above, but reading between the lines, there are hints that CBS46 had a look at this, and decided not to air it, probably because the legal department suggested it wouldn’t be a good idea. I don’t know what their thinking was, since public figures (IANAL, but probably DiStefano et al. would qualify, at least on this issue) have a difficult time proving libel under US law. OTOH, HIPAA or some other such law may be in play.
If someone’s employment is journalistic reporting to the public, but engaging in some sort of self-grandiosed public scare of the health system, then yes, we should hold him to task and he really should be shown the door for this bs piece.
I think the point about his film is that he has shown he can’t be trusted professionally. You don’t actually need to know much about the background to see what he’s done. One you learn that he’s taken money from crowd sourcing ant-vaxxers, you’d have to thing there’s now a red dot on him in some quarters.
HIPAA would likely not come into play here, since he is not releasing personally identifiable protected health information.
His twit handle is @BenSwannCBS46
He also has a @BenSwann_ Twitter handle.
His vaccine video was linked in his @BenSwann_ account, but not his @BenSwannCBS46 account.
Interestingly, there are a couple of Truth In Media twitter accounts, neither of which appear to be connected to Mr. Swann.
Looks like he tweeted links to some of his Truth In Media videos in December from his @BenSwannCBS46 account, but nothing in January.
@herr doktor bimler:
That explains it. The US doesn’t have a childhood obesity epidemic. The virtual children are just off mass shell.
This is not the same situation, by a long shot. What Swann is doing is protected under the First Amendment. He did nothing to associate this video with his CBS employers. While what he is saying is falsifiable, it’s a civil matter, not legal and he’s doing on his own time so I agree with ToddW and contacting his employer for something he did on his own time is a dick move. It’s CBS46’s decision if they want to keep a spray-tanned Zoolander on for a reporter.
I can’t say for sure, obviously, but it’s most likely that Channel 46 is just fine with Swann’s TiM activities in general and this piece in particular, and didn’t air it because it’s 25 minutes long. Swann’s their news anchor, not just a ‘reporter’. He’s their ‘star’. They hired him because their ratings have been in the toilet, and they need to draw eyeballs to build their book. They probably did market research, and concluded that he appeals to a market demographic that isn’t addressed by the other metro Atlanta newscasts they compete against. That, and/or, some big advertisers like his kind of stuff and will buy time to support it. Remember, Swann’s schtick is ‘Trutherism’ CT in general. His frame here isn’t ‘anti-vax story’, it’s ‘government coverup story.’
In the station hierarchy, the anchor works for the news director. The odds that the two of these folks aren’t on the same page and working together are slim and none.
That said, 25 minutes is a broadcast half-hour (leaving time for commercials) so Swann probably created this with airing it as a ‘special report’ on CH46 in mind, and again, his bosses no doubt knew he was doing so. In the new-media universe, ‘content’ like this can be generated with multiple options: that is, CH46 could have thought ‘If it’s hot, we’ll air it as a special after the news on a weekend; if it’s meh, it’ll be a Web supplement; if it’s lame, Ben can put it on his own site and we’ll lay low about it’.
Eric Lund’s probably right about Swann having a non-compete clause, but that would mean CH46 has already cleared the TiM piece as non-competing. I doubt the news director and station manager have any problem with it at all, other perhaps than disappointment Swann didn’t actually get any good dirt in it.
BD wrote, “that the film was in part paid-for by anti-vaxxers, would, in the UK, finish the journalist”. Again, the odds are slim that Swann went out on his own and got funding for a piece w/o his news director knowing and approving. This arrangement may have dictated from the get-go that it would be presented as a TiM piece only. Or, it might have been slated as a possible broadcast item ‘if’, and the legal department quashed that while Swann was working on it. That might or might not have been a hard-and-fast general principle thing: i.e. the calculus could just be ‘we just don’t want to test those waters with this piece, as the potential bang isn’t worth the risk.’ Basically, local news outlets like nothing more than getting content produced on somebody else’s dime. Local newspapers rip and run ‘stories’ and ‘op eds’ created by PR firms as faux-news all the time, and I’ve seen TV news stories that are just PR pieces wrapped and VO’ed by the local ‘talent’. But they do tread a line here, and whatever anti-vax $$ went into Swann’s piece could have crossed that somehow to the point where CH46 decided it was better to be discrete and keep it’s supposed rubric limited to TiM.
I don’t have the time to dig into this, but one big piece of evidence regarding where CH46 is in all of this is how/where “CDC, Vaccines and Autism” was produced. If any crew or facilities from CH46 were involved (DP, editor, etc.) that would be suggest they were totally on board. However, if the crew was independent, that does NOT mean Swann was going rogue, only that CH46 was keeping some distance, possibly to leave its options open.
As often as we disagree, I have to agree with sadmar here. There’s no way the news director at CBS46 doesn’t know about Swann’s extracurricular activities or isn’t OK with them.
@Orac and sadmar
Agreed. CBS46 almost certainly knows about it, especially after that segment he did on the protests on CBS46.
That said, unless there is some clear evidence that this particular video and the work that went into it are connected to CBS46 or that he has violated any clause in his contract, I still do not think that there are grounds for filing a formal complaint with his employer. But public ridicule? Certainly. Opinions about how this affects CBS46? Sure. But contacting the station privately to get him fired? No.
If anyone wants to complain or protest: the proper persons to address would be the CH46 news director and station manager. You could also copy an exec at the parent media conglomerate that owns CH46. The proper form would be to complain about the story not Swann as an individual, and certainly not to suggest he be canned. As Denice noted #21, Swann’s ‘independent’ activities DO carry the imprimatur of CH46 implicitly, if not formally. (As a complainant, you’d especially want to know if CH46 crew or facilities were involved.)
Understand that if your complaint is answered at all, you’ll be blown off, likely with some ‘CBS46 is not affiliated with or responsible for content on the TiM website’ yada yada. But that might get ‘concern’ on their radar. Realize, though, that this is not, to them, a bad thing necessarily. They want controversy if it will help their ratings, which have been historically bad enough that they rolled the dice on Swann, if only to get more people in their market to know that their newscast even exists. The best outcome you can hope for is that Swann’s bosses will tell him to drop the #CDCwhistleblower stuff, and focus his attention on other grist for ‘investigative stories’. Since the only thing these people care about is the bottom line, you want your complaint to get them to worry that could possibly be affected in some way. Q: Who pays these people’s salaries? A: Advertisers. You’d need to do some research, and find out who has large regular ad buys on the CH46 newscast, and include in your msg to the broadcasters that you will be also writing to THEM (name names), to say this is not the kind of journalism any upstanding company should be associating itself with, and reflects very poorly on their products and services. The advertisers want eyeballs, but they don’t want controversy or bad publicity. What you would hope to have happen is that someone in the ad/PR wing of the sponsors picks up the phone and complains to CH46 that they’re feeling some heat about Ben’s CDC thing, and that they’d appreciate it if things cooled down on that front.
Of course, if the advertisers are local, and you’re not in the metro Atlanta market, they may not care. And a lot of national ads that run on newscasts are from pretty sketchy firms to begin with – ads for supplemental insurance directed at seniors, “I’ve fallen and i can’t get up!”, yada, yada. But that’s the way the system works. Poop runs downhill, and throwing mud at Swann just feeds the troll. The path is sponsors—>station management—>news director—>Swann.
Note to MarkN: CBS has nothing to do with this. Yes, folks with an interest in anything a local station runs will try to make the stakes seem bigger (for good or ill) by mis-identifying the affiliate with the network. It just sounds so much more impressive to call Swann ‘CBS journalist’. You can bet CBS doesn’t want to be anywhere near this, and you might consider alerting them that source ‘X’ is citing this junk as being associated with them. You could even play along like you buy it, and say you’re outraged the network of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite would stoop so low, and you’ll be letting their advertisers hear about it. The idea would be to get CBS legal to write a nasty letter to whoever is calling Swann a ‘CBS reporter’ telling them to cease-and-desist, and identify him properly as only an employee of Atlanta CH46. But that’s probably not worth the effort.
BTW: I’m quite sure Dino Ramzi #22 was being ironic, not actually complaining about the Hindenburg image as impugning the Zep. My Translation: ‘Anti-vax is so screwy, comparing it to this old disaster is going too easy – especially given that the specific photo used is widely recognized as the logo of a beloved classic rock band.’ Perhaps Dino’s complaint would be moot if it was a different image of the Hindenburg explosion, A sinking ship might indeed be a better metaphor, but it could be giving too much cred to the AV crowd to compare them to the Titanic, which was a big, deluxe, awsome thing before it hit that iceberg, and anti-vax was never more than a small yacht with a leaky hull and a bilge pump running overtime. A small plane crash, maybe, or one of Langley flying machines that dropped right into the water at launch??
My problem with the use of ‘goes down like a lead ballooon’ is that you can make a floating lead balloon as Mythbusters showed, although I guess it could still be viewed as appropiate as some people will put in the effort to keep this crap afloat.
Sheesh, here we’ve been wondering why the antivaxxers have been so silent after pro-vax blogs were the first to release the documents that were supposedly going to bring the U.S. vaccine program to it’s knees, wondering what diabolically clever strategies they were plotting to spin the situation in their favor, and in the end they’ve just been padding out their files to try and make it look as if they have some “extra” documents the pro-vax side were trying to hide.
The sad thing is that, as puerile and transparent a trick as this is, it will likely work. We’ve already seen that the rank-and-file antivaxxers will simply repeat whatever AoA & co tell them the documents say: if you try to tell them that they’ve been lied to they won’t believe you because you’re a pharma shill with an agenda, and if you point out that they can simply read the documents themselves they complain that they can’t possibly be expected to read through 1000 pages of material and that you’re trying to distract them from the TRUTH (TM) with your piddly little facts.
Yup. Can’t put it better than Science Mom did: ‘a dick move’. But also off-target. Swann’s sin isn’t being an AVer, it’s aiding and abetting the loonies for fame and fortune. And in this, he’s not ‘the decider’, just the tool of a broadcasting firm in distress going even-more tabloid. If he got ‘whacked’ it would be as a scapegoat for management decisions. And AoA would have another fresh martyr to add to their mythology, and they might even get some mainstream play with a Brian Martin-esque ‘look how the shills stifle all dissent!’ rail – especially since Swann plays ‘expose’ across the political spectrum, lots of folks probably like something he’s done, even if other pieces make them wretch. (Even Alex Jones, for example, is dogging MI over the lead poisoning in Flint.)
Other publicity angles I forgot to mention:
1. Though I doubt this is a big enough issue to meet their attention threshhold, you could alert a liberal media-watchdog group like FAIR (‘Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’ – not to be confused with AIM, the ultra-wingnut ‘Accuracy in Media’).
2. A DailyKos diary entry could get some readership. You there, Grey Squirrel? What do you think?
I’d frame these not as ‘oh no, Anti-Vax!’, but ‘irresponsible-journalism-because-anti-vax’ with slightly more weight on the first, just because more people care about that. Again, the frame will go farther if it’s ‘this is a bad, misleading story’ than if it’s any kind of attack on Swann. It’s the message, not the messenger so much. Though for Kos I’d do some finger-pointing at CH46 for greedhead corporate imperatives soiling the info-pool on which a functioning democracy deepens, or something like that.
Apologies for back-seat driving, but I’m just not capable of doing these things myself… too much on my plate already…
OT but more importantly. Hope your bp has stabilised.
I don’t know how tho’ with Pacifica right next door sliding into the great, hulking, misterioso** Pacific.
** arcane literary reference.
Ahh, Jazzlet #55; Not only that; but, in the case of the dense atmosphere of venus, a nitrogen/oxygen mix is the most valid ‘lifting gas’.. A few lead-lined bags which are filled with hydrogen and float far above the colony would serve to soak up the the x-rays that the Nibiruians use to spy on them. Also, though the atmosphere is still relatively thick up there, Venus has no magnetic field to funnel away cosmic rays — nitrogen-filled, lead gasbags not only prevent early cancer but can also be used as detectors to yeild esoteric information on cosmic neutrino background radiation.
the upper atmosphere of Venus is “probably the most Earth-like environment that’s out there.”
Sarah [email protected]:
I don’t think it’s a question of them “not believing us”. These are people who want to be lied to, need to be lied to, and will relentlessly lie to themselves just to keep those precious lies intact, because if they didn’t have their lies they wouldn’t have anything at all.
And, excepting the ones that are genuinely delusional, I’m quite sure deep deep down they know it too – which only drives them to lie even harder. The “pharma shill” accusation, the scornful dismissal of logic and evidence, are just the paper tiger dressing they put on top: I don’t think they believe that crap any more than we do, but it has to be done for show anyways. Best to burn all bridges to honest reason and inquiry the moment such demons arise, lest they themselves ever be tempted to wonder what’s at the other side.
Sadmar: You can bet CBS doesn’t want to be anywhere near this, and you might consider alerting them that source ‘X’ is citing this junk as being associated with them.
I wouldn’t be so sure that CBS, as a corporate structure, is unaware and unsupportive of this nonsense. How long did it take them to can Ms. Atkisson?
See also Morton’s Demon, the concept being a parasitic version of Maxwell’s Demon that exists purely to prevent contradicting information from entering the brain of the subject and disturbing the worldview inside. Originally proposed for creationists, but applies just as well here. Willful ignorance isn’t necessarily ‘consciously’ lying to oneself, so much as a case of deliberately not thinking about any contradictions.
I might be wrong, but I think Lara Lohne also worked for CBS. So that’s three reporters going full-on Tweety Bird while working for a formerly respectable broadcast network, four if you count Rather’s accelerated breakdown. Smells kinda rotten to me.
Oh, absolutely: the pharma shill gambit is simply a rationalization for ignoring information that makes them uncomfortable. The fact that they maintain their belief by flat out refusing to examine the primary sources on which their own claim is based is ample evidence that they’re not arguing in good faith, if any more evidence was needed.
I also suspect that, on some level, they must be aware that they’re lying to themselves. Sadly, this is a phenomenon with which I have some experience. I used to be a True Believer (TM) – not in antivax-ism but Christian fundamentalism and, by extension, Young-Earth creationism. Of course, it was precisely because I was a True Believer that I made a point of studying evolution, philosophy, and other religions – there wasn’t the faintest shadow of a doubt in my mind that everything I learned about these topics would fully support the beliefs I already held (needless to say, I was an extremely sheltered child/young adult, and the fact that I likely had undiagnosed Aspergers’ probably contributed.)
Of course, the result was as inevitable as it was psychologically devastating (and I’m not using that term lightly – I had anxiety attacks so profound I had to be hospitalized at one point.) But the worst part – the worst part – was when I asked my parents, pastor, youth leader, etc., about the things I’d learned, things that were both undeniable and undeniably at odds with everything they’d taught me, and they just didn’t care. Oh, I don’t mean that they weren’t concerned about me or the obvious distress I was experiencing, but whether or not there actually was a God or an afterlife or any sort of universal justice simply wasn’t the point. Once I’d exposed every fallacy they tried to hide behind (all the while hoping desperately that they had some argument, some reason for believing that I’d missed), they all ended up telling me the same thing, almost word for word: I’d rather die believing that there’s a heaven. Not only had the people I trusted most lied to me my entire life, but somehow it felt like insult added to injury when I realized that deceiving me hadn’t even been the point – I was just collateral damage in their determination to lie to themselves.
Well, my 50 minutes are almost up – I didn’t intend to go off on a tangent like that. My point is that much of the bafflingly contradictory and even self-destructive behavior that antivaxxers (and many other groups with demonstrably counter-factual beliefs) engage in makes perfect sense once you realize that it’s all about maintaining a comfortable psychological state. One might well ask how thinking that the entire world is in a huge conspiracy to harm children could possibly qualify as “comfortable,” but then, you could ask the same thing about the belief that human beings are born destined for eternal, unimaginable torture simply for the crime of being born human. I’m not a psychologist, but I think it’s safe to say that he psychological payoff for seemingly unpleasant beliefs is likely only tenuously based on the actual content of the belief, and may well be different for different individuals.
I think there’s some misunderstanding here about the nature of TV news anchors/reporters.
We’re not talking about obscure academics or unknowns holding down other public or private sector jobs. On-air staff are very much the public face of the news department (and by extension, the station) that they work for. Their “extracurricular” activities affect public perceptions of their employer.
If my previous analogies are unacceptable, how about a news anchor whose Facebook page was full of bleatings about the “9/11 hoax” or the dire threat posed by chemtrails? The credibility of the news operation that anchor worked for would be damaged, especially if he had let his beliefs bleed into his job performance. Sorry, but I don’t think complaints to station management would be off-limits in such a situation.
I agree though that it looks very much like Swann’s boss(es) don’t care about or (less likely) agree with his “whistleblower” conspiracy nonsense, with the major factor being a perceived positive (or at least neutral) effect on ratings.
Personally I find it hard to tell if Swann is an antivaxer or he just got really well conned. I’m currently leaning towards giving him the benefit of the doubt and suggest that he got conned by some fairly believable antivaxers when he was looking for a new scoop.
The Truth in Media suggests he may be a bit of a conspiracy freak and he’s a natural target since he’s in Atlanta with CDC on his doorstep.
My main reason for this is that while the whistleblower report is absolutely terrible, I mistakenly clicked on another Truth in Media report of his on ISIS done back in early 2015 and it looked pretty good including a lot of stuff that did not seem to be getting much attention in the mainstream US media at the time.
In the ISIS report he’s stressing ‘first time’ and ‘never reported before’ which actually may be true for US media but I was reading, somewhat disbelievingly. about this in Russian media (English language versions) about the same time as Swann was reporting.
So I’m willing to suggest that he got conned and fed all the tropes that an antivaxer would love to see. As I understand it there are a lot of antivaxer sites that probably look pretty convincing to someone without a solid background in the area probably including paeans to the persecuted St. Andrew of Wakefield.
To the great Orac (all hail Great One) and his faithful minions here the Andrew Wakefield is a red flag. To most people it means nothing.
No he is an anti-vaxxer. He held this position well before he joined CBS. Perhaps he garnered it from his time on Alex Jones’ show, but more likely it is just part and parcel of his collection of crank magnets:
Agenda 21 – check
Federal Reserve conspiracy – check
9/11 truther – check
Sandy Hook truther – check
Boston Bombing false flag – check
“At least 12”
How about *exactly* 12, or, in the interests of comparison, only 12? And I believe not all of them were even diagnosed with autism.
I was reading, somewhat disbelievingly. about this in Russian media (English language versions) about the same time as Swann was reporting.
I suspect that Swann was relying on the same sources. His job before his current gig was working for RT America. He was RT’s man-on-the-ground for providing them with anti-Obama stories:
He still seems to rely on the Putin Times as his central source of information.
Very, very minor point, back at #20, @Science Mom, see the early draft (22 May 2002) of what became De Stefano 2004. WT is listed as first author.
“That said, 25 15 minutes is a broadcast half-hour (leaving time for commercials)…”
Glad you’re back. Get thee to a doctor.
^ Dang. “25” in “25 minutes” should have been a strikethrough.
[email protected] 66 ” I find it hard to tell if Swann is an antivaxer or he just got really well conned. I’m currently leaning towards giving him the benefit of the doubt and suggest that he got conned by some fairly believable antivaxers when he was looking for a new scoop.
I had the pleasure of corresponding with Mr Swann regarding his initial CDC ‘story’. The link is below. I think it’s clear that Mr Swann is a fully-vested member of the anti-vax club.
In marginally relevant news, the New Zealand coroner was investigating the death of Jasmine Renata — you will recall that the Aluminati had a “DNA contamination, in the drawing-room, with the Aluminium” theory of causation” — has just released his report
No evidence to blame Gardasil. He doesn’t even bother naming Shaw and Sin Hang Lee for their junk path reports.
Err, well, perhaps Swan is an anti-vaxer.
Thanks to all
Thanks, can you tell me which file that is in?
Wish I were better at making links. See file (A000071.PDF) in the folder CDC2
Thank you James Lind, that was sufficient for me to find it. You have my apology and I stand corrected.
@ James Lind – that’s interesting; I never knew Thompson was originally the first author. I wonder if losing first authorship contributed to his ill-will towards his co-authors, or if that decision was actually the result of his difficulties in playing nicely with others.
Maybe Thompson lost first author because hypothetically he wanted to change protocol after he saw the preliminary data and treat race as an exposure variable. If that were the case then the accusation that the others were the ones that wanted to change protocol would be a classic example of projection.
^Of course, he may have repudiated first authorship rather than losing it if he didn’t like the direction the paper was going in and didn’t want to be responsible for it. That would be consistent with his angst about presenting the results.
It’s hard to speculate as the author list on the published study barely resembles that on the draft. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14754936
I had an enjoyable ride down that slippery slope!
In that case, the most honorable thing to do would have been to remove his name from the manuscript altogether.
I was able to correspond with two of the three retired CDC employees featured in Mr Swann’s ‘news’ story. The following is my summary of their remarks.
“We made it clear to the interviewer that we have no expertise, no interest and no experience concerning the MMR vaccine, nor do we have experience or expertise in Autism and related disorders. We did not wish to comment on the Whistleblower issue. We were under the impression that the coverage related to how the CDC has changed from a small agency to a large, difficult to manage agency as the result of additional mandates and the national response to the AIDS epidemic. Furthermore, our years of service with the CDC were misrepresented although each of us gave the interviewer correct information.”
Where is the emoticon for ‘Not Surprised in the Least’ when you need it!
I actually heard from someone at the CDC that David Newberry never worked for the immunization branch, although he did work on smallpox eradication efforts. There’s also no way he was head of anything for 45 years, a claim that on its face was ridiculous, because by the time you rise to be a major executive in an organization like the CDC you’re usually over 40 (or even 50) and almost no one works into their 80s at such a job. In any case, the contact told me he was well-regarded and dedicated.
I think we need to treat the “Thompson was originally first author” argument with a little bit of care. We don’t actually know what decisions were initially made about authorship. Indeed the list of authors on this early draft may simply have been Thompson’s own suggestions.
There is a second early draft in the documents dated October 2002, some 5 months later, that has no authors listed. Perhaps more significantly on this draft, three of the original ‘authors’ are now merely acknowledgements. See also the highlighting of only 4 ‘authors’ on the first ‘early draft’, who all became authors of the final paper.
Also these early drafts are quite a long way from the final paper. This excludes material in the early drafts and includes a lot more material.
There are several possibilities:
1 That it was never agreed that Thompson would be first author and Thompson simply assumed he would be. This assumption explains best the lack of authors on the second ‘early draft’.
2. That Thompson was originally to be the lead author, but his failure to progress the paper led to DeStefano completing it and being made the lead author.
3. Thompson disagreed with the conclusions of the paper and this led to him being demoted. This is unlikely. If he disagreed sufficiently, he should have taken his name off the paper.
4. That Thompson was demoted for being a bad boy and causing trouble. Unlikely.
5. There was a conspiracy to [insert your conspiracy of choice here]. Unlikely.
Although I do think there is a viable hypothesis in the idea that not being first author on this paper is what poisoned Thompson against his colleagues.
I’m tired enough to idly wonder whether AoA would let through comments from a “Swann Dive” pseudonym.
Science Mom, no apology necessary.
I agree, above all, that there is a lot we don’t know. The file is hardly complete. We have materials from Thompson, not the others. I would lean towards a no. 2.5. There was a disagreement over how to handle race, a disagreement that emerged before the conclusions were in. Whether that disagreement was primary and how it might have interacted with other conflicts he clearly had with his coworkers are impossible to say. Or it could be door number 1.
@ Narad: BP’s still wacky, going up and down with some ‘scary’ peaks on the systolic, but I finally forced myself to deal with the Kaiser bureaucracy, and have an appt. with a new MD tomorrow AM. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Yes, on-air talent are the public face of a TV station, and their public statements off-air would be legitimate subjects for complaint. It would just be pointless in this case. There is zero chance CH46 management doesn’t pay very strict attention to what goes out on their air from the mouth of their ‘star’ anchorperson. Swann’s Alex-Jones-Lite public face wasn’t just known to CH46, but the very reason they hired him. Filing a complaint about him would just show his bosses that people are watching, and he’s being effective at stirring the pot — i.e help him get a contract extension or raise.
I find it hard to tell if Swann is an antivaxer or he just got really well conned.
Neither. His ‘thing’ is anti-government CT: ‘exposes’ of the Feds keeping the public in the dark to avoid controversy and criticism. How much he genuinely believes the Security State is everywhere and behind everything, and how much that’s just a lucrative act is a moot point (just as it’s moot how much Ann Coulter actually believes what she writes). He’s not crusading against vaccines, nor does he need to have been conned into thinking the CDC did something grossly unethical. The fact that Thompson alleged wrongdoing, and Bill Posey pimped ‘forthcoming revelations’ into the Congressional Record makes for a story in which Ben Swann gets to be the hero of the kind of story people go to Ben Swann to hear: one in which he Questions Authority on the subject of ‘transparency’.
CH46 is in the business of selling audience numbers to advertisers. Swann’s job is to attract as many viewers to CH46 news as possible. As HDB pointed out, Swann helped create the story he’s reporting. To understand the ‘why’ of that, you need to ask how the story functions to build ratings — why large numbers of people would care about it, which goes to how that public will interpret it. Anti-vaxers are a small fringe, and I doubt Marietta GA is home to an anti-vax cluster anyway. It’s a safe assumption that most of CH46’s target audience doesn’t give a rat’s arse about vaccines one way or the other. What likely does get their attention is anything that functions as ‘damn, the guvmint’s hiding stuff AGAIN!’ All they’re likely to retain is the hiding, not what was hid.
Because there ARE conspiracies, and supposedly democratic and open goverments DO hide stuff all the time. Just ask anyone in Flint. To anyone who isn’t already a partisan in the vaccine wars, #CDCwhistleblower is just adjunct reinforcement to either their understandings of real conspiracies like the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, or to the fake conspiracies like The Moon-Landing Hoax that displace angsts whose true sources people can’t bear to confront into ‘safe’ mythological obsessions.
Yes, Swann’s story aids and abets the anti-vax cause. To imagine he cares in the least about that is to vastly under-estimate the size of the stage he’s playing on…
Rather than one single specific narrative of government malfeasance, Swann is pushing a broader meta-narrative, a conspiracist meta-narrative — The Paranoid Style in American Politics — that the gubblement is always your enemy.
But that is one aspect of the Crank Magnetism phenomenon.
Any chance that Fitzgerald and Newberry might release an official statement?
Todd W @ 92
I doubt it. My sense is that they’d rather get back to being retired from CDC and working on other projects.
According to the Null-meister ( or is it Null-macher?), the “journalist” who is in possession of the CDC documents ( Swann, not named) will be on his show on prn.fm next week.
More revelations for the reality- challenged!
@DW: we know it can’t be Matt Carey; no way would Null have the guts to invite someone who’s actually read the information with an open mind and who isn’t anti-vax.
@ MI Dawn:
I heard it over today’s internet broadcast ( website?) in the last few minutes ( it’s not available yet on the site)
I didn’t hear the exact words as I was doing something else at the time BUT I think he meant Swann.
*Le Grand Idiot* has been promising an expose next week. He has the daily woo-fest at noon and the weekly ‘Progressive Commentary Hour’ which can run for several hours.
The funniest thing is referring to ( probably ) Swann as a ‘journalist’ but then he’s an “investigative reporter’.
Gag me with the proverbial spoon.
Well I guess we know that Science blogs is another paid troll of the Feds and CDC. Tossers!
Swann’s Alex-Jones-Lite public face wasn’t just known to CH46, but the very reason they hired him.
Jon @ #97
“Well I guess we know that Science blogs is another paid troll of the Feds and CDC.”
Since you are an expert on the topic of troll payments you shouldn’t have a problem identifying payments to the blog owner as well as the commenters who post under their real names. Please let us know what you find. The database of all federal contracts is here:
Good hunting and don’t forget to post links!
Well, today’s episode of noontide woo is up at prn.fm.
In the last 2 minutes or so the loon-in-charge, I mean * host*,
announces that he’ll do ( another) special presentation about autism and the whistleblower. “Experts” will appear as well as two who had contact with the whistleblower ( Andy and Hooker, I assume) and a “journalist” ( probably Swann) who has the documents and will appear .
Swann at prn.
I cannot find any response from SANEvax or anyone else in antivax circles to the findings from coroner Garry Evans, where he rejected the “Gardasil dunnit” theory.
This is surprising, after all the attention they gave to the case when various antivaxxers were allowed to present their speculations. Perhaps I am missing something.
Given the dentition, Sally Fallon is certainly asleep at the WAPF propaganda switch.
As a retired nurse, albeit from the eastern side of the Atlantic, I clearly must be in the pay of those folk.
Since you are so knowledgeable, be a good chap and get on to the accounts department as they are quite a way behind on my cheques for shilling…
To other readers: sorry for trotting this out again, but as long as conspiracy theory numpties keep trotting out the shill thing I shall keep using it…
I see 3 explanations:
– of course the coroner didn’t find anything, he is in pay of Big Pharma. Sanofi, Rupper Murdoch, CSI franchise, a coroner down under – connect the dots, sheeple!
– of course the coroner didn’t find anything with his materialistic science. Gardasil kills by fairy dust.
With these two explanations, anti-vaxers don’t bother commenting on the coroner’s report.
– now that the poor girl is buried 6 feet under, she has been forgotten by the antivax crowd. Narcissistic people can only spend so much time being concerned about other people’s woes; they have to resume the much more important task of navel-gazing.
When I went to Null’s show, be behaved like such a crook, it was unbelievable. He was badmouthing me, and so I told him I would take part in his show. I had nothing to hide and had no reason not to.
He then gets that lying buffoon Clifford Miller to keep mailing him questions, because Null didn’t know what he was talking about. Then – because I made a complete fool of Null, who claimed to have personally seen “thousands” of vaccine damaged children – he added material at the end of the “programme”, after I’d gone, and then wrapped hours around it of the buffoon Miller and the mother Isabella Thomas, who made bogus claims that her children had regressive autism, essentially abusing me and spreading their concoctions.
It seems to me that Null is a man utterly devoid of integrity.
The idea that there is anything “progressive” about him is just laughable.
@ Brian Deer:
Believe it or not, the hoary. old charlatan keeps recordings of his nonsense archived at prn.fm. It’s still there! ( late January, 2011- Gary Null Show- I hour version) . I imagine that the padded version ( all several hours of it) is also preserved for posterity
( archived at ‘progressive commentary hour’- at a later date).
I think that Orac’s readers might enjoy hearing his questions and responses to you.
He, like Adams, advocates lower taxes, smaller government, non-intervention in the economy and less regulation of charlatans like him- which is about as progressive as Thatcher and Reagan in their prime.
Brian Deer, you should be amused by what is going on a certain ship:
🙂 It seems like Wakefield is losing it. He definitely blames you for his state in life.
They wouldn’t say they wanted Alex Jones Lite, even if they did. And I didn’t mean they wanted someone who’d do stories on similar topics or with similar positions to Jones, but someone who operate in a somewhat Jonesian style. In that, I was just going off 35+ years of studying the broadcasting biz. A major-market TV station with a network affiliation doesn’t hire a news anchor without thoroughly vetting their resume. Swann’s public face was ‘out there’ for quite some time before CH46 brought him on. There would be hundreds of anchors from down the foodchain who would have wanted that gig, presenting a wide variety of styles and images. So it’s safe to assume that who they chose reflects what they wanted.
But since you asked, I did a quick Google to see what anyone said about Swann’s arrival at CH46. When he was hired, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a profile:
The AJC also noted “Once he joins CBS46, he’ll have to clear anything he posts [at TiM.com] with the station first.” So, no, the new video isn’t “going rogue”. Swann isn’t going to go to the bother of making a piece that long if he can’t put it somewhere under his name, so CH46 had to have approved it before he began production.
In another AJC article the station manager and news director addressed their all-but-complete overhaul of the news show at the time Swann was hired.
They wanted scoops, so they needed an ‘investigative journalist’. They wanted a LOT of scoops, so they couldn’t go with old-school investigative reporting which (c.f. “Spotlight”) takes a lot of time and labor. They needed someone whose ‘investigations’ amounted to digging up some existing material to leverage. Getting such “a story you won’t see anywhere else” pre-fab obviously sends the producer away from stuff in ‘the mainstream media’ and out towards the fringes. ‘Compelling’, ‘not vanilla’ and ‘cutting through the clutter’ are codes words for controversial topics and ‘sensationalism over sobriety’.
Swann scored checkmarks in all those boxes, as does #CDCwhistleblower. It’s inflammatory. The other stations aren’t going there. It has a strong Atlanta component, which not only appeals to the local audience, but means stories can be generated locally without any travel budget for interviews. Those are management’s criteria, as dictated by their business model. The appeal to the story is exactly what the hashtag says – what the whistle at Big Guvment is being blown about is irrelevant to CH46. Without that angle, an ‘anti-vax’ story would be useless to CH46, and thus also to Swann.
It’s not about ideology. It’s about getting attention that can be translated into ad sales, so Mededith broadcasting lets the GM, news director, and Swann keep their jobs. Swann’s video has ideological effects, of course, likely to help the AVers, but ‘being AV’ has virtually nothing to do with why it got made and presented.
whatever the case may be with CBS46 & Swann, making up a bs hatchet job piece and calling it a factual documentary/investigative news report is still wrong…wrong is still wrong.
an emphasis on enterprise stories[ […] that are not on the other stations.
The management does not seem particularly concerned with the possibility that these stories are “not on the other stations” because they’re complete fabrications.
In other “whistleblower” news, Dan and the AoA commentariat are serving up some truly painful cluelessness about the False Claims Act in the Weekly Fishwrap. You’d think that after a couple of years, somebody might sprout a clue.
Just read a semi-fawning article on a local “whistleblower”, who (based on her web-accessible history) is nuttier than the entire annual output of the Collin Street Bakery.*
Sadly, I think cranks are starting to outnumber genuine whistleblowers.
*renowned for their fruitcakes.
So you pro-vaxers are cool with them throwing incriminating data into a trashcan? And with them touting this study, which was clearly a fraud, as evidence of “no link” between vaccines and autism when they quite clearly found a link in a sub group?
Of course this is the only time pharma has used fraud to cover their asses. Honest.
Hope ya’ll get your zirka vaccine. make sure to put it into your kids and pregnant women too.
Which data would these be? The ones that the CDC had ready to hand when Hooker requested them?
“Hope ya’ll get your zirka vaccine.”
What do you have against Ukrainian music?
Sadmar: Anti-vaxers are a small fringe, and I doubt Marietta GA is home to an anti-vax cluster anyway. It’s a safe assumption that most of CH46’s target audience doesn’t give a rat’s arse about vaccines one way or the other.
I’d like to point out that the population of Georgia is pretty well-known for being anti-science. They elect congressman who think cosmology is the work of the devil, it’s pretty obvious that they don’t vaccinate. Heck, they probably don’t even boil water down there. And Ch 46 knows their audience well- they hired the dude and there’s no way he’s ever gonna get fired for his views.
Caveat, there may be a few Georgians who actually can understand science, may work for NASA, or are doctors, but they appear not to vote.
Yes, all those CDC staffers who live and work in Atlanta are totes clueless about science.
But Shay, the study was “clearly a fraud”; what stronger evidence could there be?
BTW, yes, it’s really the Crewton Ramone, blocks salesman, who is further willing to sport one-upsmanship on the Charles Carreon look.
^ I’m also amazed that NN actually ran with “OUTRAGE! Jimmy Kimmels [sic] Niggerization and Faggotization of Vaccine-damaged Children Revives Hate Speech Labels for TV Ratings,” which floated right up.
Jeebus you’re a horse’s arse. I wonder how you can pass so many wrong-headed characterizations when it’s so obvious what an ignorant, uneducated jerk you are.
“Hope ya’ll get your zirka vaccine. make sure to put it into your kids and pregnant women too.”
“What do you have against Ukrainian music?”
I think he was referring to Polish music (the maZirka, of which Chopin was fond).
If Zika virus ever gets a serious foothold in the U.S., and a vaccine is available, it’ll be interesting to see how antivax prospective moms react – take the chance of getting infected and risk microcephaly in their offspring, or be vaccinated.*
*a protective course of bleach enemas might be just the ticket.
“Heck, they probably don’t even boil water down there.”
We don’t boil water around here either unless we’re using it for tea or coffee, or perhaps intending to boil eggs. Do you mean they don’t boil water before drinking it? We don’t either. We have water treatment facilities to deliver clean water. Perhaps your community might consider investing in one.
By the way, if CBS46 is as thrilled with Swann and his conspiracy theories as sadmar keeps saying, why wasn’t this video broadcast? Why doesn’t it proudly bear the CBS46 name?
Here’s what I wish PGP would understand:
when you make sweeping statements, you lose finer data.
Imagine a broom if you will. Or a rake. Or a vacuum cleaner.
There are truly population trends across geographical entities: they can be described verbally as well as mathematically but these comparisons suffer when attention to fine detail is disregarded- these outlines should serve as a guide not a copy of reality.
I like articles like Red State/ Blue State wikip—
first, there are red states and blue states as shown on a map-these labels align somewhat with particular general qualities which we can list- like the rural-urban dimension.
Then, you have to define what red and blue mean such as, how people vote over several elections. Then, WHICH elections are those? Only the national ones or should we look at more local ones as well? Thus, a state could be both red and blue- some are purple.
Red and blue are each also composed of multiple variables showing how people support different issues- so Blue voter A may not entirely agree with Blue voter B altho’ their final votes agree.
Then, more importantly, if you look below the level of state, you’ll find that the urban-rural dimension can be very important, zooming in, a red state may have islands of urban blue and a blue state may have red areas in exurbs and outlying areas. AS you look at finer discriminations like counties or cities, things look much more purple.
Like an impressionist or pointillist painter, we often mix small details or diverse hues into a larger blend, as our eyes do, when really, if we look closely, it’s more like a mosaic.
I imagine sadmar would say that they’re thrilled that he is stirring the pot and glad to be associated with it in general, but in this particular case they don’t want to be quite that associated with the video.
The other thing you should realize is that it’s possible to have mutually beneficial relationships with people who don’t agree with you on every point. I’m a political oddball with my habit of wanting to see empirical evidence that an idea works before I support it. If I only socialized with people who believed the same things I did, I would be very lonely indeed. Fortunately, it’s possible to disagree without being confrontational or taking the differences personally.
Just remember that you tarred a lot of good people like you who live in Georgia with your broad brush. You also tarred a lot of good people unlike you with your broad brush. You did nothing to convince the people in Georgia to believe or act more like you would like them to. You did do a little bit to convince the people in Georgia to not believe or act like you would like them to. It seems like you are your own worst enemy.
“You can’t treat your friends like the people you’re trying to con, Hooker.”
– The Sting
Interestingly enough, the video appears to have been removed from Ben’s page….
@ Lawrence, it’s still up on his FB page, the link Orac provides in his post. But I don’t see it on his TiM site either.
@Lawrence and Science Mom
Interesting. I wonder what happened? Did CBS46 put some pressure on him? Or did he decide to actually do some fact-checking and quietly memory hole the video?
I’m going with “didn’t want to pay for the hosting.”
Justthestats: “Just remember that you tarred a lot of good people like you who live in Georgia with your broad brush. You also tarred a lot of good people unlike you with your broad brush.”
The Centers for Disease Control is located in Georgia. I am pretty sure they are not anti-vaccine.
BUT Wm Thompson still works there.
Denice, is there an eye rolling emoticon?
I don’t know about their congressmembers, but “it’s pretty obvious that they don’t vaccinate”? Do tell.
How about we look at “Estimated Vaccination Coverage with Individual Vaccines and Selected Vaccination Series Among Children Aged 19-35 Months by State — National Immunization Survey (NIS), United States, 2014”
and click on the Excel file for “by State (includes birth dose of HepB and 2+doses Hep A)”.
Georgia’s rates are better than the national average for all of the following columns:
3+DTaP, 4+DTaP, 3+Polio, 1+MMR, Hib-PS, 3+HepB, HepB Birth dose, 1+Var, 3+PCV, 1+HepA, 2+HepA, Combined 3-vaccine series, Combined 4-vaccine series, Combined 5-vaccine series, Combined 6-vaccine series, Combined 7-vaccine series
Georgia’s rates are worse than the national average for only the following columns:
3+Hib (92.6±0.8 vs 92.4±4.9), Hib-FS (82.0±1.3 vs 81.1±7.1), 4+PCV (82.9±1.3 vs 81.3±7.2), and Rotavirus (71.7±1.6 vs 71.6±7.8)
Granted, the margins of errors are large enough that we can’t say that Georgia’s rate are indisputably better, but they certainly aren’t obviously worse. If you sort by “Combined 7-vaccine series”, for instance, Georgia comes in a respectable 15th. Minnesota — isn’t that where you live? — comes in 35th.
And then we can consider, “Vaccination Coverage Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2014–15 School Year”
and scroll down to the table. Sorting on the MMR column, I find that Georgia’s rate is in the middle of the pack (21st), surpassed by several states that Politicalguineapig despises such as Mississippi (the champion!), West Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Arizona. Georgia does beat Minnesota (94% vs 93.5%).
Sorting by DTaP, Georgia remains at 21st, still above Minnesota. Sorting by Varicella, Georgia moves up to 16th, though to be fair, ten States don’t require it. Minnesota remains three places below Georgia.
There are all sorts of caveats with the data, but still, it’s not so obvious that Georgians don’t vaccinate.
PGP doesn’t need facts, she just knows.
Neither is from the U.S., but both John “C.” Stone and Jenny Allen have deemed rubella vaccination acceptable at AoA in those unfortunate cases where disease missed the lintel, IIRC.
Lawrence, Science Mom and Todd W @ 130, 131 & 132
It’s still on the “Truth” in Media website but he changed the title. Look on January 26, the only story without a headline.
That just redirects to his Facebook page.
If the video has been taken off the TiM page, Swann may indeed have received some flack. However, you should be careful in assuming where any flack might come from or what it might be about. But there might not have been any internal flack at all. Narad’s joking suggestion might not be that far off of a scenario where Swann would ‘bury a piece down the memory hole: if it wasn’t getting the traction he’d hoped, he could pull it in the same sense networks cancel shows – choosing to give the bandwidth to something with more appeal. But it’s not buried, it’s just double-buffered: Swann’s CH46 viewers can still find the TiM site, and it still links to his FB page.
JTS got it. The video wasn’t broadcast because it’s 25 minutes long. This is ‘supplemental web/social-media content’, which is a Big Thing in news/public-affairs shows these days. It doesn’t appear under the CBS46 name because they DO want to keep some small distance between their overall identity and his. They want to say THEY are not pot-stirrers, they just happily offer you the pot-stirrer guy as part of their spectrum of programming.
The fact Swann puts up longer TiM pieces outside of the CH46 rubric actually bolsters the image of him CH46 is trying to sell: he’s not ‘MSM’ he’s ‘Independent’. CH46 wants to reap the benefit of controversy in the ratings, but position Swann as the author, so he takes any hits…
Again, if his bosses hadn’t signed-off on this, it wouldn’t have been produced in the first place. It takes a good amount of money and time to make a 25-minute video. You think Swann’s doing this on his own dime, hiring freelancers? You think he doesn’t have a non-competition clause in his contract?
Frankly, the thought that CH46 or Swann would begin pearl-clutching about the facticity of the video, and withdraw it for being ‘sub-standard’ journalism is laughingly naive about how the media biz operates. I realize nobody here has probably ever worked in TV, but the satire of ‘Network’ is closer to the reality than are pious depictions like ‘Broadcast News’.
There’s no evidence that the video is anything but exactly where CH46 wants it, and functioning exactly as they want it to in their efforts to use Swann to draw attention and viewers to ‘CS46 Evening News’. What could make CH46 back away from such a piece would be:
1) An important sponsor of ‘CBS46 News’ doesn’t like, and complains to Meredith Broadcasting. Then someone at corporate gets nervous, calls CH46 management, and warns them to be more careful in how they implement their strategy.
2) Something in a piece mucks up an important source relationships for another journalist employed by CH46 or Meredith, and that piece’s producer gets told to chill for the sake of getting material for future stories. E.g. in this case, someone could have said, ‘Damnit Ben, after what you did with those ex-CDC guys, none of my people ‘inside’ [X] will talk to me!’
I doubt either of those happened here, at least in any significant way, since the links opus and Todd noted are still there.
No, it’s still there.
Hey kiddies, there’s a valuable new addition to the antivax literature – Neil Z. Miller’s Review Of Critical Vaccine Studies:
I mean, if you can’t trust an “independent researcher” who talks to extraterrestrials, who can you trust?
Via the Reviews, we kearn that Shaw and Tomljenovic have found a new journal-shaped rubbish-bin to use as an outlet, in the form of “OA Autism”. The skeevy predatory publisher in this case is OA Publishing London. Suffice to say that it is on Jeffrey Beall’s list for its general incompetence and absence of standards, and that Neuroskeptic conducted some research into the general level of griftiness involved.
An ordinary person looking at that book’s cover would think that Neil Z Miller is a doctor. He could only have known this, which, in my view, constitutes deception even before you open it.
Brian Deer says (#147),
…deception even before you open it.
The book teaches vaccine cautionary principles, it appears that Neil Z. Miller has written many books about vaccines.
Will you use the same zeal to pontificate Neil Z. Miller’s book as you did with mine?
@ herr doktor bimler:
I see that OA Autism has showcased other bright lights in the pseudoscience firmament:
Hewitson, Rossignol and the Geiers.-I suppose that they now have something else to do other than just speaking at conferences. Especially Old Struck-off** and son.
-btw- like a good shill I’m off to view the burgeoning art collection of a Major Elitist University ™ so I can observe the power of money close up.
** in several locales
I see that OA Autism has showcased other bright lights in the pseudoscience firmament: Hewitson, Rossignol and the Geiers
Is Hewitson in good odour in pseudoscience circles, after her definitive monkey / vaccine study concluded “Ooops, no link to autism after all”?
Her contribution to OA Autism is a review paper, expending a lot of words to conclude that “More research is needed”. She has foolishly accepted a post on the Editorial Board there and perhaps feels obliged to contribute something.
Not to be confused with Autism Open Access — which comes to us from the sh1tweasels at OMICS, and is even lower-rent (edited-in-chief by Ruggiero’s crony Siniscalco). Whoops, Hewitson has published there as well… unmindful of the fact that OMICS journals are write-only in nature, not intended for anyone to read them. Perhaps she has a large publications budget from the Johnson Centre, and has to spend it *somewhere*.
Brian: “An ordinary person looking at that book’s cover would think that Neil Z Miller is a doctor. He could only have known this, which, in my view, constitutes deception even before you open it.”
Is that even Neil in the photo? It doesn’t look like him as as seen on americanloons.blogspot.com or other sites.
Maybe they got the guy who empties the wastebaskets* to put on a white coat and stethoscope, and pose as a physician.
*he’d still be a solid bet to know more about vaccines than Neil.
Is that even Neil in the photo?
I leave it to the reader’s imagination what the cover of Terri Arranga’s volume (which AoA has decided to pimp three years after it was published) invites in terms of synchronistic interpretation.
the cover of Terri Arranga’s volume
The visual equation between bowels and brains (after all, both have a convoluted appearance) seems to be a recurring theme in profitable crankery.
It’s just plumbing, guys.
Speaking of, my kitchen sink is still clogged. Which makes it hard to do the dishes. I bought an auger and everything.
I did recently accidentally fix the pressure in a buddy’s shower in Madison whilst wandering about at night in an accidentally mildly altered state of consciousness.
Apparently the key to fixing the shower was to run a bath.
Speaking of, my kitchen sink is still clogged.
That never ends well:
My view is that someone other than a medical practitioner who gives medical advice behind the cover of a white coat should be arrested.
Does the phrase “cranial-rectal inversion” apply?
Narad, yer link’s broken. (#158.)
about those covers
I think that Miller is sneakily suggesting that he is a physician by placing his name right next to the white coated figure; he partially covers his ( sorry) arse by adding the MD blurb ( is the photo of Goldman?- another wanker IIRC) also he has no photo on the back cover to identify him. Skeevy, is correct.
Aranga’s cover is just so extremely awfully bad: having identical figures ( double crosses? Central European crosses? Who knows!) superimposed she suggests that the brain influences or is the same as the GI .
What’s wrong with these people?
I wonder if ANY of these books make money?
“I think that Miller is sneakily suggesting that he is a physician by placing his name right next to the white coated figure; he partially covers his ( sorry) arse by adding the MD blurb ( is the photo of Goldman?”
It doesn’t look like Goldman either.
If you want a stock photo of a physician to place on the cover of your book or product label, they’re not hard to find:
(the bikini-clad doc is my favorite, but tastes may vary)
For a book like Miller’s the best choice might have been this image of Galen (abysmally ignorant by today’s standards, but who likely had considerably more accurate knowledge about infectious disease and immunity than Miller).
I see that Miller’s vanity press also has a nonbook product line.
But wait, there’s more! Check this out:
I should note that herr doktor bimler’s link ( # 157) is quite creepy but intriguing.
Altho’ my place usually has an abundance of stray hair about
( human and cat) I’ve never had the problem the film’s protagonist had.
Oh no, not CAT hair!
I see that Miller’s vanity press also has a nonbook product line.
Evidently a colon-blasting “Herbal Cleanser” is not a “Gift for Women”.
I shall have to rethink my plan for Valentines Day .
I would think many women would resent the insinuation that their herbs are insufficiently clean.
The testimonials for the colon blaster are impressive and also include an MLM invitation from the “publisher” (Miller is the “director”; both ThinkTwice and the press share the same post-office box).
Forgive me for asking what may be stupid questions, but:
1) Are the authors claiming we have been visited by aliens?
2) Is the “shift” that aliens are going to reveal their existence to us?
Sounds like the plot of Childhood’s End
Narad, I emailed you.
Pretty sure those are puzzle pieces a la Autism Speaks (But We’ll Talk Over It)’s iconography.
@Julian Frost – I don’t know about these particular authors, but there are those who apparently sincerely believe that:
– We are currently being visited by benevolent aliens, and some people communicate with them.
– They will soon shift us to a 5 dimensional coordinate (penta-ordinate?) system where humans will attain higher levels of consciousness.
I wish I were making this up.
@ Antaeus Feldspar:
Looking at the Autism Speaks link, I see that their emblem is a 2D figure like a cut out puzzle piece which *vaguely* resembles the double crosses- or whatever they are- on the cover.
I can see what you mean but why didn’t they just superimpose the actual shapes themselves?
Does this mean you wish you had beaten them to this grift?
capnkrunch, would you please email me via my blog?
In other news..
it seems that Ben Swann will be a regular on Mike Adams’s Talk Network ( internet radio) amongst such stellar personae as Peter Breggin and ((shudder)) Gerald Celente
( today, Natural News)
Just <a href="the usual; my right-shift key has developed a floating nipple.
^ I feel worse about the hyphen than the malformed link, just for the record.
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