It’s been a while since I’ve written about Paul Thacker, the formerly legitimate investigative journalist who squandered his reputation by going anti-GMO conspiracy theorist and taking to harassing scientists in the name of “transparency.” Basically, Thacker takes what is normally a good thing, skepticism and suspicion of the motives of large corporations, beyond reason to the realm of conspiracy. He then generalized that to big pharma—because of course he did—which led him to vaccines. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit two and a half years ago, he’s predictably turned to attacking science communicators who promote vaccination as “vaccine cheerleaders.” (Of course, I can’t help but respond: Thacker says that as though advocating for vaccines against a virus that’s now killed over 1 million Americans were a bad thing in the middle of a pandemic.)
Most recently, he published an “investigative exposé” in The BMJ of the phase 3 randomized clinical trial that led to the emergency use authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine based on the report of a single “Pfizer whistleblower” named Brook Jackson, who had briefly been briefly employed at Ventavia Research Group, one of the contract research organizations (CROs) contracted by Pfizer to help it run its massive trial. Ventavia ran three Pfizer clinical trial sites in Texas (out of 153 total sites), and Thacker used Jackson’s account to accuse it of sloppy research practices, unblinding of patients, and even outright data falsification, which is scientific fraud. Unfortunately, as several sources, including this blog, pointed out, Thacker’s charges were poorly supported and unproven allegations were generalized to the entire Pfizer clinical trial in a manner designed to cast doubt on whether its COVID-19 vaccine is truly safe and effective, leading me for one to ask, “WTF happened to The BMJ?” Even worse, The BMJ, rather than taking the criticisms (which were quite valid) to heart, decided to defend Thacker and strike back strike back at critics, going so far as to publish an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, because Facebook had used a fact checker called Lead Stories to post a warning when Thacker’s report was shared on Facebook. It was truly embarrassing to read, given how poorly reasoned and sourced it was.
This brings me to an article published last week on Thacker’s Substack—because of course his blog is on Substack, which has become a profitable home to cranks, quacks, antivaxxers, COVID-19 pandemic minimizers, conspiracy theorists, and grifters of all stripes—entitled Vaccines Are Magic. Longtime readers will immediately recognize that title as being an antivax trope, but in case you didn’t, I note that the blurb reads: Current social conventions allow disparagement of drugs and devices, but critique a vaccine … good night, and good luck. Gee…where have I heard this narrative before?
Still, let’s take a look at what Thacker regurgitated. Thacker being Thacker, of course he starts by bragging rather shamelessly:
I’m attending an award ceremony in London this Thursday as a finalist for the Steve Connor Award for Investigative Science Journalism, presented by the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW). My entry is an investigation I wrote for The BMJ about data integrity issues found in Pfizer’s COVID-19 clinical trial, and which was based on dozens of internal company documents, photos, audio recordings, and emails.
“A very good story on a sensitive issue that was reported responsibly, it very clearly spells out why the story mattered,” ABSW judges described the investigation. One method scientists use to judge impact is through a scoring system called “Altmetric” and my investigation has an Altmetric rating of 45,135—the second highest score ever.
Unfortunately, after The BMJ published my investigation, we ran into a political buzzsaw from Facebook, which labeled the article “misinformation” even though they could find no factual errors. Facebook’s awkward political response spurred editors at The BMJ to send Mark Zuckerberg an open letter complaining about his “inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible” fact check.
Thankfully, Thacker didn’t win. It was, however, not at all a good reflection on the ABSW that it chose Thacker’s BMJ reporting as a finalist for its investigative science journalism award. (Seriously, what were the judges smoking?) I also can’t help but note how Thacker brags about his Altmetric rating for his article. Of course, I (and those who try to counter misinformation) would argue that that’s part of the problem, namely that a poorly sourced article based on a single disgruntled whistleblower and not much else other than cherry picked emails and documents provided by the whistleblower, was spread so widely on social media to feed a thousand antivax narratives. Not only did The BMJ fail egregiously here; so did the ABSW. Even though Thacker didn’t win the Connor Award, just his being an ABSW award finalist gives him way more cred than he deserves.
Also, note how Thacker retreats behind the claim that there were “no errors” in his story. Even if that were true (it’s not), the best propaganda doesn’t use outright lies and false information. Rather, weaves ostensibly correct facts and occurrences into a deceptive narrative, cherry picking them and and presenting them to the reader without important relevant context, thus lying by omission and misorganization of supposed “facts.”
So what is the antivaccine trope that Thacker parroted?
Malhotra and Berenson and Kirsch, oh my!
Thacker being Thacker and bragging annoyingly aside, let’s get to what I mean when I say that Thacker is parroting an old antivax talking point. Apparently, Thacker is not pleased at the criticism that his article garnered. Like the editors of The BMJ, nstead of taking it to heart and wondering if he could do better, Thacker has decided that it’s ideology and the belief that vaccines are so magic that you can never speak ill of them even in the slightest that is behind the criticism, a charge that he gets to after listing laudatory stories about his BMJ story, including the illustrious website ZeroHedge:
However, I am not the only person caught up in the Great Vaccine Scare—hysteria about any and all vaccine criticism, which has reached a fever pitch during the pandemic. In the current social and political environment, you can disparage and heap scorn on products that go through the FDA approval process, if they are called pharmaceuticals or devices, but if you dare critique a vaccine you’re done—good night, and good luck.
Common standards of scientific discourse—data transparency, questioning of efficacy and safety or side effects—simply don’t apply to products if they are called vaccines. Because vaccines are magic.
Let’s take a look at the examples that Thacker chooses to “demonstrate” this principle: Aseem Malhotra, Alex Berenson, and Steve Kirsch. The only appropriate reaction to the choice of these three people as examples of “censorship” or “harassment” for voicing “skepticism” of vaccine benefits and risks is this:
Here’s how Thacker describes it:
At the end of June, Dr. Aseem Malhotra gave an invited talk at a function that took place as a side event during a meeting of the British Medical Association. Just so we’re all clear—because people seem to freak out—Malhotra was NOT giving a talk for the British Medical Association (BMA). It was a talk for some international physicians, who happened to have their meeting during a BMA event.
During the talk, Malhotra, spoke about the importance of evidence-based medicine and the history of corruption with pharma, during which he mentioned a preprint that found serious adverse events in the COVID-19 vaccines sold by Moderna and Pfizer. Just so that we’re all clear—because people seem to freak out—Malhotra did NOT give a talk about vaccine side effects. He gave a talk about problems with evidence-based medicine and pharma’s history of corrupt behavior, during which … he mentioned problems with Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines.
You might remember Dr. Malhotra from previous mentions on this blog. He once claimed (before there were vaccines) that “metabolic optimization” would protect you from COVID-19, while Tweeting things like this:
To paraphrase what I wrote a the time: Nice way to fat shame overworked, frightened, and exhausted NHS staff and to attack a company that made a little gesture to make them feel a bit better for a short time! More recently, Dr. Malhotra publicized a truly awful abstract by a Goop doctor that claimed to have used an unproven device to demonstrate that mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines caused damage to the linings of blood vessels, leading to heart attacks and cardiac arrest. He showed no skepticism or critical thinking at all about a truly incompetently done “study” that not only hadn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal yet, but didn’t even show what it claimed to show.
The hilarious thing about Thacker’s account is that anyone who knows about medical meetings and the various side meetings that other organizations often organize around the main meeting that Dr. Malhotra had tried to make it sound as though the British Medical Association had given him a “Champion of Preventative Medicine” Award (and during the acceptance speech Dr. Malhotra mentioned supposedly horrible adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines):
Interesting. it sure looks as though Dr. Malhotra was receiving an award from the BMA, with the BMA chair giving him the award. However, before the dinner, Dr. Malhotra had Tweeted:
It was clear that it was not the BMA, which lead to the BMA Tweeting this:
This incident led Thacker to complain:
If you’re reading this and scratching your head wondering how a tweet could rip a hole in the vaccine universe, thank yourself for not falling under the spell of vaccine magic where minor denunciations must be warded off with counter enchantments and press release potions.
“There’s a lot of money and many careers behind these vaccines,” Malhotra told me.
No. It was rather obvious what Dr. Malhotra was doing. He was trying to make it look as though the BMA had given him a preventative medicine award. Otherwise, why didn’t he state which organization gave him the award in the now-deleted Tweet?
I debated about going into detail about what Thacker said about Alex Berenson and Steve Kirsch, but, really, do I have to? It’s not for nothing that Alex Berenson has been called the “pandemic’s wrongest man“; he’s richly earned that dubious title. He’s even shown up in this blog a few times, mainly for his promotion of false claims that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein from vaccines sheds and is deadly and, hilariously, the aforementioned awful study promoted by Dr. Malhotra. Thacker, characteristically, ranted that Twitter had labeled a Tweet of Berenson’s claiming that COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent infection or transmission to be misleading. After all, just because the vaccines are not nearly 100% effective at preventing transmission and infection does not mean that they don’t prevent them.
As for Steve Kirsch, I’ve written about his misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and COVID-19 so often that he has his own tag now. Particularly ridiculous have been his increasingly silly challenges to “debate” real experts. Less amusing is his hosting of antivaccine conferences that now go way beyond just COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and repeat “old school” antivax talking points and conspiracy theories that predate the pandemic by a couple of decades. Unsurprisingly, Kirsch is spreading a narrative that he’s being “canceled” by Wikipedia, which is increasingly mentioning his antivaccine activism and less his previous accomplishments before he became a pathetic crank.
These three aren’t the only ones mentioned by Thacker as being unjustly attacked because vaccines are “magic,” but they’re the main ones. Thacker also briefly references Meryl Nass, Martin Kulldorff, Tom Jefferson, and others, all with the same sorts of nonsense about how the reason that they’re supposedly being targeted for attacks is not because they’re spreading antivaccine disinformation but because they are criticizing COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines are “magic” that can never be questioned.
Quoth Thacker: “Vaccines are magic!” Quoth Orac: “Where have I heard that before?”
As I’ve shown, Thacker basically proclaims that criticizing vaccines brings the wrath of the pharma gods down upon you because “vaccines are magic.” Again, longtime readers will recognize that this phrase has commonly been used by a lot of antivaxxers. Some of it is based on a quote by Bill Gates in which he described mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 as “magic,” but this trope dates back to way before the pandemic. (I’m really shocked that Thacker doesn’t mention Gates in his post.) Just for yucks, I searched some antivaccine sites for references to magic with respect to vaccines, starting with my favorite old wretched hive of scum and antivax quackery, Age of Autism. Here are a couple of results:
- “Vaccines ARE magic! Put any toxin into a syringe that contains a vaccine. Presto! It is no longer toxic! Just ask Mockter Pan” (source).
- “Seems they are so captured by the magic of vaccines that their ability to think logically has been incapacitated. Then again, maybe this is one of the side effects of vaccination that we haven’t recognized as yet” (source).
- “But, on the other hand, it can be difficult for the same observers to understand that certain authorities might not be exempt from a motive to take power over other human beings in a scenario that results not in death, imprisonment and infamy for those in control but nearly magical status in the realm of science and public health” (source).
- “This study says that the push to ‘educate’ us into believing vaccines are as magical as fairy dust, as safe as a mother’s hug and as necessary as air via ‘intervention programs’ is a failure” (source).
- “The fundamental problem perhaps lies with politicians more than anything else. They want magic solutions and vaccines are magic, particularly in the hands of psychopathic officials. They assert the benefits and deny the harms and they get very good at it – the policy works and the politicians sleep at night. This is why they are addicted to vaccines” (source).
Then, for yucks, I did Natural News, which led me to this 2013 article:
Thanks to the dogmatic, anti-science state of today’s vaccine industry, anyone who questions the safety of vaccines is immediately subjected to the junk science dogma / delusional thinking of vaccine advocates who essentially believe their vaccines are MAGIC in that they deliver 100% benefits and 0% risks (an impossibility in any medication, especially medicines which are injected).
Thus, the entire vaccine industry is supported not by science but by dogma and profit. Real science is not allowed in the vaccine industry, and intelligent questions are shouted down by vaccine dogmatists who are almost universally receiving enormous sums of money from vaccine companies in the form of patent royalties, kickbacks or bribes (also known as exorbitant “speaking fees”).
If anyone can tell me how Thacker’s article is saying anything different than Mike Adams wrote then, please give it a go. Both articles basically argue that vaccines are magic, religious in nature, and as a result one dares not speak ill of them, lest the backlash destroy you. You’ll forgive me (although Thacker won’t) if I point out that when you start sounding like Mike Adams ranting about vaccines being so “magical” that you can’t criticize them, you are deep into antivax territory. Ditto when you start likening vaccines to religious dogma, as Thacker quotes Jefferson saying:
“Unfortunately, vaccines have become a type of religion,” said Tom Jefferson, Senior Associate Tutor University of Oxford who led many of the Cochrane Reviews on the flu vaccine. “We are regressing to the 80s where you pick and choose your evidence. All of this has been exacerbated by social media and personal attacks.”
Did I also mention the projection here? Antivaxxers, after all, are very skilled at “picking and choosing” their evidence. I also can’t help but reference how antivaxxers have long loved to refer vaccines as a religion, for example, Vaccinianity:
Vaccinianity – (Vax.e.an.eh.te) n. The worship of Vaccination. The belief that Vaccine is inherently Good and therefore cannot cause damage. If damage does occur, it is not because Vaccine was bad, but because the injured party was a poor receptacle for the inherently Good Vaccine. (ie. hanna poling was hurt when she came into contact with Vaccine, not because the Vaccine was harmful, but because her DNA was not to par or because her mitochondrial disorder was to blame.) Vaccine is presumed to have rights that supersede the rights of the individual, while the human person’s rights must defer to Vaccine.
I could go on and on and on citing examples of antivaxxers likening vaccines to magic that can only do good and never harm and to religious dogma that one dares not contradict because if one does the penalties will be horrific, although I can’t resist one more, from Levi Quackenboss:
Seen through this lens, how is the ritual of vaccination in western medicine different from the ritual of baptism as a requirement for eternal salvation in Christianity? Or the Hindu black pottu dot on a baby’s cheek keeping them from getting sick because people admire them too much? Or, at the extreme end of infant rituals, female genital mutilation as a mark of marriageability in Burkina Faso?
People who participate in those rituals don’t question them because they are huge cultural stories. Even if they don’t wholeheartedly believe, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How can scientific research ever make progress when it has to adhere to the (government, big ag, chemical and pharmaceutical industries) religious tenets of ritualistic medicine?
Oh, what the heck? How about one more? Here’s Jon Rappoport examining “archetypes and symbols that surround vaccination and give it occult power” and stating why going against vaccination supposedly results in such a backlash:
Subconsciously and archetypally, the “modern science of vaccination” is doctrine. It is alchemy. It is magic. Going against the magic is tantamount to trying to overturn the very basis of life in the tribe.
And let’s circle back to Mike Adams again:
Today, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook demand the ritualistic sacrifice of children to the “vaccine gods” as a way to appease their globalist controllers. Just like in the era of the Maya, children are especially prized for their innocence which is violated by puncturing the skin and injecting the child with foreign DNA extracted from other children sacrificed at abortion centers.
Quite literally, the dead children are liquefied and “fed” to other children, many of whom are maimed or killed by the toxic intervention (yes, this is how vaccines are manufactured). This is all carried out in the name of “science,” just as the Maya high priests carried out their sacrifices in the name of “cosmic powers.”
What few people have recognized yet is that in the realm of globalist power, the sacrifice of children is always required for an ascending globalist to “prove” their commitment to the cause. Zuckerberg, you see, wants to become a “high priest” of the modern technocracy which is founded in a scientific dictatorship, medical tyranny and the power of the coercive state. The ritualistic sacrifice of children is a necessary component of those ascensions to power.
While it’s true that Thacker hasn’t gone quite as far into crazytown as Adams has yet, his message is, at its heart, very similar to that of Mike Adams, Jon Rappoport, Levi Quackenboss, and commenters at Age of Autism. The difference is just a matter of degree, not concept. After all, in his article Thacker explicitly likened COVID-19 vaccines to “magic” and “religion” that cannot be criticized because the powerful pharma priesthood will not permit it and uses his experience being criticized for his BMJ report, as well as the experiences of others, to support that narrative. He can deny being antivaccine all he likes—and maybe he even believes that he isn’t antivaccine—but this particular narrative is an antivaccine trope that goes back to long before I ever started paying attention to the antivaccine movement (and I’ve been at this for over 20 years). Basically, when you start to sound very much like a toned down version of Mike Adams—no ritual child sacrifice to the magical vaccine gods for Thacker, at least not yet!—you are repeating antivaccine narratives. The only question that remains is: Are you doing it because you’re antivaccine or because you’re ignorant—or both?
I’ll leave you to decide which is the case for Paul Thacker.