Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Skepticism/critical thinking

Steve Kirsch uses doxxing and the threat of a libel suit to silence Dr. Canuck

Tech bro turned antivaxxer Steve Kirsch threatened to dox and sue pseudonymous influencer Dr. Jonathan E. Canuck, completing his journey to the antivax Dark Side as a litigious bully.

After Monday’s post, in which I described how tech bro turned antivaxxer Steve Kirsch had gone from “just” anti-COVID-19 vaccine to what I called “irredeemably bonkers antivax,” I didn’t think I’d be writing about him again for a good long while, particularly given that he had blocked me on Twitter last week, thus making my Twitter feed much better because I don’t see him tagging me anymore and therefore don’t see his more bonkers antics. Unfortunately, something this good couldn’t last. No, Kirsch didn’t unblock me. Instead, I became aware of his descent much further down the antivax rabbit hole from Tweets describing how he was both doxxing, making complaints to the state medical board about, and threatening to sue a pseudonymous family practice doctor who had criticized him, thus demonstrating that becoming a litigious bully seeking to use legal thuggery to intimidate critics to silence is a (likely) inevitable feature, not a bug, in devolving into a crank as cranky as Steve Kirsch has become. These Tweets led me to a post on Kirsch’s Substack entitled Who is “Dr. Jonathan E. Canuck” really?

In it, Kirsch reveals how vile he is.

[Note the addendums, the first of which describes how you can help Dr. Canuck and the second of which notes Mr. Kirsch’s response—such as it is—to this post.]

Steve Kirsch sets his minions to doxxing Dr. Canuck.

Apparently, Kirsch’s fee-fees have been so very, very hurt by the things that “Dr. Canuck” has been saying about him:

“Jonathan E. Canuck” aka “Jonathan E. Kraken” (both are fictitious names) is going on Twitter falsely claiming I owe him $1,000. 

This article describes why I’m looking to sue him for defamation.

But first I have to find out who he really is. That’s where you come in. He currently lives near Portland, OR. 

If you can help me to discover his real name and address, please let me know in the comments.

As soon as he got wind that I’m looking for him, he immediately hid his tweets from view.

However, I was one step ahead of him and preserved his tweets so you can see what he doesn’t want you to see.

Of course, switching your Twitter feed from public to hidden, so that only those who follow you and whom you approve to follow you can see your Tweets is a good first move whenever a social media bully with a large following, whether he’s litigious or not, starts encouraging his followers to dox you, even more so when that social media bully explicitly says that he’s trying to dox you so that he can serve you papers for a libel suit. Dr. Canuck, whatever his real name is, was wise to do this. I probably would have done the same thing, although it is possible that I would not have, given my long experience with legal bullies like Kirsch dating back over 18 years. I also recognize that our situations are different. First and foremost, although I use a pseudonym to blog here, I blog elsewhere under my real name, which is why my real life identity is one of the worst-kept “secrets” in the blogosphere and on social media, so much so that it’s served as sort of an “intelligence test” for antivaxxers and quacks. Basically, if you can’t figure out who I am (a near-trivial task), you’re probably too stupid for me to bother dealing with. So doxxing is no threat to me. I’ve been “out” since 2008. More likely, Dr. Canuck is not as used to the sort of threats that Kirsch is making, which is perfectly understandable. Few of us are.

Regular readers might remember that one reason that I have ceased to feel guilty about ruthless mocking Kirsch for his antivax activities is because over the last several months of dealing with him I have found him to be consistently arrogant and completely uneducable. Trying to educate him and refute the misinformation that he spreads about vaccines and COVID-19 is akin to talking to a proverbial brick wall. Actually, no. It’s worse than that. It’s more like pounding your head against a brick wall. You make no impression in the wall, and it feels so good when you finally stop.

Over the last couple of years Kirsch has developed two signature go-to moves. One is to challenge science communicators to “debate” him and/or selected members of his posse of antivax pseudoscientists and quacks, offering a “reward” or just payment to anyone who takes him up on his offer and goes through with the “debate.” (That’s why I call him a “debate me bro” and his tactics, “debate me bro” tactics.) Kirsch’s second signature go-to move has been to challenge vaccine advocates to “bets” of up to $1 million if they can “prove him wrong.” Unsurprisingly, whenever anyone tries to accept these “challenges” and bets, things do not exactly progress in a straightforward manner. Indeed, Dr. Canuck’s experience, even as related in Kirsch’s dox-happy post shows that in a way that Kirsch likely didn’t intend, as I’ll get to in a minute.

First, though, let me just provide a link to a Twitter thread describing Kirsch’s MO, and I’ll embed a few key Tweets explaining what I mean, starting with the first six Tweets in the thread:

This tracks. Mr. Kirsch has emailed me (and cc’ed people like Brian Hooker, James Lyons-Weiler, and an antivax statistician) with his “challenges,” and this is very much what his communications are like.
Steve Kirsch is rather thin-skinned, as manifested in the Tweets above as well as in his threat to dox and sue Dr. Canuck.
Thus, apparently, originated Kirsch’s obsession with the h-index.

Kirsch’s strategy was obvious. When a serious offer was made to take him up on his challenge and engage in a debate with people who know what they are talking about, Kirsch found reasons…to demur. Regular readers know that I have long argued that debating cranks is a fool’s errand and akin to arguing with a pigeon in that the crank will inevitably shit on the board and then strut around as though he’s won regardless of the actual outcome of the debate. The reasons are many, but most importantly cranks like Kirsch are not bound by good science or accurate representations of existing scientific data. They are free to “Gish gallop“—or, if you prefer the newer term, firehose—a torrent of dodgy studies, conspiracy theories, unproven claims, misleading attacks on existing evidence, and misrepresentations of existing data that can’t possibly all be refuted in the limited time frame of the debate. It’s a technique that can put the science advocate on the defensive and keep them there, unable to refute everything but, even worse, forced to try and thus waste their limited time without promoting the affirming arguments supporting the science they are defending.

My opposition to the idea of debating cranks and my tendency to discourage people who approach me for advice on how to debate someone like Kirsch from actually debating someone like Kirsch aside, I must admit that I was nonetheless highly amused at how wildly successful Karan’s gambit had been. I don’t blame Karan a bit for gloating:

Karan was quite correct. Kirsch’s wanting only debaters with an h-index (which is a measure of publication number and citations in the scientific literature) above a certain arbitrary number sure looked like a classic example of moving the goalposts, which he appears to have continued to do:

Nor have Karan and Jon Guy been the only ones with this experience:

I didn’t bother trying to find an autism expert who would be willing to engage Kirsch in a “debate” because (1) the autism experts with whom I’ve interacted are too savvy to fall for such a challenge and recognize it for the propaganda publicity stunt that it is ,which is why (2) I wouldn’t bother busy experts with such a frivolous offer. I’d be downright embarrassed.

And, amusingly:

Seriously, when someone as bonkers as Stew Peters accepts your challenge and you run, the jig is up. Peters, you might remember, is the genius behind Died Suddenly, a documentary that falsely claims that huge numbers of young people are “dying suddenly” as a result of COVID-19 vaccines, using anecdotes (many false), bad science, quacks and antivax doctors (but I repeat myself), conspiracy mongering embalmers, and misrepresentations of data and facts to advance this narrative.

This brings us back to Dr. Canuck. Before discussing the Kirsch-Canuck kerfuffle, though, I have to note that Karan’s crew tried their best to meet Kirsch’s ever-changing conditions and demands, without much success:

Note the further frantic goalpost moving in the form of Kirsch insisting on a Q&A format, which, Guy notes quite correctly, is not the format of a debate, but rather a format that would allow Kirsch and his merry band of cranks to Gish gallop, JAQ off, and firehose to their hearts’ content. This whole incident is just another example of how cranks view “debate,” not as an actual scientific debate, but rather as an opportunity to be seen alongside actual experts in front of a friendly audience where they can promote their pseudoscience, quackery, and conspiracy theories as though they deserve to be on the same stage as actual science. (Neil deGrasse Tyson, take note!)

Why did Kirsch go after Dr. Canuck?

I consider it odd—to say the least—that Kirsch’s encounter with Dr. Canuck, alone above all the encounters with other doctors and scientists on Twitter, is the one that got Kirsch so ticked off that he decided to try to dox and sue him. I mean, come on! So many doctors and scientists have been ruthlessly aiming torrents of much-deserved ridicule at Kirsch for his “debate me bro” antics, but he singles out Dr. Canuck? Why?

Let’s see what Kirsch himself says:

Tweets like Canuck’s are very damaging to my reputation. 

Since leaving my job in high tech, I make money on people accepting the bets and losing. These are large bets, on the order of $1M. False and defamatory statements like this from a medical doctor tarnish my reputation making it more difficult for me to earn an income. Canuck has a large following of people (17K) who trust him making his statements even more damaging.

There is very clear malice involved. Instead of mitigating damages by admitting he was wrong, Canuck hid his tweets from view to make it harder for me to gather evidence.

I’m not really going to adjudicate Kirsch’s version of events versus everyone else’s, at least not much. Kirsch’s history leads me to consider it far more likely that Dr. Canuck and Jon Guy’s versions of events are far closer to what happened than Kirsch’s. Even if Kirsch’s version of events were correct, my first reaction to his statement above would be amazement at such a startling revelation. Think about it. Kirsch is basically admitting that his challenges to “debate” about and/or to bet on these “debates” on scientific questions related to COVID-19 and vaccines are how he makes money. (From my perspective, they’re his grift.) Moreover, Kirsch openly admits that he views statements like the ones in Dr. Canuck’s Tweets in which Dr. Canuck accuses him of not paying up after losing a bet as a hindrance to this grift!

Let’s unpack this a bit further, but before I do let me note that 17K followers is small compared to Kirsch’s following on Twitter, which numbers close to 334K, or almost 20 times Dr. Canuck’s follower count. In terms of social media reach, Dr. Canuck is a minor figure compared to Kirsch. (So am I, actually, although less so given that my follower count is almost one-fourth of Kirsch’s.) No I find it difficult to believe that Kirsch truly thinks that a pseudonymous physician on social media with a respectable but much smaller Twitter following poses an existential threat to his current business model because he accuses Kirsch of welshing on a bet.

I also laughed out loud when I read Kirsch’s lament that Dr. Canuck’s Tweets were so very “damaging” to Kirsch’s reputation. Why? Simple. Look at all the dates in those Tweets that I embedded. Most are from early May to, at the latest, early June. Now look at the date of my first post about Kirsch as a “debate me bro”: February 2022. Kirsch’s reputation as a pathetic goalpost moving “debate me bro” had solidified among science communicators, physicians, and scientists who had been paying attention to Kirsch long before Dr. Canuck added his voice to all the others ridiculing him for his antics. Even if Dr. Canuck’s statement were false (and my opinion is that it is not false, not even close), in brief, Kirsch has no reputation to ruin.


Dr. Canuck vs. Steve Kirsch
Dr. Canuck vs. Steve Kirsch. Who’s more credible? (Hint: It’s not Kirsch, at least not to me and science advocates.)

Coming back to Kirsch’s revelation about these bets and debate challenges being his business model, I have to note that there are a lot of holes in this revelation. I’m not the only one who noticed some of the obvious ones:

This is an excellent question. I am unaware of a single instance in which one of Kirsch’s challenges to bet was accepted, Kirsch won, and the loser had to pay up. Yet Kirsch makes it sound as though this happens all the time. I can’t find an example, though. It’s possible I missed it and I’d be happy to amend this post if I’m in error, but there doesn’t appear to be a single example that I can find. Moreover, Kirsch is rich. He’s been rich since the 1980s. He doesn’t need the money. Why would he humiliate himself in search of such tiny payouts betting random scientists and doctors with medium-to-large social media followings? It really can’t be about the money, and it strains credibility to think that a few Tweets by Dr. Canuck could affect Kirsch’s income. Or could they, just not in the way that Kirsch claims?

What are these debate challenges and bets really all about?

One thing I noticed while perusing Kirsch’s Substack is that it is now more difficult to determine how many paid subscribers a Substack writer has, but I found it:

Tens of thousands of paid subscribers could mean anywhere from 10,000 to just under 100,000, by my reckoning.

And here’s the subscription cost:

Kirsch Substack

So let’s do some quick and dirty calculations to get a range of how much money Kirsch makes. At the low end, if he were to have 10,000 subscribers, all of them annual subscribers, that would be:

10,000 x $50 = $500,000.

Take out Substack’s 10% cut plus the 3% charged to process credit card purchases, and our estimate for Kirsch’s minimum yearly Substack income is $435,000. That’s some righteous bucks.

But wait, it could be so much more! Let’s say that Kirsch has the maximum number of subscribers that could still be called “tens of thousands,” which I’ll guess to be 95,000, assuming it would just round to 100,000 after that. Let’s further assume that all of his subscribers are monthly, which would be 12 x $5 = $60/year per subscriber. That becomes:

95,000 x $60 = $5,700,000

Take out Substack’s cut and the credit card fees, and what’s left is a cool $4,959,000. Even more righteous bucks! Putting it all together, I bet that Kirsch is likely to be earning at least well over a million dollars a year, if not two or three million, from just his Substack alone. True, he says he donates it to support “our cause,” but any money that he can donate from his Substack income is money that doesn’t have to come from his own wealth or that he doesn’t have to raise another way.

My estimates are in line with those made in a recent article on the most trafficked Substacks—which, unfortunately, includes Kirsch’s at #25—which estimates that Kirsch is making at least $500K/year from his Substack, which sounds about right to me, and might be making as much as just shy of $5 million/year. Unfortunately for anyone interested in public health, the article reports that Substack has “become a lucrative revenue stream for writers with fringe views,” and that  “Covid-19 vaccine sceptics Robert MaloneSteve KirschAlex Berenson and Joseph Mercola all appear among the most lucrative Substacks.” Because of course they do.

Doxxing and legal thuggery: Features, not bugs

So why does Kirsch do it? Why does he make such a fool of himself so regularly in search of reputable scientists and physicians to pit himself against—or pit some of his stable of cranks, quacks, and conspiracy theorists against?

I can only speculate, but I suspect that two things are at play, each synergizing with the other. The first is ego and arrogance. Kirsch strikes me as one of those tech bros who thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, which jibes with this news story about him, in which a colleague describes him as someone who is “very smart” and “knows he is very smart,” but also adds that sometimes he “behaves like he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, whether he is or isn’t.” The overall vibe I’ve gotten from Kirsch is that of someone who, even though he’d been very successful over the four decades before the pandemic, still harbored an inferiority complex and really, really hates being told that he’s wrong, no matter what it’s about. I also sense a great deal of hubris, someone who thinks he can learn enough about any topic to be as adept as experts who’ve spent their lives studying a topic, just by reading about it and talking to experts who will put up with him.

Unfortunately, those very same characteristics are likely incentivized by the realities of Substack, where, as you can see from the article I cited, the most extreme science-denying conspiracy content tends to be the most richly rewarded. In other words, it’s difficult not to suspect that Kirsch’s challenges have a performative element to them designed to maximize traffic to his Substack and thereby potentially increase subscriber numbers. Moreover, his challenges are entirely consistent with his personality, as evidenced by this encounter with biostatistician Jeffrey Morris:

In September, Kirsch emailed Morris asking him to estimate the maximum number of deaths caused by vaccines. “Who knows,” Morris replied. “But not 150K. And not zero.”

Kirsch immediately forwarded the exchange to me and, I suspect, other journalists. “BOMBSHELL: Top biostats professor admits we have NO CLUE # of people KILLED by COVID vaccines,” he wrote. “He thinks # killed by vax could be anywhere between 0 and 150K people dead.”

Those who know Kirsch say this is a typical tactic. He’s adept at debate, rapidly shifting the premise of a conversation to put the other person on the back foot.

“He may not be a good scientist, but he’s smart,” says WVU’s Feinberg. “He’s very convincing. He might be a good snake oil salesman.”

I experienced this myself when, on one call, we discussed several studies. Kirsch told me that “meta-analyses are a higher level of evidence than randomized controlled trials.” When I responded that meta-analyses are only as good as the data they are based on, he said “I’d like to understand your source on that, because I can’t find a source that says a phase 3 trial is greater evidence than a meta-analysis.” 

This is all very consistent with my experiences with Kirsch., as was this self-characterization by Kirsch himself:

When you characterize me, you need to say that Steve Kirsch doesn’t go with majority votes on interpreting data.

No kidding, Steve! (He doesn’t go with rational methods of interpreting data, either.)

No matter how many times I and others have tried to explain to him, for example, that his Internet surveys (e.g., one purporting to show that vaccines cause autism) are not evidence of anything because the samples are fatally biased based on their consisting of a subset of his readers and fans, who are likely to be antivax and believe a number of other conspiracy theories, he will not accept that. Indeed, he just posted another Internet survey purporting to be looking for a correlation between vaccination and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), when a number of rigorous studies have found no correlation; indeed, it is possible that vaccination is protective against SIDS. Basically, it appears to me that once Kirsch gets an idea in his head and cherry picks enough data to convince himself that it’s true, no science, rational arguments, data, or experts will change his mind.

Unfortunately for Dr. Canuck (and everyone else), no one should be surprised by Kirsch’s devolution from just a rich antivax crank into a bully utilizing legal thuggery in the form of threats of libel suits to silence critics who have vexed him. Again, this is a feature, not a bug, when it comes to cranks like Kirsch. Legal thuggery of this sort is a favored technique used by disinformation merchants to silence critics, so much so that I even have a tag for it because it’s so common. I’ve listed a number of examples that I’ve encountered over the years but they’re worth listing again:

I encounter my first example of this sort of legal thuggery in 2000, when I learned of Holocaust denier David Irving’s frivolous libel lawsuit against Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, which is recounted here and in two books, History on Trial: My Day In Court With a Holocaust Denier by Lipstadt herself and Lying About Hitler: History, the Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial, as well as in the 2016 film Denial starring Rachel Weisz. Examples go way back, such as when cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski hired a media manager who issued threats to sue Rhys Morgan over his criticism of Burzynski’s pseudoscience. Fortunately, they backfired. Then there was antivaccine icon Andrew Wakefield’s lawsuit against Brian Deer, the investigative reporter who discovered Wakefield’s fraud and conflicts of interest. It failed. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop it from being the central focus of a recent uncritical documentary. Then, of course, there was antivaccine grande dame Barbara Loe Fisher’s frivolous lawsuit against Paul Offit. It, too, was dismissed. Other quacks and cranks indulging in this behavior include Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi’s legal threats against Andy Lewis, Rev. Lisa Sykes and Seth Sykes attempt to subpoena Kathleen Seidel, HIV/AIDS denialist Matthias Rath suing Ben Goldacre, quack Andreas Moritz suing a student over a blog criticizing his quackery, the British Chiropractic Association’s lawsuit against Simon Singh, the frivolous lawsuit directed at Steve Novella, which was also lost, and, of course, cancer naturopathic quack Colleen Huber suing ex-naturopath turned skeptic Britt Hermes for criticism of Huber’s quackery.

Again, legal thuggery of the sort that Kirsch is engaged in is a feature, not a bug. So is doxxing. Indeed, antivaxxers are so shameless about it that they have even doxxed children. Even 18 years ago, it had been less than six months from my starting my first blog to my being doxxed and a cancer quack sending complaints about me to my department chair and cancer center director, and I myself have been at the receiving end of harassment and legal thuggery as well, dating back to 2005. Indeed, over the last 19 years I’ve lost track of the number of times that antivaxxers or other quacks have harassed me at work by complaining to my department chair and cancer center director (and sometimes the dean of my medical school) for my blogging. I won’t bore you by recounting the details yet again. If you’re interested, they’re recounted here and here, among other places. I will also add that I’ve also been sued by a chronic Lyme disease quack, along with my fellow bloggers at my not-so-super-secret other blog. He lost, but it took funding and time to get the case dismissed.

I’m fortunate, though. I survived the early attacks and am now at the point of thoroughly not having much in the way of any Fs left to give. I won’t lie and say that the possibility of a frivolous libel suit by someone like Kirsch suits doesn’t worry me, but having been through one I’m a lot less anxious about the possibility than I was before the chronic Lyme disease quack sued me. More than likely, Dr. Canuck doesn’t have that deep well of dealing with harassment. He did the wise thing and disengaged. Unfortunately, he also felt the need to deactivate his Twitter account, which, as understandable as his decision was, really saddened me. I hope he reaches out to people who can help him. (My contact information is here.)

In retrospect, it should have been obvious that Kirsch would eventually end up in the pathetic place that he is, a sad litigious bully who uses his Substack and Twitter accounts to send his flying monkeys off to swarm and dox physicians like Dr. Canuck. It is also not difficult to predict that some of those flying monkeys, having read Kirsch’s discussion and the crumbs he’d found out about where Dr. Canuck lives and practices medicine, might start harassing the practices of family practice docs in the area where Dr. Canuck practices, thinking that they’ve found Dr. Canuck. That, too, is a feature, not a bug. Cranks tend not to care overmuch about collateral damage, particularly if that collateral damage is suffered by their hated out group, in this case physicians and medical personnel.

For all their claims of being “persecuted” and, above all, “silenced,” cranks are all too eager to silence those they don’t like, and they use every tool at their disposal to accomplish this end, particularly if they are rich and can easily afford lawyers. Kirsch was always going to end up here, and now he’s made it. He’s silenced Dr. Canuck (for now) for doing nothing more than exposing him for what he is. I can only hope that this is only a temporary situation, even as I accept that it might not be.

Either way, though, I’ll still be here.


Unfortunately, Steve Kirsch has apparently been successful doxxing Dr. Canuck. and has updated his Substack with a screenshot that includes a photo and practice address, as well as an NPI record with phone number and alternate address. I normally wouldn’t encourage anyone to visit Kirsch’s Substack, but I make an exception in this case so that you can report him for violating Substack’s TOS by doxxing. In these cases in which cranks “out” pseudonymous social media users, I also always worry about the possibility of a situation in which a mistake has been made and the identification is incorrect. It’s not as though a bully (e.g., someone like Kirsch) hasn’t incorrectly “outed” the wrong person behind a pseudonymous social media account before, leading to harassment of the wrong person. Kirsch is very much the sort of person who would make such a mistake.

In any event, if his doxxing has outed the correct person, rest assured that I and many science advocates have Dr. Canuck’s back. We also know where he can turn to find legal assistance if Kirsch goes through with his threat of a frivolous lawsuit.

Here are the relevant links to report the doxxing to Substack:

The NPI profile has a phone number. Here are the content guidelines.

Given how much money Kirsch makes for Substack with his newsletter, I doubt they’ll do much, if anything, about it, but you never know. It’s worth a shot. At the very least, it’ll force Kirsch to defend his actions, which might annoy him. Maybe he’ll even learn something from it, although I doubt it. As I said above, my experience with him leads me to conclude that he is basically unteachable.

ADDENDUM #2 (June 15, 2023, 8:30 AM):

Kirsch has responded. I didn’t bother to read it last night because, as has been an unfortunately habit of mine over the last several months, I had fallen asleep on the couch and didn’t learn about it until around 1 AM, when I woke up, let the dogs out, and went upstairs to bed. That’s when I learned about it, because, stupid me, I checked my social media feeds before crashing. In any event, I certainly wasn’t going to bother with Kirsch then. Background aside, let’s just say that Kirsch’s response is even weaker than his usual responses. Dorit Reiss briefly summarized its flaws last night in a comment below, and she’s spot on.

I might have more to say in a future post, but, on the other hand, why bother? Kirsch claims couldn’t possibly have doxxed Dr. Canuck because he only wanted his information so that he could serve him papers for a defamation suit, which brings up the question: If that was the case, then why did Kirsch post Dr. Canuck’s real name, practice address, and NPI record (with telephone number) just as soon as he had discovered it? He couldn’t wait to trumpet the information to his followers! He claims that his motivation was not to punish or silence Dr. Canuck. Oh, really? The very purpose of libel suits is to punish (financially, of course) and thereby silence speech that is defamatory, assuming that the court rules in your favor. Certainly trumpeting Dr. Canuck’s real identity to his 225K Substack readers and >330K Twitter followers belies his claim that he only wanted to know Dr. Canuck’s name and contact information so that he could serve him papers for a lawsuit is belied by the rapidity with which he announced the information to the world as soon as he’d learned it. Is Kirsch deluded or lying? I don’t know. Take your pick and make your own judgment.

Kirsch also goes on about how his SIDS survey was “was done in consultation with very respected epidemiologists.” I laughed out loud at that one. Why does he not reveal who these “very respected epidemiologists are”? My guess is probably because they are likely Brian Hooker, James Lyons-Weiler, and/or some other hack self-taught crank “epidemiologist(s)” unknown outside of antivax circles. But, hey, Mr,. Kirsch. You can prove me wrong. Reveal who these “epidemiologists” who helped you design your questionnaire are!

I might have to blog about this later this week. We’ll see. There’s so much more, such as how Kirsch pretends that he’s never moved the goalposts by just denying that the clear examples of his moving the goalposts were actually moving the goalposts.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

79 replies on “Steve Kirsch uses doxxing and the threat of a libel suit to silence Dr. Canuck”

I’m so sorry that was very rude of me. My apologies to all the pricks out there for comparing you to Kirsch.

This right here is why 99% of my colleagues don’t engage these assholes on social media. It’s not worth the bs no matter how dangerous and dead-wrong they are. The same goes for some far-left tyrants-in-kind but we’ll let that be.

They know it.

I’m glad Orac drew attention to this. Lots of patients tell me they fear things on social media about medicine that “Everyone agrees with.” I try to explain why REAL experts don’t Wade into that swamp and why it always seems so one-sided.

Tell me Mr Gorski,
Would you not consider debating Steve Kirsch?
Forget the money, just bash out both of your views on a public forum. Why not?
Maybe even enlighten each other a little. I’m sure you both have valid observations and questions to offer and dispute.

This has been covered by Orac here, and on his other blogging spot.
Debates are next to useless for determining truth. A canny and unscrupulous debater (which is what Kirsch WILL be) can use techniques like the Gish Gallop and Ham Hightail to bury their opponent in B.S. that will be impossible to completely refute.
In debates, it’s not about who makes the soundest points, but about who is most charismatic. In the 1960 Presidential Electoral Debates between Kennedy and Nixon, those who read the transcripts or heard the debates on the radio gave victory to Nixon, while those who saw them on TV or live named Kennedy the winner.
A debate gives a flimflam artist equal standing with a scientist.

Live debates are very poor means of doing science, but they have their uses for doing value assessments, e.g politics but not just that. That utility is highly dependent on the rules, and the big problem with Kirsch is he insists on absurd rules to begin with, and then moves the goal-posts. IOW he doesn’t really want to debate at all, and I’m sure his claim of receiving income from his ‘challenges’ is utter crapola. It’s also bogus to expect every Twitter commenter to agree to a live debate, even one with fair and useful rules. Skill in oratory does matter, and if you want a good live debate between ‘two sides’ each should be represented by folks of roughly equivalent skill at speaking in public.

Since a live debate isn’t about science — because, centrally, the presumed audience is not scientists but the general public — there’s really no worry about a flim-flam artist having “equal standing” as a scientist. That is, the ‘standing’ in question is one of attention from and credibility within some segment of that audience. Bill Nye, for example, isn’t going to debate any old crank with a handful if followers, but will take on a prominent creationist who has a lot of fans among evangelicals.

In theory anyway, Neil dg Tyson squaring off against Del Bigtree could have been productive. Tyson is a prominent public voice for science, and he knows how to talk. As Orac has detailed, Tyson underperformed largely out of hubris — failing to do enough prep on the specifics of vaccines and the kind of points Del was going to bring up, and falling for Del’s frame of ‘just a friendly conversation before we go for a beer.’

For all his eloquence and verve in prose, it’s fairly well known that he’s not all that comfortable speaking in public. So, if anyone was going to live debate Kirsch, it wouldn’t be him. But I’d love to see someone flip the tables in Kirsch: challenge him to a live debate on their turf with their rules, then dog him for his lame excuses in not responding. (To be honest, given his record of wacko statements as detailed in Orac’s posts, I fancy that a younger version of myself with time and focus enough to prep decently would wipe the floor with him in a fair debate. But 2023 me, not so much…)

That poll of radio vs. TV audience response to the Nixon/Kennedy debate does NOT establish, as is admittedly often suggested, that Nixon somehow ‘won’ the debate on substance. One reason for that should be obvious to you (re-read the OP for a clue). Another is that the non-verbal contexts of audio-video vs. audio-only are neither devoid of substance, nor equally biased against it. If Nixon looked shifty on TV while Kennedy looked assured… well, Nixon WAS shifty, and Kennedy WAS an inspirational leader. On radio, OTOH, Kennedy’s marked Bahstin accent may have been more off-putting than Nixon’s deeper, unaccented voice…

Live debates are very poor means of doing science, but they have their uses for doing value assessments, e.g politics but not just that. That utility is highly dependent on the rules, and the big problem with Kirsch is he insists on absurd rules to begin with, and then moves the goal-posts. IOW he doesn’t really want to debate at all, and I’m sure his claim of receiving income from his ‘challenges’ is utter crapola. It’s also bogus to expect every Twitter commenter to agree to a live debate, even one with fair and useful rules. Skill in oratory does matter, and if you want a good live debate between ‘two sides’ each should be represented by folks of roughly equivalent skill at speaking in public.

In fairness, live debates about science and medicine can be good teaching tools. During my surgical oncology fellowship, we fellows were assigned positions in debates about then-current surgical controversies and then had to marshal evidence and arguments to support our positions. Of course, these were genuinely controversial questions over the best management of various cancers, but the debates were indeed useful teaching exercises. Of course, structured debates among medical professionals and trainees about genuinely controversial medical, surgical, and scientific questions are not what Kirsch is about.

That being said, I’m not sure that you are correct about Kirsch not being a good debater, at least in terms of high school debate club-style debates. A couple of the profiles on him that I’ve read indicate suggest that he is, but what he is good at is rhetoric, not substance, of debate. Notice his pedantry about the definition of “doxxing.” He zeroes in on the narrowest possible dictionary definition of “doxxing” in order to deny that’s what he is doing while ignoring the broader, more colloquial connotations of the word, under which he is definitely engaging in doxxing. This is a pattern with him that I’ve noticed. He zeros in on the weakest phraseology of his critics that he can find and then attacks that, rather than the overall substance of the argument.

As for your suggestion that someone challenge him to a debate on their own turf and then relentless dog him about it, that’s sort of what Karan did, albeit engaging in some negotiation about the terms of the debate. It worked, although Kirsch would never admit it. That being said, I’d love to have seen a young, hungry sadmar go after Kirsch.

We did this during our didactics, as well. I thought it was useful and often got a lot out of it.


We were arguing sides IN GOOD FAITH and had an expert refereeing these sessions to keep us HONEST.

I doubt any antivax goon could be expected to do either.

(As an aside, the referee was often a specialist like an endocrinologist, etc, who had been in practice decades. The antivax asshats would never allow such a referee.)

It is highly recommended that before you comment on a blog post, that you actually read it. Please go to the top of this page and read the exchange between Kirsch and those who were setting up an actual debate.

Your “hero” Kirsch tried to change it from a debate to something else, and then bravely ran away.

Kirsch can start debating here. Then everyonecan fact check him.

Steve Kirsch in the best traditions of cranks every where. Why am I not surprised by this?

I will add a second bias problem in Kirsch’s survey to the one you noted here. It’s not only that distribution is skewed to his followers. Even if Kirsch managed to get his survey distributed to every parent in the country, response self-selection carries a risk of motivation bias. If you read Amazon product reviews and see 20 negatives and 80 positives, it is not safe to conclude that 20% of all purchasers were unhappy. Despite the fact that product review is offered equally to all purchasers, people having problems are quicker to speak up than happy people. By the same token, if you send a poll telling people you’re studying problems caused by vaccines, it seems intuitive that parents of vaccinated kids with problems would be the group most motivated to reply even if they were not previously antivax.

Indeed. Even if the survey population were completely unbiased, motivation/self-selection bias would guarantee that he got a “positive” result. Real pollsters and social scientists have methodologies to try to account for this sort of response bias, but of course Kirsch is neither.

I don’t think Kirsch is an antivaxxer. He’s a smart guy and almost certainly knows as well as you or I that vaccines work and are safe. I’m sure he also knows that they don’t cause autism. But he doesn’t care. It’s not about the science, it’s about the interaction and the controversy. He knows that he doesn’t have a hope in hell in a fair debate on the subject and he knows that he’ll lose any reasonable bet.

It’s not about vaccines. Or autism. Or science. Never was and never will be. It’s about clicks and views. It’s about likes from his fans. Kirsch is a showman first and a grifter second. He doesn’t want a debate – he wants a reaction. He wants you to get annoyed with him, to get all sciency with him and to tell him how wrong he is. Because that’s what his fans want to see. If he did “win” a debate then the debate would be over and that’s the last thing he wants. For him it’s all about the journey and never about the destination.

Having corresponded by email personally with Kirsch, I strongly disagree with your characterization that he is not antivax. He most definitely is. He most definitely thinks they cause autism. He most definitely thinks COVID-19 vaccines have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

I don’t think that his heel turn into an an antivax conspiracy theorist over the last three years is incompatible with his being a showman and a born snake oil salesman. He is all of those things, antivax, showman, and snake oil salesman.

You’ve been in this game a lot longer than me so I must defer, but I remain sceptical. If he did truly believe that vaccines killed and was confident in that belief then why not allow a debate that – in his view – he would win? I think he doesn’t want to win a debate any more than he wants to lose one. He would prefer an argument that never ends.

Alternatively, he is a showman (like Del Bigtree, only not anywhere near as charismatic) and, like cranks going back to Duane Gish and Ken Ham on evolution and beyond, knows at some level that these sorts of staged pseudodebates are propaganda, not actual scientific debates, which is why he resists measures that would turn his “debates” into anything resembling an actual scientific debate.

@ chrisotherwise

IMHO, you’re close to the mark, but making a couple crucial errors. That is, everything past your first four sentences is true. It is, indeed, first and foremost, about interactions. The ‘content’ – ‘science’, vaccines, whatever – is a macguffin, present only for it’s utility in creating interactions going in two different directions (controversy) It’s about clicks, views, likes; to the extent the money figures, it’s just as an index of influence. It’s about getting a reaction, staging a conflict (journey) that would indeed be undermined by “winning” (destination). Getting attacked by the likes of Orac is a feature, not a bug.

It’s just that all these things do not operate at the level of conscious awareness that would indicate Kirsch “knows’ vaccines are safe etc. etc. They are, rather, the primary psychological conditions that produce and reinforce the antivax beliefs. This is the nature of conspiracy theories in general – they aren’t really about the things they profess on the surface. But the displacement at the root is a defense mechanism, so an antivaxer like Kirsch will never, ever, allow to himself or anyone else that it isn’t all about the vaccines.

To put this simplistically for the sake of brevity (I’m late to my volunteer gig), Kirsch is a showman because he’s an attention whore. He’s an exemplar of cliche NPD-ish traits: bullying, bragging, hubris rooted in a armored-away inferiority complex. He stumbled into antivax culture, and all his needs got fed via a trail of increasingly delectable morsels leading deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. Of course, he’s going to think it’s enlightenment, and grapple the belief in antivax tighter and tighter and tighter.

To put this simplistically for the sake of brevity (I’m late to my volunteer gig), Kirsch is a showman because he’s an attention whore. He’s an exemplar of cliche NPD-ish traits: bullying, bragging, hubris rooted in an armored-away inferiority complex. He stumbled into antivax culture, and all his needs got fed via a trail of increasingly delectable morsels leading deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. Of course, he’s going to think it’s enlightenment, and grapple the belief in antivax tighter and tighter and tighter.

This seems to be a common characteristic of people who, however it starts, become true believers in conspiracy theories. Such belief feeds them something they need psychologically. I can’t help but think that COVID-19 and antivax conspiracy theories not only feed Kirsch’s apparently enormous ego in that belief in them contributes to his self-image as an “outside the box” thinker who is smarter than the experts but provide him with late life purpose and accomplishments given that his greatest triumphs occurred in his youth, with his last great accomplishment arguably being Infoseek in the 1990s, with everything since being more a case of jumping on a bandwagon of something already developed.

I think that Kirsch, at his age, would normally have developed better abilities sizing up his own strengths and weaknesses which usually happens during adolescence/ young adulthood. There’s a reason alties/ contrarians often sound like teenagers.
Anti-vax provides a ready made audience and talking points
making his scoffing much easier.

That’s a great observation; most of the ones I know in my professional life sound like obstinate children with their fingers in their ears sticking out their tongues when challenged or cornered about their fantasies.

The other reason to target Dr. Canuck is, of course, a warning to others that this can happen if they challenge Kirsch.

“Careful, I’m a bully and might come for you.”

His previous examples of his going to harass people at home or otherwise in person are also examples of his descent.

Yes indeed. How could I have forgotten his appearance at the ACIP chair’s house, where he took smartphone video of the police officer who was called to tell him to leave the property? He came across as totally stalkerish. It didn’t bother him. Rather, he seemed pleased and proud of it. The clip was even included in Stew Peters’ antivax conspiracy film Died Suddenly.

According to the MIT Technology Review article Orac cites:

“…on one call, we discussed several studies. Kirsch told me that “meta-analyses are a higher level of evidence than randomized controlled trials.”

How curious then, that Kirsch’s published list of rules for the bet that Dr. Canuck accepted, explicitly prevent meta-analyses from being submitted.

Why would Steve want to exclude what he himself thinks is a higher level of evidence (and it is, if the meta-analysis is conducted properly)? No big mystery there.

It’s interesting how possible high earners on Substack, like Kirsch, give us such vague estimates of their paid subscribers while others who seek higher totals tell us exactly how many they have:
— hiv/ aids denialist, Celia Farber, earns only 42K USD there annually
— so-called feminist icon, Naomi Wolf, has 70K subscribers but only 2400 paid.
At 7 USD a month or 70 USD a year, that is not really a low wage.

Both of these women are not impoverished:
Farber’s father was a well known radio host who probably left her money and NYC property and Wolf is an author and married to an internet security expert.
HOWEVER neither has been able to make a living writing for news outlets or magazines recently because of their misinformation such as hiv/ aids denialism, anti-vax and anti-public health/ CTs, respectively.

They should try writing fiction because they already have plenty of experience.

Naomi Wolf has a real winner posted on her Substack.

It explains how we are just now climbing out of the pandemic pit into which we were thrust by Liberal Elites, with their lust for obedience.

“We — the targeted — must reckon with the traumatizing fact that we were on the receiving end of cruelty which the perpetrators seemed really to enjoy.”

It’s not just the horror of being asked to comply with masking in public spaces or fear of the VaxGestapo. Ms. Wolf is resentful of the fact that she craved a LaZBoy recliner, but would have been scoffed at and shunned by the Liberal Elites for having one.

Confession: I have a LaZBoy recliner, which I use while watching essential TV, i.e. reruns of Law & Order, old movies on TCM and playoff hockey. It’s ideal for relaxation except that Pluto the field spaniel keeps coming over for attention, leaving deposits of slurp on the right-hand armrest, so that my shirtsleeve gets soggy.

My problem with a LaZBoy recliner is that if I actually recline in it there’s a high probability that I will fall asleep within minutes.

@ Dr Bacon:

A more exacting measure of liberal elitism would be the absolute rejection of the sparkly shoes ( pictured) which she purchased at the casino resort:
I would OBVIOUSLY never buy shoes like that because first of all, they mix a zori-style sandal with high heels and also, they are incredibly ugly as they sparkle mercilessly, even more so in slot machines’ light. They look like something reality show housewives would wear proudly.

I got interested in what Kirsch was paying attention to (and supporting with philanthropy) pre 2019. Here are some of my notes.

Steve Kirsch As a junior high kid, he attended the birth of the Internet; in college, he invented the optical mouse; now he’s launching a company to sell ‘e-commerce in a box’ — TEKLA S. PERRY –01 AUG 2000

1969: How Bennet Cerf met Steve Kirsch when Kirsch was 12 years old.

“”We were a small group at UCLA,” recalled Charles Kline, another of the researchers there. “Additional help was great. So Stevie wrote that first e-mail program for the Sigma 7.”

During his junior high and high school years, Kirsch also worked on operating systems for the group and wrote a status monitoring program, so users could tell who else was on the system.

From the UCLA computer room, Kirsch went on to invent the optical mouse, patent the method of tracking advertising impressions on the Internet by click-counting, and start and profitably sell three companies. ”

June 14, 2001

The Richest Link–By Domenica Marchetti– JUNE 14, 2001
Through his words and his grants, Steve Kirsch challenges fellow high-tech millionaires to step up their philanthropy

San Jose, Calif.
Like many high-technology entrepreneurs here, Steve Kirsch, 44, has seen his fortune dwindle in the past year. He estimates his net worth to be $70-million, down from $200-million last summer.

Kirsch Foundation’s Grantmaking Redirected to Research of Founder’s Rare Cancer
October 8, 2007

The Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation in Mountain View, California, is refocusing its grantmaking on research into a rare, life-threatening form of blood cancer called Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

In July, Steve Kirsch learned he is among the estimated fifteen hundred Americans diagnosed each year with the disease, which typically leaves patients with a life expectancy of five to ten years. Kirsch is hopeful that an infusion of research funds can extend that timetable for those with the disease. As a result, the foundation, which has awarded approximately $456,000 to sixty-two nonprofits this year, will suspend all new grantmaking until January and is likely to reduce its contributions to the dozens of community groups and causes it supports.

Published September 11, 2015 but probably written in 2007.

Our real enemy? Hint: It isn’t the terrorists.
By Steve Kirsch
Terrorists are just a distraction. The real enemy is government stupidity.

Here’s how I know that.

Last week, I was diagnosed with a rare incurable blood cancer called Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia (WM). Because it kills, on average, only about 1,200 people per year, it’s considered an orphan disease so it gets very little money and attention from the government and drug companies. It’s basically a death sentence. I have a little more than 5 years to live.

Published in 2015-what a jackass. We had modern treatments for Waldenstroms by then (2007 is a different story.) it’s an indolent condition nowadays.

More on pre-2019 Kirsch:

Aspen Institute, I think from 2001 or 2002, but might have been earlier:

“Steve Kirsch has been at the forefront of tech innovation for more than three decades. He invented and owns a patent on an early version of the optical mouse, founded Infoseek, one of the first Internet search engines, and helped create FrameMaker, a popular publication tool used by technical writers. Steve is a serial entrepreneur and has founded eight companies: Mouse Systems, FrameTechnology (acquired by Adobe), Infoseek (acquired by Disney), Propel, Abaca, OneID, Token, and M10. He has a BS and MS from MIT. He and his wife, Michele started a foundation which donates to a wide variety of charitable causes, and were subsequently named the 1999 Outstanding Philanthropists of the Year by the National Society of Fund Raising Executives. He is a 1997 Henry Crown Fellow of The Aspen Institute and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.”

Oral History of Steve Kirsch Part 1

3,659 views Jan 18, 2018
Interviewed by Gunter Steinbach and Marc Weber on 2016-10-11 in Mountain View, CA

© Computer History Museum

Steve Kirsch invented an early form of the optical mouse while studying at MIT, then founded Mouse Systems to commercialize it. In 1986 he co-founded Frame Technology which developed the FrameMaker document publishing software.

His next start-up was Infoseek in 1993, pioneering advertising-supported Internet search. In 1999 he started Propel which sold web-page compression and caching software, followed in 2005 by Abaca, which produced a spam filter application with ranked quarantine.

In 2011 he started OneID which tried to get strong cryptographic authentication universally adopted. As of 2018, his latest start-up is Token, founded in 2015, which sells an open banking software platform. He has received awards for philantropic giving and for encouraging others to give.

Oral History of Steve Kirsch Part 2 —

Interviewed by Gunter Steinbach on 2017-07-06 in Mountain View, CA X7976.2017
© Computer History Museum

Steve Kirsch invented an early form of the optical mouse while studying at MIT, then founded Mouse Systems to commercialize it. In 1986 he co-founded Frame Technology which developed the FrameMaker document publishing software.

His next start-up was Infoseek in 1993, pioneering advertising-supported Internet search. In 1999 he started Propel which sold web-page compression and caching software, followed in 2005 by Abaca, which produced a spam filter application with ranked quarantine.

In 2011 he started OneID which tried to get strong cryptographic authentication universally adopted. As of 2018, his latest start-up is Token, founded in 2015, which sells an open banking software platform. He has received awards for philantropic giving and for encouraging others to give.

Speaking of defamation lawsuits, the one Texas ENT doc Mary Bowden filed against Houston Methodist Hospital* was dismissed earlier this year (she was ordered to pay attorney fees). Methodist had suspended her privileges, after she declared she wouldn’t treat vaccinated patients, also alleging she spread disinformation and used “vulgar and foul” language.

The Texas Medical Board has now filed a complaint against Bowden. According to the TMB, Bowden prescribed medication for a patient who’d been admitted to another hospital, despite not having privileges there and without seeing the patient or examining his medical records. The TMB says she later sent a nurse there to administer the medication (ivermectin according to her social media account). When the nurse refused to leave the hospital the Fort Worth police were called, resulting in a “disruptive scene” (wish I could’ve been there).

*”Thanks to Methodist, half the world thinks I’m crazy and dangerous.” – Mary Bowden

One of the neighboring states where I practice, as well, is also (finally) going after ivermectin crack-dealers. I was asked to submit two statements about two incidents I’ve talked about here before.

In the process, I learned one of the biggest ivermectin drug kingpins in this region was a young, foreign-trained (but white American) doctor who already had significant board action against her and was considered “un-hirable” by nearly everyone except this desperate, tiny stand-alone ER in the middle of nowhere who hired her as a locum.

Any other doctor reading this will pick up what I’m putting down hence the odd detail included.

One of the families might also be suing her. The tide is finally shifting.

The NPI profile has a phone number.

I can just see Kirsch trying to use that number and getting hot under the collar when it doesn’t work.

Let us send special wellness vibes to a Friend of the Blog, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, who posted this earlier today on Twitter:

“A number of prominent people have messaged me recently concerned about my safety. I’m not afraid of death & will see this through to the very end. If something happens to me before then those armed with the sword of truth will redeem the world from Big Pharma tyrannical hell 👊”

I’ve met Mr. Kirsch.

His foundation was supporting an air pollution study we were doing, and he came by to witness where the actual rubber hit the road – We were looking at car-provided air pollution, and I was sitting beside the road measuring cars. It was awhile back – before the turn of the century.

He seemed perfectly sane then.

Wow. That’s even sadder than your usual nonsense. I’m glad I didn’t bother looking at it last night. Dorit did a fine job dismantling it in just one succinct comment. I’d love to know who these “respected epidemiologists” are that you supposedly consulted. If you’re referring to Hooker or James Lyon-Weiler, I will laugh at you even harder than I am laughing now.

Yes. I especially like the part where he says that he never moves the goalposts and then says.

If an offer has not been formally accepted, I have modified terms of my outstanding offers in the past with minor improvements or clarifications

And his challenge page was just updated on June 11. I wonder what the terms were before.

Informally, the debate Challenge dates back to October 2021 when he said

“When you need to characterize me, you need to say that Steve Kirsch doesn’t go with majority votes on interpreting data,” he told me when I asked about his views on ivermectin, which he insists is a silver bullet against covid. “If you wanna find someone to debate me for ten thousand dollars, or a thousand dollars, I’m happy to do that, just for your benefit.”

Also, I liked that Dr Dan Wilson was part of the team they were putting together to debate him. He had mentioned doing a debate with Kirsch on a Zoom call. But the call was not recorded and the result could not be verified. Dr Dan has been very proactive in debating several people with ‘unusual’ views.

You are welcome to present your claims here and many of us will be glad to respond to you. I am curious about a couple things.

When did your first officially issue your debate challenge and could you provide a link to the terms stated at that time?

Who are the people you have actually debated so far?

Would you please provide a link for what you refer to in topic 8?

The gold-standard Medicare data proves that the COVID vaccines are not safe

Also, I found a couple interesting research papers about Medicare and the Covid-19 vaccines.
DOI: 10.3390/biology11121700

This is a complex analysis that discusses many factors, but they note

For COVID-19 breakthrough infection hospitalization rates, (Table S6 in Supplementary Materials) we found that the January Group had 1.38 (95% CI 1.09–1.68) lower rates than unvaccinated beneficiaries. There was much better protection against hospitalization for the March Group who had 3.11 (95% CI 2.87–3.35) lower breakthrough hospitalization rates then unvaccinated beneficiaries.

In other words the vaccines didn’t work especially well to protect against infection from the Delta variant but did reduce the risk of hospitalization even in this more vulnerable population.

Also, other factors like wearing masks likely affected the ultimate protection.

We also uniquely report that VE increased over a period of weeks as the Delta surge progressed, suggesting that in addition to the critical protective role of vaccination, individual behavioral factors, such as increased masking or social distancing, likely contributed to this VE increase. Our results emphasize the need for a multipronged prevention strategy to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic including not only vaccination but also complementary preventive measures to reduce the risk of infection, especially for individuals at the highest risk.


It is noteworthy that just prior to the Delta surge, the CDC had issued a new guidance on 13 May 2021 advising that fully vaccinated individuals no longer needed to wear masks or practice social distancing [48]. Then, once the Delta wave took hold in July 2021 with large increases in COVID-19 cases nationwide, the CDC and the White House reversed course on 30 July 2021 advising everyone to wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status [49,50]. One potential reason for increasing VE through July and August as the Delta phase of the pandemic intensified with case counts rising from 11,000 a day on 20 June to 166,000 a day on 1 September 2021 [51] is that individuals adopted increased mask wearing which has been shown to lower risk of infection with the Delta variant [52] as well as social distancing in order to lower their chances of COVID-19 infection starting even before the federal government guidelines changed.

Another source is DOI: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2022.06.029

This was a comparison between vaccinated but not boosted patients with boosted patients.

Boosters are highly effective in the Medicare population. Approximately 69,225 hospitalizations would be prevented by boosters in the 15 million individuals aged 65 years or older currently not boosted in a period similar to the September 2020 through January 2021 period studied. Boosters provided the greatest benefits if they were received between 6 and 9 months following original vaccinations. However, boosters were associated with substantial decreases in COVID-19 hospitalizations in all categories of enrollees.

I’ve read Mr. Kirsch’s response to your post. It’s even lower quality than his usual.

A. He denies doxxing the doctor, saying he did not publish his information – but he has a phone number in the NPI link and a proposed location for his personal address. Both in violation of both Twitter’s terms of service and, in my view, Substack. He claims he consulted with lawyers – did he tell them he published his thoughts about the location of the man’s personal home and his phone number?

B. He said he does not run from debates.
You provided multiple examples of him doing just that.

C. He says he’s not a “thug”. Thug is an opinion, but I think it’s fair to describe someone who decides to use litigation threats and goes to people’s homes to harass them as a thug.

D. We have several examples of him moving goalposts on his comments to Skeptical Raptor, where he starts with one demand and then adds conditions as people give him what he originally asked for. He keeps adding conditions to try and avoid acknowledging that his initial requests were met.

E. Welching: your post, again, provides examples.

F. SIDS: he did not really explain what’s wrong with the Venneman paper. I would say that I do not think a protective effect of vaccines on SIDS was shown conclusively, but the inverse correlation found in several studies – and the other studies finding no link – show very strongly that vaccines do not cause SIDS. I like this list of studies.

G. Surveys: pointing out that an internet survey of a biased population – with no verification of the claims respondents make – are not reliable is not an opinion. It’s pointing out real, serious flaws that he cannot answer. And you have documented well how easily his surveys are gamed.

He is welcome to name the “very respected epidemiologists” that consulted. I’d be surprised if they would be respected outside anti-vaccine circles.

he has a phone number in the NPI link and a proposed location for his personal address

I shan’t give Kirsch’s lackey any hints, but that’s pretty much three errors with two items.

Having read it finally, I noticed one thing. Kirsch never mentions his Substack income or even suggests that I got my estimates wrong. This suggests to me that I was likely on target with my estimates of just how lucrative his Substack is and how much his performative bets and challenges help his income. After all, if he thought I’d made a significant error in my estimates of his Substack income, he’d definitely have ranted about it. So I’m going to assume that my estimate of between roughly $435K to $5M a year is correct and that my “best guess” in that range that he makes between $1-3 million is probably spot on.

Also, I’d be willing to bet that his “very respected epidemiologists” probably include Brian Hooker, James Lyons-Weiler, and/or an assortment of the usual discredited cranks posing as epidemiologists. As I liked to say about Brian Hooker, he’s a biochemical engineer turned incompetent epidemiologist who thinks that “simpler” methods that don’t control for obvious confounders are better. Mr. Kirsch could prove me wrong, of course, just by naming the epidemiologists who supposedly helped him with his survey design. (I was particularly amused by the part about “internal controls.”) Hilarious stuff, Mr. Kirsch! Tell us who these epidemiologists are who supposedly helped you with your survey design!

JLW has been bragging last 1-2 weeks about working with Kirsch.

@ Orac and Company:

We need an all encompassing term for the “discredited cranks”, epidemiologist cosplayers and displaced tech bros as well as the loons I survey ( dudes without cred?) who:
— make earth shattering pronouncements on things far beyond their ken
— are remarkably un-self aware of this fact
— have too much money and free time

Any ideas?

Kirsch’s work is being subjected to peer review and he doesn’t like it. Well, not really peer review. I don’t know the appropriate term for a reviewer who is vastly more qualified that the reviewee. For Kirsch a reviewing peer might be a person who has finished their first year of undergrad and is working as a dishwasher in a biology reseach lab in hopes of getting an “in.” Had Kirsch submitted his work to a reputable journal some poor undereditor would have suffered sprains from eyerolling before taking up and bringing down the big red rSERIOUSLY ?! rubber stamp. The merit, from Kirsch’s point of view, to going the formal publication route is that the humilation would have been quiet and out of the public view. But he chose the informal public channel and is getting an informal but well-deserved whupping from highly qualified reviewers.

Johnny Canuck dates back to 1869 – no, that’s not a typo, eighteen sixty nine. I knew he’d been around for decades, but I had no I idea he was that old/

Now I’m trying to remember a SF book with a slightly similar theme. The protagonists runs a waystation…

Bloody hell. That’s it. Way Station. Turns out it’s also by C.D.S.

Prediction: Kirsch Will either publish this rubbish in JLW’s fake journal or the even more anti-vaccine fake journal IJVTPR. It’s the same group of people acting as assistant editors for both fake journals. Lol.

I recently wrote to the editor of IJVTPR inquiring as to whether a certain paper had the IRB that was required. I was told by a professor of linguistics who is the editor-in-chief that an IRB was not required and then he clearly went after me as pro vaccine even though I did nothing to provoke him in my email.

Peter hotez needs to change his model of how the anti-vaccine movement works to include a fourth cog called the fake science division. They’re getting bigger and more prominent and really do play a role now in falsely convincing people not to vaccinate.

@ Steve Kirsch

You writes: Steve Kirsch
June 14, 2023 at 9:46 pm
You can read Kirsch’s response right here:

One quote from your response: “SIDS: I’ve seen the paper on vaccination being protective against SIDS. I think the paper is junk. If that paper were true, we’d be injecting kids every week and cutting the SIDS rate by 5X. And look how quickly the protection drops after vaccination!!! Amazing!”

Wow! While you are an expert in technology innovation, you have NEVER explained if you have even the basic understanding of how our immune systems work. As for SIDS, the paper you cite did NOT claim vaccination protective against SIDS; but found no difference in SIDS between those vaccinated and those NOT vaccinated: “We conclude that in this large population of children there was no increase in the risk of SIDS after immunization with the DTP vaccine.” However, vaccine did protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Either you just didn’t understand the paper or, based on your unscientific biased ignorance of immunology, you are just lying.

M R Griffin et al (1988 Sep 8). Risk of sudden infant death syndrome after immunization with the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine. New England Journal of Medicine; 319(10): 618-623.

You attack Orac who has a medical degree and a PhD in cell physiology based simply on his knowing what he is talking about whereas you assume that having an expertise in one totally different discipline allows you to make claims based totally on ignorance. Why don’t you stick to your area of expertise???

I suspect that the actual paper he had in mind was Venneman 2007. Which did find such a connection. I gave Mr. Kirsch the benefit of the doubt that he was just sloppy in citation.

Maybe I should not have given him the benefit of the doubt.

As you point out, the actually cited paper did not say this.

@ Dorit

If he actually was commenting on the Vennemann study, it was a meta-analysis of nine case-control studies. As typical of Kirsch, he criticizes without giving any actual explanation. People should just take his word for it??? And the actual study states: “The summary odds ratio (OR) in the univariate analysis suggested that immunisations were protective, but the presence of heterogeneity makes it difficult to combine these studies.” MAKES IT DIFFICULT TO COMBINE THESE STUDIES.

“Immunisations may be indirectly associated with a reduction
in SIDS. Vaccination may be avoided during illness and
infections, the so-called healthy vaccinee effect. Thus
the reduction in SIDS with immunisations may be a marker
of the well being of the infant, and not directly related to the

I have a half dozen papers on vaccines and SIDS. My take, not claiming certainty, is that SIDS occurs regardless of vaccine status, which even the Vennemann study basically admits.

As I wrote above, Kirsch is a technology expert; but gives absolutely NO information of his having even the most minimal understanding of immunology, etc. as subject totally outside any expertise in technology and whether he was reacting to first study mentioned or Vennemann clear indication he either didn’t understand the studies or, based on his unscientific antivax bias, simply lied! ! !

Every antivaxxer I have read either indicates NO actual knowledge of immunology, thus how vaccines work and/or based on their background, should have said knowledge; but ignore it. Really SICK individuals.

I completely agree with your points about Vennemann. That’s the closest I could come to what Kirsch might have been thinking, since as you pointed out before, the article he did link to did not say that. I know several people with knowledge that read Vennemann as saying immunization reduce risk, though as you point out, it’s a lot more cautious and nuanced. Thanks for going through that.

I also agree with you that vaccines are not associated with SIDS. I think we have many studies on that.

If the reason Kirsch was silent for a day or so on Twitter (must be a record for him) was to struggle to come up with the “rebuttal” to Orac’s takedown, that’s truly pitiful.

How long does it take to come up with genius comments like “Epic fail” and “hit piece”?*

*in a similar vein, “Fact checkers lie!” has gotten to be popular among the bonkers contrarian set.

I think he got a time out for a tweet that violated the terms of service, though I cannot be sure.

Let’s suppose that Kirsch actually managed to go after someone for “damaging his reputation” and got past his opponent’s motion to dismiss. Is there any legal precedent for a poseur winning such a case and if so, what damages were awarded? Kirsch can’t claim his reputation is “professional” since he is clearly very far out of his lane.The only thing he might legitimately claim is that there has been interference with his ability to gull rubes on the internet. Should such a thing be protected? If I were a trier of fact I’d be inclined to say “Meh” and find against him.

YouTuber Jose Maria “Chille” DeCastro, subject of much derision and mockery (e.g. of hit from net search for his name: “We know Chille De Castro is an idiot, but here is absolute proof…”), fancies himself to be a “constitutional law scholar” of many years. Recently he threatened another YouTuber with a claim pretty similar to what Kirsch is trying on. He backed off, claiming that his YouTube views had actually increased as a result of the opponent’s postings.
Is Kirsch really losing out on revenue? Again, were I a trier of fact or his opponent’s lawyer, I’d want some damned compelling evidence to support such a claim.

This is what I left for Steve on his own post:

What you are attempting sure sounds like a SLAPP suit – Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Are you familiar with Devin Nunes and his many lawsuits for comments that are clearly protected opinion by reams of legal precedent? The most famous is his attempt to sue the person behind the Twitter parody account “Devin Nunes’ Cow” for calling him a “treasonous cowpoke”. This is clearly ridicule and rhetorical hyperbole, protected by the First Amendment. But Nunes is trying to silence critics by causing them to run up legal bills they can’t afford. He sues in Virginia, which does not have a strong anti-SLAPP law such as the Texas Citizens Participation Act.

While I am not a lawyer, I can tell you what many lawyers have said about a situation like this: you are what is known as a limited purpose public figure. You have voluntarily inserted yourself into a matter of public interest and debate. Thus under Times v Sullivan you must prove that Dr. Canuck has made a claim of objective fact with knowledge that it is false, or serious doubts of its truthfulness. If Dr. Canuck has revealed why he thinks he satisfied your conditions and you owe him $1,000, that’s an opinion based on disclosed facts, and cannot be libel.

[…] My post the other day about Kirsch chastised and mocked him for having used his Substack account to rally his followers to dox a family practice physician going by the pseudonym of Dr. Canuck on Twitter, ostensibly so that he could serve him with a libel suit for having accused Kirsch of welshing on one of his “debate me” bets about vaccines. My post lovingly dissected Kirsch’s claims and BS, while pointing out the inconsistencies in his story and how Kirsch’s actions were legal thuggery engaged in by a bully. […]

Orac Said toward the end of this article:

I can only hope that this is only a temporary situation, even as I accept that it might not be.

Either way, though, I’ll still be here.

Thank You for being here, we will be here right along side you!

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