Attempts at intimidation

3 Aug

I was interviewed for and quoted in the latest edition of Nature Medicine (oops caught by Ms Clark). The piece in question was an uneasy look at the continuing and escalating violent overtones emanating from the mercury militia – parents who believe against all evidence that their kids autism was caused by vaccines.

The piece started with a look at the experiences Paul Offit faces now and then:

….as Paul Offit, a vaccine expert who served on the committee, tried to make his way through the crowd, one of the protestors screamed at him through a megaphone: “The devil–it’s the devil!” One protester held a sign that read “TERRORIST” with a photo of Offit’s face. Just before Offit reached the door, a man dressed in a prison uniform grabbed Offit’s jacket. “It was harrowing,” Offit recalls.


He has since received hundreds of malicious and threatening emails, letters and phone calls accusing him of poisoning children and “selling out” to pharmaceutical companies. One phone caller listed the names of Offit’s two young children and the name of their school. One email contained a death threat–“I will hang you by your neck until you’re dead”–that Offit reported to federal investigators.

Offit’s crime? He’s performed science that doesn’t support the vaccine/autism hypothesis and spoke out about it.

His experiences mirror those of scientist Paul Shattuck who also published science that didn’t support the vaccine hypothesis. After a highly inaccurate smear campaign from the National Autism Association, Shattuck also received threats:

One person said, “Don’t be surprised if you get a knock on your door in the middle of the night and I’ll be there.” Another message said it was easy in the age of the Internet to find out where people live.

Arthur Allen and Professor Roy Grinker have also been on the receiving end of threats of violence:

these people need to be horse whipped…

I’ve also been on the receiving end of various nastiness. From the cowardly actions of John Best who once compared my autistic daughter to a monkey after I related how well she was doing and his follow ups:

….My wife bought too many bananas so I’ll send some for your daughter …..

…Perhaps you can teach your daughter to swing from tree to tree…

we can see how little the mercury militia actually value children. John followed this up by joining the AWARES conference under the username ‘megan leitch’ and posting more cowardly material. John’s regulars at his blog thought this hilarious. John’s blog regulars are anonymous members of the Evidence of Harm Yahoo Group. People who say they care about autistic kids and the discrimination they face.

Recently, this blog was blessed with a series of short lived visits from Ray Gallup, the co-founder of the Vaccine Autoimmune Project. He started off with a series of sneery comments – par for the course and easily deflected. However, he then decided to start posting under the names of others, including fellow antivaxxer Alan Rees and the afore mentioned Dr Paul Offit. It was easy to spot it was him because the IP address was exactly the same.

Shortly after this I was forwarded an email from someone who had followed the Gallup idiocy (he’s banned now by the way) and had mailed him to ask what he was up to – here is the first reply:

Dear ****:

I heard through the grapevine that the Kevin Leitch crowd and his fellow swine assholes where accusing me and Alan Rees of putting things on their website/blog. These people are a bunch of scumbags and I wouldn’t waste my time with dumb fucken people.


Ray Gallup

Except you _did_ Ray. So why lie about it?

Anyway, that was just the starter. The main course that followed showed yet again, the full extent of the bitter hate and violent tendencies of the mercury militia:

Dear ****:

Since you seem to follow what is going on with the Leitch list let me know if Leitch, Deer and the others get hit with a fast moving truck or bus that leaves their carcasses mangled and bloodly on the street.

I will be devotely praying night and day that something like this happens to them and their followers. Especially since these creeps say such hurtful things to parents. They deserve all the best in something terrible happening to every last one of them and I will pray daily.

I usually pray for good things for families that suffer but in their case I will make a big exception.

Ray Gallup

Jim Laidler was also interviewed for the Nature piece. His words are worrying but I cannot deny their veracity:

This stuff is frighteningly violent,” Laidler says. “With the Omnibus trial looking like [the Cedillos] are going to go down in flames, I would be appalled, but not surprised, to hear that some act of violence was carried out.

Its certainly gearing up for that. It was only recently that Brad Handley of Generation Rescue said to me:

If we were on a rugby pitch, Kev, I’d put my boot in your eye and twist…

These are a set of people winding themselves up like a bunch of toddlers ready to have a major tantrum. But they aren’t toddlers. These are, amazingly, adults. I challenge them to find a single incidence of any Autism Hub blogger threatening violence towards antivaccers/autism believers.


64 Responses to “Attempts at intimidation”

  1. Broken Link August 8, 2007 at 01:52 #

    Promethus said “I wonder why all the hue and cry for “a study”.”

    Pro, you know and I know, and most of the intelligent readers know that if that study took place and indicated a lack of association between autism and vaccines, then there would be calls for further study. By then it would likely be “You need to study only those children with X, Y, Z genetic susceptibility to vaccines. If you take the few per cent of kids wth X, Y, Z, then if you compare the vaccinated with the unvaccinated, you are going to find that the vaccinated have more autism. I’m only asking for that one more study and then I will be convinced.”

    It’s a never ending quest for the holy grail.

  2. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) August 8, 2007 at 06:00 #

    “I can’t believe folks are giving credibility to 666sigma, who’s not only gone to the conspiracy card on other boards but has also claimed that Asperger’s is sometimes an excuse for being an a-hole.”

    In much the same way that having the word ‘science’ in one’s job title can be used as an excuse for being a prick, right? ;)

    His (why can’t English be like Finnish and have just one third-person pronoun?!) claim about “As a sophomore in college, I was required to take graduate level statistics courses…” I just don’t buy, unless the graduate level stats courses were introductory courses for graduates in disciplines where stats did not form a major part of the supporting studies. In which case… they were introductory graduate level courses… taught at graduate level but not as concepts entertained by graduates in mathematics/physics/statistics/etc.

  3. 666sigma August 8, 2007 at 11:10 #

    Tom, unlike most of the other recent replies which resorted to insults (surprise, surprise), your latest reply contains some real thought behind it, Perhaps, you are correct that the money would be better spent elsewhere. I was merely attmepting to point out that the CDC/IOM has proven dick. And I don’t think it is because it is a waste of money. I think it is because they don’t want to. Like most Libertarians, I don’t trust government. To be honest, I don’t trust lawyers or doctors either.

    However, I thought your comments about Government and their appropriations lacks a real understanding of the mechanisms of government. Translation: they waste money all of the time and really don’t give a sh*t. If the vocal minority were loud enough the funding would be diverted. If you doubt me, take a look at AIDS and HIV. The vocal minority diverted literally billions away from needed studies and research towards a disease that was largely preventable. They are still successful today. They were able to do so by lying to the public and “democratizing” the disease. Do you see the parallel with the autism “epidemic”? They are using the same tactics that worked so well with AIDS/HIV.

    “There’s not yet any evidence that post-natal exposure is a possible risk factor.”

    This is not a wholly accurate statement. There is no evidence either way. However, we do know (depending on which study you read) that if one identical twin has an ASD, there is a 70-90% chance that the other will also have an ASD, However, if you look for the same diagnosis/symptoms, it falls to 30-50%. Eye color is something like 99.5% so clearly there is some environmental factor coming into play with ASD’s. If it were pure genetic, we would see the same ASD symptoms about 99% of the time in identical twins.

    Anonimouse, regarding my comment about Asperger’s being an excuse for being an asshole, I stand by that statement. I did not say people with Asperger’s were assholes. I said that assholes sometimes use Asperger’s as an excuse. There is an awful lot of self-diagnosis AS on the web. I think I just read some of them.

    Mr. Distinction, the people in my major blew away the mathematics/physics/statistics majors. They were the ones that ended up with the C’s – not that I went to a good school for these disciplines. It doesn’t matter to me if you believe it or not. You don’t know me and I don’t know you. So why the f*ck would you care so much?

  4. bones August 8, 2007 at 13:06 #

    “Tom, unlike most of the other recent replies which resorted to insults (surprise, surprise), your latest reply contains some real thought behind it…”

    Listen, Mr. Sigma, let’s not get all Holier-than-thou; you’ve flung your fair share of insults and condescension. So stop the BS, stop deflecting focus from the primary issue with all this blather about how educated you are, and stop avoiding my question.

    You asked, some time ago, for a study demonstrating no link (which in and of itself is an utterly inane request and evidences your lack of knowledge re scientific rigor, but I’ll humor you).

    So to avoid citing articles you have already reviewed, kindly list all of the articles you have read on this subject, and the particular problems with each.

  5. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) August 8, 2007 at 13:11 #

    Person with low self esteem: “So why the f*ck would you care so much?”

    To be honest, I don’t!

    You brought the issue up, and failed to demonstrate that the experience of studying that material actually paid off! LoL

    bones: “So stop the BS, stop deflecting focus from the primary issue with all this blather about how educated you are, and stop avoiding my question.”

    Won’t happen. Hasn’t happened yet in all the time that person’s been posting.

  6. 666sigma August 8, 2007 at 22:45 #

    I will answer your questions when you finally answer mine. You evade my questions and then expect me to answer yours? How silly is that?

    Now, where’s that study?

    BTW, after 58 posts of posturing, I don’t expect anyone will stand up and point to a study that they think has been well constructed. Instead, they will continue to point to the nebulous scientific community, which largely consists of individuals incapable of getting jobs in the private sector, and say that they have spoken on the issue. What seems to be pass for an epidemiological study would never fly if corporations were placing billions (or even millions) on the outcome. They are pure crap. Garbage.

    And you wonder why Big Tobacco was able to convince the public that cigarettes were safe tor 20+ years when the real science showed otherwise?

  7. Joseph August 8, 2007 at 23:36 #

    Now, where’s that study?

    Sigma: What you’re asking for is confusing. On the one hand, I think you are asking for a study that exonerates vaccines in general, not just thimerosal or the MMR vaccine. On the other hand, you are saying that the current epidemiology on thimerosal and MMR is garbage (an assertion which you have not substantiated). Which is it?

    A study on vaccination as a whole and autism has not been done that I know of. So? Any good reason why it should be done?

    And you wonder why Big Tobacco was able to convince the public that cigarettes were safe tor 20+ years when the real science showed otherwise?

    The situation we have today is basically the opposite of that.

  8. notmercury August 9, 2007 at 00:27 #

    666sigma: “What seems to be pass for an epidemiological study would never fly if corporations were placing billions (or even millions) on the outcome.”

    Maybe they should read;
    Sample Size Calculations in Clinical Research
    by Shein-Chung Chow, Jun Shao, Hansheng Wang.

  9. bones August 9, 2007 at 00:29 #

    “You evade my questions and then expect me to answer yours?”

    I haven’t evaded anything. List the studies that you have reviewed, and I will supplement your list.

    “Now, where’s that study?”

    Interesting choice of words. I am sure I don’t have to tell you, what with all your scientific wisdom, that no one study, in and of itself, has the ability to prove or disprove causation.

    Do you know what the criteria for proving a causal effect are? If so, then you are fully aware that proving such an effect is virtually impossible to do in one study.

    Of course, I am sure I am just preaching to the choir. Right?

  10. anonimouse August 9, 2007 at 01:06 #


    None of the epi studies were bad. The Verstraeten study had some legitimate flaws, but was intended to be a jumping off point for further studies, not the be-all/end-all. (another more detailed study was in progress last I checked) SafeMinds posturing aside, there is nothing wrong the Denmark studies other than they are somewhat limited.

    The reality is this – if thimerosal exposure played a role in autism, it should be fairly easy to pick up in an epidemiological study considering how many kids were vaccinated through the 1990’s. The fact that no study has been able to pick up that signal should tell you that if vaccines do play a role in autism, that role is really small.

    And you wonder why Big Tobacco was able to convince the public that cigarettes were safe tor 20+ years when the real science showed otherwise?

    This part is funny. The reality is that it’s the trial lawyers, activist groups and quacks that are acting like Big Tobacco – peddling junk studies as “sound science” while trashing the credible science on the topic. And all for the sole purpose of protecting their turf.

  11. Tom August 9, 2007 at 12:54 #

    666Sigma says, “… they will continue to point to the nebulous scientific community, which largely consists of individuals incapable of getting jobs in the private sector, and say that they have spoken on the issue.”

    Some say that the private sector is filled with trained monkeys who couldn’t make it in academia because they lack the creativity and intellect to develop new theories and methods. Those slaving away on boring CRO assignments to develop another “me too” drug simply plug data into statistical models developed by that nebulous scientific community.

  12. 666sigma August 10, 2007 at 13:13 #

    Tom, I would agree with much of the sentiments about Corporate America. This is especially true of the politicians that so-call “lead” large corporations. I spend way too much of my time feeding lines to our “leaders” to regurgitate to Wall Street so they will say something nice about our company and the stock price will go up. Instead, we should be focusing our efforts on creating real value. There is no doubt that the private sector is full of its parasites from the lawyers to the investment bankers (subprime, anyone?) to the Corporate Entitlement Class. They have all learned to cheat the system and line their pockets.

    For me, it is obvious that ASD is largely genetic. I’m not sure that any child is ASD solely because environmental factors, but I guess it is possible. The question is what is the missing piece? Genetics do not explain everything. The unknown factor may not even be a trigger. It might be something that simply exacerbates the symptoms of the disorder.

    I think many so called ASD’s are simply personality traits. So someone has narrow interests? What’s wrong with being passionate about something? When did that become a crime? No one thinks Tiger Woods has a “disorder” even though his life has been focused on golf since he was 2 years old. When did being blunt and direct become a disorder and lying become the accepted norm?

    One final thought for everyone since we will agree to disagree (and that’s what life is about) . . .

    “The answer is never the answer. What’s really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you’ll always be seeking. I’ve never seen anybody really find the answer– they think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.”

    -Ken Kesey


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    […] Bloggers like Kevin Leitch, Orac, and others who write about “autism related […]

  2. Sick of the Dehumanising : Left Brain/Right Brain - September 28, 2007

    […] nothing to do with autism is misleading the public about autism. This coming from groups who have incited violence against honest scientists and who have blatantly lied about these same scientists affiliations […]

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