Movie review: VAXXED

2 Apr

Andrew Wakefield’s film, VAXXED, opened today in a theater in New York. Mr. Wakefield somehow convinced Robert De Niro to break the rules of the Tribeca Film Festival and personally insert the film into the lineup of TFF. When this was discovered, Mr. De Niro first defended his decision and, after getting input from people whose expertise is science, pulled the film. Mr. Wakefield, with no apparent sense of irony about having avoided due process to get into the festival, cried out that he was denied due process in the removal process. But didn’t hesitate to add the tagline to his film poster, “the film they don’t want you to see”.

The opening of VAXXED had about 20 people in the audience by one account. I couldn’t attend, but someone I know did and gave me a lot of feedback. I was preparing to give summarize that feedback here when a review on indewire came out: ‘Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe’ is Designed to Trick You (Review) which concurs with the impressions I was about to relate here. Here’s a paragraph from that review:

In a statement leading up to the film’s release, Wakefield’s co-writer Del Bigtree claimed that “Vaxxed” is “not an anti-vaccine movie,” which is kind of like saying “Triumph of the Will” is anti-Hitler. Strung together in obvious ways to induce a constant sense of dread (look out for the slo-mo shot of a crying child!), “Vaxxed” shamelessly repeats the same non-arguments over and over again, drowning facts in murky proclamations.

VAXXED purports to be the story of a “CDC Whistleblower”, William Thompson, who contacted Brian Hooker, a vocal proponent of the idea that vaccines cause autism. The “about” page for the movie pretty much only talks about Thompson. One thing people going to see VAXXED will find is that the CDC study/William Thompson part is a very small part of the film. Most of it is filler, much of the conversation that goes on all the time online about vaccines.

But what is the Thompson story and why is it supposedly so explosive? Well, William Thompson was researcher who worked on vaccine epidemiology at the CDC. Most of that was many years ago. In fact the research discussed in VAXXED started in 2001. Thompson sought out Brian Hooker, a very vocal proponent of the idea that vaccines cause autism and led Hooker to a finding that was not reported when the paper was published in 2004.

Since this is really the heart of the film, allow me to go into some detail. The main claim was that the CDC team found in their first pass/rough analysis that autism was more common in African American boys who got the MMR vaccine than those who didn’t. Another finding was that for children without other conditions, there also appeared to be a higher autism risk. This group was called at the start of the study “isolated autism”, as in autism isolated from other conditions.

Let’s take that second one first, isolated autism. Here’s the thing–when the CDC team published their study in 2004, they did report on this. Instead of autism isolated from all other conditions, they showed autism without intellectual disability. The CDC reported that the calculated risk for this group was “statistically significant”.

In other words–what did they hide? Nothing. It’s the same result that Wakefield says was hidden. The only question I have– if this result is so important, why didn’t Wakefield or Hooker notice for the 10 years after it was published?

So, what about the other result? Thompson told Hooker that the CDC team another possible result. This result was limited to only African American boys, a fact that is largely glossed over in a film of largely white people. And this Autism/MMR/African American boys result didn’t remain statistically significant under the CDC planned, more complete, analysis. Which is to say, it’s not strong, it’s not really controversial.

But let’s ignore that for the moment. Let’s ask ourselves, if this is the smoking gun, the finding that was so explosive that a CDC researcher reached out to Brian Hooker to tell him about it, why don’t we don’t hear about that that finding until about 1/2 way through the film? And why is so little time spent on it? I’d think this would be a huge part of the film.

Let’s take another step back, a step away from the film. Here’s the thing about this from my perspective as an autism parent–if you believe this represents a real effect (that the MMR causes autism in African American males), you act very differently than Andrew Wakefield. You try to answer the question. Wakefield was at one point running a charity whose stated purpose was autism research (in the end, about half the money went to Wakefield’s salary). He is reported to have raised $400k for this film. Four hundred thousand dollars. I have seen no effort whatsoever by Mr. Wakefield to investigate this claim of a link between MMR and autism in African American boys. Instead we keep hearing about efforts on getting a congressional hearing on the subject. For those outside the autism community: there have been two autism related congressional hearings in recent years. While they have provided much YouTube footage for people pushing the idea that vaccines cause autism, they haven’t done anything to make life better for the autism communities. Nothing.

But one might argue, William Thompson tells us that this shows vaccines cause autism, right? No, he doesn’t. Here’s a public statement (one of only 2 I am aware of) that Mr. Thompson wrote:

The fact that we found a strong statistically significant finding among black males does not mean that there was a true association between the MMR vaccine and autism-like features in this subpopulation

But you won’t find that point emphasized in VAXXED. Instead you will find Wakefield and cowriter Del Bigtree claiming that Thompson says that the CDC “…knew that vaccines were actually causing autism”

There’s a huge difference between “does not mean a true association” and “knew that vaccines were actually causing autism”. I don’t know how big the difference is in film producer land, but in science, it’s night and day.

While we are exploring whether this claim of an MMR/autism link in African American boys, it’s worth noting that just yesterday the CDC came out with their latest autism report (they do this every year at the beginning of April). The CDC autism prevalence numbers show a very different story about the possibility of the MMR causing autism in African American boys. The autism prevalence in African American children is lower than that in whites. If the MMR/Autism link were real and as large as the rough analysis claimed, it would be higher.

And what about the dramatic claim of research fraud by the CDC team? This claim not only doesn’t hold up, but it’s morphed a bit over time. Originally Wakefield and Hooker claimed that the CDC changed their analysis plan after finding the “race effect”. That is–they saw a result they didn’t like and then changed the analysis plan. Let me show you. Here’s a quote from an earlier Wakefield video on the subject

“Over the ensuing months, after the data after the data had been collected and analyzed, and strictly forbidden in the proper conduct of science, the group abandoned the approved analysis plan, introducing a revised analysis plan to help them deal with their problem.”

We also see this claim in the press release that accompanied Brian Hooker’s “reanalysis” of the CDC data:

According to Dr. Thompson’s statement, “Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data was collected.” Thompson’s conversations with Hooker confirmed that it was only after the CDC study co-authors observed results indicating a statistical association between MMR timing and autism among African-American boys, that they introduced the Georgia birth certificate criterion as a requirement for participation in the study. This had the effect of reducing the sample size by 41% and eliminating the statistical significance of the finding, which Hooker calls “a direct deviation from the agreed upon final study protocol — a serious violation.”

Emphasis added.

The problem with that statement was that the final “revised analysis plan” was dated Sept 5, 2001 and the “race effect” wasn’t seen until late October/early November 2001. Two months later. In other words, for this version of the fraud claim to work, the CDC team would have to travel back in time. We know this timeline because the William Thompson documents are now public and we can compare the analysis plans and analysis.

If this seems confusing, it gets worse in VAXXED where we are taken into a discussion of the CDC team switching from using race data from school records to birth certificates and how this reduces the statistical power and hides an effect and all.

Rather than go into details about that, I’ll state this: this argument is a red herring. And wrong, but a red herring. Yes the CDC had data from both school and birth records. But they always planned on using the birth certificate data for their final analysis. From the analysis plan we read:

For the subset of children with Georgia birth records, sub-analyses will be performed in which potential confounding variables from the birth certificate will be used to adjust the estimated association between the MMR vaccine and autism. The variables that will be assessed as potential confounders will be birth weight, APGAR scores, gestational age, birth type, parity, maternal age, maternal race/ethnicity, and maternal education

Or to put it simply, the school records didn’t include things like APGAR scores and so much more that the CDC team planned to use from the start.

So much for “research fraud”.

We can go through the details, but let me just say that a great deal of VAXXED is not really directly the story–the story that is promised in the VAXXED web page. A lot of discussion about and by Andrew Wakefield, for example. We also get parents speaking about their beliefs that vaccines caused their child to be autistic. While very emotional and not something to be dismissed, this doesn’t address the question of whether vaccines cause autism or if there was malfeasance at the CDC.

We a significant amount of filler in the “Big Pharma is bad” sort. The industry insider they get to speak is person who worked in sales for Vioxx. No expertise on vaccines, no experience on the inside for vaccines. And more that I just won’t go into detail about.

Does that mean it won’t be convincing? Well, a large part of the audience for this is already convinced. But will they convince more people with this film? Sadly, the answer is yes. People are not afforded the chance to see the counter arguments. And the appeal to emotion that is much of the film will play. Much better than dry analysis like the above that I have provided. But do I find this movie in the least accurate? No.

By Matt Carey

98 Responses to “Movie review: VAXXED”

  1. wzrd1 April 2, 2016 at 02:49 #

    Why shouldn’t we call the film review for what it is?
    Known, two out of a twenty audience were reviewers for the film, as this has attracted press attention, it’s likely more were. A lot more.
    So, given the standard deviation for cranks present in any random audience, possibly two, likely one were new viewers, the remainder were present due to “controversy”.

    Sorry, but I’m rejecting Wheaton’s rule, as Wheaton has done. Sometimes, one just must be a dick, when the other side isn’t even wrong, it goes beyond wrong and never was in any form, anywhere near right.
    See Pauli “Not even wrong”.
    See, “I’ve never suffered a fool well”, by wzrd1. 😉

  2. reissd April 2, 2016 at 02:49 #

    Thank you for following these events so thoroughly. I don’t think there’s anyone who examined Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker’s claims as thoroughly as you did. The fact that they are repeated, even after all the holes and misreaprensetations in them were exposed, is sad.

  3. Craig Payne April 2, 2016 at 03:24 #

    Only 20 people …. that says it all. Next.

  4. Erica April 2, 2016 at 04:52 #

    Thank you. I am a little worried, quite frankly, as not everyone tries to find the truth behind the smoke and mirrors. So, I am going to put something forward here, that I think you haven’t addressed yet. I have not read all of your posts, just most of them. 😉 First, let me say, I have worked in the field of epidemiology, but it was ten years ago. I do have a doctoral degree, but right now I am caring for my young son, so I am a little rusty on my stats and methods.

    I appreciate your dropbox with the files for this case. I have not read all of them, because there are a lot of them, however, I perused the study analysis plan and a few things struck me:

    1) The researchers, being CDC scientists, were conducting a study on autism as a disease primarily, rather than as a disability primarily. Since working at the CDC is a bit like being in the ivory tower, they did not really think things through. Had they used a disability model as their framework instead of a disease model as their framework, I believe they would have avoided certain selection biases and methodological errors, which then would have likely nulled the statistically significant findings.

    2) The authors themselves noted that the statistically significant findings were likely due to children starting early intervention programs at schools: “Vaccination before 36 months was more common among case children than control children, especially among children 3 to 5 years of age, likely reflecting immunization requirements for enrollment in early intervention programs.” And I agree, but I am disappointed that the authors did not realise in advance that their choice of sampling methods led to selection bias. So, the autistic cases and controls were matched on age, sex and school (or school nearby), but not on time of entry into school. This was a huge oversight, and again, related to the CDC scientists not really thinking about what it would be like to be an autistic child in urban Atlanta. Additionally, what has not been mentioned by either the authors nor the sites like Snopes, is that there was likely a financial incentive for the parents of the autistic children to put their children into preschools earlier than their typically developing peers. Let me explain, because I know that things work differently in Europe. In the US, children with disabilities, once evaluated as having a disability by a school district or disability agency, must be offered a spot in a public preschool where they will have an individualised education plan, plus access to services (speech therapy, etc.) at the school. So school districts get federal funds to provide these spots to preschool children, and they offer these spots to the children’s parents for free. In contrast, public preschool spots are often either unavailable to typically developing children, or the parents of typically developing children must pay fees to access the public preschool (in contrast to kindergarten on up, which are free). I am going to call the Georgia Department of Behavioural Health and Developmental Disabilities to double-check on this, but I am pretty sure it applies in Georgia too. Now, of course there are Head Start programs too, which would be free, but from what is sounds like, the authors did not choose controls from Head Start programs because they wanted to match the autistic children, who were at public preschools, certainly Head Start programs are not mentioned in the study analysis plan.

    3) The authors did not consider a few other things that might be important to take into consideration. So, the children in the study were born between 1987 and 1993. In another study by CDC staff, “Reduction of racial/ethnic disparities in vaccination coverage, 1995-2011,” the authors noted that in the US, there was a resurgence of measles between 1989-1991. There were 55,622 reported cases. Children under the age of 5 living in the inner city who were American Indian, Hispanic, non-Hispanic black and/or low-income were at 3 to 16 times greater risk for measles than non-Hispanic white children. What this means is that there is a rather good chance that the MMR vaccination rates for the inner-city children in the study between 1989 and 1991 (at least) were likely low to begin with, necessitating the need for catch-up vaccinations to go to preschool. Interestingly, because of this measles outbreak, there was a big push to vaccinate in the US (probably with emphasis on the MMR shot) starting around 1993, but even by 1995, it was estimated that only 87% of non-hispanic black children aged 19-35 months had received the MMR vaccination.

    4) The inclusion of children aged 3 to 5 was probably a mistake for several reasons. First, it is possible that some of the controls were autistic. In yet another CDC study, it was found that the median age of autism diagnosis was 53 months. That means that, of course, there could have been autistic children mixed in with the controls who simply had not been diagnosed yet. The authors had many criteria to ensure that the autistic cases were actually autistic, however, they did little to ensure that the controls were not autistic.

    5) The authors noted among their limitations that the date of onset of autism/first occurrence of autistic behaviours was incompletely recorded. Well, more than that, here again is why it is important to consider autism predominantly as a disability rather than a disease. The authors decided in their analysis plan to exclude autism cases with known onset prior to one year of age (parental concern noted on file). That seems reasonable on the surface, however, that also results in a selection bias, because there were likely cases in which autistic behaviours before one year of age were simply not noticed.

    All in all, the study was actually not well-designed, in large part because the authors didn’t think of all the factors that might affect the timing of MMR vaccinations, or even the baseline of MMR vaccinations in their study sample.

    I have some more ideas about this study, but it is time for me to head to bed.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 3, 2016 at 03:55 #

      ” First, it is possible that some of the controls were autistic.”

      It is all but certain that many of the controls were autistic. Back then identification was very poor. Many were missed. And not in just the age 3-5 age bracket.

      “necessitating the need for catch-up vaccinations to go to preschool”

      Which is discussed in the paper.

      The CDC team used the data they had on hand at the time and did the best with what they had. No one has considered this to be a definitive study.

      • wzrd1 April 3, 2016 at 17:55 #

        It is a truism, one uses the data that one has, rather than the data one wishes one had.
        I wonder how increased use of computers to track various life activities and events have helped researchers acquire larger and clearer data sets? We should begin to see fruits of that quite soon.

      • Erica April 4, 2016 at 05:13 #

        I guess I am less forgiving, especially since I have anti-vax friends who keep harping on this one study. It really has made a bit of an impact on the anti-vaxxer movement in America. In 2013, before all of this came to a head, 20% of Americans believed that vaccines cause autism (that number came from research on people who believe in conspiracy theories, but the question asked to research participants was just about autism and vaccines). I live in an American city where the MMR vaccination rate is around 88% among school-aged kids.

        For me, the greater issue, where I do find fault with the CDC researchers and many other researchers is the use of the pathology paradigm in research, which then narrows researchers’ field of vision so that it is hard for them to understand what it is actually like to be an autistic person in whatever disability-related system or educational system. And I think it is important to call out researchers for having tunnel pathology-paradigm vision, otherwise, they are going to keep having those narrow views that limit the validity of their study findings (and also limit the scope of their research and the research questions they ask to begin with). Sure, it sounds idealistic, but change has to start somewhere. I’m a neurodiversity activist (not autistic myself, but definitely neurodivergent, and I have autistic family members), and I am not so content with the status quo of research on autism (especially as funded by Autism Speaks). So, I’m going to contact ASAN about this issue.

        What I didn’t write, because I was too tired, is that the CDC could have done a follow-up study, and collected a little bit more data from school records, with the hypothesis that, for example, age of MMR vaccination predicts age at school entry for the autistic cases (but not for controls, it would not have mattered in that situation if controls were actually autistic). But the CDC moved on (except for Thompson, apparently). Anti-vaxxers are still stuck on it.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 4, 2016 at 07:33 #

        The CDC should have let the community know about this result so the community could decide whether to push for a follow up study.

        That’s easy to say in hindsight given how badly keeping this result out of the public eye has worked for them.

        Consider the result for autism without intellectual disability. Statistically significant and no one cared. This study just wasn’t a big deal.

        Clearly if this result on African American boys had any validity we would see a very large prevalence in African Americans in studies today. We don’t. Actually we see a low prevalence. So the CDC team were correct that this is a spurious result but I disagree that we shouldn’t have been able to see it.

      • Chris April 4, 2016 at 05:59 #

        “What I didn’t write, because I was too tired, is that the CDC could have done a follow-up study, and collected a little bit more data from school records, with the hypothesis that, for example, age of MMR vaccination predicts age at school entry for the autistic cases (but not for controls, it would not have mattered in that situation if controls were actually autistic).”

        Ah, the things we could have done with 20/20 hindsight!

    • Erica April 11, 2016 at 21:21 #

      I think that my point was not clear. The point is, the study design was flawed, especially considering that the main thing they were looking at was timing of the MMR shot, yet they did not consider any external factors that might influence that timing until afterwards. Sorry, I think it is totally reasonable to say there were major flaws in the design of the study, and my husband, a scientist, agrees. He has encouraged me to write a letter to the journal and point out these flaws in the study design. It is quite common to do this in science, as you know, and though it is less common to point out study flaws many years after the study has been published, it still happens.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 12, 2016 at 18:27 #

        Write your letter. As a scientist, I have written such a response to a study.

        Be sure to include how exactly, with the information available to them in this study, they were supposed to take into account external factors that might influence timing.

        You are complaining that the study isn’t something it was never intended to be. And it isn’t as though they could have done this differently given the resources available. Should they have just not performed the study? Answer: No.

  5. Michael McLaughlin April 2, 2016 at 05:56 #

    Great, write a review for a film you haven’t seen. I’m sure you had your opinion set before even talking to the person who did see it. The fact that William Thompson said what he said is not in dispute. So the only other possibility is he is lying for some personal gain – I don’t know, having his career ruined maybe? I can only assume you are holding on to your precious “nothing is ever wrong with vaccines” even when CDC scientist TELLS the world they frauded the study, because you’ve been using vaccines on yourself and your kids for years, and there’s no looking back now.

    • Chris April 2, 2016 at 07:43 #

      Le sigh, it seems you were not able to find the link to the actual review referenced it the title. Here is a hint: the words are underlined, hover your mouse over them and then click.

      Here, I will make it easy for you and give you the link directly:

      Now, can you tell us why there so much stress over less than a half a dozen children who were vaccinated after the recommended time schedule? From the actual data it looks like sticking to the recommended schedule for the MMR protects kids from autism. Just sayin’.

    • Mark April 3, 2016 at 13:16 #

      If there wasn’t a problem why the hell would Thompson call up some activist and say something was wrong? Why????

      • Chris April 3, 2016 at 18:05 #

        Read this article. It explains that Thompson suffered some mental distress.

        Still, the data only shows a small number of African American boys who are given the MMR after the recommended time. A “statistic” from about a half a dozen subjects created by Hooker torturing the data. Plus the timing of those vaccines suggests the most realistic explanation is that the children’s issues were noticed, so they were identified eligible for special ed. preschool by Childfind and needed to be vaccinated to attend public school.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 3, 2016 at 20:22 #

        Another point to address: if there were “something wrong” as indicated by that spurious result:

        Why is the autism prevalence lower in African Americans than in non Hispanic whites? CDC data confirms this again in report out last week.

        Is the person posing the question interested in the conspiracy aspect or the actual question at hand? Appears to be the former based on the question posed.

      • wzrd1 April 3, 2016 at 21:37 #

        Is the autism rate actually lower for African Americans? Or is autism not diagnosed as often due to a lack of health care/insurance resulting in infrequent physician visits?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 3, 2016 at 23:36 #

        Almost certainly the latter. Under diagnosis and lack of services is a huge issue that the autism community has been working on for some time.

        Wakefield and company are not a part of that effort. Instead they deny under diagnosis because it goes against their “epidemic” arguments.

        How can you claim an epidemic if the numbers aren’t accurate?

        Ironically we can read Mark Blaxill try this dance right now. The CDC numbers are bogus, but at the same time they are proof there is an epidemic. It’s an amazing argument. Not in the “that’s so good it is amazing” kind. The other kind.

      • wzrd1 April 4, 2016 at 00:03 #

        Access to medical care and services should be treated as a fundamental human right, we’ve, for far too long, have treated them instead as privileges for those who can afford them.
        We really need to adjust our thinking!

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 3, 2016 at 20:13 #

        Too bad he isn’t telling us.

        If he felt that vaccines were really causing harm, why did he stop making public statements?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 3, 2016 at 20:23 #

        If Thompson had so much to say, why is there so little of him in the film?

        And why did the directors edit multiple statements he made? If what he had to say was a smoking gun, why not just present it accurately?

      • Chris Preston April 6, 2016 at 13:04 #

        “If Thompson had so much to say, why is there so little of him in the film?”

        This is clearly the most interesting question about the whole episode. The answer, as I am sure you have mentioned, is that the ‘smoking gun’ provided by William Thompson does not amount to a hill of beans, so the amount of Thompson needs tobe limited.

        But there are other issues involved. This is a film by Andrew Wakefield and so it needs to be about Andrew Wakefield, not about William Thompson.

        The only deep mystery here is why William Thompson went to Brian Hooker. Clearly on the surface it was to get back at his colleagues, whom he believed had shafted him, but why go to Hooker and then Wakefield? That bit makes no rational sense.

        I enjoyed your dissection of the trailer. That was very well done and really useful.

      • Science Mom April 11, 2016 at 17:25 #

        @ Michael, one might also ask if there was such egregious fraud in that study, why didn’t Thompson remove himself from the list of authors either before submission or after? That and submitting a request for an investigation through proper channels would have been what someone with a true concern would do, not run to some wing-nut anti-vaxxer with an axe to grind.

  6. sadmar April 2, 2016 at 10:19 #

    Review in the Hollywood Reporter.

  7. Agnotologist April 2, 2016 at 16:56 #

    As far as vaccines go, there are broadly speaking really 3 positions. Those for it, those against, and those who believe vaccines have validity, but also potentially dangerous (like any drug) and should be studied properly, used appropriately and additionally, everything the vaccine manufacturer or gov’t says should not automatically be taken at face value. Each of these 3 positions can be looked at independently,

    The first, that all vaccines are proven safe and effective, can not harm anyone, all vaccine manufacturers are 100% honest, gov’t 100% honest, all studies 100% honest without any possibility of manipulation – I think this position – the mainstream media position, the conventional medication position – is of extreme fanaticism. A vaccine religion.

    Since there are known dangers of vaccines, a vaccine court even, special gov’t protection for vaccine manufacturers, known toxicity of ingredients in vaccines, it’s also a position of profound double-think. This position that says nothing about any vaccine ever to be questioned, and other the other hand – vaccines should be forced on people if they want it or not – should be of obvious lunacy, tyranny, anti-science and anti-intellectualism in general, as it’s a call to faith based obedience to official institutions.

    “A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of the truth.”
    – Einstein

    • Chris April 2, 2016 at 17:11 #

      “Since there are known dangers of vaccines, a vaccine court even, special gov’t protection for vaccine manufacturers, known toxicity of ingredients in vaccines, it’s also a position of profound double-think.”

      The real “double think” is exaggerating the rare side effects of the vaccines, and down playing the dangers of the diseases. That is just ignoring the evidence.

      “This position that says nothing about any vaccine ever to be questioned, and other the other hand – vaccines should be forced on people if they want it or not – should be of obvious lunacy, tyranny, anti-science and anti-intellectualism in general, as it’s a call to faith based obedience to official institutions.”

      Except that is factually wrong. The vaccine requirements are for school attendance and employment for certain jobs (mostly medical, to protect vulnerable patients).

      If you do not wish to abide by the public health requirements for public school, then you are quite welcome to find other ways to educate your children.

      Your comment has nothing to do with the movie, and the way the facts were manipulated by the film makers.

    • Narad April 3, 2016 at 19:32 #

      “A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of the truth.”
      – Einstein

      I do so love argument by broken aphorism. You’re mixing up your Einstein and Emerson, or something, and not understanding the context in any event.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 3, 2016 at 20:19 #

        And being hugely ironic in the process. Wakefield has made a career out of finding people who put faith in his authority.

        So few actually check his claims, his “facts”.

    • Julian Frost April 4, 2016 at 07:24 #

      As far as vaccines go, there are broadly speaking really 3 positions. Those for it, those against, and those who believe vaccines have validity, but also potentially dangerous…

      That is the fallacy known as “Argument to Moderation”. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen that fallacy disproportionately often lately.

      [Vaccines] should be studied properly…

      Vaccines, like all other medicines, go through several rounds of trials before being placed on the schedule, followed by rigorous post-release analysis. If you feel that this is inadequate, please tell us what should additionally be done.

      …used appropriately…

      Very well then. Please explain how the current use of vaccines is “inappropriate”.

      …and additionally, everything the vaccine manufacturer or gov’t says should not automatically be taken at face value.

      As I mentioned above, there are rigorous checks done during trials alongside post-release analysis to ensure any dishonesty is caught. But why distrust government? They check the vaccine manufacturers thoroughly as they suffer consequences if things go wrong.

      The first, that all vaccines are proven safe and effective, can not harm anyone, all vaccine manufacturers are 100% honest, gov’t 100% honest, all studies 100% honest without any possibility of manipulation

      Nobody believes that. You have made a complete and utter strawman.
      You end with a misquote, so I’ll respond with a misquote of my own.
      “Your argument is bad, and you should feel bad!”
      -Zoidberg, from Futurama.

      • Hannah April 7, 2016 at 15:43 #

        Vaccines, like all other medicines, go through several rounds of trials before being placed on the schedule, followed by rigorous post-release analysis. If you feel that this is inadequate, please tell us what should additionally be done.

        What should be done is a study comparing vaxxed vs unvaxxed. It could easily be done. You must all be getting tired of hearing this argument from anti vaxxers. Why not just do the study.

      • brian April 8, 2016 at 01:40 #

        Hannah wrote, “What should be done is a study comparing vaxxed vs unvaxxed.”

        You might inquire at the egregiously-misnamed National Vaccine Information Center. Several years ago, according to their IRS form 990, that organization funded a retrospective vaxxed-unvaxxed study to be directed by Vicky Debold, NVIC’s research director; the study was titled “Comparison of health and utilization outcomes among fully and never vaccinated children.” As far as I can tell, those funds were shifted to support other, since-published work.

        I guess that you haven’t heard of any results of that planned vaxxed-unvaxxed study, either.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 8, 2016 at 14:19 #

        One could also go to Andrew Wakefield. For a number of years Wakefield ran a charity, the Strategic Autism Initiative. One of the few projects that Wakefield funded was a study of of the Florida Medicaid database. Based on the statements in the tax records, it looks like such a large study was beyond the capability of the researchers involved.

        Perhaps if Wakefield had put a majority of the money he collected into funding research rather than into salaries (last I checked a majority of the money collected had gone to Wakefield himself) the study would have been done.

        Given that I suspect Wakefield funded the Geiers to do this it is not surprising that it was too difficult. They are not experts by any means in epidemiology.

        So, Hannah. Are you happy with the way that was handled?

      • Hannah April 8, 2016 at 02:57 #

        I am not aware of any studies comparing vaxxed vs unvaxxed, nor for any plans for such a study. I am simply suggesting that we put to rest the argument that unvaccinated children dont get autism. The US Congress called for this study and thus far has not been done despite the many excuses.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 8, 2016 at 14:13 #

        The Congress has not called for this study. One or a few individuals in Congress have voiced an opinion that such a study should be done, but that is a different thing entirely.

        It would be great if you could give us a link to the site you think is showing that Congress has asked for such a study so we could point out how you have misinterpreted it.

        If you wish I could provide links to the bills that have been introduced on the topic. Then you could see that they have not even been voted on, much less approved.

      • Hannah April 8, 2016 at 03:13 #

        Also, I don’t think a study by NVIC would be acceptable to you, and should be done by a non biased organization. Universities at the state level would be a more acceptable choice to identify unvaxxed children attending school and compare them to National statistics.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 8, 2016 at 14:09 #

        NVIC shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone. No one there has the expertise, much less the lack of clear bias, to do such a study.

        Ironically the people asking the government to fund such a study are the same people who consider government funding to be a reason to disregard any study they don’t like. It’s “not independent” in their eyes.

      • sadmar April 8, 2016 at 05:59 #

        There was a reply to Hannah’s “What should be done is a study comparing vaxxed vs unvaxxed.” in my email inbox from wzrd1 that doesn’t appear here. (?)

        “Hannah, that’s easy. It’s unethical to not vaccinate someone, while implying that they are being vaccinated against a disease that they’re being exposed to.”

        I think Hannah already kind of addressed the query that entered my mind in response: Aren’t there enough kids of vax-refusing parents who could be tracked against immunized kids from a similar demographic profile to eliminate the ethics problem?

        Am I right in taking the objection to that sort of study as basically, ‘the science is settled; we don’t need this to confirm what we already know; it would be a waste of precious money, labor, and time’? Or are there methodological issues?

        I can’t speak to Hannah’s intent, but that’s irrelevant to the larger question. She wrote, “I am simply suggesting that we put to rest the argument that unvaccinated children don’t get autism.” If we take a ‘science’ perspective, we might reply, ‘well, there is no argument to put to rest’. Fair enough. But science is always embedded in the social and the political: all the scientific knowledge in the world gets you nowhere if policy-makers don’t buy it, or when there’s enough public sentiment to the contrary that elected officials worry about staying in office (or folks like Bill Posey keep getting elected).

        So if we take a socio/political perspective there certainly is an argument, and the question becomes whether a vaxed/unvaxed study by a state university would put any of that to rest. I think it’s safe to sat that nothing will ever quell the antivax true believers – no matter who does the study or how, they’ll say Big Pharma pulled the strings and advance some elaborate conspiracy theory, yada yada yada. I think we all know the tune. But what value would that study have in persuading policy-makers, or as ammunition to spank Wakefieldian crapola in the public eye? If you’re really worried that screening Vaxxed will lead to the death of innocents, then a more layperson-accessible study would be a good thing. ‘We compared the autism rate of the vaxed and the unvaxed, and there was no difference’ is a lot easier for J. Q. Doe to understand and appreciate than the methodology of De Stefano et al.

        But just how much of a public health menace IS anti-vax in the post-Disneyland, post SB277 reality? At this point, what rock do people have to have been hiding under not to have heard that anti-vax is sketchy, and Jenny McCarthy is a dubious source of medical advice? How many people who will see Vaxxed no matter how many times and places it screens will be gullible innocents ready to be sucked into autism hysteria, versus the already-lost-cause true believers who are Andy’s target audience, since those are the folks he can work for more money flowing into his offshore accounts?

        Maybe I’m wrong, but it looks to me like anti-vax is dying as a significant social problem, or rather shrinking down to a small core that becomes ever more extreme in it’s rhetoric, and thus alienating to potential newbies. The stereotype of AVers as granola crunchy ‘liberals’ was never accurate – the clusters in the OC are worse than those in Marin, Sonoma and Alameda – but certainly there’s been a significant quotient of ‘all natural’, Whole Foods-shopping, Big Anything-distrusting, comfortable in Berkeley among the vax-hesitant and exemption-seeking. I always thought those folks collectively were more reachable since a lot of them do care about community, and are more open-minded on the whole than the ‘Free-dumb’ wing-nuts. And from what I can tell, it seems vax rates in their communities are creeping up. AoA and the like will embrace anyone or any rhetoric that suits their cause, and with the Dems voting overwhelmingly for SB277, and the Rs against, anti-vax rhetoric has lurched dramatically to the far right. I just don’t see that as anything except solidifying a small base at the expense of losing traction outside the bubble.

        I mean, there will always be all sorts of kooks, and where they once were mainly out of sight, now they’re all in our face on ‘social media’, and the rest of the Interne-exposed sewer. But really, how many of the dozens of varieties of Truthers have any sort of influence on anything, and how many are just having primal scream sessions amongst themselves? Just because crazy is out there, doesn’t mean it’s dangerous enough to spend precious resources in smacking it down.

        It’s not for me to say what sort of threat anti-vax represents in 2016. If it’s high, or starts growing again, a vaxed/unvaxed university study might be a good idea in the abstract, not that anyone would necessarily want to do it, or fund it… [Again, assuming there’s no methodological deal-breakers, which is beyond my ken.]

      • Hannah April 8, 2016 at 20:37 #

        There is a big difference between the government doing a study and a University doing a study with a government grant. My original suggestion was for a University to design and execute the study.
        The claim made by anti vaxxers that populations that are not vaccinated don’t get autism is an ongoing argument.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 8, 2016 at 23:36 #

        “There is a big difference between the government doing a study and a University doing a study with a government grant. ”

        Not to those who discount autism vaccine research. Any link to the government or a pharmaceutical company is an instant cause for rejection.

        I recall years back when Paul Shattuck (the good guy) was being berated for having a Merck fellowship. Turns out it had nothing to do with the pharmaceutical company, except the spelling of the name. Didn’t stop people from rejecting his research.

        “The claim made by anti vaxxers that populations that are not vaccinated don’t get autism is an ongoing argument.”

        And will be no matter how many studies are done.

        If the reason to do a study is to convince the anti-vaccine community of anything, there is no reason to do the study.

        If someone wants to do a vaccinated/unvaccinated study, go ahead. If you want me to support funding for it, not going to happen. Not as long as autism research funding is limited. I’d much rather the funds went to something that can actually make a difference.

      • Narad April 9, 2016 at 19:58 #

        I am simply suggesting that we put to rest the argument that unvaccinated children dont get autism.

        Kim Stagliano’s youngest daughter has already taken care of that.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 10, 2016 at 03:19 #

        To name but one public example

      • Hannah April 9, 2016 at 21:08 #

        Your anecdotal example is not scientific research. The unvaccinated community has claims of 1 per 5000 cases of autism. You have no studies to refute that that claim.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 10, 2016 at 03:23 #

        You complain about an anecdotal example and reply with an unsubstantiated claim.

        We’re you trying to be so contradictory?

        Where is the “unvaccinated” community and the study that you are referring to? Given your statement “you have no studies to refute that claim”, you *must* have a study to support it.

        You appear to be here only to raise the noise level. Either stop that behavior or leave.

      • Narad April 9, 2016 at 22:56 #

        Your anecdotal example is not scientific research.

        It’s a reply to your statement. Do you want to play sample size? Name the level of similarity between the two arms that would prevent the effort from being a waste of time.

  8. sadmar April 2, 2016 at 16:59 #

    Review from The Daily Beast.

    The author apparently went to the first screening, and she reported approx. 20 in the audience. That would have been 11AM on a workday, and 20’s not a bad turnout for that, actually. It’s hardly indicative of a lack of interest. The evening screening with Andy in person has sold out for Saturday, and I believe it sold out for Friday as well. Since the Angelika doesn’t have reserved seating, there’s no way to tell how the sales are going from Fandango, which is handling the online ticketing. It only tells you whether tickets are still available. None of the other days/times are sold out yet.

    They’re doing 6 showing a day, from 11AM to 10:15PM, with a Midnight screening tonight (Sat.) and there was probably also one last night. So that’s 44 showings for the one week run. Even if they only averaged audiences of 20, that’s many more viewers than would have seen it at Tribeca, and given the time slot it had been given there, I doubt anyone but committed AVers and a few documentary folks curious about it as a film would have shown up.

    I’m thinking the plan all along was to use the Tribeca screening to draw flak and generate ‘censorship!’ controversy to publicize and boost attendance for a run elsewhere. In “The Guardian” today.:
    “We were in dialogue with the theater before Tribeca, trying to book [the Angelika] for June,” said a spokeswoman for Cinema Libre, “And then the Tribeca situation happened, and on Monday we heard from the Angelika folks, and they said we’d be happy to run your film, would you like to do it Friday?”
    I suspect there might be some spin in this, and that the Angelika may have been courted more rather than just volunteering out of the blue. But the larger point stands> The Tribeca flap got ‘Vaxxed’ into a commercial theater in Manhattan. The attacks on Tribeca backfired. Big time.

    I thought the attack on Tribeca was taking the wrong tack from the get go, but now, on reflection, attacking Tribeca and De Niro at all was a bad move. Wakefield’s a con-artist, and De Niro not only got conned, but used as a pawn in a step of a long con. There seems to be a steady flow of anti-vax ‘documentaries’, with ‘Bought!” and ‘Trace Amounts’ last year, and none of them have made a splash or gotten any significant distribution until now, but then nobody paid much attention to them or ripped anyone for showing them. Attacking them before they screen, or suggesting that they be withdrawn from small limited venues, just plays into the AV hand – and not just with their wacko base, but a broader segment of the public.

    The right moves:
    1) Before screening: Critique falsehoods in promo materials and trailers. Critique the other activities of the makers (if there are any), revel COIs etc. Welcome the screening as an opportunity to expose the specific distortions likely to be revealed.

    2) After the screening: Lower the boom on the film in specific terms. The mere fact it ignores the scientific consensus that vaccines do not cause autism, and suggests they might is not a winning critique. The point of attack should be HOW the film makes it’s specious argument – it’s specific dishonestys, distortions, irrationalities , whatever. They have to be there, since vaccines don’t cause autism: any argument they do will be flawed, and likely in very familiar ways, so it shouldn’t be that hard. Once the critique is established, (and media press are like sharks to a open wound at the stink of failure), make sure any possibly/partly innocent or-not-fully-committed folk involved in spreading the thing – e.g. De Niro – hear about it. Any mention of them should be conciliatory. ‘We’re sorry Mr. De Niro got snookered…’ The idea is to make them ashamed for being involved, and let any mea culpas Be Their Idea. For they will offer them to save face if they wind up looking bad, but if you show hostility to THEM, well, you know how that goes, they get defensive. Give ’em some room for apostacy.

    This is ‘The American Way’– “no prior restraint”. But throughout our history, once messages pop up out of their holes into open air, a lot of them get their heads whacked off pretty quickly. We don’t want this stuff to stay underground, we want it to fail. Which It Will, when challenged properly.

    I know skeptics don’t want anti-vax stuff getting out at all, and I know what the argument for that is. That argument is just flat out wrong (as a proposition of fact, not ‘morally’ wrong or somesuch), which is neither here or there, as the strategy simply does not work.

  9. lizditz April 2, 2016 at 19:27 #

    I did a Storify of the live tweets from the pro-science people in the Friday screenings.

  10. sadmar April 7, 2016 at 22:25 #

    Chris Preston asked: “Why go to Hooker and then Wakefield? That bit makes no rational sense.” I shall venture a speculative answer to ‘why’, and what kind of sense Thompson’s actions might make.

    1) Thompson stewed in his pique against his colleagues for 10 years, and it appears they didn’t do anything to calm the waters, continuing to treat Thompson with disdain. This seems primarily personal to him, i.e. he seems obsessed with striking back. So his ‘rationale’ isn’t going to be ‘rational’ as we see it from the outside.
    2) Maybe Matt, having scrutinized the documents, can say more about Thompson and Andy, but my impression is that Thompson went to Hooker, and Hooker pulled in Wakefield behind Thompson’s back. Thompson calling Hooker makes sense. Where else is he going to get leverage against De Stefano et al? But Thompson had no reason to contact Andy, and plenty of reasons not to. It’s Hooker, not Andy, who has connections to Posey, Burton and Issa. Hooker has an ASD child, and seems to be invested in anti-vax with genuine passion. He isn’t making money out of it like Andy. He’s a college professor in the sciences (yeah, a fringey Christian school, but you take what you can get) with a PhD who was in a position to do something with the data on African-American kids Thompson had. Andy has none of these things, and is obviously toxic. On the other hand, Hooker has various motives to pull Andy into his ‘big scoop’. Having invested so much time in cultivating Hooker, Thompson likely grumbled and played along, as little as possible, when Hooker revealed he was sharing info with Andy.

    It’s important, I think, to assess what Thompson’s motives were. This begins, I’d say, with what exactly he was upset about to begin with, what he wanted but didn’t get from his colleagues. Again, Matt would be the authority here, but as near I can figure (without having read the documents from the Posey cache) is this. We know Thompson wanted the data on African-American boys included in the 2004 paper, and we know he did NOT think vaccines cause autism. He would seem to have had two concerns:
    1) Transparency. Given the hot button nature of the subject, he may have worried that excluding anything that could be interpreted as contrary to the conclusion would turn into a PR nightmare if it ever got out. Thus, by leaking to Hooker in 2014, he proves he was right back in 2004.
    2) The scientific value of anomalies. It seems Thompson thinks that while the AA-male data doesn’t support a causal link between vaccines and autism, it might be a clue to something else entirely that IS a causal factor — at least to the extent it ought to be out there for researchers to think about and possibly investigate for replication and then alternate hypotheses.
    Putting these two things together, he seems to see a damaging fail on the part of CDC to investigate what DOES cause autism, as possible leads have been buried, and a ‘culture of fear’ around autism research has set in at the agency. THIS is what he’s apologizing about to Hooker (in the name of all parents of ASD kids). Now, he seems to realize Hooker doesn’t get this, and plays along with Hooker’s assumptions that this is all about the vaccines. What seems to be important to him is that HE doesn’t LIE, not whether anything he says will be misleading to someone like Hooker. My hypothesis is that he’s knowingly exploiting that, playing Hooker’s confirmation biases so Hooker will the stir the pot with his Congressional contacts. Thompson hopes this will focus a spotlight on the CDC big-wigs who pooh-poohed his concerns in 2004, and treated him like a looney bozo pariah since, getting him both personal revenge and an opening to make HIS very different case to the public and policy-makers.

    Folly? Wishful thinking, tuned out to possible unintended consequences and twists – like Andy getting involved and screwing the pooch (which we might have considered obvious)? Well, all I can offer is anecdotal experience that in conditions of high stress foks seem awfully inclined to thinking with very narrow-field blinders on.

    Now, I’m assuming here that what Thompson wanted for the Pediatrics paper was for the AA-male data to be included AND EXPLAINED: ‘we found this statisically significant correlation for this one small sub-population, but that doesn’t at all suggest vaccines cause autism and here’s why…’ If that wasn’t his position, then I guess I’m back to the drawing board. If the document dump doesn’t offer a clear answer, I doubt we’ll ever know…

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 8, 2016 at 14:31 #

      At some point Thompson was aware and appears to have accepted Wakefield’s involvement.

      That said, why reach out to Hooker? One thing that comes out in the recorded phone calls is that Thompson seemed keen on testifying before Congress. Hooker has wealthy backing, and that wealthy backing managed to get congressional hearings before.

      A better question is why Thompson doesn’t just speak out with whatever he may have to say now. Publicly. He put his arguments into a lengthy statement that was given to Representative Bill Posey. I can link to it again if you wish (once I get to a full computer).

      There’s nothing in there worthy of a full on hearing. Seriously. Take everything at face value, and it wouldn’t be interesting enough to have held a hearing to get that information. Much less, there’s no indication that there’s more than what’s in the statement.

      Now there’s also a very long and extremely repetitive statement by Brian Hooker in those documents as well. Hooker lays out the argument for a hearing. And repeatedly bases this argument on false claims. Over and over we read about how the CDC changed their protocol, which is just false. Whether Hooker believes is unclear and frankly uninteresting. What matters is that his claims are objectively false.

      If Hooker can’t even make an argument about why we should hold a hearing, explain to me the reasons for one.

  11. Dr. George Bush April 8, 2016 at 09:35 #

    Here’s a link for an article from someone who was actually there. It was a “FULL HOUSE” according to (again) someone who ACTUALLY ATTENDED THE SCREENING.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 8, 2016 at 14:05 #

      Thinking Mom’s Revolution? That site is still up? Did they ever admit to ripping off the name from The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism?

      There were multiple screenings. The first had about 20 people attending. Including Del Bigtree.

      Notice that in order to boost ticket sales, Wakefield made a lot more personal appearances than originally planned. So, did people attend to see the movie or to see Wakefield? Seems like the latter. Is Wakefield going to agree to attend every screening should this film get an distribution deal? Otherwise using the first weekend’s sales figures are meaningless.

      Thinking Moms love the film. Don’t even have to go to the site to say that. Because that’s what they do, promote Wakefield because they believe wrongly in idea that autism is a vaccine induced epidermic. And they believe in “energy medicine” and many other things that don’t exist.

      But, hey, always glad when people like them think my site is worth advertising on.

      Also, notice that Wakefield and Bigtree refused to give out screener dvd’s. That’s not courage, that’s trying to control the message. I asked the distributor directly. I asked in a comment on the distributor’s blog. But the distributor won’t approve comments on their blog. Courage? Hardly.

      So they don’t let critics see the film then complain that critics haven’t seen it. Funny. But hey, want to discuss details of the film? I’m prepared to do that. Are you? Or do you just drop link spam on sites discussing the film ?

    • Dr. George Bush April 8, 2016 at 17:44 #

      BTW the comments by attendees are in the comment section of the link I provided. They stated that the actual premier of the movie was completely packed. There is also a youtube video someone took of the premier corroborating that. What your friend was referring to was a soft showing during the day when everyone was at work. It was not the premier.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 8, 2016 at 23:32 #

        a “soft” showing?

        It was the first showing of the film.

        A premiere (or première, French for “first”) is the debut (first public presentation) of a play, film, dance, or musical composition.[1]

        Whatever makes you feel better about this film. If it takes redefining “premiere” so that you can say the small house was filled, you go with that. You look foolish, but go ahead.

        While you are at it, could you give me the attendance numbers for showings where Wakefield spoke and those where he didn’t? That would answer the question of whether people were going for the film or to see Wakefield.

        Given that Wakefield decided to add a lot more personal appearances for his opening weekend, it’s reasonable to suspect that attendance is poor when he’s not there. Sell that to theaters looking to show this film. You will only get a good showing if you are holding this the first in your city and Wakefield is making a personal appearance.

        Then we can get back to discussing that this film is junk. Most of the time isn’t spent on what the directors consider the primary topic–William Thompson. And what little they do have of him is misrepresented.

        But, yeah, as a “Let’s get Wakefield back in the news” vehicle, it’s as good as anything since his “I’m going to debate no one in a gun shed” event a few years ago. But, who cares? Why are you guys so interested in promoting Wakefield into some odd celebrity status within your tiny community? I mean, seriously. He’s done NOTHING for the autism community.

        Which brings us back to a standard question–what’s your stake here? Are you a member of the autism community who has been taken in by Wakefield, or are you just someone who is antagonistic towards vaccines who finds my community a convenient hammer?

      • wzrd1 April 9, 2016 at 01:20 #

        Antivaxer daffynition of premier: Any viewing between 1 and 3.6*10e957 viewing that has more viewers than “a few”.
        It ignores the phenomenally well defined term, as is usually done, when anything already defined disagrees with their views.

      • sadmar April 9, 2016 at 06:21 #

        To be fair: Nobody expects much attendance at an 11AM weekday screening of pretty much any film, whether it’s the first showing ever, or not. (‘Event’ movies like ‘Star Wars’ excepted…) A conventional ‘Premier’ is also at night, typically the evening before a regular schedule of screenings throughout the day begins. The 20 means nothing. But neither does the packed house for Wakefield’s first personal appearance. The house isn’t THAT big, and there’s no doubt more than enough AVs in NYC to fill it, what with the publicity and all.

        So, Matt, you’re right in saying the real question here is what attendance over the whole run was, including the showings w/o personal appearances. Since Wakefield did do so many personal appearances, it’s hard to project what the film would do in another market if he didn’t. That is, there might be X number of people in NYC who would have gone to see Vaxxed whether or not Andy was there, but they all wound up going to one where he was there. So the overall box office for the week might be heavily skewed up by the personal appearances, or only a little. Certainly, if the receipts were weak with Wakefield present, it’s unlikely other cinemas will book Vaxxed for a standard one week run.

        I find it hard to imagine the audience for Vaxxed is big enough for it to get a lot of those standard bookings. But, weirder things have happened, I guess. The odds for theatrical booking of some sort went way up because of the Tribeca manufactroversy, and even if they’re still small, that’s not exactly good news…

        Or maybe it is, since the more it gets shown, the more it will get reviewed, the more Wakefield will be exposed as a fraudulent fabricator… more nails in the antivax coffin. If it’s just on Vimeo, all the AVs still get to see it, forward the link to all their social media contacts and what not, and nobody outside the bubble knows or cares. When it shows up in a brick and mortar theater, even if only 20 people buy tickets, other people notice and talk about it, and in this case all that talk is revealing Wakefield for the scumbag menace he is.

        What the pro-vaccine folks don’t seem to get is that this is Del Bigtree’s show, not Andrew Wakefield’s. Bigtree/Cinema Libre, Wakefield, and the AV partisans all have different and conflicting interests. My bet is that the only one who’ll get what they want is Wakefield – more celebrity and more cash in the bank.

      • Hannah April 9, 2016 at 18:02 #

        Movie Review: Vaxxed

        v. To look at or examine (something) carefully
        especially before making a decision or judgement.

      • wzrd1 April 9, 2016 at 19:41 #

        Ah, but upon a brief examination, one see shit. So one should then review further, putrid, maggot infested, smelly shit?
        C’est merde covers it nicely enough, without offending the nostrils.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 10, 2016 at 03:14 #

        I have examined it carefully. Have you?

      • Todd W. April 10, 2016 at 01:52 #

        There’s also the fact that some people attended multiple showings, further artificially inflating attendance numbers.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 10, 2016 at 03:24 #

        During the week they have been averaging 38 attendees per screening.

      • sadmar April 10, 2016 at 03:49 #

        The concern over the attendance size is a bit odd. Regardless of the numbers, we have no idea whether those who showed up were representative of any larger demographic. If it had been seen by 300 or 3,000, and all were committed anti-vaxers that would say nothing to either the films general appeal, nor to any danger it might present to public health. Unless a significant number of impressionable viewers who could be drawn into anti-vax ideology by the film’s distortions attended, concern over harmful consequences of the Tribeca scheduling would seem to have been unwarranted, yes?

        FWIW, Box Office Mojo reports Vaxxed grossed $28,339 in it’s first three days at the Angelika. At $14.50/ticket, that’s at least 1.954 admissions (seniors $11.50), and with 20 screenings from Friday to Sunday, that averages just under 98/showing. (Fri. $7,715, Sat. $10,774, Sun. $9,850). Gross for the week is reported at $41,250, or at least 2,845 admissions. That’s apparently quite a good take for a single screen, and the Angelika has extended Vaxxed for another week.

  12. sadmar April 10, 2016 at 03:58 #

    Based on the reviews from people who actually saw Vaxxed, I wonder if we’re missing the elephant in the room. There’s apparently very little about the ‘CDC whistleblower’ in it: no surprise since Thompson didn’t say what they’re saying he said and there’s only so much material it can distort. The bulk of it is apparently ‘wrenching… emotional…’ actualities of autistic kids and interviews with their parents – the tone of which we can guess from the trailer, if not the cumulative effect.

    We would indeed have to see it to critique it, but I fear the real work of this film (not intent, but what it actually does) is reinforcing the notion that ASD ‘destroys’ kids, advancing stigmatization and damaging stereotypes of autism.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 10, 2016 at 18:03 #

      There’s a lot of YouTube video in this. Lots of filler.

      One doesn’t have to be present in the theater to critique it. But if Wakefield and Bigtree want to complain that critics aren’t watching the film, send out screener dvd’s. Simple.

      They want to control the message. Ironic given their complaints about transparency.

      • sadmar April 10, 2016 at 21:25 #

        Sorry. I wasn’t clear. In “we would need to see it to critique it” the “it” is the way autistic children are depicted, and “critique” doesn’t mean ‘being critical of the film’ but something like scholarly film criticism: decoding the messages from close analysis of the text. I saw a comment somewhere I can’t now recall (I think it was yours, Matt) about the shot in the trailer of the young man whacking his forehead with something in his hand discussing how it’s used in a misleading way in the context of the image sequence and audio. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The sum of these things isn’t a matter of factual fraud like the use of the Thomspon material, so you do have to see the whole thing to know just how bad the cumulative portrayal is. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean shelling out $$ for tickets, and it has nothing to do with the ‘you can’t say ANYTHING unless you’ve seen the whole thing’ whining.

  13. Caty April 18, 2016 at 08:37 #

    I really want to see this film, it is good to keep the issues open, but this film is not about vaccines, it is about Fraud, and the Fraud within the CDC and the cover up of the studies and statistics, we should all be concerned, for our babies, children and our future. The correlation link is clear, especially if you are a doctor or scientist, any ignorance to this is negligible, pure and simple. It is sad what the human race has become today in 2016.

    • Chris April 18, 2016 at 15:05 #

      Here is a cartoon describing an even greater fraud:

      And then a very sad story of that fraud’s consequences.

    • Science Mom April 18, 2016 at 15:57 #

      Caty, the only correlation that is clear is that vaccines don’t cause autism. Furthermore, you are addressing several people who have read the original documentation you claim allege fraud. Take a look at this site more, there is no fraud and no cover-up. It’s a shame that Matt has made the documents used to make this movie yet people like you think the movie is reality and factual and refuse to look at the original documents. Who are the sheeple now?

  14. Cindy April 22, 2016 at 17:04 #

    No matter what your stand is on this movie, how can you review a film you admit you didn’t see? That’s not journalism and it certainly isn’t a review because, well, you didn’t see it, so you can’t possibly review what you didn’t see.

    • Chris April 22, 2016 at 17:10 #

      Perhaps you should read why the most recent blog post.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 22, 2016 at 19:30 #

      how many quotes do you want from the film?

      I know this film better than pretty much everyone who saw it in the theater.

    • sadmar April 23, 2016 at 03:48 #

      Yup, the OP “isn’t a review”. The headline references a review published at Indiewire, one of many in which people who have seen the film call it a load of hooey. Matt is commenting on things known to be in the film, and about the people who made the film. He gets to do that.

      To be precise, Matt does not know the FILM better than people who saw it. He can’t tell you how it’s shot, edited, structured, etc. He knows the stuff the film is ABOUT “better than pretty much everyone who saw it in the theater.”

      That AVs have no resort but to pick at words here shows they know they lose on substance outside of their alternate reality bubble.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 23, 2016 at 16:05 #

        The film isn’t about cinematography. That’s not the content.

        How he filmed, say, Brian Hooker talking is very much secondary to what Hooker says.

        And anyone who says that an audio recording isn’t sufficient, especially for a faux documentary of this sort, can take their ablist attitudes to a non disability focus site. You are saying a blind person can’t understand the film.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 23, 2016 at 16:16 #

        Now if Cinema Libre honored or even responded to requests for screeners, I wouldn’t have had to do this. I don’t live in driving distance to NYC, or in the city, like other reviewers. I do have what they do not. I have a deep knowledge of the background of the film. And the ability to go over and over the film.

        The people who have reviewed the film missed a lot. And that’s likely a reason why Wakefield went to film. He controls the message and the experience. You can’t test his hypotheses. You can’t respond in the same venue.

        Well there’s that and he failed research.

      • sadmar April 23, 2016 at 19:13 #

        Christ on a crutch, Sullivan. You don’t know fukk-all about documentary film. I shall repeat – you are writing about claims that are made in the film. You don’t need to have seen the film to know what some of those are, and thus to say they’re wrong, to decry the fact they’re being circulated etc. If someone has an audio recording of the film (in whole or part) they can obviously comment on lies and distortions in things said, how they’re assembled, how the music track supplies emotional cues… But being able to understand components of the film is far from being able to understand the film as a whole. To the point this blog: given what we know from seeing the trailer and AJWs YT videos, VAXXED almost certainly contains a massive helping of lies and distortions in it’s use of images, and in its sound/image inter-relationships. I’m not saying anything about visually impaired people, as I have no clue what services may be available to them to give them some idea of visual elements of films. But, yes, if the only access someone has to a film is the soundtrack, they can’t understand the film. You can’t say how Hooker is filmed is secondary to what Hooker says unless you’ve seen how Hooker is filmed. However, you can say that what Hooker is saying is BS. The image may be adding a whole second layer of BS on top of that, or it could be key to establishing credibility or sympathy for Hooker. Or not. But you have to see it to know.

        For just one example of how image and sound work together: At 1:31 of the VAXXED traiiler, we hear Dan Burton say, “You who run our health agencies in this country [cut] You have an obligation to make sure these studies are complete, thorough, so we have all the facts.” All you can glean from the audio of that is that Burton said something rather unremarkable, an expression of proper concern per Congress’s responsibility for oversight. However, the image track shows a graphic of cartoon icons of unhappy children, pulling back from 1 figure to wider views showing more and more figures, with more than 100 crowding the screen and still growing as the shot ends. Given what has gone before this is an obvious visualization of ‘the autism epidemic’. Thus, the combination of picture and sound presents a claim that the CDC has covered up this ‘epidemic’, setting the context for the subsequent clip of Seneff saying “by 2032, 80% of the boys born will end up on the autism spectrum”. The meaning of the little Burton bite is not retrievable from the audio track alone.

        In short, without seeing a film ourselves, we can indeed find out enough about it to condemn it. You have more than enough knowledge about VAXXED to condemn the things about it you have condemned. I have been trying to point out that the notion your commentary is invalid if you haven’t seen the film is itself invalid.

        However, if you have not seen it, you may only have scratched the surface of the ways it lies, distorts and manipulates. You can’t fully “understand”, understand?

        As for taking “attitudes” to a non-disability focused site – if you’re going to write about a controversial documentary film, and put up posts titled “Movie Review:…”, people who know and care about film are going to wind up here. You’re making claims about film you don’t need to make which make you look like an idiot to such folk, and doubling down on them in ways that make you look like a arrogant dickhead. This is not helping boost acceptance of ASD kids and adults, not helping keeping the threat of AV from getting back out of the bottle, such that the vulnerable may be afflicted by VPDs. AV’s victims deserve better.

        And, for what it’s worth, I have a disability, one that is highly stigmatized, ended my career 6 years ago, and continues to cause me significant difficulty in handling many of the simplest responsibilities and tasks of everyday life. So, if you read my remarks as “ablist” you have pulled some big assumptions out of your ass, and you can shove them right back there.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 25, 2016 at 14:39 #

        Sadmar, take this kindly.

        By your account a blind person watching the film doesn’t know “fuck all” about it.

        That’s ablism. One has to have vision to know the film.

        You don’t know fuck all about what you are taking about.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 26, 2016 at 00:35 #

        My apologies Sadmar. I won’t give excuses, just an apology.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 25, 2016 at 14:40 #

        And I have a disability as well. Doesn’t make me right or wrong.

        You failed in this one.

      • sadmar April 26, 2016 at 03:12 #

        “My apologies Sadmar. ”

        NP, Matt. Apologies back. I got a bit too hot under the collar. Peace, and keep up the good work.

  15. paisleylvr May 2, 2016 at 18:43 #

    Thank you for your post on the Vaxxed review. This “must see” nonsense is all over my Facebook page and people keep urging me to see it. Unfortunately, those who believe that vaccines cause autism will believe it no matter what and are highly unlikely to seek out anything that might refute their claims with actual scientific research. What’s the saying….an empty vessel makes the most noise? That certainly seems to be the case with this movement. At any rate, thanks again for the post and the lively discussion that follows.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 2, 2016 at 23:03 #

      It is “must see” when Wakefield does personal appearances. Pay to see Wakefield, get a movie thrown in. Cheaper than attending the ConspiraSea cruise where he spoke, though.

      Weekends where Wakefield isn’t doing personal appearances they are getting about 100 people a day per screen. Not 100 people a showing, 100 people a day. On weekends. Weekdays it is worse.

      And, yes, I’ve checked. Take a look at box office take and work it out.

      • sadmar May 3, 2016 at 02:41 #

        If anyone NOT in the movement decides they ‘must see’ Vaxxed to satisfy morbid curiosity, at small art houses like Opera Plaza here in SF, they can pay for a good movie and sneak into Vaxxed, thus denying Andy, Bigtree and Diaz their cut of the ticket. That might not work for the personal appearances, since most of them sell out, and the ushers might check tickets in the auditorium, not just the usual pay-in-the-lobby-and-seat-yourself.

        But Matt’s right that the Andy personal appearance tour is drawing the interest, a lot more than the film. That’s encouraging, as it means the attendees are indeed mainly believers who are already convinced, not potential converts so much. Still, those 100/day sans AJW aren’t that bad for a documentary – it’s not a ‘hit’, but it’s far from a ‘bomb’, and if anyone naive and gullible is getting exposed to this propaganda, that’s not good.

      • Chris May 3, 2016 at 02:48 #

        A public health graduate student attended one of the screenings that included Wakefield. She does discuss the film, but she had much say about what he said and how the crowd behaved on this podcast:

        (by the way, she does not discuss it during the entire recording)

  16. brian May 4, 2016 at 21:53 #

    Chris linked to an interesting podcast that demonstrates, yet again, that Andrew Wakefield is a lying weasel. A few points:

    1. The “public health graduate student” who recorded Wakefield’s lies in the Q and A following a presentation of Quaxxed is in fact a Ph.D. candidate who studies the immune response to viral infection that produces encephalopathy in the lab of one of the world’s leading experts on measles virus.

    2. Here’s what she said, based on her recording of Wakefield’s comments, beginning at about the 27:55 mark in the podcast:

    “[In the media release for Vaxxed] they keep claiming that Wakefield is not anti-vaccine, that he just wants more research into this possible link. . . . But he’s clearly anti-vaccine when he starts talking off script. So there’s, you know, how [Wakefield’s] portrayed in the movie and then during the Q and A–for example, and here’s where the blatant lies come in, is that someone in the audience–and I think it was a placed question in the audience because the same question is in this media release, so I’m pretty sure that was set up–but they asked, like, ‘How is the MMR vaccine tested for safety?'”

    “And here was an example of where [Wakefield] just picked one little thing and said that ‘This is all the safety testing that was done.’ Here’s what he said. He said, ‘First of all, you get the vaccine virus, and you inject it into the brains, the thalamus, of monkeys.’ And he made a point of saying, ‘And you don’t inject the vaccine, you inject the virus. And then you need to do this in ten monkeys and if any of the monkeys die, you can remove them from the study, saying that it’s the monkey’s fault, it’s not the vaccine’s fault, it’s the monkey’s fault, so you can remove those.’ And he said, ‘This is all that you have to do to safety test the MMR vaccine before it’s then put into children.'”

    “And he’s like, ‘This is from the WHO.’ And I kind of followed his paper trail, and it is true that WHO does recommend that study, but it’s totally taken out of context, because this is one of many things that they do to test the vaccines. It’s a very rigorous, decades-long process, and that was the recommendation to kind of check what the virus’s impacts could be in the brain and neurological deficits–but that was one of many things that they recommend doing. But he of course cherry picked that out of this, like, very long document.”

    “And then [Wakefield] said, and let me just get to this, because the next part is kind of unbelievable. Then he said, kind of verbatim, ‘You take that virus, and then you inject it into the brains of mentally retarded kids.’ And this is what he said verbatim. And he’s like, ‘Already sick, neurologically injured kids with, like, cerebral palsy, that kind of thing, and you inject the virus into their, those brains, and this is all that’s done to test the safety of the MMR vaccine, as recommended by the WHO.’ And that was just a blatant lie. . . . Honestly, I think I threw up a little bit in my mouth when he said that. . . . And, I mean, the whole audience just ate it up, all up.”

    Wakefield lies, and he knows he’s lying. I think I threw up a little bit in my mouth when I listened to what that lying weasel said.

  17. Chris Oakley March 5, 2019 at 16:58 #

    Greetings from across the Atlantic. Nice takedown of Wakefield you’ve got going here.


  1. The fantasies of the anti-vaccine crowd | The Poxes Blog - April 3, 2016

    […] Bad Pharma to write the review. Because a mockumentary directed by a disgraced former physician who uses spliced audio as evidence of ultimate evil could not possibly get bad […]

  2. Nonsense on Stilts – why anti-science campaigns are a serious threat to humanity | Bridgend's Green Leftie - April 25, 2016

    […] Review of film by an autism parent: […]

  3. Raging Bullsh*t, part 3: Robert De Niro says he’s teaming up with Harvey Weinstein to make an antivaccine movie – Respectful Insolence - May 24, 2016

    […] turned into an urban legend, and this is the legend told by VAXXED, an execrable film containing a heaping helping of antivaccine pseudoscience and misinformation. It’s a movie you don’t even have to see to […]

  4. Paging De Niro and Hightower…Wakefield isn't really in it to help autistics - June 1, 2016

    […] Much ado has been made recently regarding the film Vaxxed: From Cover up to Catastrophe and rightfully so.  There have been numerous criticisms of the film and fortunately, Liz Ditz at I Speak of Dreams has been keeping a running list.  I won’t be adding to that list any time soon, my interest is of a different sort.  Recently, it was revealed that Andrew Wakefield gave an email exchange he had with Grace Hightower, Robert De Niro’s wife, to Celia Farber, a rabid HIV-AIDS denialist who serves as Wakefield’s lackey to release personal communications that Wakefield apparently wants publicised.  Ms. Farber published an email exchange on her blog between Wakefield and Hightower but pulled it about an hour later.  It has been cached here (Hat tip: Mrs Pointer). […]

  5. The Rorschach Test of anti-vaccine beliefs – Epidemiological - June 15, 2016

    […] statement, and supporting facts. It’s all a hodge podge of talking heads, testimonials, spliced sampling of a recorded conversation of a CDC scientist who never steps in front of the camer…, and plenty of imagery of how evil vaccines can […]

  6. In which Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree’s antivaccine documentary VAXXED is reviewed…with Insolence! – Respectful Insolence - July 18, 2016

    […] children. I’ve discussed this issue before, as has Matt Carey long before VAXXED and in his review of VAXXED. In the VAXXED narrative, CDC scientists didn’t like what they were seeing in the first […]

  7. Cindy Crawford and Vaccines – Vaxopedia - October 2, 2016

    […] Movie review: VAXXED […]

  8. A look back at the so called “CDC Whistleblower” story and how Vaxxed is misleading | Left Brain Right Brain - February 10, 2017

    […] Movie review: VAXXED […]

  9. Vaccine Movies and Videos – VAXOPEDIA - July 28, 2018

    […] Movie review: VAXXED […]

  10. In which Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree's antivaccine documentary VAXXED is reviewed...with Insolence! - RESPECTFUL INSOLENCE - August 3, 2018

    […] children. I’ve discussed this issue before, as has Matt Carey long before VAXXED and in his review of VAXXED. In the VAXXED narrative, CDC scientists didn’t like what they were seeing in the first […]

  11. Movie Review: Vaxxed | LBRB | Circa April 2, 2016 – International Badass Activists - September 12, 2020

    […] Source: […]

Leave a Reply to Michael McLaughlin Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: