Search results for 'vaxxed'

Here’s one part of Brian Hooker’s “reanalysis” that shows just how cynical the anti vaccine movement is

18 Dec

When my kid was diagnosed autistic I started reading research papers (I am a Ph.D. researcher by profession) and the raw data. One thing that struck me immediately was the fact that minority children are much less likely to get a diagnosis than white kids. And minority kids are diagnosed later.

This inequity really bothers me. Accurately identifying the needs of a disabled child can focus the appropriate therapies and supports on that child. The need to rectify this inequity is 100% accepted within the autism advocacy and research communities.

This inequity poses a problem to people who claim that autism is an “epidemic”. If we are not identifying all the autistics in any given group (we aren’t), autism prevalence numbers are inaccurate. Being inaccurate, how does one compare, say, one CDC prevalence number with one 2 years later and claim a “real” increase?

One can’t. Plain and simple.

So, for years, groups like those promoting the idea that autism is caused by vaccines have not only ignored this inequity, they have actively denied it. They are stuck between accepting that the data can’t show an epidemic, or accepting that minorities have some sort of protection from this supposed “autism as vaccine injury”.

When was the last time you read something from, say, the Age of Autism blog or Andrew Wakefield calling for efforts to end this inequity? You haven’t. They don’t do it. When have you heard from someone like Brian Hooker that we should study minority populations to see what “protects” them from “vaccine injury”? You haven’t.

Who is Brian Hooker? Brian Hooker is a parent of an autistic child. Brian Hooker strongly believes that vaccines cause autism. He can back this up with his observations of his child’s development. Observations which are contradicted by his child’s medical records. I discussed this before as Double checking Brian Hooker’s story in VAXXED. A Special Master (a judge in the vaccine court) put it very strongly:

After studying the extensive evidence in this case, I am convinced that the opinions provided by Petitioners’ experts in this case, advising the Hooker family that there is a causal connection between SRH’s vaccinations and either the initial causation or aggravation of SRH’s ASD, were quite wrong.

In the original, the Special Master emphasized “quite wrong“.

So, we have someone who believes vaccines cause autism to the point of ignoring the facts in front of him.

A few years ago Mr. Hooker “reanalyzed” some data from an old CDC study, suggesting that evidence showed that the MMR vaccine might increase risk in African American boys. That was discussed in great detail here and elsewhere. (for example: Brian Hooker proves Andrew Wakefield wrong about vaccines and autism and MMR, the CDC and Brian Hooker: A Guide for Parents and the Media).

Mr. Hooker’s study was retracted. In the research world thats a big deal. As in, embarrassingly bad.

Recently, as in 4 years after his original study, Mr. Hooker republished his “reanalysis”. In the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. I’d be completely embarrassed to have a paper in that journal, to be blunt. A lengthy discussion of this reappearance of the study can be found at Respectful Insolence as Brian Hooker’s antivaccine pseudoscience has risen from the dead to threaten children again.

Let me just focus on how Mr. Hooker, in my view cynically, abuses the African American community in order to attack vaccines. From the website of an organization Mr. Hooker belongs to (the ironically–to be polite–named “Children’s Health Defense”), we read this:

Main Points from Reanalysis:

The rate of autism diagnoses has increased alarmingly in the U.S., and is about 25 percent higher in black children. Boys are far more likely than girls to receive this diagnosis.

This is not only wrong, it’s wrong in a way that points to incredible dishonesty.

This first point is that autism is about 25% higher in black children. A “main point from the reanalysis”.

Tell me, when you read that did you think, “this study found that autism is more prevalent in African American children”? If so, you were misled. The 25% higher prevalence is from a different study than Hookers. And that other study says something completely different.

From the Hooker study:

However, one study showed that prevalence of autism in African-Americans was approximately 25% higher than that of whites when the data were adjusted for socioeconomic factors[7].

Reference [7] is Socioeconomic inequality in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder: evidence from a U.S. cross-sectional study.

The Socioeconomic Equality study states:

Also notable is that, although the overall ASD prevalence was higher among non-Hispanic White and Asian children than among non-Hispanic Black or African-America and Hispanic children, when the results were stratified by SES, we saw that the racial/ethnic differences in prevalence varied by SES (Table 3). The lower prevalence among non-Hispanic Black or African-American and Hispanic children was seen only in the low SES category, and the fact that more non-Hispanic Black or African-American and Hispanic children live in poverty contributed to the lower overall prevalence among these groups.

Emphasis mine. Overall ASD prevalence was lower for African American children. Not 25% higher. This lower prevalence was due to lower socioeconomic status. I.e. poverty.

Want to see this a different way? Here’s a figure from the paper (click to enlarge):

The overall prevalence in White non-Hispanic kids was 6.9/1000. For black non-Hispanic kids it was 5.7/1000. About 20% lower. Not 25% higher as Mr. Hooker claims.

Fewer African American kids are getting autism services. Not because they aren’t autistic, but because their poverty keeps them from getting a diagnosis.

This is something we should be working towards fixing. No question. But don’t look to the anti-vaccine community to care or act. It’s an inconvenient fact for their epidemic story.

I guess he has such a low level of respect for the people in his own community (those who believe vaccines cause autism), that he thought no one would check this.

By the way, this paper isn’t the only one that shows a lower autism prevalence among African Americans. You know those CDC autism prevalence reports that come out every two years? Every single one has reported a lower prevalence among African Americans. Every one.

Here’s a line from the latest report:

Previous reports from the ADDM Network estimated ASD prevalence among white children to exceed that among black children by approximately 30% in 2002, 2006, and 2010, and by approximately 20% in 2008 and 2012.

When I saw the claim on Hooker’s organization’s website I figured he must have cherry picked a study that shows what he needed to make his story work. It’s just such common knowledge in the autism community that African Americans get diagnosed less frequently. It’s in every CDC report. I didn’t know he wasn’t cherry picking, he was just misrepresenting the study entirely.

I discuss this as a scientist. He “misrepresented the study”. My father had a word for that sort of behavior: lying.

OK, Brian. You’ve read the studies and decided to do nothing about the fact that many autistic African American kids aren’t getting identified and getting appropriate services. I get that, you have your own cause. But, really, is that community so much of a nothing to you that you can just use them like this? I ask rhetorically. You and your community have always acted with callous disregard.

I once had hope that as it because completely obvious that you and your community were wrong (and that was many years ago), you’d join the actual autism community and put your advocacy to use. I now know that will never happen. And, frankly, we don’t need dishonest people.


By Matt Carey

Yes, California children are dying of measles. Today. It’s called SSPE. Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, Polly Tommey, stop lying about it.

2 Nov

One of the very frustrating aspects of the vaccines-cause-autism myth is that my community–autism parents–are largely responsible for spreading the misinformation and the fear. One need only look at Jenny McCarthy, Generation Rescue, the National Autism Association, TACA (Talk about Curing Autism), Polly Tommey, and almost any online discussion about vaccines to see the misinformation being spread by autism parents.

Listen to someone spreading the fear about the MMR vaccine and you will almost always hear, “measles doesn’t kill”. I’ve heard it a number of times from Andrew Wakefield. Remember him? He’s the guy whose unethical research 20 years ago fueled the fear we have today. His current effort is a fake documentary called “Vaxxed”. His team includes Del Bigtree (a former actor and low level producer for daytime TV) and Polly Tommey (an autism parent and Wakefield ally). As part of their PR tour for their film, they’ve given a number of personal appearances and posted video to Facebook. Watch them a few times and you will see Wakefield’s team–especially Del Bigtree–that measles is not a fatal disease. That no one has died of measles in California, they say. Del Bigtree focuses on California a great deal. He’s from California. California had a sizable outbreak recently and, partially as a result of that, changed their laws on vaccines for students.

Del Bigtree is wrong, as he usually is. Measles does kill. The death rate in France over the past decade has been about 1 in 2000, And that’s the number for people killed during the infection. The recent outbreaks in California have not resulted in immediate deaths, but we haven’t had outbreaks as large as those in France. However, measles is killing people in California right now. It’s killing them with the long-term infection called SSPE. People in California have died in recent years, and one is currently dying of SSPE. SSPE is incurable. It’s a slow, agonizing death.

Want more facts about SSPE?

What is Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis?
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a progressive neurological disorder of children and young adults that affects the central nervous system (CNS). It is a slow, but persistent, viral infection caused by defective measles virus.

and read more from that same site:

What is the prognosis?
Most individuals with SSPE will die within 1 to 3 years of diagnosis. In a small percentage of people, the disease will progress rapidly, leading to death over a short course within three months of diagnosis. Another small group will have a chronic, slowly progressive form, some with relapses and remissions. A very small number (approximately 5 percent) may experience spontaneous long term improvement and regain lost function. Prevention, in the form of measles vaccination, is the only real “cure” for SSPE.

You can read more but here’s what we are talking about: in addition to the people who die from measles infections, measles infects the brain in some people and they die. They die over years, slowly losing function. Spending years knowing death is coming.

And a recent study shows that SSPE has been happening in California. People have died in recent years. Someone is dying right now of SSPE.

There are a number of news stories about this. Below is the abstract from the conference.

Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis: the Devastating Measles Complication is More Common than We Think

Background: Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a fatal complication of measles. Thought to be rare, SSPE incidence decreased with routine measles vaccination, but infants with measles remain at highest risk of this complication. We reviewed SSPE cases in California from 1998-2016 to understand current risk factors for SPPE.

Methods: SSPE cases had a clinically compatible illness and either 1) measles IgG antibody detection in the cerebrospinal fluid; 2) characteristic pattern on electroencephalography; 3) typical histologic findings in brain biopsy; or 4) medical record documentation of SSPE-related complications. Cases were identified though a state death certificate search, reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or through investigations for undiagnosed neurologic disease. Measles IgG detection was performed using indirect enzyme immunoassay at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) or by immunofluorescence assay at clinical laboratories.

Results: Seventeen SSPE cases were identified. Males outnumbered females 2.4:1. Twelve (71%) cases had a clinical history of a febrile rash illness compatible with measles; all 12 had illness prior to 15 months of age and measles vaccination. Eight (67%) children were living in the United States when they had measles. SSPE was diagnosed at a median age of 12 years (range 3-35 years), with a latency period of 9.5 years (range 2.5-34 years). Many cases had long-standing cognitive or motor problems prior to diagnosis. Among measles cases reported to CDPH during 1988-1991, incidence of SSPE was 1:1367 for children < 5 years, and 1:609 for children < 12 months at time of measles disease.

Conclusion: SSPE cases in California occurred at much higher rate than previously published among unvaccinated children who were infected with measles in infancy. Protection of infants younger than 12-15 months of age, when measles vaccine is routinely administered, requires avoidance of travel to endemic areas, or early vaccination prior to travel. Clinicians should be aware of the possibility of SSPE in patients with compatible symptoms, even in older patients with no specific history of measles infection. SSPE demonstrates the high human cost of “natural” measles immunity.

Let’s pull that last sentence out for emphasis:

SSPE demonstrates the high human cost of “natural” measles immunity.

The study above is based on something called data. Del Bigtree bases his arguments on a Brady Bunch episode.

No, I’m not making that up, Del Bigtree claims that since there was a Brady Bunch episode about measles, it must not have been a big deal in the 1960’s. That’s about as logical as saying, “well, there was this TV show about being in the Marines called ‘Gomer Pyle’. So, obviously, the Vietnam War was no big deal.”

I have zero belief that Del Bigtree (or Jenny McCarthy, Generation Rescue, the Age of Autism blog, Andrew Wakefield, or any of the rest) will change their claims that “measles is no big deal”. Why? Because Del (and the rest) are cowards. It takes guts, serious courage, to stand up and say, “I was wrong”. It takes guts to break from your community and say, “people, this position is dangerous”.

It takes the sort of courage that Del Bigtree and the rest just do not have.


by Matt Carey

There was a big legislative battle here in California last year, where the hell were you faux autism advocates?

26 Oct

This past year we have been fighting a big battle here in California.  We were fighting to restore some of the services funding we’ve lost over the preceding years.  We were trying to get a 10% increase in services funding, which wouldn’t make up for what we’ve lost over the years, but would be a big step forward.

This was a long fight, and one that we didn’t initially win. Even though we fought hard from the start, the budget did not include any increase for disability services. We could have used some help, more voices from the advocacy community. Even though we lost at first, advocates kept trying and finally got a 7.5% increase.   And that’s a victory.  The Arc of California/United Cerebral Palsy were working hard organizing the effort, organizing call in campaigns, fax campaigns and in-person activism in the state capital.  Other groups, such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network were also helping, as were others.

But here’s the thing: you wouldn’t know any of that if you were only following the vaccines-cause-autism focused groups and people.  These groups claim to be autism organizations. Many of them based on California. We have an individual, a doctor, who claimed to represent “all the autistic students in California”. We had people making a fake documentary dishonestly pushing the idea that vaccines cause autism. Including people who live in California. People, organizations who did nothing to help in this very real effort to improve the lives of people with disabilities in California.

The thing is, these groups and people were very active lobbying for change. They mounted a large, loud, self-destructive effort to stop a vaccine bill here, SB277.

Yes, instead of doing anything, anything at all, to work towards restoring lost services funding, they were lobbying against a vaccine bill.  Not “lobbying against a vaccine bill and working for a restoration of services.”  Just lobbying against a vaccine bill.

By the way, “lobbying” is a very nice term. They fought, and not in the good sense of the word. They fought a nasty, dishonest fight. And lost. Hard.

Or to put it simply, they were wasting their efforts.  Working like vaccine antagonistics, not people interested in a better life for people with disabilities.

Let’s go through a partial list of those who failed in this effort.

The Age of Autism blog.  Article after article on the vaccine bill.  Nothing on the budget battle that I can see.  They are still going on about their failed efforts, harassing the legislator who spearheaded the bill.  AoA writer Kent Heckenlively lives here in California.  AoA founder JB Handley used to live here.  Kim Stagliano there wrote about the lack of adult services, blaming the lack of of services on people pushing for acceptance.  Here’s the thing, Kim, and sorry for how direct this is.  You’ve wasted over a decade running a blog that diverts efforts away from critical areas.  You aren’t just wasting your time, you are making other people focus their efforts away from making those adult services we so desperately need.  And this is not even counting your whole blog actively denying the existence of undiagnosed autsitic adults.  You know what?  If legislators knew there were a lot more autistic adults they just might be interested in doing something.  Tell them that there’s an “epidemic” coming along, hitting when some other legislator is in office, and they do nothing.

Robert “Dr. Bob” Sears.  You were perfectly willing to advocate, but just not for this bill?  Seriously, you took time off work to fly up to Sacramento and claim you represent all autistic students in California, but only to fight a vaccine bill.  Here’s the thing “Dr. Bob”, autistic students need advocates who are going to get them more services.  If you really think you represent all autistic students, you failed.  Failed hard.  Because I never saw you do a damned thing for kids. I never saw you do anything to help improve services.

Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, Polly Tommey and the rest of you behind the fake documentary “Vaxxed”. Bigtree, you live here. Apparently you have no real connection to the disability community, just the vaccine-antagonistic groups. I hope so, because your disregard for our needs is striking. Wakefield, you have been a self-serving leach on our community for two decades. Expecting you to actually do something of value is something I gave up upon many years ago. Bigttree and Wakefield, you are using us, causing harm and giving nothing in return. Polly Tommey, you should know better. You should be doing something real, not just putting out junk films (apologizing for the brutal murder of Alex Spourdalakis? Shame on you, Polly Tommey). But, hey, you get paid to make a film that attacks vaccines by misrepresenting (let’s just call it what it is, lying) facts.

TACA, Generation Rescue, Jenny McCarthy, National Autism Association (and more): You are based in California. Please tell me I just missed your advocacy to make a real difference for people with disabilities here in California. Please tell me that when I just went over your blogs, I missed the articles calling for your membership to call in to legislators to support the budget increase. You have been downplaying your damaging support of the vaccines-cause-autism failed idea now. Why not actually do something valuable with your efforts? Selling families on fake therapies (stem cell clinics in Cancun, “ion cleanse” to treat autism and the rest), doesn’t count.

It would be one thing if you were just wasting your time fighting losing battles for bad causes. It would be one thing if you were just ignoring the real work that needs to be done. If would be one thing if you were just pulling advocates away from improving the lives of the disabled, pulling them away to attend rallies for useless, failed causes.

At this point you are probably expecting me to say something that amounts to “history will not look kindly on you”. The sad thing is that history will forget you. Will forget the harm you caused. Will forget that when the time came to really stand up and make a difference, you were somewhere else.

No one will remember me either. Or the hundreds of people who really carried the weight of change, both in the budget battle and elsewhere. That’s not what this is about. It’s about making change. Change for the good. I know you’ve convinced yourself that this is, indeed, what you are doing. Good. I also know you won’t change.

The vaccines-cause-autism idea is without a doubt the most damaging belief to have hit the autism communities. The “refrigerator mother” theory is a distant second. The idea that vaccines cause autism causes parents to live a life of shame and guilt for participating in something that didn’t happen. This guilt feeds the charlatans that sell fake “therapies” that are inflicted on children and adults in our community. And as long as these charlatans say “vaccines cause autism”, you never speak out about them. You join them in fake conferences or even host them for conferences where they sell their wares. And you divert advocacy away from topics like the budget battle, from actually improving the lives of people with disability, and instead focus advocacy efforts on fighting a battle you lost over a decade ago.

By Matt Carey

Polly Tommey, she won’t judge autism parents who murder, but judges Fiona O’Leary for just criticism

12 Aug

Readers here may recall this recent article: Polly Tommey won’t judge parents who murder their disabled children. That’s part of the problem. We discussed this video where Polly Tommey tells us about how she won’t judge parents who murder their autistic children.

In a later video she used the “I haven’t walked in their shoes” excuse.

Since then Ms. Tommey, through her film distributor Cinema Libre Studio, has threatened to sue an autism parent. An autistic autism parent. Fiona O’Leary: Cinema Libre Studios and Andrew Wakefield’s Vaxxed team threaten autistic autism mom.

In a more recent video she has posted she flat out judges Fiona O’Leary.

“She’s a pain, that woman”.

“She claims to be on the spectrum. In that case I feel bad for you.”

“She hasn’t seen the film” (Fact check–Fiona has, indeed, seen Vaxxed.)

Here’s a word for Polly Tommey:

Hypocrisy

hy·poc·ri·sy

The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.

Kill a kid: you will not be judged.

Criticize Polly Tommey: you will be judged.

Someone has her priorities seriously out of order. And it’s not Fiona O’Leary.


By Matt Carey

Irish Examiner: US film studio threatens to sue autism-rights advocate

26 Jul

As I wrote about yesterday, Andrew Wakefield’s “Vaxxed” team, led by distributor Philipe Diaz of Cinema Libre Studio, threatened Fiona O’Leary (an autistic adult who is also the parent of autistic children). Well, it looks like the story has been picked up by the Irish Examiner.

The article starts:

A US film studio has threatened to sue an Irish autism-rights advocate if she continues to speak out against its controversial anti-vaccine documentary, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,.

West Cork-based mother, Fiona O’Leary, who wants to block the film’s release in Ireland and Britain, said she was outraged to receive a legal letter from California-based Cinema Libre Studios over the weekend.

Read the rest at US film studio threatens to sue autism-rights advocate


By Matt Carey

Del Bigtree, just admit your mistake and apologize.

20 Jul

I recently wrote about an incredibly irresponsible statement made by a Mr. Del Bigtree (Del Bigtree crosses the line: tells Vaxxed audience “Now’s the time” for guns.)

The problematic statement I focused upon was:

“Anyone who believes in the right to bear arms. To stand up against your government. I don’t know what you were saving that gun for then. I don’t know when you planned on using it if they were going to take control of your own body away.

It’s now. Now’s the time.”

emphasis added.

The statement is clearly bad. And I criticized Del Bigtree for it. Rightly so.

Mr. Bigtree has responded. Full version on his facebook page. As you will see he starts to do the right thing, then he fails. He admits the message is bad, but then tries to defend himself by stating that apparently he was trying to show solidarity for people fighting for gun rights (the statement above has nothing to do with that). He then claims that he was taken out of context and edited (no edits, and one can watch the full video and see the context changes nothing).

Just say it’s a wrong statement and apologize, Mr. Bigtree. It takes courage in being able to admit mistakes and apologize. I greatly appreciate that you distanced yourself from your irresponsible statement, but do it honestly and completely. When people hear you equivocating and making up excuses, it weakens your clarification. It makes it all about you, rather than correcting the message. It makes it easier for people to ignore your clarification.

Let’s address some of the accusation Mr. Bigtree uses to defend himself. Is the Q&A video I took or the statement above taken out of context? Is it edited? No. Mr. Bigtree is just trying to deflect criticism. Want the context? Watch the full video on his Facebook page. Please do–because this is just the worst of a number of really bad statements he made that night. By claiming it is “taken out of context” he is simply attempting to avoid staring his own mistakes head on. As I’ve already said, besides demonstrating a lack of moral fiber there, it weakens Mr. Bigtree’s attempt to distance himself from the message he gave.

And we need his response to be clear and concise.

Since Polly Tommey has difficulty understanding the point I’m making, let’s spell it out. What I did was saying, “I’m judging you Del Bigtree so that people know this isn’t acceptable behavior.”

Which, you have to admit, is far more effective than, “I will sit in the audience and laugh nervously and hope no one takes Mr. Bigtree seriously.” Or, “I will sit next to Mr. Bigtree and look as though I am not even paying attention.” Mr. Bigtree was criticized and he has tried, however poorly, to distance himself from his statement.

As the old saying goes, the first step in getting out of the hole you’ve dug is to stop digging. Del Bigtree just digs and digs. Having rewritten history to make him stand in solidarity with guns rights activists, he then goes on the attack: I am a “troll”.

Del, I’m an autism parent and you know it. I am a scientist and you know it. I have spent more time looking at the facts behind your film than you have. I’m either better at understanding them or more honest than you. I obtained the William Thompson documents from Bill Posey. I gave my analysis–and I gave the documents so that my analysis would be put in context. If context is so important to you now, why hasn’t your team ever released the documents you hold? People can check what I say. You manipulate the situation so that your message can not be challenged.

More to the point, Del, you are being criticized not trolled. This is an important discussion and given the damage you are doing, you should damned well act like an adult. Because right now you are not.

Polly Tommey shows a similar lack of moral fiber by refusing to face head on the criticism levied against her in a different post (Polly Tommey won’t judge parents who murder their disabled children. That’s part of the problem). She defends herself with the statement, “I had a clip of me that made it look like I endorsed murdering children with autism”. It’s a classic straw man argument.

Let’s break this down simply:

There is the act of murder.
There is encouraging the murder.
There is refusing to murderers that they are wrong.

Ms. Tommey, you are in the third category. Let me remind you of your own, unedited, words:

Parents are taking the lives of their children already because they will not leave them in the world as it is today. And I for one will never judge them for what they do.

Why is this statement wrong? Let’s put this in language Mr. Bigtree just used in his attempted defense. A famous poem:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

People are “coming” for our own. As you say, parents are murdering their autistic children. It isn’t a matter of stopping this before “they come for me”. They are already coming for us as these children (and adults) are our own.

If you will not speak out, your use of that poem is just empty rhetoric.


By Matt Carey

Wakefield responds to his film being pulled by the Tribeca Film Festival. And it’s very classic Wakefield

28 Mar

If you don’t want to go through this whole article, and just want the most interesting bit here it is–Wakefield has responded to the Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) pulling his film. Wakefield had pulled strings somehow to get Robert De Niro (who founded TFF) to push TFF to accept the film. Immediately after it became public that Wakefield’s film was “selected” for TFF, criticism rained down from all over the world. In is defense, Wakefield brought in a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives to lobby to keep the film in. Now that the film has been officially pulled, Wakefield is decrying the “lack of due process” afforded him.

One wonders, doesn’t one, how legitimate film makers whose films were both accepted and rejected by TFF are swallowing that bit of irony. I mean, this is the first time in the history of the TFF that De Niro forced a film into the lineup. And, yeah, having a Member of Congress spend an hour talking to De Niro? I’m sure each and every budding film maker brought her/his own Member of Congress into the process right?

Lack of due process? Really? Wakefield had the temerity to decry a lack of due process? Wakefield would never have been in TFF if he had believed in and practiced the actual “due process” of applying, being good, being selected.

The irony is thick. As it so often is with Andrew Wakefield.

Now to what I wrote–

What are some of the classic traits we’ve come to know from Andrew Wakefield? First, he’s a martyr who suffers for the cause, but the rock of strength. He tells us he’s lost everything, his job, his career, his country…heck, there’s even a film out there where he talks to a mirror and tells us he’d gladly die for the children. I find this imagery rather difficult to accept given the size of his house from his Austin days (5900 square feet, one of four properties listed in the Austin area as owned by the Wakefields) and $270k/year base salary (my guess significantly higher than “academic gastroenterologists” make in the UK). But more to the point, why did he keep half the money from his autism research charity as his salary? But, again, it seems one can’t watch Wakefield speak without hearing about how strong he is and how much he’s given up for the cause.

Given how he frames himself, his response to having his film pulled by Tribeca was pretty much true to form:

To our dismay, we learned today about the Tribeca Film Festival’s decision to reverse the official selection of Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe.

Robert De Niro’s original defense of the film happened Friday after a one-hour conversation between De Niro and Bill Posey, the congressman who has interacted directly and at length with the CDC Whistleblower (William Thompson) and whose team has scrutinized the documents that prove fraud at the CDC.

It is our understanding that persons from an organization affiliated with the festival have made unspecified allegations against the film – claims that we were given no opportunity to challenge or redress. We were denied due process.

We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth.

Tribeca’s action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed.

We are grateful to the many thousands of people who have already mobilized including doctors, scientists, educators and the autistic community.

We will be pressing forward and sharing our plans in the very near future.

Onward!

– Andrew Wakefield (Director) and Del Bigtree (Producer)

We get the whole “we are the downtrodden” while at the same time “we are strong” messages. He claims wide support, including bringing to bear a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives while decrying “the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth.”

As always, check every word Wakefield says.

First off, here’s a HUGE irony. Giant. He tells us he was denied “due process”. What is due process in a film festival? You submit your work and get it judged on a level playing field along with every other submission. What did Wakefield do? He pulled strings and got Robert De Niro to personally select VAXXED for the festival. He jumped the queue, possibly pushing some worthy selection out, and now he’s crying about due process?

Classic Wakefield. Absolute classic.

Was Bill Posey involved with the original push to get this film included in TFF? We don’t know, but we know that Bill Posey was involved with keeping it in, at least for a day.

How many other film makers pull that sort of pressure to get their films into Tribeca? But it’s Wakefield who was denied “due process”. But, hey, his movement is strong. They have a Member of Congress on their side. And Mr. Posey has received donations as a nice thank you for his support over the years.

Mr. Wakefield tells us about Representative Posey’s office “..whose team has scrutinized the documents that prove fraud at the CDC”. Nice phrasing there. Wakefield doesn’t come out and actually say that Posey’s office has claimed that the documents prove fraud, but the causal reader might not catch that.

By the way, the documents don’t show fraud. Everyone can read the documents now. Andrew Wakefield was given many, if not all, of the Thompson documents and never made them public. I remain grateful to Representative Posey’s office for providing those documents to me, and I did make them public. Mr. Wakefield carefully controlled information. I welcome people checking my facts.

Wakefield tells us “It is our understanding that persons from an organization affiliated with the festival have made unspecified allegations against the film”

Unless he’s been hiding behind a rock, there’s also been a media storm of very specific allegations against the film. There’s also the fact that Wakefield’s story surrounding William Thompson doesn’t hold up. There’s also the fact that Wakefield classifies his film as a “documentary” but within the first 30 seconds of the trailer he left facts behind.

What’s then interesting to read is that he moves from “an organization affiliated with the festival” to “the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth”

So it’s either a group working with the Tribeca Film Festival, or it’s corporate interests”. And, here’s the thing, Tribeca is a private enterprise. They get to pick what is shown under their name. Declining or removing a film from their list is not censorship. Any more than it would be censorship if I asked Wakefield to host all of my writings about him on his “about” page and he declined my request.

And, if this film is like the others Mr. Wakefield has produced, “art” is not a term I would associate with it. Nor is the word “truth”.

Now, here’s a great turn of phrase:

“Tribeca’s action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed”

See what he did there? He made a simple, “this isn’t a film we want to show. Go somewhere else with it” from Tribeca into a sinister act by Tribeca to keep the world from seeing this film.

Nice job, Wakefield. You are making it clear to Tribeca that they were right. Who at Tribeca even thinks they hold such power as you seem to claim? I’ll give you a hint: no one.

Wakefield closes with a claim of far reaching support. Even within the “autistic community”. The term “autistic community” usually refers to the community of actually autistic people. That is a community that has little love nor offers support to Wakefield. That aside, Wakefield never tells people that even among autism parents, the majority do not believe that vaccines might be a cause of autism. This study put vaccines well behind genetics and the “will of God”. Other have put the fraction of parents who believe vaccines could be a cause as low as 20%. And saying, “sure it could be possible” is very different from “I believe this is what caused my child’s autism”.

Wakefield’s following is far too large, but it isn’t actually that large.

But all this said, let’s bring this back to the biggest irony of Wakefield’s response–his outrage at the lack of “due process”.

Yeah, all he had was Robert De Niro picking this film for TFF. And an hour of a sitting Member of Congress lobbying Mr. De Niro. We weep for the lack of opportunity Wakefield had, don’t we?


By Matt Carey

Tribeca Film Festival pulls Wakefield’s (faux) documentary

27 Mar

Below is a copy of statements posted to the Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) Facebook page. Responding to criticism about hosting a film promoting Wakefield’s failed views on vaccines and autism, Mr. De Niro first acknowledged that he had taken an active role in placing the film at TFF. Later, Mr. De Niro announced that the film was pulled from TFF and why.

I called the film a faux documentary, neither TFF nor Mr. De Niro has. My reasons are spelled out here.

I would like to thank Mr. De Niro for pulling TFF’s support from this film. While Mr. Wakefield will certainly find another venue to present this film, the stamp of legitimacy of having his film a “Tibeca Film Festival Official Selection” would have given Mr. Wakefield’s message a level of legitimacy it does not deserve.

vaxxed trailer screenshot

However, it must be said: this film should never have been a Tribeca Film Festival selection to begin with.

Here are the statements from Robert De Niro, from their Facebook page:

UPDATE: 3/26/2016 Statement from Robert De Niro, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, regarding VAXXED at the Festival:

“My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.

The Festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy. However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the Festival program. We have decided to remove it from our schedule.”

3/25/2016 Statement from Robert De Niro, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, regarding VAXXED at the Festival:

“Grace and I have a child with autism and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming. However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED. I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue.”


By Matt Carey

Andrew Wakefield releases the trailer for his William Thompson video. Slick production and dishonesty

22 Mar

Remember the disasterous “Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis” movie? That’s the one where Andrew Wakefield was trying to create an autism reality TV show where he would swoop in with his “A”utism TEAM and solve problems for families and show that he was right all along. Except that after the “A”utism team filled a family with false hope, Alex’s mother and godmother brutally murdered Alex. Wakefield took on no blame. Instead he shifted blame from those who committed the act to mainstream medicine. Basically whitewashing a gruesome murder of a disabled young man.

I will note that in the trailer for “Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis”, Wakefield spliced video from a completely different story.

Or, remember when Brian Hooker published a paper claiming that CDC data shows that vaccines cause autism and Wakefield followed up with a YouTube video that was so over the top bad that he claimed that non only were the CDC (including a civil rights pioneer) were engaging in a new Tuskegee Experiment, but that they were worse than Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot? Because, you see, those brutal dictators were at least sincere. No, I’m not making that up.

Wakefield has been working for some time to make a feature length film out of the Brian Hooker/CDC story. He has an early trailer for “Feast of Consequences” (as it was called then). Just as with the Alex Spourdalakis story, this trailer includes video unrelated to his actual story (the video of a police standoff and the pictures of the girl in the wheelchair appear to be from the Maryanne Godboldo story).

Well, not to be deterred from the film making business, Mr. Wakefield is at it again. This time with the full length movie, now called “Vaxxed”. Here’s the trailer:

The trailer starts with what appears to be a reenactment of a conversation between Brian Hooker (vocal advocate for the failed idea that vaccines cause autism) and William Thompson (CDC researcher):

Brian Hooker:

My phone rings and it’s Dr William Thompson

This is followed by recordings of a phone call with William Thompson:

“you and I don’t know each other very well. You have a son with autism, and I have great shame now.”

Then a narrator.

“There’s a whistleblower from the CDC who is going to come out and say that the CDC had committed fraud on the MMR study and that they knew that vaccines were actually causing autism”

Sit back for a moment and consider what your first impressions of this intro are. I know mine–they seem to be setting this up as the first or perhaps one of the early phone calls between Thompson and Hooker. Since the actual audio clips from Thompson weren’t that sensational, the narrator is quickly pulled in to tell us what really happened.

But this is Andrew Wakefield. And if we’ve learned anything about Andrew Wakefield over the years it’s that you have to check every single detail of what he’s saying. He does a lot of leading you to the conclusion he wants you to believe, whether the facts say something entirely different or not.

Let’s start with a small detail. I suspect many have already wondered why I referred to the clips from Thompson in the plural. It’s because that 10 seconds or so of audio is actually two different comments from Thompson spliced together. And taken out of context. We know this because a book was released with the transcripts of the calls that Brian Hooker secretly recorded.

“You and I don’t know each other very well” is from this part of a conversation. Well into the second call that Hooker secretly recorded. And Hooker didn’t start recording calls until later in their relationship, so this isn’t an introduction at all. We will get into the discussion of what Thompson meant later:

You and I don't know each other very well

“You have a son with autism, and I have great shame now.”

I have great shame

OK, the two clips are from completely different parts of a phone call that happened well into the Hooker/Thompson relationship. Wakefield spliced them together to create a story and, just in case we missed his point, brought in a narrator to tell us what the story “really” is.

So, documentary producer/director he is not. But we didn’t really expect that, did we?

Let’s take a look at those two exchanges in a bit more detail, shall we?

First, “we don’t know each other very well”, was Thompson saying that even after multiple previous exchanges, Hooker doesn’t understand Thompson’s motivations and fears. Hooker appears to be digging for dirt. Something about the behaviors of people at CDC. Likely to smear them later. This seems to be a bit of a trigger for Thompson as he has battled mental illness. He’s not comfortable because he can already see the day when people will say, “Well, he’s [Thompson] mentally ill and why would you believe anything he says, it’s just hearsay”. Hooker assures him that it’s none of their business, and that “I [Hooker] don’t want that to happen, period.”

That’s a heavily ironic thing to read now. Why? The only reason people know about Thompson’s personal medical history is that Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield made it public. Hooker and Wakefield filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services and included this statement from William Thompson:

Ya know, I’m not proud of that and uh, it’s probably the lowest point in my career that I went along with that paper and I also paid a huge price for it because I became delusional.

And this exchange between Hooker and Thompson

Dr. Hooker: Did you raise that…did you raise that issue at the time?
Dr. Thompson: I will say I raised this issue…I will say I raised this issue, the uh…two days before I became delusional.

and

Dr. Thompson: It is one of the reasons I became delusional because I was so paranoid about this being published.

So, not only is “you and I don’t know each other very well” not a “Hi, you don’t know be very well, but I’m about to spill the beans” sort of statement, it’s basically Thompson saying that one of his big fears is, well, exactly what Hooker did to him: out his struggles with mental illness.

With friends like Brian Hooker…

So, the second part of the spliced statement that Wakefield included in his trailer, what is that in context? “You have a son with autism, and I have great shame now.” Is it, as the narrator leads us to think, a statement about fraud and that vaccines are proved to cause autism?

No. Or, in Thompson’s own words:

“No, no, no, no. Here’s what I shoulder. I shoulder that the CDC has put the research 10 years behind. Because the CDC has not been transparent, we’ve missed 10 years of research because the CDC is so paralyzed right now by anything related to autism.”

It’s a statement that in William Thompson’s view, the CDC hasn’t done enough vaccine/autism research. It’s a sentiment that I disagree with, given how much effort has been spent on researching the failed idea that vaccines are a primary cause of autism. But let’s move on.

Let’s instead move to the narrator. Recall his statement

“There’s a whistleblower from the CDC who is going to come who is going to come out and say that the CDC had committed fraud on the MMR study and that they knew that vaccines were actually causing autism”

So, what about Thompson saying the CDC committed fraud on the MMR study? Didn’t happen, that’s what. Yes, he had criticisms. He starts his one voluntary public statement with, “I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. ” But let’s stick to what we know Thompson said, rather than what Wakefield and Hooker claim he said in regards to fraud, shall we? What makes the decision to not report a finding “fraud” over a scientific decision? Well, Thompson never says in his statement that there was fraud or misconduct by the CDC team. He does say “Reasonable scientists can and do differ in their interpretation of information.”

Let’s back up a bit, what is the Hooker/Wakefield claim of fraud? In a nutshell, they claim that the CDC team found a result they didn’t want to make public and then changed the research plan/protocol so they wouldn’t have to report that. In this exchange from a phone call we can see Hooker apparently trying to get Thompson on tape saying this. Trying because Thompson refuses to say it:

Dr. Hooker: And then you basically deviated from that particular plan in order to reduce the statistical significance that you saw in the African American Cohort.

Dr. Thompson: Well, we, um, we didn’t report findings that, um…All I will say is we didn’t report those findings. I can tell you what the other coauthors will say.

As to the claim by the narrator that Thompson stepped forward and stated that …”that [The CDC] knew that vaccines were actually causing autism”. Nope.

Consider this part of the public statement by Thompson, a statement I doubt will be prominent in Wakefield’s movie

I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

That is not the statement of a person who believes that vaccines have been shown to cause autism and that the studies to the contrary are “fraud”.

Also, Thompson provided a summary statement to Member of Congress Bill Posey. That was made public along with a great deal more documents when I released them here. What does Mr. Thompson have to say about the study in question showing that vaccines “actually cause autism”?

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.

Let’s give this finding the greatest benefit of the doubt. Let’s ignore that it is an incredibly weak and almost certainly spurious result. Even then, it doesn’t show causation. A study like this can’t. And anyone who has done scientific research (such as Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield) should know that.

But, hey, let’s just make this simple–if Thompson had said something clearly claiming fraud, clearly claiming that the CDC knew vaccines cause autism, Wakefield would have included that in his video. Instead he splices disparate conversations together and has his narrator tell us what we should think.

In other words, if Wakefield had the facts, he’d use them. Instead all I see is more smoke and mirrors.

And that’s just the beginning. The first 30 seconds. We could go on and on, dissecting the trailer frame by frame. It’s that bad. And this is just the trailer. He has a full film out now.


By Matt Carey