Scientific orthodoxy is an oxymoron

I came to know about Dr. Malcolm Kendrick from his being attacked by the same trolls that attacked me (and that I am in the process of suing.) He describes himself as a “sceptic,” but it turns out that some kinds of skepticism are called, by believers in scientific orthodoxies, “denialism.”

In the name of “rational skepticism,” they attack anything that questions their beliefs, and I’ve been seeing this for years, often promoting “scientific positions” that I generally agree with, but with toxic argument, often severely ad hominem, and, themselves, pseudoscientific.

Hence these have been termed “pseudoskeptical,” the term first being used in modern times by one of my favorite skeptics, Marcello Truzzi.

Before I link to Kendrick’s post, I will point out that Kendrick expresses no opinion on the wisdom of vaccination or non-vaccination, he simply points to facts, and, as well, to the toxic treatment of anyone who questions what has become an “orthodox” opinion about vaccination, which I have also seen, and have pointed out in the past. Simply reporting in media that anti-vaccination opinions exist has been attacked, see my post, Astroturf or idiocy?

If we want public policy to be grounded in genuine science (don’t we?), it is crucial that scientific inquiry not be biased by reasoning from conclusions, by the emotional reactions that are actually not to fact, but to imagined conclusions from the examination of fact.

I.e., there are those who fear that if questioning the wisdom of requiring universal vaccination is allowed, or the questioning of claims as to the benefits of vaccination, people will not vaccinate, and, Millions of children will die! That is a hysterical reaction, and vastly exaggerated. Under some circumstances, non-vaccination may increase a risk, but how much? And mainstream opinion will not just vanish, if it is at all sound, and so most children will continue to be vaccinated, and so this imagined vast harm will not occur.

Science does not tell us what public policy should be. Rather, if used rationally, it can inform us as to probabilities and possibilities. If used under the domination of reactive psychology, it can lead us seriously astray, but that is not “science,” it is a social phenomenon that pretends to be scientific.

So, Kendrick. Enjoy.

My feelings about the vaccine debate



Revising this to include more comments from “That fellow,” April 23, 2019. New comments are indented and in bold.

Comment on Astroturf or idiocy? by “That fellow from Cornwall” 2019/04/08 at 8:31 pm

Cornwall, I’d prefer to use a consistent name for you, and if you use a consistent name, your comments will already be approved.

He whom you will know of went on a massive shitposting spree across dozens of websites rendering my identity rather compromised. Such is life.

And that’s what he has been doing for years, but there are two, not one. And I don’t know if you yet realize the extent of it. A small handful of actual socks of mine (almost all disclosed) on RatWiki has been conflated to “many” by the brothers, though massive impersonation, and Bongolian repeated that idea in February on the mod discussion page. Where did I claim to have “many socks.”? At one point I think I mentioned how many proxy IPs were allegedly available, but that isn’t socks.

Didn’t realize that was possible, tis done. 🙂

And you are welcome. If the Smith brothers could actually carry on a cogent conversation, they would be welcome too. Skeptics are especially welcome. I do have a thing about honesty, and I just can’t resist roasting trolls for snacks. Delicious!

In general, I prefer open accounts, and you have been very open about your identity, but it is your choice. I’d actually prefer that you register an account here, and then I could give you advanced privileges. Link added to the following:

Yeah you definitely have to read “The core of fascism” post first to understand what is being said here. Medical fascism is interesting terminology, I have heard totalitarian medicine used before, but truthfully I am not convinced that people can see the word fascism objectively enough to not think of Josef Mengele’s whenever it’s used. :S

Quite possibly. Yet I also think that pointing out that fascism exists on a spectrum, that it can be of the left or the right, and about almost anything, the core being what I described in that post, suppression of diversity of opinion. In science, it’s seriously chilling. A sane reaction to it is not flipping to the other side, which commonly happens. There are certain kinds of arguments and practices common to all kinds of fascists, and yes, it is horrifying to think that we might be fascist, but the same is true for other strongly rejected categories. Fascism as well can be extreme and violent and deadly, or milder, and this shades into simple protection of society from harm, real harm.

A sign that a movement is fascist is that the dangers and harm are exaggerated. A small increase in actual risk becomes “murder.” And I’ve seen this with antivax and with statin skepticism.

I don’t have a clue about satins unfortunately.

What, you don’t know everything about everything? I thought you were a RatWiki tech!

With statin skepticism, in particular, the public is assumed to be ignorant and easily deluded, and it may be, but protecting people from their own delusions shades into protecting them from their own opinions, which then becomes an attempt to control the public mind, to only allow “correct” expression, and is fascist.

In a democratic society, it is necessary to recognize that any form of suppression of expression is dangerous, to be done only if actually necessary. It might be necessary! This boils down to the possibility that some degree of fascism is necessary!

To disentangle this mess requires discussion where diverse elements may be expressed. It does not require equating, say, vaxx with anti-vaxx, which merely reports positions, “he said she said” journalism. But that kind of journalism is closer to full reporting than journalism that assumes a correct position and only presents other opinions as incorrect and pseudoscientific or worse.

The strong rejection of racism creates a problem, and I personally ran into it. I adopted an Ethiopian daughter, she’s quite “black” (Southern Tribal Region, not the lighter-skinned Amhar peoples). She was enrolled in a very progressive preschool, here, and there was some trouble. It became very clear that the administration was racist. But they would be completely horrified by such an accusation. We took our daughter out and put her in another program, Montessori. There were no problems.

The extreme rejection of racism as if racists are not even human, but monsters, makes it extremely difficult to identify racism in ourselves. Waking up White explores this in depth.

I will throw in my 2 cents.

It is worth at least fifty cents. Thanks for the contribution.

There is no such thing as unbiased journalism and never will be, every human being has bias, both conscious and unconscious, often deep-rooted and cultural.

Yes. However, that every human has bias, does not require that all journalism is biased.

It is possible to train ourselves to recognize bias. That process will never be perfect, but if we don’t believe it is possible, we will quite naturally fail to move toward it. The goal of “no bias” is unrealistic, because all expression is imperfect, and unconscious bias will cause us to fail to recognize how our own history influences our interpretations, and some level of interpretation may be necessary in expression.

If we only provide sources and quotations relevant to a topic, our choices may be cherry-picked. However, neutrality is an ideal to be approached and there are methods that work for doing that.

Those methods are practically impossible on Wikipedia itself, because of the encyclopedic design.

They were possible on Wikiversity until this was demolished by the bureaucrat Michael Umbricht, in the name of order and preventing argument and disruption. Those were fascist arguments, and as is common, were rooted in deception.

The cold fusion resource on Wikiversity, predating my participation there, had never been a source of controversy, there had been no revert warring. None. If it was not neutral, it would be because people with differing points of view had not participated, not because those points of view would have been rejected and suppressed. I created most of that content, and attempted to present skeptical and pseudoskeptical arguments fairly, even when I disagreed with them, i.e, I had personally come to the conclusion that these were misleading.

That resource was a sprawling study, and because Wikipedians looking at it imagined that it was an “article,” thought that fixing it to make it neutral was impossible. But it actually would have taken about five minutes. Fascists are not interested in reality, but in their own point of view prevailing, because other points of view are dangerous, misleading, wrong, and fattening or deadly.

There isn’t really any truly reliable journalism either, the authors of such materials are simply presenting a second-hand view of whatever they were told by their sources, which themselves may not be reliable.

The catchword here is “truly reliable,” which fails to consider that reliability is not absolute, but relative. When a fact is attributed, it either was presented by the source or not. That is a fact, not an interpretation. Interpretation comes into the picture with “summarization,” i.e, extracting what is “important” from the source, which is the opinion of the author or editor.

Back up. If neutrality is not an absolute, what is it and how can it be determined? I’d say the core ontological error of the Wikipedia community was in a belief that neutrality was absolute. Many editors preferred a particular point of view (often the “scientific point of view”) to neutrality. They were correct in that neutrality as an absolute was a fantasy, as you, also correctly, point out.

But neutrality can be measured.  There are various ways to define a measure, but I will give this:

If there is a community of interest in a topic, and if all members of this community agree on text as neutral, it is 100% neutral.

(This does not mean that it is true, and neutrality is dynamic, it can shift, particularly as new information becomes available, or new analysis. Systems that use consensus to enshrine some position in stone are vulnerable to becoming minority rule, I saw this happening in consensus organizations, which I studied for years.)

In order for this measure to produce meaningful results, the community must not be warped by participation bias, other than natural (i.e., only those interested in a topic sufficiently to become informed about the topic need participate, and, in fact, the opinions of the ignorant can be excluded. But that exclusion should be self-defined and voluntary, not externally defined and coerced, otherwise we run the risk of biasing the process. (It is better to have 95% consensus than 100% by excluding ignorant or minority opinion.)

So then in a neutral project or journal or encyclopedia, the goal would be that each article or coherent collection of articles find a 100% agreement from involved persons, as to overall neutrality. Overall neutrality can and must include divergent views with any significant advocacy. The problem with Wikipedia is that detail is severely limited to what is “notable,” which then generates a bias toward “mainstream,” which generates more sources than the fringe. So the Wikipedia problem is more difficult.

But Wikiversity allowed subpages in mainspace, and so detail can be shoved into subpages, and subpages can be attributed (in practice, “owned” by a user or a set of users who agree to collaborate.) What is then required to preserve neutrality is an overall presentation that is not biased toward any of the positions expressed on the subpages. On the Wikiversity cold fusion article, some pages were higher-level and specifically intended as neutral. If they were not neutral in someone’s opinion, it was trivial to push them down, and make them attributed to authors. This was never tested with cold fusion, because no “skeptic” ever tried to dominate those pages. There were discussions as part of that resource that examined skeptical arguments, as presented by a skeptic. These led, in fact, to the generation of questions for experts, and answers were found.

This was collaborative process.

There was another topic on Wikiversity where a major and dedicated critic of the topic showed up and tried to make the resource a report of all the Bad Things associated with the topic. What I did blew his mind. I took the entire resource as I had created it and moved it to a subpage, as a “section,” created a section for him, and created another section intended to be neutral that anyone could work on. He was able to write all the negative stuff he wanted, in his section. The top-level page did little other than define the topic (agreed 100%), link to the Wikipedia article (and nobody wanted to declare that Wikipedia was biased; this was a bone tossed to Wikipedians), and present a brief, unobjectionable summary of each section.

That was a neutral resource, by 100% consensus. So it is possible, but it is neutrality by inclusion, since each subsection could have as much detail as any user cared to include (and could be, and was, an entire hierarchy of pages). Deception was not allowed, but, bottom line, edit wars were extremely rare on Wikiversity, because it is far easier to build content than to attempt to create content acceptable directly to everyone — unless it is through a process like this. Wikipedians sometimes hated this, but that particular user — an experienced Wikipedian, but famous for getting into strong disagreement — was so impressed that, later, when a conflict arise on Wikiquote, as I recall, involving him, I was accepted as a mediator and was able to completely defuse it. The traditional Wikipedia, duke-it-out with edit wars and arguments would have created him and I as enemies.

Journalists and academics are trained in “neutral tone” and practice. Good scientific articles will recognize contrary opinions and points of view contrary to those of the author, and will attempt to present them fairly, not to create straw man presentations, to use to shoot them down.

In cold fusion, I cringe when I see an article that claims as the goal of the work to “prove” this or that.

Failure before they even start! I’m not always popular in the field, but the best scientists (in my opinion!) support what I do, which is gratifying.

So if you are looking at Wikipedia’s reliable sources policy, you immediately have to understand that a “reliable source” is basically anything resembling the mainstream American point of view with a certain amount of support.

While that is not wrong, it is also incomplete and misses what is actually fundamental about WP RS policy. RS policy most centrally establishes notability. A mainstream publication shows that a responsible publisher, concerned about presenting material of interest to its readers, has deemed the topic worthy of coverage.

As well, reliable source must have a fact-checking process, but, again, the core of this is that the publisher has an interest in not publishing nonsense, and especially a financial interest, or, like it, an academic interest.

What I saw in dealing with the pseudoskeptical faction was that articles in mainstream journals of high reputation were still rejected on the basis that the author was a believer in the topic. The author is irrelevant in RS policy.

However, RS presence does not mandate inclusion of the material as fact. If there is editorial consensus that the material is verifiable and not misleading, fine. Otherwise it can be included as attributed opinion. Attribution turns any claim into a fact.

Consensus is the basic standard for neutrality, but fails when minority points of view have been excluded.

One who has a point of view will be a sensitive detector of bias in the other direction, so what is possibly neutral is the community as a whole, not any individual or faction, not even a faction that believes that it is the authorized agent of neutrality.

But what arises, commonly and eventually, is fascism, unless there are protective structures.

The entire policy and it’s supporting guidelines and essays are little more than an explanation on how to verify a source meets this standard.

All as a castle in the sky, ideals. Without reliable enforcement structures, meaningless.

Noobs come in and see obvious bias, read the policy, attempt to act on it, and are whacked by the oligarchy if they make any mistake at all. Few can learn actual practice well enough and quickly enough to survive that, unless they start as basement-dwellers who spent months or years in the salt mines, ah, Recent Changes Patrol, and follow AN/I, which makes one’s watchlist explode.

The structure, as it is, does not protect the noob against any admin with a bias, plus non-admins with a bias and experience know how to manipulate the structure.

But none of that means that neutrality is impossible, only that Wikipedia did not set up structures that would be effective in seeking maximized consensus, and, in fact, what was set up often made it impossible.

There was an solution I found. One of the paradoxes of WP policy was that article talk pages were not for discussing the topic, but only, in theory, the text. The faction would freely use the talk page to accuse subjects of this or that, but if someone new attempted to discuss the topic in the other direction, they were told that they were violating policy and must stop, or they would be blocked.

There are sister wiki templates, and any topic could be discussed on Wikiversity (just as any topic can be discussed in a university, generally). However, what was found by me and others was that sister wiki templates to Wikiversity were rejected because Wikiversity resources were allegedly not neutral, because it was a wiki. But this argument would apply to See Also links to other Wikipedia articles.

The reality was that the dominant faction and culture was fascist. It’s goal was to suppress what it did not like, and they would use any handy excuse that might sound reasonable to the users who only consider shallow, knee-jerk reactions.

And we never want to hear that we are fascist, especially if we are.

Ideally, since the same policy is used across all of Wikipedia, the entire work should have roughly the same point of view, which is apparently neutral, although many would disagree with it’s neutrality. This is more vocally noted by the US conservative right-wing, but Wikipedia’s treatment of many non-US and left-wing subjects is sadly far more dismal.

This assumes a discriminable entity, “neutrality.” As well, the pseudoskeptical faction assumes a “scientific point of view,” when science is not — ever — a point of view, it is a method, which generates experience, and from experience we may develop opinions, i.e., points of view, but those are our own opinions. Science does not have an opinion.

Of course this is fine for the most part, one has to have a pretty fringe viewpoint to really get worked up about Wikipedia’s point of view.

Actually, I got worked up as a Wikipedia editor, seeing blatant administrative bias, violating policies, and I confronted it, and was told “I see a block in your future.” Nice people, these are. Not.

I was holding or working on no point of view other than that.

So I went to RfC, walked through the process, prevailed (ArbComm reprimanded the admin), but then, as predicted by a very experience user who cosigned the RfC, discovered for myself what happens if you win against an administrator like that. Their friends go after you.

You’d better not jaywalk. And there is no protection. As a result of all this, I was then topic-banned by an affiliated — and actually involved with me — admin, on cold fusion, with no disruptive editing, only an attempt to find consensus after an ally of that admin massively disrupted the article, using tricks that I saw later being used, including recently.

Interrupt the process of finding consensus by going to RfPP. He played them like a flute. The revert warrior was him, alone against many other editors.

The admin banned me and I took it to ArbComm. In the former case I was not involved with cold fusion. I believed more or less the same as everyone else, wasn’t this not reproducible, all a big mistake? But I was focused on neutrality policy and it was being blatantly violated. But now, in this second case, I had become involved and was starting to see that there might be something to the field. When I attempted to move the article toward what was in reliable source, very conservatively, it was strongly resisted. I later found that this had been going on for years.

The outcome of that case, to make a long story short, was that the admin was desysopped. But I was also topic banned for a year, site-banned for three months, and a new ban was invented, never used before or since, an “MYOB ban.” I was to be prohibited from commenting in any dispute where I was not already involved. But there was an exception, unless my mentor approved.

There was no disruptive activity as a basis for the new bans. The justification for the alleged POV pushing finding was a link to a comment by someone on the other side, in an ArbCom case, where he was arguing against the ArbCom position. The way it had been presented, it looked like that was my position, though it was actually the opposite of my position. I.e., ArbCom massively screwed up. They do that all the time, I had been fooled by decisions where they don’t.

I later found, because of hacked emails, that there were arbitrators who wanted to ban me in the first case, but who found no excuse. Later, they could make an excuse, so they did what they wanted. The MYOB ban looked harmless, but … the provision for a mentor failed, but surely I could still obtain a trusted mentor.

An arbitrator volunteered (I was very popular with some — and this arbitrator always recused in cases where I was involved, which leads to an interesting result: those who might understand my work might recuse (several did), and those who did not would not recuse. Bias caused by defective structure, and a misunderstanding of the role of the arbitrators.)

That arbitrator was forbidden by the Committee from mentoring me. I don’t know the reason. The arb resigned in short order because he was threatened in real life with harm to his family — by thugs, face-to-face. He decided that it wasn’t worth it for a hobby, Wikipedia.

Scientist. Understood what I was doing, had been inspired by it.

Anyway, I’m grateful I was banned, because Wikipedia was absorbing, an addiction. It freed me to turn to far more productive pursuits.

Not to mention how Wikipedia is unreliable by design, and practices sub-standard epistemology by policy. Pretty sure it’s possible to go on about Wikipedia for a long time though, I haven’t even touched upon the the issues presented by the medicine specific MEDRS reliable sources policy.

What do we expect from a collection of free software enthusiasts? Sophisticated ontology?

What I’ve seen, generally, is that policies often look good but stink in practice because there is no reliable enforcement.

Changing policies to reflect actual practice, to prevent waste of time and an ability to predict outcome was strongly resisted, I tried that with notability issues for amateur radio organizations, it was obvious that AfDs were falling down on two sides, rather randomly. I proposed a change that reflected actual outcomes where there was adequate participation. Waste of time, there are those who sit on the policies and they don’t GAS about editors wasting time.

An irredeemable disaster zone, in which the rules may or may not exist, but if they do, nobody can agree on what they actually mean.

Exactly. There was a “rule” that was usually not followed (because it was basically dumb, a principle that has some application, but that fails, and that, in real discussions, the community *usually* rejected). Attempting to clarify the policy to avoid many useless AfDs (and then DRVs to fix them when they occasionally followed the policy), there was strong opposition from those who sit on the policies and care nothing about actual practice. But this is merely one more example of how unreliable an adhocracy can be, when it gets large. Problem is, wikis can work very well with small communities with a coherent purpose, and they obviously work very well for generating huge amounts of “sorta reliable” content, but could never approach traditional encyclopedias, professionally edited, for overall reliability. A traditional encyclopedia was “reliable source.” Which, as you know, does not mean “error-free,” but rather relatively reliable. One of these days, a Wikipedia Killer will come along that harnesses Wikipedia but makes it reliable. And that will be valuable enough to pay for the labor — and it will be highly profitable, I predict. Reliable knowledge is too important to entrust to anonymous volunteers!

There is no overall supervision that operates with any level of efficiency. There was a proposal years ago that could have changed this. The necessary structure, with voluntary participation, was presented as an experiment, to see what could be done with it. It was vehemently rejected, with calls to delete and salt the proposal, “terminate with extreme prejudice.”

Fascist. Obviously. The MfD failed, but the structures were deleted. Nothing was allowed that might shift power to the community.

As far as the vaccinations are concerned, I am unabashedly pro-vax and support mandatory vaccinations and suppression of all anti-vax views, medical fascism be damned. If I happened to be editing the relevant pages, I would no doubt pitch in to help these pro-vax people with their point of view pushing, supported by sources or not. xD

Well, fascist shill for Big Pharma, obviously you should be suppressed, blocked, banned, whatever it takes to get you to shut up.

Once I realized there were no rules and no enforcement on Wikipedia I simply stopped worrying about it. Bans and blocks are inconvenient, but I have plenty of both.

If one has become heavily involved in the Wikipedia game, it can be quite a shock to be blocked. It’s like sudden withdrawal from an addiction, cold turkey. But if one gets curious about this response, one discovers that, “OMG! They liberated me! I no longer have any responsibiilty for what happens in this crazy place!” One also notices that the banhammer doesn’t actually hurt. Since the fundamental contract, what people assume is how they will be treated, is not how Wikpedia actually treats people, has been abrogated, one can then do whatever one thinks best. It actually is a promotion, which I wrote years ago (admittedly inspired by the RatWiki trope.)

I later did a very short period of socking to demonstrate how Wikipedia could actually harness banned editors to create useful edits, to create cooperation where there had been conflict, without complicating ban enforcement, and actually making it easier. The experiment demonstrated that WP:IAR was utterly dead. Which I already knew, but I’m a scientist at heart: test it!

It was such a relief to no longer have any responsibility for dealing with a vast pile of idiots (to be fair, there are many smart Wikipedians who are not quite smart enough to figure out what is actually happening.) So I never socked on WP again after that. They held a ban discussion for nothing but grave-dancing. If I had wanted to edit, it would not have stopped me, and you realize that.

Maybe I can create google results to make you look like Something Really Bad. Perhaps if I look hard enough, I can find some place where you wrote something about Killing Babies, or maybe something about age-of-consent reform, which would make you appear as something that if I mention it, some will come completely unglued, worse than “fascist.”
Passes for humor these days I am told.

Darn! You did not edit that. However, I can now claim that Bongolian supported killing babies. Maybe I can claim that one of the editors was actually a Smith brother. Too bad I hate lying. I could come up with some doozies. Of course, Oliver actually did write something that sure looks like an apology for the Columbine killers. Close enough. (He was only 16, to be sure, and racist.) He has never figured out that the way to handle the errors of youth is to admit them and openly move on. “I was wrong” can do wonders in real life.

Seriously, there is a basis for possibly requiring universal vaccination. I think there is a stronger basis for providing accurate information to parents, through professionals, and for respecting personal choice. If we cannot convince enough of the population to be vaccinated to create herd immunity, something is weak about our position or how we are advocating it.

What worries me is suppression of contrary research and opinion. When that happens, science goes south. Is that happening? I don’t know, but there are events that worry me.

It depends what sort of suppression you look at. If I am being cynical I might say this;

Research programs are funded unevenly by those with the money (big pharma has the money) only funding the people who agree with their agenda. Then of course they fund education, making sure their message gets pushed across education too. And then even if a researcher does get something disagreeable researched, where do they publish? Certainly not in a respectable mainstream publication, not without the say so of herr fascist overlords. The whole thing is entirely stitched up.

Gary Taubes and Malcolm Kendrick have extensively documented the reality of this. Kendrick with humor.

Certainly if an industry has an invested interest in something that makes them money, they will hang onto it with everything they can (unless they see a way to make even more money). In this context that sure includes all the fascist oppression they can get hold of through lobbying government, selectively funding research, (mis)informing the media, etc.

This is standard practice in most controversial areas of science, which for the most part is in my opinion not nearly as free and open as it ought to be.

It’s all predictable from the structures, that was my realization maybe forty years ago. It is not about bad people. It’s about defective structures that create the roles. And when people try to “smash the machine,” what they replace it with is generally worse, and this pattern plays out over and over. There is a path beyond this, and some follow it and benefit, but many don’t. If you figure it out and teach it, you will be attacked as a cultist or fanatic or something, anything. Socrates, corrupting the youth!, hemlock! And depending on how well you practice the way (which is ancient), yourself, you just might be a cult leader and abusive also. Nobody is immune to self-interest, if it is not recognized.

And then when something is discovered, it takes a hell of a long time to overrule the previous best practices and get it widely accepted. Of course diet is prime example of this, but there are other novel examples such as the time that tobacco was good for your health, or that period people thought radiation exposure gave health benefits.

What I’ve been reading lately from the heretics is that sun exposure is good for your health. Yet we have years of warning about it, after all. prepare yourself:


It appears that, yes, more sun, more skin cancer, but the increased risk is actually small, and when studies look at all-cause mortality, people who get more sun live longer, and most of the skin cancer that they might then get is treatable. This is what Malcolm Kendrick has been pointing to: studies that narrowly focus on one negative outcome may show a “risk reduction” though overall mortality is not reduced, leading to a rather obvious conclusion: the condition studied (this can be about diet, statins, many things) may provide a “relative risk reduction” — which is, without other data, meaningless — while actually increasing overall risk of death, one dies from something else very possibly associated with what supposedly reduced risk.

I hate this one, about sun exposure. I just wanna sit at my computer, going outside into the sun is too much work — and how can I write (my true addiction!) while I’m out in the sun? I feel the same way about exercise. And I know that if I follow those feelings I will probably not live long.

(My training tells me we can “have it all.” I.e., there will be a way that I can accomplish what I accomplish by sitting at this desk, while exercising or being in the sun. It’s just not what I’m accustomed to doing. I have already established, a couple of years ago, an exercise program.)

Pretty sure it’s a more widely accepted fact now that the preservative used for meat (eg pork) is rather carcinogenic, something that has been “known” for a number of years. But that issue hasn’t really caused any changes in regulation yet, because nobody wants to change anything.

Right. You noticed.

I know the situation far better with diet, cholesterol, and statins.

I know a little about diet, mainly on the subject of blood sugars.

What I know, I know from a combination of personal necessity and experience, professional advice, an actual skeptical science journalist (Gary Taubes, see below), and then reviewing criticism of his work.

And thanks again for commenting. The trolls are still active on reddit. More is being revealed.

As Gary Taubes found, there is some really bad science that became mainstream opinion, around the 1970s or so, and his best work is in covering the history of that (and before he looked at diet and nutrition and heart disease, he wrote a book, Bad Science, on cold fusion, some cold fusion enthusiasts hate him. But I don’t hate anyone who does his homework and reports what he found, even if he makes mistakes.)

We need more open sharing of information, and we need more balanced study of diverse points of view. It is in the overall, collective understanding, that an approach to deeper understanding is possible.

Thanks for commenting.

Astroturf or idiocy?

I came across this from Tom Naughton’s Fat Head blog. I’ll be riffing on this. First, Naughton is not a careful reporter, he’s sloppy, but, then again, he’s a comedian, not a journalist or academic, and he is writing about topics that will be obscure to most, such as actual Wikipedia process. What he wrote:

Remember the kerfuffle when a rogue editor at Wikipedia targeted Fat Head for deletion? He was, you’ll recall, the same editor who deleted articles about Malcolm Kendrick, Uffe Ravnskov, Jimmy Moore, and pretty much anyone who recommends low-carb diets or disputes the Lipid Hypothesis.

The editor in question, originally “Skeptic from Britain,” (and my page) could not delete anything, he was not a Wikipedia administrator. Was Skeptic from Britain a “rogue editor”? Not really. There is a whole faction of editors (including some administrators) who act in similar ways, but SfB is actually a long-term banned editor (best known as Goblin Face), Darryl L. Smith in real life, according to my research (extensively documented on pages here). He is able to do what he does because of the cooperation of many editors.

He did propose articles for deletion (AfD). Links to the deletion discussions: Kendrick (deleted), Moore (deleted) and Fat Head (kept) — this was nominated as MatthewManchester1994, SfB renamed.

Ravnskov was not proposed by SfB, but by EEng, a snarky editor. (One of the problems with Wikipedia is that too many users with no life treat it like an MMRPG, an opportunity to display adolescent hyper aggression, to win by making others lose.) SfB, however was quite active in that AfD.

In the Fat Head deletion discussion, Jimbo Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia) commented about the nominator:

Strong keep – As others have noted, WP:IDONTLIKEIT is not a valid reason for deletion. It is worth noting that the proposer is a serial namechanger and POV pusher who has now apparently left the project.

When SfB “retired,” he claimed he had been outed on the internet. I was, in fact, accused of being SfB by his brother, on Encyclopedia Dramatica. That is how I came to look at SfB. What I found was that the only outing had been by troll socks, accounts that appear and create disruption (like outing), with no history of comment, and often repeating the same message under different names. The outing named the user who was the only Keep vote in the Jimmy Moore deletion. And that behavior then loudly rang the Darryl Smith bell. This was a sophisticated form of impersonation socking, Darryl’s standard MO, used to harass anyone who criticizes him.

So then I looked at edit timings, spending days compiling and studying data. This was clearly Darryl Smith, previously Debunking spiritualism, now moving from attacking spiritualism and parapsychology (and me, for the sin of having exposed his impersonation socking on Wikipedia, Wikiversity, and the WMF meta wiki), into exposing his “Dislikes = Fad diets, LCHF quackery, pseudoscience.” Did he find a new paymaster? I don’t know.

SfB, before going on a massive Wikipedia editing binge, ending with his “retiring” in December, 2018, had made a few edits to RationalWiki as John66, pursuing the anti-low-carb agenda, and when he did retire, John66 started up in earnest and is still quite active. There, he is now a sysop (RatWiki gives out that easily). The entire RatWiki site is largely dedicated to identifying and exposing “quacks, charlatans, pseudoscientists, and conspiracy theorists.” Is that astroturf? Well, maybe, to some degree. More likely it is a pile of nut cases itself (with a few exceptions).

On the conspiracy side, Darryl Smith has claimed (through socks identified behaviorally and sometimes with technical data) that he has been paid by “a major skeptical organization.” These organizations are dedicated to “debunking,” which is where the genuine skeptical movement went, losing its original scientific underpinnings and methods, becoming highly pseudoskeptical.

It is not skeptical at all, it is a “believer” movement, believing in “mainstream opinion,” even when it is not actually “evidence-based.” I.e., “evidence-based medicine” — what a great idea! — becomes “widespread opinion-based” — and widespread opinion can be highly vulnerable to astroturfing, or more deeply, to the effect of research funding and promotion.

Deletion discussions on Wikipedia, while they are sometimes influenced by opinions like “quackery,” turn on “notability,” which in Wikipedia policy is based on the availability of sources for verification of article content, and what sources are usable can be highly controversial, but if there are mainstream “secondary sources,” sources that review primary sources, or that have a business necessity for fact-checking, these will be considered “Reliable source.” Wikipedia policies are arcane to the uninitiated, because “Reliable” does not mean “reliable.” Get it?

The articles on Kendrick and Moore were deleted because of lack of adequate coverage in reliable source. That can change. “Quackery” as claimed by SfB was irrelevant, but it fires up his own support base. By guidelines, the number of votes doesn’t matter, it is the arguments that count, but in reality, some administrators are lazy as hell and just look at the votes. You can tell by the close comments. I have never seen an administrator even reprimanded for a “consensus is delete” close where it was not a “snow closure” — massively obvious — but actually not a true consensus. Sophisticated users will know how to appeal a decision, so, in theory, this is harmless. In practice, the project is slowly warped toward either majority opinion, neutrality be damned, or toward the opinions of a highly motivated faction, which can wear down and burn out users interested in creating a neutral project (i.e., following traditions of academia, that were the basis for the original encyclopedias, or of journalism, as represented by Sharyl Attkisson.)

So, that Wikipedia article on Attkisson. From the message she has in her TED talk, I expect to see her attacked on Wikipedia. Sure enough, this is how it is done (current version)

Anti-vaccine reporting

In her reporting, Attkisson has published stories linking vaccines with autism, despite the fact that the scientific community has found no evidence of such a link.[32][33] Seth Mnookin, Professor of Science Writing and the Director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, described Attkisson as “one of the least responsible mainstream journalists covering vaccines and autism. Again and again, she’s parroted anti-vaccine rhetoric long past the point that it’s been decisively disproved.”[34]

I immediately notice a very unlikely claim reported as a “fact.” “The scientific community has found no evidence,” is essentially a lie. There is evidence, but it is also possibly countered by other evidence. “There is no evidence” is a common claim of fanatics, when there is evidence. When someone is guilty of a crime, they are likely to say, “They have no evidence,” but in court, a case will be immediately thrown out if there is no evidence. Rather, in an unbiased proceeding, plaintiff and defendant will present evidence (vetted for being admissible) and the judge or jury will balance and weigh it.

“No evidence” is rhetoric, fake news, and a tell-tale sign of someone attempting to influence opinion by lying or misrepresenting reality. So how is this allowed on Wikipedia? I will look at the process below, but the notes are:

32. sharyl-attkisson-suggests-media-matters-was-paid-to-target-her

Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has accused the liberal watchdog group Media Matters of targeting her reporting, and believes someone may have even paid for them to do it. […]

Attkisson’s reporting has come in for a fair amount of criticism as well, and not just because it frequently targets the Obama administration. She has previously published stories about possible links between childhood vaccinations and autism, and stood by those reports on Sunday even as Stelter noted that doctors believe framing the idea as a “debate” is dangerous and encourages parents to not vaccinate their children. (The majority of the scientific community disagrees with that assertion and the CDC says there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism. A famous 1998 study that did purport to find a connection between autism and a vaccine was retracted in 2010.)

“I’m not here to fight doctors,” Attkisson said. “I’m just saying that factually, I’m not here to advocate for one side or the other. I’m just saying factually, there are many peer-reviewed published studies that do make an association, and the government itself has acknowledged a link.”

The article’s expression was confused. The “assertion” just before the claim of majority disagreement was that framing the idea as a debate is “dangerous.” This is a classic fascist argument, by the way, used to suppress dissent. Socrates was condemned for “corrupting the youth” by asking dangerous questions. However, they mean that the majority disagree with a “possible link between vaccination and autism.” This is commonly not represented accurately. The claimed link is, as I understand it so far — I’m gradually becoming more informed on this — between MMR trivalent vaccine and autism. I am very skeptical about this claim. But I would not agree that it is impossible. In any case, “majority” implies that there is dissent within the scientific community, and not merely some single crank (or, for that matter, a single visionary). This is actually contradictory to “there is no evidence.” Rather, first of all, most of the scientific community is not specifically informed, that’s normal. Rather, what can be found is that certain organizations, possibly influential, have issued conclusions. Based on balanced weighing of evidence, or otherwise, these, as science, will stand as evidence for the conclusion, but it is opinion, interpretation, not fact. (Evidence is fact or “witnessing.”) It might even usually be correct, in some way, but “science” goes astray when what is interpretation and opinion becomes “evidence,” and is used to deny that evidence even exists.

Is Atkinsson correct? The CDC page cited now redirects to a different page, with no reference to autism. The Politico article was dated 04/21/2014.  The snapshot of that page the day before shows concern about autism, and then has:

a scientific review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” CDC supports the IOM conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism rates in children.

That review clearly is about a weighing of evidence, and does not support the idea that “there is no evidence.” Is Attkisson correct that “the government itself has acknowledged a link”? The evidence shown above does not contradict her statement, which is vague and could mean almost anything. What Politico was reporting on was a CNN interview. 

(the interviewer there actually supported the idea that there is a campaign to discredit Attkisson. That, of course, does not end up on Wikipedia!)

In that interview, it is not impossible, nor would it even be surprising, if Attkisson’s views were not flawlessly expressed, or were obsolete. Her actual stand is that people should not blindly depend on her opinions or anyone else, but should dig and think for themselves, and carefully, because there is a great deal of intentionally or carelessly deceptive information available. On that stand, I agree with her completely. Even if the autism/vaccine link was a mistake. Demonizing critique (anti-vaxers are called “murderers”) “controversializes” the very process of free democratic review that is essential to science and to sane public policy.

It is fascist, and, yes, fascism can be on the left or the right. It always has “good reasons” for suppressing dissent. After all, who can be against trains running on time? Or, for that matter, the public being protected from “quackery” and “pseudoscience”? Those vague hazards are not actual risks except to those who choose to follow them, and so fascism protects the public from its own “wrongness,” which itself alienates elements of the public, which can see that forces are attempting mind control. The anti-vax hysteria is fueled by suppression. (And it can itself be fascist, see my fascism post linked above.)

Whew! That’s just the first footnote.

33. Anti-Vaccine Movement Causes The Worst Whooping Cough Epidemic In 70 Years. This is a Forbes blog story, it has apparently been taken down. The author is Steven Salzberg. From his Wikipedia article:

Salzberg has also been a vocal advocate against pseudoscience and in favor of the teaching of evolution in schools, and has authored editorials and appeared in print media on this topic. He writes a widely read column at Forbes magazine[19] on science, medicine, and pseudoscience. His work at Forbes won the 2012 Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking.[20]

The “widely read” is editorial insertion, not sourced. The link is to the column itself, violating policy. (I.e., it does not establish notability of the column, though this can be allowed with editorial consensus.) The Prize is awarded by, surprise!, the Center for Inquiry, the descendant of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which became, contrary to its title, a debunking organization going after any fringe science. That “Critical Thinking” award is for “Skeptic Authors,” but the only “Skeptics” awarded are those who debunk skeptics as “pseudoscientific,” whether they are or not. (This faction would call “cold fusion” “pseudoscientific” on Wikipedia, and tried many times, even though the basic ideas are testable, have been tested, and the bulk of the evidence confirms that there is an anomaly and that it is nuclear in nature. But who cares about evidence, if you can simply attack “believers” as “die-hards” and “cranks,” and “pseudoscientists” ? and if you can exclude clear Reliable Source (so judged by Wikipedia policy and the community) as “biased” or “written by believers.” (RS policy has to do with publishers, not authors).

His first version of the Forbes post, 7/23/2012. His tag line:

Celebrating good science by fighting pseudoscience and bad medicine

This is an activist, with axes to grind. The headline is not science. Period. No evidence is advanced that “antivax” caused the rise in cases.  He wrote:

Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the credulous, anti-science, anti-vax CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson.

That was a libel, but it demonstrates how the thinks. This is pseudoskepticism that, as Attkisson points out, becomes an extended ad hominem argument, as a red flag. It was changed later by the version cited on Wikipedia, to

Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has repeatedly and persistently reported on the purported link between vaccines and autism long after such a link was widely discredited.*

Notice the use of weasel words on one side and affirmative statements with no evidence and actually contradicting some evidence on the other. “repeatedly and persistently,” is how many times, out of a very busy career. And she reported on the link, when, and has her reporting been complete. “Widely discredited” simply could mean that a few people have discredited her, or a vast mob of people like Szalzberg. It’s meaningless, showing only a mass of opinion.

Again, I’m not saying he is wrong. I’m saying that this is conclusory, opinion, not fact, and why was this cited?

It appears that the Attkisson article has been used as a coat-rack for attacking her and anti-vaxx. And that is what happens to anyone who offends the faction. I covered the like of this here, on another person who actually supports vaccination but dared to repeat what anti-vaxxers think. , same pattern with Sarah Wilson. Journalist reports fact (in this case, her idea of what some people think), and is attacked viciously. (in this case, all that undue nonsense was removed from the article a few days ago. But Wikipedia process is entirely unreliable, and initiatives that would have made it reliable have been strongly resisted.)

Still on the sources for the Wikipedia article:

34. A blog, The panic virus, entirely devoted to attacking criticism of vaccines. Not reliable source. Vaporized. Archived. More embarrassing anti-vaccine reporting from CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson, by Seth Mnookin. In addition to much hysteria, what it had on Attkisson was conclusory and based on various concurring opinions (other bloggers!), not any kind of overall survey. This is an information cascade, not “science-based.” There may be some science referenced, to be sure, but science is not a body of conclusions, rather it is a large body of evidence (actual “knowledge”, much of it from, at best, controlled experiment, but interpretation is always conditional and subject to revision based on new evidence, as well as recognition of possible deficiencies in previous analysis. And that is how and why science moves on. Bottom line, this was correctly attributed as Mnookin’s opinion, and he might be considered notable. Is there any balancing evidence? I will look at the history below to see if any was asserted.

Mnookin, by the way, has a book and all this could be seen as pushing his point of view. Authors commonly display a bias toward their own point of view, big surprise? Not.

The book is The Panic Virus, so he could be seen as creating a business around this. (Much as Gary Taubes is accused of doing around low-carb, on the opposite side from the Wiki fanatics. It is plausible that Taubes has a bias, and Taubes actually calls his latest book, The Case Against Sugar, the “argument for the prosecution.” Biased. Now, does “biased” mean, “to be excluded from public discourse and respect”? People with one point of view commonly call opposing views “deluded” or “biased.” The defense very often claims the prosecution “has no evidence.”

Both of which are irrelevant arguments, conclusory, not related to fact.

The Wikipedia article on Attkisson continued:

In 2011, Paul Offit criticized Attkisson’s reporting on vaccines as “damning by association” and lacking sufficient evidence in his book Deadly Choices.[35] In the medical literature, Attkisson has been accused of using problematic rhetorical tactics to “imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit.”[36] Attkisson said that she favors vaccinating children, but claimed that research suggests that “a small subset of children” have brains that are vulnerable to vaccines.[37] She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.[37]

35. So, again, a book.  Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All

This is the argument of medical fascism. The choice not to vaccinate may, if the mainstream is correct, increase risk, but only very slightly for any individual. There is an increased collective risk only if the number of those making that choice rise to a significant percentage of the public. Vaccines are also not completely effective, complicating this.

If a vaccine were 100% effective, it would fully protect the public that chooses to be vaccinated, and others would be at risk, presumably with their own choice, or that of their parents. It is a common fascist practice to take over parenting from parents, in favor of something “better.”

The non fascist answer to the refusal problem would be education, but if the education is fascist propaganda (i.e., excludes and demonizes contrary opinion), it will increase the power of anti-vax arguments, because the oppression can be seen readily, and it does not increase trust in authorities, it has the opposite effect.

I do not conclude that because fascist suppression is used against the anti-vax movement, therefore the pro-vaccination evidence cannot be trusted, but many people will think that and support, then, conspiracy theories.

In any case, this source amounts to a very strong critic of anti-vax attacking a journalist for reporting the other side. It is clear that Attkisson has been criticized, but what is the overall balance? How notable is this, for a Wikipedia biography of a living person?

What is obvious is that critique has been collected, with weak sources being used.

36. Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Article in Vaccine, a peer-reviewed journal. Copy here.
This is a fascinating article and I could agree with much of it. (I.e, anti-vaxxers use “tactics and tropes.” But so to the critics of “vaccine denialism.” In any case, the article does not mention Attkisson in the body, but cites two sources in footnotes, i.e.,

[92] Gorski D.  Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News, . Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News,; 2011 [accessed 25.08.11]. [Archived by WebCite at]

[179] Attkisson S. Autism: why the debate rages,; 2007 [accessed 24.04.11] [link corrected]. [Archived by
WebCite at].

[92] was the “science-based medicine blog” which is affiliated with the debunkers at CSI and often is full of attacks on skeptics of mainstream ideas. Snark rules there, as it does in many “debunking” venues. From the Vaccine article:

Works critiquing the anti-vaccine movement are often accused
of being propaganda [89–91]; those on the other side of the issue
accuse anti-vaccine activists of propaganda as well [92,93].

The blog piece has been taken down. This comment about propaganda is certainly true of both sides. “Propaganda” is conclusory information designed to influence. Neutral reporting is not propaganda, through propaganda might refer to it. It is obvious that both sides of this issue create propaganda. That is normal for political activism. 92 establishes the obvious, but this is not what is supported by the Wikipedia article.

179 supports this from the Vaccine article:

4.2.4. “You can’t prove vaccines are safe”
This accusation demands vaccine advocates demonstrate vaccines do not lead to harm [178], rather than anti-vaccine activists having to prove they do. Claims such as “There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out” or “Those who say autism and ADD are not linked to vaccines do not know what is causing the epidemics[179] imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit. This involves arguing based on a lack of evidence – not knowing something is true is taken as proof it is false, or not knowing something is false is proof it is true. Likewise, because there have been no studies conducted with the specific conditions antivaccination groups ask for [180], this lack of knowledge means vaccines are not safe. Lists of questions to ask vaccine proponents [181] are circulated with the intention of stumping them, with the inability to answer taken as evidence against vaccination.

I have bolded the statement from Attkisson. The “trope” here is an alleged “implication,” that “vaccines remain a plausible culprit.” That should be a simple fact (about scientific process). If there were no evidence, this would be a terminally weak argument. At the time, however, 2007, the Wakefield et al article linking MMR vaccine to autism had not yet been retracted, and there is (I think) some other evidence. (Attkisson certainly claims it.) Behind this “trope” is an assumption that there is no basis for suspicion, hence the skeptical argument is converted to a straw man argument, essentially, “Because we are ignorant, I’m right.”

What is actually in the CBS source:

6. There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out.

And, as well, what was quoted. That was a reasonable piece of reporting at that time, and might still be, the question has become more difficult.  The section then goes on to report more, all more or less standard journalism. She points to what was certainly, at the time, a live debate. She was pointing to the incompleteness of knowledge, and, yes, that would still leave vaccination as a “possible culprit,” but she certainly also asserted evidence to suspect vaccination. It’s worth reading that CBS report, it is an example of what she has been attacked for. Reporting.

Fascist attack on the media. It’s not just Donald Trump!

(Many other tropes in the Vaccine article are like the above. Yes, there are fanatics and those using logical fallacies, but, as noted in what was quoted above, this happens on all sides, except what might be called the “journalistic” or “academic side,” sometimes. When we become more interested in reality, as distinct from our opinions and interpretations, we move toward journalism. I like the Vaccine article, in part, but, as presented, it has a likely effect of “debunking” vaccine skepticism as if it were all based on such tropes. What is missing is a list of tropes on the other side. The article author has a clear position: the abstract concludes with: “Recognizing disingenuous claims made by the anti-vaccination movement is essential in order to critically evaluate the information and misinformation encountered online.”

This is an ad-hominem attack on an entire movement, when such movements will be internally diverse and will also be, for the most part, sincere, not “disengenuous.” The author of the article has a clear and strong position, and fails to recognize that behind most of the “tropes” is a reasonable core, a claim that has some truth, at least under some circumstances. It is necessary to recognize “disengenuous claims” by all sides, not just one side. Most urgently, when opinion is considered to rule instead of balanced evaluation of evidence — all the evidence! — we fall into the rabbit-hole of fascism, of the domination of factions and people who believe they are right, which is never “scientific.” In science, we attempt to prove we are wrong!

The article begins with:

… a new postmodern paradigm of healthcare has emerged, where power has shifted from doctors to patients, the legitimacy of science is questioned, and expertise is redefined

“Power has shifted.” Shifts in power are always vociferously opposed by those holding excess power. “The legitimacy of science is questioned.” What the author is calling “science,” is not science, but “expert opinion,” which may or may not be based on science. Experts put their pants on one leg at a time, and are just as capable of attachment and bias, not to mention financial incentives, gross or subtle, as anyone else.

Most people don’t take the time to study issues, even when they are crucial to their health, they simply are looking for whom to trust, as if there is some infallible person to trust. Such people will be vulnerable to propaganda from either side, whichever they trust more, for reasons that can be complex, based on personal history.

What has happened with the internet is that minority opinion can still organize with relative ease. In response, the mainstream (which is loosely defined and there is always the possibility of a “silent majority”), has become more severely repressive and even punitive toward minority opinion (though it always has been to some degree).

In the vaccine debates, minority opinion is excoriated as highly irresponsible, if expressed, and murder at worst. And, of course, the minority, noticing the suppression, readily develops a conspiracy theory (which may or may not be real) and accuses the mainstream of murder. Of innocent children, of course. Both sides shout “Think of the children!”

One more source:

37. The Daily Beast.  Scandal blog. Sharyl Attkisson: ‘I Don’t Care What People Think’ About My Reporting

This is a fairly balanced story. It is used to support this text in the article:

She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.[37]

Well, did they? I do remember that Wikipedia is not about truth, but about what can be verified. So the fact alleged fact here is that she said two things. What did she actually say ?

Attkisson says she is very much in favor of vaccinating kids, but that peer-reviewed studies have suggested the possibility of a “small subset of children” who suffer from difficult-to-detect immune dificiencies that might make their brains vulnerable to certain vaccines, much like some children are allergic to polio vaccines.

But she says Big Pharma has actively discouraged scientific research into possible linkages, and that pharmaceutical advertisers similarly persuaded CBS and other broadcasters not to run stories questioning the risk of vaccines for certain children.

Well, have they? I have not seen evidence either way on that, not yet, anyway. This is a personal interview, in which she may state her suspicions, or it might be knowledge. At this point, from the interview, I don’t know which it is. But the story of Big Pharma (and other established interests) influencing research is routine, an understanding of the problem has become widespread, with increased requirements for funding and conflict-of-interest disclosures.

Never mind that a CBS News veteran, who asked not to be named, says Attkisson’s vaccine-autism reports were eventually killed not because of advertiser pressure, but because they weren’t adequately supported by scientific evidence.

None of the reports I have seen so far were such. I.e, reporting what people think and claim need not be supported by “scientific evidence,” it is ordinary journalism, and the decision of whether or not a claim is “adequately supported” is for review panels of experts (and that itself can be flawed if the panel composition has been warped, which has happened.)

“The fact is, the government has acknowledged there’s a link,” Attkisson says, citing the recent admission by a senior Central for Disease Control epidemiologist that he and his colleagues improperly omitted from a 2004 study the data that tended to support such a link. “They simply say it’s not a causal link.”

No link, no way to check this yet.

What I see as factual here is that she suspects influence from large corporations. It is not black and white, i.e., advertiser pressure or “scientific” evidence or lack of same. What if the advertiser points out the alleged problem? What Attkisson is reporting is that she was prevented from reporting on what she found. Now, that’s an editorial decision, but she decided to give up a contract with a million dollars left on it, if I read the source correctly, effectively not being willing to work under those conditions. That increases her credibility, her stand was contrary to her personal interest. As presented on Wikipedia, this looks like “conspiracy theory,” a common pseudoskeptical trope, though it is not really a conspiracy theory to suspect that large interests would act (and spend money) to defend their interests, that the would support research likely to increase their profits and discourage or at least not support research that might damage profits.

But this little piece of the article does fairly present what she said.

Now, how did the article get this way? Looking at history, I see my old friend, JzG, a blatant and obvious and uncivil POV-pusher who has gotten away with it for years, one of the people who may have complained to get me globally office-banned by the Wikimedia Foundation. For what? Unknown. In any case, here are some fun JzG edits, in reverse date order

  • 20:48, 5 February 2019‎ Reverted good faith edits by (talk): It’s significant that she broadcaSTS ON WINGNUT CABLE (TW)
  • 10:53, 27 January 2019‎ →‎Anti-vaccine reporting: don’t especially like primary sourcing but Mnookin is a published authority so probably OK in this case. [Yup. He knew it was a problem, but did it anyway].
  • 10:47, 27 January 2019‎ Reverted to revision 880322583 by Snooganssnoogans: Revert the usual whitewashing (TW) [what he reverted was closer to sources.]

There was a strong level of churning on the Vaccination section. That’s basically quite old news, why was it still in so much flux? (My answer: there is currently a great deal of hysteria about anti-vaxx as pseudoscientific misinformation causing epidemics, etc. From history, JzG’s point of view would be obvious. He is regular and very predictable, has been for years. Whenever a neutral presentation of sourced fact makes an  article subject look less crazy, the faction will call it “whitewashing,” as if the job of the project is to blacken reputations. To the pseudoskeptics, that is exactly their agenda, to attack “pseudoscience” and “quacks” and anyone who gets in their way.

  • 09:54, 26 January 2019Reverted to revision 879123820 by Ser Amantio di Nicolao: More neutral title since she is anti-vax (TW) [He just lied.]
  • 19:10, 10 January 2019 (→‎Reporting on vaccines and autism: more to the point) [Changes the head to “False reporting on vaccines and autism]

Yes, indeed to the “point,” the POV (point of view) that JzG has been pushing for years. The sources do not support that conclusion. Some of these things were discussed on the Talk page, on which JzG demonstrated his standard rigidity and contempt for other users. He was recently reprimanded by the community and may have gone off on in a huff, he has not edited at all for three weeks, from a pace of many edits per day. It has been noticed, see his talk page. 9 March, he was in Bangalore. So maybe he is travelling.

So what’s the point?

Until we wake up to our need for truly reliable journalism, that avoids unnecessary conclusions (or, more practically, that walls off and distinguishes between fact and opinion) — just as we need reliable government and reliable institutions of all kinds —  and until we become willing to work toward this goal, trustworthiness by design, little will change, my prediction. Existing structures are almost all vulnerable to corruption of various forms.

When we become aware of problems, what do we normally do? Most of us do nothing, we don’t believe that reform is actually possible. A few become activists and create organizations, which, of course, we create using standard models, which are intrinsically vulnerable, or in a few cases, we go for an anarchist model, which, without protective structure, predictably devolves into one of the standard models. See the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

It is known how to create organizations that are not as vulnerable to this, (it has been done here and there) but few know it and understand it. And what I’ve seen, when I have described the approaches to others, is that they will say something like: “I am so glad that someone is thinking about this.” Subtext: so that I don’t have to, end of topic.  One of my old questions:

How many people does it take to change the world?

Two, but most people won’t lift a finger. Literally.

Is there anyone out there willing to take responsibility for the future of humanity? Comments here are open. Let me know!




subpage of democratic-fascism

Comment by Jed Rothwell on The core of fascism

In reply to Abd ulRahman Lomax.

You can be as wrong as you like, as long as you do not endanger other people.

Yes, of course. However, the core is actually “harm” other people, because “endanger” can be fuzzy, and can involve a balance of risks. It could be said that by drinking alcohol, we endanger others, because we may then exercise poor judgment, as in deciding to drive. But we decided that the harms of prohibiting alcohol (which were also many) outweighed that risk, and we address drunk driving in other ways. These are edge cases, where harm may not immediately be obvious. Who knew that outlawing alcohol would feed the growth of organized crime?

Other people include your own children. Their rights outweigh yours.

They can. However, under normal conditions, the natural advocate for the rights of children is their parents, and a common fascist move, historically, was to remove responsibility for children from parents and place it in collective activity. Against this, there are obviously some parents who are a danger to their children. The present balance is that anyone may report to child protective authorities that a child is in danger, and mandated reporters (therapists, teachers, police are among them) are legally compelled to report. Those authorities will then investigate and report. I’ve had close and extensive contact with child welfare authorities over the years. My experience has been quite positive, partly because I always welcomed the concern. This is what they know: they have the power to remove custody in an emergency, at their discretion, and to seek permanent removal through legal action. They also know that doing so may cause serious harm to the child. Foster care is available, but can also be abusive, with abusers skilled at concealing it. Normal parents love their children and do not want to harm them, so if there are problems, child protective authorities will attempt to work with the parents, providing them with support, which also increases monitoring of the situation. It works.

(Cases where social workers become abusive are rare, my impression. Parents may request that a different worker be assigned to a case, that would be ordinarily routine. Unfortunately, many parents become hysterical when they are reported, and do not respond well. And, of course, some are actually abusive and a danger to the children. But it is not correct that the child’s rights “outweigh” the parents’. In a legal action, both will be considered. The right to safety will generally outweigh the right to freedom of choice of a parent over a child. When there is apparent conflict, the state may appoint an advocate for the child, and if the child is old enough, the child’s wishes may be considered.

Society must protect them from people who would not put seat belts on them, or vaccinate them, or send them to school. I do not think parents should be allowed to educate children at home. It was not allowed until the 1960s, and it was a bad idea to let it happen.

Three cases. Does not putting a seat belt on a child create a clear and present danger? It can be so argued, though the specific risk is low. I have never heard of parental rights being terminated because of a seat belt violation. However, a bill has been filed in Florida that would allow “the Department of Children and Families to investigate adults for child abuse if a child passenger is injured or killed because they weren’t properly restrained.” Unless the law is strange in Florida about what DCF can and cannot do, anyone (at least in Massachusetts where I live) can make a report to DCF about anything believed to be child endangerment, and they must investigate. So why is this law necessary? Further, it does not allow investigation if the driver of the car is found to have failed to require seat belt usage. That would be the situation of risk. Already injured is horse out the barn door. Weird, indeed.

This report of a mother not having seat belts fastened for her kids, the seat belts were the least of it. That woman needs help, and so do her kids. None of this approaches serious fascism, but there is just a tinge of potential for it in the emotional reaction. (In that first, there is no assessment of actual risk, just some scary statistics that could easily be misinterpreted, and probably are being so. 723 auto accident child deaths in 2016. 35% were not restrained. Unstated and possibly unknown: How many deaths would there have been if all had been restrained? We know that 2/3s of the deaths occurred even if restrained. So we cannot blame all those deaths on lack of seat belts. Some of them, probably. However, the limit looks like it might be about 89.

Nevertheless, if the limit of collectivist fascism was a caregiver being investigated for child abuse because a kid was not wearing a seat belt, which doesn’t seem to be happening yet, I would not be writing about it at all.

The medical professional always informs people of the dangers of a vaccination these days.

Notice the extreme language, “always.” That’s a sign of an attachment to a point of view. It’s simply not true. It may be a norm, it may be common. I’ve been vaccinated recently against the flu. I don’t recall any clear information about dangers. It is possible that I signed something with information in fine print. I really don’t recall, and I was vaccinated at a drugstore. Very informal. But voluntary vaccinations are not the issue here, the issue is (1) mandatory vaccination and (2) reliability of the information available. I know for a fact that “standard of practice” can be far, far from best practice, given all the information. I’ve learned how to extract better advice from professionals, who are faced with social and legal restraints, all in the name of preventing quackery and malpractice by punishing professionals who follow their own opinions, even if these are carefully researched. Basically, I explicity take full responsibility for my own choices, and they then will tell me what they think, having made sure I know the “standard advice.”

But the very research on which science-based medicine would be based, in theory, has been warped, at least in some cases.

Before they inject you (or your child) they make you sign a paper with a long list of the dangers. No one is ignorant of the dangers unless he signs without reading the paper.

I recall none such, ever, with seven children. Now, how do you know what “they make you do,” such as would enable you to state, with confidence, that this is what is always done? If you don’t sign the paper, is there then a penalty (yes, of course, they won’t vaccinate unless they can get a court order)! If it is constrained, it is not consent! It’s a slippery slope. The fact is that there are parents who believe there is danger, or “the risk of danger.” If they believe that, should they be legally compelled to consent? As I’m pointing out, that would not actually be consent. Rather, then, the law would allow the professional to treat without consent. More commonly, regulations on vaccination prohibit school attendance if not vaccinated. I was not allowed to volunteer at San Quentin State Prison as a chaplain without a TB vaccination. I have a daughter with a positive TB test result, because she was vaccinated in Ethiopia with a method (BCG) that creates the immune response.

Slippery slope. This is a diversion, because mandatory vaccination is the issue, not required consent.

We are now living in the golden age of personal and parental autonomy. Parents have never had so much freedom to raise their children as they see fit. If you think people had more freedom in the past, you have not read social history.

Jed, you commonly assume ignorance on the part of those you disagree with. It’s offensive. There are ways in which parents today, in the U.S., have more freedom and ways in which we have less.

For example, in New England from the 17th into the 19th century, if parents did not teach their children how to read, or did not take them to church, or teach them “an honest calling,” the state could take the children away and put them in a foster home. See the Massachusetts Bay School Law (1642):

This was locally enforced, and the law is roughly consistent with law to this day, but obviously religious education no longer applies. This amounts to requiring that children know enough to understand the dominant culture, and is not unreasonable, and it could be argued that this is necessary.
At that point there was no mandatory free public education, so this was actually requiring either school or some form of “home schooling,” which is sometimes a misnomer. The modern movement is partly “alternative schooling” and partly “unschool,” which focuses on non-school methods of education (which has deep philosophical and substantial support from research). One of my seven children was out of school from “6th grade to 8th grade,” by her choice, and she did very well indeed. She decided to go to high school largely for social reasons. To do this legally in Massachusetts required setting up a “home school plan” approved by the local Superintendent of Schools. Without that, DCF would have declared me responsible for “educational neglect.”

Fascist? A little. Not a lot, given the available alternatives, the legal and practical realities. She signed up and personally paid for North Star, Alternative Education for Teens (she was 12 when that started, they accepted her). The last year, my plan for the Superintendent was very simple: I didn’t quite say it this way, but close: She will do whatever the hell she wants, at North Star three days a week, where she can be tutored in whatever subject she chooses, read whatever she wants or her iPhone, and be entirely responsible for her life, buying her own food and paying for everything personal on a fixed budget (social security), receiving only free rent and transportation.

That really was fascist, as were many laws into the 20th century. The Bill of Rights was a dead letter in many ways. However, I think the trend has gone too far the other direction.

For thousands of years the world has been going to hell in a handbasket. The opinion here is about the same as what Mussolini expressed in what I cited in the blog post to which Jed was responding.

I do not know if smallpox vaccinations were given worldwide, but in the 1950s in the U.S. and Japan, everyone got smallpox vaccinations. See:

In the comment to which Jed was responding, I reported the fact about smallpox vaccination in
Australia and New Zealand.  Again, Jed, as appears common, is careless about “everyone.” Certainly many did. Smallpox was a terrifying disease, with high fatality rates. What those rates would be today, I don’t know, but the linked Wikipedia article estimates the fatality rate at 30% of those who contracted the disease, and it was highly contagious (hence quarantine was routine).

Jed doesn’t know, because he didn’t look at sources I cited. Again, this is a trait of popular fascism. He doesn’t need to look at sources, because he already knows the truth, which is about his conclusions, not the details of historical fact. He does not back up and become thoughtful and deliberate and careful. It’s not just about this!

The point is that smallpox was eliminated without universal vaccination. Vaccination played a major role, but it was not necessary to vaccinate everyone. The major concern about smallpox today is “weaponized smallpox.” It existed, and it is known to be possible to reproduce it. So if there was an outbreak, would everyone be vaccinated? That depends on details. Smallpox vaccination has risks, see Smallpox vaccination and adverse reactions. Guidance for clinicians.

For me, vaccination would be contraindicated, were I not already immune (I might still be) because I have had atopic dermatitis, a specific risk factor. However, it’s important to understand the role of quarantine.

The quarantine of persons who have been infected or with risk of having been infected is routine, with dangerous infectious diseases, and mandatory, and I have never seen this called “fascist,” nor would I call it that, because it is a prudent and necessary measure, preventing harm and not causing commensurate harm. It’s temporary, and modern testing may be able to limit its application.

In Australia and New Zealand, only strict quarantine was used, apparently, few were vaccinated.

In any case, such decisions must be made by medical authorities based on the best scientific information available. If they say everyone should get a vaccination, citizens should do as they are told.

That is the state propaganda in a fascist regime. In a democracy (practicing the real thing), public agencies make recommendations, and do have a range of active discretion, but citizens retain, to the extent possible, individual choice.

In a fascist state, Big Brother, who loves everyone like his own children, makes the decisions. The Father of the people. Now, how does Jed feel about the Father of the People’s decisions, through the Ministry of Energy? On cold fusion? After all, we can’t have millions of dollars being wasted on research into pseudoscience, proven long ago to be an error! Just the other day, there was this Answer on Quora. (I also answered that question. If I commented on that other answer as Jed often comments, he’d be whacked by Quora moderation — if anyone complained. I took a small risk with my comment. I do pretty well on Quora, but there are still complaints, and I’m occasionally warned. I appeal this and normally they are withdrawn.)

When the oral polio vaccine was developed, every single U.S. citizen lined and took it — as they damn should have.

A friend of mine died because his daughter was given Sabin oral vaccine. He actually developed polio where it was extremely rare and with no other source of infection (this was not a coincidence as is sometimes pretended, see Deaths following vaccination: What does the evidence show?

I am not arguing against vaccination, only noting how there is advocacy mixed with science, and that paper shows it. I agree that jumping to conclusions from isolated reports can be hazardous, but raising suspicion from isolated reports is not “unscientific.” That paper was designed to deprecate and defuse concern. Whether or not it actually accomplished that would require more study than I have put into this issue, and the vaccination issue is not a major focus of mine.

My actual stand is that parents, to the extent possible, with all issues affecting their health and that of their children, should research the issues for themselves, as far as possible, and have the necessary discussions with medical professionals. It is part of the job of professionals to educate them. When professionals take a paternalistic approach, and treat patients as ignorant children, to be told what to do, they may fail in their job, because many parents will detect the attitude and reject it, deciding instead to trust others.

Thus the stand of “issue is closed, vaccines are perfectly safe!” if argued with disrespect for alternate views, actually causes rejection and harm, even if it is true that vaccination is, overall, more beneficial than harmful (as I personally think likely.)

Fascism. long term, backfires, creating antifascism, which can also be destructive. As should be clear, here, I am not arguing against collective decision-making, only oppressive enforcement without necessity, not respecting freedom of choice.

We need to learn to work together, to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate, and that requires high levels of tolerance for dissent, that can be channeled into constructive discussion.

We cannot have individual parents making decisions that might endanger themselves, their children and other people.

It is already handled legally, when anyone creates substantial risk for others, that communities and authorities will intervene. However, “might endanger” could be carrying it too far. To justify intervention and the deprivation of freedom of choice (which includes religion and decisions about diet, for example), the risk must be substantial, not merely speculative.

Currently measles is in the news. The concern about measles vaccination was originally about MMR, measles, mumps, and rubella, measles itself being, I think, the major disease addressed by that triple-valent vaccine (it is three vaccines in one).

With modern treatment, I do not know the risk of death and serious complications from measles, it may be a bit more than one in a thousand. However, measles remains a rare disease, even with the “epidemic” being declared. In spite of recent media reports, the CDC does not consider that there is a measles epidemic in the U.S. There are much larger outbreaks in Venezuela and Brazil, a few thousand cases per year, and it looks like the fatality rate is on the order of 0.1%.

The public health goal for vaccination is given as 95%. It is not necessary to vaccinate everyone to create “herd immunity.” If there is more than 5% refusal, it is possible to consider alternative measures. I am following discussions in a heart-disease related blog, and there is sometimes mention of vaccination there, and doctors have spoken up that, faced with parental refusal to vaccinate, keep up the conversation, they respect the parents and their rights and their love for their children, but also don’t stop communicating what they know, and they report that, long-term, the parents agree and allow vaccination. That is how to handle misinformation, not by suppressing and condemning it. (And once in a while, what is considered misinformation is actually closer to the truth than mainstream opinion.)

With the risk of actually contracting measles as low as it is, well under one chance in a million if one is simply enrolled in school in the U.S., and then under a few chances in a thousand of long-term harm if infected (I had measles as a kid, big deal! — but sometimes it can be fatal, just not often), the risk to a child from not being vaccinated is well below other major and routine risks, including death from automobile accidents. Not vaccinating a child under those conditions is definitely not child abuse, whether or not it is optimal.

Whose welfare is being considered if the child is not allowed to attend school? The vaccinated ones will remain low risk. (But vaccinations are not 100% effective, another fact sometimes not mentioned). Which is a greater risk to that child, being excluded from school or allowing unvaccinated attendance? (Or, the ultimate consequence in some places of vaccination requirements, seizure of custody from parents, tossing the kid into a foster care system with major risks from that. Foster care is not a particularly safe choice, and child welfare authorities will avoid it unless it is truly necessary.

It would be like letting people install wiring without an electrician’s license, drive at any speed they like, ignore traffic signals, or give away tainted food on the streets. The whole point of having a government is prevent things like that.

I have installed wiring with no license. Perhaps you should report me to the police? I haven’t done it for years, so good luck. People do it all the time. Under some conditions, one might need to have the wiring inspected. If we did not want people to do this, why do we allow the materials to be sold to the general public? What is much more strictly regulated is people representing themselves as electricians without a license, which mostly happens because a customer complains.

I can drive at any speed I like. The basic speed law prohibits driving at a dangerous speed, which varies with conditions. I have been ticketed three or four times in Massachusetts (over 18 years) for exceeding speed limits (a different offense), and in every case, I appeared and appealed if necessary and, in every case, was found not responsible (by default, actually, the tickets were never fully prosecuted).

I was always driving at a normal speed for the stretch of road involved, and there are regulations governing how speed limits are set, that are often ignored. So many speed limit signs are illegal? Who watches the watchers? It is obvious why so many speed limits are set too low and I saw the actual communications between the town and the Highway Department for the first case. The city wanted a low limit so the engineers were drastically over-ruled with no justification given. Just a decision.

Makes it easy to “tax” out-of-town people driving through. Safety? It is well known that speed limit signs have little effect on travel speeds, so putting up a sign doesn’t make the road safer. But it means that any time the town police want, they can go out, and since nearly everyone is travelling faster than the speed limit in that place, stop whomever they like. Steady revenue. And I also talked to a neighbor who had been stopped in that same location (it was two towns to the east of mine). The officer would let you go if you showed some “affinity.” This was never prosecuted, but if I had needed to go to an appeals court, I’d have subpoenaed the town records to see how many tickets were issued to out-of-town residents. I’d bet resident speeding citations were rare.

(I considered all this fun and educational. The judge in the last dismissal joked with me, and the rapport created helped a bit, maybe, in a later case before that judge (completely unrelated, but the legal system is staffed by human beings. At least so far!)

As to giving away tainted food on the streets, this is a much fuzzier issue than it might seem. Actually tainted food, yes, obviously a problem, but free food programs have been shut down for technical issues where the real goal was to prevent feeding unwanted poor people and the homeless, considered a nuisance. No actual problem with the food. Fascist? Maybe, sometimes.

The main problem I see here is knee-jerk expression of opinion without actual research and consideration of alternate points of view. As well, demonstrated is a strange knee-jerk trust in “the authorities,” which is, in some senses, un-American.

That happens all over the place, particularly with social media, and I gave examples in the blog post.

Rothwell’s response

You wrote: “I have never heard of parental rights being terminated because of a seat belt violation.”

Neither have I. In Georgia, violators are fined $50, and the law specifies “violation of this Code section shall not constitute negligence per se nor contributory negligence per se.” What is your point?

It would appear that Jed considers parents who do not consent to vaccination to be neglectful, such that parental rights might be terminated. What did he actually write?

To take a far less extreme example,  parents in Georgia are not allowed to drive children in cars without seat belts. I think that is a reasonable law. On rare occasions, seat belts have caused casualties, but we insist that parents must use them because they save many more children than they kill. I think it is equally reasonable for the law to say no parent should be allowed keep a child from being vaccinated for common, dangerous diseases such as tetanus or polio. The benefits of these vaccinations far outweigh the dangers. Only a doctor should be authorized to exempt a child, and only for a valid medical reason.

Now, he did not recommend that rights be terminated, though that would be a logical extension of the idea. Do we “insist that parents must use [seat belts].” Not actually. Rather, we set up a possible consequence. The fine is small and a citation is not terribly likely under most circumstances where seat belts are not applied for all children. I was in a car with a woman with two children, and one of them refused to sit with his seat belt. We stopped the car and waited until he put on the belt. Some parents, though, might tell the kid he’s in trouble when they get home, particularly if they are not willing to be patient. There are two risks there: there is a small risk of injury to the child from a short period without a belt, and there is a risk of a citation, which is larger but much less serious. Parents balance risks all the time. But here we have a suggestion that the state interfere, and that the state mandate “valid medical reason,” where any doctor may reasonably fear prosecution if he or she agrees with a parent’s concern about vaccination. That’s a huge consequence. For what is arguably a very small risk. Terminally small, under most conditions. (I estimated something like one in a hundred million of a serious consequence to the child.) Not putting on a seat belt is probably a larger risk. And that is the point: from hysteria over a non-existent “measles epidemic,” fascist measures are justified.

Again, to emphasize, I am not claiming that the health risks from vaccination are major, rather I am concerned about the political risks of extending the loss of individual freedoms. There are ways to both protect the public and preserve freedom, but they are commonly passed over, and the general excuse is that the public is ignorant and does not deserve freedom, they will be deceived by quacks and charlatans and pseudoscientists and fanatics of all kinds. Jed ignores all this in favor of shallow “I’m right and you’re wrong” arguments, and the propensity for that was part of my original topic on this issue.

“That’s a sign of an attachment to a point of view.”

No, it is a sign that I know the laws, and I know how to use Google.

And this is a sign of how careless Jed is. He cites the Georgia law, over which there is no dispute, except in one way: that’s a law and enforcement of the law is distinct and can be different. Nevertheless, that law as written has many ameliorating provisions, and all this reduces the possible oppressive impact. I support that law myself. Further, fines are not automatically levied upon citation, generally, the person may appeal the citation and go before a judge, and judges may then use discretion.

My comment about attachment was in response to this:

The medical professional always informs people of the dangers of a vaccination these days. Before they inject you (or your child) they make you sign a paper with a long list of the dangers. No one is ignorant of the dangers unless he signs without reading the paper.

“It’s simply not true. It may be a norm, it may be common. I’ve been vaccinated recently against the flu. I don’t recall any clear information about dangers.”

Then your memory is faulty. It is Federal law that all patients must be given this information, and they must sign for it.

Jed thinks in black and white. If the law says that something “must be done” therefor it is “always” done. I was not talking federal law, but actual practice. Now, could my memory be faulty? Well, what I said was true. “I don’t recall.” My memory is not, then, complete, because I was not watching for a paper. What I remember is that it was all very quick. I might have signed something. I recall nothing about dangers, nothing was said about dangers, but it is entirely possible that  I considered the paper a mere formality, I had already decided to get the vaccination, trusting my doctor (who has generally recommended flu vaccination, but I’ve never had an extensive conversation with him, and flu is a clear and present danger. One of my children nearly died a few weeks ago from H1N1 flu. Now how thoroughly has this year’s vaccine been tested?

What was obviously false is “always.” My friend who died from polio contracted from his daughter’s live oral vaccine, was he informed of the risk to him? Did they even ask? I don’t know, but my sense is not, this was in the 1970s. As well, there was obviously no vigilance, he was sent home from the hospital twice, and the second time only readmitted because the taxi driver refused to take him, he was so obviously and dangerously ill.

Jed is claiming something on which he could not possibly have information (unless there is some central database verifying all consent forms for authenticity.) If millions of vaccinations are being given by pharmacist’s assistants, how many times will the assistant forget to get the consent form? It’s not that it is a crucial issue. I did obviously consent, but without actually reading the form, that I’m clear about. I have never read one such, and I have been extensively vaccinated (for adoption travel, in particular).

Ironic here is that Jed is claiming that parental consent should be irrelevant, so why is he insisting that written consent is always obtained? It’s obvious to me: Jed will drag up any fact he can to make his position seem reasonable and necessary. And that is an element in popular fascism. We saw it in what I mentioned about the argument tweeted at Sarah Wilson, when she asked about documentation on vaccine effectiveness. The answer was “smallpox,” vaccine for which was certainly effective, but it was also risky, and has been terminated as a program because the risk of being infected with smallpox has gone to very low levels, vaccination now being mostly limited to military that might be exposed to weaponized smallpox (and there is controversy over that).

Jed then brings in more irrelevancy, not on a matter actually being disputed. Nevertheless I read it.


“What’s a VIS?
A VIS or Vaccine Information Statement is a document, produced by CDC, that informs vaccine recipients – or their parents or legal representatives – about the benefits and risks of a vaccine they are receiving.

VISs are required by law
All vaccine providers, public or private, are required by the National Vaccine Childhood Injury Act (NCVIA – 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-26[2 pages]) to give the appropriate VIS to the patient (or parent or legal representative) prior to every dose of specific vaccines.

The appropriate VIS must be given prior to the vaccination, and must be given prior to each dose of a multi-dose series. It must be given regardless of the age of the recipient. See ‘Ways to give a VIS.’ . . . ”

I suggest you be a little more careful before asserting what is “simply not true.”

I have long suggested Jed be careful how he interprets what he reads, and he has long dismissed it, even when I demonstrated that he was drastically misquoting the target of his criticism.

I never denied that there is a requirement, and actually wrote  “It may be a norm, it may be common.” Something mandated by law is a “norm. ” But Jed, in his mind, equates “legally required” with “always is done.”

I sign many, many consent forms, and where I generally trust the provider of the form, that if there is really something I need to know there, they would tell me, I often don’t read it. A provider is waiting for me, and to read a long form with small print will waste their time. Yes, I could insist, but I usually don’t. What I know is that I am still protected, legally, if the provider is negligent. Those forms provide a layer of protection, but not absolute protection.

Reading that, I now remember more, because what is described on that page, a computer display being allowed, is what I do, now, recall. And it was not working properly. It was impossible to read the detailed statement on that display, which only showed maybe two short lines at a time, so I skipped it. Was I properly informed? Questions like that make lawyers rich. It could be argued either way.

And is that VIS accurate? The current VIS are here.

Are these balanced? Are possible controversies explained neutrally? I did read the statement for the flu vaccine I took. It can cause some serious problems, but only rarely, the VIS claims. I am personally in a higher-risk group as to possible harm from flu. If I were more seriously concerned here, I would read the antivax material on the VIS, I’m pretty sure there are likely to be criticisms. But I’m not. I might talk with my children about this, there are still two young grandchildren.

And what all this boils down to is “Do we trust the government?” As a state is fascist or devolves toward fascism, trust becomes mandatory, it is no longer voluntary, if it ever was.

Government, in my view, can be trusted only to the extent that the public is vigilant and collectively identifies and challenges governmental excess and error. Institutions that form to do that are themselves subject to fascist tendencies. There is really no substitute for an informed public.

The public need not be informed on everything, it is enough if some serve and report and warn. When those who criticize the government or “false consensus” are rejected ipso facto, as “fringe,” say, we have popular fascism.

Personally, I generally trust the U.S. government, but not without exception, and provided that criticism of the government is not suppressed. Hence I am quite concerned about the situation with Andrew Wakefield  (warning-Wikipedia article, likely to be a battleground, not necessarily reliable), not because I believe he was right, but because, quite simply, it’s worrisome. Many published papers, in hindsight, have drawn unwarranted conclusions, but punishment for that is rare, only deliberate fraud is commonly sanctioned, and this is because science requires freedom of speech, which must includes the freedom to be “wrong” by some standard or other.  The issues are complex and I do not consider myself adequately informed to come to final conclusions, but I can see the operation of popular — and governmental — fascism. “Fascism” is not a problem because it is necessarily wrong. It is generally harmful because it suppresses the freedom that allows full consideration of every issue to proceed in depth.

(And anti-vaxxers can be just as fascist, or even more so.)

Democratic fascism

Democratic fascism? Is that an oxymoron?

No. Fascism, here, I am giving the broadest definition. See the blog post, The core of fascism. The core of fascism, as I am coming to see it, is a collective conviction combined with intolerance of divergent views, opinion, or even states of being, resulting in suppression of the unpopular.

Obviously, some expression of opinion is literally dangerous, causing immediate and present danger. Key to fascist suppression, as distinct from mere protection from immediate harm, is that it occurs in the absence of an immediate and clear harm, at best a remote risk, sometimes not even existent, only imagined.

Some opinions are toxic, no doubt, but suppressing them does not change them, it drives them underground, which can then generate far-reaching effects, and continued suppression drives a state toward stronger and stronger suppressive measures, with some elements, and sometimes the state itself, resorting to violence.

I started to address this topic because my work with cold fusion led me into conflict with a suppressive faction. Nominally, this faction supports scientific skepticism, but, there has long been a problem, noted by some of the founders and early supporters of the Committee for Scientific Inquiry into Claims of the Paranormal, that skepticism can fall into “debunking,” which then easily becomes an ad-hominem attack on “kooks, cranks, quacks, pseudoscientists, etc.” and various opinions (and even eyewitness reports and scientific papers) become identified with this and are dismissed without any need to consider evidence. In other words, scientific investigation has been lost in the noise.

This is what Truzzi, one of those founders, called “pseudoskepticism.” I define that as skepticism that forgets to be skeptical of one’s own opinions, or what is viewed as popular, or what the pseudoskeptical faction on Wikipedia calls the “Scientific Point of View,” to distinguish it from what is supposedly policy there, NPOV, or Neutral Point of View (which is journalistic and academic, and, in fact, scientific).

Because I have an interest in health (and specifically my own health!), and because I was attacked on RationalWiki for my work — the attack article started there, long story, introduces me as “an American conspiracy theorist who is best known as proponent of pseudoscientific cold fusion,” I began to return to this study (I had done some research years ago to decide how to address my own cholesterol levels and weight gain).

“Conspiracy theorist” is a straight-out lie. The alleged conspiracy theory is what was called there the “RationalWiki Smith brothers conspiracy theory,” which, by the way, it is forbidden to describe on RationalWiki, it would corrupt the children. This is not merely a theory, it is demonstrated fact, with voluminous evidence, including direct admissions from one “Smith brother” (Oliver D. Smith), admissions from Oliver as to his brother, and much less direct evidence, but still overwhelming, about the other brother, Darryl L. Smith, who wrote that article. Whenever that “conspiracy theory” has been described, it has been as a straw man, not what I have actually written about.

Notice “pseudoscientific cold fusion.” On what basis is “cold fusion” called “pseudoscientific,” or is there a pseudoscientific form of cold fusion?

Cold fusion is the popular name for a set of effects first clearly noticed and announced in 1989. The effect (most notably anomalous heat) was difficult to reproduce, and there were many failures, but eventually, there were many confirmations, and, as well,it was reported that helium was being generated proportional to the heat, and that is widely confirmed. This leads to a hypothesis, that the heat is generated by the conversion of deuterium to helium, which is verifiable. This is, absolutely, “scientific,” and it is being investigated scientifically, as I suggested in my Current Science paper (2015), funded with a $6 million grant. So, by calling this “pseudoscientific,” they are not skeptical, they are in willful disregard of reality, and because all this has been pointed out, and they persist, liars.

And the same person is now going after fringe opinion in medicine and health. As an example of “medical fascism,” I have seen opinions that “statin skeptics,” those who question the usefulness of the massive prescription of statins — it is coming up on almost everyone — are “murderers,” on the idea that if statins reduce death from heart attack, and people refuse statins because of what is called “denialism,” then some people will die that might otherwise live.

For how long would they otherwise live? What is the reduction in overall death rate from taking statins? As I was prescribed a statin and I am not taking it, what is my increased risk? What are the risks of taking statins? Are there any? How do I balance these? And how solid is the research on which all this is based? Has it been influenced by funding from drug companies, which have billions of dollars in revenue at stake? Has public discussion been thorough and balanced?

I’ve been investigating these, and a connection with cold fusion is that the author of Bad Science (the best early history — though strongly skeptical — of the Fleischmann-Pons fiasco — called the “Scientific Fiasco of the Century by Huizenga), Gary Taubes, went on from “bad science” in this field to even worse in the scientific investigation of diet and then obesity and associated health issues, and is being attacked by exactly the same people.

Scientific fascism. Dismissal by popular opinion, with whatever contradicts common views being attacked as pseudoscientific or worse. Evidence be damned.

What was originally adopted (recommendations about reducing fat and cholesterol in the diet) based on what seemed like strong indications, knowing that this was not conclusive, but merely indicative, on the argument that delay could cost millions of lives, became an unassailable dogma. Pieces of it were quickly shown to be incorrect, but the “fat hypothesis” and the associated “cholesterol hypothesis” as the cause of heart disease,” simply was patched, ad hoc, and sailed on undisturbed, even if it is entirely possible that the recommendations issued caused millions of premature deaths.

On subpages here, I will look at examples and discussions of medical fascism.

A common example is “vaccine denialism.” There is no doubt in my mind as to vaccination, in general, having saved millions of lives. However, there are also complications. How common are they? How thorough is monitoring for them? Are there alternatives to vaccination for the control of disease? Should parents be allowed to exempt their children from vaccination?

The issues raised cut to the core of the boundary between collective welfare and protection and fascism. Where is that boundary? How can we decide? When suppression is or becomes fascist, it becomes impossible to have the kind of clear discussion and debate that is essential to deliberative democracy, and a democracy, to that extent, descends into popular fascism (or governmental fascism, with the government enforcing what is popular.)

Democratic fascism.


Rothwell. Begun with a discussion between me (Abd) and Jed Rothwell, a long-term cold fusion activist, who supports mandatory vaccination and would prohibit home schooling (which are related topics).


Sara Wilson as a target of medical fascism

Warning: in this review, I cover claims made that Sara Wilson (Wikipedia) had promoted anti-vaccination propaganda. These were false, she supports vaccination and only explained what anti-vaccination parents, in the context under discussion, might say or think, claimed ignorance, and then asked about evidence. She did not realize, apparently, that this was a Forbidden Topic.

To avoid a repetition of this unfortunate incident, a Ministry of Truth should be established, to publish a Journal of Correct Fact, and all public figures should be required to become familiar with its contents, so that they do not accidentally question the Correctness of any Fact covered there. Once fact is published there, any researcher who hints that a Correct Fact might be flawed in some way may then be appropriately and fairly discredited and professionally excommunicated, having willfully or negligently disregarded the norms of civilized behavior, and any public figure who violates the norms can be blacklisted, excluded from public appearances, and his or her work burned, to protect the innocent from corruption by error. Think of the children!

I sometimes look over Wikipedia:FTN (Fringe theories noticeboard), because activity of the Smith brothers sometimes shows up there and because the faction that has, from time to time, supported the Smiths is active there. So I saw this:

Sarah Wilson and vaccination

On 12 March I received a rather disquieting tweet from the subject of this article. The exchange can be seen here. This gained me a number of new twitter followers who seemed to approve of Wilson’s tweet (“go get him!”).

I have copied the tweets here. His presentation on FTN is not clearly supported by the exchange itself, which demonstrates classic Wikipedian belief in lack of personal responsibility. 

Our article is still pretty dire and the content in question possibly undue anyway – but Wilson seems very keen for our article to carry material countering press reports about anti-vaccination comments she made. To my mind the heavy use of her own blog to this end is unduly self-serving. Having been warned-off, I shall leave the content question to others.

I notice immediately that he assumes she made “anti-vaccination comments,” when that is the whole point (she didn’t, as we will see below).

As a “PS” I received a further tweet saying “a Group of media academics and I have been attending to the article repeatedly To update the information”[25] which piqued my interest. Whatever the state of the article, it cannot be right for article content to be decided by coordinating WP:MEAT and twitter. No WP:COI disclosures have been made. I notice in recent times the accounts Writingtask and Fransplace seem to have focused on the content Wilson is complaining about.

This is the standard Wikipedia trope. For people to discuss and communicate about WP content off-wiki is somehow bad and wrong, but to do so on a page heavily weighted toward the “skeptical” faction, and where contrary positions are quite unwelcome, is just fine. The bias introduced by “sceptics,” as Alex Brown identifies himself, is really a “scientific point of view,” but what is at stake is not science, but people and personalities and impressions. Editors make choices, and decisions are made by those with community savvy and clout, with the pretense that it is “the community,” when the community is mostly unaware, and every attempt to create structure that would generate true consensus was killed, stomped on, salted, and anyone proposing reform was harassed off the wiki.

For Brown to back off, fine. But he had to invite his friends to take over? Why is this on FTN? There is no clear involvement with fringe theory here, rather this is all about politics and appearances. The issue of whether or not Sarah Wilson made an “anti-vaccination” comment is not a fringe theory. She did or she didn’t, or it is a matter of interpretation, and is careful journalism practiced on Wikipedia?

It should be, but often it is not, and “anti-vaxx” is heavily attacked by the so-called skeptical faction, even though anti-vaxx is a skeptical position. But the “wrong kind” of skepticism, allegedly. Think of the children!

This may need to go to another noticeboard, but thoughts welcome – this reminds me of a couple of incidents in the past years where there have been issues with decisions about fringe content/BLP being taken off-wiki rather than thrashed-out transparently here. Alexbrn (talk) 08:17, 19 March 2019 (UTC)

In a real encyclopedia, there will be a great deal of unpublished discussion. What would matter would be documentation of decisions. Attempts to discuss issues thoroughly on-wiki are often deprecated, and turn talk pages into train wrecks. It appears to be Just Fine for skeptics to coordinate on other than article talk pages — that is this whole noticeboard! — but not anyone else.

Okay, let’s look at what Brown had been doing:

The article was stable for a long time. It was edited by highly reputable editors, DGG, May  2015, adding a “reads like a press release” tag, and by Iridescent, September, 2015, with minor fixes. Before Brown edited it, it contained this section:

On 11 April 2013, Sarah Wilson was heavily criticized for her statements supporting the anti-vaccination movement while a guest on the morning variety show Sunrise. Claims made included suggesting that there was lack of evidence for efficacy and safety of vaccinations. These claims are despite the fact she had no medical or health qualifications at the time. She was quoted as saying ‘What they say is that the gold standard studies, right, that are done to really absolutely conclusively prove things, the double-blind placebo cross something or other tests have not been done and it’s almost impossible to do that on human beings, especially children.’ This was in reference to double-blind randomised controlled trials, of which many are available online.[8]

The source for this was a breathless report by a social media columnist for (a web news source, not a newspaper), APRIL 11, 2013

Sarah Wilson creates controversy after she appears to back anti-vaccine movement
FORMER MasterChef host Sarah Wilson sparks outrage when she appears to tell Sunrise viewers that not all child immunisations are safe.

FORMER MasterChef host Sarah Wilson has caused widespread outrage after a television appearance this morning in which she appeared to advocate the anti-vaccination movement.

Speaking on Channel 7’s Sunrise program about today’s news that immunisation rates are dropping in Australia’s wealthiest suburbs, the author and TV personality claimed research about the safety and efficacy of vaccines was “not conclusive”.

“I’m not going to take a stance on this myself because I don’t know fully but the research is not conclusive,” she said, to vocal opposition from host David Koch and other panellists Kylie Gillies and Daily Telegraph reporter Caroline Marcus.

When challenged by a clearly shocked Koch, Wilson cited claims by the anti-vaccination movement that “the double-blind placebo cross something or other tests” had not been done to prove the safety of immunisation.

“I’m just putting it from the perspective of the anti-vaccination movement’s perspective,” she said.

“What they say is that the gold standard studies, right, that are done to really absolutely conclusively prove things, the double-blind placebo cross something or other tests have not been done and it’s almost impossible to do that on human beings, especially children.”

Wilson also claimed that wealthy parents were less likely to vaccinate their children because “they tend to be older and I guess more educated”.

“They tend to engage in some of the debates a bit more deeply, as a result they weigh up all the different research and so on,” she said.

Wilson’s remarks quickly caused a social media storm, with the author this morning hitting back at hundreds of Twitter users flooding her with angry messages.

“Just to remind irate @sunriseon7 viewers going me, I was asked for the arguments anti-vaccine parents cite NOT my personal views,” she tweeted.

Wilson later tweeted: “OK, once more with balance: I WAS ASKED ‘WHY ARE SOME PARENTS NOT VAXING’. NOT ‘ARE YOU ANTI-VAX’. I outlined the argts OTHERS put forward.”

However many following the debate were unimpressed, labelling her irresponsible and misinformed.

“Not impressed, Sarah Wilson. It’s not unbiased to offer crazy opinions as the other side of the coin, just irresponsible,” tweeted one user, while another branded her “ridiculous and irresponsible”.

Earlier, Wilson had seemingly continued to push the anti-vaccination argument with a tweet reading: “Can someone cite a double blind crossover placebo study proving vaccines work?”

“Eradication of Smallpox pretty compelling, ” was one user’s reply.

That story is itself outrageous. The columnist picks what comments to note, and in a tweetstorm, it would be unusual for someone to not excoriate the person. What was the overall tenor? This was all the same day, where did this settle? Wilson is definitely not an antivax advocate, she would not have said what she said as she said it if she were. Essentially, she asked forbidden questions, not realizing just how fascist the issue had become. (Fascist here refers to the suppression of dissent, even raising questions that can be seen as challenging the TRUTH is prohibited, and will be immediately attacked).

As I pointed out in a post yesterday, both sides of this issue can be fascist, condemning those who differ as beyond the pale, murderers, to be harassed and rejected. All sides (as extremes) exaggerate the evidence that favors their position, and deny that there is any evidence at all in the other direction. This is “populist fascism” which can even be “democratic,” where the rights of minorities and minority opinion are not strictly protected. Deliberative democracy (the kind that is superior to autocracy and mob rule) requires civility in discourse, and maintaining this is difficult. If it is lost, however, Athens democratically condemned Socrates to death for asking inconvenient questions, “corrupting the youth,” and the ultimate result was the defeat of Athens.

Wilson did not ask the question correctly. The issue is not necessarily all vaccines, and those critical of vaccination practices vary. In particular, the poster boy for anti-vax “murderer,” Alexander Wakefield (caution! Wikipedia article!) was not “anti-vaccine,” only questioning the specific triple-vaccine, MMR.

Rather, Wilson was asking about the gold standard for medical evidence, double-blind placebo controlled studies. As well, whenever a treatment is applied routinely to a very large population without symptoms, as a preventative measure, there is the possibility of unforeseen effects, so even if the assessment that the benefit outweighs risks — even greatly outweighs them, overall — is there careful monitoring of vaccinated populations? I have read very little antivax argument, but what little I have seen raises issues like that. Further, there can be religious issues.

A refusal to vaccinate does not generally place a child at high risk (unless there is a raging epidemic! — contrary to what some might think, measles is still very rare). Interfering in the parental relationship can cause great harm; if refusal to vaccinate leads to termination of parental rights, that is a definite harm — unless there is other abuse — it can even lead to fatalities — against a speculative risk, small in comparison with ordinary risks of childhood.

The response of that tweeter, about smallpox, avoided the issue in favor of a one-liner. While some antivax activists may be extreme, smallpox vaccination clearly eliminated smallpox, a far more serious disease than measles, from the planet. It is now only administered in situations of special risk.

To eliminate smallpox, it was not necessary to vaccinate everyone. In some areas, strict quarantine and distance eliminated smallpox (Australia and New Zealand never vaccinated widely).

Now, back to the Wikipedia article on Wilson. It’s a good example of exaggerating what is in a source, and using synthesis to add more, typically from the point of view of the editor.

“heavily criticized for her statements supporting the anti-vaccination movement ” She did not make statements supporting the movement. The source has “appears to back.” The qualification is lost in the Wikipedia restatement. While Wilson was not careful in her wording, to be sure, this was a relatively casual conversation, certainly not a carefully prepared position statement. (The original conversation is shown in a video with the post.)

The article includes Wilson’s denial that she intended to support the antivax movement. The Wikipedia article did not. The Wikipedia article confuses Wilson’s reporting of what vaccine skeptics claim, with what Wilson herself claimed (which was actually “I’m not going to take a stance on this myself because I don’t know fully . . .”

What she said (the complete statement) was ignored in favor of the reaction to part of it. If her goal was to avoid controversy, though, she was unskillful in asking the question about studies. I don’t think that she fully realized, then, that even asking a question like that, even though it would be normal curiosity, will appear to pro-vax activists as “supporting antivax.”

“These claims are despite the fact she had no medical or health qualifications at the time.” This is not in the source. The expression of opinion like that is common in Wikipedia articles on fringe topics. A journalist doesn’t need qualifications to present the arguments of others, if those arguments are actually presented (and they are). The Wikipedia text creates an impression contrary to the facts as shown by the source and the video itself, where we can see an immediate and horrified response that simply denies the speculative argument of the parents without addressing the scientific issues. Wilson has presented a heretical argument without immediately condemning it, and was treated as if a heretic, with almost religious fervor.

(My interest here is fascism, not the truth of this or that position. A long-term interest is information cascades, especially where they involve allegations of scientific fact, that are actually social phenonmena where the process of science has been short-circuited, commonly for political reasons. It happens.)

(It is certainly possible to go ahead with public health measures in advance of final, definitive conclusions, but the problem arises when the scientific controversy is then suppressed in order to support the policies, instead of questions remaining open. And with medicine, it all gets complicated by major financial interests, affecting funding, lobbies, and reputations.)

“This was in reference to double-blind randomised controlled trials, of which many are available online.” This is also synthesis, not supported by the source. (The first part is clearly correct. The second may or may not be correct, and there is also the issue of scale. Wilson claimed that one cannot do placebo-controlled trials with children, and it is true that there are ethical issues, but it is also true that unless exposure is high, the risk from administering a placebo is low (i.e, the person is not protected, we think, by the placebo, but that is also a small risk in a mostly-vaccinated population) might also avoid a side effect. It might take special legislation to allow it. It is also possible that antivax parents might agree to participate, in the interests of value to humanity, taking a very small risk with their children. But her point was correct in that this cannot be simply done. Some compromise might be possible, especially as the risk becomes very low from herd immunity.

Bottom line, though, this paragraph violated policies, in a way that harmed Wilson.

So what happened?

Brown showed up and removed material from the article, not touching that problematic paragraph.

This was proper or within discretion, but had not been done before, because what was removed was factual but inadequately sourced. (Is Smart Company Reliable Source? Maybe.) Often editors will postpone removing such. “Fringe” was gratuitous and irrelevant. The pseudoskeptical faction still seems to think the idea of removing sugar from diet is “fringe.” Reducing it, even greatly, is practically mainstream now, if one pays attention.

Writingtask made a number of changes to the article. This is not an SPA, but also not an experienced Wikipedian. The account goes back to 2013, and only focused on the Wilson article in November and December, 2018. Alexbrn did, correctly, ping this user over his mention on FTN. The user has not edited Wikipedia at all, however, since March 17. (Pseudoskeptical activists like Brown drive away ordinary users.)

Alexbrn reverted almost everything done by Writingtask, with little explanations and hostile comments. It appears that Writingtask initially spent about two hours adding to the article, with sources (though possibly inadequate), and Alexbrn may have taken a minute to revert it (he allowed a miniscule change the first edit of Writingtask): Reverted to revision 866889202 by Writingtask (talk): Spammy/promotional. (TW). Using Twinkle may have taken him a minute. In all this (and to this day), the Talk page has not been used. After removing material that had long been there about Wilson’s “activism,” he then edited the title of that section.

His “better title”? Exaggerate the error! Anti-vaccine stance

Then he removed a harmless bit of unsourced bio, and failed to notice a blatant typo in the same paragraph, four words before. Writingtask attempted to correct the title shift, 3 but minutes after WT saved, Brown reverted.

21:14, 29 November 2018  (Reverted to revision 870670178 by Rv. undue/illitrate. (TW))

Is this a parody of a Wikipedia editor? That edit reason makes no sense at all, besides the ironic mispelling.

Is it any wonder that Wilson believed Brown was pushing a personal point of view?

At this point, Alex has gone way into abusive editing. Writingtask is a noob, in effect, does not understand how Wikipedia works, but Alexbrn is demonstrating what is far too often wrong with Wikipedia: editors who believe they own the place and can do no wrong. With WT’s edit, Brown would now know,i f he is paying any attention, that the title and section are misleading. (But he may not even have read that.)

An author’s blog can be used for the author’s own position, with consensus. However, unless there are more sources on “vaccine stance,” the whole affair is of very marginal notability, it could be entirely removed. As it is, it was hostile synthesis, made worse by Brown’s title.

A Wikipedia trope is “Verifiability, not truth,” but experienced editors will strive for both. Placing something flat wrong in an article without clear attribution and with lack of caution about truth is abusive and will confuse the general public.

Writingtask was not competent, did not realize what was happening (few will in that context), and added an additional weak source criticizing Wilson, perhaps trying to compromise and perhaps because that source does acknowledge that Wilson claims to not be antivax. But it was a blatantly personal blog, a writer criticizing Wilson because she criticized the writer. There is no authority behind it, it blatantly misinterprets what Wilson actually said. It has “She pretty well said on national television that anyone who did vaccinate was uneducated and did not engage in the debate.”

Sarah Wilson very much did not say that. The discussion was of wealthy parents not vaccinating, and she speculated about wealthier parents perhaps having done more research and being more aware of negative arguments. She was not claiming they were correct, and she said nothing about anyone being uneducated. She was asked why those parents might think as they do, if it is even true that vaccination rates are lower among the wealthy. So when Brown took out the comment from Sarah, which Writingtask had sourced to her blog, he left in the blog reference, but took out what was apparently sourced from it, but that text was also in the original source, above. Brown was insisting on what amounts to cherry-picking the original source, and maintaining synthesis beyond it.

Writingtask gave up, did not edit on the topic after December 2.

Fransplace  (an experienced editor) corrected the section, 04:45, 19 March 2019, putting it all together.  The edit summary: (The Anti-vaccination paragraph was previously biased and seemed to omit any contrary viewpoints. Though Sarah Wilson’s blog was cited in that previous version, her comments were not included in the information in that earlier version of the paragraph.)

That obviously triggered Brown’s comments on FTN at 08:17, 19 March 2019. He then notified Fransplace at 8:19 and Writingtask at 8:20, of the FTN post. (Asking Fransplace “Do you have a WP:COI to declare for this article?”)

Teratix, later that day, trimmed the section greatly and changed the title to Vaccination comments

Fransplace responded to Brown:

Hi Alexbrn. Thank you for your message. I don’t have a WP:COI in relation to this page. I don’t know Sarah Wilson. I added information after reading about this issue from blog entries and I believe my changes/additions did not seek to present information in a biased way (I tried to write only about what had been published “according to…” etc) or promote the living person. Teratix ₵ trimmed back my additions which must have been too wordy. Thank you for adding a link that leads to the Twitter exchanges. I didn’t see them before and see your point entirely. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Fransplace (talk • contribs) 06:38, 20 March 2019 (UTC)

So where did Fransplace (who is Australian) find out about the issue? This user is an academic, and a very experienced Wikipedian, see the User page. Alexbrn was outclassed and up a creek without a paddle. The problem is that people like Alexbrn get away with this far too often. Writingtask was driven away, instead of being helped. There used to be users who would notice things like that and intervene. They burned out or were blocked for being inconvenient.

I could not find a blog mention. But Sarah was told about the issue by “academics,” and it was an Australian academic who fixed it. Any one of them might have an obscure blog. Or Fransplace did not disclose the reality. One does not develop a COI merely by knowing someone, for example. Much less by knowing a friend of the person.

Alexbrn simply could not understand that he had created a strong impression of bias from his behavior. However, he did back off. If he had not, he might have discovered the water getting very hot indeed. Or not. What I saw demonstrated there was incompetence combined with a certain ready and quick incivility. It’s a very old story, I was vastly relieved when I was banned from Wikipedia in 2011 because I no longer had any obligation or responsibility to help. Compared to writing elsewhere, editing Wikipedia can be like slogging through molasses. Only dirty, stinky molasses. Maybe mole-asses or the product of them.


There was no serious problem on the Sarah Wilson article except for his revert-warring there. Brown is back on FTN again, with a similar issue (i.e., not a mature dispute for a noticeboard).

Carlton Fredericks

IP editor is objecting to use of QuackWatch to source the fact that this health-guru of yesteryear was a heavy smoker. Could use eyes. Alexbrn (talk) 10:22, 29 March 2019 (UTC)

Yes, Brown is revert-warring with an IP. He claims that the undiscussed change should be taken to talk, but does not take it there, merely revert-wars. This is a classic issue for pseudoskeptics. QuackWatch is clearly an advocacy site with a heavy slant. The Wikipedia article on Quackwatch is entirely laudatory, not a breath of criticism, even though it certainly exists. The contrast with articles on targets of the pseudoskeptics is dramatic, where anything negative, often poorly sourced, will be dredged up.

The problem with the Fredericks article is revert warring, and Brown is violating WP:3RR (as is the IP). So instead of going to the normal Administrators Noticeboardf/Incidents, he goes to FTN, where “QuackWatch” is a dog whistle to his friends.

Going to any noticeboard without attempting to discuss difference on Talk is itself disruptive. I’m seeing a pattern here with Brown.

Looking at the Carlton Fredericks article, I see immediately that it was heavily edited by Vanisheduser3334743743i43i434. This is the user who worked for most of his apparently short Wikipedia career as Skeptic from Britain (see my page) and then briefly as MatthewManchester1994. One of his last acts was a comment in a deletion discussion. About him, there, Jimbo Wales said he was “a serial namechanger and POV pusher who left the project.” (my conclusion, after over a year of study of the issue, is that SfB was Darryl L. Smith, blocked as Goblin Face, and one of the two brothers who are the Anglo Pyramidologist sock family.)

In fact, there is an entire faction of POV pushers like this, and they cooperate and collaborate, and it has long been tolerated.

(Activity on RationalWiki continued as John66, following the same agenda, plus he creates many sock puppets, often blaming them on me.)

Quackwatch is clearly an advocacy site, not neutral journalism. In this case, the statement about smoking is a throwaway comment at the end of a piece by Barrett. We have no idea how Barrett knows this. What that does is demonstrate the shallow and shoddy writing, aimed at whatever will make a target look bad. Kind of like RationalWiki and what the pseudoskeptical faction pushes Wikipedia articles toward. However, RatWiki has a better article on QuackWatch than Wikipedia. But nobody mentions the actual lawsuit where QuackWatch probably lost, but we don’t know exactly, because they settled. The organization behind QuackWatch disappeared, it is an “unincorporated association of people,” as distinct from ducks, presumably.

I don’t see how such could be Reliable Source for Wikipedia purposes. However, it is possible that it could be used with attribution, i.e, “According to QuackWatch, writing many years after Fredericks died, he was a heavy smoker.”

Does “heavy” mean he was fat, or that he smoked a lot of cigarettes. Or cigars, perhaps. big fat cigars. Fredericks died, which proved that his health ideas were wrong, right? People with the “correct scientific thinking” don’t die, only those who are or who follow quacks die. With rare exceptions, of course.

(Material from a hostile source, or a source with an axe to grind (in either direction, not fully independent) should never be used without attribution. Brown wants to continue to use QuackWatch as a source for fact, and, on FTN, calls the smoking claim a “fact”. Is it? How does he know that? The fact is that Barrett wrote it. It may or may not be a fact that Fredericks was a “heavy smoker.” This may be a rumor Barrett heard that he repeated. It may have been true at one time, but no longer true later. There is no connection between the smoking and the death, only a weak inference. Fredericks died at 76, a respectable life span. The New York Times has an actual journalistic obituary, giving fact about some of the controversies in Fredericks’ life. )

Meanwhile, another IP editor appeared to revert the IP objecting, That is Telephonica O2, I strongly suspect this could be Darryl Smith/John66/Skeptic from Britain. All over whether this guy was a “heavy smoker” or not (from a time when it was much more common.) (But this could also geolocate with Brown.)

Continuing to watch this, Brown, as is common for editors like this, instead of attempting to negotiate consensus on the article talk page, which still remains unused — and that material from QuackWatch has never been discussed other than in edit summaries — went to WP:RFPP to request page protection, to stop the IP editing. It’s worth looking at the time sequence here.

Carlton Fredericks (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logsTemporary extended confirmed: Persistent disruptive editing – Continued removed of content by IP. Alexbrn (talk) 06:39, 30 March 2019 (UTC)

This seems to be a dispute regarding the reliability of QuackWatch, specifically this, as a source of biographical information. Samsara 07:36, 30 March 2019 (UTC)

 Already protected by administrator CambridgeBayWeatherSamsara 19:41, 30 March 2019 (UTC)

Now, this is interesting. Both Samsara and CambridgeBayWeather are long-time administrators. Both would be very familiar with basic adminstrative policy: administrators do not combine making content decisions with using admin tools. In this case, there was revert warring between the RFPP compainant, Brown, and an IP editor. Brown had said that the issue should be taken to Talk, but did not take it there, instead, kept reverting, then went to WP:FTN and then to WP:RFPP. Over a claim that Carlton Fredericks was a “heavy smoker,” combined with a statement of his death from a heart attack (creating an appearance of causation, which is exactly what might be expected of an advocacy site like QuackWatch.) It is not at all clear that notability of the alleged fact has been established.

However, there would have been an obvious compromise, which is what is recommended for advocacy sites that are also considered to have a level of reliability, attributing the reference. That was not done.

Instead, CambridgeBayWeather, reverted the IP and protected the page into his preferred version. I have seen sysops have their tools removed for actions like that, but I have also seen them get away with it for years, and to confront one is to risk one’s account. Even if one “wins.”

Samsara knows this policy and referred to it early in the day.

I had to fix a claim that wasn’t supported by the source, so might be better if someone else examines this for protection. Samsara 07:34, 30 March 2019 (UTC)

On Carleton Fredericks:

Okay, the admin had the right to do that. However, I’d worry about the use of Twinkle by both CBW and Brown. That tool is designed to simplify the handling of vandalism, and this was not vandalism. But then CBW went further, and notice that this was done within a matter of seconds:

One or the other, not both! (Were this clear vandalism, one might argue for both, but it was not. Samsara recognized the issue.) It has been a fairly common one. Researching the issue of the use of Quackwatch, it has been recommend that it can be used with care, and attribution has been suggested. This is generally true for advocacy sites, but where editors agree with the advocated position, it is often ignored. “According to QuackWatch, Carlton Fredericks was a heavy smoker.” That is simply a fact. One could still argue about the notability. Lots of historical figures were heavy smokers and it is not in the biographies.

Wikipedia is unreliable because there is no reliable editorial process, just a process that sort-of works, and was cheap. It is essentially a social media site with no responsible editorial oversight. But sometimes there is! The whole process is phenomenally inefficient, and measures that would increase efficiency while improving reliability (those actually go together) have been fought tooth and claw.

In any case, the IP did not simply go away. Did they expect this user would?

On User talk:CambridgeBayWeather

Carlton Fredericks Website

You have protected the Carlton Fredericks page from edits at the request of the author.

The page relies for sourcing on a self-published, non-neutral source, is the website of Stephen Barrett, and the article is by Stephen Barrett. Wikipedia’s criteria for credible sources provides, “self-published media are largely not acceptable.” The site is also an advocacy site. It is a non-neutral source, which produces negative articles about individuals deemed by the website owner to be “quacks.”

The page also repeats, verbatim, material from this source without quotations, a violation of Wikipeda’s antiplagiarism policy. The sentence “A heavy smoker, he died of a heart attack at the age of 76.” is a quote from As written, the article suggests Fredericks died from complications due to smoking. In the context of the negative article, this sentence is offered to further discredit Fredericks’ claims about health. No support is offered for this claim.

The article was edited to remove the smoking reference (unsourced and nonneutral) and to remove the citation to Quackwatch (a non-neutral, self-published source). (The edit also had the advantage of eliminating the page author’s plagiarism.) An explanation of the edit was provided when it was made.

The author of the page persistently reversed the edits, without reason or support. To avoid Wikipedia’s ban on edit warring, he switched from his logged in account to editing as IP and continued to reverse the edit. He then reversed the edit again and appealed to you to protect the page.

Please explain why you are preventing a correction of page that would bring it into compliance with Wikipedia’s policies. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

As is common with the inexperienced, this IP was confused in his or her language. The person is clearly referring to Alexbrn (Brown), as the “author,” because of “persistently” reversing the edits. Alexbrn was clearly revert warring. Then the claim is made that Alexbrn edited as IP. That is possible, but probably unlikely. That IP matches a user who might be expected to support Brown’s position, though it could be Brown, I have not researched his location. I doubt he would take the chance, just for those few words.

You can note that is run though an advisory board of experts, so hardly WP:SPS. – Ahunt (talk) 15:49, 30 March 2019 (UTC)

Misleading. That QW Fredericks article was old, last revised 2012, and Barrett apparently changed the organizational structure after that, facing legal issues (settled in 2017). It is unclear what role the advisory board plays, it may be little more than a rubber stamp for Barrett, but the core issue, not actually disputed, is that QuackWatch is an advocacy site, with a point of view and a bias against anything not mainstream.

The ownership of the site is unclear. Donations are solicited and are sent directly to Barrett.  However, the site is clear: “Operated by Stephen Barrett, M.D.”

(Barrett is a retired psychiatrist, not currently licensed to practice medicine, if I’m correct.)

This site is most reasonably considered self-published, so the IP is correct on that account.

Please see the definition of “self-published.” Also, please explain the basis for the claim that an advisory board exists, that it is expert, and that it has reviewed this article. Finally, please explain why you believe this article to be neutral. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:08, 30 March 2019 (UTC)

Well IP I most certainly did not protect the page based on a request from Stephen Barrett. Are you making a claim that Barrett is editing as Alexbrn and as IP If you think that is the case you need to go to Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations or stop making silly claims. Quackwatch has been found to be reliable for certain things and Ahunt is not suggesting that it/they have reviewed the Carlton Fredericks page. Wikipedia does not have outside organisations review pages. I protected the page due to the Wikipedia:Edit warring that was occurring. Finally, you are at the wrong page. If you think the material should not be included then go to Talk:Carlton Fredericks. CambridgeBayWeather, Uqaqtuq (talk), Sunasuttuq 20:54, 30 March 2019 (UTC)

Is CBW really this clueless? Maybe. He seems to have no idea what the dispute is about. He protected the page because of edit warring. Okay, who was warned for edit warring? Not the IPs and not Brown. He reverted material back in. He does not seem to be aware of what the dispute was about. That would have taken reading the edit summaries of the IP complaining.

However, going to Talk would have been the way to go. The relevant material has never been discussed, the Talk page was not used. However, knowing the history of the faction that Brown devotes most of his editing to, I would not encourage the IP to put in much effort. You can spend months to get a change of a few words. Time might be better spent to create independent resources on Carlton Fredericks, if one cares about him. Might be an interesting person, certainly knew some interesting persons.

I have not socked on Wikipedia since 2011 (it’s all described on another page). When I see crap like this, it’s very tempting! Fascist administration creates disruption, once the oppressed realize that the banhammer is made of air and does not actually inflict pain — unless one really cares about the encyclopedia, and the growth and development of fascist administration burned out many, many who did care. I was one, and I worked for a neutral project that would seek genuine consensus. It was not wanted and while there were many who liked my ideas (including one who was elected to ArbComm), there was no reliable protection of whistleblowers. Just of administrators, “valuable volunteers.”

(The one elected to ArbComm resigned because of real-world, in-his-face threats to his family. So much for reform. Most Wikipedians have no idea how ugly it can be, under the surface.)

Do I care if Fredericks smoked or not? Does anyone really care? Yet when one becomes addicted to Wikipedia, it all can seem Very Important.

Alexbrn has global edits 36,284 edits over 12 years.

When I have been researching the sock puppet activity of Darryl Smith (aka Goblin Face), the account of Alexbrn often showed up. I have not seen any direct evidence, but in the case above, Alexbrn continued the agenda of Smith (as the former Skeptic from Britain). But he appears to be a real person. If he is. I have been learning that things are not always as they appear, and Darryl claimed, years ago, to have many accounts in good standing. Yet — that IP could have been Darryl and it also could have been Brown, if he grew impatient. We may never know. (And there is even evidence that Darryl Smith does not exist, is, instead, another persona of his brother, Oliver Smith.)

CambridgeBayWeather, global edits 230,398 over 14 years. Here, he seems to have originally spent a minute on the Fredericks article, he was either pretending not to know, or had no idea what the conflict was about, but acted using tools anyway. Why?

I don’t know, but I do know that very long-term admins tend to burn out and become less and less patient and more likely to make mistakes, and if they combine that with an attitude that they never make mistakes, it can create huge messes. Using Twinkle to handle a content dispute, not a good sign.

In the old days, if someone who cared about the community saw an interchange like this, they would go to the IP talk page and encourage the IP to register an account and then they would counsel the IP how to ask for what they want — and would inform the user of what they could and could not do. There used to be lots of users who would do this, though never enough. More common, even then, was punishment of “bad behavior,” or merely lack of clue. At best, the user runs into a brick wall.

The core of fascism

I have been struck by news of late demonstrating what I have called “medical fascism.” The core of fascism, as I am coming to see it, is a collective conviction combined with intolerance of divergent views. Benito Mussolini was the stated author of The Doctrine of Fascism, co-written with Giovanni Gentile, a fascist philosopher.  From the copy published by the World Future Fund, allegedly copied directly from an official Fascist government publication of 1935, Fascism Doctrine and Institutions, by Benito Mussolini [my emphasis]

A party governing a nation “totalitarianly” is a new departure in history. There are no points of reference nor of comparison. From beneath the ruins of liberal, socialist, and democratic doctrines, Fascism extracts those elements which are still vital. It preserves what may be described as “the acquired facts” of history; it rejects all else. That is to say, it rejects the idea of a doctrine suited to all times and to all people. Granted that the XIXth century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the XXth century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the ” right “, a Fascist century. If the XIXth century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the “collective” century, and therefore the century of the State.

However, this source has from Fascism Doctrine and Institutions:

. . . this will be a century of authority. [no mention of the “right.”]

And an “official translation” published in the Political Quarterly, apparently 1933, has:

. . . this will be a century of authority, a century of the left, a century of Fascism.

Which is it, the “left” or the “right”?

My answer at this point is that fascism is opportunistically left or right, it is both and neither, it may be populist, thus it may even be “democratic” by some definitions (particularly majoritarian or strongest-faction forms of democracy), but key is that it is always authoritarian, intolerant of dissent, willing to use coercive power to enforce its vision of “truth” and “morality,” and Mussolini openly endorsed this.

Fascism may then be racist in some contexts, and anti-racist in others.

And it may be apparently skeptical in one context and pseudoskeptical, proclaiming the truth of “science” vs. “pseudoscience,” in another.

(The scientific method does not generate certainty, only, at best, probability, and there are many situations where “scientific consensus,” i.e., the apparent consensus of experts, was not formed through diligent application of scientific methods, but rather politically and socially; this “collective view” being enforced, with deviation sanctioned.

That is scientific fascism, pretending to “collective knowledge,” with all else being termed, not skepticism, but “denialism.”

The common thread in fascism is certainty, where the truth of some proposition is not to be denied, where it is not allowed under penalty of the strongest opprobrium or worse.

As well, movements and positions create their opposites that are just as convinced and certain and willing to censure and condemn opposing opinions.

I have recently seen many stories in the media about what might be called “anti-vaxx hysteria.” Those who suggest that there may be some risks or negative consequences from vaccination are being called “murderers.”

And then some anti-vaxxers are calling doctors who support vaccination the same.

Both movements are medical fascism, the “pro-vaccine” position commonly refusing to allow any possible critique of vaccination, and the anti-vaxx position claiming that all support for vaccination is coming from Big Pharma shills, with government in their pocket, uncaring about continued study of complications and individual rights.

So from the Guardian, New York county bans unvaccinated children from public spaces amid measles outbreak.

It is the latest region of the US to take drastic steps to counter the virus, with the spike in measles cases leading to concerns that anti-vaccine parents may be putting their children at risk. . . .

The state of emergency in Rockland county, which comes into effect at midnight on Tuesday, bars anyone under 18 who is not vaccinated against measles from public places for 30 days. . . .

. . . the county had traced the outbreak to seven “unvaccinated travelers” who had visited Rockland in 2018. The county has had 48 cases of measles in 2019 alone, according to a spokesman.

From 1 January to 21 March of this year 314 cases of measles were confirmed in 15 different states, according to the CDC. There were 372 cases in 2018, more than triple the number the previous year. The rise has been linked to “anti-vaxxers”, activists who claim, incorrectly but loudly, that vaccines can have negative effects.

Can vaccines have negative effects? The Guardian states as if it were fact that this is “incorrect,” yet that extreme position is preposterous.

The issue is not the existence of negative effects, but the rate. I had a friend die from polio when his daughter was given Sabin oral vaccine in about 1978 or so. By effectively claiming that anti-vaxxers are merely “loud,” and essentially liars and murderers — and I have seen that — authorities are taking a fascist approach to collective welfare, even if they are “right,” i.e., that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the harms.

That denial of any value to the “other side” is typical of fascist propaganda. I had all my children vaccinated and was vaccinated as appropriate for travel when I went to China and Ethiopia to adopt. But I chose to do that. If someone had told me that it was required or else I’d be charged with a criminal offense, I might reconsider! If it is necessary to enforce good sense with criminal penalties, maybe it is not good sense!

And in the other direction, but also from the Guardian:

Anti-vaxx ‘mobs’: doctors face harassment campaigns on Facebook

When the naturopath Elias Kass testified before a Washington state senate committee on 20 February with a baby on his chest and a pacifier in his hand, he knew that his arguments would be unpopular with the anti-vaccine activists in the room. Amid a measles outbreak that has infected 66 people so far, legislators were considering a bill to eliminate personal and philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccinations, and Kass was one of several practitioners to speak in support of the measure.

It astonishes me that good people support fascism, but it happens. I’m sure that Kass is sincere, but he is encouraging removing the right of choice over health care decisions from parents, instead assigning it to the state. Yet in a mature society, he would have the right to express his opinion without the kind of harassment he encountered.

Kass faced some anger in the hallway after the hearing, he said, with one person calling him “a disgusting liar”. But it wasn’t until several hours later that “the shit hit the fan”. That’s when Kass realized that his Facebook page was being flooded with one-star reviews calling him everything from a “disgrace” and a “pedophile” to a “Nazi pharma shill” and “scumbag shilling for infanticide”.

Now, the comparison here may be unfair. A social movement like anti-vaxx has no direct control over what “supporters” do. And I have seen impersonation trolling, where someone pretends the opposite of their own position, with extreme expression, intending to discredit those of that view as fanatics. (I.e., there is no proof that those harassers were actually anti-vaxxers. But there may be anti-vaxx organizers that may have responsibility, I have not investigated this.)

Impersonation can work because people often don’t read carefully and don’t realize that anonymous comments on the web are just that: anonymous, and not to be trusted ever.

(Edits on RationalWiki and Wikipedia, appearing to be from me, aren’t — or in the case of RatWiki, the vast majority are not. I don’t vandalize, I don’t spam, and I don’t harass and make legal threats with wiki edits. I might by certified mail.)

Yet structures have been created where anonymous positions can dominate. Wikipedia is a clear example, in fact. When it works, it’s great, but it can fail spectacularly.

The enemies of humanity here are two old allies: contempt and hatred.

Both poison human freedom, and “antifascism” can be just as full of contempt and hatred as “fascism.”

The vaccine skeptics, I’ll call them, point to an alleged lack of adequate testing of vaccines, claiming that drug companies were given exemptions in the public interest, and that kind of story has been all too common in the history of science and public health.

When dietary guidelines blaming dietary fat for heart disease were adopted and promoted, it was known that the science was not adequate to establish that as medical fact, but it seemed likely and we couldn’t wait, millions could die!

We did not actually know that making those recommendations would save lives, overall, and from what I’ve seen, so far, it seems quite possible that, instead, there were millions of premature deaths. Bad Science can do a lot of harm!

(Murderers? No, not unless they knew, or clearly should have known. But where and when do we become responsible for ignorance?)

How can we both protect public health and act to avoid harm? Any time millions of people are subjected to a medical procedure, there is risk of harm, the claim of “harmless” was crazy — yet there it was, in a major newspaper, as if fact.

It’s obvious to me that we need more research, and we need ongoing monitoring of all major health programs. Who is going to pay for this? We have a system that expects drug companies to do the research, and a public that then often blames them for being greedy. But we set that up — or relied on it and allow it to continue! It is clear that we need to fund research, but we don’t necessarily have trustworthy institutions to manage this. The nonprofits have themselves been corrupted — or appear to have been corrupted — by corporate support. We need to directly support and supervise collective institutions, or at least set up and fund watchdogs.

Instead, our habit is to blame others, rather than taking responsibility, by recognizing what is missing, and supplying it.

To declare an antifascist manifesto here, the future belongs to collective freedom, that creates cooperation and non-coercive, voluntary  coordination.

Saturated fat, cholesterol and heart health

Under construction, list of sources:

Towards a Paradigm Shift in Cholesterol Treatment

A Re-Examination of the Cholesterol Issue in Japan

Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, Vol. 66, Suppl. 4, 2015, prefacebody

From the Introduction:

High cholesterol levels are recognized as a major cause of atherosclerosis. However, for more than half a century some have challenged this notion. But which side is correct, and why can’t we come to a definitive conclusion after all this time and with more and more scientific data available? We believe the answer is very simple: for the side defending this so-called cholesterol theory, the  amount of money at stake is too much to lose the fight.
The issue of cholesterol is one of the biggest issues in medicine where the law of economy governs. Moreover, advocates of the theory take the notion to be a simple, irrefutable ‘fact’ and self-explanatory. They may well think that those who argue against the cholesterol theory—actually, the cholesterol “hypothesis’—are mere eccentrics. We, as those on the side opposing the hypothesis, understand their argument very well. Indeed, the first author of this supplementary issue (TH) had been a very strong believer and advocate of the cholesterol hypothesis up until a couple of years after the Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study (4S) reported the benefits of statin therapy in The Lancet in 1994. To be honest with the readers, he used to persuade people with high cholesterol levels to take statins. He even gave a talk or two to general physicians promoting the benefits of statins. Terrible, unforgivable 
mistakes given what we came to know and clearly know now.
In this supplementary issue, we explore the background to the cholesterol hypothesis utilizing data obtained mainly from Japan—the country where anti-cholesterol theory campaigns can be conducted more easily than in any other countries. […]

Saturated Fat Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Ischemic Stroke: A Science Update

Ann Nutr Metab. 2017 Apr; 70(1): 26–33. PDF

At a workshop to update the science linking saturated fatty acid (SAFA) consumption with the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and ischemic stroke, invited participants presented data on the consumption and bioavailability of SAFA and their functions in the body and food technology. Epidemiological methods and outcomes were related to the association between SAFA consumption and disease events and mortality. Participants reviewed the effects of SAFA on CHD, causal risk factors, and surrogate risk markers. Higher intakes of SAFA were not associated with higher risks of CHD or stroke apparently, but studies did not take macronutrient replacement into account. Replacing SAFA by cis-polyunsaturated fatty acids was associated with significant CHD risk reduction, which was confirmed by randomized controlled trials. SAFA reduction had little direct effect on stroke risk. Cohort studies suggest that the food matrix and source of SAFA have important health effects.

Cited by:


Science and Medicine

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately reading about fat in the diet, cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and statins. Some story:

Sometime around 1990 or so, I was diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia and a low-fat diet was prescribed. It’s difficult for an individual to assign cause and effect, but that diet coincided with a period of increase in my weight, and something else happened. Sometime around 2007 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Both of these may be connected with “low fat diet,” but the state of research on this is poor.

By the middle of the first decade of this century, my wife went on an Atkins diet. My physician, noting my high cholesterol, recommended the South Beach Diet, which could be called Atkins Light. I read up on them, and it appears to me that Atkins had more science behind it. (Both Atkins and Agatston were cardiologists). It was called a “fad diet,” but was actually quite old — my physician pointed to a Diabetes textbook from the 1920s that considered a “low-starch diet” an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Eliminating most fat from a diet will predictably lead to replacing it with something, and unless one goes high-protein, it will be carbs. In the 1990s, it was pasta, I had never eaten much pasta before, but it became a staple.

On Atkins, not only did I lose weight rather efficiently, but I was now eating my favorite foods. When I was a kid, they would say to me, “Have some bread with your butter.” My favorite food, besides steak, was baked potato with butter and sour cream, emphasis on the last two.

Eventually, I came across Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories, and read the story of how it came to pass that low-fat diets were recommended, and, as well, that cholesterol came be be considered dangerous in food, and cholesterol levels “risk factors” for heart disease.

And then that one could prevent heart disease using statins.

It’s a horrifying story, where the scientific method was not followed, where poor studies were used to create a drastic change in diet, and it is possible that this cost millions of premature deaths.

Or not.

What’s the truth? How would we know? Under this page, I intend to collect individual studies. Is this related to cold fusion? Well, peripherally. Before Taubes wrote GCBC, he wrote Bad Science, about cold fusion. As a science journalist, he had occasion to look at the idea that salt in the diet was dangerous, and found himself looking at developing beliefs that were not adequately tested, that turned into standard medical advice without balanced consideration. And then he did the same with fat in the diet.

There are parallel issues with cold fusion. Widespread “scientific opinion” developed through information cascades and with diet, weak associational or epidemiological studies, rather than solid science. Wihen it was proposed that fat in the diet was causing heart disease, it came to be seen as a health emergency, and considered it would be foolish to wait for more solid science, because waiting, people would (it was believed) continue to die unnecessarily, and (it was also believed), removing fat from the diet could not possibly do harm. After all, weren’t we too fat? And aren’t we what we eat?

I’m not going into all the details here, but the original fat/cholesterol hypotheses was far, far from reality. Study after study failed to confirm it, but there was always an excuse and the cholesterol hypothesis was a moving target.

At first it was believed that eggs were dangerous foods, to be avoided, because they have high cholesterol content. Eventually, those recommendations almost entirely disappeared. Cholesterol in the diet does not cause blood cholesterol.

Originally, as to fat, it was all fats, then it moved to saturated fats (such as butter). When it was found that butter consumption did not correlate with heart disease, it got more and more complex, various kinds of fat, etc.

The cholesterol hypothesis (relating to blood levels) started out as all cholesterol. Even though total cholesterol continues to be used by many, within the last decade or so, fractionating the cholesterol came into fashion, so we ended up with “good cholesterol” (HDL) and “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and a consideration of the ratio, and then it got even more complex.

I was told by my physician that cholesterol was actually a relatively poor measure as to risk. I had familial high cholesterol, my mother had high cholesterol, and died in her mid-nineties from congestive heart failure, not from atherosclerosis. My doctor wanted me to see a cardiologist and told me that he would not be able to find one who would not want to put me on statins. I did see a cardiologist, had a stress test (no problems), and continued to monitor my blood lipids. I also generally had C-reactive protein measured, which is apparently a better predictor, and, when insurance would not cover a calcium score CAT scan, I paid for it. My Agatston score was in the 26th percentile for men my age. So 74% of men had more calcification than I. I was not worried.

Fast forward about ten years. In my seventies now, I flew to my son’s wedding, and as I was getting ready to fly, I had a strange sensation in my chest. I would have gone to the hospital, but I would have missed the flight and my son’s wedding, very important to me. So I flew, and when I got back, went immediately to my primary care physician and he sent me back to the cardiologist for another stress test. Some abnormalities (minor, actually) showed up, so they immediately scheduled a nuclear stress test, I think it was the next day.

Result: major blockage, showing up under stress only. So I was able to get into cardiac rehab, and started an exercise program. I’m still doing that. No heart attack yet, I carry a pulse oximeter and  nitroglycerin just in case. I have never used it.

The cardiologist, of course, recommended two things: an angiogram and a statin. I declined the angiogram until I could become better informed. He understood and actually appreciated that. I obtained the statin prescription and on something like the first day, I accidentally took a double dose and felt miserable. It was a high dose. That’s meaningless, except that I realized I simply did not want to take the drug.

Statins function to lower cholesterol, primarily. There is a substantial rate of complications (and that is controversial and I am not convinced it has been adequately studied). However, statins are sold on the idea of a 30% reduction in risk. What is not said is that for people who have not had a heart attack, this may be a 1% absolute risk reduction (from 3% to 2%), and it appears that, at least in many studies, there is no reduction in death rate, which would imply that statins might be reducing heart attacks, all right, but participants were dying from something else instead.

I also looked into angiograms and the placement of stents. Having the procedure (which is quite invasive — and expensive!) apparently, for a relatively normal population, not having had a heart attack, does not improve survival rates. The procedure (angiogram with possible stent placement) can be life-saving if one is in critical condition, but may be overkill when one is merely at some level of risk from age and some level of arteriosclerosis.

I’ve mentioned some “facts” above. Are they facts? What do the studies actually show? I’ve been reading off and on about this for years, but have never done an organized study. That’s what I’m starting here. I’ve been following the blog of Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a Scottish physician and very good writer, calling himself a sceptic. The pseudoskeptic trolls I’ve been following have attacked him, which is how I found him.

He encourages open discussion and criticism on his blog. The other day, there was a link placed to the Science Based Medicine blog, The Cholesterol Controversy, by Christopher Labos. It’s a recent post, February 15, 2019.

The subhead:

Why is cholesterol so much more controversial than the other cardiac risk factors? A review of cholesterol’s troubled and contentious history might help us understand where many of the cholesterol controversies originated… and why it’s time to let them pass into

He seems to be more willing to actually discuss the issues than many I’ve seen, which just assume the “consensus.” So I’m staring here.

Subpage studies