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Sep 27 2012

An Elaborate Fraud

I’m posting this a little extra early, because there’s travel time involved for most of the locals who will want to attend. Plan accordingly.

You probably remember Brian Deer, even if you can’t quite place the name. Deer is the British journalist whose research into how Andrew Wakefield generated the data in his Lancet publication linking autism and MMR vaccinations–as well as the information turned up about Wakefield’s conflicts of interest–caused The Lancet to retract the article as fraudulent.

Next week, Deer will be visiting the University of Wisconsin–LaCrosse to deliver two talks as part of the school’s Distinguished Lectures in the Life Sciences series.

“An Elaborate Fraud: The MMR Vaccine & Autism”
5:30 pm
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Room 1309 Centennial Hall

Fears that vaccines cause autism has become one of the biggest health controversies in America.  But where did the story begin, and what keeps it going?  Over a period of seven years, Brian Deer investigated the story for The Sunday Times of London and now comes to LaCrosse to reveal what Time Magazine dubbed one of the “great science frauds” of all time.  Launched from one British hospital in the 1990s, the scare took hold first in the UK, and then spread around the globe, leaving doctors baffled, children at risk, parents frightened, and lawyers with a lot more money. Deer shows how it was done, who did it, and why it will happen again.

“Stiletto Journalism: Busting the Vaccine Scare”
3:30 pm
Friday, October 5, 2012
Room 1309 Centennial Hall

Brian Deer is a two-times British Press Award-winner, and veteran of  four libel lawsuits, Brian Deer  took a blank sheet of paper and, for The Sunday Times of  London, carried out one of the classic public interest investigations of recent times. He probed the controversy over vaccines and autism.  Based on this landmark inquiry, and 25 years of pursuing complex, contentious topics, he gives a reporter’s inside perspective on how to break a difficult story.

They sound like they should be good lectures, particularly if you haven’t followed the news about the retraction in any great detail. If you have, however, you’re probably going to be interested in going for another reason.

Not content to file multiple suits to try (and fail) to punish Deer for reporting what medical regulatory bodies had already determined to be the truth, Wakefield and his supporters appear to be trying to disrupt Deer’s talks. Most of the Age of Autism post on the topic is free-form nastiness, like the following:

Some who’ve had the misfortune of meeting Deer describe him as reptilian and repulsive. Others would describe him in less flattering terms. Setting the sleaze factor aside, Deer’s legacy of slander and libel signify a far grimier, foul and filthy place than most of us would care to venture. Deer is the invention, the dark underbelly, the hideous caricature of those who deny an MMR-autism connection in order to protect themselves. He assuages the conscience of those without one, and scrubs clean the crime scene. Vicious and small, Deer’s pious position is untenable and in short order he will be hunted to ground and brought to justice.

The tiny bit of relevant information is the following:

Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s Press Conference: 1 pm Thursday, October 4, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Exact location to be provided.

Brian Deer’s presentation schedule, location, and abstracts: click here.

Join us if you can –  or for more information or to volunteer, please email [email protected].

Who knows what they have planned, or what they hope to gain from the press conference. A conference hall full of people who want to listen to Deer, however, could only be a good thing. It will make the talks themselves harder to disrupt. If you think they sound interesting and can take the time to get to the talks, check them out. One way or another, they shouldn’t be boring.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    Tideliar

    “veteran of 4 libel suits”

    What a powerfully telling statement of the way the land lies in situations like this!

  2. 2
    Jeremy Shaffer

    [Deer] assuages the conscience of those without one, and scrubs clean the crime scene.

    How does that even work?

  3. 3
    sheila

    I’m currently in the middle of a Facebook argument about vaccines. Can anybody point me at an easy-to-understand good site with real data? I’ve found the Danish vaccine study (yay for Denmark!) but a popular science site would be good.

  4. 4
    Stephanie Zvan

    sheila, depending on what you’re looking for, various links here may be appropriate: http://hugmeimvaccinated.org/vaxlinks.html

    The AntiAntiVax site in particular has a lot of easily readable information with links to further documentation.

  5. 5
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    I wish I were in Wisconsin.

  6. 6
    jenniferphillips

    @sheila,
    also check out the Science Based Medicine blog. They have many well-referenced antivax-debunking posts (archived under the ‘vaccine’ topic here: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/category/vaccines/).

  7. 7
    Doug Hayden

    for a ‘lighter’ look at it, check out the Respectful Insolence blog archives: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/

  8. 8
    D. C. Sessions

    Some who’ve had the misfortune of meeting Deer describe him as reptilian and repulsive. Others would describe him in less flattering terms. Setting the sleaze factor aside, Deer’s legacy of slander and libel signify a far grimier, foul and filthy place than most of us would care to venture. Deer is the invention, the dark underbelly, the hideous caricature of those who deny an MMR-autism connection in order to protect themselves. He assuages the conscience of those without one, and scrubs clean the crime scene. Vicious and small, Deer’s pious position is untenable and in short order he will be hunted to ground and brought to justice.

    Good grief!

    That reads like Pravda from 1950 channeling Lovecraft’s ghost.

  9. 9
    niam_krawt

    Does anyone know if the talks will be recorded?

    I would love to see both of Brian Deer’s talks available to a wider audience.

  10. 10
    Curious Chloride

    @sheila:

    I wrote a blog post about Andrew Wakefield and vaccines recently – plenty of links there, including lots of links to the resources and evidence Brian Deer had accumulated over his investigation.

    Depends which facet of vaccinations you’re arguing, and what data you’re looking for. :)

  11. 11
    Sam the Centipede

    The tiny bit of relevant information is the following:

    Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s Press Conference: 1 pm Thursday, October 4, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Exact location to be provided.

    Dr. Wakefield? Who is he? I know of a Mr. Andrew Wakefield who used to be a doctor but was struck off by the U.K. General Medical Council for serious professional misconduct.

    But no doctor of that name now.

  12. 12
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    The World Health Organization has information on Vaccine Safety. They still seem solid on that even though the Roman Catholic Church sabotaged their efforts to offer family planning to those who wanted it or even to address the problem.

    Look for articles by Paul Offit: here’s a National Public Radio show. “In his new book, vaccine researcher Paul Offit contends that some parents’ decisions not to vaccinate their kids are harming others. Offit discusses the anti-vaccine movement, and weighs in on a new report calling a 1998 study linking autism and vaccines an “elaborate fraud.”"

    Paul Offit also wrote one paper comparing the antigen load from vaccines now and in the past. FWIW, children today are exposed to 4% of the foreign antibodies that they used to get when I was a child, in spite of getting protection against more diseases.

  13. 13
    anat

    There are differences in motor development between typical infants and those who go on to become diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, to the point that the Tilt Test can be used as an initial screen at around 7 months – well before the first MMR shot. See Eshkol–Wachman movement notation in diagnosis: The early detection of Asperger’s syndrome. So any claims about the MMR vaccine causing autism should really be put to rest. They have done enough damage already.

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