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SafeMinds retaliates against skeptic blogger

Posted Dec 07 2010 2:13pm

SafeMinds is an organization with the stated purpose to “...to restore health and protect future generations by eradicating the devastation of autism and associated health disorders induced by mercury and other man made toxicants. ” SafeMinds has stayed with this purpose even as the years have gone by and the evidence has mounted that the SafeMinds hypothesis was incorrect (autism is not a form of mercury poisoning). Recently, SafeMinds produced an advertisement, framed as a public service announcement, focusing on mercury in the flu vaccine and tried to get these shown in movie theaters. As we discussed here recently , Elyse over at Skepchick started an effort to inform the movie theaters about SafeMinds. Her effort snowballed into a large petition and resulted in the movie theaters deciding to not show the SafeMinds advertisement.

Recently, SafeMinds has chosen to leave the discussion of ideas and take on Elyse in a personal attack, through their media effort at the Age of Autism. SafeMinds is not only a key sponsor of Age of Autism, but Mark Blaxill (SafeMinds board member) is one of the three principle editors of the Age of Autism blog.

Again, rather than discuss the issues, they pulled Elyse’s facebook photo


and posted this message

This is the woman who fought to pull the SafeMinds PSA’s from the theatres. It’s her FB profile page photo. She is anti-choice and wants to tell you that mercury is safe and that Thimeosal is good – according to her blog. She trolls AofA regularly. As do all the pro-vaccine-injury bloggers.

It was a call to mock and insult Elyse. A perfect example of cyber bullying. Amongst the comments to that FaceBook page was one extreme enough that one of the Age of Autism editors noted it and promised to remove it . “While I agree that the broken thermometer comment was out of order (the blog does not condone violent speech, so that comments is going.”

It took a while for them to make good on the promise. As in many hours later, after Elyse reported the abuse to the police. That comment does appear to be gone now. Many other abusive comments (but not all) also appear to be removed.

Rather than apologize for inciting the bullying effort, SafeMinds/AgeofAutism are defending themselves by claiming that Elyse was standing in the way of choice.

Stopping Americans unable to understand? What is she St. Skepchick? She interefered with medical choice and commerce. That’s her right to make the attempt. We dis not use her name. We pulled her public photo that she used here on FB. We ran it on FB, not the main site – our readers deserved to know who was behind (at the outer level anyway) the AMC campaign to stop the ads. We provide news. This was news.

No. It wasn’t news. And, no, Elyse was not interfering with medical choice or commerce. She was quite simply providing the theaters with information—allowing them to make informed consent about the SafeMinds advertisement.

The idea of SafeMinds being pro-choice on vaccines is rather ironic. Again a story from their outlet blog, the Age of Autism makes this clear. Two years ago, a theater in New Mexico was going to show the movie “Horton Hears a Who” combined with a free vaccination clinic. At that time, they had a connection to Horton star, Jim Carrey. Instead of allowing choice, providing information, they got Jim Carrey to force the cancellation of the event:

Following a long discussion with his representatives at Fox Entertainment – Who-ville – once again through Horton – was heard. The New Mexico test market of drive thru vaccines while at the movies with your children was stopped. Halted by Horton himself because he heard “we are here, we are here, we are here!” once again.

The bullying attack on Elyse wasn’t about choice, it was just a childish attempt at some sort of petty vengeance. Unfortunately it got out of control. I thank SafeMinds and the Age of Autism for editing the comments, but even what is left is unacceptable. It’s time for apologies, not excuses.

  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - SafeMinds retaliates against skeptic blogger « Left Brain/Right Brain -- Topsy.com:
    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev, Catherina+ScienceMom. Catherina+ScienceMom said: RT @kevleitch SafeMinds retaliates against skeptic blogger http://bit.ly/fqV5H6 [...]
  2. Science Mom:
    Here are some revealing posts on AoA today:
    Anne, one thing about your article really leaped out for me. You say you got excited about when the autism rate went all the way to 1 in 110. That's not exciting. That's terrible.
    In my discussion with local parents, that's one of the biggest sticks they have against our movement. They say that mercury was taken out of shots in 2001, but the rate keeps on rising, so it can't be mercury. It's very difficult to argue against this. I know parents of young children with autism, and they've even asked to look at the vaccine records, and their child had no mercury. So then they don't take you seriously anymore when you talk about mercury.
    I know that it's not JUST mercury, but this is part of the reason why we are losing the PR war.
    Posted by: Jennifer S. | December 07, 2010 at 07:00 AM
    So this is a 'PR campaign' and the answer is essentially, "Well then just lie about it"?:
    Jennifer S-You have to tell them that the mercury is NOT out of all vaccines. In 2004 it went into the flu vaccines in copious amounts/ Tell the naysayers that it wasn't out in 2001...it was a very gradual process and bottles were left on shelves for years afterwards that were not outdated and were still being used. Sometimes you have to argue til you're "red" in the face. Hopefully some people will come around. PS John, that's a terrific You Tube.
    Posted by: Maurine Meleck | December 07, 2010 at 08:40 AM
    I understand Jennifer's concerns, this is how it IS presented. When a study comes out in 2010, suggesting the rate of autism is 1/80 to 1/240, the emphasis isn't put on the age of the study group, or the year of the completion of the study. The huge rise in autism, corresponded with a birthyear that wasn't boldly put out there. Even I don't remember it, I believe it was 1998, but not sure. The children, the recipients of lowered thimerosal have not been studied, they are entering kindergarten this year. The statement about removal doesn't match the dates of discontinuance of use, yet MOST, including myself feel somewhat certain it left the shelves by 2004/2005. There is unlikely a rise in autism among this group, and while flu vaccines and "trace" levels supply the newer generation with a dose, it would seem unlikely their numbers would be as high as those children born before 2005.It's quite possible, as well, that there would be no benefit to the cdc/drug companies to assess them. At this point we may learn more by asking kindergarten teachers, and I have, and the news is good. One approached me with the telling of unusual empathy among them, another said, fewer speech and behavioral problems. We will see. In conversation one ninth grade teacher was so concerned about her incoming class this year, that she wasn't sure she was up to task . They are the 1996 babies,just entering high school.
    Posted by: barbaraj | December 07, 2010 at 09:05 AM
    This is the problem, they think they are on a "Mission from God" and the means justify the ends. It is not about informed consent or safer vaccines, it is about shoving their perverse worldview down everyone's throats to validate themselves and their horrid actions. They are not intellectually equipped to debate their opposition so they simply lash out at convenient targets like Elyse, you, Kev, Dr. Gorski, Dr. Novella, Amy Wallace and anyone else whose identity is known or remonstration is conflicting with theirs. It's a twisted little world they exist in and I suspect they will escalate before long.
  3. Sullivan:
    ScienceMom, I just listened to that recording myself. Having lost the scientific debate, they are still waging a "PR war". They can admit that they are losing the PR war, why not delve deeper (actually not that deep) into the reason? They were wrong. The mercury-induced autism epidemic didn't happen. There are other reasons for the increase, at least a majority of the reasons are social dynamics, not medical. It is sad. Instead of morphing into true advocacy organizations, they are clinging to the past.
  4. Chris:
    Maurine Meleck:
    Tell the naysayers that it wasn’t out in 2001…it was a very gradual process and bottles were left on shelves for years afterwards that were not outdated and were still being used.
    barbaraj:
    The statement about removal doesn’t match the dates of discontinuance of use, yet MOST, including myself feel somewhat certain it left the shelves by 2004/2005.
    Which is why they get all confused when I tell them (with a !) that the doyenne of Safe Minds, Sallie Bernard, was searching for DTaP with thimerosal in 2001. Actually, all Safe Minds sponsored studies after Mady Hornig's goofy autistic mice study have required the addition of thimerosal (this includes Burbacher and Hewitson).
  5. brian:
    The PR war waged by Age of Autism and SafeMinds can only become more difficult, and, already, Mark Blaxill (as quoted by Anne Dachel today at AoA) has said: "I think we are not winning." This new study makes their foolish campaign even more certain to fail: In Quebec, thimerosal was removed from vaccines used as part of the recommended childhood vaccine schedule in 1996; previously, children in Quebec were exposed to up to 225 micrograms of thimerosal in the pediatric vaccine schedule. Lazoff et al. studied the prevalence of pervasive developmental disorders including autism in birth cohorts exposed in the years prior to the elimination of thimerosal from the pediatric vaccine schedule to 125 to 200 micrograms of thimerosal and birth cohorts born as late as 2002, six years after thimerosal was removed from the pediatric schedule . [Can J Psych, Vol 55, No 11, November 2010] The prevalence of PDD increased from the years before thimerosal-containing vaccines were eliminated (prevalence per 10,000 was 44 for children born in 1994 and 59 for those born in 1995, the year before thimerosal was removed from pediatric vaccines; for children born six year after the ban (in 2002), prevalence had more than doubled to 129 per 10,000. It will be interesting to see what SafeMinds and Age of Autism can say about this paper; it’s hard to argue that exposure to thimerosal somehow increased in the six years after it was banned because, oh, some expired vials might have not been exchanged for current lots. Maybe AoA will rely on the fact that, although the research was conducted without outside funding, one of the authors was asked to testify in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding precisely because he is an expert in this field, rather than, say, a journalist or an MBA.
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