Anti-vaxx "activists" seem to be getting more shrill these days as more people are stepping up to the plate to counter anti-vaccine misinformation and register their disgust toward anti-vaxx parents putting others at risk and ushering back diseases such as measles. The anti-vaccine misinformation groups really detest being called what they are...anti-vaccine and as Dr. Novella eloquently put it:
The anti-vaccine movement cannot win in the arena of science. In fact, they have already lost. So they are desperately trying to change the venue by framing the narrative as one about freedom, choice, and transparency. Ironically they are doing this with misinformation that detracts from transparency and freedom of choice.Not only have they lost in the arena of science, anti-vaxxers never really understood science nor the scientific method to begin with and as such try to shut down rebuttal by accusing their opponents of being "Pharma Shills". The Pharma Shill Gambit (coined by Orac many years ago) is an ad hominem tactic used by anti-vaxxers to avoid refuting their opponents' evidence. Sadly, some notable "professionals" even resort to this tactic. Hilariously Dr. Bob Sears attempted to to this to Catherina and I years ago when he issued a warning to his (now-defunct) forum readers.
There are rumors that SM and Cath are “secret agents” for vaccine manufacturers, planted here to combat my “anti-vaccine” advice. Although I wouldn’t put it past any company to do just that (makes perfect sense – have a couple of “scientific” parents work the blogs and posts instead of doctors or professionals – some parents would listen more to another parent), I have no evidence that such is the case. SM and Catherina claim they spend hours on this site each week for almost two years now out of the goodness of their hearts. I would love to believe that, but I would also expect such good-hearted people to come across good-heartedly in their posts toward people who question vaccines. That clearly is NOT the case, so that makes me question what type of people they really are.Dr. Bob Sears even believes, in spite of all evidence against this, that any studies refuting a vaccine autism causation are conducted by pharma shills. More recently, "journalist" Sharyl Attkisson, an anti-vaccine crusader accused a certain law professor of being a pharma shill via Twitter:
People accusing their critics of being pharma shills or better yet, pharma magnates do themselves no favours. Those who do so appear incompetent and deluded enough to believe that this is an effective deflection. Let's say for the sake of argument that we are pharma shills (granted this requires suspension of disbelief), we criticise or refute a point and are accused of being pharma shills. How does this, in any way, invalidate our criticism or refutation? The accuser is admitting that our knowledge is so impressive that we must have received specialised training/education/experience (and we have, just not at the Lord Draconis Zeneca's Académie of Shills and Minions). The accuser is also admitting that they are out of their depth on the subject matter and are unable to intelligently respond. Sometimes it is projection; often those who engage in the pharma shill gambit have books, videos and other dubious wares for sale and simply can't imagine people criticising them on their own dime.
So the next time someone accuses you of being a pharma shill, they lose. Perhaps it's time to honour one of our esteemed "commanders" and call it Orac's Law.