Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pharma Shill Gambit? You Lose.

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:
And just within the last couple of days, more shoddy reporting by NBC San Diego unquestioningly allowed notorious anti-vaxx "autism mom" Rebecca Estepp to accuse high school students of being pharma shills because she can't believe that high school students could be intelligent enough to see through anti-vaccine propaganda all on their own.

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.


  1. The ones that accuse us of being "pharma shills" find it hard to believe that science bloggers and the individuals who post comments on those blogs, really care about infants and children.

    Dr. Bob Sears' Alternative Vaccine Schedule? He made it up.

    Rebecca Estepp? Just another anti-vaccine mommy, who refers to her autistic child as "vaccine-damaged".

    Sharyl Attkisson? A has-been journalist with a long history of promoting the pseudoscience agenda of the disgraced and discredited former medical doctor Andrew Wakefield. Her investigative journalism consists of rewording press releases that are handed to her. Ms. Attkisson ought to think twice before she labels Professor Reiss as being "deep in pharmaceutical propaganda-land".

    How do we enact "Orac's Law"?

  2. Perhaps we phrase it similar to Godwin's Law, except here we postulate that:

    "As an online discussion of science-based medicine grows longer, the probability of a big pharma shill accusation approaches 1. **" 

    **usually within a few posts

  3. I suppose we can just invoke it when we are called pharma shills.

  4. "Rebecca Estepp? Just another anti-vaccine mommy, who refers to her autistic child as "vaccine-damaged"

    Typically "compassionate" provax assessment of a parent struggling with a cognitively damaged child, but we'll pass over your nasty, offensive attitude and deal with the facts.

    Autism was diagnosed in the forties by Leo Kanner, it was called "Kanner's Infantile Autism". An "infant" is a child below the age of one year old.

    Classical autism was symptomatic in infancy. Symptoms of vaccine damage become apparent, in previously asymptomatic children, after the administration of vaccines.

    Could it possibly be that because some of the symptoms of Autism are the same as those of vaccine damage, the medical establishment simply rebranded the damage that they'd done as "regressive autism", thereby absolving themselves of guilt and responsibility?

    Before vaccinations became routine, "regressive autism" was so rare as to be virtually unheard of, please don't confuse "regressive" with "retrospective" diagnosis, as I'm sure your going to do.

    So called "regressive autism" is almost entirely a phenomenon of the post mass-vaccination age. "Regressive autism" is a major contributor to the catastrophic rise in the incidence of autism in the post vaccine era.

    The medical establishment, despite flying a few kites, have not been able to provide a credible explanation for the post vaccine rise in "autism". Why would that be?

    "Regressive Autism" seems to me to be a medical fraud, invented to absolve the medical establishment of responsibility for its negligence.

    1. So, those stories from Medieval Europe of babies that were "replaced by changelings" which sounds, through the descriptions, like regressive autism mean what, exactly?

      You really should read some real history - instead of relying on what the folks at AoA tell you.

    2. That's about the strawiest strawman argument I've ever heard. How about some statistics from the relevant time period that show a diagnostic equivalence between the pre and post vaccine periods?

      Specifically an equivalence between cases of asymptomatic, regression. Good luck with that.

    3. Vot, It is interesting how you believe that denigrating your own child is okay but pointing out that it is actually about the most disgusting thing on earth is bad. This lack of logic made me not want to trust another thing you said and after reading the rest of your post I realized that instinct was correct.

    4. Rebecca Estepp was a litigant in the Vaccine Court on behalf of her child who she claimed was "vaccine injured". The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence and lack of medical records for the child, presented by the litigant:

      I have great empathy for parents of special needs children. I have no respect for Rebecca Estepp and her ilk who maliciously attack high school students who have produced an excellent, extraordinarily well-researched film on vaccines.

      Don't even try to lecture me about autism and the non-existent link to vaccines. It's a fool's errand.

    5. People that can't even use "your" and "you're" correctly, should not be taken serious......

    6. The irony!! "...should not be taken serious...."

      You mean "seriously" right???

  5. There is no such thing as "autism". Psychiatry itself is a bogus science. The following articles and essays explain this:

    12 Part essay that exposes psychiatry as a bogus science

    Inventor of ADHD: “ADHD is a fictitious disease”

    Co-Founder of DSM admits there is no way to scientifically prove that mentall illness is real

    One year old babies and younger being put on psychiatric drugs

    Psychiatric Drugs Shorten Life Span by 15 years on average

    Psychiatry is based on lies and falsehoods

    Psychiatry is a fake science

    Every human emotion is now a "mental illness"

    Ten Myths about Psychiatric Drugs

    Studies show psychiatric drugs have no benefits and are dangerous

    Psychiatry is now giving 3 year old children drugs

    Psychiatric drugs make you sicker

    A few free eBooks talking about how psychiatry is a massive hoax

    A list of THOUSANDS of psychiatrists who have committed crimes against their patients

    1. Imagine that - a bunch of wackos that oppose psychiatry (including scientologists)......

    2. Wow! I see why you hate psychiatry. It seems not to have worked for you.

  6. FRAUD.... this dam is leaking, and the flood is coming.. are you ready to stand strong?

    1. yeah, that's why my major depression being treated by my psychiatrist worked and is the only thing that ever worked, and before you say that I'm making it up, imagine for a second a child in kindergarden crying for no reason brought up by a caring and loving family, that was me. I have a genetic predisposition towards depression and for the first time in my life feel fine. People like you are, as lawrence said either scientologists which has no scientific reasoning for anything, or completely unfeeling human beings.

  7. @Anon - you might want to double-check your sources.....

    Boohoo - you lose.

    1. @Anon - Hooker & Wakefield are about to get sued.....

  8. It is getting really frustrating to use scientific arguments against the anti-vax arguments, only to have them tell you the research is bullshit because of who funded it. Is there a roundup of research that exists that was funded through grants or independent organizations? I just want something that can't be dismissed as a conspiracy theory. As ridiculous as that is.

  9. Laura, start here:

    I really like this one because it shows the level of dishonesty anti-vaxxers engage in.

    1. Thank you! Although, I find at this point the anti-vax people I have to interact with shy away from the autism thing now. It's a whole long list of other stupid things... Like, the human DNA can cause autoimmune disease, the egg ingredient can cause egg allergies, vaccines alter the balance of the immune system by decreasing th1 cells which leaves the person open to illness... toxins, toxins, toxins... Every time I dig up research that disproves the supposition, the research is written off because of how it was funded. Even if it was funded by the CDC/etc. then it still isn't good because the government is in big pharma's pocket... Honestly, I pretty much give up. I'm most frustrated because the person I argue with the most is a family member and a Chiropractor so of course her "medical degree" trumps my intelligence and common sense.

    2. Laura, Anti-vaxx strategy is to shift the goal-posts every time their argument is refuted so there is no way you can win on that front. What you can do is put the ball in their court and ask for evidence to support their claims. By the way, Chiropractors do not have medical degrees by any stretch of the imagination let alone any education in the scientific disciplines required to "trump" the consensus.