Thursday, January 23, 2014

Musings on Anonymity and Libel

Several years ago, when I first met my dear friend, he and I spent many hours discussing a great many things. Religion, literature, science, and how the status quo, the scientific consensus, has perverted the purity of science. That last was a particular interest of mine, a fascinating sociological enigma that had already begun to occupy my thoughts. How delightful it was for me to find someone with similar interests.

He introduced me to this little blog here and asked if I would like to collaborate, something I was quite honoured to do. I was already familiar with David Gorski at that time. Many years ago, when he was on Usenet, I occasionally commented on some of his articles and/or discussions. Gorski, you see, was one of the defenders of the status quo. He ridiculed any views that were in opposition to his and was unwilling to accept evidence that was in opposition to his point of view. He attacked opposing viewpoints relentlessly, with an almost religious fervor, yet refused to scrutinize or question his own orthodoxy. He would scoff and dismiss any ideas that opposed his views instead of objectively analyzing them. His views were a perversion of science, and it intrigued me that this pretentious wind-bag was given so much credence considering that he was the very definition of a pseudo-skeptic.

Then, as now, I was anonymous, and my friend and I had many discussions (some quite heated) regarding anonymity and why he should choose to be anonymous. Sadly, he learned the hard way why he should stay anonymous after an unhinged and disturbing individual began stalking and harassing him online. He has now gone into hiding, only commenting under his real name on blogs and sites that he knows he is safe to comment on (like this one).

I will remain anonymous. I do so to protect my livelihood and my reputation. Not that I’m ashamed of anything I’m doing by pointing out how unscientific Gorski is. It’s something I’m quite proud of, as a matter of fact. No, I remain anonymous to prevent narcissistic busy-bodies like the one I will mention below from contacting my place of business in an attempt to get me fired or reprimanded, like she’s done before.

Gorski wrote an article today lamenting the tendency of people to out pseudonyms. Despite Gorski’s whining and martyrdom complex regarding how this was done to him, I mostly agree. However, this is not actually what I want to talk about.

I wanted to discuss a comment on Gorski’s blog from one of the more vile, shrill, vapid, and hypocritical fuss-budgets amongst the Pseudo-skeptics, one that I’ve written about on more than one occasion.

Lilady is one of the more humourous of Gorski’s sycophants. She bemoans how mean and cruel “anti-vaxxers” are, but then turns around and is even more cruel and vicious than they could ever be. She wails about how Jake Crosby stalks people like Gorski and Offit, yet she turns around and constantly stalks him and Anne Dachel. She also has many of the classic signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. For example, she expects everyone to believe she’s a retired nurse and epidemiologist (the latter began appearing in her numerous comments only in the past two years) and makes sure to mention it in nearly every comment she makes, which fits under the need to be recognized as superior. She expects constant attention, which is why she comments on Gorski’s site saying, “Look what I’m doing over here! I’m having an argument with anti-vaxxers!!” She lacks the ability to empathise with the people she argues with, and is arrogant towards them. She thinks she should be treated fairly and respected, yet she does not treat others in the same way.

Now, I know that writing this post will likely feed her narcissism, and if that’s the case, so be it. I still think it is important to point out her pseudo-skeptical behaviours and comment on the lack of critical thinking exhibited.

The below comment is the meat of my discussion today:

“Orac, I think I can speak for the RI Ladies to thank you for this excellent, sensitive post about “outing” a female blogger, by a man in a position of power. It is a vicious spiteful tactic designed to qwell any dissent and to put a younger less powerful woman in her place.

Your personal stalker who posts on his blog as “gambolputty”, has employed the same libelous tactics against me on his own blog and has used another pseudonym (“Caro”) to post nasty libelous comments at me on the Ho-Po and on Seth Mnookin’s blog:

It’s downright disconcerting and threatening for any blogger to resort to “outing”…doubly so, when the victim of the outing is a woman.”

First off, notice the utter fawning and blatant arse-kissery? Pretty disgusting, yes?

Secondly, I believe that Lilady needs to be edumacated on the definitions of stalking and libel. I personally find both of these accusations to be very serious, and therefore, I must address them accordingly.

Let’s start with the legal definition of stalking. I’ll use the definitions for cyber-stalking as opposed to physical stalking considering that most of this alleged activity is occurring online.

“Cyber harassment refers to online harassment. Cyber harassment or bullying is the use of email, instant messaging, and derogatory websites to bully or otherwise harass an individual or group through personal attacks. Cyber harassment can be in the form of flames, comments made in chat rooms, sending of offensive or cruel e-mail, or even harassing others by posting on blogs or social networking sites. Cyber harassment is often difficult to track as the person responsible for the acts of cyber harassment remains anonymous while threatening others online.” (1)

So, let’s look at some of her comments on Gorski’s site that fit into these criteria.

“According to Jake…he was very *respectful*, just wanted to pose a *question* (rambling statement of *facts* as Jake’s sees the *facts*) and Dr. Offit publicly humiliated Jake.

Who knows if Jake is reporting his encounter with Dr. Offit accurately. Jake has been known to *misinterpret* and incorrectly report his many stalking capers, in his efforts to curry favor with his *keepers* at AoA and with his readership at that yellow rag.

Who should be believe then? Dr. Offit who is a world- respected scientist and physician and the director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Department of CHOP? Dr. Offit who developed a safe rotavirus vaccine and who has devoted his professional life to educating parents, physicians, nurses, and students about immunology, vaccine safety and vaccine preventable diseases?


Jake Crosby, who is clueless about Intussusception (the bowel *turns inside out*, according to Jake), who repeatedly commits libel in his writings and commits slander every time he stalks Dr. Offit and lets loose with his false accusations. Jake Crosby, who has an undying love for a disgraced former doctor, that causes him to stalk and accost Dr. Offit and other public figures. Jake who *uses* a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome to justify his atrocious anti-social behaviors that includes stalking and defamation of character.

I know Jake, his *handlers* and his readership lurk here. Just for you Jake…you are, in my opinion, a POS, you have an unnatural fixation on your hero Wakefield. And Jake, you may somehow graduate with a MPH…but you will never be an epidemiologist in the public health field.”

Anonymous? Check. Using derogatory rhetoric to harass, bully, and make personal attacks against an individual? Check. Threatening? Not really…lilady is about as harmless and inconsequential as a dung beetle. However, that last comment could certainly be taken as threatening. She constantly lurks on his site and on facebook. She digs up information about his parents, what his parents jobs are, and keeps very close tabs on Jake’s whereabouts and activities, even going so far as to speculate about his dating habits.

If that’s not stalking, I don’t know what is. Hello, hypocrisy.

Now, let’s address the libel comment. In particular, as it pertains to yours truly. Here is the legal definition of libel:

“to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others.” “Publication need only be to one person, but it must be a statement which claims to be fact, and is not clearly identified as an opinion. While it is sometimes said that the person making the libelous statement must have been intentional and malicious, actually it need only be obvious that the statement would do harm and is untrue.”(2)

Lilady has, on many occasions, made comments regarding Mr Crosby, Ms McCarthy and others that were untrue and with the intent to harm their reputations.

Here’s the thing, lilady…if I’m disagreeing with you and giving you a reason for my disagreement, that is not libel. Saying that I don’t believe that you are a retired nurse and epidemiologist is also not libel, especially since it’s a reasonable observation, and it’s clear that what I am expressing is an opinion. It also cannot harm your reputation because a) you’re doing that yourself with your angry, shrieking, hysterical posts and b) you are anonymous and therefore have no professional reputation to uphold. But to lilady, anyone who disagrees with her directly is posting nasty comments and is a “libelous slanderer” (yes, that’s actually one of her insults).

Continuing on, let’s look at the link she provided. This is where it gets hilarious. The comment she links to is not even directed at her, but she thinks that it’s libeling her. Talk about narcissism!

Lastly, I do not condone “outing” pseudonymous bloggers and writers. Oft-times, they do this for a reason, and I respect that reason. Just as I respect lilady’s anonymity. Gorski is already “out,” and it’s no secret who he is. Therefore, my use of his real name opposed to his pseudonym is irrelevant. I have never once done this to her, nor have I personally done it to anyone else. And I take great offense that she would accuse me of doing so.

I do not have the ability to comment on Gorski’s blog. He usually doesn’t like what I have to say about him, so he either moderates my comments (yes, he moderates selectively, despite his assurances of the contrary…if he doesn’t like what someone says, he will not let the comment through), or they get caught in his web filter (I use an anonymous proxy to hide my location from other bloggers…yes, a bit paranoid, I know. But considering what happened to my friend, I think it’s a reasonable precaution). So, I can’t post this over on Gorski’s blog as a rebuttal. I take accusations such as the one that lilady leveled at me very seriously. I strongly encourage her to refrain from making such accusations and educate herself on the terminology she’s using to accuse others. If she actually has real and concrete proof that I am libeling her in some way, then present that proof instead of trying to play the martyr and woe-is-me. If she cannot provide this proof, then it’s more evidence that she is a liar and that she’s full of shite.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Science Bowel Movements Wants Your Money. Just Trust them…it Isn’t a Scam.

Another post, you say? Two in a week? What is going on here?

Once again, I find myself sufficiently amused by someone’s blatant hypocrisy that I just have to say something about it. You know me…I can’t keep silent in the face of such shameless duplicity.

Who, do you ask, is responsible for this chuckle-worthy sanctimony?

Do you really need to ask?

David Gorski wants us to join his organization of elitist science wannabes:

“The reason this new organization, the Society for Science-Based Medicine, is so needed is because, quite frankly, in the skeptical movement SBM is but one area of many areas of concern, and, in my estimation, one that doesn’t receive attention proportional to the real societal damage done by quackery. That has changed a bit (this year’s TAM featured two talks on Stanislaw Burzynski, and the skeptical movement has shown a gratifying movement towards combatting the antivaccine movement over the last few years), but, even so, I don’t think I exaggerate too much when I say that, even now, SBM tends not to be as prominent a concern in organized skepticism as other brands of pseudoscience and unreason, in particular creationism, religion, and the paranormal.”

So, the main purpose of this little society is so that David can feel important, pretending that what his little elitist club is doing actually matters. That what they are doing is making a difference. A laudable goal, to be sure, if it wasn’t so laughable.

“A new organization is needed to counter unreason and pseudoscience in medicine. That is why the Society for Science-Based Medicine is being founded. That is why I want you to join us.”

It’s clear that David’s hope is that he will be considered the super-hero of “SBM” (which, in my opinion, should be Science Bowel Movement).

That, and he wants your money. $85 a year to listen to his drivel? No thanks, I’d rather have 365 days straight of root canals.

I find it remarkably amusing that David lambasts organizations like Age of Autism for asking readers for donations, saying that their site really serves no purpose other than to promote quackery and pseudoscience.

So what does he do? He asks for money from his readers for a site and/or organization that serves no other purpose than to promote his version quackery and pseudoscience.

The reason why Science Bowel Movements is not as popular or noticed as some of the things they purport to fight is because everyone is waking up to just how much of a scam these elitist scum are performing.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at their guiding principles:

Respect for knowledge and truth – SBM values reality and what is true. We therefore endeavor to be as reality-based as possible in our beliefs and opinions. This means subjecting all claims to a valid process of evaluation.”

Except when that claim conforms to their own bias. In other words, they only respect their own version of knowledge and truth. Anything else should be attacked with rabid abandon, going so far as to stalk, harass, intimidate, and bully anyone they disagree with.

Methodological naturalism – SBM believes that the world is knowable because it follows certain rules, or laws of nature. The only legitimate methods for knowing anything empirical about the universe follows this naturalistic assumption. In other words – within the realm of the empirical, you don’t get to invoke magic or the supernatural.”

Except when it comes to how their pet theories work. You don’t have to understand it…it’s Science, man! Just trust them and don’t ask any questions!

Promotion of science – Science is the only set of methods for investigating and understanding the natural world. Science is therefore a powerful tool, and one of the best developments of human civilization. We therefore endeavor to promote the role of science in our society, public understanding of the findings and methods of science, and high-quality science education. This includes protecting the integrity of science and education from ideological intrusion or anti-scientific attacks. This also includes promoting high quality science, which requires examining the process, culture, and institutions of science for flaws, biases, weaknesses, and fraud.”

Except when it comes to examining themselves and those they agree with for biases, weaknesses, and fraud.

Promotion of reason and critical thinking – Science works hand-in-hand with logic and philosophy, and therefore SBM also promotes understanding of these fields and the promotion of critical thinking skills.”

Except when it comes to critically thinking about their own claims. You should just accept everything they say at face value.

Science vs. pseudoscience – SBM seeks to identify and elucidate the borders between legitimate science and pseudoscience, to expose pseudoscience for what it is, and to promote knowledge of how to tell the difference.”

Except when it comes to the science that conforms to their expectations. No matter how bad the science, if they agree with it, then it must be good science.

Ideological freedom/free inquiry – Science and reason can only flourish in a secular society in which no ideology (religious or otherwise) is imposed upon individuals or the process of science or free inquiry.”

Except when it comes to their religion. Thou shalt not question the science they agree with. Thou shalt not disagree with them or point out the flaws in their dogma…err scientific studies that they agree with.

Neuropsychological humility – Being a functional SBM proponent requires knowledge of all the various ways in which we deceive ourselves, the limits and flaws in human perception and memory, the inherent biases and fallacies in cognition, and the methods that can help mitigate all these flaws and biases.”

Except when it comes to themselves. This principle doesn’t apply to them.

They even go one step further, ridiculing a quote from Doctor Mehmet Oz:

““Medicine is a very religious experience. I have my religion and you have yours. It becomes difficult for us to agree on what we think works, since so much of it is in the eye of the beholder. Data is rarely clean. You find the arguments that support your data, and it’s my fact versus your fact.”

Dr. Oz is wrong. We have a way of determining what works: the methods of science. Like all tools it is only as effective as the person wielding it.”

Except that their interpretation of science is more akin to a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.

Which is religion.

I cannot help but laugh at these fools. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds, apparently. Do as they say, not as they do.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Censorship is Bad…Unless You’re a False Skeptic

Some of you may have wondered why I haven’t posted much over the past year. Honestly, the little Vaccine/Autism war has grown tiresome for me, and I find myself growing increasingly bored with the same drivel coming from the false skeptic community when it comes to defending their own confirmation biases while ridiculing anything that doesn’t conform to their point of view.

Occasionally, however, one of these cretins does something that I find sufficiently amusing enough to rouse me from the ennui that their droning ego-masturbatory cries for attention tends to induce in me. And, sure enough, it comes from the king of narcissistic false skepticism, Mr David H. Gorski. Are you in the least bit surprised?

David is blathering about how something offends him…his usual verbal diarrhoea. Today he’s droning on about how he thinks censorship is bad on Facebook, Mkay? Observe:

“My personal issues with Facebook aside, Facebook does indeed have many shortcomings, but until something else comes along and steals the same cachet (which is already happening as teens flee Facebook to avoid their parents) and even after, Facebook will remain a major player in social media. That’s why its policies matter. They can matter a lot. I was reminded of this about a week ago when Dorit Reiss (who has of late been the new favored target of the antivaccine movement, likely because she is a lawyer and has been very effective thus far in her young online career opposing the antivaccine movement) published a post entitled Abusing the Algorithm: Using Facebook Reporting to Censor Debate. Because I also pay attention to some Facebook groups designed to counter the antivaccine movement, I had already heard a little bit about the problem, but Reiss laid it out in stark detail. Basically, the merry band of antivaccinationists at the Australian Vaccination Network (soon to be renamed because its name is so obviously deceptive, given that it is the most prominent antivaccine group in Australia, that the NSW Department of Fair Trading ordered the anti-vaccine group to change its misleading name) has discovered a quirk in the algorithm Facebook uses to process harassment complaints against users and abused that quirk relentlessly to silence its opponents on Facebook.”

David is somewhat correct here; censorship, in any form, is wrong. What he is describing is a form of bullying and harassment, behaviour I find to be childish and appalling.

Except that David thinks that censorship is only bad when false skeptics are censored…it’s ok when they censor opposing views.

This is a theme that I’ve written about numerous times on this site; the hypocritical double standard that false skeptics are free to bully, harass, intimidate and censor any opposing views, but how dare anyone do it back. He can dish it out, but he can’t take it.

This is a common tactic on Facebook for the false skeptics. In fact, there is an entire page devoted to it; they call it the Anti-Vax Wall of Shame (which Gorski happens to be a member of). They make sport of ridiculing parents of vaccine injured children. They congratulate each other for bullying, harassing and intimidating anyone who opposes their point of view, and take great pride in reporting and banning anyone they don’t like. In fact, I’ve found one or two sites devoted to posting the reports and bannings instigated by the AVWOS.

For example, here’s Provax Quacks, who has several posts about bans and reportings from members of the same hate-group that Gorski is a member of.

Just don’t report or ban David’s arse-lickers…that’s bad.

He even goes as far as to tell his fart-sniffers to continue bullying, harassing and censoring opposing views…just don’t tell anyone you’re doing it.

“In other words, carry on what you’re doing, but please, just be a little less blatant about it and for heaven’s sake don’t publicly gloat about it when your abuse of Facebook’s reporting mechanism succeed!”

He later comments and laughs about how the site “FB Time-Outs for Provaxers” is no longer accessible:

“Bwahahahaha. Apparently “Karen Little” either took down her gloating page or changed its privacy settings. The Keanu Reeve meme, in which the tag line was “What if I told you it wasn’t the algorithm,” now does not show up.”

Or, it could be because someone reported the page. Do as I say, not as I do.

What a bloody hypocrite.

I’m not much of a Facebook user. When I do use FB, I make sure my posts are private and that I never comment on any of the Vaccine Zealot or Vaccine Skeptic pages or groups. I might read them, but I never comment. The extreme efforts that others, vaccine zealot and skeptic alike, will go through to silence opposition sickens me. I say let them speak their drivel, but point out their logical fallacies, point out their hypocritical behaviours and actions, and let others see what they are doing. Eventually, people will start to realize that they should not associate with these bullies and zealots and wonder why so many people are turning away from Gorski’s version of Religion-as-Science.

Readers, please feel free to post here times when you’ve been censored, banned, or reported for posting something that wasn’t in line with what vaccine zealots and false skeptics didn’t like.