On Wednesday, July 25, 2012, an article by me was published on the web site Mamamia with the title "The anti-vaxxers reach a shocking new low". This did not please Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network, who proceeded to publish no less than four responses on the AVN's blog over a period of days. Not unexpectedly she did not really address what I had said but instead set out on a "shoot the messenger" frenzy of ad hominem. As I am blocked from responding on the AVN blog I have no alternative but to publish my responses here.
This is my answer to her fourth post. So that I can't be accused of selective editing, you can see the original here:
The parts marked in yellow are where Ms Dorey has said something which might not necessarily be true (for certain values of "true"). My responses are in italics.
The blog post was in two parts. Ms Dorey's attack on me was followed by an anonymous attack on everyone who wants to see children protected from disease. An identity was later offered for the anonymous poster, but that doesn't excuse her hiding when she participated in abusing me.
The author of this guest-blog has asked to remain anonymous due to her fear of being targeted by the Australian Skeptics and Stop the AVN.
When, oh when, is Ms Dorey going to shut up about Australian Skeptics? I first knowingly met anyone associated with the organisation at their national conference in Adelaide in November 1999. Ms Dorey had been accusing me of criminal activity in March that year. She has been told time and time again that Australian Skeptics has nothing to do with Stop the AVN except a small overlap in membership, but I guess that as long as a lie can be told it will be told.
And why should anyone with convictions be afraid of being asked to defend those convictions. I've been using my real name since I first connected to the Internet in any way, I have never posted anything anonymously, and I stand by what I say. That others are too frightened to take responsibility for what they say tells me all I need to know about them.
She is the parent of vaccine-damaged children – some of whom are on the autistic spectrum.
When she finally admitted who she was, she claimed to have six vaccine-damaged children. I don't like to get personal, but this is simply not true. Here is what she said:
My name is Tasha David and I am the widowed mother of 8 children, 6 of whom were vaccinated and as a result, have neurodevelopmental and autoimmune disorders. They have suffered from eczema, asthma, psoriasis, chronic ear infections, gastrointestinal disorders (ie chronic diarrhea, chronic constipation and urinary tract infections), food allergies and intolerances, and chemical sensitivities while my 2 youngest unvaccinated children have NONE of their sibling's disorders.
There is a technical term for claims like this. They are known as "bullshit".
She found Peter Bowditch's assaults against families of vaccine-injured children to be incredibly disturbing.
I have never assaulted anyone and I don't talk about "families of vaccine-damaged children", I talk about people who lie about the benefits and dangers of vaccines. Don't like what I say – then stop telling lies.
As a result, she chose to write about her fears regarding where society is headed when parents who love and cherish their children can be abused because of their health choices.
If people expose their children to harm then society is quite entitled to take an interest. Nobody is abused because of their health choices, although they should expect some criticism when those choices endanger children.
If you agree that nobody has the right to treat another individual in this way, please make a supportive comment on this blog page. It doesn't matter whether you are pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine or somewhere in the middle – any decent human being would have to accept that harassment, abuse and discrimination are never justified.
Oh, right, anybody pro or con can make a comment. Except me. I'm blocked. People are free to abuse me as much as they like (and several took the opportunity to do that in the comments) but discrimination is never justified unless it is. The rampant hypocrisy here would take your breath away.
Oppose Peter Bowditch and the incredibly vile comments of those who support him by speaking up for the right to make our own choices on this and all health issues.
I have never said that people should not be able to make choices, but those choices should only be made on the basis of accurate information. If people refuse to vaccinate their children because they believe the lies told by anti-vaccination campaigners then they are not making informed choices.
If you are on Twitter, please use the hashtag #DumpBowditch on your tweets to encourage Mia Freedman of Mamamia and other venues where this man publishes his hate-speech to no longer allow him an opportunity for abuse. Feel free to drop them a line as well, telling them how you feel about this issue.
Yes, feel free to try to deny me the right to express an opinion. Feel free to make anonymous complaints. Feel free to abuse my name on Twitter. But remember, abuse and discrimination are never justified.
And here is the anonymous post.
Our history is full of people using terms to incite hostility, fear and resentment against other groups, and now is the age of the 'Anti Vaxxer' – the title given to people who question the safety and in some cases the necessity of vaccinations.
No, it's the term given to people who are opposed to vaccinations. That's what the prefix "anti-" means. The safety of vaccines is questioned constantly by scientists, immunologists and other people associated with vaccines. The necessity for certain vaccines is also questioned, which is why the schedule changes from time to time. I can remember when smallpox vaccination was mandatory for people planning to travel outside Australia. It is no longer considered necessary. Oh, and that would be because vaccination made wild smallpox extinct.
If you look in the newspapers or on the internet, you will see that people who question vaccine safety are ridiculed, condemned and discriminated against on quite a regular basis. You might think, "Surely this behaviour is not promoted by supposedly intelligent, rational beings in this day and age?", but unfortunately you would be wrong.
People who question vaccine safety work for organisations like the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance. People who lie about vaccine safety and effectiveness and danger are not ridiculed enough.
Just look at this list of recent quotes from newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph and blogs and articles from around the world…
"Parents who dodge vaccinating their kids are pocketing thousands of dollars"
As they are. See "Theft of taxpayers' money".
"…babies die because of the antivaccination movement."
Yes, that's right. Children too young for certain vaccines are exposed to deadly diseases like whooping cough because the level of vaccination is too low to provide adequate herd immunity.
"Bill Gates Says Anti-Vaccine Autism Groups "Kill Children" — And He's Right"
He is. Denying life-saving protection to children based on a long-discredited lie can lead to the deaths of those children. Vaccines do not cause autism. And that's as near to a fact as any science can be.
"NSW paediatrician Dr Chris Ingall added this: "We're appalled at how many kids are getting whooping cough because the chardonnay set and the alternatives don't vaccinate their children."
As a chardonnay drinker myself I take issue with Dr Ingall on that, but as he sees the result of low vaccination rates in the region where he lives on a regular basis he is simply speaking the truth. Whooping cough can be prevented. That some people choose to expose their children and the children of other families to this disease is indeed appalling.
When did raising your child with love, respect, a healthy diet, plenty of fresh air, sunshine and exercise, while limiting their exposure to toxins become a crime?
It has never been a crime, and never will be. There is a logical fallacy called "straw man". Here is an example of it.
And which toxins are these? Don't tell me you're about to start lying about vaccine ingredients.
If you listen to what these people are saying, anyone who does not vaccinate their child is a money grabbing, disease causing, child killer.
No, anybody who claims benefits that they are not really entitled to is "money grabbing". People who advocate against vaccination are child killers. Everybody else is something else.
So who are these supposed child killers'?
Many are parents who have vaccine injured/killed children; some are educated and health-conscious individuals who want a more natural approach to good health; and some are alternative practitioners, doctors or scientists. Do any of these groups sound like child killers to you? What they all have in common is something that most of us take for granted: the belief that everyone deserves the right to decide what the best health choices are for themselves and their families
There is no evidence that any of these children have been injured by vaccines. There is no evidence that any of these children have been killed by vaccines. Oh, I know that two of the vilest lies told by anti-vaccination campaigners are that vaccines cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and are responsible for the injuries associated with Shaken Baby Syndrome, but no sane person in possession of facts believes them.
It is no surprise that practitioners of fake medicine oppose vaccines. If you don't believe that bacteria or viruses cause disease then of course you won't believe that protection against these organisms is necessary, specially if you make a living by selling snake oil. As for alternative doctors and scientists, someone has to come bottom of the class and being a doctor or a scientist is no protection against being either wrong or greedy. Of course, to an anti-vaccination liar the quality of the doctor or scientist is determined by their position on vaccines. That is how corrupt doctors like Andrew Wakefield or stupid scientists like Boyd Haley are given more credence than the tens of thousands of real doctors and scientists who do real work.
Like Ms Dorey and her eternal rants about Australian Skeptics it seems almost pointless to keep emphasising that nobody is being denied choice. All we want is for those choices to be informed by facts, not lies and ideology.
I find the hostile attitude towards parents of vaccine injured children particularly astounding, as parents of children that have been killed or disabled have always been treated with an outpouring of compassion, understanding and empathy. If the death or injury have been caused by a vaccine however, they are somehow no longer worthy of these basic human emotions.
Whine, whine, whine. The hostile attitude is towards people who lie about vaccine injuries. Parents of children who are ill or who die are treated with the utmost respect. Unless, of course, their child dies of whooping cough, in which case it is acceptable for anti-vaccination liars to try to get access to medical records, or to accuse the parents of being paid to support vaccination, or to continually mention the baby's name after being asked on multiple occasions not to do so. Like everything about anti-vaccination liars it is all about them and their rights and feelings and nobody else matters at all.
Instead, we get open hostility and contempt as seen in the case of Peter Bowditch who asks vaccine-injured parents if they get sexual pleasure from seeing dead babies!
So now it's the parents who are injured? I asked a specific question of one anonymous troll. As the person was anonymous I had no way of knowing anything about any vaccine-damaged children. In any case, there must be some pleasure derived from seeing dead babies otherwise anti-vaccination liars would not work so hard to increase the number.
And how does our society respond to a man who can say such vile things? Well, apparently it is no big deal, as he still continues to write articles for the popular women's and children's website Mamamia! Is this the kind of individual who should be writing about women and children's health?
Anti-vaccination liars want total freedom to say whatever they like about vaccines, about doctors like Paul Offit, about me, and they want to deny me my freedom of speech. At least I write about improving women's and children's health and don't spend my days trying to make health worse for both groups.
Another very disturbing aspect to come out of this portrayal of 'anti vaxxers' is that the media, government and medical vaccine advocates are working together in promoting an 'us' versus 'them' mentality. These groups are actively condoning discrimination and in turn, persecution of the Australian Vaccination Network, it's founder Meryl Dorey and anyone associated with them. Is this what our true Aussie spirit is about now? Be there for your mate but only if he vaccinates.
The media reports stories, and anti-vaccination liars have no problem when the media give them uncritical support. (I refer you to the radio interview that everyone is talking about.) The government governs for all of us and hopefully in our best interest, which is why the government supports a scientifically-based vaccination program to reduce or eliminate disease. "Medical vaccine advocates" are just doctors who recognise science and want their patients to avoid getting sick. We keep hearing "alternative" medicine supporters talking about prevention, yet they oppose the best method ever discovered to prevent disease. How could any sane person not be a vaccine advocate?
Samuel Johnson was right about patriotism being the refuge of scoundrels. Since when has the "Aussie spirit" allowed people to say whatever they liked while ignoring facts? This has nothing to do with being Australian. It has to do with preserving the health of children and others in society. Appealing to patriotism while claiming to be some sort of oppressed minority is pathetic, particularly when the claimants want special treatment that is contrary to public welfare and interest.
1. To oppress or harass with ill-treatment, especially because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs.
2. To annoy persistently; bother.
1. (Sociology) unfair treatment of a person, racial group, minority, etc.; action based on prejudice
a. A racial, religious, political, national, or other group thought to be different from the larger group of which it is part.
b. A group having little power or representation relative to other groups within a society.
We as a society believe that discrimination, harassment and persecution against minorities or any law-abiding citizen is unconscionable. Now however, it seems that it is acceptable if the minority or individual in question does not vaccinate to a government approved schedule.
If simply being a minority should endow a group with protection against harassment do we apply this to racists, pedophiles and heroin users? All make claims for special consideration. Don't say "but these are illegal activities" because making something illegal is a form of attempted suppression. Governments make all sorts of laws and rules about public (and private) health and safety from compulsory seat belts in cars to protective clothing on construction sites to speed limits on the road to the amount of alcohol a commercial pilot can have in his blood when he goes to work. They also make rules about how children and others should be protected from disease. The fact that a minority of irresponsible parents want to practise what must surely be seen as a form of child abuse does not make what they do either legal or morally justified. (Remember that many anti-vaccination deniers are prepared to support people who beat children to death, the ultimate form of child abuse.)
Prediction: The first sentence of the previous paragraph will be used by anti-vaccination liars to suggest that I equate vaccine deniers with pedophiles. Remember that you read that here first.
What these harassers of 'anti-vaxxers' do not realise (or maybe they do) is that they are laying the foundation for persecution and repression of people that are just trying to raise their families in the healthiest way possible.
The path to repression begins with many small steps. It starts with the gradual wearing away of someone else's rights through restriction of employment, public education, and government entitlements. Then comes ostracism whilst creating fear, hostility and resentment towards the group in question from the rest of society. Not too soon after that, segregation comes in to the mix.
She'll be quoting Pastor Martin Niemöller next. Is the hubris of these people boundless? This is getting very close to an invocation of Godwin's Law.
You may think that this is an unlikely scenario, but I cannot tell you how many times everyday mums and dads have told me to keep my children out of schools with vaccinated children; to stay out of public places where vaccinated people may be exposed to our disease-causing germs; some have even wished that all people who don't vaccinate could be murdered or expressed a wish for their children to die from disease!
Vaccination is not 100% effective so it is perfectly reasonable for responsible parents to want you to keep your pox-ridden children away from theirs. Likewise, people should be able to freely go into public places without the risk of coming into contact with others who, through their own deliberate actions, could be carriers of disease.
Nobody says that people who don't vaccinate should be murdered. Lies don't help the cause, but I suppose when all you've got is lies then another one doesn't matter.
Countless times in history we have seen that ugliness in human nature breeds more ugliness. Intolerance, discrimination, persecution, repression are all formed through fear and hatred. Have we learned nothing from the past, or are we just so insecure that we always have to look for someone to oppress in order to make ourselves feel powerful and dominant?
We have learnt from the past. We just have to visit any long-established graveyard and look at the rows of graves of children who died from diseases that are almost unknown today. And we have learnt that there are always groups who will, for all sorts of reasons, oppose almost any progress in health, education, society. We have learnt to treat these groups with the contempt they deserve. And I smell Godwin again.
If this type of hostility continues towards people who just want the right to make choices for their own families, what do we have to look forward to in the future?
I hope we can look forward to a time when diseases like polio and measles are just a distant, bad memory, as smallpox is. And when that happens we will look back on anti-vaccination liars the same way we now look back on people who condoned slavery, or sent children down into coal mines, or refused to allow women to vote, or burned witches. We will abhor what they did, whether they knew it to be wrong or not, or even if they cared. The world will be a better place without them.