In case you were wondering how evil the anti-vaccine cult can get

I know that you probably won’t be surprised to hear how evil the anti-vaccine zealots can get over the topic of vaccination. But, just in case you think that theirs is a religion of peace, let’s take a look at what is happening in California right now.

State Senator Richard Pan, a pediatrician, has proposed legislation that does away with the personal belief exemption from vaccination requirements for school. That’s all the bill does. If an anti-vaccine parent wants their precious little snowflakes to go to school with the rest of society, then they need to due their civic duty and protect the most vulnerable from vaccine-preventable diseases. Hey, everyone does this for them, so it’s time that they do it for others.

In no place within the bill does it state that children would be forced to be vaccinated. There are no civil or criminal penalties for not vaccinating. Anti-vaccine cult members can continue to not vaccinate their children, but they can’t take advantage of herd immunity provided by the children of responsible parents. They also can’t erode herd immunity at a school level.

Sorry, creeps, but we took a vote, and we want you to be responsible if you’re going to be part of our society.

Of course, the anti-vaccine priests came out in full force and decided to brand Dr. Pan a traitor, a Nazi, and other choice adjectives, just like they do so much with Dr. Paul Offit. As a result of their anger, the California Capitol has had to be under a state of alert because…

“Emotions have flared as deliberations begin on SB 277 and anti-vaccine advocates lobby aggressively against the bill. At a raucous committee hearing last week, where several audience members were ejected, Democratic senators Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles and Bill Monning of Carmel chided opponents for calls to their offices that they said crossed the line.

The office of Sen. Ben Allen, a Santa Monica Democrat who is a co-author of Pan’s bill, declined to comment on whether he was also receiving threats or additional security.

Pan blamed the “vitriol” of prominent anti-vaccine advocates, such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who apologized this week for calling the rise in autism, which he believes is linked to vaccines, a “holocaust.””

See, when a high priest like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., stands up in front of his congregation and proclaims that vaccines are bringing about a “holocaust,” many if not all of the congregation members are going to collectively lose their goddamned minds. There’s no science in what RFK Jr. says. There’s no good evidence of what he stands for (or against, really). But why listen to evidence when the lies make you feel more comfortable?

RFK Jr. is not the only one stoking the flames. There are plenty in the anti-vaccine cult who are thirsty for blood. So stay safe out there, as you continue to fight the good fight.

Which is it, Mr. Handley?

For the uninitiated, JB Handley may not be a familiar name. It certainly wasn’t for me up until about seven years ago. Mr. Handley is one of many people behind “Age of Autism” and “Generation Rescue.” Both anti-vaccine groups who seek to link vaccines to an innumerable number of conditions. They also seek to link vaccines to autism.

Mr. Handley’s story of how he became such an ardent anti-vaccine activist varies depending on who you ask. Heck, it varies depending on what he feels like writing about it. For example, in the Generation Rescue page I linked above, the story is this:

“When Lisa and JB Handley’s son was diagnosed with autism in 2004, they simply did not believe it would be [child]’s lifelong destiny.  They committed themselves to healing their son.

Lisa and JB pursued all of the theories and avenues they could find, educating themselves as fully as possible as they reached the most likely conclusion:  the combination of antibiotics and vaccines administered to [child] in his first 18 months of life had overwhelmed his system and triggered his body into a state of being that we currently call autism.”

Note the key component of the story: It was “the combination of antibiotics and vaccines” given to their child “in his first 18 months of life.”

In February, 2015, JB Handley penned an article titled “An Angry Father’s Guide To The Measles Vaccine” where he wrote:

“Be informed. Please. I wish I had, 10 years ago, and my life and my family’s life would be much different today.”

Okay, so 2004 and 2005 are close. Maybe it was 10 years ago (2005) and not eleven (2004). I’m splitting hairs. But then there’s this:

“Man, did I get played by the CDC. It was the winter of 2003. You couldn’t turn on the T.V. without reading about another child dying from the flu: it’s a particularly bad strain, children are at high risk, flu shot supply is strained, get your child vaccinated while you still can!

And, we were listening closely. For my oldest son, turning 4 and healthy, we weren’t too worried. But for my younger son, our baby [child], at 15 months old, we were very concerned. He was sick all the time. This could be a real problem for him. They are talking about death here, and [child] seems to qualify as high risk.”

So now it’s 2003, and the child is 15 months old. Okay, it jives with the narrative. Then this:

“The first shot was in December. Our Christmas videos that year show a very normal [child] — excited about Santa’s arrival and closely tied to his older brother. The booster was in January.

By March, [child] was gone.”

Gone where? Ah, yes, gone nowhere. JB Handley seems to be the kind of person who sees children with special needs as “gone” or “missing” or “dead.” None of which is true. Those children are still alive and there, and many reach milestones which allow them to look back on their parent’s statements about them, something that saddens me as a child should never be referred that way by someone who loves them. But I digress.

Note that this article is about the measles vaccine. JB Handley, an angry father by his own description, wants to warn us about the measles vaccine, but here he is plainly telling us that is was the influenza vaccine in the winter of 2003-2004 that made his child be “gone.”

JB Handley spends the rest of the article using misinformation and intellectual dishonesty to tell us how vaccines don’t work, how they’re dangerous, blah, blah, blah. Typical anti-vaccine stuff. But note that his son was “sick all the time” and that this is why he and his wife opted to have the child vaccinated.

Now read this from an interview he gave in 2005:

“A Lafayette couple, certain that chelation therapy has helped their autistic son, stepped squarely into the controversy surrounding the causes of autism and its treatment Tuesday as they joined 150 other parents in launching an international support group that will aggressively promote the treatment.

[Child] was a happy, healthy baby who reached all his developmental milestones until he turned 18 months, his parents said. Then, he started spinning in circles and standing on his toes and no longer responded to his name. They were eventually told he was autistic — one of an increasing number of children over the last decade to be diagnosed with the disorder, which severely impairs a child’s ability to interact with others.”

So which is it? Was he sick all the time at age 15 months and that’s why he was vaccinated against influenza, or was he happy and healthy until 18 months? Remember, this is 2005, a little over a year has gone by. Recall bias may be at play, but it’s only a little over a year. (The child is said to be three years old at the time of the interview.)

By the way, the article is horrible. It claims that JB Handley’s child “returned” from autism in 2005. (Remember that part.)

In 2010, JB Handley wrote this in a post for AoA:

“More commonly, I hear from parents about a chronic slide into autism with a progression of health issues accompanying the slide. This was certainly true for my son. The eczema and bad bowels came immediately after the 2 month visit and his twelve month vaccine appointment (MMR, Varicella, Hep B, and Hib in his case) was what really seemed to push him over the edge, but it was a full year before we got a formal diagnosis. From 2 months forward, it was just a slow motion loss of everything.”

So now it’s a story that the child was sick starting at two months and got worse from there. But he was healthy and happy until 18 months according to JB Handley in 2005. This doesn’t make sense!

The thing that bothers me most about this is that many of the people at Age of Autism make a big deal when anyone writes about their children, but then they use their own parenting experiences and anecdotes as definitive proof that vaccines cause autism. For Kim Stagliano, one of the editors of AoA, even her unvaccinated daughter has autism because of vaccines: Because of the vaccines that Ms. Stagliano received before her daughter was born.

I would very much like it if children did not become entangled in this whole mess because those children will one day reach a place in their lives where their names will be associated with some pretty “interesting” conspiracy theories. (Nothing stays hidden on the web.) Many, too many, of those children will read that they were “lost” or “dead” because they were born autistic, even if their parents swear up and down that vaccines caused their autism. And many, too many, children will be the target of unproven, unscientific, sometimes unethical treatments for something that cannot be “cured.”

I truly wish JB Handley and others stuck to the evidence and left their children out of it. But, as you can see, their desire to use anecdotes only helps to show the inconsistency and lack of reliability to eye witness accounts and the necessity for objective, science-based evidence of what is really going on.

The future of science and technology in this country and the world

It’s been almost a moth since I last brought you the story of a woman who compared herself to victims of the Holocaust because she thinks she’s being persecuted for being irrational and acting like she’s insane when it comes to vaccines an anti-vaccine zealot. Since that time, I took a walk in the wild, so to speak, to get a feel for where I want to go with this whole struggle against anti-vaccine groups and anti-science misinformation permeating just about every form of media out there. You might not be surprised if I told you that all of this is exhausting.

It is exhausting because I keep reading the same lies and misinformation over and over and over and over and over again. Anyone who promotes the proper use of vaccines is in the pockets of Big Pharma. Anyone who opposes the idea that vaccines cause autism is disrespecting families of autistics. And anyone who sees autistic children and adults as not lost and not stolen somehow doesn’t understand autism. Those are just a few of the things that are floating out there.

There are, of course, other lies being perpetuated. The government is trying to kill us. Bill Gates is trying to depopulate the planet. (Good luck with that one. We keep multiplying and cramming ourselves into cities.) And, naturally, Monsanto is trying to feed us genetically modified organisms whether we like it or not.

Oh, and the Apple Watch will give us all cancer.

I’m really tired of it all. I could use my time for better things because, frankly, everything that needs to be said on the subject of vaccines has been said, or other people are saying it. But what about the next anti-scientific thing on the horizon? Quacks don’t sleep. (If they do, I hope they don’t sleep well.) They’re going to come up with some scheme to get rich quick and they don’t care much about who they hurt in the process.

There will always be suckers who will fall for whatever the quacks will sell to them. I don’t mean “suckers” in that it’s their fault that they fall for these things. Often times, these “suckers” are people who are desperate for a cure or relief for whatever ails them or their children. Often times, these “suckers” are people who cannot accept the established answers for whatever is going on and so they look for an answer that is more palatable.

Thinking about all this has me thinking about the future of science and technology in this country and the world. Can a child of an ardent anti-vaccine activist ever grow up to be involved in science and technology? Sure, there are physicians who are anti-vaccine, and there are plenty of scientists who believe in the vaccine-autism lie. But can a child really contribute to the body of knowledge that is science if their parents raise them in an anti-science household? We’ve all seen what “The Kid” has become, how hard he seems to work to destroy anything that is reasonable about the science and evidence of autism.

I’ve also been listening to some of the stupidity coming out of the Republican party pre-presidential candidates. They deny global climate change. They think that STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) are not subjects that should be taught in school. (They want religion to be taught instead, because the Earth is so 6,000 years old or something.) Sadly, more and more people are seeing things their way, electing more and more of them to positions of authority.

Lucky for me, I’m a hopeful kind of person. We’ve been in these types of scientific darkness kind of days before. Unfortunately, something has happened that shakes us all out of the apathy of not caring about science. I just hope it doesn’t take another world war or space race or cold war to do that. I hope it doesn’t take an outbreak of something more serious than measles to get us to vaccinate at adequate levels again. People shouldn’t die so we can continue our march forward as human beings.

So, for now, I’ll continue to wander in the wilderness and evaluate what my role in this whole thing is.

To the “Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice,” vaccine requirements are exactly like the Holocaust (UPDATED)

UPDATE #2 (2/24/15, 9pm): Heather Barajas, the woman in the picture below, has taken down her picture and her Facebook profile, so the links below are dead, but I have the screenshot:

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.32.37 PM

Dear anti-vaccine zealots, if you can’t take the heat, don’t do these idiotic comparisons.

UPDATE (2/23/15, 11pm): It gets worse. The woman comparing her decision to not vaccinate to the Holocaust was a pre-med student at California State University, San Bernadino, according to her Facebook page. That’s right. She wants to be a physician. God help us if she gets into med school.

Have you ever been to a Holocaust museum? I was in grade school when I went to one in my hometown. I was an adult when I went to the one in Washington, DC. In both cases, my mind couldn’t grasp the enormity of what happened in Europe under the Nazi regime. People of different races and ethnicities, of different sexual orientations, and those with any kind of disability were rounded up, put on trains and shipped out to concentration camps. In total, over 12 million men and women were systematically killed because they were deemed to be unworthy of being alive. Half of them were Jewish.

On the 70th anniversary of the battle at Iwo Jima, one of the many battles where members of my family fought to save the world from the horrors of the Axis Powers, a picture was posted on the Facebook page of the “Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice.” (I won’t link to their Facebook page or their website. I won’t give them that kind of publicity. Instead, read about what they’re all about from Todd W. here.) Here is that picture:

vaccine_badge

That is the picture of two Jewish children and a Jewish man on the left wearing the Star of David as a symbol of being Jewish. It was a way for the Nazis to mark Jews as a form of public intimidation in the months leading to the Holocaust. On the right is a woman wearing a badge of a syringe with a “no” symbol, meaning that she and the child are not immunized. You see, in her world, the laws and regulations requiring that children and adults be immunized before they can participate in public programs is just like the Holocaust. This is what she wrote with the picture:

“I’m a biological terrorist. I don’t care about the health of others. I’m a moron, idiot, scum of the earth who can’t understand science. I should be fined, jailed, taxed extra because of the burden I put on society. I should have my child taken away because obviously, I don’t care about her health.

I should be shipped off somewhere to live with my diseases. My child shouldn’t be allowed in school or around others. My address should be made public so that all can know and do who knows what. I should be tackled in the street & forcibly vaccinated. I’m the reason the diseases are being spread, the reason people are suffering and something must be done about me.

What’s next? Should all non-vaxxers be forced to wear some sort of visible insignia to identify us to the general public? Should we be segregated from others? Detained somewhere away from the general populace? Hmm, is this starting to sound familiar?

When people say things like I mentioned above, when they think them, they are saying them about me. They are saying them about my daughter. Some are saying I should be killed because I’m such a huge threat & danger. Does making a medical decision for my family justify a death sentence?

This is no longer about pro-vax vs. non-vax. This is about freedom of choice for medical procedures. Our bodies belong to us, not the government. Measles is not a deadly disease. It is not sweeping the nation, killing thousands, as the media hysteria seems to have some believing. It’s being used as a scare tactic. It’s being used to turn people against each other.

If SB 277 {or, in our case, S9 and H212} passes, it will be very bad. Not even homeschooling will be safe, since in CA it’s considered private school. Everyone will be forced to vaccinate, adults as well. They have many new vaccines in the making that you will be forced to get.

I promise you, if you send the message that the government owns your body, you will regret it. What happens if they decide anyone with any kind of mental illness must be force medicated with whatever they deem as best? What if they start making medication that people with certain disabilities must take, whether they want to or not?

I’m not being dramatic. I’m not over-exaggerating. I’m being very serious & trying to get a message across as bluntly as possible. Keeping our rights to our bodies is a must. I shouldn’t have to live in fear in a supposed free country. But I do. I shouldn’t feel anxiety every time I hear a police car, helicopter, or plane pass by. But I do. I shouldn’t fear taking my daughter to the doctor. But I do. I shouldn’t have to wonder if/how my family will suffer, be hurt, or even tortured because we make a medical decision that’s different. But unfortunately, I do, every day.

I will fight for your right to choose, even if you will not fight for mine. Forced vaccination infringes on our constitutional rights, on our religious freedoms, and so much more. It is not the answer, and it never will be.”

The bills she is referring to are bills in the California legislature aimed at reducing the number of “personal belief” exemptions to immunization, making it harder for people to just say they don’t believe in vaccines in order to be exempt from being immunized before participating in public programs.

I hope that I don’t have to explain to you how vaccine requirements are not at all like the Holocaust. If I do, then you march yourself right over to the Holocaust museum and ask a Holocaust survivor or their family how it’s not.

I also hope that this woman gets the care that she seems to need. After all, parts of that screed (like “I shouldn’t feel anxiety every time I hear a police car, helicopter, or plane pass by. But I do.”) point to some sort of a pathology in the way that she views the world, this idiotic comparison with the Holocaust aside.

Perhaps not the best anti-vaccine argument you should use

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.21.50 AM

In a Facebook discussion about vaccines, “Kitti St. John” decided that she was going to display her bigoted views of autistics. While trying to convince people that vaccines are bad, she linked vaccines to autism and then compared an autistic child to “an agro chimpanzee.” She then goes on a rant about diets and nature and how vaccines have torn us all apart or something. She even believes that people, healthy people, “do not catch contagious disease.”

Kitti is just one of thousands of anti-vaccine activists who take their misinformed views of vaccines a step too far and demonize autistics of every age. It’s not just the comparison of children with learning disabilities to animals like Kitti just did. It’s also the whitewashing of murders of autistic children. Calling a mother and a caregiver who brutally killed Alex Spourdalakis the victims rather than the murderers that they confessed to be is just one more step in the anti-vaccine playbook of people like Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, people without a shred of evidence that vaccines cause autism but yet want to paint autism as a horrible “disease” that is preventable, avoidable, or curable.

Autism is not preventable, avoidable, nor curable. In fact, one of the biggest signs of quackery is someone who wants to sell you an autism cure or an autism preventative. That’s when you know you’re dealing with loonies, with fraudsters.

I’d like to ask the Andrew Wakefields of the world what they’re doing to ensure that autistic children and adults get all the help they can to live a long and fruitful life. Because, whatever Wakefield did to “help” Alex Spourdalakis failed phenomenally and no one should trust him in any way with their autistic child, ever.

If you want to argue that vaccines are part of some big plot, go ahead. If you want to say that they cause more harm than good, go ahead. All your points are easily refutable. What you shouldn’t do is denigrate autistics to the point that you endanger them and, by extension, endanger all of us. Because failing to protect the weakest among us is a sign that we’re on a downward spiral as a society. We’re circling the drain, so to speak.

Sharyl Attkisson and big, fat frauds

To say that Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS reporter, has been acting a little weird lately is an understatement. It seems that she believes that there is a vast government conspiracy to keep her quiet. If that’s the case, the government is doing an awful job at it. She’s been speaking everywhere, including a testimony before the US Congress.

Her persecution complex appears to be one where she sees things happening all around her. For example, she thinks her computers at work and at home where hacked, but she never had access to the computers at CBS:

“But a report from the inspector general’s office obtained Thursday by The Associated Press said investigators found no evidence of remote or unauthorized access on her personal Apple iMac. Attkisson has also alleged that her CBS laptops were compromised, though CBS declined to make the computers available for examination…

According to the report, Attkisson provided the inspector general’s office with recorded videos showing the screen of her CBS-issued laptop.

One video showed what was determined to be a standard error prompt, the report said. A second video that showed text from a document she was creating on a Macbook laptop being deleted without her apparent involvement actually “appeared to be caused by the backspace key being struck, rather than a remote intrusion,” according to the report.

The report also said Attkisson pointed out a “suspicious” cable attached to her internet service provider’s connection box that she said may have been used to “tap” her house. But the cable was determined to be a “common cable” that could not be used to monitor or affect her phone or Internet service.”

My cable box is full of, you know, cables. I bet I’m being monitored too.

To make the conspiracy come full circle, Sharyl Attkisson also claims that there are “astroturf campaigns” out there designed to do stuff. Let her explain:

“The many ways that corporations, special interests and political interests of all stripes exploit media and the Internet to perpetuate astroturf is ever-expanding. Surreptitious astroturf methods are now more important to these interests than traditional lobbying of Congress. There’s an entire PR industry built around it in Washington.”

It’s her variation on the “Pharma Shill” gambit that anti-vaccine zealots use to cast doubt on facts supported by science. If the science is that vaccines save lives, and I tell you so, I must be getting paid by Big Pharma to say so. If a mother and another caregiver brutally murder a child with autism for no reason (BECAUSE THERE NEVER IS A REASON TO MURDER A CHILD), and I tell you that they are murderers who were misguided and misinformed by pseudo-autism-support groups whose true nature is anti-vaccine, then I must be getting paid by Big Pharma to say so.

To come up with her list of “top 10 astroturfers”, Sharyl Attkisson relied on a poll on Twitter. I’m not surprised about this because anti-vaccine advocates like Sharyl Attkisson often rely on like-minded zealots to form their opinions. Had she really conducted a proper poll, the results would have been different. I mean, if we’re going to talk about frauds, chief among them is Andrew Wakefield.

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield conducted one of the most damaging scientific frauds in the history of mankind. I’m not overstating it. He was hired by lawyers to take down a vaccine, and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield was more than happy to comply. He had a handful of kids go through some invasive medical procedures and come up with nothing to link the MMR vaccine to autism, except for his own gut feeling.

Perhaps inspired by that fraud, another big-time fraud has come up within the anti-vaccine movement:

“[T]he 37-year-old Coloradoan behind [an anti-vaccine website, Vactruth.org], Jeffry John Aufderheide, isn’t what his glossy website would have you believe. Vaccines just one of the many conspiracies in his rolodex—he’s also a 9/11 truther, gun-rights fanatic, and Infowars darling. Oh, and he lies about his time in the Navy.

The Navy discredited Aufderheide’s claim that he served as a “rescue swimmer,” stating that he actually served four years as an Information Systems Technician, Third Class. “This is all the releasable information we have,” Sharon Anderson, the Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs, told The Daily Beast in an email. According to the job description on the organization’s website, Aufderheide’s role closely resembled that of an IT guy, one who acted as “admin on mainframe computers” and “management” on internal databases. A necessary position, it’s less the life-saving Navy SEAL that “rescue swimmer” with “top secret clearance” implies.”

I’m not surprised that an anti-vaccine zealot would resort to lying in order to get people to follow him. And his zealotry doesn’t stop there:

“In May 2013, during an interview on Alex Jones’ InfoWars—who calls Aufderheide a fantastic writer that he’s been following for years—about a new government-funded mobile app that he believes is designed to track anti-vaxxers. Later in the same interview, Aufderheide claimed the polio vaccine gives people cancer. When asked by a user whether the chemicals in vaccines could affect the outcome of a person’s sexuality, he called it a “legitimate question.””

That’s right folks. I must be in love with Pedro (not her real name) because of the vaccines that I got, not because, you know, I was born this way. (I’d even be willing to entertain the other nutty idea that sexuality is guided by our experiences with the opposite sex and not the other way around.)

Then again, to Aufdeheide’s followers, the Navy must be lying in order to paint him in a bad light. I’m sure he’ll come out and show us the pictures of his days as a Navy SEAL.

As for Sharyl Attkisson’s claims about text being deleted from her documents, it’s a known issue with Microsoft Word. People have been reporting problems similar to hers for a long time now. It could be something as simple as having hit the “insert” key while writing. I’ve even had it happen once in a while. But we all must be operating well within Crosby’s Labyrinth, where things are not explained by simple phenomena that can be wrapped up in a few minutes. In this reality, it’s all one big massive conspiracy aimed to do something nefarious. I mean, the government nailed the response to Katrina so goddamned well that it is not outside the government’s ability to coordinate all these astroturfers.

Sybil Ballew and the Anti-Vaccine Crowd

I’ve asked time and time again for evidence from the anti-vaccine crowd that a pro-vaccine person or a public health worker has ever bullied, threatened, or spread lies about them in any medium. They are yet to respond. The closest they have come to saying that they’re being “abused” online is to say that the public health requirement that their children be vaccinated for school is “discrimination” or “persecution” for their personal beliefs. They also say that “forced” vaccination is just as bad as sexual assault or rape, and that the people who support mandatory vaccination of children in order for those children to participate in publicly funded programs is just like human trafficking.

Instead, what I have been seeing from many anti-vaccine types is some pretty harsh words and “wishes” aimed at public health officials, physicians, and anyone else who supports vaccines, including myself. They wish that I were dead or threaten me on their online radio podcasts. Others are not as open about their identities and hide behind pseudonyms online. Then they laugh when I remind them that there really is no such thing as online anonymity.

There is no such thing as online anonymity. If you go to a judge right now and show them that I have violated the law in any way, or that I am a danger to myself, the judge will issue an order for WordPress to reveal my internet protocol (IP) address from where I have been logging onto WordPress to post. From there, it’s all a matter of using some simple IP lookup tools to figure out where I live. Then you take that information to local law enforcement and you can pretty much uncover my identity.

All of it depends on me doing something bad enough to warrant the intervention of law enforcement. Short of that, you could take all that I have written and run it against some algorithm somewhere to see if there are any similarities between my style and content and that of other writers, bloggers, etc. Of you could bribe someone at WordPress and have them give you my IP address, but, in doing so, you’d be making me a millionaire since I could sue WordPress for violating my privacy.

I feel the need to remind you that I can see your IP address when you comment on this blog. I have a strict policy of not revealing your identity to third parties unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, or you have agreed for me to do it. I’ll do it if the greater good is at stake. But I will never do it to “out” you because the anti-vaccine types want to know who you are. This brings me to the next theme of this blog post.

I was contacted through Facebook by a person who claimed to be a friend of one of the readers/commenters of this blog. That person wanted to know how the reader was doing, claiming that they had not heard from the reader but recognized their pseudonym from previous conversations. When I asked the person to tell me the true name of the reader, they devolved into hurling insults and claiming that they were “very close” to figuring out who I was and to suing me. When I asked what the lawsuit would be for, they blocked their Facebook account. It’s been three weeks, and I have not heard from them since.

As I am sure that the person who contacted me through Facebook has read this blog, and might even be reading this right now, I’d like to remind them (and anyone else who thinks that online activity can be anonymous), of the sad case of Sybil Ballew. Ms. Ballew is a woman in Georgia who thought her libelous rants against a person would be anonymous. She thought no one would find out who she was and that she could say whatever she wanted to say:

“Cooley’s saga began with the murder of his fiancee, Paulette Harper, at the hands of her ex-husband in September of 2008. A few days later, the postings on the Blairsville page of Topix.com started showing up.

The poster wrote Cooley was a “pervert” and drug addict with a lengthy criminal record, a man who had been in prison and rehab. Harper’s daughter, who was 9 at the time, must be protected from Cooley, the poster wrote.

“I didn’t really even know the woman. I knew her in passing,” Cooley, 44, told the AJC. “She worked at two places [where] I was a customer.”

Cooley had a criminal background check run on himself showing that he had no such past, but people didn’t seem to care. Eventually he had to leave Blairsville, where his mother, sister and two sons lived, to find another job. He now lives in Augusta and works as a hairdresser.

Ballew is the woman who wrote the posts under the pseudonyms Mouth, Calvin, Bugs, Yuck, Rebel and Slim. She admitted in court that she also had conversations with herself, posting her concerns on the site under one name and then agreeing with the posts under another persona.

When asked in court why she wrote those things about Cooley, Ballew answered, “I watched him and I can tell a pervert. Every time a pretty girl walked by, he would look at them. I get a feeling.””

That “feeling” of Ms. Ballews cost her an award of $404,000 by a court who found her libelous postings under different pseudonyms to be just that, libelous. In much the same way, what the anti-vaccine crowd says about any of us defending science and reason need to pay attention to that story and know that if any of us get an itch to go find a lawyer, we can bankrupt them in a heartbeat. There comes a point when their libelous statements and accusations cross a line from Free Speech into libel/slander, and there are plenty of legal remedies for any of us to follow.

We are not killing any children by advocating for vaccination. We are not discriminating against you by pointing out the stupidity in your anti-vaccine rants. And we are most certainly not being paid by “Big Pharma” to do all this. That last one is one that can be used against the anti-vaccine zealots because some of us have contracts which prohibit us from receiving money from pharmaceuticals. To accuse us of such a thing, and to do it publicly and in a way that can catch the attention of our employers, can very well be argued to be interference with our contracts.

Yes, you may have deep pockets and lots of lawyer friends, but that only allows for us to be richer at the end, and for us to give all of your wealth to vaccination programs the next day, just after we gloat about it on our blogs.