Attack the fallible human when you can’t counter the evidence

Remember when you were in grade school and you got into an argument with some other kid? Neither of you would present a rational argument. Instead, your argument against the other person consisted of statements like “You’re a poopy head!” or “Your momma is so fat…” You know, things that only petulant children would bring up to try to win an argument.

But you grew up, right? Well, it appears that some of us didn’t.

Person A in this blog post is a regular guy from a state out west who one day decided to stand up against the anti-vax forces on Facebook. He created a Facebook page that mocked an anti-vax Facebook page. His page blew up in popularity. Pretty soon, the anti-vaxers began a campaign against him, accusing him of all sorts of horrible things. They couldn’t defend their anti-vaccine agenda with science or reason, so they attacked Person A in a very personal way.

You see, Person A had a past, like we all do. His past included a divorce and subsequent custody hearings. So some anti-vax jerk decided to dig up court documents and post them on Facebook, accusing Person A of spending all of his time on Facebook instead of taking care of his children. This bothered Person A a bit:

But that’s Person A. Let’s talk about Person B…

Person B is a successful writer from the Northeast who has been widely published in different sorts of media. Like we all do, Person B has a past. A couple of years ago, he wrote a most excellent book that accurately, concisely, factually describes the anti-vaccine forces’ use of fear and ignorance to spread their misinformation. The book is well-researched, and it has all sorts of citations to everything stated in it. Person B even keeps errata on his blog. So what are the anti-vaccine forces to do?

They brought up his past, of course. They harped on his heroin addiction over and over, writing about his addiction and how it somehow disqualifies him from writing about vaccines. And the comments included such “gems” as:

“Just so we are clear… The former heroin addict [redacted] wrote a book and I’m supposed to be impressed? Um, no thanks. I’ll take a Autism Mom former playboy bunny any day of the week!! He’s going to be speaking @ Hospitals?!?! Lock up the medicine cabinets. 😦 How sad.”

How sad indeed that, unable to address the science, the facts, the anti-vaccine advocates rely on attacking a person’s past, as if they were clean of any sin themselves.

And then there’s Person C…

Person C is a researcher who has co-authored several studies on vaccines, particularly the effects of thimerosal on children who receive it as part of their vaccines. These studies, like so many others, have discredited the role that thimerosal was supposed to play in childhood autism. As it happens, Person C appears to have committed fraud with the funds he received for his research.

Note, the research he participated in is not in question. Other researchers have duplicated the work of those studies. The research is sound. It’s credible. What is in question was his use of funds. That’s all. But that doesn’t stop the anti-vaccine groups and individuals from using him as a distraction from the autism-vaccine discussion. Because he was just one of many researchers on these studies, and because these studies discredit their fears, anti-vaccine forces have decided that all of that research is invalid.

So there you have it. If they cannot argue the science, anti-vaccine groups and their members will — among other things — launch all-out attacks against those they dislike. They’ll dig up your past. They’ll rub your past mistakes and indiscretions in your face. And they’ll claim that any crime you commit takes away from the evidence. In short, if you use science and evidence and reason to support your claims, but you have a past, you’re a Poopy Head.

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6 thoughts on “Attack the fallible human when you can’t counter the evidence

  1. I had the pleasure of meeting Person B the other day, after quite a long time of email exchanges. Person B is quite nice. His book also treated everyone with respect and understanding, a point he emphasized the day I met him. Of course, those who disagree with him don't view his portrayal of them favorably, but that's mainly because he disagrees with them. At any rate, his book is very, very well researched and sourced. Highly recommended.

  2. I recently dealt with a troll who kept confusing the nonsense he read on "that notorious anti-vaccine website". He kept referring to "Simpson Wood" (Simpsonwood) then switched around the argument to a conference in Puerto Rico.Linking to the Wikipedia entry of the Simpsonwood Conference controversy, was unsuccessful…I finally shut him up with this link to Salon.com where they finally removed the offensive bogus document with an apology:http://www.salon.com/2011/01/16/dangerous_immunity/(Person B's careful dissection of that dreadful Simpsonwood article, finally "convinced" Salon.com to totally retract that article)BTW Reuben, that "notorious anti-vaccine website" had an "interesting" article up about the recent sham Congressional hearings on autism. I can't believe that the Media Director has posted an interview with a parent who describes how the castrating/chelating doctor introduced him to Wakefield. Wakefield has made regular trips to Washington since May, 2012 to wine and dine the Chair of the Congressional Committee, other members of the Committee and their wives.I've posted on a Forbes blog about the questionable ethics of these Congressmen who are bought and paid for, by the anti-vaccine operative Wakefield. Here's the link (Expand All Comments) and my post bottom of Page 28:http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensalzberg/2012/12/03/congress-holds-an-anti-vaccination-hearing/

  3. Okay, I understand. The thing is with RFK, jr is not him, himself. It is the persons who are using the flaws in those they disagree with, but ignoring those in their heroes.It shows why an ad hominem attack usually fails.Which is why I sometimes ask these people: Why do you think insults are a valid form of evidence?

  4. I was going to write about JFK Jr., but that would be playing their game. Everyone has skeletons in the closet. Everyone that is human, that is. Facts and evidence don't… Neither does science.

  5. I don't do Facebook, but I am not surprised that Person A has been attacked because his life is not perfect. One reason to not do Facebook are issues with its security. Because I have been dealing the dirty tactics of the anti-vaccine crowd for over a decade, my eighteen year old daughter has learned to protect her identity (younger son, not so much… he was stalked in high school by a young lady who lived nearby who found him through Facebook). My daughter did not use her very rare last name but her grandmother's maiden name (still rare, but also a medical condition name), and then just deleted her Facebook account.The ridiculous part about Person B is that one of the anti-vax heroes is Robert Kennedy, Jr. Mr. Kennedy also had problems with heroin. But what I find very interesting is the completely different ways that their shared problem was remedied:Person B recovered through the support and efforts of his family, and his own will.Mr. Kennedy needed the legal system which put him on two years of supervised probation, court ordered community service and other conditions.I think the attack on Person B are hypocritical by those who rely on Mr. Kennedy's writings. Though I am trying to not be too hard of Mr. Kennedy due some recent setbacks in his personal life. (Because I have been dealing with this for a long time: someone tried to denigrate Brian Deer through the "homosexual" gambit, and it was immediately pointed out that argument also applied to Mr. David Kirby.) The Person C bit drives me nuts. It recently came up, and the person could not answer my question on how the financial fraud invalidated research done over a decade on three continents using the resources of over half a dozen national public health agencies. Plus it turns out it was a sock puppet, another fun anti-vac ploy.

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