Just(in) asking questions

This is probably the last post I’ll write about Justin Kanew. The first post is here, and the second is here. In the first post, I explained to you how Mr. Kanew was slowly descending into anti-vaccine world. In the second, the conversion was nearly complete. So complete, in fact, that Andrew Wakefield was given a wide and full-of-praise interview by Mr. Kanew. To hide the fact that Wakefield was the main part of the show, Mr. Kanew made it seem like he was interviewing Brian Deer. But Brian Deer get the minority of air time.

It was an anti-vaccine show, is what I’m saying.

What does Brian Deer think of Mr. Kanew?


Anyway, if there was any doubt that Justin’s conversion is complete, he decided to write yet another blog post on the notorious, anti-Semitic, vile anti-vaccine blog: Age of Autism. In it, he states that he can take the criticism he’s receiving:

“I should also say that in the 2 days since the first interview posted, I’ve found myself the target of ire from both sides. Anti-vaxxers are angry that my wife and I still plan to try to find a safe way to vaccinate our baby girl, while pro-vaxxers are angry that by doing these interviews I’m giving a platform to the makers of Vaxxed and like-minded anti-vaxxers.

It’s been heated, but it’s ok. I can take it. I’m a big boy. I knew this was a contentious comment, and I expected to hear a lot of what i’m hearing. It didn’t at all seem to be a reason not to talk about it, and if I’m being honest I sort of hoped to help facilitate a calmer conversation about it in however small a way, naive as that may have been.”

The “big boy” has been such a “big boy” about it that he has blocked multiple people who have attempted to reason with him. They have told him about the “vaccine court,” but he refuses to listen. They have told him that it’s not just the government and “big pharma” that does research on vaccine safety, but he refuses to listen. Plenty has been shared with him on why Ginger Taylor’s list of papers proving a link between vaccines and autism is just plain wrong. (Frankly, I doubt even The Ginge has read it.)

Justin Kanew is not a big boy. He’s a tool for the anti-vaccine forces now. He will regurgitate whatever they tell him, and he will pass it on to his friends in Hollywood. They will regurgitate it again. Wakefield et al will hit him up for cash, and he will oblige. And so it will go. Because he’s not “just asking questions”. He’s listening now only for the wrong and misguided answers.

Just(in) the way Andrew Wakefield likes them

Pretend in your mind that you’re a grifter, a con man, a snake oil salesman. What kind of person is your target? Would you use your theatricality and deception on someone who knows better? Of course not. I am yet to hear of an oncologist with cancer who buys into alternative medicine to cure said cancer. (Though I’ve heard of oncologists who sell supplements and complementary and alternative medicine, SCAM, to their patients. There’s a special place in Hell for them, by the way.)

If you are a known fraud who likes to promote anti-vaccine nonsense, you are not going to go to infectious disease experts and try to sell them your lies. You’re also not going to go to responsible journalists who do their due diligence and study your claims thoroughly. And you are not going to go to a parent who has a meaningful and trusting relationship with their healthcare provider.

No, if you are Andrew Wakefield, you are going to target parents (preferably new ones) who don’t have the time to check your claims. Or you’ll target populations who already have a mistrust of the healthcare system because systems all around have failed them. If you want to get your story out to the world in order to attract more victims to your fraud, then you’ll get someone who is well versed in communications and doesn’t know better. If that person happens to be a new parent, even better. And if that person happens to have a following on social media, podcasts, and other media, and comes from a somewhat well known family, even better. You’ve hit the jackpot, Andrew Wakefield.

The other day, I told you about Justin Kanew and his descent into anti-vaccine thinking. Justin is the son of Jeff Kanew, a Hollywood big shot. Justin is a producer, actor, has competed in a reality show, and has a podcast. I don’t exactly how it happened, but Justin apparently woke up with the seed of doubt about vaccines one day and decided to ask some questions. To ask these questions, Justin apparently decided to invite some people to his podcast. To promote the podcast interviews, Justin somehow got a blog post up on one of the most anti-vaccine, hate-filled, anti-Semitic blogs around: Age of Autism.

His explanation seems simple:

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This shows the first characteristic of someone who Wakefield and other anti-vaccine loons will attract: Someone who doesn’t do their homework. When asked why he posted a blog post about his podcast on one of the most vile anti-vaccine sites around, Justin’s reply was that there are no other places to do it. Had he done his homework, he would have seen Matt Carey’s blog, History of Vaccines (which has some fabulous information for parents), The Scientific Parent (who actually want blog posts on issues affecting parents like Justin), and others. There are plenty of non-vile, non-anti-Semitic blogs where discussions are not moderated to death and where we welcome open discussions on some of the most controversial issues.

Further evidence that Justin didn’t do his homework is a link he used to reply to me on Twitter:

He called Paul Offit a boy, by the way. Anyway, he links to “Whale.to” which, if you’ve never heard of it, is a website that has postings to every known conspiracy theory out there. The “CBS News” piece that Justin is referring to is nothing more than anti-vaccine propaganda from one Sharyl Attkisson, a reporter who has also tried to justify the murder of an autistic child, among other really weird things she’s said from her apparent inability to work a computer.

Alright, so Justin doesn’t know how to do research. What else? Well, Justin is a new parent, so he has some fears about what is going into his child:

He has fears and he is asking questions (albeit, the wrong questions to the wrong people), so it’s not a surprise that the anti-vaccine cult would reach out to him and sound appealing. (Seriously, did he reach out to Age of Autism, or did someone there reach out to him?) After all, all anti-vaccine parents are not really anti-vaccine, don’t you know?

They’re “pro safe vaccine” because the Phase I, Phase II, Phase III and Phase IV, and post-marketing research studies are not enough to prove safety. The billions of doses of vaccines with relatively few side-effects and even fewer deaths are not enough to prove safety. The studies done by government agencies the world over (not just CDC), academics the world over (not just Hopkins), local and state health departments, drug companies, consumer safety organizations, and just standing around and seeing kids not dying from polio anymore are not enough to prove safety.

Nothing will never be enough as long as there is cash to be made from suckers unsuspecting parents with doubts and fears about their new snowflakes. And there is a lot of cash to be made. Brian S. Hooker, one of Wakefield’s partners on the recent misadventure of a documentary, has a case before the vaccine court. He stands to make cash from that. Age of Autism asks for donations and promotes supplements. Dr. Bob Sears (our douchebag “emerit-ass”) messes around with the vaccine schedule not because it’s based on any science of knowledge or understanding of immunology (as he himself clarified), but likely because each added visit to get a child vaccinated incurs and additional charge. And don’t get me started on all the books, conferences, and videos that generate revenue for something (vaccine-induced autism) that doesn’t exist.

The UFO and Yeti believers are really jealous.

To wrap it all up, here we have a new player in the anti-vaccine camp, a man by the name of Justin Kanew. He is a new father, and he has some goddamned questions that people better goddamn answer. But the people he is asking questions of are not, you know, scientists and researchers. No. He is asking questions of Andrew Wakefield (a known fraud), two unethical researchers who think that money given through the vaccine court is an admission of guilt (which shows how much Justin investigated the vaccine court), and a computer scientist who thinks we will ALL OF US be autistic soon enough due to vaccines.

Yep, to protect his child from the evils of Big Pharma, or whatever, Justin Kanew has set up to interview the very wrong people. If anything, Justin should be protecting his child from them. And the only person who is skeptical of the vaccine-autism claim, journalist Brian Deer, gets his interview spliced and diced by none other than Andrew Wakefield! (Mr. Deer had only about 1/3 to 1/2 of the time allotted in the podcast, with Wakefield countering every point of the recording and not face-to-face.) What the hell, Justin?

Justin, you keep saying on Twitter that you’re not anti-vaccine, but how is it that you keep acting like it? How is it that you’re surrounding yourself with them and aligning yourself with their ideologies? How in the world can you expect us to believe that you’re not either fully committed to the anti-vaccine crowd or at least seriously considering it? And why did not you not serve your child’s best interest and do just a little more research into those questions you’re asking? And did you read Whale.to’s other articles (especially the ones about the Holocaust never happening) before deciding on promoting that sick and twisted website?

You don’t have to answer, Justin. They’re all rhetorical questions at this point because you’ve been extremely defensive, raising the “I’m pro safe vaccine” flag every time someone asks you to sit down and just jot down some notes from sites and publications that are not anti-vaccine. If you were to answer these questions, I’m sure it would be some form of “I’m just asking questions” (aka JAQ-ing off) or “I’m pro safe vaccine” or “I have my child’s best interests in mind, not the confirmation of my fears”, or something.

All of this is very disappointing because, as we have seen in years past with Ebola and now with Zika, health communication is very hard to do in an ocean of misinformation, fear and lies. Soon enough, blogs like Age of Autism and people like Andrew Wakefield will convince people like Justin (influential people with connections to communicators and communication machines in Hollywood) that the Zika vaccine (coming soon) is dangerous. If we, God willing, come up with an Ebola vaccine, the same anti-vaccine people will again reach out to Justin to deliver a message of “Don’t Do It! They’re Trying To Kill You!” that is hard to counter with a few public health grants. And then we’ll have Zika and Ebola and Measles and Polio to contend with.

As a public health worker, I’m happy to have job security like that. As someone who has seen dead children from vaccine-preventable diseases, it scares the shit out of me.

Read how someone becomes anti-vaccine

If you have ever wondered how the process works where someone goes from being an otherwise reasonable person to being anti-vaccine, this description by a prominent podcaster should be a good roadmap to the road to lunacy:

Let me say right up front that my wife and I have a 2-month old daughter, and that my #1 goal here is to learn as much as possible about how to care for her health, because if anything happened to her I honestly don’t know what I would do.

Until recently – like most people – I assumed vaccines were 100% safe, and I thought anyone who thought otherwise was dangerous and selfish, putting everyone else at risk. I thought this because I was told this, by many people, many times.

Okay. Then what happened, Justin?

The first chink in the armor was a conversation with a friend of mine whose grandson, he said, was developing normally, got the MMR shot at 15 months, dropped into a fever that night, regressed suddenly, and has had severe autism ever since.

Anecdotes. It’s always the anecdotes. But, to him, lots of anecdotes equal data:

His story seemed far-fetched, but my friend is no storyteller, and I soon learned he was not alone in this experience.

Now to be clear, we’re no strangers to the autism spectrum conversation- one of my best friends has Aspergers, and my wife is a BCBA who works with kids on the spectrum every single day… but digging deeper and hearing the many eerily similar stories of autism-related vaccine injuries from parent after parent was a new experience for us, and made me wonder where my self-assuredness about vaccine safety had come from– and, most importantly, why it seemed to be something nobody was allowed to talk about.

No one was allowed to talk about it, except all the people talking about it, all the scientists who have spent years looking into the autism-vaccine connection, and all the healthcare providers having to explain to their patients that autism is not related to vaccines. Yeah, that’s a bunch of nobodies. Justin continues:

Right after my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, we heard about the documentary “Vaxxed”, and how it had been yanked from the Tribeca Film Festival. We didn’t pay it much attention until we saw the Today Show interview with the usually quiet Robert Deniro who said he regretted pulling it, and seemed sure there was more to the story than people wanted to believe.

So we went and saw the movie for ourselves.

We learned about the CDC whistleblower no national media were covering.

We learned about CDC head Julie Gerberding going to work for Merck as head of immunizations after helping to cover up the MMR-autism link, and cashing out for millions.

We learned about the existence of the United States Vaccine Court, which has paid out over $3.5 Billion to vaccine-injured children.

Say what you will about the documentary, which we found to be eye-opening, these things in it were verifiably true, disturbing things- none of which guaranteed a link between vaccines and autism, but all of which called the “Vaccines are safe” and “Science is in” mantras into question.

Yes, Justin, the science is in. All of those things you listed, they’re all pseudoscientific claims. They’re things outside of science that want to discredit science. Just like global climate change is a “con job” according to Trump and others, the science of vaccines (and their alleged link to autism) is being discredited with a set of misdirection plays and misinformation campaigns.

For example, the whole CDC whistleblower has been thoroughly discredited. There was no destruction of evidence. The data all still exist. What was “destroyed” was trash and extraneous documentation of the studies. If the data were destroyed, then how is it that BS Hooker had it in hand to try and reproduce the study? (And an awful job he did at that.) Why is it that people like Matt Carey have all of the whistleblower documents? And, if the mainstream media isn’t covering this at all, then why are there articles all over in newspapers and online?

Face it, Justin, you have an idea of what mainstream media are, and it doesn’t fit the narrative. But that’s not the only lie you swallowed. You really think that Julie Gerberding went to work for Merck as a reward for “covering up” what wasn’t covered up? Seriously, go read the Di Stefano et al paper. There’s no cover up. There is a table right there in the paper that shows what the “whistleblower” stated about the MMR and African American boys.

As for the “whistleblower,” Dr. Thompson stated that he would not stop vaccinating, and that vaccines work and are a great public health contribution to society. He tried to coach BS Hooker into saying that thimerosal causes tics, but the MMR vaccine never had thimerosal. It was all a PR ploy to get attention, and it backfired phenomenally for Dr. Thompson, just like it’s backfiring now to Wakefield et al.

If you were just a tiny more responsible, Justin, you would have looked deeper into the claims about the vaccine court. See, the vaccine court is set up to hear claims from people who claim vaccine injuries. In the past (1990s, you were probably too young then), people wanted to sue vaccine manufacturers into oblivion over small things like a rash or a fever after a vaccine. They wanted millions and millions of dollars for a sore arm. When vaccine manufacturers decided that they were going to close up shop and move on to their more profitable products (like heart medication), the government stepped in and created the “vaccine court.” A prominent anti-vaccine zealot by the name of Barbara Loe Fischer helped in this process, by the way. She and other activists helped lobby for the “vaccine court”.

The court heard the evidence of causation between vaccines and conditions, and they set up a table of conditions for which a set amount of money was going to be paid, no questions asked. If you had X or Y happen to you after a vaccine, you got compensated, period. If you had bothered to look at the vaccine injury table from the courts, Justin, you would have seen that there is no mention there of autism. It’s called “due diligence,” Justin, and you should probably practice it.

And the people that Justin is interviewing? A hodge-podge of anti-vaccine lunatics (with the exception of Brian Deer):

In this first one, I talk to “VAXXED” producer Del Bigtree about the CDC whistleblower, and why Doctor Andrew Wakefield, the director of the movie, may not be “The Father of the Anti-Vaccine Movement” as most seem to think.

In the 2nd (coming soon), I talk to investigative journalist Brian Deer, the man responsible for discrediting Wakefield all those years ago.

In the 3rd (coming a little less soon, but still soon), I talk to Louis Conte and Mary Holland, each of whom has done a lot of scientific and common sense research, and the only viable conclusion they could reach is their children are vaccine-injured. They conducted a study with Pace University that learned the U.S. government has actually been paying out vaccine-injured children who *happen* to also have autism… for years… at least 80 cases that they know of.

In the 4th and final episode (coming a little after the 3rd), since I hadn’t spoken with an actual doctor, I talk to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, an MIT biologist who has been looking into this subject, and who feels the real culprit behind the skyrocketing autism numbers are the chemicals we use very cavalierly in our society… not just, but including, vaccines.

Four episodes and only one with a skeptic who is not a scientist.


Justin tries to have it both ways in the end:

“This series of conversations taught me a lot about just how unsettled the debate on vaccine safety and the causal link between vaccines and autism really is. I hope you get as much out of them as I did.”

It’s unsettled in anti-vaccine circles. All of us scientist and public health workers and healthcare providers? We’ve settled. Vaccines do not cause autism, and to continue this foolish quest to link them (as you are doing now, Justin) is to waste the time and resources that could be better allocated toward helping autistics.

Finally, Justin claims that he is not anti-vaccine, that he is pro-safe-vaccine. That right there rounded out the anti-vaccine bingo for me. Although, to be honest, the fact that he posted this on an anti-vaccine blog should have been a bigger warning of what was to come in his post.

Too bad none of us skeptics can comment on that blog post. Age of Autism has made it a point to not allow any critical comments through. Maybe one or two do get through, but then the commenter gets banned. So much for bringing things out into the sun, huh, Justin?

Good luck with the loonies. Enjoy riding that wave of popularity.