Dealing with people who can’t take a joke

If you’ve noticed that more and more people are being named by name on this blog, you’re not seeing things. There was once a time when names were to be avoided as much as possible because there are people out there who seemingly have Google alerts for any mention of their name. Write their name on a blog or some place, and they send their legion of followers to attack. Drama is not as appetizing as it used to be.

We had an “editorial” meeting, of sorts, and decided that we would not be afraid of naming names because fear is not good for the open and honest discussion of ideas. As soon as you start fearing the repercussions of calling out the “douchebags”, then you might as well call it a wrap and get a job where you don’t have to interact with douchebags ever. (There is no such job.) When someone goes on their online “radio show” and threatens you, you don’t back down from calling them on their bullshit, from telling them that maybe they should leave their autistic children if they already see said children as “gone.”

But enough about Mr. Linderman, Facebook friend of the reigning douchbag of the year.

The events over the last couple of days in Paris, France, should teach us that there will always be idiots out there who overreact to what you say (or do). We are very lucky in the United States to have our speech be protected from acts by the government, but we’re still pretty vulnerable to the actions of people who’d do us harm because they see something we did as offensive. Of course, there are times when we intend to offend and times when we offend without it being our intention to do so. In either case, the government can’t do squat about what we write or say (or draw) except under very strict circumstances and always under judicial oversight.

So what do we do when the crazies come after us for what we’ve written? We stand up to them, of course. We don’t give an inch because giving in to them even just a little bit will embolden them to try the same crap with other people. For example, when Jake Crosby went after Orac, Orac didn’t back down. Orac very openly and in no uncertain terms refuted what The Kid had to say about alleged conflicts of interest. The Kid then turned his attention to Ren, mentioning in his letter the whole “Epi Gate” affair in an attempt to probably say, “Look, Ren’s calling people douchebags again,” but with a very whiny tone. Ren fired back at him and has continued to fire back at him every time Jake accuses Ren of “threats”.

And so it should be with all bullies. We don’t back down from our position so long as we have facts, evidence and reason on our side. If they get offended or feel bad because we point out the flaws in their ways of thinking or in their misguided deeds, that is very much their problem. If they come after us and somehow manage to hurt us, we keep doing what we do. We fight like we’ve never fought before.

If they can’t take a joke, if they are so offended by the truths to their lies and misinformation, then they will run the other way when you show them that you will not be pushed around. I guarantee it.

Don’t try to reason with the unreasonable

FYI: This is the third of ten posts not related to vaccines.

I have a friend who is an amateur photographer. You may have seen some of this stuff over on his blog. We all went out to dinner the other night, and he brought his camera with him. His camera is not small. It’s a rather bulky DSLR camera, and he had a rather bulky lens on it. We walked down the street to where we were having dinner, and he took pictures of buildings and people along the way. No one really seemed to care. Our nation’s capital is a big city and most of us carry around a camera in our phones anyway.

It’s not the same way in England, apparently. My friend shared this video with me off of YouTube. In it you can see several photographers taking pictures around London and being harassed by security guards over taking pictures of several buildings. Before you watch the video, keep in mind a few things. First, the photographers are in London, a very touristy city. In 2011, there were over 15 million tourists who visited there. Surely, they took pictures. Second, notice that these are security guards and not law enforcement. Keep that in mind as you hear them trying to quote laws and regulations. Finally, keep in mind that the photographers are in public places with big cameras. If they are conducting “surveillance” of buildings to “bomb”, then they’re going about it in a very open and obvious way. I have the sneaking suspicion that terrorists don’t act the same way.

Oh, one more thing. Notice how the security guards stand their ground and so do the photographers. Their back-and-forth reminded me a lot of how we may try to reason with the unreasonable but end up nowhere.

What kinds of threats are these?

Remember a while back when an anti-vaccine activist called and harassed a pro-vaccine person, even going as far as cynically stating, “You do know hows these things work, these threats work, right?” Well, they’re at it again.

Well, it has happened again. It’s a different person making the threats this time, but it’s the same kind of call. The caller calls the pro-vaccine advocate and threatens to disclose home addresses and phone numbers if the vaccine advocate doesn’t just up and quit their work.

What follows are the transcripts of the calls, and then I’ll post the links to the audio so you can hear for yourself the level of vitriol in the messages. It’s really rather creepy to listen to, but these are the things I do for all 12 of you readers. Anyway, the vicim in this case is Dorit Reiss, professor of law and someone who has been very vocal in her refutations of anti-vaccine tropes.

Call #1 has only the transcript to it. I don’t want to disclose the information that this person leaves. So you’ll have to take my word for it that this is how it went. Don’t worry, there are other calls for you to listen to that have the same tone. The words in brackets “[ ]” are my comments or edits:

“Hi, [Dorit’s Husband], I’m the parent of a vaccine injured child. I am tired of your wife harassing people about their vaccine status. It is none of her business. If I hear or see of anything written by your wife after today, I will release your phone number, your work phone number… [She goes into the details of phone and address. She even mentions the cross-street of where the house is.] You live with your mother and your father. [Names of the mother and father.] Tell her to stop. Or else I will release all of your private information. This took me one minute to find. You are a researcher. I know how to do research, as do most of us parents. We are not stupid. We are not uneducated. And if she does not stop, I will release all of your information, and we will see where it goes from there. Thank you. Have a good day.”

Again, I won’t link to the audio file because it has all that information. One of the most worrying things about this call is that the woman caller seems very, very angry and there are children in the background. This woman is exhibiting this behavior in front of children. Keep that in mind as you read on.

Call #2:

“Like I said to your husband, I have all of your information. Stop it now. I mean it, or else it becomes public information. Got it? Good.”

Here is the link to call #2: LINK (You may need specific software to play back the audio.) SEE BELOW FOR AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE ABOUT AUDIO FILES

Calls #1 and #2 happened on the same day. Call #3 below happened five days later, after Dorit wrote something that didn’t please the caller.

Call #3:

“You and your wife are evil. Just evil. How dare she go after parents of vaccine injured children. Read a fucking package insert. It says right there all the freaking side… [She sighs, then a noise.]”

The call then ends with her making some sort of a mouth noise. It’s as if she was reading a script and went off of it, or she got very frustrated.


So how did I get these messages? I got them after a long conversation with Prof. Reiss. She is hesitant to do anything about it since most of these types of calls are just from frustrated people who see monsters under their beds. But I explained to her that these kinds of threats need to be brought to light to show anyone even remotely listening to these people the kinds of people we’re dealing with. This is not normal behavior. This woman on these calls needs help, and, if she is reading this, I encourage her to get that help immediately. There are plenty of mental health therapies that can help with her persecution complex, and there are plenty of organizations who can take care of her children before she hurts them.

The biggest piece of evidence of this person needing help is that she genuinely thinks that releasing information that is easily attainable is some sort of threat. It’s as if I told you right now that I was going to release your IP address from where you are reading this blog post. What kind of a threat is that?

Well, it’s all in the context. Some whacky “animal rights” activists and anti-abortion activists have released private home addresses and information to their followers in the hopes (and sometimes the direction) that their followers do something with the information. The results have been anything from vandalism to murder. Once this woman comes through on her promise, because Dorit will not stop (and neither will any of us), we will know who she is and what kind of direction she’ll give anyone who listens.

So let this be a public record of these threats, and, yes, let’s see where it goes from here.

UPDATE: The links to the audio files have been downloaded too much and google is throttling back. If you upload them to your own shareable space (dropbox or google drive), paste the link in the comments so others can hear.