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 first 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.
You already know my opinion about the group that calls itself the Australian Skeptics. It is a misnomer for people who belong to the Australian Skeptics and their splinter group, Stop the AVN to call themselves sceptical. They are the least sceptical people on the planet since they only question anything that isn't mainstream (they are to real scepticism as matter is to anti-matter).
Ms Dorey has been told on numerous occasions that Stop the AVN has nothing to do with Australian Skeptics. There are people who are members of both as I am. I am also a member of the National Roads and Motorists Association, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Australian Science Communicators, Amnesty International, Blue Mountains Regional Business Chamber, Gleebooks' Gleeclub, the Blue Mountains City Library and some other groups. (The check through my wallet shows that I need to renew my membership of Penrith RSL Club.) Perhaps Ms Dorey might like to explain why my membership of any of these organisations has anything to do with any other.
As for only questioning things that aren't mainstream, I've heard members of both groups question all sorts of orthodoxy, from the advertising practices of pharmaceutical companies to government policy on private schools. There are even some members of these groups who are climate change deniers, but we lock them in the shed when we have visitors.
You also know that many people who belong to both of these groups are abusive foul-mouths who can't seem to complete a sentence or even string 2 words together without a liberal sprinkling of profanity. Many of these people will attack anyone they disagree with and regularly harass AVN members and anyone who has not vaccinated simply because of their belief that everyone should be vaccinated – end of story.
I have personally met a large proportion of the membership of Australian Skeptics and I have seen no evidence of their inability to converse without profanity. As for Stop the AVN, it is a Facebook group with many thousands of members and only a small number of them have even seen the faces of others. Again, I see no evidence that they can't carry on a civilised and polite conversation.
There is no harassment of people simply because they are not vaccinated, although I have no desire to be treated by any medical person who is so foolish or arrogant. Our targets are the people who try to encourage other people not to vaccinate. There is a difference.
There are people who can't be vaccinated – very young babies (for some vaccines), immunocompromised people such as AIDS patients or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, people with allergies to some vaccine ingredients (such as egg protein in flu vaccines, not the ludicrous list of ingredients continually spouted by liars), children who have had severe reactions to some vaccines (yes, Ms Dorey, we admit that there can be bad reactions – nobody has ever said that all vaccines are 100% safe in all circumstances). Not everyone can be vaccinated, but the unvaccinated are protected by herd immunity if everyone else has behaved responsibly.
This sort of behaviour comes right down from the very top. From one of the 'leaders' of this movement – a person by the name of Peter Bowditch. I first came across this self-professed ratbag over 15 years ago. At that time, the AVN was active in trying to help a gentleman by the name of Alan Yurko get out of prison in the United States.
I'm pleased to know that Ms Dorey thinks I am a leader. Ms Dorey first became aware of me in March, 1999, and posted a message to the AVN's mailing list in which she accused me of criminal behaviour. I had not heard of the murderer Alan Yurko at the time and her email had nothing to do with him. You can read that email message here.
The "gentleman" was in prison for the murder of a ten-week-old baby. He was such a gentleman that he had been convicted of four counts of aggravated burglary in Ohio and had fled the jurisdiction to Florida as soon as he was paroled. Following his arrest for the murder he beat a prison officer senseless in an attempt to escape. He was a violent man who behaved violently. He was, however, a useful martyr who could be exploited by anti-vaccination liars.
Alan had received a sentence of life plus 10 years for the death of his infant child from Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) and his story was one that touched many hearts both here in Australia and overseas.
Alan Yurko was in prison (remember the four burglary with violence convictions) when the baby was conceived. The mother couldn't remember the baby's birthday later so it is no surprise that she couldn't remember who the father might have been. I was criticised for saying something like "Yurko was annoyed that someone was inside his girlfriend while he was inside a prison". Apparently this crudity was far more offensive than beating a baby to death.
And yes, it was Shaken Baby Syndrome – blood in the brain, behind the eyes and in the spinal column. The poor child even had broken ribs which had begun to heal, evidence of previous assaults in his short but tortured life.
Possibly the vilest aspect of the anti-vaccination liar movement is their rejection of the concept of Shaken Baby Syndrome (it's always the vaccines) and their unquestioning support for people who kill children.
There were so many things wrong with the case against Alan including the fact that his son actually died in hospital following a serious reaction to vaccination but, as still happens today, it was more convenient to blame the father than to examine medical procedures or health professionals so Alan got the blame and was thrown into prison for the rest of his life – plus 10 years (I could never work that out myself – would they really imprison a dead man?).
Yes, the baby died in a hospital. That's where ambulance paramedics take badly injured children. The baby had been vaccinated eleven days before he was killed. If there was any reaction to the vaccine at all it was only the crying that caused a violent man to lose his temper.
From prison, this extraordinary man started to research exactly what had happened to his baby and why his trial had gone so wrong. Within a relatively short period of time, he had amassed a huge support base from amongst the vaccination information groups and within the medical community. Everyone from pathologists to paediatricians to toxicologists to coroners looked over the court documents and said that the way in which his trial had been conducted was nothing short of fraudulent. His son's internal organs had been replaced with those of another baby, the coroner had made many errors on his report and the child had been overdosed with Warfarin whilst in hospital, leading to internal bleeding which was then blamed on Alan Yurko.
Please remember that "this extraordinary man" managed to accumulate seven criminal convictions over a short period of time. That number doesn't include the ones for burglary and drug possession that he picked up after he was released from prison.
I don't consider people who lie about vaccination to be "vaccination information groups".
No sane person said that the trial was fraudulent. What various liars and lunatics said was that all the evidence pointed to vaccine damage not a beating and the court should have praised the murderer, not locked him up.
Strangely, as well as claiming that the coroner mixed up bits of different dead babies there were also claims that there was only one autopsy of a baby done that fortnight so the coroner had no excuse for not getting everything right. Also, the coroner was female and made no errors on the report, although it was later ruled by a court that the work could have been done better. The coroner's report was quoted extensively by anti-vaccination liars as evidence to support Yurko, but saying different things on different days is just one of those things that compulsive liars do.
In another inconsistency, Yurko supporters claimed at different times that the baby had died from an overdose of Warfarin and from excessive clotting caused by a vaccine. As they were making things up as they went along there is nothing surprising about claims that the baby died from both coagulation and anti-coagulants at the same time.
In one of our very early newsletters, I asked our members to write letters of support to Alan who, at that time, was in solitary confinement in prison and really appreciated that little bit of kindness – especially from people living so far away.
I don't know about any newsletter, but a request was sent to the AVN's mailing list in January, 2001, asking people to write to the prison about a change in the rules for communication with prisoners. These were not "letters of support to Alan" but letters to the prison authorities asking for the rules to be relaxed. People were specifically asked not to mention Alan Yurko but to just say they had a friend in prison.
If Yurko had been in solitary confinement it would not have been surprising that there were some restrictions on his communication with the outside world, but remember that this was a general change to prison letter policy, not something related specifically to him. Also, this is the first time I have heard the words "solitary confinement" connected to Yurko.
I had only just gotten my first computer at about this time and email was still a new and exciting mystery to me. So when I received a very politely-written email from someone named Peter Bowditch asking me why the Vaccination Awareness Network (as we were called at the time when we were only operating in the area of Northern NSW) was supporting a child-killer, I took his email seriously and answered with the information I had about Yurko's case.
I have no record of this correspondence. What I do have is the fact that I CCed Ms Dorey and the person who had posted the appeal to the mailing list with my email to the prison authorities notifying them of the letter-writing campaign and informing them about the request to deceive the prison by leaving out any mention of Yurko. In her reply to me Ms Dorey said that she didn't know who I was. She ended her email with the words "Through your gross stupidity in sending this note, you have placed Alan Yurko in danger. I hope that the consequences are not what I fear they may be. May God forgive you for this heinous and spiteful act". The other person said "The only just reward for you is that you suffer the same fate of being accused of murdering your child when a vaccine actually did it. May you burn". Someone passed my email to the murderer's wife as well and she suggested (via a PR agency writer) that I should kill myself. You can see the complete correspondence here.
I started The Millenium Project in March 1999. Its creation was triggered when I found out that the Vaccination Awareness Network had at some time previously changed its name to the much more deceptive and innocuous "Australian Vaccination Network". It seems that Ms Dorey's grasp of history is on par with her knowledge of immunology.
In reply, I received an incredibly vile email (from memory) telling me that our organisation was supporting people who killed children so we must all be child killers too. Not only that, but he wrote to the warden of the gaol where Alan was imprisoned (and sent me a copy of that letter) stating that a letter-writing campaign was starting from Australia and asking if the warden could please stop any letters addressed to Alan from our country
Ms Dorey's memory must be better than mine (and my records of emails I send), because I have no idea what she is talking about. I have emails back to the mid 1990s and have no copy of any "incredibly vile email" sent to Ms Dorey. Perhaps she might like to publish it somewhere, complete with all headers, of course.
I did not write to the warden, I emailed an official of the Florida Department of Corrections. Nowhere in my email was the word "Australia" mentioned and I did not ask for any letters from anywhere to be stopped from being delivered to anyone.
I could not believe the cruelty involved in that sort of action and even though Alan Yurko was eventually cleared of all charges several years later, Bowditch still claims that he killed his son. Why? The answer to that question is only known to Bowditch who obviously feels that he knows more about this case then the authorities in the United States. To this day, he continues to call Alan Yurko a child killer and, as you will see, that judgement applies to anyone who questions vaccination or mainstream medical procedures as well according to Bowditch.
In 2004 Yurko's murder conviction was rescinded (the judge thought that the coroner's evidence was unsatisfactory, but it seemed that they jury might still have brought in a guilty verdict without some of that evidence). The judge ordered a new trial but instead of taking this option Yurko opted to plead nolo contendere to manslaughter. This means that he was effectively pleading guilty but did not have to allocute, which is to admit guilt in open court. On the manslaughter conviction he was sentenced to the time he had served on the overturned murder conviction. He was not "cleared of all charges", he was convicted of manslaughter by his own admission.
As I don't believe that Alan Ream was Alan Yurko's son, I can hardly be still saying he killed his son. He killed his girlfriend's son. That was the girlfriend who couldn't remember the baby's birthday and married the boy's killer after he was convicted of murder.
Ms Dorey might like to show where I have ever accused "anyone who questions vaccination or mainstream medical procedures" of being a deliberate killer. People who campaign against vaccination lead to deaths if they are successful, but that doesn't mean they all slap babies and hold them by their feet for crying. (Which Yurko said he did. "In attempts to restore breathing, the father first slapped the baby's face, then held it by its ankles and spanked its bottom, all without success".)
From that time in the mid to late 1990s to today, though Bowditch has written to me over the years, I have never responded to him. I did not want to have anything to do with an individual who would behave in this way so I simply ignored him and got on with what I needed to do. He has not done the same, having set up entire web pages to abuse me and anyone associated with the AVN.
And of course Ms Dorey would never do that. Oh wait, what is this blog post I'm responding to?
Ms Dorey has responded to me on several occasions, usually when I have asked her to implement her clearly-stated commitment to free speech and allow me to post on the AVN's mailing list or Facebook page or to follow her on Twitter. In fact, she responded to me on her own "Vaccination – Respectful debate" mailing list as recently as June, 2012. I was of course banned from the list shortly afterwards.
Earlier this week, Bowditch wrote an article on the Mamamia website called The Anti-vaxxers reach a shocking new low.
In this article, he makes accuses me of doing certain things of which I am innocent and demands that the AVN change its name because he does not agree with us calling ourselves the Australian Vaccination Network since he considers us to be anti-vaccination despite all the available evidence to the contrary.
I accused Ms Dorey of suggesting that the parents of children why have died of SIDS be contacted with a request for the vaccination status of the dead babies, something which she had done within the previous week. She might think that doing this is innocent. I do not. I made no demands about the name but simply said, as I have been saying since 1999, that the current name is deceptive as it hides the true agenda of the organisation.
And I am prepared to accept that the AVN is not anti-vaccination when Ms Dorey tells me which vaccines should be given to children because the benefit outweighs the risk.
A day after the article appeared, I received a call from Howard Sattler's producer at radio station 6PR in Perth asking if I would agree to be interviewed by Howard about this article and stating that Peter Bowditch would also be speaking. I agreed and wondered how the interview would proceed since I have heard how incredibly abusive Bowditch can be in this sort of situation. The only reason I agreed to participate in this show was because I know that Howard Sattler is a very fair-minded individual who is in no way opposed to vaccination but has – what is a very rare trait in Australian media – a strong commitment to freedom of speech and transparency in all issues.
I invite Ms Dorey to provide evidence of me ever being abusive to anyone in a radio appearance, and if Howard Sattler isn't opposed to vaccination then he gives a very good impersonation of someone who is.
Ms Dorey obviously had the advantage of me over this interview as I wasn't told that she was going to be on the program until I was about to go on air and it was too late to prepare for the inevitable flood of misinformation. I was told I was going to be interviewed about the Mamamia article, but that didn't happen and the only person subject to abuse was me.
I will put a copy of this interview below so you can download and listen to it and I strongly urge you to both do this and to share this interview with others.
And I'll put it here too. Note the yellow background.
Yes, listen to it, and then tell me that I was treated fairly.
Tomorrow, I will be writing a second blog highlighting all of the inaccuracies and incorrect statements spouted by this man (unlike Bowditch's attitude towards myself and others he disagrees with, I will call them inaccuracies and errors – not lies) but today, I would like to ask you to read through a Twitter thread of a conversation Bowditch had with one of the AVN's Facebook page members – a woman who has been seriously bullied by members of Stop the AVN.
In this thread, Bowditch (RatbagsDotCom) asks SAVNGodComplex (a woman whose sister was badly injured by medicine and whose child is vaccine-injured) about the sexual pleasure she and others who question vaccination get from dead babies.
I had no way of knowing who I was addressing. I was being abused by an anonymous poster who was doing such things as telling lies about my criminal record (I don't have one) and making false claims about legal action against me. (It turns out that the anonymous person was relying on the words of Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group for its evidence against me.) The anonymous poster then deleted its Twitter account so all its messages were deleted as well from Twitter's history. Yes, I asked it a crude question. So what? It deserved all it got and I'd do it again tomorrow if I had to. You will notice that I was eventually informed that the anonymous poster was a Liz Hempel.
I'm sure you will agree with me that this is an incredibly inappropriate conversation for a grown man to have with a woman whose only 'sin' is questioning a medical procedure.
How was I supposed to know it was a woman? And it wasn't "questioning a medical procedure", it was telling lies about me and about the effects of vaccines.
During the interview linked above, Howard Sattler asked Bowditch about this Twitter conversation:
HS: Talking about abuse, (because Bowditch made the ridiculous claim that the AVN abuses those who vaccinate!) is your Twitter account RatbagsDotCom?
To which Bowditch replied, "It certainly is."
HS- You've sent tweets off to people saying things like this: "How many dead children in a pile do you need to trigger a spontaneous orgasm?" Is that right?
PB – That's right, yes. I'm waiting for them to answer that question. For some reason or other, they don't.
Howard then went on to read through several of the other Twitter comments from this man (shown above). At no time, did Bowditch express the least regret or embarrassment about having spoken like this about caring parents.
Which "caring parents" would they be? The anonymous ones who feel free to lie about me?
For those who don't know him, Howard Sattler is often described as a "shock jock" as he makes a living by making outrageous remarks in order to get a reaction. I'm surprised that he thinks he has a monopoly on this.
Peter Bowditch has, for many years, held an esteemed and respected position with the Australian Skeptics. He has been a past President of the organisation and a regular guest at all sorts of events hosted by this group. He has had regular blog spots on, not only the Mamamia website (which deals, for the most part, with women's issues, raising families and young children) but on other news sites where people have the right to know that the person who is setting himself up as an authority on an issue actually has a history of dealing with innocent people in this way.
I have had exactly two article published at Mamamia, the one being talked about here and one in December, 2011. This is hardly regular, but since when has Ms Dorey been bothered by facts.
If people want to tell lies about me while hiding behind the coward's cloak of anonymity they can forget about being classed as "innocent people" and will get what they deserve, which is ridicule.
Does Bowditch deserve respect? Does anyone who treats others in this way deserve anything but their disgust and ostracism? Should he be allowed to set himself up on blogs (especially blogs where women with young children will come across his rants) as an expert or social commentator on any issue at all?
Does anyone who suggests that SIDS or Shaken Baby Syndrome are the result of vaccination deserve respect? Does someone who suggests that the parents of dead children be contacted to ask about vaccination status deserve respect? Does a person who tries to get a baby's medical records the day before the baby's funeral in order to "prove" that the baby didn't die of pertussis deserve respect? Does someone who supports a child killer just because his crime can be used to spuriously link vaccines with Shaken Baby Syndrome deserve respect? Does someone who says in a television program about a baby dying from pertussis "We didn't die from it 30 years ago and we don't die from it now" deserve respect? Does someone who calls measles "benign" despite it killing hundreds of children a day deserve respect?
Bowditch can claim that he cares about children and about the health of the community, but those claims become nothing more than hot air when you look at his actions which, to use a cliché, certainly do speak louder than any of his words.
Respect has to be earned and Bowditch has done nothing to earn the honours which he so obviously feels he is entitled to.
If I were involved with the organisations he is so active with – the Australian Skeptics and Stop the AVN – I would be kicking up a stink to ensure that the group disassociated itself from anyone who acts in such a shameful manner. Especially when there is no effort to apologise or make amends for this sort of abuse. Anyone can make a mistake, but when faced with the knowledge of how badly someone has acted, a person who has any conscience, any feelings of kindness for their fellow man, any remorse whatsoever, would unreservedly apologise for their actions. Bowditch has done none of this. Indeed, he seemed to be proud of his actions which is inexcusable!
I'll start apologising for what I say about anti-vaccination liars when they stop lying about the dangers and the benefits of vaccines, and when they stop torturing parents with autistic children and those devastated by SIDS by suggesting that the parents have caused these things by vaccination their children, and when they stop defending people who kill children by suggesting that the damage which identifies Shaken Baby Syndrome is an adverse reaction to vaccines. When they stop lying about vaccine ingredients, when they stop promoting absurdities like "homeopathic vaccination" as if such things have value. When they stop opposing the greatest life-saver in the history of medicine. When they stop endangering the lives of millions of people because of an insane agenda.
Over to you, Ms Dorey. I'm waiting to start apologising. You first.
Oh, and one last thing. For the first time since my initial email to Bowditch all those many years ago, I jumped in to the Twitter thread quoted above. I did not respond to Bowditch – but I did reply to the woman who I saw being abused and bullied so badly.
That would be the woman who was hiding behind an anonymous Twitter name and was lying about me.
It was an ill-advised action on my part, but here is what I said:
I just could not believe any man treating a woman in this way – perhaps I was raised in a time when all people were expected to treat others with respect – whether they were male or female.
Bowditch's response to me (though I did not address him at all – nor would I ever have contacted his wife and children though I hope he is kinder to them then he is to total strangers) was typical:
Talking about me is addressing me. Ms Dorey's suggestion that my family should know something is no different to a suggestion that the parents of dead children should be contacted to ask about vaccination status.
Memo to Meryl Dorey at the Australian Vaccination Network (28/4/2012)
Do not even suggest that anyone contacts my family. I realise that you have in the past harassed the family of at least one child who died of a vaccine preventable disease. But don't start on me.
You might think you can get away with continual defamation of Australian Skeptics. You might think you can get away with continual lies about the activities of the members of Stop the AVN. What you will not get away with is involving my family in your insane campaign to harm children. If you don't like me asking tasteless questions about dead babies then stop spending your days trying to increase the number of dead babies.
If you or any of your followers come near my family I will react and it will not end well for you. Don't even suggest it in a joke. And if you think that's a threat, think again. It's a promise.
I couldn't have put it better myself
This behaviour is typical of the man and the abuse continues. Come on, Australian Skeptics and Stop the AVN! Do the right thing and get rid of any association you have with Bowditch and anyone else who behaves in this dreadful manner lest you be rightly tarred with the same brush