I've blogged several times previously about Kathleen Seidel, author of the Neurodiversity weblog, who was hit with a harassing subpoena by asshat anti-vaccine lawyer Clifford Shoemaker in evident retaliation for criticizing Shoemaker and his client Lisa Sykes. Seidel triumphed, succeeding in getting Shoemaker's subpoena quashed (a real feat for a non-attorney filing a pro se motion), and Shoemaker is now awaiting (anxiously, I hope) the judge's ruling on whether he should be sanctioned. So Kathleen Seidel — who explains a wide array of scientific issues in terms that even a big dummy like me can understand — is all that.
Recently she wrote a rather stunning post illustrating the ties between an anti-vaccine "expert" and anti-vaccine lawyer and a web site that can only be described as a freakish hive of prejudice and nutjobbery. The web site is Whale.to, a clearinghouse not only for — to put it extremely charitably — less mainstream scientific ideas, but also for copies of the infamous anti-Semitic tract the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, anti-Catholic tracts, and writings tying vaccines to Illuminati plots. So far, not shocking — there's endless deranged dreck on the internet. What's shocking is that in a case before a Special Master in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, a tribunal the government set up to adjudicate claims of vaccine injury, an anti-vaccine lawyer presented the testimony of an "expert" who explicitly relied upon Whale.to and even submitted printouts to the Special Master.
The anti-vaccine lawyer is Thomas Gallagher, Esq. (Seidel reports he represents petitioners in nearly a hundred claims before the VICP). The "expert" is one Dr. Frederick Fiber. Dr. Fiber opined that an influenza vaccine could cause hearing loss, and premised that opinion, at least in part, on an article he printed out from Whale.to and submitted during the proceedings. Seidel quotes from the Special Master's opinion, which masterfully demonstrates how a jurist can convey the concept "these people are utterly deranged" without deviating the slightest from good dry decorum:
This website (last visited May 1, 2008) describes its mission as “mostly a medical politics and anti-vaccination site, the Big Brother and (his) Mind Control sections were included to show the wood from the (medical) trees and to see where Tyranny (eg wars, famine, atheism, poverty, droughts, killer hurricanes, drugs, crime, most disease fear, etc) really comes from, causing most folk to think God doesn’t exist! ‘Whale’ is a tribute to our larger brained mammals.” It appears from the configuration of the website, that Pet. Ex. 13 is not a medical journal article published elsewhere and merely linked to this website, as the article contains no medical journal citation or pagination.
Read Seidel's whole post; it's a fascinating look at the intersection of hard science, subliterate conspiracy theory, and administrative proceedings. As I've said before, I lack the scientific training to evaluate anti-vaccine arguments to the extent they rely upon science. But just as their attempts at censorship undermine their credibility, their reliance on "resources" like Whale.to destroy it. This instance was particularly surprising. Loony "experts" are a dime a dozen; you can find a Dr. Fiber wandering through every park shouting at the herbaceous borders. But what can be said about Thomas Gallagher, a lawyer who can maintain the semblance of sanity enough to amass nearly a hundred clients before a tribunal? What kind of lawyer proves his case by putting on an expert who bases his core scientific opinion on a printout from a website that can't decide whether autistic children — created by trauma from "moon child rituals" — is the result of scheming Jews, Catholics, or Illuminati?
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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