Tuesday 11 May 2010

Dr Brian Deer at Westminster Skeptics

“Ben! Answer the phone, will you!? I can’t find the place!”
I was busy talking to Jack of Kent, Mr Westy-Skeppers himself (http://westminster.skepticsinthepub.org/ also see links column), when I got the message and had to break off to deal with it. It was my own fault really because I’d left my phone switched off. I wrongly assumed that I wouldn’t get signal in the rather Lovecraftian basement bar of The Old Monk in Westminster. (It was not dissimilar to The Skeptics Arms... sorry The Penderels Oak where I went before. Why do Skeppies love meeting in underground pubs?) My other miscalculation was a prejudice of mine for Londoners. I assumed Ms Marmitelover (see links column) would automatically be able to find the joint because I tend to think that Londoners are supposed to have GPS built into their brains at birth; they can find anywhere within their metropolis by instinct, can’t they? Of course that is not the case, just as we who live outside London are not the bestialitic, polydactylic farmers who marry our sisters, which is what most Londoners seem to think we are. I soon guided MsML to our destination. She looked tired, stressed and a little downhearted when I saw her. She’s writing a book, but she already has a publishing contract which means she’s inevitably working to a deadline. I’ve been reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, as I’ve said before, but I can’t meet Rand’s idea that art is just another logical and material action. ML is no Richard Halley and neither am I. Art is essentially intuitive and, like it or not, most humans are partly intuitive creatures. When I’m in the throes of creative obsession how can I break off to consider suitable launch dates and wholesalers’ budgets etc? The artist and the businessman are symbiotic partners, not an interchangeable double act! I’m a writer, but I’ve never had a publisher’s contract; most people might say therefore that I should envy ML, but maybe she should envy me. See how The Obscurati Chronicles is taking its merry time; I bet ML wishes her book could do the same! I'm quite relieved to have finished Atlas Shrugged actually and now I can read something different.

We managed to get a pair of seats near the front which was good because ML is not very tall and the place was packed out. The speaker was Dr Brian Deer (http://briandeer.com/) The subject of his lecture was the recent disgrace of Dr Andrew Wakefield. Here’s a news story about it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8483865.stm ; and here’s a bit of background into the affair that you’re better off reading here than me just repeating: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Andrew_Wakefield . I was a bit handicapped in this event because I’ve only studied the issue very briefly. According to Brian Deer, Andrew Wakefield was the man behind the extinction of the dinosaurs, the Fall of the Roman Empire, the Black Plague, the Irish Famine, the Cold War... and on top of all that he once faked a scientific study as well. I’m only just being sarcastic! Deer is a very different person to his fellow medical-Skeptic Ben Goldacre whose book I review here: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2009/03/bad-science-by-ben-goldacre_25.html . Deer came across as a very angry man, devoid of all the media-savvy of Goldy, and all tact and graces many others might have. “I’ve spent years working on this one case!” he proclaimed bitterly. Challenging Wakefield has clearly been a virtual full-time activity for him, and he looked weary and battleworn as a result. He presented documents that showed letters between Wakefield and various lawyers and major pharmaceutical companies to propose that Wakefield had a vested financial interest in his denunciation of the MMR vaccine. He was basically a greedy gambler who planned to introduce his own vaccine to replace MMR. He distorted the study’s data to suit his conclusion and misrepresented the families of the children involved... according to Deer. But as always there are two sides to the story. One of them comes from Wakefield himself. Here’s an interview with him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIsFW5phHas . Another side to the story came from ML and Twitter. I’m a member of Twitter but I hardly ever use it. ML however is a regular and she brought along her phone which allows her to access Twitter from it (It makes my own old Nokia 5300 look rather Stone Age!). In his lecture Deer referred to the families he knows of the children involved in Wakefield’s research, however he never counted on ML also being aquatinted with one of them too. ML actually managed to arrange a live ”Tweet” from one of them that called Deer’s assessment of Wakefield’s character into doubt. This mother of one of the autistic children in the study “Tweeted” into the lecture to state that Wakefield was “sincere... but a bit sloppy”. So he was still in error, but this was a far call from the money-hungry blackguard that Deer had been portraying him as before. There was a pause, Deer looked uneasy. Then he said: “So this woman thinks Wakefield was sincere? Does anyone here disagree with that?” There was silence, including silence from Deer himself. The whole room seemed to conveniently forget that a minute ago they’d been listening to Deer eagerly pronounce Wakefield as the Antichrist and cheering his every word. I heard echoes of Orwell: “Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Eurasia is our ally”. The event continued, although Deer was clearly annoyed at being thrown off his groove and made a few passing references to “loonies” and “cranks” for the remainder of his address while looking in our direction. I’ve always kept my journalistic hat on during these SiTP’s, but I was very tempted to ask a question openly at one point. I had a copy of David Icke’s new book in my bag and was reading his take on the matter (See: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.com/2010/05/david-ickes-new-book.html) He quotes Bertrand Russell in the book explaining, in the early 20th century, how vaccinations could be used by governments to mass-medicate populations without their knowledge or consent. (I’m not totally anti-Russell by the way; Bertrand Russell spoke many words of wisdom too). Other more recent authors like Zbigniew Brzezinski and even Bill Gates have said similar things. It’s amazing how candid about their opinions geopoliticans like Brzezinski become when they write books. Perhaps they assume that the masses are all glued to I’m a Celebrity- Get Me Out of Here! and so never read books; therefore the politicians can save their flannel for their televised speeches. They state openly about how vaccination programmes are useful for secretly introducing clinical agents into the human herd which alter our brain function, our stamina, our reproductivity, our lifespan and many other things. They think of us as just one more species of farm animal! Therefore I think Deer was unfair when he ridiculed Wakefield’s statements about being attacked by “dark forces”. Dark Forces exist, so if they’re behind this agenda then why wouldn’t they target Andrew Wakefield? They may or they may not be doing so; I don’t know, but I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility with a few “black helicopter” paranoia jokes like Deer did. This conflict Deer has with Wakefield has manifestly reached a personal level. He ended his speech with a statement about Wakefield being struck off by the General Medical Council. This means that Wakefield can no longer legally practice medicine, possibly for the rest of his life: “Wakefield has been erased!” Deer hissed. “’Struck off’ is too benign a term; I prefer ‘erased’!”

As I said above, I don’t know enough about this specific case to make a proper judgement, but I’m in no way willing to accept the opinion described by Deer at this juncture. I’m sure that there is another side to this issue. If Wakefield is a fraud then he must have known the consequences of his fraud. Would he really risk his entire medical career for that?


Anonymous said...

Thanks Ben... really interesting stuff. Deer has invested his own credibility in showing Wakefield to be a "fraud" and can't afford for the facade to drop now. In my view he couldn't afford for any other interpretation to be heard since 2004.

He was the complainant in Wakefield's GMC case, but reported the case in the Times as if her were an objective observer for six years.

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Thanks, Anon. I don't know, but I suspect, that Deer is under political pressure to maintain his stance. Vaccines are big business, but important political tools too, as I explained.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben
an excellent writeup, you may be interested in this Film made from an encounter with Deer outside the GMC,

the raw footage is also here so you can see it has not be edited


a better UK based interview where wakefield talks about the politics
can be found on this page, I just love the description of David Salisbury calling the GMC urging them to prosecute.


As wakefield said a few days ago "the parents aren't going way, the children aren't going away and I am certianly not going away"

my child born 2002 has regresive autism and the same bowel disease as discribe in the lancet case series. (also fully vaccinated ;-)


Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for posting that. I'll have a look at your film.

The questions are not going away. It's recently been revealed that Wakefield's GMC hearing was suspicious; representatives from the GSK Big Pharma company were involved in his striking off.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and how were the GSK BIG Pharma company involved in his striking off, you fucking clown?

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