Saturday, December 20, 2008

Autism Smearing on Autism Street, Yes Virginia (Do'C) Conspiracies Do Exist

Autism Street is not a blog I recommend to parents seeking balanced, objective information about the realities of autism cause, cure or treatment.

"Autism" Street is a member of the "Autism" Hub, a group of blogs which embrace the concept that autistic disorder, a neurological disorder, is actually a blessing to be celebrated. It has an ideological approach to discussion of autism issues and can be snide and nasty to those who disagree with the Autism Street views of autism.

Proponents of the various vaccine/autism theories are often targets on Autism Street. Rumors that members of Generation Rescue were to appear on CNN's Larry King prompted Autism Street's owner Do'C into a full scale tizzy and with unabashed glee Doc immediately set out to smear the anticipated guests, thereby pre-emptively dismissing what they might have to say, by painting them as "nutjobs" in his December 20 comment The Lure Of Conspiracy.

The tool used by Do'C, in his smearing of Generation Rescue, was an article about the attraction of conspiracy theories, The Lure of Conspiracy Theories, by Dr. Patrick Leman. Apparently Dr. Leman is conducting research into a mindset or type of reasoning which characterizes conspiracy adherents for whom conspiracies exude a seductive appeal. On this flimsy basis Do'C suggests that Larry King ask the anticipated guests "a real question":

“What would you say to those people who might refer to you as conspiracy theorist nutjobs with your claims that vaccines cause autism and that the government is covering it all up?”

Ah, now I see Do'C. Anyone who suggests that governments might cover up health hazards is a "nutjob" right? Thanks Do'C, now everyone can stop worrying. Unfortunately, in the real world, outside the brick walls of DoC's Autism Street ideology, conspiracies actually do exist and governments have in fact covered up, or failed to disclose, serious health risks.

In Canada our Competition Act, Criminal Code, National Defence Act and Security of Information Act all contain sections setting out offences described as conspiracies. It is my understanding that in the United States similar prohibitions against conspiracies exist, including in the RICO Act. These conspiracy sections, and other sections dealing with fraud, do not exist because of the whims of legislatures. They exist because fraud and conspiracy are, unfortunately, part of the fabric of criminal activity in any society.

Here in the Province of New Brunswick our people were shocked by the charging, trial and conviction of several prominent directors of a public hospital on multiple counts of defrauding a hospital corporation of funds. One of the directors involved in R. v Stymiest was, until his conviction, a sitting Provincial Court judge. In the sentencing decision Mr. Justice Stephen J. McNally stated at paragraphs 14 and 15:

[14] It seems clear that detection of the frauds was also avoided for so long due to the high professional and social status enjoyed by the perpetrators of the frauds. Mr. Stymiest was a sitting Provincial Court judge while the other accused were senior executives of the hospital who were well respected and thought of highly in the hospital and larger community of the Miramichi. Mr. Tucker was the president and Chief Executive Officer of the hospital. He was described as a hard driving manager who was able to get things done. Both Mr. Stymiest and Mr. Tucker were strong willed and imposing personalities which would no doubt cause the average person to think twice before suggesting any improper or even questionable conduct on their part.

[15] Fortunately, good people often rise well above the “average” and due to the tenacity and courage of a few volunteer members of the board who persisted in asking questions and demanding answers, despite the defendants’ positions and responses to the questions; the frauds were eventually investigated and criminal charges instituted.

But Do'C already knows that conspiracies do in fact exist in the real world. Surely he has heard of ENRON? Maybe Do'C is too busy smearing Generation Rescue to have stayed abreast of the news of Bernard L. Maddof's world wide Ponzi scheme?

For DoC's information the Tobacco Industry has been the target of many conspiracy investigations, charges and some convictions:

The defendants in the case were:

* Philip Morris Companies (now Altria)
* R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR), now Reynolds American
* Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation (BW), now part of Reynolds American
* Lorillard Tobacco Company
* The Liggett Group
* American Tobacco (now part of Reynolds American)
* British American Tobacco Industries (BATCo)
* The Council for Tobacco Research (CTR)
* The Tobacco Institute, Inc.

Specifically, the Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged that the cigarette industry has purposely and fraudulently misled the public about the risks and dangers of cigarette smoking. The government alleged that "the Defendants have engaged in and executed – and continue to engage in and execute – a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of RICO". [Taken from DOJ Final Proposed Findings of Fact (FPFF), Executive Summary, page 1.]



After 6 years of litigation, 9 months of trial, hundreds of depositions and thousands of exhibits, on August 17, 2006 U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the Government had proven its case and found that the tobacco company defendants have violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Final Findings

Based on the evidence presented in the case, Judge Kessler ruled that:

* Defendants knew for fifty years or more that cigarette smoking caused disease, but repeatedly denied that smoking caused adverse health effects. Defendants publicly distorted and minimized the hazards of smoking for decades.

* Defendants concealed and suppressed research data and other evidence showing nicotine is addictive, and withheld information about their internal research on addiction, from the American public, the government, and the public health community, including the United States Surgeon General. The Defendants acted this way to maintain profits by keeping people smoking and attracting new consumers, to avoid liability, and prevent regulation of the industry.

* Defendants falsely denied that they can and do control the level of nicotine delivered to smokers to create and sustain addiction.

* Defendants falsely marketed and promoted low tar/"light" cigarettes as less harmful than "full flavor" cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain corporate revenues.

* From the 1950s to the present, different tobacco companies using different methods have intentionally marketed cigarettes to young people under the age of 21 in order to recruit "replacement smokers" who would ensure the future economic viability of the Tobacco Industry.

* Defendants publicly denied, while internally acknowledging, that secondhand tobacco smoke is hazardous to nonsmokers.

* At various times, Defendants attempted to, and did suppress and conceal scientific research and destroy documents relevant to their public and litigation positions.

The existence of other conspiracies does not prove a claim that government and industry have colluded and conspired to conceal evidence or information showing that vaccines, or vaccine ingredients, cause or contribute to autism cases. Personally I am not convinced that such a case of conspiracy has been established. I also have no doubt though, on the evidence, that public health authorities have in the past discouraged investigation of a possible vaccine/autism connection.

The fact that some people allege the existence of conspiracies does not, as DoC insinuates, mean that they are "nutjobs" whose views should be dismissed. Mr. Justice McNally's comments in R. v Stymiest are worth remembering when contemplating DoC's smear job of the Generation Rescue people and their beliefs. They are not "nutjobs" as DoC clearly insinuates. They are good people rising well above the "average".

They are trying, against the powerful weight of public authority, and sometimes cheap, nasty internet commentary, to right what they believe to be a wrong. And time might well prove them right.

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Siladitya Banerjee said...

good blog.
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Unknown said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Harold, you do realize that Siladitya was just spamming your blog?

Unknown said...


No I didn't give it that much thought.

Thanks for the information.