Earlier today, Jake Crosby posted this comment on one of my recent posts about Jenny McCarthy. (For those of you lucky enough not to know who Jake Crosby is, here’s his entry in the Encyclopedia of American Loons and here’s a link to Orac’s posts about Crosby.)
“I think [public health decisions] should be based on scientific evidence. I’m never going to waver in this.” [Note: He's quoting me here.]
Well isn’t that just funny? I brought up scientific evidence to you that CDC of all agencies produced associating earlier MMR vaccine exposure to autism, and asked you if you thought CDC should retract its conclusion of no association that’s completely contradicted by the results.
You refused to respond, called the study I plugged “insignificant minutia,” said my question was “devoid of facts,” complained of my past criticisms of you online and ultimately refused to answer my question.
So then how can you make the following claim that: “…this isn’t a matter of the heart, it’s one of the mind” when you take criticism you don’t have a response to so personally?
Speaking of which, of the “dozens” of studies you claim prove vaccines don’t cause autism, IOM only uses four to say thimerosal doesn’t cause autism and four to say thimerosal doesn’t. This is an organization that has been caught saying it will never come down that autism is a true side effect of vaccines before looking at any evidence, and it obviously does not even think most of your “dozens” of studies are any good. Pretty bad, don’t you think?
I initially wrote what follows as a response to Crosby but decided it was worth getting of my chest once and for all…so here goes:
Jake, as I told you the first time you accosted me at a talk, in New York City in June 2011 — you remember that, right? It was the time you refused to shake my hand and instead jabbed me in the chest in front of dozens of people — I’m happy to engage in a rational discussion with anyone who’s interested.
The problem is, you’ve shown repeatedly you have zero interest in rational discussions — or facts or reality, for that matter.
One out of myriad examples of this is your insistence that I was somehow involved at removing you from a PRIM&R conference in 2011. To review the situation: I couldn’t make the conference because my daughter had been born, prematurely, the previous day. In an effort to fulfill my obligations, I Skyped into the conference from an empty hospital room to give two talks — one to the entire conference and one to PRIM&R members at an invitation-only reception. For whatever reason, you decided to crash the invitation-only reception. At that point, my connection was so poor that I couldn’t even get a video link at and was limited to audio — and even that kept cutting out. During the Q&A period, you stood up and began a long, rambling, accusatory “question.” In the middle of it, my connection cut out yet again. By the time I was able to patch back in, the conference organizers had asked you to leave. The *first thing* I said when my audio was back on was that I wished they hadn’t done that because my preference is always to let hecklers
hanghoist themselves on their own ridiculous petards.
Now, let’s look at how that played out:
I’m giving an audio-only talk via Skype from a hospital room in Boston.
You launch into one of your monologues.
My audio cuts out momentarily.
You’re asked to leave.
I’m giving an audio-only talk via Skype from a hospital room in Boston.
You launched into one of your monologues.
Despite my never having asked you to leave a talk that I was physically present at, I panic when I hear your voice in a room 400 miles away.
I hang up my Skype connection.
I track down the cell phone number of someone in the luncheon.
I call that person and tell him/her I won’t come back on the line until you’ve been removed.
I also tell the person to claim that the decision to ask you to leave hadn’t come from me.
This person agrees.
I re-start my connection.
In an effort to cover my tracks, I make up a story about my connection cutting out.
In a further effort to cover my tracks, I say I wish you’d been allowed to stay.
That’s a sad, paranoid, through-the-looking-glass explanation for a very simple chain of events — but you’re so convinced that it’s true that you’ve been talking about it for the past 19 months.
So you see, the reason I don’t respond to your “questions” is because I don’t know how to engage with someone whose entire worldview is based on some kind of anti-Occam’s razor. Let’s call it Crosby’s labyrinth: Factual, verifiable, and straightforward explanations should always be jettisoned in favor of ones requiring fantastical flights of fancy and massive, multi-layered conspiracies. Just for fun, let’s look at another of your favorites: Your top-notch investigative work into why I wrote The Panic Virus.
I became interested in a topic.
I researched it.
I wrote about it.
My uncle is a Harvard Law School professor who specializes in negotiation and mediation.
The Washington-based mother-in-law of the founder of the Autism Science Foundation, which supports science-based medicine and opposes vaccine conspiracy theories has, at various times, taught mediation workshops at HLS.
One of the mother-in-law’s colleagues serves on the board of the Autism Science Foundation.
In a shocking coincidence, my uncle (whose entire career has focused on negotiation and mediation) and the mother-in-law (who founded the Center for Dispute Settlement) have both served on the board of the Consensus Building Institute.
The mother-in-law and her colleague have looked into the backgrounds of everyone they’ve ever worked with, served on a board with, or had professional dealings with in an effort to find someone with a relative who will write propaganda for them.
They learn that my uncle has a nephew who is a journalist.
They explain their scheme to him.
He thinks that’s a brilliant idea.
He approaches me.
I decide to risk my professional reputation by signing up to write a book supporting a worldwide conspiracy of governments, doctors, scientists, public health officials, and, apparently, my uncle and two people he’s crossed paths with over the years.
That is stone-cold insane.
Finally, in regards to the Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s “Does the public believe in science?” forum you’re referring to your comment, I didn’t say that one or another of your questions contained “insignificant minutia” and was “devoid of facts.” As I suspect you know — although it’s possible that you’ve so completely embraced your alternative reality that you’ve lost the ability to actually hear what people are saying to you — I said your entire M.O. was to harp on insignificant minutia and, when that didn’t work, trot out one or another argument that was devoid of facts. It’s a sad, sorry rabbit hole you live in — and I have no interest in spending any time there.
Addendum, July 29, 2013: Crosby’s latest bit of alter-reality fantasizing has to do with our first encounter, at the World Science Festival in 2011. Here’s what actually happened: When Jake approached me, I stuck out my hand, which he refused to shake. I said I thought it was sad that he was so obsessed with vaccine conspiracy theories that he couldn’t bring himself to agree with me that there needed to be better services provided for people and families dealing with autism. He walked away. Then he came back to make a final point about his “proof” that I was on the take — and when he came back, he marched over and jabbed me in the chest.
Now, Jake’s fevered imagination has produced another blog post — this one titled, “Seth Mnookin Claims My Handshake Was Jab in His Chest.” On one level, it’s the most perfect distillation yet of his approach to the world: Take something that happened in full view of a room full of people. Flip it on its head. Hope that by repeating the Crosby-world version of events enough times, someone, somewhere will believe that what he’s saying is true.
At this point, Jake’s story is more sad that anything else. He was goaded into penning outrageous, paranoid screeds by the vaccine-advocates-are-cannibals crowd at Age of Autism. When Crosby’s paranoia reached its natural conclusion — assuming that Age of Autism itself was part of the conspiracy — AoA kicked him to the curb. Now he’s wandering in the wilderness, hoping that by including my name in the titles to his posts, someone will notice him throwing a tantrum in the corner.
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