Friday, February 1, 2013

Voices for Vaccines, Bust a Move, Burning Bridges

I've been having trouble focusing on blogging lately. A combination of lack of time and lack of will have led to a bit of a dry period. It's not that there isn't a lot to write about; there's tons. But I've been having trouble finding the motivation.

Recently, though, there are a few things that have cropped up that I felt I should write about. Each one could be the subject of a short post, but since they're all rather timely, I thought I'd just cram them all into a single post. I've put in some subject headers to help you skip around, if you prefer, but I hope you'll read it all.


Voices for Vaccines

First off, if you haven't heard of it yet, I wanted to share with my readers a new, or rather, rebooted, organization: Voices for Vaccines. VFV started as an organization to advocate for vaccines and counter a lot of the misinformation that is out there surrounding vaccines. While it had a solid grounding in medical science, being led by the likes of Dr. Alan Hinman (Center for Vaccine Equity at the Task Force for Global Health), Dr. Paul Offit (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), Dr. Stanley Plotkin (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) and Dr. Deborah Wexler (Immunization Action Coalition), the organization was lacking something that many anti-vaccine organizations had: voices of parents.

Enter Karen Ernst and Ashley Shelby, founders of the web site Moms Who Vax. They saw a need for parental voices to have a prominent, rallying focus to advocate for what is arguably one of the greatest medical advances in history. They helped re-envision and re-launch VFV with the following guiding principles:
  • Science - providing candid, reliable, science-based information on the risks and benefits of immunizations
  • Parent-to-Parent Communication - sharing parental stories about why parents immunize their children, knowing the power of personal stories that dry, scientific facts lack
  • Accessibility - using a wide range of social media to reach out to parents, organizing campaigns, free newsletters and free downloadable "toolkits" for parents
  • Independence - VFV does not accept any donations from vaccine companies or the Federal government
Although there are a number of pro-vaccine sites around the internet, Voices for Vaccines can provide a stronger focal point for helping parents and supporting public policy. Take a visit to their site and consider joining their mailing list or sharing your own stories.

Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation's Bust a Move
The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation has a fundraiser coming up, called Bust a Move. It's very common for charities to secure celebrity guests to help draw people in. However, the fact that a person is a celebrity may not be enough justification to invite them to represent you. There may be some baggage with them. In fact, when the person is prominently known for their negative baggage, you might be courting more than just celebrity. Take, for example, Jenny McCarthy. McCarthy is a celebrity. She has been in the pages of Playboy, had a show on MTV, died in Scary Movie 3, wrote a book about sex and now, apparently, has embarked on a fitness career.

However, she's also known (if not more known) for something else entirely: her anti-vaccine stance. She has led marches and rallies protesting childhood immunizations. She has spread misinformation about vaccines far and wide, blaming them for autism. She rejects the science that shows she is wrong and has few reservations about spreading fear of vaccines.

That's why the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation is taking a lot of flak for inviting McCarthy to be their celebrity guest at Bust a Move. Quite a number of others have written about this, such as Maclean's, The Ottawa Citizen, Bad Science Watch (which is trying to get Jenny dropped from the program) and Orac, among others. The ORCF tries to justify their choice by saying that they're appealing to their target audience of young women. They do not even attempt to acknowledge that Jenny McCarthy's anti-vaccine views endanger cancer patients, who are often immunocompromised during treatment, and thus susceptible to serious, vaccine-preventable infections. Put another way, it would be like getting Tom Cruise to speak at a psychiatry fundraiser, or Mel Gibson to headline a fundraiser to stop sexual harassment.

Update: ORCF has dropped Jenny McCarthy as their celebrity guest. They will now have Canadian fitness instructor, Tommy Europe. According to an announcement on their web site:
Since Tuesday’s announcement of the celebrity fitness instructor for the Bust a Move Ottawa, attention has shifted away from breast cancer awareness and fundraising.
“We are proud to work very closely with our partners in the medical community and the general public to raise funds and awareness for cancer care in our community.  As always, our objective and responsibility is to the cancer survivors in our community and keeping the spotlight on our cause,” says Linda Eagen, President and CEO of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.   “On March 2nd, together with hundreds of men and women, we’ll be celebrating an amazing event and we are thrilled that Tommy Europe will join us for Bust a Move Ottawa.  “We know that this year’s event will continue our tradition of fundraising successes that will help thousands of local cancer patients and their families.”
Jake Crosby, Burning Bridges
Finally, I want to talk a little bit about Jake Crosby. Jake is a young man diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. For a number of years, he has contributed to the anti-vaccine autism blog, Age of Autism. The other editors and commenters there habitually praised him for his brain droppings trying to link various vaccine supporters to pharmaceutical companies. These attempts at labeling pro-vaccine voices as hopelessly corrupt and in the thrall of Big PharmaTM were often quite detailed and carried a distinct whiff of vitriol. Though I and others cautioned Jake that his writings might have unintended negative consequences once he was out of school and in the real world, the echo chamber in which he resided continually praised him and urged him on.

Now he's turned on those who groomed him. I won't go into the details. For that, pay a visit to Respectful Insolence, Just the Vax or I Speak of Dreams. The short version is, Jake has written an excruciatingly detailed (and I do mean, excruciating) rant against SafeMinds and members of Age of Autism, hosted at the Bolen Report.

After reading it, I was torn between feeling bad for Jake and how he's been so used and twisted by his AoA cronies and feeling that whatever bad happens to him, he's brought it on himself. As others have already noted about his rant, he perpetrates a serious, serious violation of trust. If his previous writings haven't jeopardized his career goals, this might just do it. In this age, employers readily search the internet for information on job applicants. Finding anything like what Jake has written would immediately drop him from consideration.

And as I think about this, I can't help but feel a lot of anger at people like JB Handley, Dan Olmsted and all the others over at Age of Autism (and perhaps even his parents). They callously goaded him on, encouraging him to write these diatribes. Rather than counseling him to temper his rhetoric, they glorified it. Yes, Jake is an adult and capable of making his own decisions. But he is also young and impressionable. He is just as much a product of his mentors at Age of Autism as he is of his own decisions. While he had a great deal of promise several years ago, being an apparently intelligent, passionate young man, he has since been twisted and formed into little more than a raving conspiracy theorist. I cannot see, especially after his latest magnum opus, how anyone could trust him; he's too ready and willing to spill what would be expected to be confidential information.

I just cannot see how things can end well for Mr. Crosby. I hope, beyond all reason, that he will turn himself around. His actions may very well alienate him from the only major support group he's had, and, with his tendency to see conspiracies all around him, that could be very damaging, indeed.

Edited to Add: I take back what I said about feeling sorry for Jake. Take a look at this screen shot:

Click to enlarge.
A commenter over at Respectful Insolence relates a tale of how someone took Jake out for coffee and got Jake's word that everything was off the record. However, Jake violated that trust and reneged on his word, publishing the person's name and details of the interaction. In the comments, linked above, Jake Crosby admits to violating journalistic ethics. It doesn't matter if a person doesn't use their full name. You give them your word that everything is off the record, then everything is off the record. It's that simple.


  1. "You still violated journalistic ethics, Jake. Doesn’t matter if he lied about his identity."

    No, I didn't; yes, it does.

    "Apparently, he had good reason to [lie]..."

    Apparently, ethics of any kind doesn't matter to you anyway.

  2. Jake,

    You promised that everything would be off the record. Then, after you found out he didn't use his real name, you decided to "get back" at him and publish what was off the record, anyway. That is a violation of journalistic ethics.

    Of note, the Society of Professional Journalists lists, among its ethical standards (emphasis added), "— Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises."

    Also of note: "— Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy."

    And finally these two:

    — Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
    — Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

  3. Jake, there was no justification for what you did then or now. You're a sleazy little toad. Too bad you are crapping on the hands that feed you; you fit right in there.

    You never had nor will have any ethics or integrity which is why you don't even recognise your egregious violations of them.


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