Monday, May 5, 2014

Beware the Wakefraud

The sun set long ago, and outside, the world sleeps. Only the occasional passing car breaks the tranquility of the night. Inside, a lone figure sits before a laptop. The lamp on the desk sheds a soft, if weak, light, nearly drowned out itself by the cold illumination of the monitor. The figure's fingers tap out a few final strokes, then move to the mouse. She drags the cursor across the screen and clicks "Publish". A sudden flash of lightning and thunder, then the room goes dark.

A low, quiet chuckle filters out of the laptop as the screen fitfully flickers back to life. On the screen, four words shed an ominous, baleful glow:

The Wakefraud had struck.

Robin Redcap, by Curiomira
A newcomer to the world of mythology and folklore, the Wakefraud is of British origin. It shares some similarities with its predecessor, the redcap. The redcap must continuously murder the unwary to keep its cap dyed red. If it dries out, the redcap will die. By contrast, the Wakefraud possesses an ego that must constantly be soaked in the adoration of gullible fans, as well as the blood of its own credibility. Its most favored tactic is to sue critics for defamation. Timid journalists and bloggers may cave under the threat, removing their criticism. This rallies its fan base into believing that the Wakefraud is in the right and vindicated. Those of stouter heart realize the suit for what it is: transparent and frivolous and doomed to failure. Yet its adoring worshipers nonetheless continue to feed its ego, and wallet, firm in their deluded faith that the Wakefraud will prevail.  The paradox in its actions is that the more it threatens to sue, the more it stomps its own credibility into a bloody pulp, but this somehow sustains this creature. But if ever the attention stops, if ever the flow of dollars from its worshipers to fund its legal misadventures ceases, like the redcap, the Wakefraud will die.

Like the redcap of old, or the bogeyman, stories of the Wakefraud will be told around flickering computer screens to frighten young bloggers. But like the bogeyman, the Wakefraud is a (near) fiction with no real power.

Further reading on the Wakefraud origins and sightings:
ABC News - Doctor Who Claimed Vaccine-Autism Sues Critic
BMJ - Texas judge throws out Wakefield's libel action against BMJ
BMJ - Wakefield's article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent
Boing Boing - Read the journalism that exposed MMR vaccine/autism fraud - Disgraced ex-doctor launches fourth attempt to gag media
CBS News - Dr. Sanjay Gupta Confronts Autism Study Doctor
CBS News - Measles uptick in Britain: Blame Andrew Wakefield's autism-vaccine study?
CNN - Retracted autism study an 'elaborate fraud,' British journal finds
Columbia Journalism Review - Sticking with the truth
The Daily Beast - MMR Vaccine Scare: Andrew Wakefield's Fraudulent Study
Forbes - Blame Wakefield for Missed Autism-Gut Connection
Forbes - Discredited Autism Researcher Chills Future Research
Forbes - Extradite Andrew Wakefield to Face Fraud Charges in the UK
The Guardian - Andrew Wakefield: autism inc
Herald Sun - Deadly immunisation brawl reignites
How Stuff Works - Andrew Wakefield's Autism-Vaccine Hoax
Immunization Action Coalition - The Fraud Behind the MMR Scare
Just the Vax - Wakefield Attempts (yet again) to Silence a Critic
Left Brain Right Brain - Andrew Wakefield takes to the courts again
Little Green Footballs - Wakefield's Anti-Vaccination Fraud: Smoking Gun
Los Angeles Times - Wakefield's paper linking MMR vaccine and autism a fraud on the scale of Piltdown man, BMJ editorial says
Mayo Clinic Proceedings - MMR Vaccine and Autism: Vaccine Nihilism and Postmodern Science
The New York Times - Autism Fraud
The New York Times - The Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru
The New York Times - Study Linking Vaccine to Autism Is Called Fraud
NPR - As the Facts Win Out, Vaccinations May, Too
Penumbrage - Is Andrew Wakefield a fraud and a bully?
PNAS - Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications (PDF)
Popehat - Andrew Wakefield Sues BMJ and Brian Deer: Time to Test Out the New Texas Anti-SLAPP Statute
The Poxes Blog - Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, Litigious Bully
Respectful Insolence - Legal thuggery, antivaccine edition: Andrew Wakefield sues Brian Deer, the BMJ, and Fiona Godlee
Respectful Insolence - "Piltdown" medicine: Andrew Wakefield's scientifice fraud was worse than previously thought
Retraction Watch - Some quick thoughts and links on Andrew Wakefield, the BMJ, autism, vaccines, and fraud
Science-based Medicine - Antivaccine hero Andrew Wakefield: Scientific fraud?
The Skeptic's Dictionary - Andrew Wakefield
The Skeptical Lawyer - Quickie News: Wakefield sues British authors and publishers for libel - in Texas
Skeptical Raptor - Andrew Wakefield sues BMJ for claiming MMR study was fraudulent
Time Magazine - Great Science Frauds: Andrew Wakefield
The Washington Times - Will autism fraud report be a vaccine booster?
WebMD - Autism/MMR Vaccine Study Faked: FAQ


  1. Hilarious Todd; I re-posted some content on my blog. Keep up the good work, as I said, if Wakefraud wants/needs some publicity he'll get it.

  2. Did you catch the Harold Sun

    "It took nine independent studies over several years to dispel public doubt and counter the baseless but fearful assertions being peddled as a result of this single, fraudulent paper by the anti-vaccination lobby.."

  3. Also, a paper in PNAS listed Wakefield's Lancet paper as the most cited retracted paper

    "Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications"

    They list the reason for retraction as "fraud"

    1. Thanks for the tip on that PNAS paper. I've added it to the list.


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