This post originally published June 23 2015
Post substantially updated November 8 2015
The alternative health movement is often perceived in the broader community as one which embraces love, light and unicorn tights. But, as anyone who has questioned an alt-med person, or requested evidence for their claims knows, it only takes a feather-scrape to reveal the fangs which lurk. Then the gloves are off. Critics become fair game, in the truest Scientological sense. It is no coincidence that many alt-med identities are Scilon-friendly; like Meryl Dorey and her rabid anti-vaccination organisation, the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network. The AVsN online store is packed with Scientology DVDs.
Today I’m discussing incitement: debasement with the intent of legitimising an attack on the target. There is a long history of this intellectually dishonest practise, of course. I’ll contain myself to the last few years.
Six years ago Ken McLeod lodged a complaint with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission at the same time that Stop the Australian Vaccination Network was forming. In her response to the HCCC Meryl Dorey brazenly lied about Mr McLeod, claiming that his emails were abusive, inferring that she had to hire security because of the threat he posed. Mr McLeod’s publication of the full Dorey correspondence proved she is a liar. But, this was an initiation for those of us unused to such bastardry. The smears had begun. This is how targets are made.
In 2012 Dorey published private email addresses of individuals who had emailed the AVN with legitimate questions regarding the organisation, which is their right to do under legislation. This resulted in threatening emails being sent to two of those named. Police had to intervene as the person sending threats was very well known to them. At Dorey’s incitement members of parliament also received threatening correspondence for which police were again involved.
In 2011 Dorey published a link on her AVN Facebook page. It was to an article by Mark Sircus called String the Bastards Up. It detailed how doctors, medical researchers and government health officials should be executed, and lined up against a wall.
In 2011 Dorey published that unforgettable claim that childhood immunisation is the same as rape, and that doctors and a presiding judge are the same as rapists. In 2012 she equated doctors and drug companies to paedophiles. The AVN repeated the rape claims twice in 2015! South Australian anti-vaccine chiropractor Paul Lawrence took his lead from Dorey and said the same, in 2013. What better way to debase the enemy than call them rapists?
I have also been the target of many death threats and other threats of violence including the threat from Mr Frank Vazquez of Adelaide that he is “gonna kill [my] whole family”. This, too, was incited by the actions of Meryl Dorey and her AVN. I’ve had numerous trolls follow me around the internet; but, one stepped over the edge. Johanna Holland/Nicole Johnson is a supporter of Meryl Dorey and the AVN; Holland/Johnson is protected by them. She created approximately 17 fake profiles impersonating me, even going as far as to use my daughter’s name in profile pictures, as well as NSW South Coast place names in the fake profiles in an attempt to intimidate me.
Then there are the threats. Offit once got an email from a Seattle man that read, “I will hang you by your neck until you are dead!” Other bracing messages include “You have blood on your hands” and “Your day of reckoning will come.” A few years ago, a man on the phone ominously told Offit he knew where the doctor’s two children went to school. At a meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an anti-vaccine protester emerged from a crowd of people holding signs that featured Offit’s face emblazoned with the word terrorist and grabbed the unsuspecting, 6-foot-tall physician by the jacket.
The thing is, we know who incites this stuff. It is people like the mild-mannered grand dame of US anti-vaccinationism, Barbara Loe Fisher. I’ve written three posts highlighting the separate attacks – including death threats – on Dr Offit which were incited by the dog-whistling of Fisher. Fisher is not Robinson Crusoe, here: Sherri Tenpenny also incites her acolytes into a violent fervour. And, when all the dog-whistling is done and dusted, the road is paved for images like this to be created with impunity. I’ve spun the image for ease of reading:
Law Professor Dorit Reiss is also targeted by the anti-vaccination lobby, both for her vaccine advocacy based on her expertise in law, and because of who she is. Being a Facebook friend of Professor Reiss I can say it is with alarm the comments I see posted which have been made towards her as a Jewish woman. I feel let down by my species. We all know what can eventuate from the dehumanisation of a people. Skeptical Raptor has written recently on the anti-Semitism of the anti-vaccination cult, with which the majority of the cult appear to be comfortable.
Another current target in the US is Dr Richard Pan, a state senator in California, who is a co-sponsor of the SB-277 bill to remove all non-medical vaccination exemptions, such as those we are lucky enough to have coming to us in Australia, in 2016. Dr Pan has subsequently been vilified on an unimaginable scale, including death threats. The Sacramento Bee notes, on April 14 2015:
The messages range from images depicting Pan as a Nazi to posts on his Facebook page calling for him to be “eradicated” or hung by a noose.
The image to which The SacBee refers is this one, luckily kept by Harpocrates Speaks:
The same Facebook page, Thug Health, is responsible for another Nazi image of Dr Pan:
On May 19 2015 we see an even more worrying trend. Lobbyists are being singled out and their locations shared around! From The SacBee, again:
Lobbyists championing the bill on behalf of the California Medical Association and the California Academy of Family Physicians have attracted the attention of bill opponents, who have begun sharing information on the lobbyists and disseminating photos of their locations on social media.
On May 20 2015 The SacBee featured an excellent opinion piece by Shawn Hubler, which shows how an anti-vaccination activist created a YouTube video singling out a lobbyist, Jodi Hicks, including private photos of Hicks’ wedding:
Then up flashed a clandestine photo of Hicks in a Capitol hallway. Then one from her wedding, the bridal party of fellow politicos all glued to their cellphones. (“I love this,” the narrator, a complete stranger, snickered.)
And now here was a campaign ad in which Hicks’ youngest child high-fived Pan, an old friend and Hicks’ pediatrician. And now came her professional bio.
“Jodi Hicks, that’s her right there,” the narrator trilled. Hicks rechecked her Twitter, which was blowing up now.
And then there was this:
“Hey, Jodi!” someone yelled as she crossed the street. When she turned, a bevy of red-shirted “No on SB 277” women snapped her picture. Moments later, it was up on Twitter.
“#wheresJodi,” the caption sneered. “#DevilWithTheBlueDress.”
“There’s a special place in hell for you, just waiting,” warned the mean tweets.
Terrifying stuff, indeed. Especially when you take into account comments like this, about Dr Pan:
Journalists are also fair game for anti-vaccinationists. We are all well aware how anti-vaccinationists like Meryl Dorey attack journalists on a regular basis. Journalists expect it from Dorey and her ilk. But, in the US again, another tactic of real concern was exposed by Renee DiResta, who co-wrote the wonderful Time article regarding the attempted manipulation of the SB-277 bill via the use of Twitter hashtags by a concentrated number of users. On June 13 2015 this happened:
Ms DiResta Tweeted the same day, which gives us a greater insight into the activists:
And let’s not forget back in 2009 when Age of Autism’s editor Kim Stagliano published a grotesque attack on Dr Paul Offit, Amy Wallace (journalist), Dr Steve Novella, Trine Tsouderos (journalist) and Alison Singer: they were photoshopped into a Thanksgiving dinner; the main course in the middle of the table was a baby.
We are clearly not dealing with rational people.
Last Saturday, June 20 2015, Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell was assaulted in broad daylight in the Lismore CBD. Mayor Dowell was allegedly assaulted by an anti-fluoride activist.
As reported in the Northern Star, by Hamish Broome:
LISMORE mayor Jenny Dowell has reported on Facebook that she was assaulted in Lismore CBD this afternoon by a woman angry about the fluoridation of Lismore’s water supply.
The mayor posted that the woman “slammed” the mayor’s car door against her head as she got in to end what was becoming an aggressive verbal confrontation…
“a woman (Ann?) wanted to speak to me for 5 mins about fluoride. I sat with her but for the first minute she just accused me of not listening (I was silent),” Cr Dowell posted on Facebook.
“I stood up and said I was going- she then followed me and harangued me up the street to my car then slammed the door against my head as I got into it. She shouted that I am a ‘f…ing bitch’, gave me the finger and left- I now have a sore ear and cheek- and I’m shaken…
And most strikingly, Mayor Dowell recounts an alarmingly similar tale:
While the mayor stressed the alleged assault was an “isolated incident”, she did recount numerous verbal attacks from people who were anti-fluoride over the last two years. “I’ve been called Genocide Jenny, I’ve been called Hitler… that’s happened on more than a dozen occasions by different people,” Cr Dowell said. She added that when people got into public office some people “no longer saw them as a person” or worthy of normal decent behaviour.
“You’re fair game.”
The alleged attacker was apprehended:
The woman who allegedly assaulted Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell has been arrested and charged after the mayor reported the matter immediately to Lismore police.
Indeed, Mayor Dowell has been the victim of the aforementioned debasement, with the intent of legitimising an attack. She was indeed seen as fair game, as noted above. And all of us need to be aware of the tactics used by anti-vaccinationists and anti-fluoridationists – as they are more or less the same tactics – and acknowledge that, although it is isn’t likely that one will be the target of a physical assault, it is entirely possible; unfortunately, we have now seen that this is so.
But, this has been telegraphed for years. It was coming. It was only a matter of when.
How does the anti-fluoride lobby incite violence against those whom it perceives to be enemies? In the same way that anti-vaccine ideologues do. Here is Facebook page, Forced-fluoridation Freedom Fighters, opining on the very incident against Mayor Dowell, who is pictured in the thumbnail:
people have the right to defend themselves and others against forced-fluoridation in whatever way they see fit
Astonishingly, and with ghastly misogynistic ferocity, the FfFF page admin justifies its attack on Mayor Dowell, by attacking Irish scientist, Jen Keane:
As we have seen above with anti-vaccinationists, anti-fluoride activists equate water fluoridation to rape, the corollary being that those who order water fluoridation are rapists. It is easier to incite violence against someone whom you deem to carry out inhumane acts:
victims also have the right of self-defence
But there is a longer history at play, in Australia. In the last few years an anonymous, anti-fluoride coward has been learning how to use photoshop. He first came to our attention via the former South Australian MLC, and all-round conspiracy theorist, Ann Bressington, who posted this bullet-riddled wanted poster – featuring the then Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek – not once, but, four times; even after being called out in the national media. Bressington was called out by Bernard Keane, in Crikey. She was also called out by Tory Shepherd, in the Adelaide Advertiser.
The bullet-riddled wanted poster is the work of the anonymous coward behind the Facebook page No Fluoride Australia (he also runs No Vaccines Australia). The NFA page has 7000 fans. That is quite a reach to be condoning and inciting violence. And it is implicit in this person’s images that he condones violence against those he perceives to be a threat. There are bullet holes; accusations of mass poisoning; and accusations of crimes against humanity.
UPDATE October 1 2015
No Fluoride Australia posted this attack on Mayor Dowell on August 28 2015, two months after Mayor Dowell was allegedly assaulted. Click on image to read comments:
UPDATE November 8 2015
The identity of the No Fluoride Australia administrator is no longer anonymous. This is the creator of the wanted posters and many other images vilifying public health advocates.
Ian Hastings is the owner and/or administrator of the following: Ian Smith (Sapere Aude) Facebook profile; and No Fluoride Australia, No Vaccines Australia, Refutations to Provax Memes, Things Pro-Vaxers Say, End the Illusion of Choice, and Worried Mama Facebook pages):
The courageous Ian Hastings (Ian Smith) and his partner, Belle Angel
Lovelight, who runs Conscious Hands Massage in Lilyfield,
and stands by all of Hastings’ misogynistic attacks
on journalists and politicians with
whom he disagrees.
Now we see the violent rhetoric to which Mayor Dowell alludes. And we see the violent rhetoric to which our US examples allude. And, like in the US vaccine debate, where journalists became fair game, the same is carried out by the anti-fluoride lobby. NFA Guy decided that Tory Shepherd was a target. He removed the bullet holes for this image; this is probably for the best, as you can see the violent Frank Vazquez likes the image:
Another attack on Tory Shepherd:
Most concerning, however are the attacks on NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant. Jane Hansen has written two articles on Dr Chant’s harassment by anti-fluoride activists in the Northern Rivers region.
On September 12 2013, Jane Hansen wrote:
THE Chief Medical Officer for NSW Dr Kerry Chant was accosted and threatened in Lismore on Tuesday evening after she gave a submission to Lismore city council on the benefits of fluoride.
In the car park, after the council voted to reverse a ban on fluoride, Dr Chant was told by an anti-fluoride protester: “We know your face, I have friends in Syria, do you know of Sarin gas.”…
Lismore paediatrician Dr Chris Ingall witnessed the abuse by the woman.
“I heard what the woman said, she said we have friends in Syria and do you know of saran gas, Dr Chant was trying to be nice to her. Kerry handled it professionally, calmly and expertly and we walked away and that’s when she started screaming abuse at us,” Dr Ingall said, calling on more security.
“I’d like to see heightened security at meetings where fluoride is discussed and our elected representatives could be more active in supporting our townsfolk who want fluoride because we are under fire,” Dr Ingall said.
Mayor Jenny Dowell said she was very embarrassed and had written an apology letter to Dr Chant on behalf of the community.
On September 21 2013, Jane Hansen wrote:
“Expect to be threatened! The community is angry, it wouldn’t surprise me if these criminals pretending to be authorties (sic) on health start going missing, eventually members of the public will snap and take matters into their own hands, its only a matter of time. People go missing over far more trivial issues,” was posted on the Facebook page by No Fluoride Australia on September 12…
“I am horrified that any member of the public would deem this threatening behaviour acceptable particularly when it involves a well-respected clinician like Dr Kerry Chant,” [NSW Health Minister] Ms Skinner said…
Opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald said Dr Chant is getting a taste of what local councillors have endured for years when they support fluoridation of water.
Absolutely mind-boggling stuff. But far from uncommon. Part of the “threatening behaviour” to which Minister Skinner alludes is the wanted poster featuring Dr Chant, created by NFA Guy [I will include a collection of these images at the bottom of this post. There are too many to include here]:
So, we can see a common thread across continents, and across topics, of the incitement of violence by denialist, anti-vaccination and anti-fluoridation movements. Anyone whom they perceive to be a threat is fair game. It doesn’t matter if you are a federal, state or local government politician; a journalist; a researcher; a medical professional; an advocate; or a layperson: if they choose you, they will go after you. And, as we have seen with the NSW Northern Rivers examples, the seething, irrational, cock-eyed stare of an angry zealot at a council meeting can and does ferment into real physical violence, against someone who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Be careful.
As noted above, the woman who allegedly assaulted Jenny Dowell was arrested and charged. I’m sure we’ll be updated.
No Fluoride Australia
Dr Michael Foley:
Regarding Dr Chant: “If you play with poison you should expect to get poisoned”:
Tanya Plibersek wanted poster t-shirt. Yes, he made a t-shirt:
Tanya Plibersek behind bars:
NFA Guy likes a comment about Julia Gillard needing “cross hairs on her head”:
NFA Guy links to a blog post by Meryl Dorey of the AVN, to which the violent Frank Vazquez states, “I see Dead politicians walking”, in reference to the Greens:
Tony Abbott. This photoshop was done by Mr Luke O’Hehir (AKA Luke E Lawless), the proprietor of a home-based IT business called Elegant Logic. Mr O’Hehir is currently undertaking a campaign of harassment against me, having continually sent me unsolicited private messages on Facebook:
Dr Michael Foley:
Dr Michael Foley:
Jane Hansen attacked by commenters under this post:
“Fkn lying wankers…True cunts………………”; comments condoned and remain published on the page:
Violent scientists pinning down a citizen and injecting them with fluoridated water:
Protesters attempting to stop children having good teeth. Well played, protesters. Well played:
Update July 8 2015
The LA Times has reported that death threats against public figures have been spray painted across various locations in the city:
The California Highway Patrol sent a bulletin to security officials in the Senate and Assembly about the felony vandalism arrest of Marlon Andrino, 28, of Ontario. He was arrested July 2 in Beverly Hills and released on $80,000 bail, according to a report by the Beverly Hills Police Department.
Andrino allegedly used spray paint to write “4 Every Kid Afflicted A Public Figure Will Die, SB 277,” at West Hollywood City Hall, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce and 10 Freeway walls in East Los Angeles and Baldwin Park, according to a memo forwarded by Assembly administrator Debra Gravert.
Update July 9 2015
The Sacramento Bee reports that the California Highway Patrol has issued alerts to senate and assembly security regarding the death threats:
Authorities have warned California legislative offices to be on the lookout for a Southern California man arrested last week and suspected of spraying graffiti that threatened lawmakers for the approval of Senate Bill 277, which outlaws religious and personal belief exemptions for school-required vaccines.
The California Highway Patrol issued a bulletin to sergeants-at-arms’ offices in the Assembly and Senate about Marlon Brian Andrino, who was arrested July 2 in Beverly Hills on a charge of felony vandalism. Police say Andrino spray-painted “4 Every Kid Afflicted A Public Figure Will Die, SB 277” at four locations: the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, West Hollywood City Hall, on an Interstate 10 sound wall in east Los Angeles and a freeway on-ramp in the Baldwin Park area.
Image courtesy Instagram via SacBee
Update August 27 2015
Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell says she’s concerned a spate of abuse directed towards her from anti-fluoride campaigners may dissuade people from considering a position in public office.
Social media giant Twitter closed the accounts of some users after they made threatening posts towards the mayor.
“Last night someone posted ‘someone should end Jenny Dowell’ and then in another post said ‘I’ll offer 200 hundred dollars’ and I took that as a threat,” said councillor Dowell.
The comments were reported to Twitter by the mayor and overnight the account was closed by Twitter.
However, it didn’t stop more posts from occurring.
“Another contributor posted another 15 posts saying ‘don’t think you can just block, I will bombard you with Facebook and Twitter accounts and continue the attack on you about fluoride, you’re not safe’, things like that,” councillor Dowell said.
Twitter closed that account as well.
Councillor Dowell says she will continue to use social media but admits the posts have shaken her.
“I didn’t sleep very well…I admit that…it’s starting to take its toll, it’s a mounting issue of verbal and other attacks.”
It’s not the first time the mayor has been abused over the issue of fluoride.
In June this year Jenny Dowell was allegedly assaulted while getting into her car by an anti-fluoride campaigner.
She says she remains on alert with one of the profiles indicating a northern NSW user.
“I’m not going to stop using social media…I’ve had a great deal of support this morning….but I would ask anyone against fluoride, please respect common human decency,” she said.
“I don’t mind a difference of opinion but I will not accept threats, abusive language and behaviour.”
Councillor Dowell says there is a lot of misinformation circulating regarding the issue and it would take a change in legislation to reverse the decision to fluoridate water supplies.