In November 2009, Amy Wallace wrote a pro-vaccination article focusing on Paul Offit for Wired Magazine. It was a fantastic and well-researched article which highlighted the unscientific claims that anti-vaxers use to instil fear in parents. When it went live the anti-vaxers were not impressed and “fought” back by trying to discredit Wallace.
Now, one of these anti-vaxers, Barbara Loe Fisher from the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), is so offended by how she and her views were portrayed in this article that on December 23rd she filed a defamation case against Offit, Wallace and Wired magazine. Read about this case over at The Sceptics’ Book of Pooh-Pooh.
Now if the quote by Offit is correct then Fisher may have a case against him for defaming her by saying that she lies, but I think Fisher is really grasping at straws by trying to also sue Wallace and Wired as well.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the US courts and if the judge decides to throw any of it out due to lack of evidence.
Tensions have flared once again between those that support vaccinations and those that oppose them with the publication in WIRED magazine of an article by Amy Wallace entitled “An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All. This well researched article which is part interview with vaccine co-inventor Paul Offit and part vaccine history lesson has the anti-vaccination fringe all upset. They are so upset in fact that J.B. Handley, the founder of Generation Rescue, an anti-vaccine group has written in the blog Age of Autism a commentary piece originally entitled “Paul Offit Rapes (intellectually) Amy Wallace and Wired Magazine.” which has now been toned down to just ” Wired Magazine and Amy Wallace Drink Paul Offit’s Kool-Aid”. The line ‘the roofie cocktails at Paul Offit’s house must be damn good’ has been removed and now Amy is just innocently sipping Paul’s kool-aid rather than being date-raped.
It is interesting to see that a female journalist who writes a scientific piece that others disagree with has sexual references made about her whilst male journalists usually just get their credibility called into question. In fact this point has been taken up by Abel Pharmboy in his insightful post, “When critics disagree with me, I’m a Pharma Shill. When critics disagree with a woman it gets sexual.” The sexual name calling doesn’t stop with Handley’s horrible article, unfortunately. Amy has received many letters in which is called a prostitute, a whore and other even more terrible things after the publication of her article. She has now started twittering sections of letters both in support of and opposing her article. Bastard Sheep has done and excellent job chronicling her tweets and putting them in a more readable format. They are compelling reading.
For those interested in reading a great opinion piece about the tensions that have flared up over Wallace’s article, check out Science-Based Medicine’s post, “The effectiveness wordsmithing of Amy Wallace”.
For me, as someone new to the vaccination information war, this latest ‘battle’ has been very eye-opening in terms of how each side presents their arguments and responds to arguments from the other side. As someone who has a science degree, I am always going to find solid scientific facts much more compelling than hearsay and personal anecdotes. However, the behaviour of the anti-vaccination groups has made me realise that if the only way you can try to win a fight is to resort to name calling and other dirty tactics then you must not hold a lot of faith that your arguments can stand up to critical analysis.