If you are available and willing, we would love to have you attend and speak to our conference participants

In a recent article titled I’ve Been Silenced, Censored, and Cancelled. The Reason Why Matters, I discussed a cancelled speech of mine. In my article, I wrote that I was scheduled to speak about the We Want Them Infected movement and the normalization of anti-vaccine misinformation in American medicine, however “my invitation was rescinded”. I wrote that because that’s what happened. Here is the invitation I received.

Unfortunately, that invitation was rescinded 2 weeks before the conference. During a phone call, the conference hosts named a prominent politician in their state and said they didn’t want to anger anyone in their orbit. I offered to modify parts of my talk and received the email below, which I accurately reported in my article.

I didn’t feel the need to share these screenshots in my original article. I assumed my readers trusted me not to have made the whole thing up. I was wrong about that.

They presumably did not invite you to speak

Amazingly, a critic of mine acted as if he had secret, inside information about this conference and why I was not speaking at it. He shared his special insights into what really happened. According to my critic, I wasn’t cancelled at all. He said:

I can think of a number of very good reasons why the conference organizers thought your material was not a good fit for such a conference. They presumably did not invite you to speak, since it is not clear what else they could have expected of you.

Had I not been invited to speak, specifically about about the anti-vaccine movement, my entire article would have a sham. My critic implied I was fraud, imposter, charlatan, mountebank, and con artist. “Ho hum. I’ll just say Howard lied about the whole thing”, he said in essence.

Unfortunately, he was not alone in blithely tossing around very serious allegations about events he couldn’t possibly have known anything about. Strangers routinely accused me of fabricating key aspects of my pandemic experience. I’ve been told many times that I “never treated a COVID patient” or that I “never produced any research” on COVID. This is just what happens if you advocate for vaccines. People will lie about you, even if you are a child. It’s a law of nature.

These baseless allegations were just a small subset of the bad faith engagement that permeated our pandemic discourse, though none of this was new. This is exactly how antivaxxers behaved toward those of us who advocated for the HPV and MMR vaccines before the pandemic. We were used to it and had groups where we shared the insults and vitriol we received. The only thing that changed is how pervasive bad faith engagement has become and how it’s become normalized in certain segments of medicine.

Prior SBM articles have discussed other bad faith tactics, namely straw man arguments, tone-trolling, and shill accusations/juvenile insultsa lot of juvenile insults. My critics’ rebuttal to my writing, including many doctors, can be summarized thusly:

Dr. Howard is a money-obsessed, B-list grifter and schmuck who rudely yells at people so he can defend school closures, forcibly vaccinate kids, and lockdown people forever so they can be used as experimental lab rats. Also, no one cares about him, and he has a sad life.

This is the intellectual firepower they brought to the discussion.

What unites these bad faith actors is their total refusal to engage with the substance of what I actually write. That doesn’t matter to them a bit. The studies, data, and evidence I share are entirely irrelevant to them, and so they never respond with data, science, and evidence.

Straw man arguments: The inane thesis of Howard’s book, a turgid lament that had medics/scientists been less complacent, no one would have gotten infected.

Instead of having the integrity to grapple with the content of writing, my critics used straw man arguments to discredit me. Put another way, they lied.

Doctors penned lengthy “reviews” of my book, only to reveal they hadn’t read a page of it. I wouldn’t write a fake review of a book I hadn’t read. My critics did this sort of thing routinely. They tried to associate me with unpopular policies, falsely claiming I defended and advocated for school closures, when all I did was accurately report that overwhelming COVID outbreaks closed schools. My suggestion that parents vaccinate their kids was dishonestly reframed as a demand that kids should be “forced to be vaxxed” without “giving parents some choice in the matter.” Doctors depicted me as a brute who wanted to rip kids from their parents’ arms so they would be vaccinated against their will. This of course, was nothing new.

A pre-pandemic anti-vaxx meme

One doctor criticized my work by saying:

I think it’s wonderfully optimistic to think had it not been for Drs. X, Y, Z everything would have gone swimmingly.

That makes me sounds like an idiot. Maybe someone can ask him where I said that “had it not been for Drs. X, Y, Z everything would have gone swimmingly.” I’d love to hear his answer.

According to another doctor:

The inane thesis of Howard’s book, a turgid lament that had medics/scientists been less complacent, no one would have gotten infected.

That makes me sounds like a moron. Maybe someone can ask him which page of my inane, turgid book said “had medics/scientists been less complacent, no one would have gotten infected.” I’d love to hear his answer.

Another doctor said:

The bigger problem is that lockdowners like Howard (an NYU doctor, I think), think that living your life is an irresponsible act. Sending your kids to school is an irresponsible act. The implication is that unless you comply with his prescription — lockdown with no logical endpoint — you are irresponsible.

Which argument of mine was this doctor refuting? No one knows, and his fans didn’t care, even though it was obvious he didn’t read my book before penning his fake review of it. If this doctor (a Stanford health economist, I think), actually read my book before “refuting” it, he wouldn’t have had to wonder aloud where I work. As people who read my book know, I discussed my experience at Bellevue Hospital during the pandemic. One honest reviewer wrote:

An Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at New York University and Chief of Neurology at Bellevue Hospital, Howard is a regular contributor to Science Based Medicine and an expert debunker of medical misinformation and intentional disinformation. As important, he was also an active contributor to New York’s frontline response to COVID’s first wave, when up to 800 people citywide died daily of the virus, field hospitals were rapidly assembled, and healthcare workers and frontline responders were nightly cheered for risking infection and death while caring for the gravely ill.

I do my best to fully and accurately quote the people I disagree with, and I always provide links and references so readers can check my work. In contrast, my critics never extend me the same courtesy. They never fully and accurately quote me. However, by putting their words in my mouth, they made me sound like a total moron at best and an authoritarian monster at worst- which was the entire point.

Straw man arguments were bad faith engagement.

Tone trolling: I might suggest you reflect on that for a minute.

Instead of having the integrity to grapple with the content of writing, my critics scolded me for perceived tonal improprieties.

My critics purported to perturbed by unspecified breaches in my decorum- I might suggest you reflect on that for a minuteTone is important.It is hard to engage when you feel like you’re being yelled at. However, these Very Serious Doctors rebuked me for the express purpose of defending doctors who spread anti-vaccine misinformation and called vaccine-advocates “idiots“, “STUPID“, a “bunch of fools” and “total morons“. My decorum-obsessed critics weren’t bothered by any of that.

Of course, those who fretted mightily about my tone never cared about my content. The substance of what I said was entirely irrelevant. Doctors who declared the pandemic over in 2021 were fine, as were doctors who treated rare vaccine side-effects as a fate worse than death. But my tone!!!– that was worthy of their commentary. In a pandemic where 1,100,000 Americans died, some people just didn’t like my vibes, and they had to let everyone know about it.

Certain accounts were obsessed with me, tagging me daily, desperate for my attention. One anonymous stalker account repeatedly lied about my COVID experience and claimed that literally any criticism I made of certain doctors was a “personal attack“. This account celebrated my speech being cancelled. My critics didn’t object to those who posted threatening pictures of guillotines. However, they objected to me criticizing those who posted threatening pictures of a guillotines. “Wouldn’t even waste my time reading that schlock. Your better than that“, I was told. In other words, advocates of mass infection should be free to post threatening pictures of a guillotines undisturbed by the likes of me.

It turns out that “tone is important” for some doctors, not for others. All I did was disagree with doctors who wanted to infect children instead of vaccinate them. Imagine if I routinely called people “idiots“. Imagine if I posted a threatening picture of a guillotine.

Imagine if I did this.

Of course, this entirely selective concern about tone sent messages. The message to people like me was- Be careful. We’ll call you unprofessional, hysterical, or as bad as COVID if you criticize our misinformation-spreading friends. Tone trolling was used to shut down and preemptively discredit unwanted voices and to shield other voices from stringent criticism.

And it was all so transparently phony. Though my critics claim to be against cancel culture, none of them cared that my speech was cancelled. It was OK to silence some doctors, I guess. Those who were very concerned about my tone never had my back when the insults flew my way. In fact, they collaborated with people who engaged with me juvenile insults. They were totally silent when people lied about my COVID experience and called me “vile” and “despicable”. This silence sent a message to my most hostile and dishonest critics- fire away.

Tone trolling was bad faith engagement.

Good question. The answer is bad faith engagement.

Shill accusations/juvenile insults: No one cares enough to actually worry about a person like him. But I do feel pity for how sad his life must be.

Instead of having the integrity to grapple with the content of writing, my critics used juvenile insults and shill accusations to discredit me.

Doctors called me “deeply dishonest, unhinged and vile” and dozens of other similar slurs. A scientist who treated 0 COVID patients, said I lacked “domain expertise” and was “unqualified” to discuss the pandemic. I’ve worked at Bellevue Hospital throughout the pandemic, and saw what the virus could do when it was left to spread unchecked. To my critics, most of whom saw 0 COVID patients, this experience left me unqualified to disagree with them when they predicted the pandemic would end in the middle of 2021. My great familiarity with anti-vaccine rhetoric was similarly of no value. I lacked some magical credential- domain expertise– and so the content of what I said could be summarily dismissed.

Another doctor said:

No one cares enough to actually worry about a person like him. But I do feel pity for how sad his life must be and do wish him better days ahead.

My first article here at SBM shared copious data explaining why I disagreed with this doctor about vaccinating children. That’s the feedback I got. As one defender of mine pointed out:

Again this doesn’t address the content of the book or contain any substantive criticism made about the way the subjects of the book have conducted themselves.

The fact that I earned a couple of dollars each time someone bought my book was used as prima facie evidence the entire thing was useless. This was not an argument against my book, but rather against the entire concept of books. My critics called me a “book-selling schmuck” and “B-list grifter“. They said I was just “trying to line his pockets” and “the man clearly doesn’t earn enough wherever he works“. My bibliophobic critics believe writing a book is shameful, but also that a dense tome on the pandemic is a surefire pathway to wealth and fortune. It’s hard to know which of these is more absurd. The charge that I was motivated by money alone was even leveled against me- you can’t indulge someone just trying to make money from selling a book– by a doctor who wrote several books himself. This doctor also earns orders of magnitude more money from his Substack, Twitter, and YouTube subscribers. These lucrative income sources never bothered my critics, nor did they care that I have 170 articles here for free.

Shill accusations and juvenile insults were bad faith engagement.

Wait, you’re sending me to a Jonathan Howard essay? I didn’t realize that you were a troll, Debunk.

What really infuriated my critics is that I accurately quoted them and explained why I disagree. That’s it. My writing is devoted to vaccine-advocacy, calling out obvious absurdities, and not forgetting what people actually said early in the pandemic. They find this totally unacceptable. One doctor was even infuriated by an article that extensively quoted him- Wait, you’re sending me to a Jonathan Howard essay?. A compilation of own words deeply offended him.

Hoping to to stave off future critiques, my critics pretend that mere disagreement is “bullying” and “harassment“. Judge for yourself. Doctors who never saw what the virus could do act as if they are the pandemic’s true victims, not those tricked by COVID minimization and anti-vaccine misinformation. They say I am wrong about everything, but can’t be bothered to say exactly why. Only businessman Steve Kirsch even tried. It didn’t go well for him, but at least he made the effort.

My book has made many doctors angry, but not so angry that they were able to write a serious refutation of even a single page. Instead, doctors provided feedback like this:


@19joho your book “we want them infected” I’m one of the handful of people who bought it,….wow it is really bad. It’s painful to read the words of a self-proclaiming scientist so out of touch with reality who has no idea how out of touch he is.

Were you surprised your book sales have been so poor? Your tweets were getting so much attention, you maybe got fooled given your tweets were artificially throttled up for extra viewing by being pro-government narrative and pro- pharma (they used to get to push that Twitter throttle and de-throttle.).

But sadly for you they can’t throttle up book sales. It is shocking you don’t realize, but most Americans now know they were lied to by our government and scientists like you. They know lockdowns hurt more than they helped, those school closing you supported destroyed our children, as did the worthless masking you supported.

Also most realize the vaccine is worthless at best & are upset, they got fooled into taking it. Your track record for pandemic recommendations has been 100% harmful. I’m sure your book isnt selling. Most Americans have learned better, despite being fed the government propaganda you gladly parroted the last couple of years.

Your book is a going to live in history as testament to the thoughtless and harmful government recommendations scientist’s embarrassing didn’t oppose for fear of losing their jobs and some like your self stupidly supported. You book is being judged poorly today by nearly all Americans (your book sales are the example) but even worse you will be judged more harshly by generations to come.

As now nearly all realize the ideas you promoted were wrong and harmful, yet you could not see this and published a book doubling down on your own hubris…I actually feel bad for you, as I don’t think you realize how silly you look right now.

And yet, that bit of rambling incoherence remains the most thoughtful refutation of my book from a doctor mentioned in it. Anyone is welcome to write a serious review of my book- my actual book- telling me everything I got wrong. Yet, no one has. Why not? I’ve been told many times that I’m wrong, but never exactly what I am wrong about. Notably, my critics refuse to do the one thing that would actually refute me- make the affirmative case too many young people were vaccinated and that the plan to mass infection of unvaccinated young and middle-aged people to reach herd immunity in 3-6 months was a good idea. I’d like to see one of them try, and I mean that seriously. Is anyone willing to argue that the pandemic would have unfolded better had hundreds of millions of unvaccinated Americans contracted COVID simultaneously in 2020? I previously asked my critics to simply to stand up for their own words and they refused.

To be clear, most of the doctors I’ve criticized ignore me. This is not bad faith engagement and this article is not about them. No one owes me their time. However, doctors who wrote lengthy refutations of my book without having read it couldn’t be bothered to engage with anything I actually wrote.

The total absence of good faith engagement was another form of bad faith engagement.

Correction Notice

Of course not all criticism is made in bad faith, and when someone spots an error in my work, I acknowledge it, fix it and thank them. I’m definitely not perfect in this regards, but it’s important to listen to people who disagree in good faith. Unfortunately, the deluge of bad faith engagement often made it impossible to tell who was engaging in good faith. Bad faith engagement muddied the waters and made people feel attacked and untrusting.

My full article is here.


Don’t feel bad for me though. Many others had it much worse. Other doctors needed bodyguards and vaccine heroes like Dr. Peter Hotez were stalked at home by anti-vaxxers. Dr. Gorski was recently smeared by a quack who falsely linked him to pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Any doctor who publicly rejected the philosophy of mass infection was rewarded with a deluge of bad faith engagement. Countless doctors- especially those from less privileged demographics- could write upsetting summaries of their pandemic experience. Mine was hardly special and not particularly bad.

However, it’s important to honestly and explicitly call out bad faith engagement for what it is and recognize how it functions as a common, but powerful rhetorical device.

First, it is a distraction technique, a way to avoid engaging with the substance of what someone actually says. I wrote about my cancelled talk because I felt it was highly problematic that a scientific conference was curated for overtly political reasons. The person who “presumed” I faked my invitation was trying to distract my readers from this. Those who call me “the worst” do so to distract from the data and studies I presented in my discussion of their pandemic punditry. “Sure I advocated infecting millions of unvaccinated kids, but LOOK OVER THERE“.

Second, bad faith engagement is a silencing technique. As I said, any doctor who publicly rejected the philosophy of mass infection was rewarded with a deluge of bad faith engagement. The same doctor who said I harassed him because I disagreed with him, also repeatedly tried to get my attention on Twitter to call me “deeply dishonest, unhinged and vile” and many other similar slurs. This apparently, was not harassment. The same anonymous account who said Dr. Gorksi and I were “famous for their vicious attacks on scientists” without ever providing a single example, also repeatedly tried to get my attention on Twitter to call me “despicable” and spread blatant lies about my COVID experience. This apparently, was not a vicious attack. To gain insight into this technique, read the article How Narcissists Use DARVO to Avoid Accountability.


It’s obvious why many doctors want no part of this. Who wants to be straw-manned and tone-trolled for pushing back against anti-vaccine misinformation? Who wants to disagree with famous doctors when you’ll be accused of “harassment” and often tagged in their Tweets to make sure you’ll be deluged with vitriol from their loyal Twitter followers? When I log in next, there will likely be another batch of immature slurs waiting for me. Had I kept quiet about vaccines and related topics, this wouldn’t be happening. No one would be lying about me- you’ve never treated a COVID patient. But I spoke up and here we are.

Notably, all of the doctors who engaged with me in bad faith on Twitter remain active there. However, many other doctors find Twitter unusable because of the overwhelming bad faith engagement, and I’ve largely stopped criticizing several doctors simply because I grew tired of being called “vile” and “despicable”.

Bad faith engagement wears people down. Bad faith engagement works.

The only winning move is not to play

I also hope someone can learn from my experience. I should have realized it long ago, but I am now convinced the only proper response to bad faith engagement is to expose it and then ignore it. The computer in WarGames was right:

The only winning move is not to play.

And indeed, the pandemic was nothing more than a game for some people, a spectacle. Though I used to take the bait, I’ve learned the hard way there’s no reason to converse with people who are willing to casually say patently dishonest things- they presumably did not invite you to speakyou’ve never treated a COVID patient… you wanted to close schools and forcibly vaccinate kids… you think no one would have gotten infected. These people have revealed themselves for who they are, and by even denying their asinine allegations, one engages with them on their terms, a totally pointless endeavor. If bad faith actors cared about the truth, they wouldn’t lie in the first place. If bad faith actors cared about meaningful discussion, they would be capable of something more than childish insults.

Certainly, none of them altered their behavior when their bad faith was exposed. None of them have ever said to me, “I feel horrible that I accused you of lying about your COVID experience. I am sorry.” Most commonly, they act aggrieved and victimized when anyone calls them out. They accuse me of lying about where I worked during the pandemic and call me a “bully” in the same breath. Imagine that. “I lied about you. You owe me an apology,” they say. That’s how my critics will react to this article. Just watch.

The only winning move is not to play.

Several SBM commentators came to my defense – I always appreciated the many people who did so- but they were sucked into my critic’s vortex of distraction. Instead of discussing the reason my talk was cancelled, which should concern everybody, my defenders were trying to prove that it was cancelled at all. My critic’s baseless accusation- they presumably did not invite you to speak– wasted some people’s time. I don’t want that to happen again.

I too have wasted oodles of precious time trying to convince bad faith actors that I was not lying about some aspect of my pandemic work- it took time to post the invitation I was accused of faking- and that wasted effort is exactly what bad faith actors wants.

I sincerely apologize if I engaged with anyone in bad faith. I also sincerely regret the many times I was sucked into that vortex of distraction. It won’t happen again. I’m done with all that and I can’t recommend it highly enough. As I previously wrote:

Every moment spent debating who can say what to whom and how and where they should say it, is time not spent talking about doctors who repeatedly underestimated the virus and successfully campaigned to ensure tens of millions of children and young adults contracted it before they were vaccinated.

That’s where our focus should be, and I’m perfectly happy to have a good faith discussion about this with anyone, even doctors who disagree with me. Most of them just don’t want to.



  • Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19. He is the author of "We Want Them Infected: How the failed quest for herd immunity led doctors to embrace the anti-vaccine movement and blinded Americans to the threat of COVID."

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Posted by Jonathan Howard

Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19. He is the author of "We Want Them Infected: How the failed quest for herd immunity led doctors to embrace the anti-vaccine movement and blinded Americans to the threat of COVID."