I decided to write this post for Science-Based Medicine because I’ve taken notice of recent posts Mike Adams has written about me, mainly because they are riddled with misinformation, fabrications, and lies. Even though at least two of his claims about me made me laugh out loud because of their utter ridiculousness, much of the rest of his recent writing about me has been downright defamatory, libelous even.
The stupid stuff
Before I get into the really nasty stuff, let’s look at the stupid stuff. It’s not that the nasty stuff isn’t also stupid, but here I arbitrarily decide to divide the discussion into parts about when Adams amuses me and when he disgusts me. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from Adams’ attacks on me, it’s that, apparently, I have incredible power—possibly even superhuman! I mean, seriously. Adams really does seem to think that I have massive power over what Wikipedia does and does not publish about vaccines and medicine! Indeed, as I thought last night about what to write and even ended up staying up until 2 AM to do so (mainly because I was so exhausted after a day in the operating room that I crashed on the couch between 8 and 11 PM), I was half-tempted not to disabuse him of his apparent delusions about my overwhelming power. After all, if Adams really does think that I have so much power, why would I want to reveal to him the truth that I do not? On the other hand, far less amusing are Adams’ attempts to link Karmanos Cancer Center and me to the criminal Dr. Farid Fata, a lie by insinuation that is despicable even by his low standards. What should I expect, though, from someone who’s been running scams since Y2K and posting threats against GMO scientists?
Of course, I am not naïve enough to believe that Adams doesn’t actually know damned well that I don’t have that level of influence on Wikipedia. Rather, it’s all a sham, a con man’s patter, to convince his readers that I’m a major player in a conspiracy to manipulate health articles on Wikipedia from behind the scenes. He uses such fabricated stories as tools to fire up his gullible and stupid followers. Does Adams even realize how ridiculous his articles come across with their overwrought language? In fact, I laughed out loud when I read that Arianna Huffington and I “are not directly murdering children, but they are doing everything in their power to kill any truthful discussion about vaccine damage (that might save children)” and then this:
Gorski is one of an ever-shrinking fringe group of Vaccine Holocaust Denialists who show increasing desperation as the truth about vaccines continues to emerge. The VAXXED documentary showcases CDC scientist and whistleblower Dr. William Thompson, who publicly confessed to committing scientific fraud at the CDC to hide links between vaccines and autism. Yet the Wikipedia entry on VAXXED, authored in large part by [him], according to reports, deliberately misrepresents the subject matter and focus of the film, characterizing it as “anti-vaccine propaganda.”
Leaving aside how offensive comparing vaccination to the Holocaust is, particularly given that I first became known as a skeptic online for my refutations of the misinformation promoted by Holocaust deniers, I have to ask: According to what reports? Of course, it’s not a misrepresentation of VAXXED to refer to it as “antivaccine propaganda,” because that’s just what it is. How could it be otherwise, given that its director is Andrew frikkin’ Wakefield, the doyen of doyens of the antivaccine movement, the man that antivaccine activists view as “Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one.” He’s the man who started the MMR fear mongering that led to a massive decline in MMR uptake rates in the UK and whose fraudulent science forms the basis of most MMR fear mongering by antivaccine loons like Adams to this day.
More amusing to me is this claim by Adams:
As it turns out, the Wikipedia page on the VAXXED documentary is a smear piece authored by none other than Dr. David Gorski, reports Natural News. “Wikipedia’s incredibly biased entry on VAXXED was written by none other than pro-vaccine shill Dr. David Gorski, notorious for his relentless and callous attacks on vaccine skeptics, alternative medicine, and its supporters,” says this article.
The only smear pieces I’m aware of are Adams’ recent spittle-flecked trio of articles smearing me. I am not an editor for Wikipedia (although I do have my own Wikipedia entry). I do not go by the ‘nym “MastCell” online anywhere—or anywhere else, for that matter. I’ve never written posts about VAXXED anywhere else besides the two blogs that I either run or edit. Indeed, I hadn’t checked out the Wikipedia entry for VAXXED before Adams wrote his ridiculous articles. Not surprisingly, viewing the edit history of the article (no surprise, Adams apparently didn’t bother to check out the edit history) I saw no one going by the ‘nym “MastCell” having contributed to the article. Of course, the truth was never Adams’ strong suit. Certainly, evidence or science never was.
As much as Adams’ apparent belief that I rule Wikipedia amuses me—look upon my power and despair, you quacks!—what amused me even more is that he extended my power to The Huffington Post as well! All because an author who apparently wrote a pro-VAXXED post for HuffPo had trouble doing so, it must be because of me. Why not blame me for every article critical of VAXXED and the antivaccine movement? That would make as much sense as blaming me somehow for “censoring” a post on HuffPo praising VAXXED. After all, it’s not as though I’ve been a fan of HuffPo. I’ve been critical of its antivaccine proclivities since a couple of weeks after Arianna Huffington unleashed it upon the world and, as the managing editor of Science-Based Medicine, have even referred to HuffPo’s “war on medical science.” I even mocked HuffPo‘s announcement of a science section. So the idea that suddenly somehow Arianna Huffington and I are best buddies united in our desire to inspire jackbooted thugs to suppress the “Truth” that Wakefield, Adams, and his fellow quacks sell, is too ridiculous for words, just like everything else in Adams’ ranting screeds. Heck, it’s about as ridiculous as linking me with Bill Maher would be.
If all Adams had said about me were that I control Wikipedia entries on vaccines and am in cahoots with Arianna Huffington to suppress quackery, I would have had a hearty chuckle and left it at that. However, far less amusing were (1) Adams’ regurgitation of six year old lies about me as a surgeon at the Karmanos Cancer Center by a misguided youth formerly affiliated with the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism; (2) his utterly despicable attempt at guilt by association in trying to link me with the oncology fraud, Dr. Farid Fata, a man who defrauded Medicare of millions of dollars by administering chemotherapy to people who didn’t have cancer or to people with cancer long past the amount of time they needed it; and now (3) his claim that my patients hate me.
I’ve responded to the first claim in detail in the past; so there’s no need for my usual verbosity here. However, for the benefit of those who don’t want to click on the link, I’ll briefly explain. Adams regurgitated a claim that I have an undisclosed financial conflict of interest with Sanofi-Aventis because my research involves studying a drug made by the company, Rilutek (riluzole), and that this is why I so strongly oppose antivaccine groups. This is a lie originally published in a post on an antivaccine blog (Age of Autism) in 2010 by a college student named Jake Crosby. It was baseless then, and it is baseless now, resting as it does on a “six degrees of separation” sort of stretch. The truth is that I do indeed do research on riluzole as a potential nontoxic treatment for breast cancer. It’s known in the biz as “repurposing” a drug that’s already FDA-approved, and I think there’s promise there.
My actual research aside, in 2010 apparently Sanofi-Aventis was considering using riluzole to treat autism. There was also apparently a multimillion dollar partnership of some kind between Wayne State University and Sanofi-Aventis. I didn’t know about this partnership and was not (and have never been) an investigator involved with it or funded by it. However, by Crosby’s logic (regurgitated by Adams), because my university received grant funds from Sanofi-Aventis and because the drug I have studied to treat breast cancer was made by Sanofi-Aventis and was also being considered as a treatment for autism, I must have been receiving money from Sanofi-Aventis, particularly given that, if vaccines cause autism, there would be lots of money to be made selling a drug to treat autism. (Yes, that is the rationale behind the charge, as stupid as it is.)
Not surprisingly, Adams makes several errors in fact. First, as I said then I have never received a dime from Sanofi-Aventis to study riluzole or any other drug. (Truly, I am the lamest pharma shill on the planet given that I won’t even get Sanofi-Aventis to give me a bit of that sweet, sweet pharma lucre to repurpose one of its drugs to treat breast cancer.) Second, Sanofi-Aventis doesn’t even own the US rights to riluzole any more, having sold them to Covis Pharma Sarl in 2013. Third, my criticism and refutation of antivaccine pseudoscience is something I do because I believe in it, not because any pharmaceutical company pays me. Finally, it’s also particularly risible to think that a surgical oncologist would be developing an autism drug for a pharmaceutical company. Not that Adams has ever concerned himself with how risible he sounds. Indeed, I have to wonder how much contempt Adams have for his own audience, given how downright idiotic his writing posts sounds. Indeed, his charges against me say far more about him than they do about me.
I’ve saved the worst two for last. First of these is Adams’ unforgivable attempt to insinuate that I worked with or approved of Dr. Farid Fata’s evil (and, yes, he is evil). The truth is that I’ve personally never met Fata or communicated with him, much less worked with him. More importantly, I have nothing but contempt for the man, as I have related in the past. I am glad he is in prison. If there was anyone who richly deserved being in prison for a long, long time, it’s Dr. Fata. I also resent Adam’s attempt to use me to smear the Karmanos Cancer Institute, which is an excellent cancer center, one of 41 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center and a center I am proud to be part of. As far as I know, Fata was a private oncologist who ran a chain of clinics in the Detroit suburbs. He never had privileges at Karmanos and never practiced here, Adams’ lies otherwise and apparent harassment of a nurse at St. John’s Hospital notwithstanding. Indeed, Dr. Fata is universally despised by every oncologist I know who has heard of him, as well he should be. So desperate is Adams to slime me with his lies I expect that his next post will feature a crude Photoshop job showing Dr. Fata and me shaking hands.
As for Adams’ quoting of alleged patient complaints posted to online physician rating websites, these look as phony as the proverbial three dollar bill. Indeed, Adams cites a particularly obvious phony complaint:
This man is horribly arrogant and was extremely unprofessional. His bedside manner leaves much to be desired, and I got the impression that he’d rather I shoot myself than to interrupt his busy day of blogging.
I spotted this one as phony immediately. One reason is that I never mention my blogging to patients unless they happen to bring it up first because they’ve seen my blog, which does happen from time to time. This claim is also silly on its surface, as a patient who thinks that I view patient care as an interruption in blogging would not be likely to seek me out for breast cancer care in the first place. This, of course, is the problem with online patient ratings. Anyone can comment, whether the patient has ever actually seen the physician or not. Of course, I could counter these anonymous comments with comments I just received from our Press-Ganey reports that were actually quite flattering, but I don’t think publicizing them would be a good idea.
In any case, I make it a rule that I don’t blog at work, although I do sometimes respond to blog comments or correct minor errors in posts (like spelling or a mistake in fact that bothers me so much that I can’t wait until I get home to take care of it) if I happen to be in my office working on grants or papers. Blogging is still mostly my hobby, even though it has led to two publications in the peer-reviewed literature and thus become more part of my academic life. I try to keep work and my hobby separate. Unfortunately, as is the case with bullies, Adams is intentionally trying to harass me through my job.
Finally, Adams can’t resist undermining his own attacks with his utterly unhinged rhetoric. This passage, even though in a post in which he referred to me as mentally ill and needing psychiatric help, was especially hilarious, particularly given that Adams is rumored to have been associated at one time with the Church of Scientology. His previous anti-psychiatry rants are inconsistent with this rant:
I’ve offered to use my science lab to test [his] urine for heavy metals in order to help him pinpoint possible sources of lead or mercury poisoning — two toxic metals known to contribute to mental illness. Don’t forget that Gorski lives near Detroit, Michigan, where the lead poisoning of the water supply was allowed to continue for over a year due to EPA and Michigan government malfeasance. Was he poisoned by lead? Or was his mind already deranged before the lead came along? There’s no way to know the answer without some testing, and it’s unlikely that Gorski will volunteer to participate in such tests. People who are infested with intense evil and hatred almost never see it themselves. They are consumed by it but it feels “normal” to them, so they think there’s something wrong with everybody else, never suspecting the severity of their own mental illness.
I guess Adams is for psychiatry when it allows him to attack his perceived enemies but against it otherwise. Remember, this is a guy who blamed psychiatric medications for Adam Lanza’s mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School and has in general portrayed psychiatric medications as ineffective, harmful, and even the cause of crimes as bad as mass murder.
The above passage parodies itself, as do the rest of Adams’ posts about me. Indeed, as I said above, Adams’ writings say far more about him than they do about me, the Karmanos Cancer Institute, or Wayne State University. I expect this sort of behavior from cranks like Adams directed at me. It distresses me that Adams would be dishonest enough to try to slime my employers. Of course, Adams knows that. That’s exactly why he did it. He’s a bully.
At least I’m in good company
If Adams restricted himself to his hilariously unhinged and over-the-top conspiracy mongering about how I supposedly rule Wikipedia science articles (or conspire with those who are) and that I’m now tight with Arianna Huffington, who has since become dedicated to stamping out antivaccine misinformation, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this response. I would have had a hearty chuckle and ignored him. If he had even just regurgitated Jake Crosby’s easily refuted lies about me from six years ago, I might not have bothered. After all, these lies are old, were refuted a long time ago. Indeed my university stood behind me firmly then. But, Adams being Adams, he couldn’t stop there. He had to go further and defame me with speculation that I worked with Dr. Fata and, worse, to slime my cancer center by falsely linking it to Fata.
If Adams had even a shred of honor or honesty, he would correct the misinformation he has repeated about me and retract the lies he has repeated. At the very least he would delete the posts. Again, I’m not naïve enough to have any expectation that Adams would ever do the right thing, because he has neither honor nor honesty. I now wonder if Adams and Andrew Wakefield are now working together, given that they both live in the Austin, TX area. After all, what provoked these tirades wasn’t any of my criticism of Adams himself, but my writing here and on my not-so-secret other blog about the antivaccine movie VAXXED, and this is the most sustained attack from the quack with the most web traffic that I’ve yet endured.
And, make no mistake, I will endure this, as I have past attacks.
I do, however, take satisfaction in the knowledge that I must have been very, very effective indeed in my critical writing about VAXXED. Were it not so, Adams wouldn’t have bothered. I’m now in good company, with people I admire, like Paul Offit and Kevin Folta, whom Adams similarly slimed.
Yes, being lied about by Adams is a badge of honor.