People who oppose the [mercury-autism link] have been harassed with repeated calls, whether they have written a letter to their local paper or an editorial for The Wall Street Journal. The harassment includes parents of autistic children who do not align themselves with the anti-vaccine movement. Kevin Leitch reports, 'I have personally been told that because I am not chelating my daughter, I am a child abuser. That I am a murderer. I have had threats of violence made against me, and a few people have even sent personal hate mail to my seven-year-old autistic daughter.'As Orac points out, Kevin Leitch made further comments about harassment by anti-vaccers on his blog:
I know of four scientists whom I have exchanged emails with who have been targeted by this same extreme group and who had:Indeed, this behavior reminds me of an act of “protest” against esteemed UCLA neuroscientist Dario Ringach. Ringach’s lab used monkeys to study information processing in the visual system. (Primates are the only animals whose eye biology/physiology is comparable to humans.) In August, after receiving several threats from the Animal Liberation Front—including a bomb on his porch—Ringach sent the ALF an email saying, “You win,” and closed up his lab.
1) Threats of property damage made against their homes and property
2) Threats of physical violence made against them
3) Been the victims of concerted email and telephone harassment campaigns to the point where security services have had to get involved
4) Had their associations with entities that merely sound like Pharma organisations misrepresented
5) Been accused, on no basis at all, of fraud
These scientists are staggered that merely performing accurate science has led them to having to (in three cases I know of) inform Campus Police of the places they work at of their movements in order to remain safe.
The anti-vaccers whom I interviewed for my story presented themselves as helpless victims of some kind of medical/CDC conspiracy. I’d never suggest that any of them are instead violent manipulators. However, it’s time to start holding the activist groups they’re associated with accountable for their violent acts, regardless of their philosophical/political motivations. I thus agree whole-heartedly with the logical, if naïve, recommendation from the editorial:
In the end, these fears are driven by ideology rather than science. We urge legislators to base science policy on the best consensus among researchers in the field, rather than the emotional appeals of an agenda-driven group, especially one that attempts to bully into silence those with opposing opinions.(Right, because our government always tries to base its science policy on sound science. Like our stance on stem cells, for instance, or the space program, or global warming. Sigh.)