Dr Ben Goldacre Forced By CHS to Answer Criticism Over Drug Safety – But Not Before Goldacre’s Usual Response – Bullying, Abuse & Harassment

Shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/pfSi7-2eu

[See also recent closely related post:

Congratulations Dr Ben Goldacre On Undermining Drug Safety Worldwide]

It is rare to see Dr Ben Goldacre embarrassed into answering serious criticisms.  This follows a blog post here on CHS.  This blog post in fact:  Making Medicine More Dangerous for You and Your Children – Drug Industry Wins System Which Hides Drug Hazards. 

Although rare, you will also see, this was only after Dr Goldacre’s usual much less than rare response of engaging in bullying, abuse and harassment failed.  CHS has reported previously on bullying abuse and harassment meted out from Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience Forum: Dr Ben Goldacre’s Grovelling Apology For Sexual Abuse, Bullying & Harassment of Female Doctor & Medical Journalist By His BadScience Forum Trolls and Bullies

People like Dr Ben Goldacre and another with a role in this, Simon Singh, seem to be hypocrites in claiming to espouse and endorse the role of science in taking knowledge forward, only when it suits them. Here you can see what happens when others subject people like them to scrutiny and call them to account. 

A chain of events leading to the current situation was triggered when The London Review of Books invited and then rejected Dr David Healy’s careful, thorough but critical review of Dr Ben Goldacre’s book “Bad Pharma“. The rejection of Dr Healy’s review is bizarre and especially from The London Review of Books.  Dr Healy writes about that here: Not So Bad Pharma March 28, 2013.

Do note in the context of Dr Ben Goldacre answering criticisms now, that was posted by Dr Healy over a year ago.

Dr David Healy is a serious academic and medical practitioner who is an expert in clinical trials in psychopharmacology, the history of psychopharmacology, and the impact of both trials and psychotropic drugs on our culture.  Dr Healy’s interests in and concerns for drug safety are far longer and deeper than Dr Ben Goldacre’s seemingly sudden, recent and superficial conversion to such a worthy cause.  It is also worth noting that Dr Healy’s book “Pharmageddon” is a better account than Goldacre’s populist pulp paperback.  “Pharmageddon” is about how pharmaceutical companies have hijacked healthcare with life-threatening results set out in a riveting story that affects us all: University of California Press (2012) – available on Amazon.com.

Dr Ben Goldacre cultivates an irresponsible unkempt slightly weird geeky image which seems intended to and it seems it also does appeal to “trendy” social media savvy young “turks” [and a number of the not so “trendy” who seem to like to think they are].  “Cool” may be a more common term but 1970s ageing hippy term “trendy” seems more appropriate in this context.  

Simon Singh is a physicist turned broadcaster turned “science” author who managed single-handedly with just one word “bogus” in a “science” article to end up being sued in a defamation law suit in the English courts which it seems was avoidable in quite a number of different ways.  The defamation case was followed by a high profile campaign supposedly about scientific freedom of speech depicting himself as a martyr to it. 

It cost him personally £50,000 [he claims].  He subjected his family to two years of avoidable stress, with a figure of around ten times that hanging over them had his appeal not saved him [and them]. 

Singh could have apologised over the complained about meaning of the term “bogus” – with its overtones of dishonesty – whilst still saying the same sort of thing in another way and still making his point.  That this is the case appears confirmed by video coverage supporting his legal fight which is posted on YouTube.

Singh’s claim to a “victorious” end result included a change to English defamation law which some defamation lawyers consider makes very little difference.  It appears a valid perspective that his efforts may have in the long term a chilling effect on science journalism which his martyrdom it was claimed would avoid.  To us on CHS Singh looks selfish and publicity hungry whilst wittingly or not serving commercial interests which remain faceless. 

The rejection of Dr Healy’s review of Dr Ben Goldacre’s book is so bizarre that Dr Healy then followed up his initial blog post with a series of articles again last year addressing the issues factually and in detail.  So the main criticisms go back starting over a year ago.

This chain of events led to Dr Healy’s 21st May blog post this year upon which CHS commented.

And there we see the outcome.  It was that post by CHS which in turn led to the bullying, abusive and harassing responses directly by Dr Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh and some of their camp followers.  This demonstrates it is not just a few of their followers who engage in this conduct.  It was also that post which, as will be seen below, drew direct attention to Dr Ben Goldacre’s role in bringing about a situation in which drug safety worldwide appears to be being undermined by the drug industry.  You will also see Dr Ben Goldacre admitting his hand was forced to answer the criticisms against his will.

Internet bullying, abuse and harassment is a modern scourge and people like Dr Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh are examples of those leading its spread.   Goldacre has over 325,000 “followers” just on Twitter and Singh has over 50,000.  And Twitter allows only a few words, so it is a perfect medium for one-line, soundbite abuse, bullying and harassment.

This is nothing short of ensuring if any individuals criticise the likes of Goldacre and Singh, instead of the criticisms being answered, they get their names blackened on the internet by the hordes of bullies and hangers-on who do it for Goldacre. 

This has a very damaging effect on science and public comment and free speech.  It is not responsible behaviour and people of such ilk should be shunned and rejected just in the same way those who espouse violence rather than persuasion and argument to get their own way are.  Violence is just another form of bullying, abuse and harassment.

You can see a rare example of Dr Ben Goldacre himself asking his hordes to stop bullying, harassing and abusing another journalist – of course well after the damage was done and no doubt because the example made clear to UK radio station LBC’s management just what Goldacre’s BadScience Forum engage in: Sigh. Do not abuse Jeni Barnett personally February 11th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre.  Ironically a point radio presenter Jeni Barnett was making was that she did not know much about issues of vaccines causing autistic conditions but that there seemed to be a lot of bullying going on about it.  

In short, it seems to us on CHS that Goldacre had to act in the Jeni Barnett case because he had to limit the damage to himself from the behaviour of his camp followers. If it was not so public we on CHS have little doubt Goldacre would do nothing.  And that is evidenced by the fact his BadScience Forum still exists doing what it does on a daily basis.  These examples show Dr Ben Goldacre knows what goes on.  He is not ignorant of it.

So here CHS focusses on what seems, on a critical analysis, the less than responsible behaviour of Dr Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh and others like them.  There are informal international networks of people like Dr Goldacre, Simon Singh and their camp followers.

Here is a specific recent example of a leading distinguished scientist being silenced by bullying because he had the temerity to question what appears to be an odd position that there has been no global warming so far this century: Climate change science has become ‘blind’ to green bias Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent The Telegraph 16 May 2014.  It seems the bullying led Professor Bengtsson to cease engaging in the issue – and we link to a bullying blog on this to make the point about how widespread this kind of bullying, abuse and harassment is and how damaging and irresponsible it is.

CHS is fortunate in now being able to cite specific examples of Dr Goldacre, Simon Singh and others engaging directly in online bullying, harassment and abuse. Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience Forum is set up and run in a way which encourages online bullying, abuse and harassment.  It is routine for one too many of its members.

CHS’ post was published 21st May.  A week later at 2pm 27 May this is what Simon Singh “tweeted” to his 50,000+ Twitter followers:

Simon Singh@SLSingh

I seldom swear, but here’s fuckwittery of the highest order RT @lecanardnoir Quacks still have it in for @bengoldacre

Now firstly note this is a response to serious criticisms of Ben Goldacre made first by Dr David Healy on serious issues of drug safety.  So Singh is quite deliberately engaging in bullying, abuse and harassment and publishing it to his camp followers.

Within 15 minutes this is how Dr Ben Goldacre replied to Singh copied to Goldacre’s 325,000+ “followers” and Singh’s 50,000+:

ben goldacre@bengoldacre

@SLSingh @lecanardnoir yeah, channeled directly from the fevered imagination of @DrDavidHealy

So here we can see the bully Dr Ben Goldacre engaging directly himself in bullying, abuse and harassment of an internationally respected medical professional and academic and doing so in response to serious criticism made of Goldacre. It was the normal Goldacre response – bully.

There were in total over 40 replies and numerous “re-tweets” of the exchanges mostly involving more bullying, abusive and harassing comments from Goldacre and Singh camp followers. 

However, notably Goldacre later admits to having to reply grudgingly to Dr Healy’s criticisms – with the intervention no doubt of others behind the scenes like the industry lobby front organisation Sense About Science, pointing out how damaging it might be not to.  Rather than being pleased to have the opportunity to showcase his perspective to a critical academic Goldacre moaned on Twitter:

Sadly driven by @DrDavidHealy A real shame to have to stop productive work and reply to him

This was of course only after well over a year of Dr Healy’s criticisms, as a leading expert on these issues, being online.  And Goldacre did not post his responses on his own blog.

The exchanges between Goldacre and Healy can be read starting here with Dr Goldacre’s response in which Goldacre opens [surprise!] abusively with disparagement and [according to Dr Healy’s reply] misrepresenting the position:

This blog post by David Healy is absurd.”

And this is how Dr Healy started with his response to Goldacre [our emphasis]:

The first point to make is this post isn’t about AllTrials. AllTrials is a footnote.

It’s about the dismay that many felt at EMA backsliding. It’s about how it was obvious that something like this was on the cards. Against this background uncritical endorsement of industry looked like a bad idea. There was a desperate need to stay awake. It looks like too many of us have been asleep.

Ben offers an outline of the AllTrials strategy here. It’s helpful to have this.

His accusation that these posts misrepresent campaigns, smear people, shout abuse, and hector from the sidelines looks like a description of posts by others elsewhere. With very few exceptions any comments to the various posts on this blog that in any way fail to support Ben or AllTrials have been deleted.

The post repeated an alternate analysis – that the main thing industry wants to hide are adverse event data.

Now that CHS has provoked the dialogue, you can have the benefit of reading and making your own mind up about how absurd Dr Ben Goldacre might or might not now be looking.  That is a position you would not have been in before.

What we probably will never have an answer to which all will find satisfying are answers to these questions made in CHS’ prior post on this issue:

Dr Ben Goldacre founded the AllTrials campaign.  Why did he found the AllTrials campaign? What was in it for him?  Who suggested it?  Who funded it? Who supported it? And why have we ended up with what Dr Healy describes as a disaster for us all and a victory for the drug industry, all successfully fronted by Dr Ben Goldacre?

Other information regarding Dr Goldacre’s connections and interests directly and indirectly to drug maker GlaxoSmithKline can be read here What’s Behind Ben Goldacre?

And this appeared here:

Dr Goldacre’s ‘Bad Science’ column began in the Guardian in 2003 and he rapidly rose to prominence receiving the Association of British Science Writer’s award for that year for an article on the MMR issue ‘MMR: Never mind the facts’. It may be noted that the ABSW awards were at the time sponsored by MMR manufacturers and defendants GlaxoSmithKline [1]. It was also not disclosed at any time, though Dr Goldacre’s column dealt heavily in issues of epidemiology and public health policy that his father, Michael Goldacre, was a professor public health at Oxford and a leading government epidemiologist [2, 3, 4] whose work had included papers on MMR (notably GSK’s Pluserix vaccine after it was withdrawn by the manufacturers in 1992) [5].  In the case of Pluserix it should also be taken into consideration that the NHS had apparently indemnified the manufacturers for the use of what was known to be a faulty vaccine (already being removed from use in Canada in 1988 and its license revoked there in 1990) [6, 7]. Despite the growing public celebrity of the younger Goldacre, and the professional prominence of the older, no authoritative information for their familial relationship came to light before 2009, although it is the sort of matter that might normally be in the area of public comment.

It is evident that had this been generally known from the beginning Ben Goldacre’s column would have been seen in quite a different light. Also, if this had been known and Ben Goldacre had wished to assert that he was nevertheless an independent voice, the public would still have been better informed. Moreover, there must have been a huge circle of people “in the know” who never commented in the public domain until Ian Fairlie did in 2009 [2], which is in itself a remarkable circumstance.

Ben Goldacre repeatedly ducked answering questions about the shortcomings of the epidemiology of the safety of MMR both in his Guardian blog and in British Medical Journal over an extended period [1,8]. Typically he would engage in ad hominem attacks against his critics on the issue (never mentioned by name) but not answering their specific questions. For a long time his website carried the intimidatory message “…personal anecdotes about your MMR tragedy will be deleted for your own safety” [9] and he has an on-line shop which sells novelty merchandise declaring the safety of MMR, including at various times t-shirts, thongs, mugs and baby-bibs, as well as characteristically abusive items about nutritionists and homeopaths [10]. Another problem was that though Goldacre styled himself as a junior doctor he was coy about which institutions he was affiliated to, which at one point included the Institute of Psychiatry [11]. This not only disguised potential conflicts over MMR because of the Institute’s relations with pharmaceutical manufacturers, but also mobile phone radiation. At one point Goldacre was involved in making a personalised attack on a fellow journalist Julia Stephenson while not disclosing that his institution included the industry funded Mobile Phones Research Unit [11]. Of course, if you personally attack those people who may have suffered ill effects from the products you are defending this is taking the debate to somewhere else than science (and perhaps to somewhere not very pleasant).

5 Responses

  1. Seriously, I think you have surpassed yourself this time.

  2. Yes, it’s a great, well-researched article. Thank you for making this information available.

  3. [ED: This comment deleted.

    Trolling and internet stalking by a clearly compulsive obsessive member of a forum whose members block discussion but some of whose members for sport in their spare time disrupt other fora on the internet and attack, bully, abuse and harass ordinary people and parents of very sick children wanting to share information. These kinds of groups are organised for just such a purpose on the internet. To quote Dr Ben Goldacre himself commenting on his own BadScience Forum: “The time for talking has passed. I draw the line at kidnapping, incidentally.“. This is on a site owned and operated by Dr Ben Goldacre as a high profile opinion former in the mainstream medical professions].

  4. “Between 1st March 2009 and 26th October 2010 Dr Stuart Jones, posting anonymously on Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience Forum as “Jonas“, made numerous disparaging remarks about the patient’s treating physician.

     The career of the patient’s doctor was nearly destroyed in addition to the patient losing his life after Dr Stuart Jones described the doctor as a ‘deluded, pill-peddling quack’ the disciplinary tribunal hearing was told. Dr Stuart Jones also wrote on the BadScience website that the patient’s doctor, who specialises in treating chronic fatigue syndrome, “lulled patients into a dangerous world of make-believe pseudo-science”.  The Health Professions Council heard evidence that Dr Jones’ messages were “defamatory, derogatory and disparaging” and had a detrimental effect on the doctor’s professional and personal life.

     Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience’s forum was flooded with 10,000 posts responding to Dr Jones’s initial message in April 2010. ”

    ttp://www.ageofautism.com/2014/01/did-dr-ben-goldacres-bad-science-forum-attacks-lead-to-suicide-1.html

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