Professor Brian Martin discusses a new ‘skeptic’ tactic

Professor Brian Martin holds a PhD in Theoretical Physics and teaches in the Social Sciences Department at the University of Wollongong. Dr Martin has had a nearly 40-year history of involvement in social justice issues and is past-President of Whistleblowers Australia. He is the author of 13 books and hundreds of papers, many of which involve research into issues surrounding the suppression of scientific dissent.

Over the last five years, he has written numerous articles about methods used by the Australian Skeptics and their subsidiary group, Stop the AVN. These organisations, much like similar groups operating in the United States and Europe, have used abuse, harassment, bullying and vexatious complaints to oppose those whose opinions on scientific issues threaten the profits of multi-national corporations.

Dr Martin has noticed a fascinating new tactic being implemented by this group in Australia. It will be interesting to see if this method is repeated by related organisations elsewhere.

This article is reprinted with the permission of the author. The original document can be found at this link.

What SAVN doesn’t want you to readbrianmartin

In 2010, I became involved in the Australian vaccination controversy.

I’m a social scientist. For decades, I’ve been studying scientific controversies such as over nuclear power, pesticides and fluoridation. My view is that it is valuable to be able to hear different perspectives in a controversy, preferably in a respectful way. Members of the public then can make up their own minds. The ideal is deliberation, in which views are carefully considered, discussed and evaluated.

The Australian vaccination controversy had a prominent feature I hadn’t encountered before: a ferocious and sustained attack on a citizens organisation, intended to shut it down. This is the antithesis of deliberation.

Personally, I don’t have strong views about vaccination. However, because of my longstanding commitment to free speech, I intervened in the debate, defending the right of vaccine critics to express their views.

To some, this might seem like becoming a critic of vaccines. Actually, it’s different: I am a critic of censorship, not of vaccination.

I share with SAVN the goal of protecting and improving children’s health. However, I do not support several of the methods used by some SAVNers, such as abusing and censoring critics.

There’s another factor here. I am intrigued by the tactics used in social struggles. Indeed, analysing tactics against injustice has been a key research focus of mine for the past decade. The injustice in this case is censorship.

The Australian vaccination struggle

The Australian Vaccination Network (AVN)[*] was set up in the mid 1990s to present views critical of vaccination and to support parental choice in vaccination decisions. This citizens group was similar to various other vaccine-critical groups in Australia and other parts of the world. In 2009, something new occurred: the formation of Stop the Australian Vaccination Network (SAVN), a group whose explicit goal was to shut down the AVN. SAVN’s techniques included online abuse (especially of Meryl Dorey, the AVN’s founder and driving force), complaints to government agencies, and attempts to deter or censor public comment by the AVN or by media covering the AVN.

I soon experienced the standard SAVN techniques myself. I wrote a long article, “Debating vaccination“, describing the vaccination debate and the methods used by SAVN. After it appeared, the SAVN Facebook page was filled with derogatory commentary. Several SAVNers wrote to me, some with disparaging or condescending remarks. I sent a draft of my next article, “When public health debates become abusive“, to Ken McLeod, a key figure in SAVN. He sent it to others in SAVN; their responses included derogatory comments and complaints to my employer, the University of Wollongong. In 2014, I joined Twitter and made a few tweets, and experienced a similar sort of hostile commentary from SAVN tweeters.

I soon came to expect misrepresentation, abusive language and complaints. After one of my articles discussing the vaccination debate, and mentioning SAVN, appeared in an academic journal, someone complained to the editor and publisher, alleging an undeclared conflict of interest on my part. This person had not bothered to contact me. This was a technique I recognised and had written about for decades: complaining to employers or editors but not to the person concerned is a typical feature of what I call suppression of dissent.

However, on a few occasions I noticed a different type of response or rather non-response. Some of my contributions were ignored even though I had expected a furious attack from SAVNers. What was going on?

SAVN is not a single conscious entity. It is a collection of individuals with a common cause, though not a completely unified position. To attribute agency to SAVN is misplaced. Nevertheless, the collective behaviour of SAVNers can be analysed and understood as an adaptive response, sometimes effective, sometimes not. One of my goals as a social analyst is to understand how participants in scientific controversies operate.

SAVN is a special case, because nothing quite like it seems to exist anywhere else. So I tried to understand the pattern in SAVNers’ responses to my statements and publications, and have come up with two preliminary generalisations. These probably attribute more intent and conscious planning than is warranted, but may be useful nevertheless to stimulate further investigation.

1. As a general approach, SAVNers attempt to shut down visible critics of vaccination. By using derogatory commentary and making complaints to government agencies and the media, they attempt to discourage participation by critics and to discredit them.

2. In some cases, SAVNers instead ignore critics, especially when SAVNers do not want others to hear or read what critics have to say.

Point 2 recognises the possibility of censorship backfire: attempting to censor or discredit a view sometimes can lead to more attention to it than otherwise would occur.

Point 2 is the phenomenon I hadn’t previously recognised. In studying censorship tactics, it’s easy to see abuse and ridicule. However, it’s also possible to learn from what isn’t mocked or even mentioned.

Although I am not a critic of vaccination, SAVNers have treated me like one. Initially they tried abuse and complaints, but on some occasions they have ignored my comments and articles about the debate.

I should also mention that a few SAVNers have been willing to engage in dialogue with me, in the time-honoured approach of exchanging views and seeking to identify points of both agreement and disagreement. I do appreciate this.

My new assessment is that SAVNers – especially the administrators of SAVN’s Facebook page – prefer to ignore some contributions, especially ones that are balanced and well argued. SAVN administrators may not want other SAVNers, or indeed anyone, to read these contributions.

So here is a list of some items that, it seems to me, SAVN does not want you to read. This is a tentative list, open to revision and reconsideration. I welcome your feedback at

April 2014: Medical Observer  Neil Bramwell wrote an article about the vaccination debate that was published in the Medical Observer on 15 April 2014. Bramwell interviewed people with different perspectives, including Patrick Stokes, whose article “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion” has been lauded by many SAVNers. Normally SAVNers would comment on an article like Bramwell’s, but they seem to have ignored it. I think the main reason is that the article is so balanced, presenting various perspectives, not just ones favoured by SAVN.

March 2014: Science & Engineering Ethics  My article “On the suppression of vaccination dissent” was published in the journal Science & Engineering Ethics. In this article, I discussed the phenomenon of suppression of dissent and used several vaccination examples to illustrate ways to evaluate whether suppression has occurred and to compare suppression of citizen campaigners with suppression of researchers and doctors. Although several of my previous articles had triggered a huge discussion by SAVN bloggers, I saw no comments.

March 2014: “Biased reporting”  On 18 March 2014, I posted on my website “Biased reporting: a vaccination case study“. It is a lengthy critique of an article by Rick Morton in The Australian. I first sought comments from Morton, but he did not provide any. Meryl Dorey wrote a blog about my critique; her blogs are scrutinised by some SAVNers, so they would know about my post. Normally I would expect to see some comments from them, not on Dorey’s blog but on the SAVN Facebook page, SAVNer blogs or emails to me, but I did not see any.

September 2012: SAVN and conspiracy theories After my article “Dealing with dilemmas in health controversies” was published in Health Promotion International, SAVN figures Paul Gallagher and Peter Tierney criticised my views in their blogs. Tierney and others defended their claim that the AVN believes vaccination is a global conspiracy to implant mind control chips. Tierney initially allowed me to comment on his blog. I invited him to join with me in submitting our views to independent experts on conspiracy theories. After one of my posts, Tierney removed it and did not make any statement that he had done so. I described all this on my website. My interpretation is that they terminated the interaction to prevent others from seeing their refusal to submit our views to review by experts.

August 2012: dossier of attacks on the AVN On 31 August 2012, Meryl Dorey posted “Dossier of attacks on the AVN” on the AVN website. The dossier contains examples of false claims, abusive comments, threats, sending of pornography and other types of attacks. It names individuals who made the attacks, most of whom have been involved with SAVN. There was an initial flurry of criticism of the dossier by SAVNers, but subsequently they seem to have largely ignored it. It is reasonable to suggest that SAVNers are not keen to draw attention to their own methods of attack.

March 2012: two articles about SAVN In March 2012, I posted two new articles, in preprint form, on my website, and alerted several key SAVNers. These articles described actions by SAVN in making abusive comments, among other things. Based on previous experience, I expected a furious response from SAVNers, including posting of abuse and making complaints to university officials. Instead, to my great surprise, there was hardly any response. In retrospect it was the first indication of an emerging pattern of not responding to contributions that are well written and that SAVNers do not want others – including their supporters – to read. The two articles were later published: “Online onslaught” and (in collaboration with Florencia Peña) “Public mobbing“.

* In 2014, the AVN was required by the Department of Fair Trading to change its name, which it did to Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, retaining the abbreviation AVN.

Acknowledgements I thank the many individuals who read drafts of this comment and offered valuable feedback, especially Paul Gallagher who helped clarify several points.

Counties sue narcotics makers, alleging ‘campaign of deception’ – Los Angeles Times

Shortlink to this post:

5888752_sTwo California counties sued five of the world’s largest narcotics manufacturers on Wednesday, accusing the companies of causing the nation’s prescription drug epidemic by waging a “campaign of deception” aimed at boosting sales of potent painkillers such as OxyContin.

Officials from Orange and Santa Clara counties — both hit hard by overdose deaths, emergency room visits and escalating medical costs associated with prescription narcotics — contend the drug makers violated California laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance.

In sweeping language reminiscent of the legal attack against the tobacco industry, the lawsuit alleges the drug companies have reaped blockbuster profits by manipulating doctors into believing the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks, despite “a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary.” The effort “opened the floodgates” for such drugs and “the result has been catastrophic,” the lawsuit contends.

Click below to read the full story:

Counties sue narcotics makers, alleging ‘campaign of deception’ – Los Angeles Times.

We are constantly being told that vaccines are approved by governments who have thoroughly tested them for both safety and effectiveness. Yet the same government regulators who approve vaccinations have also approved these drugs which are now the basis of a lawsuit in Los Angeles. How much can we trust what these officials tell us? Are vaccine safety and efficacy trials just more ‘tobacco science’? When will we see lawsuits by counties in the US and elsewhere due to the terrible toll caused by vaccine injuries and deaths? The answer is, we believe – it’s only a matter of time.

Dr Andrew Wakefield Not Guilty Says BBC – General Medical Council Wrong

With the UK’s national media in a feeding frenzy whipped up by the UK’s Department of Health claiming the current outbreaks of relatively few measles cases are all the fault of Dr Andrew Wakefield, the BBC appears to have slipped up and confirmed that the main plank of the General Medical Council’s case against Dr Wakefield and his two colleagues at the Royal Free Hospital, London, England in 1998 has bitten the dust. 

The main plank of the GMC’s case was that there was only one study carried out by Dr Wakefield and his colleagues on the “Lancet 12” children, that it did not have ethics approval and that it was the study reported in February 1998 in the UK’s medical journal “The Lancet”.

Whilst the BBC is meant to be independent and unbiased as a news source, it has been propping up the UK Government and Health Department’s official line for many years over the MMR/autism issue not being caused by vaccines and that Dr Wakefield was wrong. 

But who in fact is wrong?  If you cannot get your facts right over something pretty major then how can you have your facts right on that issue? 

In a report yesterday it appears to have allowed a significant chink in the UK Government’s position.  The BBC confirms there were in fact two studies carried out: one was for the Legal Aid Board but it was not the one the GMC panel Chaired by Dr Surendra Kumar decided it was.

The three defendant doctors claimed there were two studies: that the Lancet study was not the Legal Aid Board study and that the Lancet study had a different ethical approval – contrary to the GMC’s allegations.

So why has the BBC not covered this.  It is important news.  But here we see them including these significant facts as an aside in a different news report.  This shows however that the BBC’s health journalists are fully aware of the facts and have a grasp of these important details but do not report their importance and significance to the British public who pay directly to fund the BBC.  It is defrauding the British public – they are not getting what they pay vast millions of pounds sterling for.

Further, the complainant to the GMC, Mr Brian Deer, who had been paid by Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times to get “a big story” about the MMR vaccine, withheld crucial lost documents from the GMC investigation, the GMC’s lawyers, the Defendant doctor’s lawyers and everyone else including all the world’s media.  The documents date back many years showing that all the three doctors subjected to the GMC investigation did in fact have and were routinely operating under ethics approval 162/95 and not ethics approval 172/96 – which was for a different study never carried out which Dr Kumar and his GMC panel decided was carried out.

Additionally Dr Kumar’s position as GMC panel Chairman demonstrates it was a “Kangaroo Court“.  Barely two months after the decision to strike Dr Wakefield from the medical register, Dr Kumar was publicly calling for compulsory MMR vaccination. 

Compulsory MMR vaccination is an approach described in 2008 as “stalinist” by the BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum who also said forcing parents to have their children innoculated was “morally and ethically dubious”: No jabs, no school says Labour MP BBC 11 May 2008.  Dr Kumar’s strongly held views on MMR vaccination were never disclosed and raised the question of whether Dr Kumar should have been debarred just from sitting on the panel under the Nolan Principles regulating standards in public life in the UK.

Here is what the BBC reported [CHS emphasis added]:

The General Medical Council found Dr Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct in 2010 and he was struck off the medical register. It did not investigate whether his findings were right or wrong but focused on the way he carried out his research.

Dr Wakefield’s study considered whether there was a link between the three-in-one MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease.

It focused on tests carried out on 12 children who had been referred to hospital for gastrointestinal problems.

Dr Wakefield was also paid to carry out another study at the same time to find out if parents who claimed their children were damaged by the MMR vaccine had a case. Some children were involved in both studies.”

Government rejects measles outbreak ‘blame’ – 13 April 2013 Last updated at 07:34

And on CHS we have shown in numerous reports with how numerous times the causation position that MMR vaccine causes autistic conditions has been proven time and again and that there is a considerable body of medical and scientific evidence to that effect.  Here are just a few examples:

Vaccination Causes Autism – Say US Government & Merck’s Director of Vaccines

US Government In US$20 million Legal Settlement For Vaccine Caused Autism Case

Japanese & British Data Show Vaccines Cause Autism

Ginger Taylor’s List of Research Linking Vaccines to Autism

All is of course ignored by the BBC –  cowed into submission and controlled by the UK Government – which holds the purse strings for its budgets.

Vaccines, Aluminium Adjuvants & Brain Damage – Latest Research – Summary Report – 10th Annual Scientific Conference On Aluminium

Here we provide links to Gaia Health‘s excellent and informative summary and report with links to good source reference material about the UK’s Keele University 10th annual meeting on aluminium:

Current Status of Aluminum Adjuvant Research March 26, 2013

Aluminium is highly toxic and neurotoxic in parts per billion.  It is used as an adjuvant in childhood vaccines and adjuvants are a known cause of “sensitisation”. 

The topics covered in the summary and report include:

  • Aluminum as a neurotoxin.
  • Aluminum as an adjuvant in vaccines.
  • The in vivo data.
  • Aluminum in vaccines and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • Connecting pediatric vaccines with aluminum.
  • Where we go from here?

“Sensitisation” means if your child did not have an allergy before the shot, there is a very high probability it will have an allergy after.  “Sensitisation” is the process by which an environmental cause like a vaccine makes people who were not allergic before become allergic – so if you wonder where those life-threatening food allergies and other allergies come from – adjuvants in vaccines are one of the prime candidates [along with Thiomersal/Thimerosal in vaccines].

“Neurotoxic” means it kills braincells and causes nerve damage.  And in parts per billion that means for a dose of one gram to be a part in a billion means a child would have to weigh 1000 kilogrammes which is around 2.2 thousand pounds weight – a bit big for a baby.

Latest Research – Vaccines, Brain Damage & Aluminium Adjuvants In Vaccines


This post is now found here:

Vaccines, Aluminium Adjuvants & Brain Damage – Latest Research – Summary Report – 10th Annual Scientific Conference On Aluminium

90 Studies – Mercury Not Safe In Medicines and Vaccines – Toxic and Neurotoxic in parts per billion

Get wise and don’t get fooled.  Mercury and its organo-mercurial compounds like Thiomersal [aka Thimerasol] [still being used in some vaccines] is highly toxic and neurotoxic in parts per billion. 

For a dose of 1 gram on a teaspoon an infant would need to weigh 10,000 metric tonnes to fall within the US Environmental Protection Agency’s daily limit.  “Neurotoxic” means it kills braincells and causes nerve damage. 

Video: University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine – How Mercury Causes Brain Neuron Degeneration

If you want quick access to around 90 citations and abstracts of papers with the “best bits” highlighted showing mercury is unsafe in medicines and vaccines you may want to bookmark and peruse Vaccination News’ lists of citations and abstracts:

Page 1 – Vaccination News Citations – Evidence for Thimerosal Risk

Page 2 – Vaccination News Citations – Evidence for Thimerosal Risk

It also causes “sensitisation” which means if your child did not have an allergy before the shot, there is a very high probability it will have an allergy after.  Thiomersal “sensitises” which means it makes people who were not allergic before become allergic – so if you wonder where those life-threatening food allergies and other allergies come from – Thiomersal/Thimerosal is one of the prime candidates [along with adjuvants in vaccines].

Beyond Conformity – Useful Vaccine Information

Don’t be fooled by Government health officials’ and their propaganda or by dodgy medical information courtesy of well-publicised-to-be crooked medical journal publishing from one too many crooked mainstream medical journals and some of their authors.

If you want bottom line analysis and well-referenced and well-sourced information, including from official data and from formally published research papers, you may want to bookmark for future reference and peruse Hilary Butler’s “Hilary’s Desk” from Beyond Conformity, New Zealand.  

Well worth reading and noting for future reference.  

Here are links to some of Hilary Butler’s recent articles from Beyond Conformity.

Part One (of four) Herald on Sunday Flu propaganda 18-Mar-2013

Part Two: What the Herald on Sunday should have shown readers 16-Mar-2013

Part Three: Dr Huang’s Shiver’s propaganda 15-Mar-2013

Part Four: The matter of New Zealand annual Flu deaths. 14-Mar-2013

Parents want the truth about the flu vaccine, Professor Phillips. 14-Mar-2013

New Zealand’s first breast milk bank. 13-Mar-2013

Prior Articles By Ms Hilary Butler with thanks to Vaccination News for the compilation:

Direct Drug marketing in New Zealand is a fact.

Gardasil, fairywands and bulldust.

FDA questioned about genetically engineered HPV DNA in Gardasil worldwide.

Whipping up fear.

Does the plot thicken?

More HPV vaccine lies

Toxic Metals found in Sweden’s Pandemrix Swine Flu vaccine

What about you?

More autism/vaccination questions

Oh my darling Portia

Paracetamol should not be used for infectious fevers – revisited

Does Nikki Turner live in Gaga land?

Windmills of my mind

Lessons from Ernest Shackleton

Antisystematosis and Plurasideaffects

Getting to the Point.

Part 1 of 3. Unanswered questions about the Hepatitis B vaccine

Part 2: Unanswered questions about the Hepatitis B vaccine

Everyone knows who dunnit…

Cognitive dissonance or “being deceived”

Insight Documentary 19 June 2011

Influenza vaccines, KOPS, and the truth

Pneumonia vaccine not only useless, but dangerous

Polio and lemmings

A few voices are waking up to the fact that …

Did Gardasil kill Jasmine?

Can vaccines become cranial and immunological cluster bombs? (Part 3 of 3)

How a baby fights infection and develops the immune system (Part 2 of 3)

Vaccines and neonatal immune development (part 1 of 3)

A reader writes in – B4 school check

World’s first Orwell “Truth Department” award goes to….

It’s all about money

Serenity’s grandmother wants answers

IMAC’s new minions

Just do it

Nikki Turner’s Science Friction

Paul Offit’s Science Friction

Pneumovax 23 – an emperor with no clothes

E.coli vaccine and other related nonsense

Who exactly is mad, Dr Holt?

It’s all your fault!

Medical error and hypocrisy

Ministry of Health seriously misled the Immunisation Select Committee

The coming adult needle cushion

Deadly choices – Paul’s porkies.

AAP’s fever and antipyretic policy statement shores up big pharma

Gardasil – in the quest for evidence.

On Breastfeeding and idiots.

So who is the fanatic?

Puppets, fanatics, nuts and sluts.

Nutrition. Again.

Rheumatic Fever and common sense.

Blog posts from previous years