A disgraceful movie, but a good newspaper article

March 26, 2016 • 3:49 pm

by Greg Mayer

Update: The Tribeca Film Festival has pulled the film, apparently in response to widespread criticism. Details at Jezebel. Thanks to reader horrabin for the alert.


Jerry has taken note of the upcoming showing at the Tribeca Film Festival of a ‘documentary’ by the disgraced and de-licensed British physician Andrew Wakefield.(And  Orac has rather full coverage of the matter at Respectful Insolence.) Though the prominent woo-coddling is disheartening, there is a bright point amidst the darkness: the refreshingly straightforward coverage by the New York Times.  Reporters Melena Ryzik and Pam Belluck do not engage in the wishy-washy journalism of ‘controversy’, but tell it like it is.

They open their piece by calling the film’s anti-vaccination thesis “widely debunked”, describe Wakefield as a “discredited former doctor”, note that his 1988 study on the subject was retracted, which led to the revocation of his license for “ethical violations and failure to disclose financial conflicts of interest”, and further note that the festival website takes no notice of this essential context.

They also quote critics of the decision to screen the film. Some highlights:

“Unless the Tribeca Film Festival plans to definitively unmask Andrew Wakefield, it will be yet another disheartening chapter where a scientific fraud continues to occupy a spotlight and overshadows the damage he has left behind in the important story of vaccine safety and success,” Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said in an email. …

[Documentarian Penny Lane said] including “Vaxxed” in the documentary section “threatens the credibility of not just the other filmmakers in your doc slate, but the field in general…. this film is not some sort of disinterested investigation into the ‘vaccines cause autism’ hoax; this film is directed by the person who perpetuated the hoax.” …

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical School, called the decision to show the film “particularly sad” because the Tribeca festival receives attention far beyond New York.

I am delighted to see a major news source write the plain truth, and not resort to the ‘he said-she said’ format, which leaves readers at best confused, and often misinformed. As we’ve noted before here at WEIT, too often journalists, in a misguided search for ‘balance’, give voice to thoroughly discredited ideas. But sometimes, there is only one side to the story– vaccines don’t cause autism; the global climate is warming; and evolution is true.

14 thoughts on “A disgraceful movie, but a good newspaper article

  1. Speaking of the good journalism, which should get some credit when it shows up, and your mention of global climate warming, I’m sure that most people here have read about the less than good news about the subject in the U.S.

    Seems that we are increasing the methane CH4 emissions due to the massive fracking operations and this may totally cancel out progress in reducing CO2 over the past several years. One story on this is at The Nation, Bill McKibben.

  2. Thanks for the post, and the link to the NYT, which has for once spoken out strongly against this fraud.

  3. This is appallingly irresponsible. Essentially, Wakefield is a criminal convicted of murder who’s making a film defaming his victims. What would the principals at Tribecca consider unacceptable?

    1. The only downside is that when they pulled the film, they pulled the discussion page as well. This deprives us of the entertainment of reading the sage observations of the loons, notably one John Scudamore, an English pig farmer and the doyen of http://whale.to

      Look, to call this shit-for-brains mentally ill…I don’t mean just run-of-the-mill bonkers like mentally-ill/child-murdering-anti-vaxxer/but-I repeat-myself bull goose looney; I mean let’s-stuff-all-the-Jews-in-ovens stark raving bonkers, like Scudamore was born when Jeffrey Dahmer got pregnant by Charles Manson taking turns with Doctor Doom.

      Check out his website, if you can stomach it. One immediately runs across the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and it actually goes rapidly downhill from there. The page looks the way a Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle might look if Bronner were actually Satan. No, wait–that’s a completely unwarranted slur on both Bronner *and* Satan.

      In what possible rational world is this loon not institutionalized?

      But in all seriousness, TFF has taken a curiously cowardly path to excising this sad abortion of a film. Go to the TFF website’s search page, and type in “vaxxed.” NOTHING. “O items found.” No statement about the film being dumped, let alone why. This does not speak well for De Niro and company.

    2. I would have rather they’d shown it with a disclaimer that pointed out the truth: that vaccines do not cause autism as proven with real science, that Wakefield was shown to be a fraud and that perpetuating this myth has caused the death and misery of many children and adults.

  4. You’d think Tribeca could at least have some sort of panel discussion of the film afterwards with appropriate credentialed reps from the medical community.

    Some woo is relatively harmless, but if it discourages people from taking appropriate measures to protect their health, while engaging in obvious selective source citation, it is not harmless.

  5. So Tribeca plans to show a film, there is criticism of the contents of the film, and Tribeca bows to criticism and withdraws it: a victory for truth.

    Meanwhile, a controversial speaker is invited to a college campus, students criticize that use of their tuition dollars, the speaker is cancelled — and we get multiple posts about the ‘illiberal left’ and creeping censorship.

    1. I think shutting down this film is going to further fuel the notion that “scientists” won’t allow dissenting views and obfuscate the truth….I can hear the outcries already.

  6. Now that I think about it, pulling the film at this point was a VERY BAD choice. It will only reinforce the theory that ‘big pharma’ got to the management.

    The better choice would have been to keep the film, but add a knowledgeable commentary session.

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