Friday, November 6, 2015

#1511: Anne Dachel

Yes, we have mentioned her before, but Anne Dachel really needs her own entry. Dachel is “media editor” at the infamous quack organization Age of Autism and a vocal vaccine denialist. According to Dachel autism is a “disorder that was unheard of 25 years ago”, but is now familiar due to vaccines. However, mainstream media is evidently trying to cover up – or being mislead by various conspiracies – to overlook the autism epidemic and what she apparently takes to be genuine scientific disagreement over the safety of vaccines (just see their propaganda movie “The Greater Good”). At the very least mainstream media is being unfair by not giving equal time to the insane rants of her decidedly non-expert band of anti-vaccinationists. In fact, Dachel is utterly unable to get the false balance problem (presumably because she herself is on the side of falsity): With regard to the anti-vaccine literature, she has pointed out out that “[m]embers of the press may not bother to read these books but parents do and what they’re learning fuels the controversy,” which is probably true but doesn’t exactly support her complaint about lack of balanced media coverage (though Dachel has pretty explicitly admitted that her goal is to scare parents out of vaccinating their kids, not provide “balanced information”). Similarly, when people point out the trouble with false balance, Dachel responds by pointing out that “when undergrads heard arguments on both sides of the vaccine-autism debate, they were more likely to believe there is a link [between vaccines and autism],” which is not exactly the most convincing way of arguing that false balance is unproblematic. Also, complaining about false balance is a threat to (her) free speech. But of course.

Another favored line of argument is that you cannot trust research that suggests that vaccines are safe since they are not “independent stud[ies]”, where “independent” means not funded by anyone but anti-vaccine groups and not carried out by experts on the matter (who clearly have an agenda) – she actually seems to claim that the very fact that someone has written about vaccines makes what they have written about vaccines untrustworthy in virtue of showing that they have a vested interest in the truth of what they write (as long as it’s not what she wants them to write). And, of course, as if it needed mentioning: she doesn’t understand research. A third favored gambit is, of course, to move the goalposts. A fourth is to compare mandatory vaccination laws to nazi treatment of Jews (you didn’t expect the AoA to go there, did you?)

She sums up her lack of credibility pretty well herself in the title of her article “Industry Insider Paul Offit Attacks… Every Non-Pharma Treatment Known To Mankind.” Yes, it’s all a conspiracy against crankery and crackpottery, and Offit even has the gall to go “after a number of people in his books, including celebrities like Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola.” He does so apparently because the idea “that people are taking charge of their own health” is a threat to his … well, it’s a bit unclear, but at least she, in the course of her writing, lauds the idea “that diet, supplements, homeopathy, and alternative treatments like chelation and acupuncture can restore health and keep us that way,” i.e. treatments promoted by supplement producers who have no vested interests and just the good of humanity in mind.

Her job, by the way, seems to consist of setting up Google alerts having to do with autism, wait for the links in the search results to appear, find any posts critical of the debunked vaccine-autism link, and then call on her minions to barrage these posts with comments (but of course: it is those who disagree with her who are astroturfing). As well as, of course, to lecture journalists on what constitutes good journalistic practice.

Diagnosis: Fortunately relatively few people are so impervious to facts, evidence and critical thinking as Ann Dachel, but there are enough of them to be slightly worried. An utterly delusional crank and conspiracy theorist.


  1. For the D's I nominate these guys:

    Steve Drain (Westboro Baptist Church's new leader)
    Matt Drudge (if there's an inane conspiracy theory on the web, chances are that Drudge has promoted it)
    Lee Duigon (dominionist)
    Eugene Delgaudio
    Steve Deace (wingnut radio host)

  2. good suggestions Evan. i'd also love to see the encyclopedia discuss Billy deMoss, chiropractor and lover of every conspiracy theory ever known.

  3. I've mentioned this guy before, but John Derbyshire really deserves an entry.

    (Also, how can I sign in as something else besides "Unknown"?)

  4. I've had autism my whole life, & didn't even know it. I've also never had a vaccination until recently, I had to check whether it had eggs, I'm terribly allergic to them.