Twitter is a Wretched Hive…

Twitter is a Wretched Hive…

As @gorskon (on Twitter, find his blog on likes to say…of scum an villainy. My account there started off in 2014 because a friend had signed up, and I decided to give it a try. It soon became my favorite, and it wasn’t long before I began being engaged by anti-vaxers trying to convert me to their cause. Dr. Gorski had changed my mind about science, which I’d always hated because I didn’t understand it. But actual scientists and science advocates are very generous with their knowledge and resources, so I soon found myself getting links to research papers, textbook excerpts, and scholarly articles from them. And whatever I didn’t understand, they explained until I got it. This was…ummm…27 years ago, I think?

Twitter has been a phenomenal source for this. Many of the scientists I ended up following became friends as well, and I’ve met some of my moots in real life, shared video calls, had ongoing DM conversations. It’s been delightful.

So over time, my main account became a science advocacy one as well as a social one. (It’s part of the reason my blog has been inactive for so long!) Much of it, of course, was countering anti-vax misinformation, because anti-vaxers are deeply committed to all kinds of pseudoscience and outright woo. They have a high-profile presence in this regard.

But it was manageable.

Until Covid19.

It brought the purveyors of dangerous, often deadly, misinformation out in droves. And it has changed my, and many others’, experience of Twitter. Never have we had to repeat the same debunking of the same lies so many times. Never has it been so obvious that Twitter rules and Terms of Service are there only for the sake of appearance. Accounts that exist for the purpose of disseminating outright lies and selling useless and even dangerous substances to purportedly treat or prevent Covid19 flout these rules with impunity. Individuals who repeat these lies and spread ludicrous rumors about the disease and the vaccines we currently have to prevent it are protected by Twitter. We know this because we report them, and nearly every report comes back saying that Twitter sees no violation.


Yes, this is personal. I’ve had my account locked twice and four tweets hidden for violating their rules about Covid19 misinformation, even though a human being reading them would know immediately that they were correcting misinformation being spread by covidiots. They apologized for the hidden tweets and the first lockout, which did no good because it came after my account would have been unlocked anyway. This time, well…

They locked me for telling a covidiot that when vaccines were found to have potentially dangerous side effects or could cause dangerous adverse events, they were withdrawn from the market. It was determined that this tweet was spreading “misleading and potentially harmful information about Covid19.” I kid you not. When I appealed it, they changed their minds and said they were upholding my lockout for a completely different reason.


We’re writing to let you know that your account features will remain limited for the allotted time due to violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically our rules against abusive behavior.

To ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs on our platform, we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse. This includes behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another person’s voice.

Please note that continued abusive behavior may lead to the suspension of your account. To avoid having your account suspended, please only post content that abides by the Twitter Rules:



In the meantime, no action whatsoever has been taken regarding the tweets I reported from the account to which I was responding. You can check it out and scratch your heads as to why not…

I’m far from the only one. Twitter has locked/suspended/banned many scientists, doctors, researchers, science teachers, and other science advocates for years while ignoring the huge amount of “diverse opinions and beliefs” that are the reason we’re still in a pandemic. Many of them left and never came back. I don’t want to leave because of the friends I’ve made there and the education I continue to receive from science twitter.

So…my blog will have to come back to life so I can call out the ghouls and death merchants Twitter feels deserve a platform. It’ll take some time for my ADHD brain to get used to doing this, and I’ll have to figure out a way to get images on here without having to pay a site for image hosting. But I need to do this, because if Twitter is going to allow people to lie about a disease that’s killed millions and disabled millions more, it needs to be publicized. I might not be able to make a huge dent, but I can’t just do nothing. Wish me luck!

Anti-vax and Immunity From Cognitive Dissonance

Anti-vax and Immunity From Cognitive Dissonance

I spend entirely too much time on Twitter reading and participating in arguments with anti-vaxers. This is not to convince them they’re wrong so much as to convince fence-sitters and lurkers they’re wrong. Because they are. Their arguments go around in circles so fast, you could get whiplash trying to follow them. I’m going to try to compose a post that follows some order despite the subject matter being so disordered.

Anti-vaxers can’t decide what’s wrong with vaccines

First there was Wakefield…and the argument that the MMR vaccine caused autism. It’s been widely debunked by many large, well-designed studies, but that means nothing to the anti-vax community. So little that they went looking for something that the researchers had missed, like thimerosal. Which wasn’t in the MMR, and which has been also thoroughly tested, and whose removal from all childhood vaccines besides flu had no effect on the rates of autism diagnosis. Anti-vaxers like to call it mercury and equate this ethyl mercury with methyl mercury or even elemental mercury so that the miniscule amount that’s in a vaccine that you can get without it is so neurotoxic that getting a single flu vaccine is even more dangerous than getting all the vaccines before thimerosal was removed from them.

Well, something has to cause autism, right? So it’s the aluminum adjuvants! You can explain all you want about the ubiquity of aluminum in the environment, the amount in our brains that we tolerate just fine that far exceeds the amount in a vaccine, the fact that there is more aluminum in what we eat and breathe every day than in a full course of vaccines over years, or that the only people who’ve ever shown deleterious effects from aluminum have had renal failure or renal failure plus parenteral nutrition.

And again, they misrepresent aluminum adjuvants as elemental aluminum. The adjuvants are a compound that’s designed to stimulate an immune response and then get flushed out by the kidneys in short order. Anti-vaxers’ arguments frequently depend on a deliberate misunderstanding of chemical compounding. One I butted heads with frequently declared “pro-vaxers think aluminum is salt!” when presented with both the explanation of how the adjuvant is an aluminum salt, not elemental aluminum, but also with the example of how dangerous sodium is on its own, but how safe it is when combined with a chloride to make table salt. You can’t make this stuff up. They want to take the aluminum hydroxide out of the vaccines, but that means using more of the antigen or using a live virus instead of a weakened or killed one…so clearly if we did that, the vaccines would be even less safe, so we shouldn’t have them at all! You can’t win here.

They’ll move the goalposts over to formaldehyde. As with ethyl mercury and aluminum hydroxide, no amount of telling them about the dose making the poison will have an impact. And as with aluminum, no amount of comparing natural levels of exposure will convince them that they survive worse than vaccines. The amount of formaldehyde inn our bodies is already several thousand times higher than what’s in a vaccine, and is absolutely vital for cell reproduction. As well, the most dangerous way to be exposed to formaldehyde is through the lungs. Some anti-vaxers will reiterate the injection vs. ingestion trope here, forgetting entirely that vaccines aren’t inhaled. Tell them that baby’s going to breathe in a ton of formaldehyde from the new clothes and sheets and stuffed toys than he’s going to get from a vaccine, and you’ll get all kinds of crazy responses. Or blocked.

Now, when it’s actually penetrated to one or two of them that these individual ingredients are not toxic or not toxic in the amounts given in vaccines, they will often turn to “synchronous toxicity,” which means that it’s THE COMBINATION of all of these at once that creates a devastating neurotoxin. At this point, they will probably have told you that since there are no studies of the individual ingredients vs. saline (the only placebo they will accept) that we need to look into synchronous toxicity. Forget that the vaccines are tested for this every time they’re not tested vs. saline. Or that we have decades of clinical data to show that VACCINES ARE SAFE AND DON’T CAUSE AUTISM. I suppose we’ll have to devise tests on every possible combination of ingredients using saline as a placebo until we get the results the anti-vaxers want.

Anti-vaxers will read only poorly designed studies

They will also misinterpret good studies and cite them as proof of their anti-vax claims, not knowing that the studies actually contradict them.

Their favorite studies on ethyl mercury are the ones that say “since we didn’t have information on the toxicity of ethyl mercury, we substituted the numbers for methyl mercury.” If you give them the actual information on ethyl mercury, they’ll find a reason to dismiss it or ignore it entirely. Or block you.

They still insist that the studies that seemed to indicate higher levels of aluminum in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients (currently not considered supportive of causation) are clearly also supportive of less than a microgram of aluminum in a vaccine causing ASD. They will play math games that make it look like all the vaccines are given at once so as to compare it to a single day of exposure from food, or they’ll insist that “injection is different from ingestion” as if that causes the aluminum in a vaccine to multiply from less than a microgram to several milligrams. A study comparing different kinds of aluminum adjuvants using cells in a petri dish becomes concrete evidence that all adjuvants immediately cause irreversible brain damage.

While they bang the drum of “injected vs. ingested,” they’ll dig up information on the results of exposure to high levels of inhaled formaldehyde and insist that the trace amounts of formaldehyde will, guaranteed, produce equivalent results. They can’t explain, though, why morticians and scientists who work with preserved large specimens, or people who work with textiles don’t develop autism.

As I said above regarding “synchronous toxicity,” you can provide them with long lists of studies of the individual ingredients, combinations of ingredients, individual vaccines, combination vaccines, and they simply will refuse to read them. Some dismiss them out of hand because of some perceived conflict of interest (this came from the CDC! CORRUPT!!) while others will read only the title and make all their assumptions from there. Sometimes they’ll peek at the abstract, select a sentence or a few words that they can interpret as admission of danger or doubt, screenshot it and share it as if this proves their point. On rare occasions, they’ll skim through the study with the same motivation as they had for the abstract, picking a fragment that has no impact on the data, but that they think changes everything. What they will not do is read anything critically or learn enough science to understand what constitutes a good study.

They pretend that they like diseases better than vaccines

I say this because liking the diseases involves a fair amount of mental gymnastics to paint the diseases as benign. If you tell them that worldwide, over 130,000 people died from measles, they will dutifully explain that those are only people in third world countries (they’re not) or with compromised immune systems (also wrong) or “poor health,” which boils down to victim blaming for not eating what they’re supposed to or jogging every day or whatever. Don’t ask an anti-vaxer to define “health.” You’ll never get out of that rabbit hole.

Playing with statistics is one of their favorite ways to downplay the danger of disease. They don’t want worldwide stats, they want the number of people who died in an area with high vaccine compliance during certain years. They don’t care about morbidity, only mortality, and don’t want to see outcomes based on numbers of cases if numbers based on total population better suit their narrative. They point to relatives who survived a given disease as proof that disease is harmless, and refuse to acknowledge that there are still plenty of people who lived through the epidemics and remember the people who didn’t.

One of the weirder things they argue is the dangers of “shedding.” They claim to want their kids to get “natural immunity” to preventable disease by getting the diseases themselves. They never quite explain how natural immunity to rabies or tetanus is going to help their children survive them the next time, though. Anyway, in order to prove how frightened they are of vaccines and “vaccine injury,” they support the idea that the recently vaxed will shed a disease simply by being in the same room as their precious unvaxed children. Now, shedding is possible, but only in two vaccines – rotavirus and oral polio (not given in the US anymore.) In order for these to shed, you need direct contact with urine or feces. People who get a reaction to a live virus vaccine can theoretically “shed” a weakened form of the disease, but try finding verified cases of that (I found one on PubMed after a good amount of searching.)

So here it is that they want their kids to get diseases that have serious consequences, but are terrified that they might be exposed (somehow) to a weakened form that won’t actually cause the disease. At the pediatrician’s office, they could catch measles from an infected child who left a couple of hours ago, but they’re scared of the baby that just got the MMR.

To further reinforce their fears, they have increased the number of conditions that constitute “vaccine injury” to the point that pretty much any disease or disorder is caused by vaccines no matter that it predates vaccines or has a known cause or hasn’t increased except by population increases. They also increase figures for conditions that they say are caused by vaccines (like the diseases themselves) by adding unrelated diagnoses to things like polio while also saying that the reason we see drops in VPDs in areas with high vaccine compliance is because doctors are diagnosing VPDs as other diseases to cover up the “fact” that vaccines don’t work. They are, again, terrified that their children will catch these diseases (the ones being vaccinated against, or the ones they imagine the vaccines cause) while still espousing the idea that catching these diseases is a good thing for their kids’ immune systems.

Just keep arguing

As pointless as it is to argue with people who have developed this amazing ability to resolve cognitive dissonance by ignoring it, it’s not pointless to argue with them. What you see in these discussions is this lunatic fringe, but others are reading. If those others are not entirely convinced of your point by your sharing of factual information and scientific support, they’ll quite possibly be turned away by the contorted, angry, constantly self-contradictory arguments of the anti-vaxers with whom you’re engaged. Let them dig their own holes. Keep calm and keep bringing on the science. Herd Immunity depends on it.

My Brain Diary, Part 14

My Brain Diary, Part 14

And maybe, I hope, the last. Unless something miraculous happens and there are significant improvements or something terrible happens and I need more surgery. Neither case is very likely. Things are pretty well stabilized and my MRIs continue to look good.

It’s still very frustrating that my brain doesn’t work the way it did before. People see me and talk to me and say how amazing it is, they would never know I had a problem. I respond politely because their intentions are good and they can’t possibly know how much more difficult certain things are. I guess it’s a good thing that I have ADHD, because it’s taught me how to accept that I can’t change and figure out ways to compensate instead. That doesn’t mean I have to like it!

The anomia comes and goes. I’ll have days when I’ll forget most of the names of people whose faces come into my head, not be able to tell anyone what a thing I want or am looking for is called, or even identify something I’m holding in my hand verbally. But since it happens so often, I don’t get as agitated when people try to help me by suggesting words (that are often wrong) while dredging through my memory for a connection that’ll bring the word to the surface.

I’ve learned little tricks to work around my still slightly impaired sense of direction. Most of them involve planning ahead. That’s not my forte, but I try. When I don’t, I turn on navigation on my phone. I need to look at a larger picture to get a sense of relative position of everything, so even when I’ve already been somewhere I might pull out a map and spread it out so I can position the place mentally among multiple spots I’m already familiar with.

Since the last Brain Diary, I’ve been to school for Cosmetology and am waiting for my license to arrive any day (week, month. . .) I know, it doesn’t sound sciency at all. You’d be surprised, but that’s beside the point. Learning new things and performing services with my hands was not only great occupational therapy, but also gave me insight as to some particular effects I need to work around that I might not have noticed otherwise. For example, at the beginning, I would need to hold a picture of a hairstyle up to the mirror next to my mannequin head so they were both facing the same way, because I couldn’t mentally flip images. I still have to do some extra thinking sometimes, especially if I’m looking at something that’s asymmetrical, and sometimes I need to have my hands on a head at the same time as I’m looking at a picture. I also need to go very slowly right now to create symmetry, because as I go from one side to another my visual perception and body angle change unless I pay very close attention to altering my posture and directional gaze.

I simply can’t “do the same thing on the other side.” Braiding taught me this in a singularly humiliating way. I needed to find something that stayed the same no matter which hand was working because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t mirror what my right hand was doing with my left. If you watch me as I do it, you’ll see that I don’t hold my hands or the hair the same in both hands. The harder I try, the worse I do, and the more frustrated I get. I need to look at it almost as if it were two separate things I was doing. I described it to my fellow students as if I was trying to make a braid on two different heads, one hand for each. (Plus, I need to learn this for each different braid, and there are lots of them.) It was the first thing we learned, and the last thing I figured out. I’m still a ways from mastering it, and if I make up a stunning new design, it’ll be completely by accident!

This distorted sense of spatial relations is even worse on myself. Yeah, everyone says they have trouble doing their hair or makeup in the mirror, but I remember what that was like. It was like what I deal with now when working on someone else. Just like with the map, I need to establish points of reference that are outside myself that I can associate with one another. If the main point of reference is ON ME, that just can’t happen. I have become less inefficient at doing my own hair, but it’s still kind of comical how many different directions my comb and brush will go on different areas of my head and how many things I hit with the blow dryer that are not anywhere near my hair. My style is different every day because I can’t do it the same no matter what. I let people think it’s all creativity, but the most creative thing is figuring out how to get it to look like I did it that way on purpose. More often than not, I had an idea, tried to do it, then pulled out super strong holding products for damage control.

The other things I tried to do on myself were very useful for pinpointing specific deficits. I got it into my head that fake eyelashes would be better than mascara, and spent countless hours trying to put them on, went through three tubes of adhesive, and threw out 8 pairs of lashes and three packs of individuals before I gave it up. Towards the end, I realized that not only does my right eye not close independently without squinching it up tight, but it has weird “blind spots” where I can see colors and shapes but not “understand” what they are. I would finagle my way around getting a lash strip on my partially-open right eye, but when it came to the left, these “blind spots” made it impossible to put one on. I’d try with the left eye open enough so I could see through it, but each time my hands or wrists covered one eye or the other, my “sense of direction” would change. I’d have the strip placed perfectly, say, on the outer corner, but once I moved towards the center and one eye or the other was even partially blocked, I’d start pulling the strip in the wrong direction and sticking it to the middle of my eyelid, the tips of my lashes, or even pulling it off. It was during one of these frustrating sessions that I stopped and just covered and uncovered my eyes one at a time and realized that the world moved in different ways from one eye to the next and made more sense in the left than the right.

Makeup is a bit more symmetrical now, but that also took some training. Initially, I had to use pencils or chopsticks or other long, straight guides to make marks on my face, and even then I would end up with one side higher or lower than the other, farther out, closer together, darker or lighter. I still have to step back frequently because up close the right and left sides are perceptually disconnected. I won’t lie, there have been a lot of tears. When you’ve been doing something for 30 years with almost no thought at all and suddenly it requires slow going and meticulous attention to seemingly superfluous details, it makes you feel impaired. Even if it’s just something as silly as having to give up eyeliner because you can’t draw a single smooth line on your face anymore.

The good thing about this is that with the improved awareness of what’s doing what, I am getting better at accepting and compensating for my new set of neurological differences. They’re not going to change, or they would have by now. So here I am.