andrew wakefield is the doctor who kicked off the debate about the MMR jab – and whether combining the measles mumps and rubella inoculation was possibly responsible for an as-yet unexplained surge in cases of autism… brian deer is the would-be nick broomfield aiming to show us that wakefield’s crusade was inspired by conflict of interest not “pure science” or worries about the disease he was researching

well, i don’t ever use “nick broomfield” in a complimentary way: i detest the species of manipulative documentarism he’s pioneered… and true to form, deer presents himself as the know-nothing-who-understands-everything, including one peerlessly repellent moment where he hands over some proposed project of wakefield’s – a great tombstone of text, clearly hundreds if not thousands of pages long – and gets it “reviewed-at-a-glance” by an expert in the field (we – literally – see one expert read one paragraph on camera, and THAT’S IT!); to shove the desired point home, deer then pointed to a sentence (still on page one), “so what about this bit with the goat” and actually took it on himself to chuckle with fake bafflement as he asked the expert to comment further (ok, goats are intrinsically funny but actually not ALL goat-related biology is therefore intrinsically humorously worthless (deer’s chuckling was teacher’s-pet-style sucking up, not knowledge)…

later when deer arrived in the US to root out some little old retired professor somehow connected to the rogue project he thinks is behind wakefield’s initial intervention, the professor’s lack of credibility was as much derived from the size of his former house (small! a “good” scientist wd obviously have a giant gleaming mansion) and the way he dressed (strange) than any deep look at his career or achievements (or indeed failures and crimes). Wakefield did indeed imply “something rotten in the state of denmark!” – *not* actually an invariably corrupt question to ask (even when yr very extremely misguided); all Deer wz doing wz shouting “i dare to insist something rotten abt anyone who questions the state of denmark!”

look, a. whistleblowers often are cranky, slightly obsessive people, not smooth cogs in the big machine that everyone is secretly on board with
b.finding scientists who think each other’s work is ridiculous is not that hard or revelatory; good science is as fuelled by ambition and competitive contempt as bad science is
c.actually in science good ideas sometimes really do arise from bad earlier ones: being wrong (and silly) before may be what LEADS YOU TO BEING RIGHT
d. if yr gnna get arsey abt the ways the profit motive distorts the presentation of medicine and the practice of research, it’s NOT just the cranks and outliers you shd mainly be getting arsey at

the problem is that even if deer’s thesis is entirely correct (that wakefield is a clown and a humbug and possibly a crook), his shtick entirely depends on a contradictory manipulative play:
i. set yrself up as the noble little knight tilting at establishment giants;
ii. rely first last and always on the firepower and authority of EVEN BIGGER *MORE* ESTABLISHED GIANTS