Friday 7 March 2014

For the record: correcting Simon Chapman

I wrote a short article/long letter to the British Medical Journal last month after they published Jonathan Gornall's conspiracy theory about minimum pricing. Some days later, Simon Fenton Chapman played the uninvited guest with an off-topic Rapid Response about what a mean, mean man I am. As it contained his trademark untruths, I felt moved to post a Rapid Response myself to set the record straight. I submitted it on Monday.

The BMJ publishes Rapid Responses at its own discretion and has do far failed to publish my response. This is puzzling editorial decision considering that I am the author of the original piece and I was only writing to correct factual inaccuracies in a reader's comment. The BMJ moves in mysterious ways.

So, for the record, here is Chapman's Rapid Response followed my (unpublished) reply. I've had to write it from memory but it is essentially the same as the original.

Chris Snowdon's call for civility ("This exceeds the limits of civilised discourse. We trust that in the cold light of day the BMJ recognises that smearing opponents of price fixing as Fascists is disgraceful. An apology and retraction would be welcome.") will surely have no competitors this decade for the most unctuously nauseating piece of hypocrisy to appear in the BMJ's pages.

Snowdon's blog is little more than a foaming sewer of schoolyard invective. He has no economic qualifications and to my knowledge has never published a single piece of research in any peer reviewed journal.

Here are some choice examples he has fired at me in recent years: 23 May 2011: “His insane wibblings are worrying yes, but still bloody funny to read. It's quite incredible that such a retard has achieved so high a profile since he must take 10 minutes every morning figuring out how his trouser zip works.”

“that sad old sociologist Simon Chapman”; “the irksome, omnipresent über-wowser Simon Chapman”; “Anti-smoking dinosaurs like Simon Chapman”; “the creepy sociologist Simon Chapman”; “scrotum-faced head-banger Simon Chapman” “reptilian sociologist” “wizened quackademic Simon Chapman” “wrinkly rocker Simon Chapman” “that twisted old narcissist Simon Chapman” “Coffin-dodging sociologist Simon Chapman”

I note he declares no competing interests. I have a screen shot from his blog dated 12 March 2008 where he says "he has no affiliation of financial ties with the tobacco industry or any anti-smoking group." That declaration was later quietly removed. Snowdon has many ties with tobacco interests (see Will the BMJ be asking Snowdon to elaborate on his declaration about alcohol?

My reply:

While I am happy to take the credit for colourful adjectives regarding Prof. Chapman's advancing years, his killer example of my 'invective' ('insane wibblings' etc.) was not written by me but by one of my blog's readers. As Chapman provides a link to the post in question, it is surprising that he did not read it more thoroughly. My words appear in the main text of the post under my name whereas comments appear below the post under the heading 'comments'. This is how blogs typically work.

Contrary to Prof Chapman's claim, I have had articles published in peer-reviewed journals and I have also reviewed articles for peer-reviewed journals. However, considering the amount of nonsense that has passed peer review over the years - including deliberate gibberish such as the Sokal hoax - I prefer to look at the merits of research rather than relying on its source.

I am happy to expand on my declaration by reproducing verbatim what I originally sent the BMJ:

"The author has occasionally spoken at meetings organised by the alcohol industry and the government. He has received a fee in neither instance, but has sometimes received travel and accommodation expenses." 

If the BMJ chose not to include this when it published my article in the print edition, I assume it is because they consider such "ties" - as Chapman would doubtless describe them - too trivial to be a competing interest.


Ivan D said...

The response from Chapman is a predictably immature off topic ad hominem and I am surprised that the BMJ published it.

Agreed on peer review. The BMJ has accidentally admitted that it no longer regards it as a gold standard, something that the rest of us have known for decades. It is a shame that people like Chapman appear to believe that comment should be restricted to an elite club of mutually supportive peer reviewed (in the right journals), self proclaimed "experts" but this attitude is consistent with the politics that pervade public health.

I read a second rapid response to your piece from a retired GP called Steven Duncan Ford which is more worrying in some ways in that it is an intellectually inept Marxist diatribe containing this paragraph:

"The Anglo-American neo-liberal free market globalised capitalist model has had its day in the sunshine and is now sinking beneath the weight of its own corruption, internal contradictions and amorality. Not to mention that it doesn't work."

Is there anyone out there (Labour Party members excluded) who has not yet worked out that the public health industry is more interested in politics than health?

Like most Marxists, Duncan Lord knows what he doesn't like but has no credible blueprint for replacing it with anything better. All he is therefore able to contribute to the debate is hate and bitterness.

He is entitled to his views of course but my wider concern over the medical establishment is that it is in a position to abuse the unjustifiable respect it receives from press and politicians to practice politics without needing a mandate from the people to do so.

Carl V Phillips said...

Always post letters to the editor to your blog first. That way you will still have a copy when they try to bury it. :-)