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Back in the early 20th century, my grandmom used to write letters to movie stars. Sometimes, she would get a response along with a headshot, which was sometimes signed. She collected all the headshots in an album, which is still in my family.
I think of that sometimes when I realize how ridiculously accessible our celebrities are today. If you want to feel connected in some way to a movie star, you don’t have to write them a letter and hope their publicist responds months later — you can just Tweet them a funny joke, or watch their livestream, or “like” their Instagram posts. It’s great, but it’s also really bad, because now it’s way easier to find out that the people you admire for being good actors are also gigantic shitheads or ignorant jackasses.
So let’s talk about William Shatner. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone that he might be a gigantic shithead, considering his reputation. His Star Trek castmates always had a lot to say about his behavior, like his constant jealousy of both Spock’s intelligence and Leonard Nimoy’s fan base. George Takei hates him and called him the “problem uncle” of the family. Walter Koenig pointed out that the cast probably got along so well in part because of their mutual hate of Shatner. Celeste Yarnall described Shatner’s flirtation on set as “relentless” and even Garrett Wang hates him.
Shatner has also been notoriously shitty to fans at conventions, but despite that he’s regained popularity in recent years by making himself accessible, thanks to his Twitter account with 2.5 million followers. He usually comes across as genial, until he’s challenged in literally any way. That happened last week when he tweeted support for the organization Autism Speaks, which has often dipped into pseudoscience over the years by giving credence to the lie that vaccines cause autism. They very recently stopped doing that but the trust is gone and frankly, there are better organizations to support.
Some people tried to point this out to Shatner, but unfortunately they were amongst a crowd of people berating him for his support of the organization. A decent, intelligent person has the ability to look beyond the angry words and figure out what has gone wrong, but as we all know now, that’s not Shatner. And rather than lash out at any of the people who were over-the-top mean to him, Shatner chose to target Dr. David Gorski. Full disclosure: I know and like Gorski, and he runs the Science-Based Medicine blog.
Gorski Tweeted at Shatner with pure and polite information: “AS supported vaccine/autism pseudoscience, and even now refuses to take a clear stand against it.”
In response, Shatner turned his defensiveness up to 11 and went into full meltdown mode. Instead of actually engaging with Gorski, he Googled him and posted what he found: a link to a hit piece on Mike Adams’ Wiki-for-conspiracy-theorists, TruthWiki. When challenged, he then posted a link to Mike Adams’ website, Natural News and a similar site called NewsTarget.
Shatner claimed that these were just the links that happened to come up when he Googled Gorsk, which is true! If you Google him, you’ll find those links, after scrolling past his information at Science-based Medicine, his Twitter account, and his actual Wikipedia page, all of which would immediately inform you that yes, he goes after pseudoscientists who promote the imaginary vaccine/autism link and in turn they viciously go after him.
When people pointed out Shatner’s sources are bullshit, he dug in further and has Tweeted numerous times calling Gorski a “celebrity” doctor and pretending that it’s Gorski who has in any way misrepresented or libelled Shatner. It’s classic projection, seeing as Shatner has now given Mike Adams’ libel a platform for literally millions of people. Mike Adams, by the way, is the guy who literally told his supporters to start killing scientists in 2014. And now, thanks to Shatner, Gorski is probably back in his crosshairs.
Shatner has now tweeted about Gorski so much I can’t even keep up with it all, and it’s frankly disgusting that he’s using his platform to bully a scientist who is trying to inform the public about a dangerous misconception. As bad as Shatner has been to all his coworkers, this may actually be the worst thing he’s ever done. And I’m including Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in that.