Respectful Insolence

Ask Jenny McCarthy a question!

Thanks to our “friends” at the Age of Autism, I’ve learned something interesting.

I knew that antivaccinationist “mother warrior” and Indigo Child Supreme Jenny McCarthy was slated to appear tomorrow, September 24, on the television show that arguably serves as the most powerful and pervasive promoter of woo, magical thinking, and dubious health advice in the world, The Oprah Winfrey Show. I hadn’t actually planned on watching it (I’m never home when it’s on anyway), and setting the DVR to record it for later viewing seems more than I’m willing to do to expose my brain to the neuron-apoptosing and -necrosing antivaccinationist stupidity that Jenny routinely lays down (and if it’s not antivaccine propaganda or autism quackery, it’s Indigo child woo). Indeed, lately I’ve been questioning whether any blog post, no matter how snarky and fun it might be, can ever be worth that kind of self-abuse to achieve.

However, I’ve learned that Jenny is going to be available live for a web chat tomorrow evening at 7 PM CDT:

Jenny McCarthy will be LIVE on Oprah.com Wednesday, September 24 at 7 p.m. CT and she wants hear from YOU! What questions do you have for Jenny? What stories would you like to share? If you want to speak to Jenny McCarthy LIVE, we want to hear from you!


OK, OK, I realize that obviously hostile questions are are about as likely to be brought to Jenny’s attention as the proverbial snowball is of surviving more than a minute in Hell. I also realize that the form requires a bit more personal information than you might be willing to give, for instance a telephone number. However, I’m hoping enough of you will be willing to give it a try. At the very least, the producers will see questions that would call into question Jenny’s stories about Evan, her son. Cynical woo-pushers that they are, it probably won’t make a difference, but it’s possible–just possible–that a carefully enough worded skeptical question might make it through the editorial gauntlet.

To that end, I once again rely on you, my readers, to make suggestions for skeptical questions that would put Jenny on the spot, questions that are both interesting enough and phrased in such a way that they might actually make it through the gauntlet of screening. You’ll have to be clever, but I know you have it in you. The comments of this post will then serve as a repository for ideas for such questions for anyone who actually might want to submit them!

Comments

  1. #1 Elaine
    September 23, 2008

    I used to like Oprah’s show. Now you never know whether it’s going to have something good, or something bogus like this.

    I’ve been trying to think of a clever question, but I can’t think of anything subtle. The anti-vaccine arguments are so obviously stupid that all I want to do is confront them directly.

  2. #2 Mike
    September 23, 2008

    In light of several recent studies, how do you plan to move your (tenuous) position forward?

  3. #3 Thomas
    September 23, 2008

    Another idea would be to ask a nice question that makes her expose herself as the loon she is. For example asking about for some specifics regarding the “indigo child” thing. See if we can get her going on talking about her kid and his “aura”. Hell, just making her explain how nonexistant mercury in vaccines still causes autism ought to be a hoot.

  4. #4 Joseph
    September 23, 2008

    I’d ask her something that tests her general knowledge of autism research. Such as:

    How rare are outcomes like Evan’s for autistic children first identified at age 2?

    Or something like:

    On September, 2007 you had stated Evan was recovered – he is “your science” as I recall. However, it is known that as late as May 2007 Evan had a series of seizures that lasted about 7 hours. He had to be put in a comma, and couldn’t talk or walk again for a month. Please elaborate on the notion of “recovery” and the use of mainstream medicine in this particular instance.

  5. #5 MKandefer
    September 23, 2008

    How long are questions allowed to be? It might be useful to use a question to educate individuals, as briefly as possible, on the role of anecdotal reports. More so, how they relate to clinical trials. Perhaps the following:

    “As humanity has progressed we’ve come to understand the limitations of our own experiences when evaluating the efficacy and safety of various medicinal substances. Such limitations necessitate the introduction of controlled clinical studies when performing such evaluations in order to remove bias, confounding factors, and human error. Given the abundance of good clinical studies that refute the belief that vaccines cause autism, why do you still support this position?”

    I enjoy your blog, and have learned a lot, but I’m not a medical student, or physician, so the above should probably be reworded by someone more apt to do so.

  6. #6 I am so wise
    September 23, 2008

    Here’s a question- Is there any primary source evidence (like a government document or corporate email) proving the wilder claims of your adherent such a corporate/government/media conspiracy to suppress knowledge of the evils of vaccines?

  7. #7 Desiree
    September 23, 2008

    Question:

    In August, an outbreak of the mumps in British Columbia, Canada was traced to a religious group that is opposed to vaccination. At last count there were over 190 people infected with the virus, and the outbreak has lead to meningitis, deafness and concerns about sterility.

    I very much support people’s right to determine their own medical care, but where is the line when someone else’s decision not to immunize directly contributes to innocent people’s health?

  8. #8 Scott
    September 23, 2008

    Desiree, here are my thoughts.

    It really is a very hard question, without a simple answer. Particularly since the impact depends on what *other* people do, too – specifically whether enough people decline vaccination to cause problems with herd immunity. Giving some leeway to 0.001% of the population is much less problematic than giving that leeway to 25%.

    Even harder, but even more important, is the situation where people are determining OTHER people’s medical care – specifically children. Parents are rightly given a great deal of leeway in determining what’s best for their children, but there is a limit (e.g. you can’t decide that your child will be best off if they’re illiterate and completely uneducated). At what point does society have the right to say “these fears are entirely unfounded, so we will not allow you to put your child’s health (along with that of everyone they come into contact with) at risk for no good reason?”

    Personally, I’d say we’re already there. I unfortunately also think that puts me in a very small minority.

  9. #9 Scott
    September 23, 2008

    Blast, hit post too soon.

    The point I was trying to make is that your question is far too complex to stand ANY chance of being addressed in such a context, even if the people involved are reasonable; which they aren’t in this case.

  10. #10 AutismNewsBeat
    September 23, 2008

    Is Dr. Jay Gordon still your science adviser?

  11. #11 L'asperge
    September 23, 2008

    …Evan had a series of seizures that lasted about 7 hours. He had to be put in a comma…

    Ironic, given that his mother is such a semi-colon.

  12. #12 oyun
    September 23, 2008

    Blast, hit post too soon.

    The point I was trying to make is that your question is far too complex to stand ANY chance of being addressed in such a context, even if the people involved are reasonable; which they aren’t in this case.

  13. #13 RJ
    September 23, 2008

    “…Evan had a series of seizures that lasted about 7 hours. He had to be put in a comma…

    Ironic, given that his mother is such a semi-colon.”

    No, there’s no semi- about her. Just a colon. A big, fat colon, period.

  14. #14 Dr Kilovolt
    September 23, 2008

    With Mercury going into retrograde tomorrow, you never know what technological chaos it might cause. That live web chat might not happen after all!

  15. #15 RJ
    September 23, 2008

    Well, they will probably blame that on Mercury too, just like everything else.

  16. #16 John Kingman
    September 23, 2008

    Ask her if she has read Dr. Offit’s book.

  17. #17 Science Mom
    September 23, 2008

    What, specifically, do you propose to ‘green our vaccines’? What would you use to replace aluminum salts as adjuvants? Or polysorbate-80 and 20 as surfactants for example?

  18. #18 HCN
    September 23, 2008

    Hey, Jenny, I just learned over a dozen babies each year die from pertussis in the USA. How do you propose we prevent those deaths?

    Or… Jenny, remember that great movie “Matilda” by Danny DeVito. Did you know that Roald Dahl wrote it in memory of his daughter who died from measles?

  19. #19 Barbara
    September 23, 2008

    Ms. McCarthy, do you think that Evan has the same right to privacy for his medical problems that you have?

  20. #20 Sly
    September 24, 2008

    “Why do you believe in the “autism” diagnosis, being that it was obtained in the same way scientific medicine finds treatments, using “science”?, how do you know autism is a sickness in the first place if you reject their scientific method? How do we know if we ignore science as a way of acquiring knowledge? I believe/love you Jenny, show me how to think, how do I repeat your success?.” Too much? ambivalent enough?,

  21. #21 Petri
    September 24, 2008

    “Jenny, I have taken my child to several doctors, all of them recommend vaccination, they tell me there is no proven link between vaccines and autism. What can I tell them to explain my worries, and convince them this is a real threat?”

  22. #22 Simplicio
    September 24, 2008

    “Jenny, how do you test the truth of what you are told? What pointers can you give to help people identify others who are spreading misinformation?”

  23. #23 AspieMom
    September 24, 2008

    Jennie: How is it that my autistic child showed signs of autism BEFORE I consented to vaccinations that I made sure did not contain any Mercury or products made from Mercury or its by-products? I have Asperger’s, and showed signs before I recieved any vaccinations… my parents waited until I entered Kindergarten before they vaccinated me. My half-brother has Asperger’s and was raised in a commune… he wasn’t vaccinated until he entered public school well into his elementery years. Our father is very obviously on the spectrum and didn’t get vaccinated until he was drafted during the Vietnam War. It is impossible that we four have vaccine-induced Autism Spectrum Disorders, when all four showed our symptoms before being vaccinated. How do you figure that genetics are not the culprit?

  24. #24 Dangerous Bacon
    September 25, 2008

    “Jenny, how do we “green” ignorant, prejudiced attitudes toward vaccines that threaten our children’s health?”

  25. #25 Abstruse
    September 25, 2008

    —–”Jenny, how do you test the truth of what you are told? What pointers can you give to help people identify others who are spreading misinformation?”——

    That post is so full of win. It could probably make it through Oprah’s censors. Considering they have demonstrated they are totally inept when it comes to the interwebs.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQvao_naV34

    (over NINE THOUSAND!! is a meme)

    and the horrid “rape instruction manual” that she tried to pass off to her credulous audience as legit.

  26. #26 Kula
    September 26, 2008

    I know I’m too late, but I still want to know:

    Jenny,
    Do you ever lie awake and night and hope your child is never exposed to one of the vaccine preventable diseases against which he has no protection?

    Do you pray/meditate to the woo gods for all the children whose parents have chosen to believe you about vaccines when all you are doing is trying to make a buck and keep your name in the headlines? (I know, look at the magic Oprah has done with her book club! Who can blame you! A no-talent actor has to work what she can, whether it’s big fake boobs or using her child for attention. )

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