Respectful Insolence

Oh, goody.

It looks as though the fall is going to be a repeat of the spring as far as anti-vaccine lunacy goes. This spring, we had the release of a book by the now disgraced granddaddy of the most recent incarnation of the anti-vaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield. The book, entitled Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines–The Truth Behind a Tragedy, was released to great fanfare by the antivaccine movement and then promptly tanked. This is not surprising, given how bad it apparently was. Only the die hards would want a copy, and it’s currently languishing around number 23,576 on the Amazon Bestseller List. So May saw the release of Wakefield’s book, and June and July saw it gone.

What’s next for the anti-vaccine movement?

Gluttons for punishment that they are, apparently Mark “Not A Doctor, Not A Scientist” Blaxill and Dan “Where are the Autistic Amish?” Olmsted are going to grace the publishing world with their very own book, entitled The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic. (How original.) It’s due to be released on September 14, 2010, and already the anti-vaccine propaganda blog Age of Autism is cranking up the advertising:

We started on the journey to write this book determined to seek the truth, and now we need you to help spread the word about what we found: early sales increase press runs, expand bookstore orders and launch best sellers that command national attention. For the sake of our children, our country and our future, attention MUST be paid.

More like: For the sake of our bank accounts and our fame, money MUST be paid.

The hilarious thing about this book is that it’s so…well, 2004 in its outlook. Or even earlier. To me it looks as though Blaxilla and Olmthra are going to party like it’s 1999. After all, that is the year that the CDC and AAP decided to recommend the removal of thimerosal from childhood vaccines, and it was late 2001 by the time the process was complete. In any case, get a load of the cover blurb on its Amazon.com page:

For centuries, medicine has made reckless use of one of earth’s most toxic substances: mercury–and the consequences, often invisible or ignored, continue to be tragic. Today, background pollution levels, including global emissions of mercury as well as other toxicants, make us all more vulnerable to its effects. From the worst cases of syphilis to Sigmund Freud’s first cases of hysteria, from baffling new disorders in 19th century Britain to the modern scourge of autism, THE AGE OF AUTISM traces the long overlooked history of mercury poisoning.

Now, for the first time, authors Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill uncover that history. Within this context, they present startling findings: investigating the first cases of autism diagnosed in the 1940s revealed an unsuspected link to a new form of mercury in seed disinfectants, lumber fungicides and vaccines. In the tradition of Silent Spring and An Inconvenient Truth, Olmsted and Blaxill demonstrate with clarity how chemical and environmental clues may have been missed as medical “experts,” many of them blinded by decades of systemic bias, instead placed blamed on parental behavior or children’s biology. By exposing the roots and rise of The Age of Autism, this book attempts to point the way out – to a safer future for our children and the planet.

Wow! Mercury can do everything, can’t it?

Of course, the Dimmer Twins’ latest book has everything. Horrible “toxins” making millions ill? Check? Mercury causing autism? Check. Medical experts “ignoring” all the signs that only parents could see? Check.

Feeling as though has been lobotomized after reading this book? Almost certainly check.

If course, the usual suspects are there, too, providing helpful blurbs of praise to tell you that how awesome Blaxill and Olmsted’s research skills are. Of course, given how many truly stinky bombs of idiocy Blaxill has deposited before and Olmsted’s amazing inability to find the Clinic for Special Children right in the heart of Amish country, anyone who can praise the Dimmer Twins for their research ability clearly wouldn’t know good (or bad) research skills if it bit them on the proverbial posterior. Maybe that’s why Jenny McCarthy herself contributed this blurb:

A fascinating read that shatters many myths of the very real autism epidemic that is happening before our eyes. Every parent will benefit from Olmsted and Blaxill’s well-researched story of the environmental factors contributing to autism, and perhaps leave with ideas for how to start recovering their child today.

Does this mean that Olmsted and Blaxill will be contributing information on autism quackery “biomed” treatments as well as their six year old scientifically discredited ideas that mercury in vaccines causes autism? Stay tuned. Perhaps my favorite two blurbs are the following. First, there’s one by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the man who, other than David Kirby, is arguably the most responsible for popularizing the myth that mercury in vaccines causes autism:

Olmsted and Blaxill’s devastating account shows how medical and manufacturing interests have mounted an assault on human health for decades and covered their tracks along the way. The Age of Autism is only the latest episode in centuries of crimes against nature but is in many ways the most troubling. Autistic children are the canaries in the coal mine; shame on all of us if we don’t heed their distress call.

“Crimes against nature”? To protect children from deadly infectious diseases? I suppose if you’re crunchy enough to think that it’s better to suffer from these diseases, depriving the poor, poor, pitiful microbes of the opportunity to sicken and kill children is a “crime against nature,” but among those in the reality-based community, not so much. Of course, it looks to me from the description of the book that Olmsted and Blaxill, realizing that the idea that mercury in vaccines causes autism has been discredited, plan on casting a wider net to blame mercury in the environment and industrial pollution for autism. Still, some of the promoters of this book apparently didn’t get the message, promoters like Deirdre Imus, wife of aging and unfunny washed up shock jock and sometime fellow traveler with the mercury militia Don Imus:

The Age of Autism lays out disturbing evidence that mercury from many sources is a major factor in the rise of this tragic epidemic. And vaccines are by no means off the hook. One wonders why doctors who gave children multiple vaccinations loaded with the neurotoxin thimerosal (mercury) didn’t also hand the kids a pack of cigarettes. Make sure your doctor sees a copy of this timely book.

My guess is that most pediatricians have enough to worry about without having to read the pseudoscientific ramblings of anti-vaccine propagandists. I do love the tired old comparison of vaccination and vaccine companies to tobacco companies. That one is so old and lame that it’s a favorite of everyone’s favorite anti-vaccine apologist pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon.

Remember, when I volunteered to try to blog Suzanne Somer’s cancer book last fall? I realize that I utterly failed to follow through after the first three or four chapters, but I have my reasons. First, my brain was in pain, so dense was the quackery and pseudoscience within the book. Second, I got very, very busy after that time and didn’t get around to reading the rest of it. Maybe I can do better this time. All I need is a review copy of The Age of Autism.

II wonder if Blaxill’s and Olmsted’s publicist would send me a copy if I wrote a polite request as a blogger. I promise to be fair and science-based in my assessment of the book. Really.

Comments

  1. #1 Wayward son
    July 6, 2010

    Anyone know anything about Ken Siri’s new book: Cutting Age Therapies for Autism 2010-2011?

    It’s first mentioned therapy on it’s amazon page is chelation so It looks pretty woo to me and is probably more likely to end up in the hands of a confused parent with a newly diagnosed ASD child than Wakefield’s or Olmsted’s crap which will mainly be pushed by the ultra woo true believers.

    I would post a link but I am using my phone.

  2. #2 Joseph
    July 6, 2010

    How is this book going to be much different to Evidence of Harm? Sounds like it will be just as dated when it’s released.

  3. #3 Broken Link
    July 6, 2010

    Now, for the first time, authors Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill uncover that history. Within this context, they present startling findings: investigating the first cases of autism diagnosed in the 1940s revealed an unsuspected link to a new form of mercury in seed disinfectants, lumber fungicides and vaccines.

    The first time? I don’t think so. I remember Olmsted pontificating on these issues some time ago. Click on my ‘nmy for his summary column for UPI in the original “Age of Autism” series. It’s titled The Age of Autism – The Last Word. . . If only that were so :(

    The book is already slipping in the Amazon rankings. I think that even the faithful must realize that they’ve already read all of that stuff before.

  4. #4 Mu
    July 6, 2010

    I noticed Amazon offering the true three-pack of horror as a special deal:

    Buy the selected items together

    * This item: The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Manmade Epidemic by Dan Olmsted$18.47
    * Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines: The Truth Behind a Tragedy by Andrew J. Wakefield$17.79
    * All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism by Kim Stagliano$16.47

    Can you prosecute a bookseller for crimes against humanity?

  5. #5 Science Mom
    July 6, 2010

    Oh, could this be the work that ‘smarter than a yam’ has been touting that is going to show all of us rubes how woefully inept we are? How positively delicious if Blaxill or Olmstead turn out to be STY; nah-uh, it’s almost too good to be true.

    Out of curiosity, who determines who gets advanced copies of books to review? I don’t see any unbiased, competent reviewers on Amazon thus far.

  6. #6 Fuzzzone
    July 6, 2010

    Mid-September? I suppose that probably makes it too early to qualify as our long-awaited polemic from STY.

  7. #7 Orange Lantern
    July 6, 2010

    I am borrowing a copy of Wakefield’s book so I can’t be accused of not reading it, but I don’t think I’m going to bother to make the same effort on this one. Seems pretty second rate to me.

  8. #8 nostrum
    July 6, 2010

    “Out of curiosity, who determines who gets advanced copies of books to review? I don’t see any unbiased, competent reviewers on Amazon thus far.”

    Advanced copies go to the people you tell your publisher are likely to give your book positive reviews. So your mom, your cousin, your best friend, and your neighbors all get copies. The whole point of advanced copies is to create publicity, and in this age, that includes Amazon.

  9. #9 MikeMa
    July 6, 2010

    They must be feeding a lot of tuna fish to those newborns.

    I wonder if they will finally understand and accurately present the difference between ethyl and methyl mercury? Seeing the number of trolls on here who don’t know or don’t care, it wouldn’t surprise me if the ‘minor’ differences are just glossed over.

    That 3-some Mu pointed is one stinky trio. Got to be an Amazon loss leader.

  10. #10 Pablo
    July 6, 2010

    I noticed Amazon offering the true three-pack of horror as a special deal:

    Buy the selected items together

    * This item: The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Manmade Epidemic by Dan Olmsted$18.47
    * Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines: The Truth Behind a Tragedy by Andrew J. Wakefield$17.79
    * All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism by Kim Stagliano$16.47

    How in the hell does Kim Stagliano have ANY credibility, even in the anti-vax world? I mean, she is the friggin poster child for “modern vaccination practices are NOT the problem.” That is even if you accept HER claims at face value! And if you have any sense at all, she is the perfect example of the genetics origin of autism.

  11. #11 s
    July 6, 2010

    As I was sighing and rolling my eyes reading this out loud, my husband said, “Oh, it’s a work of fiction!” That about sums it up.

    Tweedledee and Tweedledum are my preferred nick names for the authors.

    I’m sure this will set the publishing world on fire. /sarcasm/

  12. #12 Science Mom
    July 6, 2010

    I am borrowing a copy of Wakefield’s book so I can’t be accused of not reading it, but I don’t think I’m going to bother to make the same effort on this one. Seems pretty second rate to me.

    OK, burning question Orange Lantern; who do you know that would own a copy of that book and let you borrow it?

  13. #13 Harbo
    July 7, 2010

    I have never wanted to illegally download before.
    But there is no way I want money to pass into the hands of this lot, however much i want a laugh.

  14. #14 a-non
    July 7, 2010

    Dan, Mark and Andy should all go on a book tour together, kind of like those faded heavy metal bands do these days.

  15. #15 David N. Brown
    July 7, 2010

    “Olmsted’s amazing inability to find the Clinic for Special Children right in the heart of Amish country…”
    He did somehow find Dr. Frank Noonan, who was the only physician consulted who didn’t admit to knowing of autistic Amish. But, Olmsted neglected to report what “wellness center” it was that Noonan claimed to have treated “thousands and thousands” of Amish children in.

    But Olmsted deserves bigger kudos for more recent feats: Like missing the right patent policy for calculating Offit’s Rotateq payments AND using the wrong patent. Or overlooking the three jobs, two addresses and 20 papers in Poul Thorsen’s name after Jane Burgemeister alleged he “vanished”.

  16. #16 Rene Najera
    July 7, 2010

    I found their first mistake in the description, right away, right there… see it?

    It’s not “intoxicants”. It’s “intoxiCANs”.

    (Yeah, that was childish.) Anyway, I’m working on my own book of fiction, titled “Unit 26″, in which a criminal mastermind plays a deadly game of Chinese Checkers with a young, inexperienced, but smart, epidemiologist through a series of biological attacks, while the anti-vaccine forces succeed in their wet dream of bringing public health to its knees. Who’s behind these attacks? Why is the former porn star missing in action? Will the FDA be only partially or completely emasculated by the Senator and his special interests? And will our hero uncover a conspiracy that goes so deep not even “Coast to Coast AM” has heard of such a thing?

    Due out in January 2011.

  17. #17 Todd W.
    July 7, 2010

    @Rene Najera

    Didn’t I read that already over on AoA or some similar site? Please show at least a modicum of originality. Sheesh.

  18. #18 Rene Najera
    July 7, 2010

    @Todd

    Do you mean the “intoxiCANs” joke or the book idea?

    And, hey, if the antivaccine crowd is not going to be original, why should I? Fight fire with fire, right?

  19. #19 Todd W.
    July 7, 2010

    @Rene

    The book idea. I mean, you got the plot from their blog, right? Admit it. :P

  20. #20 MikeMa
    July 7, 2010

    Todd,
    Rene could not have gotten the idea at AoA. It shows too much imagination.

  21. #21 Rene Najera
    July 7, 2010

    @Todd

    I’ll never admit it. You’ll have to torture me before I tell you that their demagoguery and falsehoods inspired that plot.

    @MikeMa

    Oh, they’re imaginative alright… You have read Kim-Kim’s tales, right? She’d be brilliant if her stories weren’t so scary. (My opinion. Read that, Kim? My O-P-I-N-I-O-N.)

  22. #22 Calli Arcale
    July 7, 2010

    Mu @ 4:

    I noticed Amazon offering the true three-pack of horror as a special deal:

    Buy the selected items together

    * This item: The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Manmade Epidemic by Dan Olmsted$18.47
    * Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines: The Truth Behind a Tragedy by Andrew J. Wakefield$17.79
    * All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism by Kim Stagliano$16.47

    In all fairness, I believe groups like these are autogenerated. (I believe that largely because I’ve seen much less logical groupings offered.) Amazon tracks people’s progress through their site, and also their purchases. If their system notices people tending to buy certain books together, or to buy one book and also a particular movie, it will start listing that information under “People who bought this book also bought….” It would not be difficult to take that sort of data, add whatever metadata they store for these books (keywords, subject tags, etc, possibly also searching user reviews) and automatically cobble together package deals to try to get people to buy a few more things than they were originally planning on.

  23. #23 MikeMa
    July 7, 2010

    Rene@21
    I do not have the stomach for Kim’s crap. If that is what is required to get ideas for the book, I salute your strength.

  24. #24 Mu
    July 7, 2010

    Calli, I know these groups are computer generated, probably truly based on “people who bought this also bought” data. That doesn’t make it any less of a symbol of utmost woo, so I find computer generated woo slightly ironic.

  25. #25 Calli Arcale
    July 7, 2010

    I find it entertaining to look for ironic groupings, or simply ridiculous ones. It seems to be a pretty good algorithm (these books are at least ones that appeal to the same audience) but once in a while it throws a doozy. I’d love to see it recommend one of these *and* Paul Offit’s book. :-D

  26. #26 Sir Eccles
    July 7, 2010

    The tags customers associate with this product section of the Amazon page is quite revealing:

    complete crap(9)
    propaganda(9)
    un-scientific hoax(9)
    lies(8)

    medical fraud(7)
    nonsense(7)
    scientific fraud(7)
    anti-science(5)

    idiotic(5)
    anti-intellectu alism(4)

  27. #27 Sivi
    July 7, 2010

    Can I just mention how incredibly bloody creepy “start recovering your child” sounds? “Start your child’s recovery” would be marginally better, but it still squicks me a bit how abhorrent the anti-vax ‘autism awareness’ groups find ADSs to be.

  28. #28 t_p_hamilton
    July 7, 2010

    Maybe Olmsted could not find autism in Amish communities because he could not find them in the phone book.

  29. #29 augustine
    July 7, 2010

    “The tags customers associate with this product section of the Amazon page is quite revealing:”

    Those aren’t tags. Those are fallacies called poisoning the well put there by people such as yourself and other vitriolic people. And then you say “look! look! Look at the tags. This is revealing.”

  30. #30 Orange Lantern
    July 7, 2010

    @ Science Mom,

    Nobody I know personally. I really want to read it and obviously don’t want to pay for it, so I was in a bit of a conundrum.

    So, I emailed a certain SBM blogger. I’m sending her a postage paid envelope and she’s gracious enough to lend me her review copy. :) If that hadn’t worked I probably would have bought the book and sent a 10x larger donation to ASF.

    In my practice, though, I have had a family give me a copy of Dr. Cave’s book. I really can’t get more than a few pages into it without my eyes burning. I imagine AoA will be the same.

  31. #31 Science Mom
    July 7, 2010

    @ Orange Lantern, ahh, very resourceful of you and don’t blame you a bit for not wanting to pay for it. I actually know some mummies that probably own a copy but if I asked to borrow it, they would (rightfully) be very suspect as to my intentions and refuse. I think my blog co-author may have obtained a copy so I will replicate your transaction.

    @ Augie, oh stuff a sock in it already you whiny tosser.

  32. #32 Broken Link
    July 7, 2010

    Amazon.com rankings

    July 5 (as per Dan O): #269,000
    8AM, July 6: AoA asks reader to buy the book
    4PM, July 6: #491
    5PM, July 6: #595
    6PM, July 6: #634
    8AM, July 7: #967
    9PM, July 7: #1,709

    Anyone want to bet that it’s back down to 10,000 by tomorrow?

  33. #33 zed
    July 8, 2010

    How dare they release this book on my birthday!

  34. #34 Ruth
    July 8, 2010

    I saw Kirby’s new book, “Animal Factories”, so he has apparently given up on the anti-vax stuff. How our food is being produced is an important topic, but I don’t think Kirby is the person to do an in-depth book on science and public policy.

  35. #35 Calli Arcale
    July 8, 2010

    Augustine: Amazon allows readers to tag books, thereby tapping their readers’ collective knowledge. You are of course free to add your own. You can add up to 15 of your own. If you allow them to be made public (by default they are), then Amazon’s server may poll from them to decide what tags to show on the product listing page. Amazon will also use them to help recommend products to you, whether you’ve tagged them publicly or privately. If you consider some of them abusive, they probably have a complaint system.

    Like Wikipedia, it’s fairly democratic. Unlike Wikipedia, the purpose is entirely commercial, and these tags will actually help to sell the book, especially if the book is getting tagged by a lot of people, allowing Amazon to get really good data about people’s impression of it. Remember, they’re not interested in killing the book; they’re interested purely in making sales, and they’ll sell this book as happily as they’ll sell Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

  36. #36 brian
    July 8, 2010

    One of the Age of Autism authors, Mark (not a doctor, not a scientist) Blaxill, makes it clear in this post at AoA (http://www.ageofautism.com/2010/07/new-autism-consortium-study-proves-again-that-inherited-genes-dont-cause-autism.html) that he might require a new title: “not a doctor, not an epidemiologist or a geneticist or any sort of scientist”:

    I already suspect, based on personal experience, that it’s possible to be competent in science but know nothing of business; Blaxill proves that expertise in business in general or in intellectual property in particular doesn’t suggest any knowledge of science, including genetics, epidemiology, etc.

  37. #37 Smarter Than You
    July 11, 2010

    ORAC…once again, you are so so clueless and I’m kind of getting embarrassed for you reading some of your stupid shit. I have read this book, and these two know more about autism in their small left toes than you will your entire life. You should read it just so you actually start getting a clue. MORON!!!

  38. #38 Chris
    July 11, 2010

    Amusing idiocy from the troll who can only produce baseless insults and absolutely no evidence. STY, you are the sports hulligan who yells taunts from the side lines, but runs away when told to put up or shut up.

    Put up or shut up.

  39. #39 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    August 9, 2010

    @Sivi: “Can I just mention how incredibly bloody creepy ‘start recovering your child’ sounds?”

    Sure. The upholstery trade comes to mind here – and that notion applied to that title is not just creepy … it’s bloody gruesome!

  40. #40 Orange Lantern
    August 9, 2010

    Is this the big megaton that STY has been going on about? How anticlimactic that would be.