In which reporters are lectured by a fake "media expert" and "autism advocate"

After the last couple of days of depressing posts about the utter failure of the FDA to do its job protecting cancer patients from the likes of Stanislaw burzynski, it's time to move on. Unfortunately, the first thing that caught my eye as I sat down to blog last night not only fried my irony meter as though a radioactive flame had been aimed at it by Godzilla itself but it also stomped that sucker flat as though Godzilla had jumped up and down on it. It came from one of the only places where the bloggers are so utterly without a sense of self-awareness that they could achieve such a feat. No, it wasn't, nor was it the (Not-So) Thinking Moms' Revolution. Rather, it was an old reliable wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery, the antivaccine crank blog known as Age of Autism (AoA), where science is only accepted when it can be twisted into the warped world view in which vaccines cause autism and is otherwise jettisoned in favor of the rankest pseudoscience and quackery.

Even more amusingly, this irony meter-melting bit of idiocy comes from the so-called Media Editor of AoA, Anne Dachel. For those of you not familiar with what that means, I'll explain. Apparently the job of the Media Editor of AoA is to set up a bunch of Google Alerts having to do with vaccines, autism, and "autism biomed," wait for the links in the search results to appear, peruse them to find any that appropriately reject the scientifically discredited idea that vaccines cause autism and/or support the efficacy and safety of vaccines, and then call in her flying monkeys by posting links to the article on AoA. The readers, being antivaccine loons, form a flying monkey squad that cruises over to the comments in order to fling antivaccine poo all over the place. Mission accomplished on Anne Dachel's part. It's what she's good at. I suppose that in this world of Web 2.0 it's a potentially useful skill for a crank, as it gives the impression of an overwhelming number of people believing in crank antivaccine views, but it contributes nothing but noise to the discourse. It's also intentionally meant to intimidate. Smaller bloggers who don't have a cadre of commenters who have their back (as I do here), once burned by a flying monkey attack directed by Dachel, will think twice before posting something that might provoke another such attack. (Of course, antivaccinationists aren't the only ones who use this technique, and from my observations the two types of cranks who use this technique most often appear to be antivaccinationists and anthropogenic global climate change denialists.)

Such is the woman who is now donning the mantle of investigative journalist Bob Woodward and lecturing the mainstream media on how to behave during April, which is Autism Awareness Month. Yes, Autism Awareness Month. Regular readers might recall how I used to dread Autism Awareness Month every year, although at the same time I couldn't help but look forward to it a little. I dreaded it because I knew that there would be plenty of bad stories published by the mainstream press that expressed undue credulity when it came to the long discredited idea that vaccines cause autism. Usually, it was in the form of false balance, in which antivaccine advocates like Jenny McCarthy, Andrew Wakefield, or representatives of antivaccine groups like SafeMinds or Generation Rescue would be presented as an "alternate" viewpoint on par with the real scientists and doctors who would correctly tell journalists that there is no evidence for such a link. The result, of course, was to give far more credence to crank ideas than they deserve, which is none. Sometimes, there'd even be stories by antivaccine journalists like Sharyl Attkisson (who, apparently, has finally left CBS for less—shall we say?—restrictive pastures) would fire off a full mental jacket rant against vaccines disguised as journalism, as she did three years ago.

Here's the video cited by Dachel:

Autism News Beat has already done a nice takedown of this particular gem from Dachel, but there's so much stupid there that there's plenty left over for me. First, however, I'd like to note that I don't dread Autism Awareness Month any more, at least not the way I used to, mainly because journalists seem to have wised up considerably. It used to be that whenever there was a story on autism there'd have to be a mention of vaccines as a cause of autism and whenever there was a story about vaccines lazy journalists would inevitably also interview an antivaccine activist for "balance." This doesn't happen nearly as much as it used to, as far as I can tell, and perhaps that's the reason Anne Dachel has resorted to sending her antivaccine flying monkeys in whenever possible. It's all she has left.

All of this is what's led to the vaporization of yet another one of my irony meters by Dachel when she points out Woodward's three rules, lecturing journalists to follow them:

First, you're supposed to CHECK SOURCES.

Woodward: "It means checking everything, talking to half a dozen or even a dozen people for a day story. If it's something longer, you want to totally surround and saturate the subject."

Second, you need DOCUMENTATION.

Woodward: "I have not really ever seen a story in a newspaper or on television or even on radio that couldn't be enhanced with some sort of documentation that would support or add more detail to what the story is about."

Third, you're supposed to CHECK INFORMATION FIRST HAND.

Woodward: "Get your ass out of your chair and get over there."

As an aside, there is a reporter who has shown her ability to do all of these things, as evidenced by her most recent story about Stanislaw Burzynski. I'm talking about Liz Szabo, of course. But I digress.

Let's see how good reporters admired by the antivaccine movement fare when it comes to these three criteria laid down by Woodward. Let's start with Sharyl Attkisson. Her most recent autism-related story was about the murder of an autistic boy by his mother and other caregiver. The boy was Alex Spourdalakis, and his mother murdered him because she felt helpless to control him as he got bigger and stronger and more difficult to control. We also found out that his mother was heavily into the quackery known as "autism biomed."

Sharyl Attkisson's report was a truly epic fail on all three of these counts. When it comes to checking sources, Attkisson either didn't bother to "check her sources." Either that, or she purposely didn't report relevant background about her sources. Take your pick. For instance, she interviewed Polley Tommey, but she didn't mention Tommey's close ties with antivaccine "scientist" Andrew Wakefield. She also portrayed Dr. Arthur Krigsman performing endoscopy on Alex, but she didn't let her audience know that Dr. Krigsman was also closely affiliated with Andrew Wakefield.

Attkisson also failed miserably on documentation, and has done so time and time again when it comes to stories regarding autism and vaccines. For example, in the story about Alex Spourdalakis, she didn't document much of anything. It was a biased puff piece. In terms of other stories about autism and vaccines, if anything, Attkisson is best known for fawning, fact-free interviews with Andrew Wakefield, credulously accepting a horribly written and scientifically nonsensical review article without checking her sources and testing it against science, and over-the-top antivaccine rants chock full of anti-pharma conspiracy mongering so cranky that it gave Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. a run for his money. It's not just about vaccines and autism, either. Attkisson is well known for other poorly sourced, poorly fact checked stories credulously parroting pseudoscience about breast cancer as well.

I don't know how good a reporter Attkisson is on matters that don't involve vaccines and/or autism, but I do know that her reporting on such stories miserably fails at least two out of three of Woodward's admonishments to reporters. Of course, going out to check information "first hand" matters little if you're so biased that you only see what you want to see. As the old Simon & Garfunkel song goes, "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest," which is exactly what happens when biased, pseudoscience- and quackery-susceptible reporters like Sharyl Attkisson "gets her ass out of the chair and gets over there" in order to "check information first hand." Perhaps the most hilarious example of this in the annals of vaccine-autism pseudoscience is another blogger at AoA, namely Dan "Where are the Autistic Amish?" Olmsted. Olmsted, as you might recall, gained quite some notoriety for seizing on and popularizing the myth that the Amish don't vaccinate and, as a result, have a much lower prevalence of autism than the rest of the US. Of course, it turns out that the Amish do vaccinate and that there are plenty of Amish children with symptoms of autism. Thus, even though Olmsted "got his ass out of the chair and got over there" to Amish communities in Pennsylvania to check information first hand, he still got it completely wrong.

Now Dan Olmsted is managing editor of AoA, and Sharyl Attkisson is a hero covering "untouchable subjects" with "fearless reporting" to the denizens of that antivaccine crank blog AoA. Prior, a similarly clueless "reporter," David Kirby, who promoted the myth that mercury in vaccines cause autism, was AoA's Journalist of the Year.

Of course, none of this matters to Dachel. What matters is only that the reporter find what she wants her to find, namely stories confirming her belief that vaccines cause autism:

By the way, why is it that you all never hold health officials accountable for the research they tell you about? Why do you accept every new study showing no link between vaccines and autism from the agency that runs the vaccine program as valid science? Why doesn't someone ask, WHO FUNDED THE STUDY? Why doesn't anyone look into THE CONFLICTS OF THE RESEARCHERS?

Uh, probably because the conflicts of interest of the researchers are, by nearly all journals' policies, laid out in the paper. Besides, conflicts of interest don't by themselves invalidate science reported in a paper. It might lead one to be a bit more skeptical, but if the science is properly carried out and reported, COIs don't invalidate that science. Of course, COIs are a rather liquid thing in the mind of antivaccinationists. To antivaccinationists, Paul Offit's perceived COIs completely invalidate everything he says. However, Andrew Wakefield had massive COIs with respect to his research, even being in the pocket of a trial lawyer looking for "science" to support his lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers. Mark and David Geier owned a chain of autism clinics that depended on their various quack protocols. Much of Jenny McCarthy's notoriety and book sales came from her promotion of the idea that vaccines cause autism and that biomedical quackery was helping to "recover" her son. Yet these COIs, which are far more compelling as any COI reported by any legitimate vaccine scientist, mean nothing to antivaccinationists. They are excused. Because these people agree with Anne Dachel, they are "unbiased" while vaccine defenders must be in the pocket of big pharma.

And her "experts" apparently trump real experts:

Believe me, parents in the autism community (and there are more and more of us) know exactly what you're doing. When you slam Jenny McCarthy and label her a Playboy bunny, you're hiding the fact that medical experts support her.

On April 5, 2008 McCarthy appeared with Dr. Jay Gordon on Larry King Live. and on April 12, 2008, McCarthy was again on Larry King, this time with Dr. Jerry Kartzinel at her side.

She co-authored the best-selling book, Healing and Preventing Autism, with Dr. Kartzinel.

Dr. Gordon is a nationally renowned pediatrician, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, UCLA Medical School.

Dr. Kartzinel is a well-known advocate for children's health which includes the use of bio-medical treatments to recover children with autism. He has used these therapies to recover his own son from autism.

Pretending these doctors don't exist smacks of a cover-up.

Far be it from me anymore to condone slamming Jenny McCarthy in misogynist terms, but Dachel sure has a strange idea of what constitutes a "medical expert." Dr. Gordon is not "nationally renowned." Worse, he has demonstrated time and time again that he is neither an expert about vaccine nor about autism. He fell for the "formaldehyde gambit," after all, and for lots of other vaccine pseudoscience. Dr. Kartzinel is, similarly, an expert in neither vaccines nor autism, and he's known for some rather despicable views about autistic people as well.

We don't "pretend these doctors don't exist." We laugh at their antics because they claim to be experts when they clearly are not. Therefore, we conclude that what they have to say about vaccines and autism, not being rooted in verifiable science, does not warrant the same respect that what real experts like Dr. Offit say about vaccines. The double standard over "experts" from antivaccinationists is as blatant as the double standard over what constitutes good reporting on autism.

I really should know better than to expect my irony meter to survive first contact with an AoA screed. I really should shield it. Unfortunately, the stupid from AoA is so powerful that nothing less than sufficient shielding to survive an EMP would be likely to protect it—and even that's doubtful.


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I know I shouldn't, but I just can't help myself.

First, you’re supposed to CHECK SOURCES.

We do. The 28 "independent studies" that supposedly support Wakefield's finding of "autistic enterocolitis" either don't, or aren't independent.

Second, you need DOCUMENTATION.

We have loads of documentation refuting the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism. Over at Just the Vaxx, there is a post listing and linking to107 studies that looked at and refute it.

Third, you’re supposed to CHECK INFORMATION FIRST HAND.

Like Brian Deer did, when he uncovered Wakefield's numerous conflicts of interest.
Orac, who supplies you with irony meters? My stock is also depleted.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 25 Mar 2014 #permalink

Yup, I've been hanging out on Emily's blog about Dr. Bob Sears FB rant, here. The Dachel bot has been busy posting her Spam and some of Orac's pharma shills and minions have been posting back at her.…

I've never seen Bob Woodward refer to any of the "journalists" at AoA, when he lectures about his own journalism career. I wonder why?

P.S. I just linked to this post for Emily Willingham's readership.

for less—shall we say?—restrictive pasteurs

Heh. </notpedantry>

Restrictive Pasteur INSISTS on heat-treated milk.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 25 Mar 2014 #permalink

“I have not really ever seen a story in a newspaper or on television or even on radio that couldn’t be enhanced with some sort of documentation that would support or add more detail to what the story is about.”

I think that Woodward is vouching here for the Pooh-Bah Persiflage Effect, i.e. the way that made-up details -- however irrelevant -- contribute to the general truthiness of a claim. "Merely corroborative detail, intended to give
artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

The only journalist who would pass the Bob Woodward test on vaccines and autism would be Brian Deer.

Unfortunately, it's not just anti-vaxxerism that some gullible journalists become spokespeople for. Celia Farber has probably fallen farther ethically than Attkisson and Olmsted with her AIDS denialism.

By Sebastian Jackson (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

Perhaps I'm still coming off the high of renewed faith in mankind after the epic pwnage of this nonsense in recent weeks, but I'm not as worried about what nonsense will come out in April as I have been in recent years. Or rather, I'm not worried about people falling for it/staying silent much longer.

I'm worried about the situation as a whole, outbreaks and deaths and frankly the stats for 2014 are terrifying, but I think others are terrified as well. Not that they didn't know how this is all BS before, but the payment is coming due and now they're realizing that it isn't just some quirk or personal choice.

In the aftermath of the beautiful hashtag hijack last week, a News search brought up only ONE claim of bullying and support of McCarthy, penned by The Dachel-bot herself on AoA. Perhaps others saw more, but hundreds of other articles in big places got it right, and even though the fluffier entertainment articles didn't condemn her as much as I wish they would, most did mention recent outbreaks. I did see one other person try to write a blog about "bullying" and pulled out the "she never actually said 'don't vaccinate,' I vaccinte myself but this isn't fair blah blah blah" and the masses swooped in and crushed the blog-writer with links to sources and YouTube because revisionist history isn't funny and the interwebs hide nothing. GR had to lower prices to an event in Chicago last year to $10 and they were still on sale to the last minute. Kristin Cava-whoever got destroyed when she gave her interview. While it's not antivax related--maybe--Attikisson no longer has the CBS platform to spew nonsense.

The damage is done, no doubt, but I'm feeling a bit more hopeful this year.

Oh, and I couldn't even watch that whole video. I felt my brain dying. And WHY does everything come back to the CDC as the be all to end all with these guys? It's not the only health agency in the world, others find the same thing, all over. I want to know what group of people could make and keep a singular lie going like that. My office of 4 highly educated adults has a hard enough time sticking to the same decision on which food truck for lunch over the course of the morning.

By AnObservingParty (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

Calling AoA a " wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery" is too good for them and an insult to scum everywhere.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

I'm kind of hoping Dachel sends her comment squad off with "Fly my pretties, fly!"

By Composer99 (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

A few things...

AS we learned yesterday from Narad, la Dachel has a book coming out soon. Published by Sky Horse.

Speaking of COIs, doesn't everyone who contributes material @ AoA have massive COIs? Most of them are parents of children/ adults with ASDs as well as huge axes to grind against the medical establishment as a method of raising their own self-esteem. In addition, many have attempted to cash in on secondary gain by re-inventing themselves as martyred, warrior parents/ self-taught medical experts/ author-reporters. AoA is their pafhway to a new career or the revival of an old one.

AS I've often noted, AoA and TMR serve as gathering places for malcontents who enable each others' fantasy systems and assist each other in the art of avoiding reality : in other words, group therapy gone wrong.

I also feel that mainstream media has become less enamoured of their message so they are less likely to be featured there- which will only make them more outlandish in their own preaching to the choir and therefore, more obviously unattractive to those on the fence. Good.

More recently, Jake's AI blog seems to have devolved into an investigation of people at AoA whom he despises.

re Celia Farber:
she never had much of a career IIRC outside of hiv/aids denialism. Both she and David Crowe have had/ have "radio shows" @ PRN. Enough said.

Another aspect of the lack of reliable reporting by AoA can be discerned by their inability to fact check and withstand any criticism as evidenced by their censorship of comments.

Thus, I view AoA as primarily an avenue for distressed parents to vent through writing fiction.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

@Denise - the "boy's" blog has devolved into exactly what I expected it would become - one hit piece after another directed at his former handlers. It was only a matter of time before he was going to go off the reservation & now he seems to have dedicated himself to biting the hands that fed him.

"David Kirby, who promoted the myth that mercury in vaccines cause autism, was AoA’s Journalist of the Year."

Even worse, the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) group at the University of Missouri - Columbia, named "Evidence of Harm" as "Book of the Year" in 2005.

By AutismNewsBeat (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

@ Lawrence:

Jake has gathered quite a group -
BUT he seems to have guaranteed that he'll be heard by the "thousands" who attend AutismOne. As will Hooker.

Although I haven't checked lately, I recall not seeing much of the AoA and TMR crowd presenting.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

@ 12 Denise Walter
'AoA and TMR serve as gathering places for malcontents who enable each others’ fantasy systems and assist each other in the art of avoiding reality : in other words, group therapy gone wrong.'

thanx for that, I hadn't thought of them directly as that before

Thank-you to all of you. As the mother of a child on the spectrum I am frequently told by other parents that if only I would eliminate gluten, or GMO, or follow some herbal regimen, my son would be oh so much better. These people who resent when their crazy views are ridiculed by actual scientists seem perfectly comfy ridiculing another parent dealing with the same challenges that they face.

By quetzalmom (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

Speaking of fakes, does anybody care to speculate what John Stone is doing with a PubMed Commons account? I thought briefly that BMJ comments might be indexed, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Stone's comment has been removed (correctly, as it was completely inappropriate from the viewpoint of postpublication review – basically, "why won't the authors respond?!"), but the account still appears exist.

^ "to exist"

Maybe someone emailed the Help Desk at PubMed to complain that J. Stone is not eligible to comment as a PubMed Commons published author?

Maybe someone emailed the Help Desk at PubMed to complain that J. Stone is not eligible to comment as a PubMed Commons published author?

I'm working on that, but I don't think it's yet the case here.

The only journalist who would pass the Bob Woodward test on vaccines and autism would be Brian Deer.

That was some absolutely first-rate enterprise/investigative reporting, all right. It doesn't get better.

It's very typical of the AofA-seal-of-approval advice-'n'-standards brand that Bob Woodward himself actually wouldn't ace the Bob Woodward test. He'd pass it by satisfying the technical requirements, in all likelihood. But he's not a great investigative reporter. And neither is he known as a model of uncompromising impartiality and rigorous ethical integrity.

That's not to say he does a bad job. Nor is it a slur on his character, about which I know nothing. He's a pro. He does what he does well, on its own terms.

But when it comes to digging up and reporting the truth responsibly, thoughtfully, thoroughly, creatively and diligently, I'd say the ideal is Brian Deer.


The thing is that neither is a very practical role model for amateurs. They're both exceptionally talented, intelligent, individuals with a lot of experience and expertise.

I mean, it's actually not a simple or straightforward thing to CHECK SOURCES. If you think about it for a moment.

He's an old fool...but not that old.

Even the original wretched hive of scum and quackery has been coming down in opposition to the anti-vaxxers lately.

AlisonM, please elaborate.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

@ quetzalmom:

And thank you for commenting..

I can't speak for anyone else but I know why I'm involved:
I read and hear the most ridiculous, far-fetched, load-of-crap nonsense that is the product of wishful thinking, hubris and impoverished educational status as well as a need to control others in order to capture both their adulation and their money. It makes me angry that these charlatans - be they woo-meister or 'concerned parent'- manage to enthrall so many people with their tall tales.

About the diets:
beyond the ASD diet chicanery, alt med advocates a plethora of futile regimes to alleviate or cure serious conditions which SBM has found- time and time again- to be unrelated to diet. The amount of time, money and effort that is wasted by patients and their families is staggering: I often read TMR's frequent allusions to the difficulty of maintaining these diets as well as their exorbitant costs- to say nothing of how miserable these children must feel eating such horrible cuisine-... ALL FOR NOUGHT!

AS I noted earlier, many of those involved in this movement seek solidarity and affiliation with other parents in similar circumstances; altho' a situation like this can yield positive results because people share their travailles and deepest fears and support each other in dark times, what I've often observed is mutual enablement and reification of unrealistic beliefs. AND they also play doctor for others' kids without benefit of education or training. In fact they actively discourage confidence in doctors and ofher professionals.

I could go on but I won't.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

@Science Mom

I think AlisonM is referring to the HuffPo

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 26 Mar 2014 #permalink

Is anyone familiar with the work of Dan Kahan out of Yale?

Vaccine Risk Perceptions and Ad Hoc Risk Communication: An Empirical Assessment

This Report presents empirical evidence relevant to assessing the claim — reported widely in the media and other sources — that the public is growing increasingly anxious about the safety of childhood vaccinations. Based on survey and experimental methods (N = 2,316), the Report presents two principal findings: first, that vaccine risks are neither a matter of concern for the vast majority of the public nor an issue of contention among recognizable demographic, political, or cultural subgroups; and second, that ad hoc forms of risk communication that assert there is mounting resistance to childhood immunizations themselves pose a risk of creating misimpressions and arousing sensibilities that could culturally polarize the public and diminish motivation to cooperate with universal vaccination programs. Based on these findings the Report recommends that government agencies, public health professionals, and other constituents of the public health establishment (1) promote the use of valid and appropriately focused empirical methods for investigating vaccine-risk perceptions and formulating responsive risk communication strategies; (2) discourage ad hoc risk communication based on impressionistic or psychometrically invalid alternatives to these methods; (3) publicize the persistently high rates of childhood vaccination and high levels of public support for universal immunization in the U.S.; and (4) correct ad hoc communicators who misrepresent U.S. vaccination coverage and its relationship to the incidence of childhood diseases.

Protecting the Vaccine Science Communication Environment

This project has two goals: first, to enlarge societal understanding of how to promote informed public engagement with valid empirical evidence on the efficacy and safety of vaccines; and second, to advance societal recognition of the need to use valid empirical evidence to guide communication on vaccines and other applications of science essential to societal well-being.


But many of those who have undertaken to inform the public are themselves deeply confused. The primary source of information on vaccine risks consists in ad hoc risk communication by journalists, advocacy groups, and even some individual public health professionals who consistently mischaracterize the nature, extent, and sources of public concerns over vaccines. Rather than assure the public, this empirically uinformed style of risk communication itself poses a risk of exciting group animosities and other dynamics that could magnify unfounded fears of vaccines.

A new study shows that autism begins before birth.

Just by the by, I can tell you exactly where the en dash in "cell-type–specific" comes from.

@ CF: Thanks for the link to Dan Kahan's survey results and report.

I did peruse it and I have some points to make and some criticisms.

I am in agreement with Mr. Kahan, that for the most part political affiliation, religious (or non religious) opinions, belief in evolution (or not) and acceptance of global warming or denial of climate change, should not be a part of the discussion about the safety an efficacy of vaccines. In fact, when I post comments about vaccines and V-P-Ds outbreaks, here, on other science blogs and on mainstream news stories, I specifically avoid those topics; they are not germane to the topics being discussed. The only time I will post comment along those lines is when someone comments that it is "those damn illegals who bring diseases to our country"....which is, a totally fallacy.

During my tenure as a public health nurse, I had thousands of in person contacts and telephone contacts with (mostly) young women who were either pregnant or who had infants and young children. I felt then, and I still feel, that I, and the other nurses who responded to these young women, with reliable information about vaccines, about vaccine-preventable-diseases, STDs (and other non-communicable disorders), provided a valuable service to the them and to the public. Kahan refers to Dr. Paul Offit and the upper echelon at the CDC as "public health officials" and he has some very strong opinions about the messages they convey.

Dr. Offit, is not a public health official; his tenure on the ACIP a while back is over. Dr. Offit is the director of the Vaccine Information Center at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia and he writes excellent articles about vaccines, the ingredients in vaccines, the safety and efficacy of vaccines and the diseases that vaccines prevent. Many of his articles are directed to parents and some are directed to health care providers. Dr. Offit has published a huge amount of articles for professional journals and his in-depth interviews are available on the internet.

The upper echelon at the CDC testify at hearings, attend meetings and do multiple presentations at public health conferences and seminars and they also give interviews...mainly during public health emergencies.

I have the distinct impression that Kahan confuses the interactions between concerned parents and local health department staff, with the public face of the CDC and/or Dr. Offit. They are worlds apart. Does Kahan think that parents immediately reach for their phones to speak directly to CDC staff in Atlanta Georgia or to speak to Dr. Offit in Philadelphia?
I'm here to disabuse of that notion.

My colleagues and I worked very hard to build goodwill and trust between the 1.2 million people we served through our local public health department. They trusted us to be truthful during medical emergencies, through food-borne disease outbreaks, through the awful days following 9-11...and through their own personal emergencies. They contacted us, with the assurances that we would be honest and forthright about every topic and through every situation; we never violated that well-earned trust.

I'm a different person, now that I have retired and now that I post comments here and on other sites. I no longer wish to build bridges across the ever widening chasm that exists between me and the hardcore anti-vaxxers. They are a lost cause. I now call them out for their nasty not-based-in-science comments, for their attitudes toward their "vaccine-damaged children" and for their insufferable ignorance about basic science.

At the beginning of Kahan's paper he provided demographics about the survey participants....their average age is 53 years old. Now, I'm concerned that he did not poll the population who are most concerned about vaccines and who get their information about vaccines from mothering boards and crank anti-vaccine blogs, such as AoA and the NVIC.

Sorry for some mangled's past my bedtime.


Please do.

"Even worse, the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) group at the University of Missouri – Columbia, named “Evidence of Harm” as “Book of the Year” in 2005."

For some reason, I read this as "Evidence of Ham".*

*an actual book I wrote about meat content in deli sandwiches.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

Well, I suppose that if your name is 'Bacon', you might see evidence of ham everywhere....
Sorry, I just HAD to say it.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

At any rate...

AoA has been bracing for the new autism figures... er.. rates that is, from the US CDC which are expected today.

They appear to be celebrating prematurely for they know that they can count victory either way:
if the rate increases, they can say, " I TOLD you so!"
I imagine that they'll stir up their simmering pot of overcooked conspiracies and dredge up an hypothesis involving toxins. It's always toxins. Mercury is a toxin.

If the rate decreases, they can always rely upon blaming changes in the DSM-5 as being responsible for 'hiding' the True Rate ( known only to g-d and them) by shuffling diagnostic categories around.
"And what WOULD you expect from a government the integrity of which is already fatally compromised by its servitude to pharmaceutical corporatocracy?"

AoA prepares its followers for whatever transpires by reprinting several 5 year old articles from its thought leaders.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.
Let the seething and spewing begin.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

@ Denise I thought something like that as well.


Perhaps "Evidence of Ham" is a book about the existence of Ken Ham. His existence had been a matter of some disagreement among scholars, but then some researchers found artifacts of mind-numbing stupidity, including a somewhat aged and worn out sign reading, "Cre t n M se m". It is now accepted that there is, in fact, a Ham.

@Denice Walter

I predict that there will probably be regional variations in the prevalence rates, which would point to diagnostic or awareness differences from place to place.

@ Todd W.:

I've thought about a possible confound which could be used to drive them even further down the rabbit hole than they already are:

Let's suppose that we look closely at rates and find that wealthier areas show an increase in rate since the last instance. Obviously to sane ( for lack of a better word) people - like us- it might be attributed to better surveillance, more readily available testing, better educated parents- perhaps even variables like older parents and more parents in STEM occupations might be considered- see Silicon Valley.

HOWEVER I might also venture that wealthier areas have less smoke stack inductries and industrial superfarms thus perhaps the higher toxin rates might be in the poorer, rural areas which wouldn't have as high ASD rates. Fr obvious ( to us) reasons.

"Those rates are TOTALLY fixed to support pro-vaccinationists!", they'll shriek.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

INDUSTRIES... FOR obvious.

Pardonnex les typos, svp.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

Typical lead up to the release of of new prevalence figures for ASDs at AoA....all of today's posts are retreads from previous years. Not worth the effort to read them.

Autism prevalence 1:68.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

@ Julian Frost:

You are correct.

And the squawking has begun:
Blaxill @ AoA, Goes @ TMR ( and others at AoA/ TMR facebook pages) demanding firings and research respectively..

In other news this morning
the sun came up in the east, there are traffic jams near large cities and people enjoy drinking their coffee or tea.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

Please do.

I'll give you a hint. It's very distinctive.

The frothing demand to the President has an excellent display of arithmetic skills:

This increase in Autism is not “diagnostic substitution”. Autism in 2014 was not formerly diagnosed as mental retardation. This is a lie designed to deny and minimize the size of autism epidemic. The increase in Autism is not “greater awareness”: PSAs to create “awareness” are not necessary when there is a child with Autism on every block in this country.

In 2012, there were 20,416,000 U.S. children aged 5–9, yielding ~4,083,200 aged 8. At 1 in 68, this gives 60,047. There are ~5,500,000 occupied census blocks in the U.S., setting a hard lower limit on the number of street blocks. There is no way to extend this to all "child" age bins without at least an order-of-magnitude error, particularly given the insistence that the older ones have lower prevalence.

What I'm trying to figure out is why - if vaccination rates are fairly consistent stae by state- particular states have very high or very low rates? There's an interesting map of autism rates by state 2012 courtesy of the LA TImes./ graphic.

Amazing how the NE and West coast stand out form the rest. They must vaccinate like mad there.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

STATE by state...

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

Wait! What? Autism prevalence has continued to climb?

But, but, Jacob L. Crosby, M.P.H. assured us last year that ASD was already decreasing following the removal of thimerosal.

Jake Crosby wrote less than a year ago: "the decline in Alabama is the first statistically significant decline in autism prevalence ever reported in any state monitored by the CDC, which occurred in children born during the first year after the government and pediatric academy’s joint statement to remove thimerosal from childhood vaccines as quickly as possible."

April 15, 2013 at AoA:

D'ohlmsted checks his brain at the door again:

Is the fact that more kids with autism in the 2002 cohort have IQs in the "normal range" a sign that the phasing out of thimerosal did less damage to these kids? Just trying to figure that out.

the decline in Alabama is the first statistically significant decline in autism prevalence ever reported in any state

I'm going to guess here that the statistical significance went all the way to p = 1 in 50.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

Thanks Narad! "D'ohlmsted" cracked me up! I needed a chuckle.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 27 Mar 2014 #permalink

But, but, Jacob L. Crosby, M.P.H. assured us last year that ASD was already decreasing following the removal of thimerosal.

His smoking gun:

Alabama (All/Black)
2002   3.3/3.4
2006   6.0/6.7
2008   4.8/4.0
2010   5.7/5.3

Something something two points making a trend something.

Jake Crosby is the human face of broadening diagnostic categories (or "extending the indications" as Big Pharma would say).

Today he is autistic. Years ago, he would have been a nasty little asshole.


Today he is autistic. Years ago, he would have been a nasty little asshole.

Sadly, the two are not mutually exclusive. As an autist, I find Jake's behaviour embarrassing, and being on the spectrum, I'm not easily embarrassed.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 28 Mar 2014 #permalink

lilady: religious (or non religious) opinions, belief in evolution (or not) and acceptance of global warming or denial of climate change, should not be a part of the discussion about the safety an efficacy of vaccines.

I disagree. Know your targeted demographics, and you can tailor the information to the audience. If you know that a given church tends to be heavily anti-vaccine, you don't go after the parishioners- you infobomb the pastor. If you know that so-and-so demographic is immune to any form of scientific information, hit 'em with the emotional information instead. Or pass a law saying that if any child becomes disabled from a vaccine preventable disease, that child should be removed from the family.
Or alternatively, say the anti-vaccine group is heavily educated- vaccinate around them. If they notice their 'lesser' coworkers getting vaccines for their kids, they might rethink their stance- especially if the doctors tell said coworkers whose fault it is that measles has returned.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 30 Mar 2014 #permalink

If you know convince yourself that so-and-so demographic is immune to any form of scientific information whatever you say they are>, hit ‘em with the emotional information baseless projections instead. Or pass a law saying that if any child becomes disabled from a vaccine preventable disease something demonstrates that you have not given any serious thought to the matter, that child should be removed from the family there should be retribution.


^ Eh, screw it, it's not even worth fixing.

Narad: Given how most anti-vax families react to autism, what makes you think they could be trusted with a blind or deaf child?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 30 Mar 2014 #permalink

Given how most anti-vax families react to autism, what makes you think they could be trusted with a blind or deaf child?

The point was more that you reek of hypocrisy.


Vaccination is a public-health issue, and therefore properly every person's business.

But using that as a proximate occasion to threaten to take people's children away without due process or a finding of neglect or abuse is not good politics. Or good policy.

It's kind of what you might call terrorism, in fact.

Narad: Hypocrisy? If you know the demographic, you know the levers of any person in that demographic, it's that simple. It isn't important to know them personally, it's more important to know what makes them tick.

Ann: and letting kids get murdered is good policy? How many Alexs and Issys are okay, in your eyes?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 30 Mar 2014 #permalink

Ann: and letting kids get murdered is good policy? How many Alexs and Issys are okay, in your eyes?

That's a false dichotomy, as well as a non sequitur.

I was responding to this:

Or pass a law saying that if any child becomes disabled from a vaccine preventable disease, that child should be removed from the family.

^^Nothing about murdered children there.

I sometimes think there should be an equivalent to Godwin's law for mentioning dead babies, though. People use them rhetorically when arguing about just about anything, it seems.

I don't mean you. Just saying.

If you know the demographic, you know the levers of any person in that demographic, it’s that simple.

Believe me. That is not the case.

Hypocrisy? If you know the demographic, you know the levers of any person in that demographic, it’s that simple. It isn’t important to know them personally, it’s more important to know what makes them tick.

Authoritarian streak? ☑
Preferentially substitutes insult for argument? ☑
Doesn't think other people are real? ☑
Doesn't understand statistics and so pooh-poohs it? ☑
 (Except when convenient? ☑)
Proudly motivated by prejudice rather than reason? ☑

Complains about "women acting stupid in public"? ☑

That's a short list. If you knew anybody's "levers," you wouldn't need to constantly snarl from a self-imposed corner while clutching your pearls.


Narad: Given how most anti-vax families react to autism, what makes you think they could be trusted with a blind or deaf child?

But we don't know how "most anti-vax families react to autism". We know how noisy, hateful antivaxxers on the Internet do, but there are many parents who are just confused and frightened by what they've read or heard, and decided not to "take the risk" of vaccination.  They've been told -- by creatures like the fortunately departed Greg -- that  to have an autistic child is by definition the worst thing that can possibly happen to a family, that an autistic child's brain has been horribly damaged, and that vaccines cause horrifying brain damage, and they are afraid for their child and want to protect him or her.  They are wrong and their children may suffer as a result, but they are not evil and there is no reason to believe that they would not love and care for a disabled child.

Let me put it this way: if you had a child who was born blind, you would love and cherish that child. But if you had a child who was born sighted, would you not try to protect him or her from something that could cause blindness? And if you had been led to believe, by all your friends and by irresponsible baby books, that vaccines frequently cause blindness, would you be reluctant to take that risk?  Not because you hate the blind, but because you don't want your child to lose something he or she was born with?  And if, by bad luck, your child did become blind, would you suddenly despise him or her?  Of course not.

Most parents would delay vaccines are like that. They're trying to protect their beloved children as best they can, and they are just misinformed on how to do it.

Narad: Authoritarian? Look, the only person or thing I can control right now is myself. I do want to get into politics, but I am a profound leftie. Sure, I want the US to let go of a couple of states, but that's mostly because I'm convinced the citizens of those states don't really want to be US citizens. (And some states just don't bring anything to the table.) As for 'the women acting stupid in public?' That's because I *cringe* every time someone lets the side down. With the nineteenth amendment in profound jeopardy, that's the last thing women in the US need.
As for statistics in the social sciences, anything attempting to quantify people is simply Calvinball- what few rules there are changes by the day. What part of 'gaming surveys' don't you understand?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 31 Mar 2014 #permalink

"anything attempting to quantify people is simply Calvinball"

"If you know the demographic, you know the levers of any person in that demographic, it’s that simple."

Narad: Authoritarian?

"Either admit you're anti-vax, or stop posting."

I do want to get into politics, but I am a profound leftie.

I can imagine.

As for ‘the women acting stupid in public?’ That’s because I *cringe* every time someone lets the side down.

Yet you give yourself a pass.

Narad: Internet isn't real life.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 31 Mar 2014 #permalink