Working in the quote mine

If you’ve ever watched a politician speak, you might have noticed that they tend to be very, very careful with what they say. Most of them, anyway. They’re very careful with what they say because their opponents are quick to jump on the first little thing that doesn’t quite make sense. Remember John Kerry, our current Secretary of State and former Democratic candidate for President? He said that he voted for something before he voted against it. In the abstract, that sounds like a ludicrous statement. He sounded like a “flip-flopper” and the Republicans let him have it. When you look at what he did, you see that it was a procedural move to kill a bill. He voted for the bill in committee to then vote against it in the full Senate and kill it.

It makes sense to me, but it didn’t make sense to the masses of Republicans who brought flip-flops with them to Kerry’s rallies. They didn’t want to listen to reason, either. When people tried to explain to them why he did that, they basically covered their ears and ran away while screaming.

Anti-vaccine advocates are the same way. They’ll take something out of context and run with it, feeding it to the unsuspecting minds. The unsuspecting minds will then parrot what they’ve been fed without going to the source to make sure they’re not being fooled.

Take as a prime example the public statement by Dr. William Thompson from yesterday. Here is the full text:

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—AUGUST 27, 2014

STATEMENT OF WILLIAM W. THOMPSON, Ph. D., REGARDING THE 2004 ARTICLE EXAMINING THE POSSIBILITY OF A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MMR VACCINE AND AUTISM

My name is William Thompson. I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where I have worked since 1998.

I regret my co-authors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data was collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.

I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

My concern has been the decision to omit relevant findings in a particular study for a particular sub-group for a particular vaccine. There have always been recognized risks for vaccination and I believe it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with the receipt of those vaccines.

I have had many discussions with Dr. Brian Hooker over the last 10 months regarding studies the CDC has carried out regarding vaccines and neurodevelopmental outcomes including autism spectrum disorders. I share his belief that CDC decision-making analyses should be transparent. I was not, however, aware that he was recording any of our conversations, nor was I given any choice regarding whether my name would be made public or my voice would be put on the Internet.

I am grateful for the many supportive emails that I have received over the last several days. I will not be answering questions at this time. I am providing information to Congressman William Posey, and of course will continue to cooperate with Congress. I have also offered to assist with reanalysis of the study data of development of further studies. For the time being, however, I am focused on my job and my family.

Reasonable scientists can and do differ in their interpretation of information. I will do everything I can to assist any unbiased and objective scientists outside of the CDC to analyze data collected by the CDC or other public organizations for the purpose of understanding whether vaccines are associated with an increased risk of autism. There are still more questions than answers, and I appreciate that so many families are looking for answers from the scientific community.

My colleagues and supervisors at the CDC have been entirely professional since this matter became public. In fact, I received a performance-based award after this story came out. I have experienced no pressure or retaliation and certainly was not escorted out of the building as some have stated.

Dr. Thompson is represented by Frederick M. Morgan, Jr., Morgan Verkamp, LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio.”

And here’s what the anti-vaccine people are saying about it:

tmr_poster1

tmr_poster2

tmr_poster3

tmr_poster4

Note how none of them mention this from Dr. Thompson:

“I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.”

Of course they don’t disseminate that because it goes against everything they believe. They also don’t mention this:

“I was not, however, aware that he was recording any of our conversations, nor was I given any choice regarding whether my name would be made public or my voice would be put on the Internet.”

That is, no mention of the betrayal of trust (and possible criminal action in recording someone without their knowledge) of Wakefield and BS Hooker.

The Drinking Thinking Moms also don’t mention that the findings were only statistically significant for African American boys. Most, if not all, of the children they claim were “lost” or “dead” or “stolen” by autism are white boys and white girls.

Of course, the moms are not the only ones lying by omission about this whole thing. Plenty of anti-vaccine people online have been flooding comments sections of blogs with falsehoods. They say that data were omitted when they weren’t. Others said that Dr. Thompson was escorted off the CDC campus when was not. And, of course, the loonier of the loons are blaming everything from the Illuminati to the Reptilians for this.

The worst of the worst, however, keep using racially-charged language over this, and they keep stoking something that I’m sure not even they want to see catch on fire.

 

Advertisements

Autism is not death, unless you want it to be

The latest scandal to rock the anti-vaccine crowd has done nothing to sway the opinions of the True Believers® about vaccines and autism. If anything, they think that they have a smoking gun and all the evidence in the world to point their fingers at vaccines as the causative agent of autism. At best (for them), they have evidence that giving the MMR vaccine before 36 months increases the risk of autism for African American boys. That is a big assumption because the DeStefano paper that has been so widely criticized as of late dealt with a case-control study and odds ratios. Thinking that you can reanalyze it as a cohort study with relative risks is poor judgment and horrible reasoning.

I’m not here to talk about all that. Others are doing a fine job in peeling the layers of the ineptitude of Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and BS Hooker in trying to scam the American public about vaccines and autism again:

  • Orac tells us here, here, here and here about the whole goddamned thing. In fact, his latest post wraps it all up very neatly with a message to the “CDC whistleblower” and how the whistleblower’s scientific career is pretty much done.
  • Todd W. tells us here about Andrew Jeremy Wakefield confusion about history, here about anti-vaccine activists on Twitter not understanding Twitter, and here about the whistleblower telling us all about being betrayed by Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and BS Hooker.
  • Phil Plait tells us how, no, there is no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, yet again, here.
  • Liz Ditz tells us about the whistleblower statement here, about Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and BS Hooker implicating an African American researcher in an alleged scheme against African Americans here, and she gives us the overall backstory here.
  • Finally, Ren tells us why the whistleblower’s and BS Hooker’s epidemiological and statistical reasoning is unsound here, and how everything came undone for Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and BS Hooker yesterday here.

That right there should be essential reading for you to get caught up. Now, let me tell you about a special group of people…

There is a special group of people who are, for the most part, parents of autistic children (or children with other developmental delays). These people are special because, although their child is right there in front of them, they are under the impression that the child is dead. They refer to their “lost” child, or how their child was “taken” from them, all the while the child is breathing in front of them. In many cases, the child is not just breathing but trying to interact with them. I write “trying” because the amount of online activity these people have makes me wonder if they have any time for their living, breathing, interacting child in front of them.

I’ve told you before why I believe that these people need to walk away from their children, and I even got a rabid anti-vaccine and conspiracy theorist threatening to kill me if he ever saw me in person for it. (Some people react in the weirdest ways to being told the truth.) The joke is on him, though. Ideas are bulletproof.

With so many anti-vaccine activists “hooked” on the “BS” over the “whistleblower”, I started to notice something about how they were presenting themselves online. During their “twitter party,” many of them had a black ribbon as an avatar. Why? Because these “non-sheeple” were told to:

black_ribbons

While the black ribbon can mean different things to different people, it’s main use is for grieving or remembering the fallen, the dead. The way that these people have used it is to try to bring attention to their cause by equating autism with a death or a loss.

I call on these parents who think hours-long “parties” on Twitter are the best way to advocate for their children to walk away from their children immediately. Those children deserve love, caring, understanding, and acceptance. Why not go fight for them at school meetings to get them more inclusive curricula in public schools? Why not go to your elected representatives and demand laws to protect your children from scam non-medical treatments like bleach enemas and chemical castration? Why not write letters to the editors of your communities’ newspapers to advocate for acceptance in the community of your children with special needs so that they will not be shunned from your society and, instead, be integrated into it?

But to display black ribbons and say that your child is no more because he or she is autistic? How in any reasonable terms is that the best way for you to do something for your child? Again, walk away, because there are thousands more caring and loving people out there to take care of them than you, based on your brand of advocacy on line and in person.

How to end a scientist’s career with some fancy editing

I’ve been taking extra strength exedrin today, all day. I have this nagging headache. See, I get these headaches when I hear people lying. It’s like a superpower, except that it hurts worse as I hear more stupidity. The “Thinking Moms” decided that they were going to have a “Twitter Party.” Well, they don’t know how twitter works. They thought that creating an echo chamber of anti-vaccine people repeating the same hashtag (#CDCwhistleblower) would make said hashtag trend and attract regular Twitter users to their message of anti-vaccine madness. That’s not how it works. For something to trend and be featured on Twitter, you need to have a lot of individual people using that hashtag in their conversation. A dozen people writing it a thousand times has an impact factor of 12, whereas twelve-thousand people tweeting it just once has an impact factor of 12,000.

My headache only got stronger when I was directed to this video from who else but the “Autism Media Channel”:

(I wonder how many autistics work at the Autism Media Channel?)

Anyway, the video is more fancy editing from Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and his team. This time, we get to hear more snips and soundbites attributed to one Dr. William Thompson. As much as the anti-vaccine activists have been demanding that Dr. Thompson come out into the open and make some sort of a statement, no one seems to demand that Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and his team publish the entire recorded conversation between Brian Hooker and Dr. Thompson. All we get are lies and innuendo. We have operatives like Ginger Taylor writing on Twitter that CDC deliberately didn’t look at birth certificates for African-American babies in the DeStefano study. Others keep repeating that the DeStefano study is like the Tuskegee study, where African-American men were deliberately denied penicillin when they had syphilis. It’s not.

Still others are saying that this is yet another form of abuse of African-Americans by the government, then they compare it to the unrest happening in Missouri. The even use imagery from the riots and of the teenager killed in Ferguson by a police officer. Again, autism to the anti-vaccine crowd is just like murder, just like death.

Yet none of them demand that Andrew Jeremy Wakefield release all the tapes. If I were running his public relations machine, I would probably do the same. Release little bits, edited ones, ones taken out of context, all to feed the masses who clamor for evidence where there is none, all to keep them worshipping their god. And it wouldn’t matter to me if I destroyed a scientist’s career, as long as the donations kept coming in and the sheeple kept up their deification and sanctification of Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, the godhead, and Brian S. Hooker, the priest.

The Boston Bombings and Anti-Vaxxers

Soon after the Boston Bombings last year, nasty rumours began to surface about the true nature of the bombings and who perpetrated them. All you have to do is Google “Boston Bombing False Flag” and you’ll get a flavor of what I mean. In simple terms, conspiracy nuts claim that the bombings were done by the US Government in an attempt to justify tighter gun control and surveillance measures. If we are led to believe that we are in mortal danger, the theory goes, we’ll be happy to exchange our freedoms in order to be safer.

Some of the “evidence” put forth by conspiracy theorists the world over was that the victims of the bombing were actors. For example, look at this victim:

legless_2 Continue reading

Autism: It is not a disaster

Believe it or not, people who are mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence. This doesn’t make much sense to people because we want to believe that someone who kidnaps, rapes, and murders a person has to be deranged. A “normal” mind can’t possibly do something so horrible, right?

Even worse, a lot of people are quick to point out that a criminal — especially a young criminal — was kind of “quirky” or maybe had “autism or something” instead of waiting for the facts to come through on a case. I believe that it’s our own attempt to justify what happened and to tell ourselves that we would never do something like that. Because, deep down, we’re afraid to be monsters ourselves.

Don’t deny it. It’s true.

Furthermore, autism and other neurological disorders are not mental health problems. You wouldn’t walk up to someone with cerebral palsy and say that they’re “crazy,” would you? Likewise, you wouldn’t say that Muhammad Ali, who has Parkinson’s, is more likely to commit violence than someone who is neurotypical. Would you? Nevertheless, for a very long time, children with cerebral palsy or autism have been treated as being “crazy” or “quirky,” and mass shooters as possibly being autistic (with the implication that said autism was the cause for their violence).

And so we come to yesterday’s news that “1 in 50 children have autism.” From Dr. Willingham’s post:

“According to the CDC, hidden within these numbers is the finding that most of the increase from 2007 to now occurred in school-aged children. In other words, given that it’s possible to diagnose autism as early as age 18 months and usually by age 5, many of these new autism diagnoses were in children who received them relatively later. Children who were, therefore, walking around for quite a few years with autism that went unrecognized … and uncounted. That fits with the idea that a lot of the increase in autism we’ve seen in the last decade has much to do with greater awareness and identification.”

The anti-vaccine blogs are already chomping at the bits at what this new prevalence number means, totally misunderstanding the meaning of the data. (I’m not surprised, are you?) Not only that, but they have their dire predictions:

“Any expressions of concern from anybody with the power to do something about this disaster? No . And the press, as usual is soft pedaling the findings. Fifteen years ago the autism rate was 1 in 10,000, 12 year ago it was I in 2,500, 10 years ago it was 1 in 1000, and so on. When President Obama was elected in 2008 the official rate was 1 in 150, then it went to 1 in 88 and now it is 1 in 50. Where is it going to stop?”

It will never stop. We will get to 100% saturation. Every child will be autistic.
I’m joking, of course. The prevalence rate will remain the same as it has always been. Our estimate of it will even itself out and approach the prevalence rate and remain there. This is because our ability to do surveillance for autism is improving. The identification of cases by healthcare providers is improving. People with autism are coming forward and demanding to be counted. Our elected leaders are devoting more resources to ways to assist people with autism to lead long and productive lives. These are all good things.
It is not a disaster.
What is a disaster is that people who call themselves “advocates” for children and adults with autism continue to say and do things that actually harm people with autism and other neurological disorders. They call it a “disaster” to have a child with autism, or they say that they “lost” their child to autism. They then write that their children are monsters or have monsters inside them. And we’re supposed to just stand back and be understanding because we don’t have children or children who are autistic? We’re supposed to agree that it’s a “disaster” when all rationality says that it’s not and that children with autism can and will grow up to be productive citizens who even appear on CSPAN as advocates of people with similar neurological disabilities?
No, we’re not. I won’t. And I hope you won’t either.