Perhaps not the best anti-vaccine argument you should use

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In a Facebook discussion about vaccines, “Kitti St. John” decided that she was going to display her bigoted views of autistics. While trying to convince people that vaccines are bad, she linked vaccines to autism and then compared an autistic child to “an agro chimpanzee.” She then goes on a rant about diets and nature and how vaccines have torn us all apart or something. She even believes that people, healthy people, “do not catch contagious disease.”

Kitti is just one of thousands of anti-vaccine activists who take their misinformed views of vaccines a step too far and demonize autistics of every age. It’s not just the comparison of children with learning disabilities to animals like Kitti just did. It’s also the whitewashing of murders of autistic children. Calling a mother and a caregiver who brutally killed Alex Spourdalakis the victims rather than the murderers that they confessed to be is just one more step in the anti-vaccine playbook of people like Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, people without a shred of evidence that vaccines cause autism but yet want to paint autism as a horrible “disease” that is preventable, avoidable, or curable.

Autism is not preventable, avoidable, nor curable. In fact, one of the biggest signs of quackery is someone who wants to sell you an autism cure or an autism preventative. That’s when you know you’re dealing with loonies, with fraudsters.

I’d like to ask the Andrew Wakefields of the world what they’re doing to ensure that autistic children and adults get all the help they can to live a long and fruitful life. Because, whatever Wakefield did to “help” Alex Spourdalakis failed phenomenally and no one should trust him in any way with their autistic child, ever.

If you want to argue that vaccines are part of some big plot, go ahead. If you want to say that they cause more harm than good, go ahead. All your points are easily refutable. What you shouldn’t do is denigrate autistics to the point that you endanger them and, by extension, endanger all of us. Because failing to protect the weakest among us is a sign that we’re on a downward spiral as a society. We’re circling the drain, so to speak.

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Sharyl Attkisson and big, fat frauds

To say that Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS reporter, has been acting a little weird lately is an understatement. It seems that she believes that there is a vast government conspiracy to keep her quiet. If that’s the case, the government is doing an awful job at it. She’s been speaking everywhere, including a testimony before the US Congress.

Her persecution complex appears to be one where she sees things happening all around her. For example, she thinks her computers at work and at home where hacked, but she never had access to the computers at CBS:

“But a report from the inspector general’s office obtained Thursday by The Associated Press said investigators found no evidence of remote or unauthorized access on her personal Apple iMac. Attkisson has also alleged that her CBS laptops were compromised, though CBS declined to make the computers available for examination…

According to the report, Attkisson provided the inspector general’s office with recorded videos showing the screen of her CBS-issued laptop.

One video showed what was determined to be a standard error prompt, the report said. A second video that showed text from a document she was creating on a Macbook laptop being deleted without her apparent involvement actually “appeared to be caused by the backspace key being struck, rather than a remote intrusion,” according to the report.

The report also said Attkisson pointed out a “suspicious” cable attached to her internet service provider’s connection box that she said may have been used to “tap” her house. But the cable was determined to be a “common cable” that could not be used to monitor or affect her phone or Internet service.”

My cable box is full of, you know, cables. I bet I’m being monitored too.

To make the conspiracy come full circle, Sharyl Attkisson also claims that there are “astroturf campaigns” out there designed to do stuff. Let her explain:

“The many ways that corporations, special interests and political interests of all stripes exploit media and the Internet to perpetuate astroturf is ever-expanding. Surreptitious astroturf methods are now more important to these interests than traditional lobbying of Congress. There’s an entire PR industry built around it in Washington.”

It’s her variation on the “Pharma Shill” gambit that anti-vaccine zealots use to cast doubt on facts supported by science. If the science is that vaccines save lives, and I tell you so, I must be getting paid by Big Pharma to say so. If a mother and another caregiver brutally murder a child with autism for no reason (BECAUSE THERE NEVER IS A REASON TO MURDER A CHILD), and I tell you that they are murderers who were misguided and misinformed by pseudo-autism-support groups whose true nature is anti-vaccine, then I must be getting paid by Big Pharma to say so.

To come up with her list of “top 10 astroturfers”, Sharyl Attkisson relied on a poll on Twitter. I’m not surprised about this because anti-vaccine advocates like Sharyl Attkisson often rely on like-minded zealots to form their opinions. Had she really conducted a proper poll, the results would have been different. I mean, if we’re going to talk about frauds, chief among them is Andrew Wakefield.

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield conducted one of the most damaging scientific frauds in the history of mankind. I’m not overstating it. He was hired by lawyers to take down a vaccine, and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield was more than happy to comply. He had a handful of kids go through some invasive medical procedures and come up with nothing to link the MMR vaccine to autism, except for his own gut feeling.

Perhaps inspired by that fraud, another big-time fraud has come up within the anti-vaccine movement:

“[T]he 37-year-old Coloradoan behind [an anti-vaccine website, Vactruth.org], Jeffry John Aufderheide, isn’t what his glossy website would have you believe. Vaccines just one of the many conspiracies in his rolodex—he’s also a 9/11 truther, gun-rights fanatic, and Infowars darling. Oh, and he lies about his time in the Navy.

The Navy discredited Aufderheide’s claim that he served as a “rescue swimmer,” stating that he actually served four years as an Information Systems Technician, Third Class. “This is all the releasable information we have,” Sharon Anderson, the Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs, told The Daily Beast in an email. According to the job description on the organization’s website, Aufderheide’s role closely resembled that of an IT guy, one who acted as “admin on mainframe computers” and “management” on internal databases. A necessary position, it’s less the life-saving Navy SEAL that “rescue swimmer” with “top secret clearance” implies.”

I’m not surprised that an anti-vaccine zealot would resort to lying in order to get people to follow him. And his zealotry doesn’t stop there:

“In May 2013, during an interview on Alex Jones’ InfoWars—who calls Aufderheide a fantastic writer that he’s been following for years—about a new government-funded mobile app that he believes is designed to track anti-vaxxers. Later in the same interview, Aufderheide claimed the polio vaccine gives people cancer. When asked by a user whether the chemicals in vaccines could affect the outcome of a person’s sexuality, he called it a “legitimate question.””

That’s right folks. I must be in love with Pedro (not her real name) because of the vaccines that I got, not because, you know, I was born this way. (I’d even be willing to entertain the other nutty idea that sexuality is guided by our experiences with the opposite sex and not the other way around.)

Then again, to Aufdeheide’s followers, the Navy must be lying in order to paint him in a bad light. I’m sure he’ll come out and show us the pictures of his days as a Navy SEAL.

As for Sharyl Attkisson’s claims about text being deleted from her documents, it’s a known issue with Microsoft Word. People have been reporting problems similar to hers for a long time now. It could be something as simple as having hit the “insert” key while writing. I’ve even had it happen once in a while. But we all must be operating well within Crosby’s Labyrinth, where things are not explained by simple phenomena that can be wrapped up in a few minutes. In this reality, it’s all one big massive conspiracy aimed to do something nefarious. I mean, the government nailed the response to Katrina so goddamned well that it is not outside the government’s ability to coordinate all these astroturfers.

Everyone loses their mind!

If you don’t know by now who Dr. Paul A. Offit is, then you live under a rock and need to read more. That, or you are new to the “vaccine wars.” If these were actually “wars,” then Dr. Offit would be one of the top generals. He is bright, well-qualified, an excellent speaker, and knows what he’s talking about. He co-developed a vaccine against rotavirus, a nasty intestinal bug that has been responsible for the deaths of children worldwide.

Imagine for a moment a hot day in the summer with, say, 100% humidity and temperatures in the low 100’s. Do you remember how thirsty you were on a day like that? Now, imagine being that hot, that thirsty, and having all the liquid in your body be exiting you through your rectum at an accelerated rate. Pretty bad, huh? We’ll come back to this in a moment.

Dr. Offit and his colleagues developed a vaccine against rotavirus. Of course, he made some money from that vaccine. My uncle rebuilds classic cars. It takes him forever to rebuild them, and then he sells them for a profit. It took years for Dr. Offit to co-develop the vaccine, and it took more years to bring it to market and out to the world. Of course he made money from it. But we’ll come back to that in a moment. Continue reading

Selling you a package of lies about autism

As if I wasn’t angry enough at Andrew Wakefield, now comes news that he is trying to sell an autism reality television show to producers in America. This isn’t exactly news. Sullivan at LB/RB had written about it before, but now there are more details of the quack’s plans:

“(Wakefield’s) pitch was a reality TV series about autism, and he hada short trailer on his laptop: an autistic child screams; another bites his mother’s hand; another repeatedly and violently slams a book against his head. Then a narrator tells us that “every day across the world, medical symptoms of hundreds of thousands of people with autism are being ignored”. Cue piano music and the titles, The Autism Team: Changing Lives.

The premise is that the autism symptoms suffered by the children in the promo (Jon, 14, who is “wasting away”; six-year-old twins “still not potty trained”; and 15-year-old Jack, who is “non-verbal and very self-injurious”) have left their parents feeling helpless and alone — until, that is, the Autism Team steps in to save the day.”

Oh, give me a [expletive] break! Saves the day? Saves the..? I… I can’t. I just can’t. I need to stop reading now because my head — and these details — is killing me. But let’s keep going:

“The man in the white shirt and jeans punting the prospective TV series that day was Andrew Wakefield, coauthor of a now notorious 1998 study, published in the Lancet, that suggested a possible link between autism, gastrointestinal disease (it was Wakefield who coined the term “autistic enterocolitis”, which Krigsman diagnoses in the Autism Team trailer), and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Afterwards, Wakefield called for the suspension of the triple jab, which caused widespread panic and is said by his critics to have resulted in a drop in the number of parents choosing to vaccinate their children. Cases of measles rose from 56 in 1998 to nearly 1,400 in 2008. In 2006, a 13-year-old boy became the first person in more than a decade to die of the disease in Britain.”

That’s right. Like I wrote yesterday, Wakefield and the Wakefieldites are bringing measles back, baby! And here is something I don’t get about their claims of MMR vaccine and autism:

1. If the MMR vaccine measles virus causes enterocolitis that leads to autism, then why…

2. Have we not seen any increase in autism as a result of measles infection?

I mean, after seeing what is happening in Wales and Nigeria, we should have a pretty good increase in measles-caused “autistic enterocolitis,” right? WRONG. It’s wrong because it’s bogus. It’s like saying that it was a unicorn in my muffler that made my car stall and die in the middle of a busy intersection the other day. I can blame it on unicorns all day long, but it wasn’t a unicorn. It was the oxygen sensor.

And then this:

“In his book Callous Disregard, Wakefield claims his findings of autistic enterocolitis have been “independently confirmed in five different countries”. He cites five studies, two of which were authored by his friend, collaborator and Autism Team star Arthur Krigsman. One of those studies appeared in Autism Insights, a medical journal on whose board Krigsman sat in 2010. Two other studies were by Italian doctor Federico Balzola. According to the justthevax blog, the first of these was a case report of a single adult autistic patient with an inflamed bowel, and the second a “meeting abstract” that “never saw the light of day as a peer-reviewed study”. The last one, a study by Dr Lenny Gonzalez, while not reporting finding a distinct “autistic enterocolitis”, concludes that “autistic children have a high incidence of gastrointestinal disease”.”

Ladies and gentlemen of the United States of America, and surrounding nations far and wide, this quack is trying to sell you a package of lies. If you are unable to see this after all the evidence has been laid out against him and in very simple terms for all to understand, then we might as well just throw away the whole [expletive] vaccine program and let the diseases run wild again. (I have major stock in the iron lung industry, so it really doesn’t hit my bottom line if polio comes back.*) And then I’ll consult His Lordship Andy of Wakefield on how to cure Congenital Rubella Syndrome or encephalitis or MRSA infections of skin lesions from chickenpox… Or maybe he’ll know a good orthopedist to fit kids with artificial limbs after they lose said limbs from meningococcal infections.

I’d like to see a TV show then.

Check that. I’d like to see a TV show now where Andy is placed on trial and every single thing he has ever said or done is laid out for the world to see. I’d like to see him explain his patent application for a single measles shot. (I thought measles vaccines caused autism, Andy?) I’d also like to see him explain why only his friends and close allies have been able to replicate his work, but the rest of the known universe has not. And I’d like for him to sit and listen attentively while mother after mother of children who die from vaccine-preventable diseases tell him what they think of his anti-vaccine ways.

That I would pay to see. Until then, any channel or production company that picks up Andy’s snake oil will likely face a strong response. And respond we will.

*I don’t really have any stock in the iron lung industry.