The Chicago Sun-Times has hired the queen of the “mommy instinct,” the graduate of “Google U,” the fear-mongering, evidence be damned, “vaccines do to cause autism because I say they do” face of the anti-vaccine movement, Jenny “Too Crazy for Jim Carrey” McCarthy as a columnist and blogger. That sound you just heard was the entire scientific community slamming their heads against their desks. From Reportingonhealth.org:
McCarthy may be famous for a lot of reasons – Playboy playmate, actress, ex-girlfriend of Jim Carrey – but she is roundly criticized by health experts and many journalists for her views on autism. As a celebrity parent of an autistic son, McCarthy is a leading and sadly influential voice in the discredited movement to blame vaccines for autism. Public health experts fervently wish that she would just shut up.
Predictably, the online reaction to her hiring was swift and brutal:
— Melody Hensley (@MelodyHensley) October 19, 2012
Journalist Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus, which examines the viral growth of the myth that vaccines cause autism and other developmental disorders, has previously blasted the Sun-Times for giving McCarthy a forum for her anti-vaccine, anti-science views. Here is an excerpt of the Panic Virus that deals with McCarthy.
Now the Sun Times has given McCarthy an even bigger platform, and that’s a travesty.
Much more after the jump……
Here’s part of that excerpt of The Panic Virus: (Bolding is mine….ya know, just assume that bolding is always mine in quotes unless I say otherwise. Saves me writing the same thing for everything I quote.)
As it turned out, Mommy instinct had done more than just show McCarthy which of the many alternative “biomedical” treatments she should pursue-it had also given her insight into what had made Evan sick in the first place. Winfrey prompted McCarthy to share that information with the audience:
Winfrey: So what do you think triggered the autism? I know you have a theory.
McCarthy: I do have a theory.
Winfrey: Mom instinct.
McCarthy: Mommy instinct. You know, everyone knows the stats, which being one in one hundred and fifty children have autism.
Winfrey: It used to be one in ten thousand.
McCarthy: And, you know, what I have to say is this: What number does it have to be? What number will it take for people just to start listening to what the mothers of children who have autism have been saying for years? Which is that we vaccinated our baby and something happened…. Right before his MMR shot, I said to the doctor, I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn’t it? And he said, ‘No, that is ridiculous. It is a mother’s desperate attempt to blame something on autism.’ And he swore at me…. And not soon thereafter, I noticed that change in the pictures: Boom! Soul, gone from his eyes.
At that point, Winfrey picked up an index card. “Of course,” she said, “we talked to the Centers for Disease Control and asked them whether or not there is a link between autism and childhood vaccinations. And here’s what they said.” As she started to read, the screen filled with text.
We simply don’t know what causes most cases of autism, but we’re doing everything we can to find out. The vast majority of science to date does not support an association between thimerosal in vaccines and autism…. It is important to remember, vaccines protect and save lives.
When Winfrey appeared back on screen, she turned to McCarthy, who was ready with a response: “My science is named Evan, and he’s at home. That’s my science.” There was little question that Winfrey’s sympathies lay with the “mother warrior” who’d written a “beautiful new book” about how she’d cured her son of a supposedly incurable disease as opposed to the faceless bureaucracy that couldn’t provide any answers.
Before the end of the show, Winfrey told viewers that McCarthy would be available to answer questions to anyone who logged on to a “special [online] message board just for this show so you can share your stories.” One fan asked McCarthy what she would do if she could do it all over again. “The universe didn’t mean for me to do anything else besides what I did,” McCarthy answered, “but if I had another child, I would not vaccinate.” A mother wrote in to say that she had decided not to give her child the MMR vaccine “due to the autism link.” McCarthy was delighted. “I’m so proud you followed your mommy instinct,” she wrote.
Within a week of her appearance on Oprah, McCarthy had repeated her story on Larry King Live and Good Morning America. On those three shows alone, she reached between fifteen- and twenty-million viewers-and that wasn’t including people who watched repeats or saw the clips online. Print publications grabbed ahold of her story as well: People, which is one of the largest general interest magazines in the country, ran an excerpt from Louder Than Words under the headline, “My Autistic Son: A Story of Hope.” The media blitz’s effects were felt immediately.
McCarthy’s sudden ubiquity did more than give families affected by autism hope for a miracle cure-it also further legitimized the vaccines-cause-autism movement, which still had not completely shed its reputation as being on the scientific fringe. Dan Olmsted, a former UPI reporter who is one of the editors of a blog called Age of Autism, gives McCarthy credit for singlehandedly pushing vaccine skeptics out of the “looney fringes” and into the mainstream: “To anybody who comes to this issue from the environmental and recovery side of this debate-the idea that something happened to these kids, and it’s probably a toxic exposure-Jenny McCarthy is the biggest thing to happen since the word autism was coined.”
Ok, real quick: The rise in autism rates from Winfrey’s quoted “one in ten thousand” to McCarthy’s quoted “one in one hundred and fifty” is a very deceptive use of statistics to sow fear among parents. Yes, the rise in autism rates is real, but it isn’t from an autism epidemic. The rise is due to a complete revolution in the diagnosis and classification of autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Autism researcher Eric Fombonne found that:
Recent epidemiological surveys of autistic disorder and other PDDs have heightened awareness of and concern about the prevalence of these disorders; however, differences in survey methodology, particularly changes in case definition and case identification over time, have made comparisons between surveys difficult to perform and interpret. (Fombonne 2005)
In addition to the broadening of the diagnosis, the social and medical network supporting ASD dramatically increased. There has been increased efforts at surveillance – scouring the community for hidden cases of autism. Further, parents have become much more accepting of the diagnosis, which may partly be due to the fact that is some states the label with facilitate access to special services. And clinicians have become more knowledgeable of ASD so are better able to make the diagnosis, even in subtle cases.
Rutter, in order to test this latter hypothesis that increased diagnostic rates were due largely to changes in diagnosis and surveillance, reviewed literature that contained sufficient information to assess true historical rates of autism. He found that applying modern criteria to these historical records yields similar rates of diagnoses: 30-60 per 10,000. Taylor did a similar review and found the following:
The recorded prevalence of autism has increased considerably in recent years. This reflects greater recognition, with changes in diagnostic practice associated with more trained diagnosticians; broadening of diagnostic criteria to include a spectrum of disorder; a greater willingness by parents and educationalists to accept the label (in part because of entitlement to services); and better recording systems, among other factors. (Taylor 2006)
If the broadened diagnosis hypothesis is true than it must also be true that as other diagnoses shifted over to autism they would decrease as autism numbers increased. This is exactly what Jick et al found when they reviewed a cohort of boys with and without autism. What was previously diagnosed as language disorder is now being diagnosed as autism, with a corresponding decrease in non-specific language disorders. Shattuck found the exact same effect, so called “diagnostic substitution,” when he studied the prevalence of disabilities among children in US special education from 1984 to 2003. He found that in locations where the prevalence of autism had increased there was a corresponding decrease in the prevalence of other disabilities. (Shattuck 2006)
Of course the implications of this are profound. If there is no autism epidemic, if there is a “stable incidence” of autism over recent decades, then this alone is powerful evidence against the vaccine hypothesis – and in fact removes the primary piece of evidence for a vaccine-autism connection. Just as a true increase in incidence would have called out for an environmental factor causing autism, the lack of any increase argues strongly against any environment factor – especially when this is combined with the copious evidence for multiple genetic factors as the ultimate cause(s) of ASD.
Note this. I am not claiming that there is no actual increase in autism separate from that caused by diagnosis and classification. There may be an actual increase hiding in the numbers. But to claim as McCarthy does that the increase is due to vaccines or another environmental factor while ignoring the change in diagnosis is sickeningly dishonest.
Let’s turn to the great site Jenny McCarthy Body Count for some more info on the Chicago Sun-Times newest columnist and blogger:
In May 2007 Jenny McCarthy announced that Evan was not a “Crystal Child” after all, but had been diagnosed with autism (some people have said that there is a possibility that he may have been misdiagnosed and he actually has Landau-Kleffner syndrome). She holds on to the mistaken belief that Evan’s alleged autism was caused by his receiving childhood vaccines. Most anti-vaccination believers claim that the compound thimerosal led to an increase in autism cases. The Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine is their usual target. However, thimerosal was never used as a preservative in the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine. No vaccine licensed since 1999 has contained thimerosal as a preservative, except a few multidose container vaccines such as some (but not all) HIB and Influenza vaccines. Autism has not declined since 1999, thereby disproving this connection. In addition, Jenny McCarthy’s child, Evan, was not born until 2002, well after thimerosal had been removed from most childhood vaccines. This has led Jenny McCarthy, and others, to claim that it was the MMR vaccine itself that caused autism or that it was vaccines in general that caused autism. All of these ideas have been disproven in multiple scientific and legal examinations of the evidence.
In June 2007 Jenny McCarthy began promoting anti-vaccination rhetoric. Because of her celebrity status she has appeared on several television shows and has published multiple books advising parents not to vaccinate their children. This has led to an increase in the number of vaccine preventable illnesses as well as an increase in the number of vaccine preventable deaths.
Wait. Did that just say her son may not of even been autistic? That can’t be right. That has to be a vicious smear by a hater. I’m sure Hollywood Life will set us straight in their own pandering to celebrities sort of way:
After years of speaking publicly about her belief that MMR shots (immunization for measles, mumps, and rubella) caused her son to suffer from autism, Jenny McCarthy now faces the reality that her 7-year-old son Evan — who no longer shows any signs of autism — may likely have lived with completely different illness. A new article in Time magazine — which Jenny was interviewed for — suggests Evan suffers from Landau-Kleffner syndrome, “a rare childhood neurological disorder that can also result in speech impairment and possible long-term neurological damage.” Many applaud Jenny, who has never stopped fighting to help her son since his autism diagnosis in 2005. Others, like the Center of Disease Control, say her claims about immunizations make her “a menace to public health.”
And she is also reversing her initial position that the MMR shots caused Evan’s autism. Jenny now says she wants vaccinations better researched — rather than getting rid of them altogether, as she previously promoted. And though her son may never have had autism, Jenny insists, “I’ll continue to be the voice” of the disorder.
So lets try to make some sense of this. Jenny McCarthy takes off her clothes for Playboy, hosts a game show on Mtv, makes some crappy movies, has a child and claims he is an Crystal child* (which is just as new age woo-wooey as it sounds ), then claims he isn’t an Crystal child* but is instead autistic, uses her “mommy instinct” and internet ability to treat and cure him of a disease he probably never had, wages a war against vaccines based on no evidence, becomes the face of the fringe movement and uses her celebrity to influence who knows how many parents to deny vaccination from their children, and vows to continue to be, in the words of the CDC, “a menace to public health.”
And now she is the Chicago Sun-Times newest columnist and blogger!
Enjoy your new font of ignorance and misinformation, Chicago.
*Just for kicks, from the Children of the New Earth website, an article by Jenny McCarthy:
The day I found out I was an adult Indigo will stay with me forever. I was walking hand in hand with my son down a Los Angeles street when this women approached me and said, “You’re an Indigo and your son is a Crystal.” I immediately replied, “Yes!” and the woman smiled at me and walked away. I stood there for a moment, because I had no idea what the heck an Indigo and Crystal was, but I seemed so sure of it when I had blurted out “Yes!” After doing some of my own research on the word Indigo, I realized not only was I an early Indigo but my son was in fact a Crystal child. From that point on things in my life started to make sense. I always wondered why I was a ball-buster and rule breaker on TV, and at that moment I knew exactly why. I was born to not only think outside the box, but to break that box up into a million pieces. I called this day my “awakening” but really it was the day I remembered. This was the day my life and global mission became so clear. There was nothing I could do that could contain the excitement of what was to come.….So, I asked the Divine for help, and my Indigo awakening day brought it right to me. The way to create a new way of life for our children isn’t just about teaching the parents, but more about teaching the children. I knew immediately that changing education in schools was my global life mission. I want to open schools across the country that apply this philosophy so that our children can be taught in an environment that feeds their soul and has them in continual balance with their authentic self.I want our children to start each day in silent meditation with an intention for that day. I want organic cafeterias, outdoor class sessions, teaching about the power of thought, getting rid of rote memorization. I want it all. I want it to be everything and anything that ignites the fire in our children so they can live in the light, know that they have a voice, and that they can make a difference in this world. We will listen. We will build them the schools so they can have a place to do just that.Being the Indigo I am, I do know I have taken on the biggest task anyone could try to accomplish in one lifetime. I have no doubt in my mind you will be watching me do this for the rest of my life, until I can barely hold myself up with my walker.