THE CZAR: Courts and McCarthyism

Slate.com, which is to journalism what the G4 cable network is to responsible babysitting, has a typically snarky overview of the recent Federal court decision which pimpslaps the claim that vaccines cause autism spectrum disorders. Slate adds a little analysis there, too, and by analysis, we mean “making fun of the victims.”

Folks, there’s little funny about autism: not to the parents, nor the families and friends, and not least to the sufferers themselves. Even had there been a link been childhood vaccinations and autism, no amount of settlement money would change a thing; the smarter horse on which to bet is the ongoing scientific research, which has done a remarkable job in only the last ten years of identifying the many facets of the disorder. An interesting bit there: the recent reported upsurge in autism diagnoses seems to be right in line with improved diagnostic techniques. How about that? Almost as if it was the other way around…that improved diagnostic methods are discovering a wider degree of affliction.

Regardless of the court’s decision, which is right by the way, the research continues. Recent developments are beginning to map out the disorder, and the last ten years of progress have outpaced the last ten years of attacks on mandatory childhood vaccinations. The major media frat party, once more, is obsessed with the wrong side of the story.

But this is a celebrity cause célèbre, don’t forget: Jenny McCarthy, who claims to have healed her son of autism by feeding him a diet of what appears to be ingredients for packaging glue, has yet to comment on the decision. She may not need to: she has convinced a fairly vociferous contingent of parents (parents of autistic children as well as parent of otherwise unaffected kids) that she, a college drop-out who evidently applied to Playboy for research grant money, knows significantly more about neuroscience, physiology, and medicine that every other researcher except one. That’s quite a feat when your clothes keep falling off like that.

I kid. Actually, if her son has progressed beyond a more crippling form of a spectrum disorder, I think that’s remarkable and worth celebrating. Maybe her program works; but she is flat out wrong to join on the anti-vaccination bandwagon.

Hang on. Let’s talk about that one researcher. Know who Andrew Wakefield is? Just as Global Warming can be traced to the zeal of one Roger Revelle, the “vaccinations = autism” scare can be traced to the efforts of Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield published the first—and seemingly only—paper claiming to link the two, back in 1998. For ten years, Wakefield has claimed the victory of seeing mandatory childhood vaccination efforts decline worldwide, while conveniently ignoring the sudden increase in preventable diseases in first-world countries. Fatal diseases, by the by. He has not, so far as we can tell, prevented a single case of autism, but people like you and me are dying by other means.

As Peter Falk would say, “Just one more thing.” Did an autism parent activist named Rosemary Kessick hire an attorney named Richard Barr in mid-Nineties, in an effort to start a lawsuit against mandatory vaccinations? And did Barr hire Wakefield in 1996 to drum up evidence that vaccines cause autism? And was this not two years before his astonishing research paper that claimed just that?

Worse still is the recent terrifying secret—and by secret, we mean “beyond the mainstream media’s basic ability to report on a story that would clear this mess up”—that peer researchers have not only failed to duplicate his results, they cannot even find Wakefield’s own evidence within his purported test samples.

Frauds continue to rack up the body count worldwide, the media fawns over medical research giants Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, and parents crushed by the tragedy of autism are dealt another time-wasting blow by faceless nameless courts (who actually read the evidence and make decisions based on the way things are). And quietly, in small, under-funded corners of research labs, the real work on autism continues.

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