Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Autism Speaks (and Speaks, and Speaks)

Good news for people who think that posing nude in Playboy and hosting a crappy MTV game show automatically comes with its own PhD in neuroscience: Jenny McCarthy will soon have a daily platform from which to berate the medical community for not taking her advice on treating autism.

Unless you're lucky enough to have mercifully been born deaf, you're probably well aware of Jenny's delightful one-dingbat crusade to find someone or something to blame for her 5-year-old son's autism. For the past couple of years, she's jumped in front of pretty much every television camera and microphone in the continental United States to stir up unnecessary controversy over certain childhood vaccinations by proclaiming her belief that there's a link between them and autism and shouting down anyone who has the gall to doubt her credentials (or, in the case of Denis Leary, to doubt the veracity of the abundance of recent autism diagnoses in this country in the first place). Because, really -- why trust those doctors and their medical degrees when you can listen to Jim Carrey's girlfriend?

There's little as obnoxious in the pop cultural sphere as the celebrity who declares him or herself the all-knowing, unrelenting voice of experience on a particular subject simply because it happened to have touched his or her life in some way. For every one Michael J. Fox, who's fought Parkinson's with staggering humility and a dignified focus that's truly benefited others, there are ten Jenny McCarthys -- who write books on how gross it is that white stuff sometimes comes out of your vagina during pregnancy.

Actually I take it back; there is one thing more obnoxious: someone who enables that person.

In this case, the one foisting Jenny's show on an innocent public -- the one whose personal largess pretty much guarantees that Jenny McCarthy will be the next big thing in daytime television -- is none other than the event horizon of all human experience: Oprah. No one absorbs, assimilates, then repackages under her own mantle the breadth of existence that Oprah does; if something hasn't happened to her -- it just hasn't happened. Who the hell knows, maybe Oprah assumes that being tangentially associated with someone whose child is autistic will qualify her as an expert on yet another subject currently capturing the public's imagination. She had to have some way to stick her greedy little fingers in the autism pie, seeing as how she won't be getting her own kid, autistic or otherwise, at any point short of chloroforming one at her school in South Africa and sneaking him or her through customs in a giant box marked "make-up."

The real problem is that celebrities of the Oprah and Jenny McCarthy stripe are so used to being deferred to on just about every issue by a sycophantic media that they really have come to arrogantly believe that they're qualified to offer an informed opinion on anything they've Googled once or twice or read an article on while sitting in First Class. When we're talking about, say, Oprah's favorite funnel cake recipe or Jenny's thoughts on the feel of silicone versus saline breast implants -- no harm, no foul. But when they begin playing doctor -- when Oprah hypes the latest trendy Hollywood colon cleanse or Jenny recommends that parents not inoculate their children or touts Scientology-esque "cures" for complex diseases -- that's when things get dangerous.

Nothing Jenny McCarthy has suggested about the link between vaccinations and autism has been proven -- far from it. But Jenny isn't letting that stop her campaign of ignorance. She has her convictions as a mother and her moral certitude as a celebrity.

And soon, she'll have a bigger audience than she's ever had before.


Anonymous said...

Goddammit, this pisses me off.

Why can't the scientific community talk as loud as this walking breast? You "cured" Autism? Really. Really, Jenny McCarthy. YOU cured autism. Huh. Interesting. Fucking idiot, you can't "cure" it anyway, and you more than likely can't cause it, either through a shot or any other bullshit excuse. It's all a blame game so that way she can avoid dealing with her child as is.

I hope her son gets 1/2 as much attention as she gives to this stupid crusade.

Amy said...

Did you take the Ele-HATER today?

haha.. sorry man, I saw that somewhere today and had to use it.

Seriously though, I took my concerns to the Dr. about the mercury in vaccinations possibly causing Autism several years ago (6 I think), and this was his answer:

"They don't know that it IS the mercury, but they also don't know that it ISNT, so as a precaution we don't use any of the brands that use the mercury. Better safe than sorry"

And I couldn't agree more. When it comes to the health and well being of my kids, and they THINK it MIGHT be the vaccines causing the Autism.. then I'm all for not taking those particular vaccines. Which, honestly, is what I did.

L. said...

If I'm not mistaken, she blames the mercury content in the thimerosal in the measles vaccine for her son's autism. I'm pretty sure thimerosal was removed from most vaccines in 1999 and it wasn't ever used in the MMR vaccine. (I'm basing this on a preliminary Google search.)

McCarthy's son was born in 2002 so if the above information is true it's pretty unlikely he received a shot containing thimerosal.

Also, the diagnosed cases of autism have continued to rise since the mercury was phased out of childhood vaccines. The continuing increase is probably due to the fact that people are more aware of autism than they were in the past.

Chez said...

Yeah, Amy -- you're right. I'm seriously going to need to write something a little nicer soon.

TK said...

"the event horizon of all human experience: Oprah"

For the win.

Mas Triste said...

I agree that the source is questionable. However, you need look no further than the DES lawsuits (diethylstilbestrol) or discoveries like Lorenzo's oil to realize that individually driven scientific discoveries support our need for a patent office.

If people are moved to take on whatever cause that effects them the most; so be it. Ever heard of the Michael J. Fox Foundation?

I also agree with Leary. Sheeple and doctors gravitate to the well beaten path. Wait until all those who were being diagnosed with ADHD discover the lingering issues associated with Ritalin? For 5-10 years they were shovelling that crap into every teenage boy they could find.

OMG! I am starting to sound like Tom Cruise. Gotta Go!

I also agree

jrm78 said...

Considering that there were recent findings that phthalates had possible links to autism, I hope Jenny Mac takes a closer look at this new evidence while simultaneously encouraging the blinded parents to go out and get their kids immunized so that the herd immunity of the population to diseases like MMR isn't compromised. I'm not going to hold my breath though.

Deacon Blue said...

Yeah, two big problems here:

One, the overabundance of "autism" diagnoses so many things, both real and imagined, are now on the "autism spectrum" Autism is clearly the "new ADHD"...the disease du jour to diagnose kids with.

Two, the over-eagerness and short-sightedness in the realm of vaccination. We're vaccinating too many things now I think (Chickenpox? C'mon...) and why no one thought mercury as a preservative was a questionable idea I cannot understand...Vaccines are good, but I think there is only so much you should be loading up a child's developing immune system with so early on.

Calitri said...

I've taken plenty of shits but that doesn't make me a gastroenterologist.

McCarthy is off her rocker, plain and simple.

Alex said...

She should just increase her magazine interviews. That way I can look at pictures of her and still won't have to actually hear what she has to say.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Oprah found herself a bullhorn with tits.

Throughout my childhood I was referred to as an "underachiever". There were all the "he's not applying himself..." or the "he doesn't pay attention" and everything else in between. My insane, alcoholic ex-wife tried to convince me (And successfully convinced a terrible therapist) that I was ADD. (That was years ago, and shes been an EX since 2001. She has also since fallen off the wagon and gotten almost as fat as her mother. I love karma.)

Then came along a sleep apnea diagnosis and everything fell into place. All the jackasses in the 1990s' who told me I was ADD were a bunch of quack nutjobs who couldn't have been further removed from the medical field.

About 4 years back I was talking to my doctor (Who thankfully doesn't believe in over medicating) and when I told him about the whole ADD crap he also went on about it being the fashionable diagnosis of the time. He asked me a barrage of questions and after I answered them, he told me to get checked out for Sleep Apnea.

After one hell of a lot of research, I'm doing far better now and my though processes have begun to resemble something a little more orderly than one big walking synaptic misfire. Hasn't helped my typing skills much, though.

People should take their fashionable diagnoses and acronyms and shove them up their asses.

Speaking of which, do you think Jenny's will fit that far up Oprah's?

Suzy said...

So what... a few kids develop a little differently, possibly because of vaccines that otherwise prevent MAJOR AND PAINFUL (possibly deadly) illnesses from invading their bodies. I think Dick Cheney would call that collateral damage. She's probably not getting any good scripts or other offers handed to her nowadays, so why not cash in on this bullshit.

Gabby said...

I don't know... years ago when reading up on the possible vaccination-autism link, it was mentioned that it was possibly the mercury used in keeping the vaccines shelf-stable that could be the problem. Knowing a little about things like hormesis - where toxins can have unforseen affect (in the case of hormesis it would be a positive affect) on an indivudual, which is completely unpredictable based on every human's unique make-up - it only stands to reason, in my mind, that mercury (being one of the few things that can penetrate the brain barrier) even in the smallest amount (like what may be found in some childhood vaccines), could spur some sort of unforeseeable increase/decrease in brain development in some children.

I'm not a doctor, but these are things that seem sort of effortlessly tied-in to me. I'm also not anti-vaccination, either, but I do think more research needs to be done.

Amy said...


You obviously aren't a parent. Otherwise you wouldn't be as calloused about this. "So what"? Really? "Collateral damage"? Really?

Jenny aside, your comments are heartless.

Girl With Curious Hair said...

She's just taken an alternative path to her medical/research career. Why work as a starving, sleep deprived student for 8-16 years when you can just make faces and cash in on your status as a washed up personality?

lakelady said...

Someday, when you spend the time to listen to what people like Oprah and Jenny actually say and write, instead of prejudging and dismissing them because of their celebrity status and assuming you already know what they're about because, well, because you just KNOW, maybe then your opinion about them will carry some legitimate weight.

Lily's Mommy said...

First of all, if I had a child who was born with any sort of "defect" I would want to know why it happened. So I get her, fanaticism?, zeal? Whatever you want to call it.

That being said, anyone who has had any small amount of education knows that just because two things occur together, does not mean that one causes the other. I agree that autism is being over diagnosed. Women are having children at an older age. There are traces of prescription drugs in our water supplies... There are so many factors that to put the blame squarely on vaccinations, makes NO sense to me.

And FYI, Deacon B, if my 2 y.o. daughter hadn't been vaccinated against chicken pox she would have caught it from me last month when I had shingles.

Also, I'm really glad that autism wasn't a popular diagnosis when I was a kid, cuz I was fucking weird. What ever happened to working shit out over time?

Suzy said...

Amy, It's a joke.

This McCarthyism is a joke, too. One need not be a parent to have a heart. Or a sense of humor.
Listen, there's no way to tell everybody what enough proof that there's a link is. Everybody do what you want.
But don't come cryin' when your doctor, who tries to abide by the six-bazillion cover-your-ass rules she/he has to follow to not get sued by parents who can't accept their lot in life, told you to get your child vaccinated and you refused based on this stupidity.
And no, I'm not a righteous parent. I'm a lovin' aunt who knows the difference between alarmist bullshit and evidence-based medicine. No hatin' Amy.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a cheerleader for vaccines, BTW, but I'm also not a pediatrician, and last I checked, neither is Jenny M. That's what pisses me off. I understand her passion. She loves her son and wants the best for him. I get it. And my pediatrician said something similar to the other post, like "as of right now, there is no definable link between vax and autism. That link could be discovered tomorrow. But until then, I am more concerned with preventing deadly diseases."

I just think this much hoopla over something that NOBODY understands just leads to fear-mongering. I also don't believe my pediatrician is out to get me and I know he is up to date on research, so I ask him for advice, he allows me to make whatever decision I want regarding my child's health, and we go from there.

Cheetah Chrome said...

Gawd, don't you knnnoww that EVERYBODY with a few google taps and magazine articles is an expert!

Aside from the obvious I'd like to point out that a qualified medical researcher, with 12 or more years of extensive education is looking for answers to the problems of Autism WITHOUT A PROIR AGENDA. If you go looking for information about how vaccines w Mercury or whatever cause Autism... you will find the information you need to prove your point. Who Shouts Loudest is no basis for medical research.

Chez said...

Ah, yes. Lakelady steps in to defend Oprah again (as if Oprah needs defending).

What makes you possibly think that I haven't watched, listened to and read what people like Oprah and McCarthy have to say? Do you really think I'm just saying this stuff for the hell of it? I don't dislike Oprah and then tailor everything she does to fit that end; I genuinely don't like her because of the arrogant, self-serving things she does -- and does constantly.

But feel free to believe what you want.

SteveR said...

A new study shows that some kids who've been diagnosed with ADHD just don't get enough sleep.

I'd look there first.

... for autism too... at least to rule out inadequate sleep as a factor.

Chris said...

Chez, I agree completely. The Bad Astronomy blog has had some excellent articles on this issue recently.

dIANNE said...

I don't know that autism is necessarily being "overdiagnosed". I think we know what to LOOK for now, and it isn't an enormous social stigma now. My cousin has an autistic son, and I defy Jenny McCarthy to say that Becky hasn't put at least as much time and energy into helping her son as Jenny ever did. And Becky did it without the help of celebrity, nannies, and money, she did it on the wages of a home health aide. Matthew's not cured because right now there IS NO CURE for autism.

I have ADD. My sister has ADD, my younger sister has ADHD, and of the eight kids we have between us, three of them have ADHD. We did multiples tests before we got a firm diagnosis, we didn't just walk in and get a scrip for medication, and we regularly see a psychiatrist and a counselor for behavoior therapy as well. Believe me, there is an enormous difference between ADD/ADHD and sleep apnea!

Gabby said...

Oprah started to leave a bad taste in my moth when she started giving thousands of dollars away charitably with the Angel Network - out loud an on air (I can see trying to encourage others to be giving, and also spotlighting folks who deserve praise and/or help - but giving anonymously is always... well, just less icky) - and then would turn around and whip middle-class women into a greedy frenzy over $300 cashmere sweaters with her "favorite things" shows. Talk about mixed messages.

L. said...

My problem with Oprah started when I realized that someone who was a contemporary of Maury Povich and Jenny Jones was pretending she was a contemporary of Jesus and Ghandi.

It got worse when I realized that she is seen as so generous for giving stuff away when she's got companies beating down her door begging to donate the stuff she gives away in her 'favorite things' show. She doesn't pay, they get free advertising.

And I'm one of four girls with a mom and sister who watched (and probably still watch) Oprah. I've been subjected to enough of that tripe to be allowed to have an opinion.

Anonymous said...

Know what I would like to see? A debate between Jenny McCarthy and "Dr. Oz", the doctor Oprah has on sometimes. It strikes me that Dr. Oz is pretty mainstream, which means he would rip her to shreds on her ridiculous, misguided views.

There is a growing consensus now in the medical community that autism is being grossly over-diagnosed, much like ADHD was a few years back. Putting that aside, though, anyone who crusades against vaccines is campaigning against the greatest public health triumph mankind has ever seen. Mass public vaccinations have increased life expectancy dramatically, and have cut childhood mortality rates in developed countries to incredibly low levels. (IIRC, once out of infancy the under five mortality rate in the Americas and Europe is something like 2 per 1000. In Africa, it is 70.) The fact that Oprah, whom I have to assume knows better, is giving a platform to this dangerous moonbat is tragic.

B8ovin said...

I find it rather bothersome that there isn't a more strident defense of science in this debate. A single study published in "The Lancet" suggested a POSSIBLE link between early vaccinations, that was no one was ever able to reproduce (as per the demands of sound science) is the basis for these claims. Every study since, even those examining mercury-based preservatives, have shown no such correlation. This scare is no different than the Satanic Ritual Abuse fanaticism, the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome outbreak, or the early 20th century Hysteria hysteria. What is shown, scientifically, is that children and their parents die when vaccines are not administered. One thing McCarthy and Oprah won't tell you is that up to 12% of vaccinated children will still contract these diseases if exposed to them. What this means is that a single un-vaccinated child in a school of, say, 300 can infect up to 33 children whose parents took the time to vaccinate them, and those children can infect 3 or 4 parents for whom the disease may be deadly or debilitating. In short, while they think only of their children a number of other children can be harmed by their stupidity and willing ignorance of science.

Anonymous said...

Jenny's son was born with a mis-shapen square skull. She wanted him to have a 'pretty head' so made him wear a skull and brain compressing helmet to re-shape it. Brain injuries are a common cause of epilepsy and autism. He's been cured because as his skull grew the pressure reduced in his head.


Deacon Blue said...

@ Lily's Mom,

And vaccinating your child against varicella/chickenpox is your choice. But my point is that we keep adding more and more vaccines to the pile, and some of them seem kind of...questionable to be pushing.

Chickenpox, of all the diseases we vaccinate against, is about the least dangerous. It is very rare for the disease to cause serious complications except in pregnant women and immune-compromised people. So, while it may be a good idea for adults to get vaccinated or even older teens, why would we push that kind of vaccination on little kids?

I don't get it. I understand measles, rubella, and a lot of the others. But a chickenpox vaccine being among the recommended vaccines for all kids strikes me as something to boost profits for pharma companies, not a matter of public health and welfare.

Cheetah Chrome said...

The money Oprah generates for charitable organizations is very significant. The money Oprah personally misses by being so charitable is infinitesimal. I can't call someone a saint because they have so much money they can't give it away fast enough. Saints are so because they endure sacrifice.

Chickaboom said...

You can't cure Autism. Anyone who insists that they have cured a disease that cannot be cured is automatically disqualified from having a "professional" opinion of any sort.

They do, however, qualify for the "delusional", "liar", and "disgusting opportunist" categories, tho.

I genuinely feel sorry for people who watch Oprah on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

I don't see what the big deal is. Any parents stupid enough to entertain this notion will not be missed from the gene pool. Last time I checked the world wasn't facing an under population problem so if a few thousand idiots want to commit infanticide by proxy then let them. Vaccines were an astounding leap for medicine and drastically reduced infant and child mortality rates. They helped reduce physical and economic pressures on families and on women as they no longer had to have a school bus load of children figuring a certain percent would not live past age ten. But like all good things in life that people get used to, vaccines and the horrible, debilitating diseases the helped wipe out are taken for granted. So to hell with it I say, let the idiots shoot themselves in the foot.

The silver lining here is that those in the medical science community will get to have first hand experience documenting and studying diseases they could only read about in textbooks before.

Anonymous said...

Nice Tits... NEXT!!!!

lakelady said...

Ms McCarthy is NOT anti-vaccine. She is questioning the safety, number and scheduling of childhood vaccines.,8599,1888718,00.html

just wanted to clear that up.

Heaven forbid someone question the AMA and pharmaceutical companies because we all know they always have our best interests at heart.

Stephen said...

I read on the cover of the National Enquirer that Oprah only has 3 years to live. If we put the publication date as sometime last week, she has 2 years 51 weeks to live.

I'll keep a vigil for you.

B8ovin said...

Lady of the lake, suppose you're right (I imagine the Green our Vaccine or whatever that ridiculous movement is isn't anti-vaccine per se) but what science does she have for her position? None, zero, zilch. She can question what she wants but until she backs up her arguments with science showing her well publicized concerns are worth considering she's a quack pushing quack science.
And I don't understand the insinuation of your last comment concerning the AMA and pharmaceutical companies. What do they have to do with independent studies showing the opposite of what Ms. McCarthy is saying the truth? And while you're explaining that can you please give me an example of someone within the AMA or a pharmaceutical company garnering a talk show based on their advocacy of sound science? Or book deals? It seems to me McCarthy and her ilk have parlayed their movement into a lucrative deal. I'm not ignoring the fact that big pharma makes a great deal of money, but if you're going to question the science of the autism issue produce some evidence that they are abusing their positions or stop your new age talking points.

twig said...

I don't see what the big deal is. Any parents stupid enough to entertain this notion will not be missed from the gene pool.Herd immunity. Their stupidity hurts you and me. Directly.

Paul said...

Sorry I'm so late in reading this but this might be the first time I ever agreed with something I read here so I feel compelled to comment.

How come the same people who use "science" to defend global warming hysteria can so willfully ignore science when it says there is no link between vaccines and autism?

By the way, science has proven a link between not getting vaccines and measles.

As the father of a young son I am terrified about autism but I'm going to trust my doctor, NOT Jenny McCarthy.

Those aren't brains!

portuguesa nova said...

My friend owns an elementary school for autistic children. She and her community are horrified by Jenny.

As for Oprah, I ain't gonna lie. I am from Chicago and I've always been a fan...I'm not talking diehard , but Oprah at 11 p.m. on a work night when you're doing the dishes is a decent enough way to pass the time.

Now I live in a small southern European nation where I still have Oprah Tivo'd and watch her occasionally. It is astounding to me how, when taken out of the context of American society, everything about her...her opinions, her topics, her outlook on the world, her recommendations for our spiritual and material well being, her everything...has no relevance whatsoever to reality outside of the US. I can't really explain what I'm talking about, because I don't quite understand it, but although her show is in English, she makes no sense to me whatsoever.