Antivaccine nonsense Autism Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

In a fog and from a distance, Orac sees his hometown invaded

Regular readers may have noticed that the usual prodigious amount of verbiage has fallen off a bit over the last few days. That’s just because I’ve been very busy and not always around a reliable Internet connection. In some ways, I almost like the way I’ve been forced to write a bit better in that my posts are shorter. However, I know that after I return home from San Diego, my old habits will probably return fairly quickly.

I actually wasn’t going to post anything today other than the plug for the Expelled Exposed website (oh, look! another plug!), mainly becauase I got in rather late last night and have to run to the meeting soon. Believe it or not, last night after the President’s reception and dinner. I found myself invited to the presidential suite to hang out with the outgoing President of the AACR and some other luminaries who used to work for him. (No, I’m most definitely not a luminary, although I did work for him.) We sipped champagne and enjoyed panoramic views of San Diego and Coronado. I couldn’t believe the size of the suite, which by my estimate had almost as much square footage as my house, leaving out my basement. Ah, this is the life! Too bad it’s not my life. On the other hand, I’m incapable of doing the politicking and schmoozing required to attain such a position, nor would I want to.

Of course, it occurs to me that I could easily, just for yucks, feed the pharma shill image that my detractors would like to believe by pointing out the president and one of the other guests are both high-ranking executives for big pharma. I wish I could report that we were plotting how to stamp out “alternative” medicine forever and usher in a new age of chronic dependence on the products of big pharma, the better to enrich ourselves with obscene wealth, but in reality we spent most of the time talking science and politics and reminiscing a bit about old times. I suppose that’s the worst I can come up with to feed the altie vision of a bunch of conniving, plotting, greedy pharma drones trying to suppress The Truth. Rather disappointing, I know, but there you have it.

Sadly, upon awaking this morning, I remembered that my activities of the night before had led me to forget that the blog signal had gone up earlier in the day (courtesy of my mother, of all people) and I had been remiss in my duty to soldier on last night, even somewhat tipsy, and mention that my hometown is, alas, being invaded by that most visible and vocal of antivaccinationists, Jenny McCarthy, announced by a mostly credulous puff piece Fighting out loud: Actress-comic Jenny McCarthy is using her celebrity to promote autism awareness.

Doesn’t poor Detroit have enough problems without Jenny and Jim’s traveling antivaccination show rolling into town?

I have no trouble with Jenny McCarthy “using her celebrity to promote autism awareness.” In fact, to the extent that she raises money for legitimate autism charities and real scientific research, I applaud here. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what she’s doing, and it’s how she’s going about her activities that is bothersome. What she is doing is not really “promoting autism awareness.” Rather, what she’s doing is promoting herself and, far worse given that it’s about as American as apple pie to promote oneself, promoting misinformation and antivaccinationist lies (“toxinsin vaccines, for example), bringing them to a wider audience than anyone has in a long time. With the arrogance of ignorance proudly on display, Jenny boldly proclaims that vaccines caused her son Evan’s plight and that she would never vaccinate again if she ever has another child. The only “awareness” about autism that Jenny McCarthy is promoting is the scientifically discredited hypothesis that “vaccine injury” somehow causes autism and that there are all sorts of “toxins” in vaccines that are dangerous.

Sadly, the story is largely framed, as is all too often the case, as that of a brave and determined mother bucking the medical establishment who (as is the case in almost all “alternative medicine” stories) supposedly told her there was no hope and being proven right, even in the face of uncaring and “condescending” doctors. Of course, if Jenny was spouting nonsense with such confidently ignorant arrogance, I can understand how some doctors might have had a hard time hiding their annoyance. It’s a very hard thing to do to face such concentrated idiocy, as is trying to set her straight without coming across as condescending. I’m also guessing that Jenny is the sort of person who sees anyone who tells her she’s full of B.S., no matter how nicely he or she does it, as “condescending.” In any case, we are treated to this credulous mess:

“I was only harsh when met with ignorance,” she says. “When doctors tell you that trying to feed better food to your child is bad medicine, you better be darn sure I’m going to be harsh.”

Although she was blessed to meet several good doctors, she says, she met too many who were rude and condescending and closed-minded.

“I believe doctors need to practice a new behavior called respect,” she says. Parents across the country are telling McCarthy about doctors who yell at them and make them feel stupid.

Too bad Jenny doesn’t practice what she preaches in that she shows little “respect” for those who support vaccination. Indeed, she makes sweeping condemnations of the medical establishment and the CDC that don’t show much “respect” for others. She loudly talks over pediatricians who try to point out her errors and misinformation on national television. Personally, I would turn around her statement about being “harsh” only when “met with ignorance.” The reason I am so harsh when referring to McCarthy in particular is because she is ignorance personified when it comes to science, thinking that she knows as much as people who have spent their lives studying these questions and that somehow she has more right to be listened to than they do. Such behavior warrants harshness at least as much as that of arrogant doctors. Heck, anyone who pushes the Generation Rescue website right in the article (and shame on the reporter for just including it in the article!) is not providing scientifically valid information and deserves serious and frequent slapdowns.

Following the script once again, the article trots out the “skeptical” or “conventional” voice in the form of Dr. Ahdi Amer, who mostly says the right things. Sadly, his common sense and correct science were quickly displaced by more of Jenny offering medical advice. Once again, the weakness of the usual journalistic “he-said-she-said” format for covering such manufactured controversies rears its ugly head, except that it went “she-said-he-said-she-said-again,” giving Jenny the last word.

I know I’ve said that Jenny McCarthy bores me, and this story isn’t really any different than a number of stories published about her. I guess what annoys me enough about this particular story to write about it is that it’s in my hometown. Given the “quality” of the media reporting in Detroit, I expect to see a slew of even more credulous stories popping up. It’s also depressing to see just how ignorant and gullible the commenters are in the thread. Nearly every comment is supportive of this nonsense, and one attacked Dr. Amer as not knowing what he’s talking about, as not seeming “like a credible source,” and as “towing the usual line given by doctors in his line of work.”

Jenny’s stupid continues to burn bright and hot, searing the Detroit area as it passes. What did my poor hometown ever do to deserve this?

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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