Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Politics Quackery

Barack Obama: A pro-vaccine pharma shill who doesn’t care about autistic children?

Well, here’s a rare bit of good news in the endless tedium that has become the U.S. election. It appears that Barack Obama has ticked off the antivaccine contingent. I know, I know, I said I would try to lay off this topic for a few days, but this is just too amusing. Apparently, he’s gone a long way towards redeeming himself for his previous gaffe when it came to vaccines and autism, and the antivaccine zealots over at Age of Autism are all in a tizzy over it:

Last Friday evening, September 5, 2008, I had the opportunity to ask Senator Barack Obama about childhood vaccine safety/choice. His response, “I am not for selective vaccination, I believe that it will bring back deadly diseases, like polio.”

He went onto say in so many words that he is for more science and the funding of more science if it’s needed. (His science response is fuzzy, as his first response stunned me for a second). I previously gave his staffer a folder of information on vaccines. The Senator promised me that he would take a look at it.

In response, the whole crew at AoA has gone into full mental jacket paranoia, to the point that they’re launching attack after attack against Obama. First out of the box is that reliable purveyor of antivaccinationist nonsense who’s always a sure thing to bring home the burning stupid, Kim Stagliano. She may deserve our empathy for the difficulties she faces as the parent of autistic children, but being a parent of special needs children does not, nor should it, inoculate her against a dose of not-so-Respectful Insolence™ when she writes something as dumb as what follows. She’s in a veritable frenzy, too, so much so that she threatens to outdo the ever-excitable Kent Heckenlively for sheer illogic and silliness. Check it out, as she delivers one of the most amazing false equivalencies I’ve ever seen based–as a bonus–on a false dilemma:

When I write or talk about vaccines and autism, I often get the same response from people: “Do you want Polio back?” My instinct is to slap them. Such a stupid question. Even from a Presidential candidate. No one wants Polio back. Nor should we have to trade one crippler for another.

See what I mean by false dilemma? Ms. Stagliano equates autism with polio, and, because she thinks vaccines cause autism, she really believes that the choice is between polio if we don’t vaccinate and autism if we do. Never mind the inconvenient science showing that, whatever the price of vaccinating, it is not autism. Meanwhile we know that polio can return if vaccination rates fall. This fervent belief that vaccines cause autism leads Ms. Stagliano to depths of idiocy rarely plumbed even on AoA:

But that question leads me to wonder, “What if autism were contagious?”

Would the response to the 1 in 150 (or lower!) rate of diagnosis change from, “Oh my, what a shame. We’d better learn how to diagnose it earlier and take care of these poor souls.” to “We’d better figure out the cause and come up with treatments immediately!” Would we go into attack mode as we did for AIDS, which in 30 years has seen great improvement in prevention and treatment? And would our political leaders turn the microscope onto our vaccination program, instead of frightening us with the prospect of forced vaccination and offering pat answers like, “I don’t want deadly diseases like Polio back”?

Senator Obama, if you think the photos of the old Polio wards are frightening, take a day off and go visit a classroom for children on the severe end of the autism spectrum. You’ll see children who are ambulatory and yet cannot care for their most basic needs. They will require a lifetime of care. Can you tell me that these children are not as disabled as those who contracted Polio? Come meet my girls; Mia, Gianna and Bella. They are every bit as beautiful as your Malia and Sasha – and yet they are part of an at risk population that you have yet to acknowledge. You need to read up on Miss Hannah Poling and Dr. Bernadine Healy and even the CDC, which has stated that the vaccination schedule is flexible. Flexible means selective, sir.

How about it, Senator Obama. What if autism were contagious? Would you have a greater depth of understanding of the vaccine issue then? You claim to be a Pro-Choice candidate. Does Pro-Choice end at birth? You know, voters have a choice too.

The stupid, I fear it will burn me to a crisp. It’s neuron-apoptosing in its intelligence-devouring intensity, and my brain still hurts from reading the passage above. (Sadly, once having seen it, I can’t unsee it, wish as I might.) Ms. Stagliano’s “reasoning” (such as it is) depends upon the assumption that vaccines cause autism (the best science available shows that they do not) and that most autism is of the stereotypical, nonverbal, profound variety, with the attitude that autistic children are somehow damaged beyond redemption. Indeed, perhaps that’s why the idea of their being the victims of an infectious disease (another toxin!) fits in with that concept and has such appeal as a metaphor among the AoA crowdr. Moreover, her whole bit about wondering how people would react if autism were an infectious disease and likening it to AIDS is one enormous non sequitur. It has little to do with the comparison that follows.

All I can say is that, if Barack Obama can say something that drives the AoA crowd to such heights of ridiculousness, that’s all right with me, especially since it is based on science and sound clinical research. I just wonder who his medical advisors are; clearly they’ve educated him about his past missteps with regard to the messages of antivaccine fearmongering with which the AoA and Generation Rescue crew have been bombarding the Presidential candidates. Not that it matters to the AoA crowd, who think that the reason Obama has pulled back from pandering to the antivaccine conspiracy theorists is because, obviously, he must be in the pocket of big pharma. Another observation that derives naturally from Ms. Stagliano’s “insight” is that, if stupid were contagious, she would be typhoid Mary and need to be quarantined.

Or perhaps I should say Typhoid Kim–and typhoid Dan, too. I wouldn’t want to leave him out, given that he’s the one pulling the Pharma Shill Gambit on Obama while launching bitter and nasty attacks on Kathleen Seidel based on her being featured in Paul Offit’s new book in a screed that Kevin Leitch has gleefully torn apart for your amusement. Because, you know, it absolutely, positively has to be the mercury in vaccines, and if it isn’t the mercury it must be the “toxins” they imagine to be in vaccines, and if it isn’t the “toxins” it must be the vaccines themselves. Anyone who doesn’t toe that line, as Obama apparently has not, must be in the pocket of big pharma. That’s really the way these people think, and unfortunately their attack is spreading.

I really do fear that stupid is even more contagious than polio.

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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