I’m not infrequently asked why the myth that vaccines cause autism and other anti-vaccine myths are so stubbornly resistant to the science that time and time again fails to support them. Certainly useful celebrity idiots like Jenny McCarthy are one reason. So, too, are anti-vaccine propaganda websites and blogs such as Age of Autism and anti-vaccine organizations like Generation Rescue, the National Vaccine Information Center, and SafeMinds and the organizations that publish them. However, these are clearly not the only reason. Alone, these people and organizations are in general quite rightly viewed as fringe, although they are very popular among the anti-vaccine movement. It is when such groups find a willing conduit for their pseudoscience in the “mainstream media” that they see the opportunity to attain a degree of seeming respectability that they can’t achieve on their own based on science. Worse, when mainstream news organizations or reporters fall for the pseudoscience claiming that vaccines cause autism, they contribute to the persistence of this myth outside the activist core of the anti-vaccine movement in the public at large.
In the past, anti-vaccine activists tried to accomplish this with the help of formerly respectable journalists such as David Kirby and Dan Olmsted, the former of whom wrote Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Mystery and the latter of whom wrote and promoted the Age of Autism series when he was an editor at UPI. However, although Kirby was never really that prominent or trusted, Olmsted was an editor of UPI. Now that he’s given up his UPI gig to become full time editor of AoA and to team up with Mark Blaxill to write a book (Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine and a Manmade Epidemic) that regurgitated all the old misinformation about thimerosal and autism in a way that’s so 2005, Olmsted’s lost all credibility as a serious reporter. That’s a good thing.
The bad thing is that he has a replacement. Or at least so it would appear.
THERE’S A NEW ANTI-VACCINE REPORTER IN TOWN, AND SHE’S PUSHING SOME PSEUDOSCIENCE
Unfortunately, at CBS News, there now appears to be a woman who was willing to take over the role of mainstream media propagandist for the anti-vaccine movement. Her name is Sharyl Attkisson, and, oops, she did it again just this Thursday with an article entitled Vaccines and autism: a new scientific review, in which she pimps a truly horrible “review” of the evidence base regarding whether vaccines cause or predispose to autism. Interestingly, she’s quite late. AoA was promoting this article two months ago. On the other hand, April is Autism Awareness Month, and I can always count on the anti-vaccine movement to lay down some vaccine pseudoscience on or around April 1 every year (I leave it to the reader to judge the appropriateness of that date); so perhaps this latest from Attkisson is the opening salvo for this year’s campaign. Her article opens:
I remember reading this back when it was written. I stopped reading anything from her then also. If someone cannot accurately discuss science for which there are hard facts, how can I trust anything they write, especially topics for which there are not hard facts?
But I had not realized just how her career had progressed until her recent efforts to sell her book.
Like Bill Maher and RFK, Jr, two others who have been anti-vaccine, she may be right occasionally but she is untrustworthy. Like the old saying – a broken clock can be right, but you certainly do not plan your day around it.
They are all broken clocks because they are either unable to reason based on data or they are simply shilling their work to make a buck. Either ignorant or a hack. Whichever not trustworthy.