The Chicago Sun-Times recently featured a Q&A puff piece about Jenny McCarthy and Autism One. It was the kind of outside-autism reporter's guileless autism misinformation-mongering we might have expected three years ago, but which has all but disappeared from mainstream media after Jenny's autism-vaccine oracle Dr. Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license due to his callous disregard for scientific ethics and rigor.
As this is 2012, Thinking People were understandably upset. Specifically Seth Mnookin, who wrote about the McCarthy Q&A and its ongoing metamorphosis regarding the nature of the Sun-Times' support for Autism One on PLoS: The Panic Virus:
On Sunday, the Chicago Sun-Times published a fawning, credulous Q&A with Jenny McCarthy, who has been more responsible than anyone in the country for advancing the spurious idea that there’s a connection between vaccines and autism.The comments got heated, as one might expect when expletive-armed pseudoscience true believers rage against evidence-wielding science supporters. Surprisingly, those commenters even included Ms. McCarthy. And Eileen Hall, author of a petition asking the Sun-Times to "Provide space for parents who support autism acceptance to respond" (ideally, the title should have said people, not parents).
The result is that Mr. Mnookin has temporarily disallowed further entries -- which is understandable, and he posted his rationale at the end of his original post. But what was unfortunate is that this happened before many folks and allies from the self-advocacy and neurodiversity community were able to join the discussion -- myself included. Here is what I would have written:
Thank you Seth, and Eileen. But we are arguing with self-appointed cult leaders. We're not going to get through to them -- Jenny McCarthy's entire industry and her followers' entire belief systems would collapse if they stopped telling the world that their children are broken, or that autism is an epidemic & disease. We can only work towards real change by positive role modeling, by including autistic people in autism conversations, and by trying to reach people before they fall for such dangerous misinformation.One thing you can do to work towards real change? Buy a copy of Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, and share it with someone who needs it. Ask your library to stock a copy. Give a copy to your pediatrician, or your district's superintendent or special ed director. Use our mission statement to explain why. And remember that, as a Thinking Person, you are never alone when it comes to countering dangerous autism misinformation.