HBO have a just released a feature length movie about Dr Temple Grandin, a professor of Animal Science at Colorado University who just happens to have autism. Her life story is an incredible one especially considering she grew up in a time when the current thinking was that children with autism should be institutionalised. Temple has single-handedly increased our knowledge of how people with autism see the world and thus has help shape and improve support services and education for those on the spectrum.
The website HBO have set up for this movie has a page for resources about autism and it is here on this page that HBO have made a very poor choice. They have featured a synopsis and a link to the organisation Generation Rescue. For those of you who have no idea who Generation Rescue are they are an organisation who strongly believe that vaccinations cause autism and that children with autism should be detoxed using homeopathy, vitamin B supplements, chelation therapy and other alternative forms of medicine that they call “biomedical treatments”. Some of these treatments like homeopathy are simply a waste of money whilst others like chelation therapy can be extremely dangerous. This is quackery at its finest and doesn’t do anything to help and support kids with autism. Generation Rescue believe that autism is some horrible affliction that children, given the right treatments, can recover from rather than it being a different way of viewing the world. This site, therefore, should not be promoted alongside a movie about Temple Grandin who, whilst accepting the challenges of autism, wouldn’t want to live her life any other way.
Tensions have flared once again between those that support vaccinations and those that oppose them with the publication in WIRED magazine of an article by Amy Wallace entitled “An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All. This well researched article which is part interview with vaccine co-inventor Paul Offit and part vaccine history lesson has the anti-vaccination fringe all upset. They are so upset in fact that J.B. Handley, the founder of Generation Rescue, an anti-vaccine group has written in the blog Age of Autism a commentary piece originally entitled “Paul Offit Rapes (intellectually) Amy Wallace and Wired Magazine.” which has now been toned down to just ” Wired Magazine and Amy Wallace Drink Paul Offit’s Kool-Aid”. The line ‘the roofie cocktails at Paul Offit’s house must be damn good’ has been removed and now Amy is just innocently sipping Paul’s kool-aid rather than being date-raped.
It is interesting to see that a female journalist who writes a scientific piece that others disagree with has sexual references made about her whilst male journalists usually just get their credibility called into question. In fact this point has been taken up by Abel Pharmboy in his insightful post, “When critics disagree with me, I’m a Pharma Shill. When critics disagree with a woman it gets sexual.” The sexual name calling doesn’t stop with Handley’s horrible article, unfortunately. Amy has received many letters in which is called a prostitute, a whore and other even more terrible things after the publication of her article. She has now started twittering sections of letters both in support of and opposing her article. Bastard Sheep has done and excellent job chronicling her tweets and putting them in a more readable format. They are compelling reading.
For those interested in reading a great opinion piece about the tensions that have flared up over Wallace’s article, check out Science-Based Medicine’s post, “The effectiveness wordsmithing of Amy Wallace”.
For me, as someone new to the vaccination information war, this latest ‘battle’ has been very eye-opening in terms of how each side presents their arguments and responds to arguments from the other side. As someone who has a science degree, I am always going to find solid scientific facts much more compelling than hearsay and personal anecdotes. However, the behaviour of the anti-vaccination groups has made me realise that if the only way you can try to win a fight is to resort to name calling and other dirty tactics then you must not hold a lot of faith that your arguments can stand up to critical analysis.