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Saturday
May262012

McCarthyism 2.0

For those unfamiliar with this, McCarthyism is a term we use today in reference to demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations that often include attacks on the character/credibility of one's opponents, stemming from the actions and anti-communist paranoia of Senator Joe McCarthy (R) , in the early 1950's.  It is most commonly seen in the political arena, though I am going to be talking about its unfortunate prominence in the autism community.

In this case, instead of an attention-whoring, alcoholic, otherwise entirely unimportant Senator from Wisconsin, we have an attention-whoring, Playboy Playmate who's most notable clothed career moves include a sketch on MTV in which she appeared to eat her own vomit, and a film scene that depicts her sitting a large pool of menstrual blood. Yes folks, it's the one and only Jenny McCarthy, coincidentally named and sadly, just as ignorant as her predecessor.

Ms McCarthy is the face and puppet of the anti-vaccine/quackery embracing, autism hating movement in this country. Collectively pulling her strings are Autism One, Generation Rescue, and, just for that extra touch of poor judgement, Andrew Wakefield - a man who paid children at his son's birthday party to be the "subjects" for his scientific research; who's "study" was commissioned by a law firm hired to sue vaccine manufacturers (go figure... ); who's medical license was revoked, study redacted, and every and all of his so called "findings" have never been substantiated by any real science.

Autism One and Generation Rescue are a runaway train of fear-mongering, hate, and misinformation that prey on a vulnerable population - parents of autistic children. They use Ms McCarthy for recognition, and bewilderingly, credibility. Our culture inexplicably attributes un-earned/un-deserved importance and expertise to celebrities. Just look at the aftermath of that desperate-for-readers Time cover last week as a perfect example - in the midst of all the negative backlash, we suddenly had all sorts of "famous" moms speaking out in favor of breast-feeding older toddlers/children. Oh, well then it MUST be a good thing because THIS FAMOUS MOVIE STAR DOES IT TOO!! Because somehow, her celebrity has also made her an expert on parenting? I'm not saying it's right or wrong, my point is that our society gives celebrities power and attributes skills, knowledge, and credibility simply because we recognize them, and not because they necessarily have any more understanding or knowledge than you or I do. I don't know why we do this.

But we do it, and the anti-vax/let's take all your money for 978 different "biomedical treatments" quacks know it. So they plaster Ms McCarthy's face everywhere, promote her as the Mother Warrior she claims to be and she goes on tv and radio and anywhere she can to spread the fear and bring more to the fold. It's like a cult. Well, it's not just like a cult, I think that's what it really is, if you take a good look at it.

"A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of [consequences of] leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community."  

Louis Jolyon West, psychiatrist, human rights activist

Autism One and Generation Rescue fit well with most of those attributes. Excessive devotion/dedication to the idea that vaccines and the medical establishment/pharmaceutical companies are to blame for autism (among other things... ); that autism is something bad, that should be feared and "fixed" at all costs. While they don't necessarily isolate people, they do absolutely manipulate and debilitate through guilt/fear - you had your child vaccinated so it's your fault; IF you have your children vaccinated you are harming them, and, after all, autism is your worst nightmare; they prey on the vulnerable parents who are searching for their path with a new diagnosis or, cannot function if they have no one or nothing to blame. They certainly engage in aggressive proselytizing and are often threatening and violent in their vitriol. Advancing their goals to the detriment of others, or to the community? I'd say the significant decrease in vaccinated children/adults and subsequent increase in outbreaks of communicable diseases answers that question.

So, we live in an era where we have replaced Communist subversion with Big Pharma plots to poison us all.

Which is ironic as all hell given what you'll find if you take a little peek over at Autism One's website. If you can actually get through most of what is posted without hitting your head on your desk too many times, you will find gems like a featured speaker at their conference, Kerri Rivera, a Mexican "Dr" (yes, I use the title loosely) who claims to have "recovered" 38 autistic children by bleaching them, from the inside out. Yes, you read that correctly. She forces them to both ingest and be given enemas of industrial strength bleach, several times per day, to the point of causing diarrhea and fevers in the children, which she declares as proof that the "treatment" is working.

I am not making this up, in fact, here is an article you should read: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/05/25/selling-bleach-as-a-cure-for-autism/

(That, by the way, is a blog you should be reading if you are looking for real science, and need help sorting through all of the crap that is out there.)

I don't know about you, but somehow pumping a child full of industrial bleach multiple times a day seems ... contrary (choosing my words carefully) to the message that they are trying to promote. But these are the people that also still champion chelation (McCarthy's treatment of choice), which has not only been proven to be ineffective (with actual science) but is also outright dangerous.

At least they're consistent.

They are also consistent in their message of hopelessness and fear. They disguise it as "hope", but it's all designed to make you believe that there could be nothing worse than your child being autistic and so you should do 846 things to "fix" your child, and hey look... there are ads all over our site for all sorts of things you should spend your money on to get going on that right now!"

Handy.

And if you don't think they are truly fear mongering? Here is a quote from the associate director of Autism One:

"It’s not like it’s seen on TV,” said Laura Rowley, AutismOne’s associate director, who continued, “Autism is screams of agony in the middle of the night, seizures during the day, endless fear, and walking a tightrope that puts parents at odds with a dysfunctional school system, a public health system in denial, and doctors who would further harm their children." 

Wow.

Well, I'll tell you this: that is not what autism is. That is the perception of someone who chooses to believe that their child is "damaged" or "broken" and must therefore be fixed because this is not the way THEY want their child to be, and they find it easier to blame everyone and everything and be angry all the time.

It's the prevalence of messages like that one, promoted not just by the Cult of McCarthy and friends, but Autism Speaks as well, that have an enormous impact on all of us. Society is becoming "aware" of autism alright, but not in a good way, not when it's presented as something to be feared by parents, and that needs to be prevented at all costs and/or cured. I know a lot of autistic people that would and do, disagree with that message. How am I supposed to expect the public to be understanding and accepting of Toad when they probably just look at him and think, Oh God, he's autistic, how AWFUL! Why haven't you done x,y, z to cure him yet?!

Because that is the message being sent by these groups. That, is their idea of "awareness".

All you have to do is read my last post to see where this has taken us.


Toadie is who he is. Is he who I expected? No. But he is who I have and whom I love so very much, as he is. Are there things about his being autistic that aren't awesome? You betcha. But, I am not going to spend all my time and energy hating and blaming and pouring who knows what in him/on him, forcing treatments that only make things worse and him miserable, and in the process make him and everyone else think he's less of a person, less worthy of being accepted, because he is "damaged" and we must "fix" him.

To me that's wrong.

Zach has asked me before if tomorrow there was a magic pill that we could give Toad that would take the autism away completely, with no side effects, would I give it to him? Zach's answer is no, he wouldn't. And he's very quick to tell you this. My answer doesn't come quite as fast, but, ultimately it's the same. Surprised? Toadie would not be TOADIE, if the autism were suddenly gone. He just wouldn't. I would miss the things that I love about him too much, and he is who he is because he's autistic. It's that simple. Would my life be less complicated if he weren't? Again, absolutely. But as I have said before, I'm his mother, and this is my path. I want Toadie to be happy and safe and this is what I strive for. As long as he is, then I am doing my job and that's all I need for him. I don't need him to be someone else, or someone else's idea of who he "should" be.


 

 

 

 

 

Well, hello there, my Toadie :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This modern-day McCarthyism is dangerous and destructive. It's dangerous to everyone because it's affecting public health. It's destructive because it sends the wrong message about autism and those who are autistic.

Be aware. But be aware that the Playmate and Autism One/Generation Rescue are nothing but a cult. There is good information out there - but you're not going to get it from them.

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Reader Comments (2)

"It’s not like it’s seen on TV,” said Laura Rowley, AutismOne’s associate director, who continued, “Autism is screams of agony in the middle of the night, seizures during the day, endless fear, and walking a tightrope that puts parents at odds with a dysfunctional school system, a public health system in denial, and doctors who would further harm their children."

Wow.

Well, I'll tell you this: that is not what autism is.

YOUR Autism might not be like that, but for many of us, IT IS.

May 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie Ostefsky

Annie -

You can't have one person making statements that do NOT represent autism for everyone that are going to frighten, misinform (guess what? Dr's are not actually out there harming our kids) and most significantly, lead to a. public health crises by scaring people into not vaccinating, and b. people who don't know any better thinking that an autism diagnosis is the end of the world and killing their kid or themselves or both is the only option.

It's wrong, and it's irresponsible.

I know autism is different for everyone. But she doesn't speak for me, and she doesn't speak for many, many other parents and autistics out there. Her message is dangerous, plain and simple.

May 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterSarah

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