September 22, 2008

How the autism-vaccine lies started

And how autism quacks are now like hardest right anti-choicers or nobody

At Salon, Dr. Rahul K. Parikh explains how the autism-vaccine industry has gone from fringe quasi-science to cult, starting with this example:
Early in Dr. Paul A. Offit's new book, “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure,” he describes a threatening letter he received from a man in Seattle. “I will hang you by you neck until you are dead!” it read. The FBI deemed the threat credible, assigning Offit a protective officer who, for the next few months, followed him "to and from lunch, a gun hanging at his side." He then recalls a suspicious phone call from a man who recited the names of Offit's two children and where they went to school: “His implication was clear. He knew where my children went to school. The he hung up.” These days, the hospital he works in regularly screens his mail for suspicious packages.

Parikh notes that until recently, only abortion providers had to face these types of whackjobs.

( Here’s the Amazon link to Offit’s book, already getting troll-rated by a bunch of the same nutbars.)

Parikh then traces the history of vaccine hysteria from British doctor Andrew Wakefield through nutbar winger Congressman Dan Burton (in between target practice at “Vince Foster” pumpkins) to Robert Kennedy, who is right more often than a stopped watch but sometimes makes me wonder. (Rolling Stone issued retractions of his autism piece in three separate issues; Salon issued five separate corrections.)

Problem is, Kennedy’s support for this pseudoscience gave it liberal cred that Dan Burton never could.

Finally, Brian Deer, an investigative reporter for London's Sunday Times, found professional malpractice and serious conflicts of interest by Wakefield, including being bankrolled by a personal injury lawyer. But, this was six years after the Lancet published him.

By then, the barn door was long open, and U.S. trial lawyers, with little to learn from British counterparts like the one giving Wakefield a million bucks, started cranking up the lawsuits.

And, Robert Kennedy has never apologized. Asshole.

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