Surpise! Some people don't like Autism's False Prophets

13 Sep

There is some lively discussion amongst people who don’t like Paul Offit’s, “Autism’s False Prophets“. Many of the complaints are from people who haven’t read the book. But, hey, we can all admit that just given the title and the author, many people can accurately assess that they wouldn’t like the book.

I found Mr. Olmsted’s “review” interesting.

Kim Stagliano has given some advice in the comments:

Easy – sit at Barnes and Noble, browse a copy while you sip a latte (oopsie! don’t spill!) and then when you return the book to the shelf, tuck in a copy of Dan’s review…. And return it to the shelf labeled, “Eastern Aborginal Snail Mating Habits in the 15th Century.” Five years down the road, go back and give it a good dusting…

This is the face of vaccine-oriented autism advocacy in America.

Well, should I find a defaced copy in my bookstores, I can tell you what I’ll do: go to the front desk and see if I can purchase it at a deeply discounted rate. Then, I’ll forward the book, with a copy of that blog post and some of the comments highlighted, to someone involved with autism policy in the U.S. government. With a nice cover letter, of course. I’ll point out that, yes, I am one of the parents who are angry at the vaccine-activists co-opting the autism agenda. I’ll also point out who Ms. Stagliano is in relationship to AoA/Generation rescue. I’ll ask, “is this the sort of representation we need on a Secretarial Level autism advisory board to the secretary of HHS?”

Personally, I’m not waiting to possibly find a defaced copy. I’m sending a few copies out to some people in government.

You can too. (and other booksellers) allow you to send books to people other than yourselves. You can look up the address for your representative or senator online.

Consider putting “attention legislative analyst for healthcare” and follow up with an email (you can contact your Senators and Representative via their webpages). Feeling a little tight on cash? Send an email and ask your legislators to get the book for themselves and their healthcare legislative analyst.

There are, of course, many other people influential inside and outside of government who could use a copy of Autism’s False Prophets, so you don’t have to feel limited to the Congress and Senate.

It doesn’t hurt to check before sending: He/she may have already read it!

And, yes, I will remember this idea when the new government takes office in early 2009.

26 Responses to “Surpise! Some people don't like Autism's False Prophets”

  1. TheProbe September 13, 2008 at 18:25 #

    Just in case Age of Ignorance censors my comment, again, this is what I posted there”

    Thanks, Dan, for proving ever assertion in Dr. Offit’s excellent book. Autism’s False Prophets. The fact that YOU, andnot one of the brain dead lackeys of Age of Ignorance, was the one to write the smear job, is funnier than any joke I have heard in the past year. Let’s face it, your investigative skills, actually the lack thereof, were ably demonstrated by YOU, when you went to Amish County to find autistics, and then you skipped over the Clinic for Special Children. Dan, I have seen the place, and it is neither a cave, nor a black box building.
    As for the idiot’s comment about what to do with a printout of this cleanse by-product, please do that. It will help sales, as it will prove the book is not fiction, but soundly grounded in reality.

    Note that, once again, I do not expect the intellectual cowards of Age of Ignorance to post this comment. Therefore, as I have done before, I will post it on several blogs that do believe in hearing all opinions.

  2. What did you expect? September 13, 2008 at 18:44 #

    Mr. Olmsted seems to find details important. He points out that Dr. Offit misquoted a section of Kanner’s original paper (has/have are switched)

    Mr. Olmsted, as he writes “Mercury Rising”, seems to be exerting some sense of ownership over the “classic” literature of autism.

    So, in the, “Yes it’s picky…but mildly funny” arena, here’s a quote from Mr. Olmsted’s blog piece:

    see Burbachet et al. about the greater amount of ethyl mercury that settles in the brain

    “r” and “t” are next to eachother on the QWERTY keyboard, so it is likely a simple typo. But, unless there is another study out there, Berbachet et al., I think Mr. Olmsted might want to look up his (undoubtedly dogeared) copy of Burbacher et al..

    On the serious side, Mr. Olmsted’s piece seems to lack real substance in discussing this book. I guess it’s hard to bring up the details of the misdeeds of the “False Prophets”.

  3. Kev September 13, 2008 at 19:16 #

    Its less a review and more a bizarre rant. If I read it right he claims:

    It was on page 149 that I finally had enough of his latest smear-fest, Autism’s False Prophets. I put the book down….

    And yet it was four days ago he published (in what actually _was_ a ‘smear fest’) a blog post on Kathleen’s role in the book. He takes quotes from pages 228 and 229.

    What can you say about the pathetic inadequacy of someone who, in a blog post about accuracy, is not only very inaccurate but also one suspects, writing prose for the purposes of melodrama rather than accuracy.

  4. qchan63 September 13, 2008 at 19:42 #

    “As a journalist, I always look to see whether the things I know most about are correctly characterized …”

    Apparently, though, this only applies when he’s evaluating others’ work. If it’s his own stuff, even the most howlingly absurd, provably false assertions are just fine, Note that as far as i know, he hasn’t bothered to correct his dumb, unchecked claim that Kathleen was exposed to mercury on all those medical flights she never took. That’s something any journalist who deserves the title would have done right away.

    And he thinks it’s important that Paul Offit spelled his name wrong? (I get a sense poor Dan’s feelings were hurt more than anything else.)

    To even call his piece a “review” gives it more credit than it deserves. He barely touches on what’s actually in the book; his bizarre choice to pick out the thing about the woman with the razor blade is obviously meant to make Offit sound sensationalistic, when that was actually just one brief anecdote in a long historical discussion of how public hysteria and misinformation has so often gotten ahead of science.

    His criticisms sound a little desperate to me, but maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. His position on vaccines has gotten absolutely hammered of late. The news about the MMR study positively saturated the major news media. I doubt that Sharyl Attkisson’s posting of the Thoughtful House press release (she must subscribe to the same journalistic gospel as Olmsted) made much of a dent in that.

    At this point, i suspect the entire AofA operation (computers, servers, lights, everything) is running purely on the power of self-delusion. One thing about that, though: It’s an endlessly renewable resource. Maybe that’s what they meant by all that “green vaccines” chatter.

  5. Joseph September 13, 2008 at 20:36 #

    I’ve spelled Olmsted’s name wrong, too. It’s probably the least important mistake I’ve had to correct in my life.

    Did he really call AFP a ‘smear-fest’ a few days after he wrongly insinuated Kathleen’s judgment was compromised because she had been exposed to thimerosal?

    Absolutely ridiculous.

  6. kristina September 13, 2008 at 23:28 #

    It’s not a review—–no effort to actually look at what Paul Offit right and explain and interpret.

    In other words, exactly what one would have expected!

  7. What did you expect? September 13, 2008 at 23:36 #

    And yet it was four days ago he published (in what actually was a ‘smear fest’) a blog post on Kathleen’s role in the book. He takes quotes from pages 228 and 229.

    Can’t be true. The Olmsteds of Lancaster County have a religious restriction from reading past page 149 of any book.

    Mr Olmsted’s concluding paragraph makes the incredible (and unsupported) assertion that Dr. Offit is somehow anti first-ammendment. Amazing. Yet, no comment from Mr. Olmsted about proposed efforts by his readers to censor Autism’s False Prophets.

    One commenter ended with the statement

    I can not understand why just because he has Dr. in front of his name that it discludes him from prosecution of murder and child abuse.

    Somehow I guess the irony of this statement from the supporters of Dr. Kerry was lost on their readers.

  8. Ms. Clark September 14, 2008 at 04:03 #

    On page 148 (in the “proof” copy I have.) it mentions how Mady Hornig’s laughable “Rain Mouse” experiment was repeated by UC Davis scientists who failed to find any autism-like effect in the mice, even when they were give 10 times as much thimerosal as Mady had given her mice (and **her** mice were chronically overdosed compared to human infants given vaccines containing thimerosal in the 1990’s in the US, though her claim was that her mice had a comparable exposure to thimerosal to what human babies got).

    That part might have worn Dan down quite a bit so that he was running out of the will to keep reading. On page 149 it starts to describe Bobby Baby Kennedy and his involvement with the mercury moms cause. Kennedy’s background is described. “In 1983, following conviction for possession of illegal drugs, Kennedy was sentenced to two years probation, periodic drug testing, mandatory supervision by Narcotics Anonymous, and 800 hours of community service. He satistified his community service by working for Hudson River Foundation,….”

    Maybe that was the last straw for Olmsted. He needed a break from being exposed to too much reality.

    He missed the stuff on page 150 about Kennedy being associated financially with a law firm that regularly sues drug companies.

    David Kirby starts to get his behavior examined on page 150.

    So has anyone stepped forward to defend Kirby’s behavior as described in the book? I haven’t checked to see if Kirby has written a blog about how mean Dr. Offit is.
    Curtis Allen senior press officer of the CDC has some interesting stuff to say about Kirby. Kirby called him up to ask to interview some CDC folks representing himself as a reporter “with the New York Times,” and he said it in a way that set off an alarm with the CDC Press Officer. From the book:

    “‘I’m with the New York Times. I’m with the New York Times.’ he kept saying. You only have to say it once. I’ve got ears. I can hear. But he kept pounding the point home. So I called the New York Times and asked a couple of reporters if they had ever heard of David Kirby and they said, ‘No’,”

    So when Kirby called the CDC press guy back the CDC press guy said that he wasn’t going to allow Kirby to interview CDC folks because he, Kirby, had misrepresented himself.

    The CDC press guy is quoted in the book as saying of Kirby, “He immediately started threatening me, saying he’d call the editorial board of the New York Times, and what did I think about that?”

    To which the CDC press guy answered, “Tell them to give me a call; they have my number.”


  9. Navi September 14, 2008 at 04:24 #

    husband just read an old national geographic regarding mercury. apparently at one point in time it was used as a preservative in diapers? I’ll have to get the issue from him. At any rate, if that’s the case, and mercury does supposedly cause autism, we’d a seen a drop in rates, rather than an increase…

  10. isles September 14, 2008 at 04:56 #

    So here’s Olmsted’s whole criticism:

    1. Dr. Offit is so meeeeean!

    2. The book doesn’t have information about events that happened after it was already in publication!

    3. Other instances of bad science leading people to do dumb and injurious things have no bearing on autism!

    4. He spelled my name wrong!

    5. He wrote “has” instead of “have”!

    6. Ethylmercury IS TOO just as bad as methylmercury! Boyd Haley says so! I don’t care what the American College of Medical Toxicology* says!

    Yep, pretty damning.


  11. Lisa September 14, 2008 at 12:06 #

    Can anyone on this list suggest why the issue of vaccines and autism has been whipped up to the point of becoming a smear fest on all sides?

    AofA is what it is – a site with one and only one agenda, and few holds barred regarding choice of words when describing individuals. But Dr. Offit’s book is specifically written, titled, and promoted to attract as much venom as possible.

    In short, both sides are specifically targeting one another in a war of (hopefully only) words – and each is gathering as many supporters as possible to continue to fight the war. And both are succeeding.

    You can say it’s about “life and death issues” and therefore important enough to merit such intensity. But war and religion are about such issues too, and I’ll bet you big bucks that Olmsted and Offit could debate Iraq for hours perfectly civilly! These men are not kookoos from the outback – they are highly educated literate people who have succeeded in significant careers.

    This debate is as vitriolic as, say, the abortion rights debate. And in that case, people have actually been killed for their views.

    Lisa (

  12. Sullivan September 14, 2008 at 15:19 #

    But Dr. Offit’s book is specifically written, titled, and promoted to attract as much venom as possible.

    Actually, I’d disagree with this premise. I don’t think Dr. Offit or his publisher would spend the time and money just to put out a book to annoy the likes of the AoA crowd. A book written to attract venom would turn off the real target audience.

    I try to avoid the “smear fests”, but I will point out when some groups are doing obvious (and erroneous) smears.

    When groups try to co-opt the autism “community” into supporting their ideas (“all autism is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning”, for example), they are using my family to support an idea that I do not support. They are actively working to promote something that (a) takes researcher time and money away from helping my family and (b) promote an image of my family that is detrimental to achieving respect and dignity for my family’s members.

    I don’t know if I would compare this to the abortion rights debates, but i would state that vaccine/autism activist groups have been compared (unfavorably) with PETA.

    Researchers have refused to work on autism due to the responses they get expect to get from the likes of Generation Rescue and others.

    Also, take the recent MMR study. They cite 20 references (and imply there are more) which have been published since Dr. Wakefield’s original study. How much time and money has already been spent? What other projects were shelved to do those?

  13. Joseph September 14, 2008 at 15:22 #

    You can say it’s about “life and death issues” and therefore important enough to merit such intensity.

    It is life and death, because we’re potentially talking about a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, but I don’t think this is what drives it for the most part. Some medical professionals are involved because of this, sure, but if you look at non-doctors involved in the debate, they are mostly us – parents of autistic children, or autistic people. The general population is largely uninvolved.

    Clearly, what drives the debate on one side is belief that anti-vaxers will potentially cause untold damage to our kids in the future, or to autistic people in general in the present.

    What drives the debate on the other side, I suspect, is money. All of us parents would like ensured financial security four our kids, so I can’t really blame them entirely. (Though you never hear anti-vaxers admit this). To some extent I imagine they also want to shift blame, seek retribution, etc. Maybe they think that if they focus on a single potential cause, a cure might be found – but this doesn’t make logical sense.

    What we have are irreconcilable world-views and objectives. A war is thus inevitable. It’s just the way things are.

  14. Another Voice September 14, 2008 at 15:50 #


    I disagree with your characterization of Dr. Ofitt’s book, as “specifically written, titled, and promoted to attract as much venom as possible”. I believe has conducted himself in a very civil manner.

  15. Ms. Clark September 14, 2008 at 16:38 #

    I would say that Lisa’s commentary here is more vitriolic and designed to whip up fury than Dr. Offit’s book is. Perhaps Lisa is pained because she growing a conscience about her part in supporting the parents with the totally unsupportable claims that their babies descended “into the hell that is autism” (that’s quoting David Kirby, Lisa, not you) immediately following a vaccine?

    Lisa can’t suspend her belief system long enough to realize that frantic and sobbing parents who make specific claims about babies destroyed by vaccines could actually be lying through their teeth or could have been whipped up into a froth by quacks who rewrote their child’s history by saying things like, “All the children who come into my clinic are heavy metal poisoned, I’ve never met an autistic child who is not…” or, “There was no autism before thimerosal, therefor autism is mercury poisoning, therefor if your kid is autistic he became so because of vaccines.”

    If an “expert” asserts something like that it can cause sincere parents to start remembering things that did **not** happen. And the promise of a big cash pay off can encourage parents to outright lie about their child having autism, or becoming autistic following a vaccine.

    That’s the real world, Lisa.

    Dr. Offit’s book is about the real world and the dirt that lays beneath the thin veneer of respectability of the world of the autism-vaccine parents and their pet scientists, their fave quacks and their greedy lawyers. It’s a thin veneer that you have been polishing for them for a while now, Lisa. I wish you would stop or that your bosses would replace you with someone who has some kind of insight into what is really going on.

  16. alyric September 14, 2008 at 16:53 #


    I had always kept aloof from the anti vax debate until i realised the damage that this brigade was causing and the co-opting of the autism community in a totally reprehensible fashion. Did you read about the two German children with SSPE – more disabled than any autistic child I’ve seen and of course they are slowly dying. They caught measles on the same day in a doctor’s surgery from an unvaccinated child. They were too young to be vaccinated.

    My stake in this is now take a very personal turn. I am now officially immunocompromised. I have almost no lymphocytes of the sort that produce antibodies. So any of these mini Typhoid Marys gives me anything at all, I’m heading for the ICU with a good chance of a final stop in the morgue. And we do not know where they are – scary thought huh?

    So, yes the issue is real. I don’t know if you read Orac’s blog Respectful Insolence, but he’s taking this very seriously nd I think he’s right. We have to reverse a lot of bad thinking and it’s going to take a lot of effort. Think of it as the energy required to overcome the massive inertia of bad thinking in the wrong direction.

  17. TheProbe September 14, 2008 at 21:05 #

    Lisa, you lways want to run down the middle of the road. Sadly, there is no middle, and should be no middle, in this debate. You are either a supporter of the vaccine program, or not.

    The anti-vacs do not “play fair”. They out people’s identities, assault proponents of vaccination, and, wil do anything to discredit them.

    Now, you twaddle along and whine that Dr. Offit wrote a book ‘designed’ to add to the debate, not settle it. YOUR whine says to me, at least, that you have your agenda on the side of the anti-vaccinators. He wrote the book to describe what they do, and just exactly why they are W R O N G.

    If you cannot handle the concept that there are those who will not accept the anti-vaxxers lies and tactics, then you might as well get out of the arena. THEY have declared health-jihad on children. We will not tolerate it, as it will result in dead and disabled kids.

  18. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) September 15, 2008 at 04:17 #

    “he hasn’t bothered to correct his dumb, unchecked claim that Kathleen was exposed to mercury on all those medical flights she never took.”

    That’s because he’s just a tosser.

    It’s all show, but has no bearing on the reality that he claims to describe.

    I’d call him a turd, but – as every agriculturalist knows – turds are useful.

  19. Do'C September 15, 2008 at 04:21 #

    You can say it’s about “life and death issues” and therefore important enough to merit such intensity. But war and religion are about such issues too, and I’ll bet you big bucks that Olmsted and Offit could debate Iraq for hours perfectly civilly! These men are not kookoos from the outback – they are highly educated literate people who have succeeded in significant careers.


    Hopefully you took home this point from AFP – Dan Olmsted’s education and literacy in science pales in comparison to most scientists with an education and experiece like Paul Offit’s.

    He’s pretty much openly stated that he doesn’t understand basic statistics – how does he evaluate any scientfic paper that uses statistics?

  20. Ms. Clark September 15, 2008 at 08:14 #

    Contrary to Lisa Jo’s opinion, I’m not sure I would say that DAN! Olmsted has “succeeded” at a significant career. I might have said that when he was still working at UPI. But he went from being a UPI “editor” or something, to a blogger, and it’s far from a major blog. I believe many would say that Olmsted has failed at his chosen career, especially given the kind of “investigative reporting” he’s dished out regarding Kathleen Seidel’s scawy scawy mewcuwy expozoow. He ought to be apologizing for engaging in such pointless speculation about Kathleen’s health and her child’s autism-spectrum disorder, and for trying to imply that Kathleen is “bad” (toxic) and somehow not credible. He ought to be begging her for some tips in how to write a good piece of investigative reportage.

  21. Orac September 15, 2008 at 15:48 #

    Lisa, you lways want to run down the middle of the road. Sadly, there is no middle, and should be no middle, in this debate. You are either a supporter of the vaccine program, or not.

    This is the fallacy of the middle ground, also known as the fallacy of the golden mean. This is a logical fallacy in which person looks at two opposite positions and concludes that the “truth” must lie somewhere between the two positions. Unfortunately, in many areas involving science, that is indeed a logical fallacy–for example, the “correct” position with regards to evolution does not lie somewhere between creationism and what science says about evolution.

    Not all issues have two sides. Evolution is one such issue. So is the proposition that vaccines cause autism.

    Lisa Jo falls headlong for this logical fallacy in her trying to take a “middle ground” between antivaccinationists who claim that vaccines cause autism and those of us who accept the science that says that they do not. It’s easy to fall for the middle ground fallacy because we value being “nonjudgmental,” but science demands making judgments and conclusions, and its conclusion is that vaccines do not cause autism.

  22. Patrick September 15, 2008 at 17:16 #

    As the months go by it’s looking like Mercury Rising needs to shift into a more likely subject area, like climate change.

  23. Regan September 15, 2008 at 19:34 #

    Lisa said,
    But Dr. Offit’s book is specifically written, titled, and promoted to attract as much venom as possible.
    That’s ironic, considering the writing, title and promotion of “Evidence of Harm”.
    Can I safely assume that you held that book up to a similar critical yardstick?

    Personally, as the parent of an autistic child, I am glad that someone (finally) wrote a collected expose of the autism-snake oil industry. We have been getting a lot of one side of the discussion for too long, complete with “how dare you question my beliefs–I’m the parent of a child with autism!”.

    Thanks to Orac for describing the golden-mean fallacy.

  24. manyoaks October 1, 2008 at 05:18 #

    From the reviews, Dr. Paul Offit’s book “Autism’s False Prophets” disagrees with anything in Wakefield’s 1998 paper on autism, colitis and vaccines without providing a solution to autism. The paper, however, provides a useful starting point for an investigation of autism, colitis and vaccines.

    A number of web sites report that colitis attacks can be caused by various entities including respiratory infections. Measles is an upper respiratory viral infection. Measles is a wild source of respiratory infection, but MMR, is manmade and exposure to MMR is mandated. This information agrees with parental reports that vaccines triggered biological disorders. Adverse reactions to MMR vaccine, diarrhea and ear infections are also complications of measles. (Bottle feeding is also a risk for ear infections, another disorder associated with regressive autism.)

    Now another question, what established conditions which made the individual vulnerable to the ‘trigger’? Rigas reports that bottle feeding is a risk for both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

    Thus, breast feeding and avoiding respiratory infections might be a way to reduce the incidence of regressive autism.

    For more details:

    I have been unable to find any report predating this post suggesting that sleep apnea might be a factor in colitis.

    “I have partially treated sleep apnea and my large intestine was removed for ulcerative colitis. I suspect that sleep apnea can be a factor in ulcerative colitis.

    Please refute or confirm my suspicions. My line of reasoning is: 1) Strong diaphragm movements are associated with ‘sneeze’ and ‘cough’ incontinence. 2) Bed wetting and ‘nocturnal trips to urinate are among the indicators for a possible sleep apnea diagnosis. 3) I sleep better in cool weather than warm weather (More dreams) and I often (cool weather) don’t need to go potty for 5 or 6 hours after retiring. In warm weather the interval is about 2 hours.
    4) Since strong diaphragm movements are associated with apneas, I think that these strong diaphragm movements cause the trips.

    Interestingly, there have been some notes on internet of individuals whose colitis gets worse in the summer. Do they also have sleep apnea sensitive to warm temperatures?”

  25. Joseph November 13, 2008 at 01:00 #

    From the reviews, Dr. Paul Offit’s book “Autism’s False Prophets” disagrees with anything in Wakefield’s 1998 paper on autism, colitis and vaccines without providing a solution to autism.

    @manyoaks: I was once told this fallacy is called "appeal to lack of assistance." Basically what you're saying is that when someone refutes a scientific hypothesis, they have to provide an alternative solution to the problem, otherwise their refutation can be dismissed. This is obviously nonsensical and contrary to the way science works.

    I don't have a comment on the speculation that follows.


  1. Surpise! Some people don’t like Autism’s False Prophets | Left Brain Right Brain – International Badass Activists - August 26, 2020

    […] Source: Surpise! Some people don’t like Autism’s False Prophets | Left Brain Right Brain […]

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