Read Dierdre Imus…lost another irony meter

12 Feb

Dierdre Imus, autism hero? Vampire antivaccine activist sucking the life out of the autism community to further her agenda? Somewhere in between?

I don’t know. I don’t follow her that closely. I did see a really horrible panel discussion she “moderated” last year in New Jersey. “Moderated” in this case being a title, not a good description of her actions. Let’s just say that they gave me an idea of what would have happened if Sharryl Attkisson has been able to “moderate” a panel discussion for the Vaccine court last fall as originally planned. Eew.

Ms. Imus seems to be angry with Paul Offit. You see, Dr. Offit came on to her turf, the Huffington Post, and blogged about vaccines being a good thing. Given the nature of the Huffington Post, the only remarkable part of that exchange was Dr. Offit blogging there. So, it wouldn’t be worth discussing if Ms. Imus didn’t bring up a tired old standard of the anti-vaccine arsenal: comparing other people’s actions (Dr. Offit in this case) to the people who promoted tobacco safety.

In her piece, Ms. Imus states right after a lengthy discussion of the tobacco industry:

We can all learn a great deal by simply looking back on history and remembering how corporations, whose products are linked to serious diseases, employed scientists, physicians and public relation firms to disseminate misinformation and manage the business of “damage control.” By doing so, we realize that we have seen Offit’s act before.

The whole tobacco company thing is annoying. It has been annoying for some time and it will stay annoying for some time to come, I am sure. I recall this tactic being used last year by a blogger at the Age of Autism. He was angry that Dr. Offit was given publicity on the Today Show. The blogger claimed that Dr. Offit was acting like the scientists who backed tobacco safety.

Ah, right. Orac at Respectful Insolence has covered how the logic is just completely false in that sort of argument. So, I will just point out the annoying irony.

The same Today show episode had Dr. Bernadine Healy on it. Dr. Healy has made comments supportive of vaccine-autism research, so you can imagine that the Age of Autism loved her in that episode.

Here’s the irony. Dr. Offit or Dr. Healy, which one is named in documents in the tobacco company document database?

That’s right, Dr. Healy. She was medical advisor to TASSC: The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. TASSC was funded by tobacco companies directly and through other groups to fight the idea that second hand tobacco smoke causes cancer.

There are a couple of databases on line. I looked through them a big–and, yes, I found documents from TASSC with Dr. Healy’s name on them Here’s a letter I found where TASSC is asking the tobacco company Brown and Williamson for $50,000 in funding. Dr. Healy’s name is right there on the letterhead. Now, she didn’t write that letter presumably, but she’s on the board, so it seems clear that she was paid tobacco money.

So, the vaccines-cause-autism groups have a former tobacco-company paid consultant as a hero. Yet, they claim people who disagree with them are bad people, similar to those who were…well, paid consultants to tobacco companies.

Bang! There goes the irony meter.

Now, I know people will complain about this piece. And, if I could find an apology from Dr. Healy for her actions with TASSC, I would agree. I’ve looked. If someone can point me to it, I’ll gladly post it with my apology.

2 Responses to “Read Dierdre Imus…lost another irony meter”

  1. Ticktock February 12, 2009 at 20:07 #

    Thanks for this. I would’ve used the word “hypocrisy”, but I suppose “irony” fits just as well.

  2. Robert Estrada February 12, 2009 at 20:33 #

    It seems to me that there is a missed business opportunity in a line of ruggedized irony meters. Perhaps I could start a line of Quantum Ray Tachyon Crystal Resonance Indigo…….tm devices. Want one? Only 400 quatloos.

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