Age of Autism: misquotes Story Landis…jumps to unsupported conclusion

2 Nov

When the Age of Autism reported on a note written by Story Landis, they added a word that dramatically colored what was said. I am left wondering why would AoA make such an clearly detectable misquote? Read on and you will see what I mean.

Take a look at the piece titled “Dr. Story Landis: Autism not a multi-symptom disease but a money making scheme?“. That whole “money making scheme” part is what got people riled up. But is it really supported by what was said?

Here’s a little screenshot of the Age of Autism blog post, if you don’t want to click through to their site:

Segment of post about Story Landis

Segment of post about Story Landis

I know this seems redundant, but here is what they quote Dr. Landis as saying:

“I wonder if Lyn Redwood is pushing autism as a multi-symptom disorder in order to feed into vaccine injury awards.

Emphasis added by me.

Why add emphasis, you might ask? Because “awards” is not in what Dr. Landis wrote in that first line. Go ahead and check. Here’s the note, as downloaded from the of the Age of Autism blog.

“I wonder if Lyn Redwood is pushing autism as multisystem disorder to feed into vaccine injury?

It is the second line that mentions awards:

Would be a good justification for looking at vaccine injured kids who have gotten awards.

The insertion isn’t a simple mistake–it is made twice in the same blog post. Here is the second place the mistake was made:

How could Landis imply that families are “trying to make” autism into a total body disease in order “to feed into vaccine injury awards.”

Neither section in the “quotes” is accurate. “Trying to make” isn’t in what Dr. Landis wrote, and, as we have just seen, “feed into vaccine injury awards” isn’t either.

Without the word “awards” added the meaning that the Age of Autism blog post tries to convey, heck, the title of the blog post–that Dr. Landis was speculating that this was a “money making scheme”–is unsupported.

Let’s dive into this a bit deeper. David Kirby, blogger at the Age of Autism and at the Huffington post did a very strange thing. In his piece he gets the correct quote from the note, doesn’t mention the mistake made at the age of autism, but still pushes the Age of Autism interpretation:

To many parents, it seemed that Dr. Landis suspected Redwood of “pushing” the study of these multisystem problems merely to boost the number of autism cases filed in vaccine court (the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program), and to increase their chances for victory. Judging by the comments on Age of Autism, those parents were profoundly offended by the implications of that interpretation.

I’m curious as to how Mr. Kirby came to the conclusion that Dr. Landis’ note was “merely to boost the number of autism cases filed in vaccine court” and “to increase their chances for victory”. Dr. Landis didn’t mention the court, the chances of victory…or even “awards” in the context that would support Mr. Kirby’s interpretation.

I’d be curious as to whether Mr. Kirby pointed out the mistakes to the Age of Autism blogger in question.

A casual observer might find it odd how Mr. Kirby corrected the quote and yet persisted in pushing (yes, I’ll use the term pushing) the interpretation based on the misquote. The same casual observer would find it especially odd, since Mr. Kirby was the one to publicly disclose Dr. Landis’ explanation of her comment:

The other part of my note addressed the fact that it is important for autism researchers to study the children who have been most profoundly affected by their response to vaccines. That in no way mitigates my sincere apology to the families who interpreted my note to be uncaring and disrespectful.

“The other part of my note” being “Would be a good justification for looking at vaccine injured kids who have gotten awards.”

If you can look at the quote fresh, consider this interpretation–the first sentence, “I wonder if Lyn Redwood is pushing autism as multisystem disorder to feed into vaccine injury?” is discussing the if autism as a multisystem disorder would feed into the *idea* of autism as a vaccine injury. The assertion that her comment referred to vaccine injury “awards” is at best speculation and, at worst, a pretty clear misquote. I could speculate on the motives of the Age of Autism blogger, but haven’t we just seen how dangerous it is to speculate on motives with little information?

note: I made some small edits for clarity shortly after publishing this.

6 Responses to “Age of Autism: misquotes Story Landis…jumps to unsupported conclusion”

  1. David N. Brown November 2, 2009 at 19:28 #

    Speaking of fraudulent misrepresentation of fact by AoA, last week they published a spurious article be David Burd, “Without Vaccine, Australia Shrugs Off Swine Flu”, which I consider to be either a collection of credulously reported “urban legends” or an outright hoax. I suggest LBRB help draw maximum scorn on AoA for publishing this.

  2. Patrick November 2, 2009 at 22:46 #

    Ouch. Intentionally twisting someone elses words to create another environment of harmful ideas to incite the commenters.

    Then using the “trying to make” add in that isn’t part of the scanned notes I saw at their site either.

    Poor Form, KW, DK, et al.

    Yet another political/propaganda peice is underway and damage has already been done.

  3. daedalus2u November 2, 2009 at 23:25 #

    It seems to me a pretty clear case of projection.

    That is what AoA saw because that is what they were thinking because that is what they are trying to do.

  4. Kwombles November 3, 2009 at 01:34 #

    And Landis stepped down rather than arguing that her words were being inaccurately quoted? How bad is the intimidation by the anti-vaxxers? I think we’ve seen from the Wallace piece, it gets fairly bad. So, basically, the anti-vaxxers are trying to intimidate researchers and officials in autism-related fields to see the world from their anti-vaccination stance. And researchers and officials resign rather than deal with the threats and intimidation. Who will the anti-vaxxers blame when no one goes into reputable autism related research? Oh, that’s right, they’ll be busy following Blaylock, Wakefield and the Geiers as if they were the pied piper.

  5. Lisa November 3, 2009 at 15:04 #

    I find it hard to believe that Landis simply apologized and stepped down on the basis of a misquoted note. Even if she, herself, preferred to avoid controversy, surely the institutions she represents need to take a stand. In fact, if AofA is really misquoting, wouldn’t Landis et al have a libel case in hand?


  6. daedalus2u November 3, 2009 at 17:12 #

    I don’t think she stepped down on the basis of the misquoted note, but on the atmosphere of intimidation that AoA fosters. The misquoted note is just a symptom of that, and a justification for the more radical and extremist members of AoA to become even more extremist. Paul Offit did receive death threats. He did receive threats against his children. Who needs or wants that? Who can work or even live under that level of intimidation? Not everyone can, or wants to even if they are able to.

    By driving good people away from governmental and quasi-public autism research organizations, AoA is slowing the pace of research, delaying when positive results will be achieved and making the governmental and quasi-public research organizations less effective. A solution (what ever form that takes) likely won’t come from any organization that AoA is able to influence.

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