Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury takes on Jenny McCarthy and the “bogus vaccine-autism link”

20 Feb

One of the big problems with the media has been their willingness to give the vaccine-induced-autism-epidemic idea far more wight than it deserved. While the science has been very one sided against the theories presented, the media usually puts out “he said/she said” type stories. You know the type. A new study will come out. A news story will be produced. They will open with people talking about the increasing numbers of people diagnosed with autism and the belief in the vaccine link in some groups. The scientists for the new study will be interviewed. And then the story will end with parents saying, “but I know the link is real”. It was a world of false balance.

That world has changed, at least for now. Sure not everywhere, but the media and the public’s perception of vaccines and autism has changed.

Case in point: the comic strip “Doonesbury”. For about 40 years Gary Trudeau has had his finger on the pulse of American society. He has been a harsh critic of political figures and popular culture figures (many papers have placed his comic on the opinion or editorial pages).

Here are a couple of panels from today’s strip (click to enlarge). Boopsie, former cheerleader and Playboy playmate, is discussing Jenny McCarthy:

The full strip can be found at Doonesbury.com.

The vaccine-causation idea has only survived through the media and public relations. The science never really supported the hypotheses. Jenny McCarthy rode the vaccine story back into the public’s eye, and appears to be trying to jump ship before it drags her back down. If today’s Doonesbury is any indication, she may have waited too long. She could do a lot of good by making a public statement distancing herself from the junk science and PR campaigns that created the image of a vaccine-induced-epidemic. It wouldn’t make up for all the damage she caused, but it would be better than having her publicity people beg the Colbert show to not be harsh on her, while she was at the same time writing pieces supporting the junk scientists for the Huffington Post.

When Doonesbury is calling you out for promoting a “bogus vaccine-autism link” and for causing real harm to preventive health care, you’ve lost public support. You can either try to stay low and ride it out, or do the right thing and repair some of the damage you’ve caused. The choice is yours, Ms. McCarthy.

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126 Responses to “Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury takes on Jenny McCarthy and the “bogus vaccine-autism link””

  1. sharon March 1, 2011 at 23:09 #

    @century, to suggest the authors of this blog delete viewpoints different to their own is a blatant falsehood. There are times when I am genuinely surprised by the length of rope they give some commenters despite the repetition, snideness and baiting.
    This openess to discussion seems in complete contrast to those who seek to promote woo based therapies and anti vax views. I say this as someone who has had comments, delivered with all the respect I coud muster, deleted from several blogs. For no reason other than my comment challenged their embraced dogma. Yet I would think that if one was so enthralled with a particular point of view they would welcome questions as an oppurtunity to share their knowledge and experiences. “Ho Hum” indeed.

  2. AWOL March 1, 2011 at 23:24 #

    Pharma moral high ground nothing to beat it?

  3. Interverbal March 2, 2011 at 01:02 #

    “I’m sure that Interverbal brought his name up specifically because everyone would know him (Bettleheim) as a poor example of a researcher. But, Bettleheim would meet the criteria set out to support Ms. McCarthy”

    Precisely correct

    “In other words—clearly the criteria above are not valid. We don’t need to back everyone who is a public figure in autism.”

    Nah, let’s keep it and hold ’em to it. The very famous Bill Gates is just spreading awareness about the broader questions of vaccines right?

    Joking aside; maybe as a field autism has seen enough of psychoanalytic shenanigans, divas, famous authors, and pet detectives. Not to mention Elvis (dressing up and playing doctor) curing an autistic child with some good ol’ school Holding- Therapy. We have already tried the famous-twit-of-the-month approach. Maybe there has been enough anecdotes. Let’s see what the actual employment of science can do. And let’s not ignore the well designed science that already exists.

    • Sullivan March 2, 2011 at 02:17 #

      Interverbal,

      I miss at least one of the divas…

  4. Interverbal March 2, 2011 at 04:30 #

    Ironically, the reason she picked that name was to parody the autism “divas” of the time. I think this is a bit more obvious in her earliest posts. I find it extremely funny whenever someone(not so much nowadays) is outraged by her name “Just who does she think she is, calling herself that!”. The point goes sailing over their heads.

    • Sullivan March 2, 2011 at 04:50 #

      Yeah, she was so good at it that many didn’t recognize that it was a persona she adopted. Many also didn’t recognize that the outrage was real, driven by a very deep concern for people.

  5. McD March 3, 2011 at 04:17 #

    A while back, AWOL linked to what s/he thought was the study to trounce all others. I tried 3 times to comment on it, but they went into the ether apparently. I will have one last go, for anyone who thinks conclusions can be drawn from what AoA present as ‘data are in’, and implying that it is one of a series of studies with similar results. This is an outright lie.

    AWOL Said: “I noticed on AOA ,a superb study just received as below..if you could lower yorself to look at it we would all appreciate your advice on the study ,not that we will take your advice but it gives us an idea into the pharma logic..(giving credit you have one) “

    AWOL’s AoA Link:
    http://www.ageofautism.com/2011/02/vaccinated-vs-unvaccinated-children-some-data-are-in-and-they-are-disturbing-.htm

    AoA are engaging in blatant cherry-picking with the paper at the end of AWOL’s link.

    Check out this follow-up review of a long series of studies from Prof Aaby (3 years after the paper AoA are lauding):
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17207144

    From the results: “Studies with long interval between visits had very high mortality rates among unvaccinated children, low mortality rate ratios for vaccinated compared with unvaccinated children, and strongly beneficial estimates of DTP.”

    In other words, AoA/AWOL’s study was only over a period of six months. Long enough to capture side-effects from DTP (remember, no one claims vaccines are risk-free), but too short to give an accurate idea of long-term benefits.

    Cherry-picking just what they want to use to paint a dishonest picture of vaccine safety is disgusting. If their willful ignorance only affected their own families it wouldn’t be so bad. But they are playing Russian roulette with everybody’s kids

  6. McD March 3, 2011 at 04:27 #

    awww man. Just had my fourth attempt at replying to an AWOL post way up the page. They are just disappearing into the ether. But other posts on other topics are getting through OK. AWOL’s link should be read in conjunction with this one by the same lead author:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17207144

  7. McD March 3, 2011 at 04:29 #

    That one seems to have made it.

    From the results of the Aaby review I linked to: “Studies with long interval between visits had very high mortality rates among unvaccinated children, low mortality rate ratios for vaccinated compared with unvaccinated children, and strongly beneficial estimates of DTP.”

    In other words, AoA/AWOL’s study was only over a period of six months. Long enough to capture side-effects from DTP (remember, no one claims vaccines are risk-free), but too short to give an accurate idea of long-term benefits.

  8. century March 3, 2011 at 11:36 #

    Sharon said,
    “@century, to suggest the authors of this blog delete viewpoints different to their own is a blatant falsehood”

    I was not suggesting – I was stating!

  9. sharon March 3, 2011 at 11:42 #

    @century, meh!

  10. Fred February 5, 2012 at 19:49 #

    The problem with Jenny McCarthy is she jumped on the my son has autism hay ride and the media didn’t do their homework. Had they investigated, which good journalists do, they would’ve seen her story had huge gaps. For instance, her son radically improved after given seizure medications. As many doctors believe, this is more consistent with the diagnosis of landau kleffner syndrome, a syndrome easily misdiagnosed,even by some experts, as autism. It would look better for Jenny to come out and deal with the seizures being the real reason her son regressed and exhibited autistic like behaviors that led to diagnosis. Unfortunately, she was picked up by media and others who have made a lot of money off her son’s misdiagnosis and they don’t want to lose that money now. There are books. Endorsements. Connections. Ties. Her name is on the my child has autism payroll and it’s making people in some places money. They don’t care if her son really has autism. Yet, at same time, these same people will attack BIG PHARM saying all they care about is making money. Well this appears to be the pot calling the kettle black. Jenny should be a spokesperson for Landau Kleffner, not autism. Her son obviously has issues and hopefully continues to progress, but her chronic misrepresentation of autism has rightfully angered many people. It’s equally disturbing that the website Age of Autism has a relationship with her that blinds them to the fact her son was never autistic.

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