There is a TV reality show being shopped around right now focused on autism. The team behind this project includes Andrew Wakefield and Polly Tommey. They have an enterprise called the “autism media channel” which has been making YouTube videos for some time. But they have a promo for their “Autism Team” program which appears to be the basis for their reality show.
Where Mr. Wakefield failed to accomplish with science, where he failed to accomplish with books, he is now attempting to accomplish with TV: create the image that his ideas of autistic enterocolitis is a real entity and that he and his friends (such as Arthur Krigsman) are the source of hope for the autism community. Like many reality shows, it appears to be a commercial.
There is a blog post on the Autism Media Channel website, Guest Post by Autism Mother Diane-Cecilia Graham, which begins:
Did you know someone stole my children? He took them away from me and never intended to give them back but I am fighting him. I used all my skills and abilities to learn what I could about him. In battles knowing your enemy is your best defence. He is a mystery, his place of birth is unknown, his future is unpredictable, no one knows how far he can go and he snatches every child in a unique way and holds them captive for an indeterminable amount of time. He comes when you do not see him coming.
Very reminiscent of the “I am autism” video that Autism Speaks put out a few years back, to much criticism. Take autism and personify it as a monster, stealing children.
The framing is all too familiar: create an atmosphere of doom and gloom, plus fear, then bring in the heroes to save the day. The nice thing about TV is that there is no peer review. Editing for effect is expected. Facts are supposed to take backseat to a good story.
I didn’t consider this a viable project. But, Andrew Wakefield has been spotted at a convention for reality TV people recently. And he has the support of a husband/wife film maker/producer team who have a studio in Austin, his home town.
We are a community with great needs. There is no denying that the needs of autistics are often times very great. But I don’t see how a failed researcher, failed author turned TV reality show producer is on the path to a better future for this community. Especially when the failed researcher is one whose lost his medical license for multiple counts of unethical behavior.
Andrew Wakefield may have hit on something: being a business guy for TV or movies. He could probably sell a studio on the sequel to Plan 9 from Outer Space. But the thought of him creating a reality TV show in his image is frankly frightening.
By Matt Carey
Note:edited to correct spelling of Ms. Tommey’s name