Faux advocates embarrass the autism communities by attacking high school students and their film project

12 May

Not all advocates in any given community will push for the same thing. That’s a given. But within the autism communities we have groups who pretend to speak for all of us and who have been throwing their efforts away for well over a decade. I’m speaking of course about those fixated on vaccines. Not even vaccines as a hypothetical risk factor for autism, but vaccines in general. Attacking vaccines and spreading misinformation about vaccines has nothing to do with autism. Now we can add: attacking high school film makers has nothing to do with autism advocacy.

Emily Willingham covers this well at Forbes.com: High School Students Under Attack For Vaccine Documentary. Shot of Prevention also talks about it at Invisible Threat Filmmaker Discusses Journalistic Integrity and Respectful Insolence as Antivaccine activists bully high school filmmakers over a student documentary about vaccines (plus more).

In short, a group of high school students have a film called “Invisible Threat”. The students are from Carlsbad High School Television. Here’s the trailer:

Invisible Threat Trailer from CHSTV Videos on Vimeo.

Unfortunately for the faux autism advocates (and others who attack vaccines) “Invisble Threat” is getting a lot of visibility for a student film. From Shot of Prevention: The Invisible Threat Is Coming to Our Nation’s Capitol.

On May 1st at 10am, Every Child By Two and the Immunization Coalition of Washington, DC will host a special event which will serve as the official nationwide launch of the Invisible Threat movement. Since it is critically important for our elected officials to get the strong message that the public expects sensible, science-driven legislation when it comes to vaccines, we’ve invited them as our special guests. Now we are counting on you (and your friends, family and colleagues) to call, or email, your members of Congress this week to further encourage their attendance at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

By flooding their offices with calls and emails between now and May 1st we can make it clear that pro-vaccine constituents have a voice, and that we stand firm against vaccine misinformation that is resulting in weakened public health policies, watered-down school vaccination requirements and the resurgence of deadly diseases!

Yes, legislators were invited to a screening of the film. A film which presents vaccines as life-saving and effective. But this is branded as “propaganda”. If you read the criticisms (say here and here) you see that apparently it’s inconceivable to these faux advocates that high school students could come to the conclusion that vaccines work. Instead this must be part of the entire imagined network of conspiracies that are behind vaccines.

Over the years I’ve come to believe that improbable as these conspiracy theories are, these people actually do believe them. (When someone sends you an email saying, in effect, “let me bully you or I’ll write an article that shows I’ll believe pretty much anything” and then does write that article, you have to accept that they believe what they write). So while their arguments are filled with misinformation, they may not be technically lies. But when they bully and harass, and bully and harass high school students, that’s something even they should know crosses the line. From Invisible Threat Filmmaker Discusses Journalistic Integrity:

“Almost three years ago an article in our tiny local newspaper mentioned our broadcast journalism club, Carlsbad High School TV (CHSTV) Films, was going to make a video clip about the immune system including how vaccines work. We hadn’t even started filming, yet the blogs prompted hundreds of ugly comments and calls. Yes, the anti-vaccine bloggers were harshly criticizing high school students doing an after school project sponsored by an unrestricted local Rotary grant.

Not knowing anything about vaccines, I thought there must be something shocking we were about to uncover about children being harmed and possible cover up. Now that was worth researching. However, the adult supervisors at CHSTV Films – the director (our broadcasting teacher) and the volunteer (PTA mom turned producer) – had a different reaction. They pulled the plug on the project, citing a concern for us teens after all the angry comments flooded in. They had no idea that this topic was so explosive. Due to the success of our previous films, we had other projects being pitched to us and the adults felt it best to avoid this headache.

Yep, they got attacked from the beginning. From Stop the Fear-Based Propaganda About Vaccines

According to Lisa Posard, a teacher at Carlsbad and producer of the film, once the anti-vaccine community got wind of the production through a small news article in a local paper, the threats and emails started and almost stalled their production. At a media call for the film, she confirmed that after the resistance they received from white-supremacists over their holocaust documentary, they considered abandoning the vaccine documentary all together.

The students pushed back, however, and would not give up their investigation. They have since produced a film that has been lauded by the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, Every Child by Two and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The film has become a standard educational tool at hundreds of health-care sites across the US and they are currently searching for a producer to release it commercially. These students will not give up.

And it continues.

It’s one thing to protest something, even when you are wrong. That I support. It’s another to threaten high school kids. When your tactics are being compared to those of white supremacists, you are causing harm. You are causing harm to the autism communities, to public health and more.

Let me put it simply. I stand apart from you. As a citizen, I stand apart from you. As someone interested in public health, I stand apart from you. As a parent, I stand apart from you. As the parent of an autistic child, I stand apart from you.

And I am far from alone. You think you are the leading edge fringe: those with vision. But you are just a garden variety fringe. Causing harm and making it hard for those of us who want a better future to accomplish our goals.

By Matt Carey

6 Responses to “Faux advocates embarrass the autism communities by attacking high school students and their film project”

  1. reissd May 12, 2014 at 22:47 #

    It is sad that these people let themselves believe in this conspiracy theory, and even sadder that they do not draw the line at attacking the high school club. As you point out, it causes harm.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 12, 2014 at 22:56 #

      When I read this comment by Age of Autism “editor” Kim Stagliano, I nearly choked at the lack of self-awareness: “Managing Editor’s Note: “demonize the enemy” is a war tactic.”

      She ‘s trying to say that her groups are being demonized…and then she goes on to demonize high school kids.

      Here’s a hint–being shown you are wrong isn’t demoniziation. Threatening high school kids, that’s demonization.

      • reissd May 12, 2014 at 22:58 #

        I don’t think they even realize that presenting this film as a conspiracy is a direct attack on the students, dismissing their ability, talent and independence, labeling them as either pawns or co-conspirators. Incredibly insulting and unjustified.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 12, 2014 at 23:10 #

        Of course they don’t. You’ve been online long enough to see that it’s pretty much assumed by these groups: “You think vaccines work and are reasonably safe? You must be part of the conspiracy”


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