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VAXXED pulled in over $1.3M in donations, and most of it went to Wakefield and Tommey’s company

19 Nov

A few years ago Andrew Wakefield (one of Time Magazine’s Great Science Frauds) headed a team promoting a faux documentary called “Vaxxed”. I wrote about this film a great deal at the time, but suffice it to say it exemplified much of what is wrong with the way the anti-vaccine community uses and abuses the autism community.

If memory serves, VAXXED concluded with a long list of sponsors. So they apparently had a fair amount of money to work with to produce the film. The film was a product of the Autism Media Channel, which is a limited liability corporation (LLC) owned by Polly Tommey and Andrew Wakefield, based on tax records. At the same time, Vaxxed was associated with a charity: AMC Foundation. Said foundation is run by Andrew Wakefield with Polly Tommey and Brian Burrowes also listed as directors (at least on past tax forms).

Vaxxed came out in 2016, and nonprofit tax forms for 2016 are now public. Here are the tax forms for 2015 and 2016:

Here is the 2015 tax form.

And here is the 2016 (more interesting) tax form.

There are some very interesting details, but let’s focus on a few. Starting with in 2016 AMC Foundation took in $1,325,098 in contributions and grants. $1.3M. (click to enlarge)

$1.3M. Where did it go? Well, about $207K went to “other expenses”. Of that $50K was travel (they had a bus touring around promoting the movie, but they also had a gofundme campaign to pay for the bus if I recall correctly). Another ~$80k into “other” which doesn’t seem to be itemized. Click to enlarge.

And, then there’s the $1M that was given to the business arm of the Autism Media Channel. Click to enlarge.

As noted above, the Autism Media Channel LLC is owned by Andrew Wakefield and Polly Tommey. So that $1M is roughly $500,000.00 each. Of course, the business has to pay other expenses. For example, one assumes that Del Bigtree was not riding along the tour for free. Also, we don’t know how much of the original expenses for producing VAXXED may have needed to be paid off. Of course, had Ms. Tommey and Mr. Wakefield chosen to pay themselves through the charity arm of VAXXED, we would know the amount. That’s called transparency. Given how large this sum is, transparency would seem to this observer to be a necessity. Also, given how much the VAXXED team complains about lack of transparency, this action strikes me as completely hypocritical. click to enlarge.

Perhaps keener eyes than mine can find where any of the money went to, say, help any of the families who Wakefield and Tommey were so eager to include in videos. Or to perform research on autism and/or vaccines. Or anything that, well, would seem charitable. I guess some would think supporting the next film–by the profit generating business–is a charitable act. By shifting the money to their LLC business, we can’t see how much was paid directly to Mr. Wakefield and Ms. Tommey. Which, in itself, is a practice that bothers me. A prime reason to donate to a charity (rather than, say, offer support for a film directly) is to gain transparency. Note that in 2015, the charity did list salary for Ms. Tommey as well as expense for “FILM PRODUCER. PROGRAM EXPENSES”, which one might reasonably consider as a payment to Del Bigrtree (the producer of Vaxxed). So they apparently chose to stop listing salary/payments in 2016.

Recall that in the past Mr. Wakefield was paid $270K/year at Thoughtful House and, after that job ended, tax records for his charities set his salary at the same annual rate.

I profess to be no expert on taxes or the structure of charitable institutions. In my opinion this transfer of funds is at the very least a questionable practice. Money was collected through a charity–giving donors a tax advantages–and mostly diverted to a business run by the same people as heading the charity. Aside from the fact that I would never willingly let Andrew Wakefield or Polly Tommey get a dime of my money, I personally would not be pleased if money I was donating was handled in this way. But Mr. Wakefield’s supporters have been looking the other way and accepting his excuses for over 20 years. I doubt this will bother many of them at all. If any.

By Matt Carey

Whitewashing the brutal murder of Alex Spourdalakis

31 Aug

Alex Spourdalakis was a 14 year old autistic who was brutally murdered by his mother and another caregiver. Among those with extraordinary needs, Mr. Spourdalikis had extraordinary needs. Shortly before his spent a considerable amount of time in a hospital, reportedly restrained the whole time. So far the only real details from that time have come from his mother and caregiver who were the perpetrators of the murder. The family was offered help. When someone from the local Autism Society asked the mother what she needed “[Ms.] Spourdalakis said all she wanted was an attorney” and one was found for the family. Another news report states that “Department of Children and Family Services spokesperson says that Dorothy Spourdalakis was offered services, but she refused.” Mr. Spourdalakis’ case became well known, especially within the online autism communities. The family received the services of Andrew Wakefield, whose career has taken him into reality TV film making. Mr. Wakefield’s team helped to publicize the situation and followed the family to New York from Chicago as they sought help from Mr. Wakefield’s former colleague, the gastroenterologist Arthur Krigsman. It is not clear what treatment Krigsman prescribed. Sometime after this, the mother and caregiver began to conspire in a plan to murder Mr. Spourdalakis. When the carried out their plan, they poisoned Mr. Spourdalakis with sleeping pills. When this did not work quickly enough, the mother and caregiver stabbed him. Not once, not twice, but four times, including two stabs to the heart. When even this proved not fast enough, the mother and caregiver slit his wrist. Slit so deeply that reportedly his hand was nearly severed from his arm. When Mr. Spourdalakis finally passed, the mother and caregiver turned the knife on the family cat. After cleaning the knife, they returned it to it’s place in the kitchen. The mother and caregiver then took large doses of sleeping pills, the method they had just found to be ineffective in the murder of Mr. Spourdalakis. The father (who was divorced from the mother and living elsewhere) and an uncle tried to reach the mother that day and, finding that they could not reach her, came to the apartment. When the door was not answered, the uncle reportedly kicked it down. This action, in my view, indicates that the danger posed to the young Mr. Spourdalakis by his mother (who was reported to have started planning the murder a week in advance) was known to his extended family and they were monitoring the mother in an attempt to prevent harm.

As noted above, Andrew Wakefield inserted himself into the story. His joint venture with Polly Tommey, the Autism Media Channel, started collecting film of Mr. Spourdalakis and his mother during the hospital stay. Mr. Wakefield’s intent certainly wasn’t to document the final days of Mr. Spourdalakis. Most likely he was planning a vide similar to that for the trailer he prepared for his proposed reality Show “The Autism Team”. That video shows autistic children in meltdowns, being self-injurious. One specific child is flown from the U.K. to New York to see Arthur Krigsman (just as Mr. Spourdalakis was taken from Chicago to New York to see Krigsman). In the trailer, after visiting Krigsman the child was shown happy, playing, and the parents were shown grateful. As we know, this was not the conclusion of the Alex Spourdalakis story. Whatever Mr. Wakefield and Ms. Tommey had planned for the video they had taken, the “treat bowel disease and everyone is happy” story was not to be. Instead, he has produced a video of the “medical establishment fails family, leading to tragedy” theme. I do wonder how he managed to work that theme around the facts that the tragedy (aka brutal murder at the hands of his mother) came to pass after Mr. Spourdalakis was seen by Mr. Krigsman.

CBS News journalist Sharyl Attkisson picked up the story and aired some of the video Mr. Wakefield’s team collected in Film provides glimpse into life of autistic teen killed by his mother. What is the subject of her story? The victim? The murderers? No. It’s the film. Likely the title of the online article was not chosen by Ms. Attkisson. Whoever did chose it acted poorly.

The written piece starts out with, yes, the mother:

Chicago mom Dorothy Spourdalakis was ordered to be held without bond early this week, on the charge that she and her 14-year-old son’s caretaker, Jolanta Agata Skordzka, murdered her severely autistic son. Alex Spourdalakis was found dead in June in his bed in the River Grove, Ill., apartment he shared with his mother and Skrodzka.

When Ms. Attkisson presents the discovery of the crime scene, she again presents the murderers first, then the victim. The mother and caretaker were “barely alive themselves”. The key point–they were (and still are) alive.

When police found Alex dead at home in June, his mother and caretaker were barely alive themselves after allegedly overdosing him on medicine and stabbing him in the heart before attempting to commit suicide.

The story presents the “balance” of which group failed. Was it the medical establishment or was (as she presents in a brief clip at the end) society’s attitudes about disability and the disabled? She chose this approach rather than checking facts in depth. What options were open to the family? What is the father’s and uncle’s view, as they were apparently worried about the safety of the young Mr. Spourdalakis? What evidence is there that the diagnosis made by Krigsman is accurate. While Krigsman is well thought of in some circles, he is not without his critics nor his own history of possible ethics lapses. Did she search out what supports had been offered to the family? What they had asked for (an attorney, for example, which was provided).

The written article states, “But some in the autism advocacy community take issue with the idea that lack of help is an excuse for murder.”

Really? Only some? And is this somehow limited to the autism community? Ms. Attkisson, what is your position? Is a lack of support an excuse for murder?

But there it is, in black and white, the crux of the story: is lack of help an excuse for murder? The answer is clearly no, it is not an excuse. When did we get to the point that U.S. journalists can be discussing an “excuse” for murder?

What about the lack of help? We have to take Ms. Attkisson’s word that there was a lack of help. Because Ms. Attkisson, investigative journalist, didn’t investigate that question. Instead she presented Andrew Wakefield’s depiction of the story from the murderers. Mr. Wakefield’s word is, well, not good enough for me. People who murder their children and are trying to build a defense are not reliable sources in my opinion. But the word of the accused murderers was enough for Ms. Attkisson. She took the time to investigate the hospital where Mr. Spourdalakis was kept for 2 weeks, but she didn’t bother to look into what resources were available to the family. Was insurance coverage really denied? More importantly, if so, why?

And, yes, she takes Mr. Wakefield’s word for it. She introduces her video segment with the statement that this would be “another unexplained tragedy” if it weren’t for the video he collected.

The story notes:

Dorothy’s suicide note read, in part: Alex will no longer be “treated like an animal” or “subjected to restraints.”

He will no longer be treated like an animal. He met the same fate as the family cat. Even the cat deserved better.

As a human being, I am appalled by this story. I am appalled by the way Ms. Attkisson and CBS have given us a commercial for Andrew Wakefield’s company and failed miserably to do the basic investigative journalism needed.

Much more, as the parent of a child not so unlike Alex Spourdalakis, I am disgusted. A common phrase we hear from parents is “what will happen after I am gone?” What will happen in a world where “caregivers” are excused from murder of their charges? And I know I am not alone in my views, having discussed this with other parents of disabled children. I won’t presume to present the autistic perspective on this, but here is one account:CBS Provides Glimpse into “Documentary” Defending Autistic Teen Alex Spourdalakis’ Killers .

by Matt Carey

MMR vaccine damaged man

30 Aug

Jackie Fletcher is well known to many – she routinely insists the MMR jab is dangerous despite reams of evidence to the contrary. However, a panel in the UK has found that her son, Robert, was damaged by the MMR vaccine he was administered.

I nearly didn’t blog about this. Why? Well, this blogs predominant focus is autism and Robert did not and does not have autism. The panel in this case found that the MMR caused seizures and mental retardation. Its difficult therefore to get a ‘hook’ into this story. As Mike Fitzpatrick is quoted as saying in the Daily Mail:

It is a very important principle that parents should be compensated in cases of this kind…

and he’s absolutely right. Thats why the Vaccine Damage Payment Unit exists in the UK.

Like any other form of medical procedure, vaccines are not 100% safe. I can’t recall anyone anywhere ever making that claim. What they _are_ however, is very safe indeed. Robert Fletcher was injured and has been compensated. I might even agree with his mum that the amount is ‘derisory’. Robert will need full time care all of his life and £90,000 ($140,000) is nowhere near enough. However, campaigners uninterested in Robert’s day to day needs say that:

Campaigner Polly Tommey, who edits the magazine The Autism File and believes her son Billy is autistic because of MMR, says: ‘This is fantastic news. Now doctors can’t tell me that the MMR is safe.

‘This payout is evidence that it is not safe. It’s interesting that they will look at epilepsy and not autism, and you have to ask why.

‘Is it because the compensation would be billions?’

I very much doubt that any doctor, anywhere has ever told any recipient anywhere that any vaccine is 100% safe. If they did, they were liars.

However, this payment, far from being ‘evidence that it is not safe’ (a bizarre claim) is more like a recognition that the Vaccine Damage Payment system is working as it should. A man was vaccine damaged and was compensated as a result.

As for the claim that ‘they’ will not look at autism, this is simply incorrect. Robert, does not have autism and therefore it would be impossible in this case to look at autism. I would imagine if someone with autism was adjudged to be damaged by their MMR vaccine, Ms Tommey might have a point. As that has not happened, she does not. This kind of fear-mongering by the likes of Tommey is no doubt why the panel made the clear point:

We would stress that this decision is fact-specific and it should not be seen as a precedent for any other case.

In particular, it has no relevance to the issue… as to whether there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

And Fletcher goes on to claim:

Claims for autism are not considered. There are 120 MMR cases waiting to be heard, but none is for autism…

So why should that be? Why is autism apparently ‘excluded’?

Its because the science – both epidemiological and clinical clearly shows that MMR does not cause autism. And that is not the odd paper here and there. We are talking about overwhelming science that shows that the whole autism/MMR connection is simply false and was built up by one man too stupid to admit his clear errors and a mass media keen to build sensation out of this same man’s ego.

Tommey, Fletcher and all others who believe that there’s some kind of conspiracy afoot to block autism from MMR causation cases need to understand the science involved and that unless some new science is forthcoming that establishes MMR as a causative agent in regards to autism then the simple fact of applying for compensation listing the MMR as a cause of their child’s autism is _always_ going to be an immediate strikeout.

Campaigners need to start seeing this event for what it _really_ is – compensation for a vaccine damaged man – and not as what it isn’t – evidence that MMR is inherently unsafe or that theres some mysterious conspiracy to prevent autism from being linked to MMR.

Polly Tommey poses as advocate for autistic adults

7 Apr

Polly Tommey is in the news again with this piece in the Guardian, Attention-grabbing antics for autism. It concerns her latest poster campaign, timed to coincide with the start of the General Election.
Hello boys polle tommey poster

I have left the following comment.

I have followed Ms Tommey’s attempts to present herself as a mainstream autism advocate for some time now on my blog, Action for Autism, and your headline,”Attention Grabbing Antics” is apt. If Ms Tommey wants us “to move away from the discussion about vaccines because she knows how divisive it is” she could make a start by removing her current Face Book campaign, “Mothers Supporting Andrew Wakefield’s Work.”

Ms Tommey complains about “bickering.” But other organizations have no problem working together. The Autism Act came about with the support of 15 autism organizations working together. Many of their members served on the External Reference Group for the Autism Adult Strategy for England which reported to the government. They mobilized their members to submit over a thousand responses to help shape government strategy. This will be reflected in the statutory guidance that will be published later this year. Ms Tommey’s contribution to all this was nil.

She states that “we haven’t a clue what to do with adults with autism.” That is because she and her supporters have spent the last 10 years arguing that autism is a biomedical disorder of childhood that is treatable with the untested and unproven interventions marketed by her husband. The National Autistic Society has taken a different stance with its Don’t write Me Off campaign Most of us are not interested in what to do with autistic adults. But we we are trying to find out what we can do for them and what they want for themselves.

John Stone/Polly Tommey claim oversight

26 Sep

The first official sounding of the death knell for the ‘hidden horde’ hypothesis of autism (it must be vaccines because there aren’t 1 in 160/150/100 adult autistics) was recently sounded (as reported by Anthony) when an NHS study announced that the rate of autism amongst adults was 1% – exactly the same as for kids.

Fully aware of the implications for their beloved anti-vaccine hypothesis John Stone and Polly Tommey write/star in a recent post on that repository of all things bullshitty – Age of Autism.

NHS Autism Report suggests the increase in autism in recent years was all down to an oversight

Says John Stone, trying to reassure his readership theres still life in the terminal old dog of the hidden horde hypothesis. And why does he say this?

“Are we really able to believe all that we hear on such important subjects, or is there a stronger hand with adifferent agenda behind it?”

Ahhhh, of course! When a piece of science/news story doesn’t support your point of view then it _must_ be the work of….oh, whoever – Illuminati? Out of control government? GAVI? Take your pick.

But surely Stone and Tommey have better reasons than that…? Don’t they?

Well no, not really. They didn’t like the perfectly valid Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule that was used. Although they don’t refer to it by name, instead they cherry pick questions to try and demean the validity of the test.

The report was based on adults living in households throughout England and the assessments were done in two stages. Stage One asked individuals to rate how well they agreed with 20 statements about their likes, dislikes and abilities – such as whether they preferred going to ‘libraries’ or ‘parties’.

…If the full range of ability had been included in the NHS report, alongside the verbally fluent, high functioning adults living at home, there would surely be far more than 1 in 100. So, either there are more adults than children with an ASD and autism is on the decline(!?) or there is something wrong with the report.

A quick glance at many mainstream autism orgs claim on prevalence would show Stone that yes, there are more autistic adults than children. This report could indeed be interpreted to show a decline in autism.

People will claim that thats counter intuitive but it really isn’t. As autism has become more recognised, better diagnosed and there are more centers worldwide for its early detection, child numbers have not risen but have become more apparent. This is true across the whole ‘spectrum’.

Taking the NAS numbers on prevalence They say that at a rate of 1 in 100 children gives a total of around 133,500 kids with an ASD. This leaves 366,500 adults. A rate of 0.8%.

So the estimate prior to the new report was 0.2% out. But Stone was right, there are now (and always were) more ASD adults than kids. Thats because there are more adults in the general population than kids. In terms of whether the _rate_ of autism has decreased there’s no research to compare this to but an estimate of 0.8% is pretty damn close to 1%. In real terms the NAS were only out by 733 adults. So I would say that this report reflects reality – with no doubt regional variance and other factors, the adult rate is (and always was) around 1%.

But the stoopid continues apace:

One thing is clear, however, the report has no relevance to children withautism like my son Billy and the many thousands like him.

Quoth Polly Toomey who somehow missed the point that this was a study of adults and thus was never going to have much relevance to her children.

We’re then treated to the science of Carol ‘try me shithead‘ Stott who personally received over £100,000 of legal aid money to prop up the dead MMR hypothesis. She claims (after further digs at ADOS) that a ‘further detailed critique’ will be appearing in that robust science journal AutismFile….owned and operated by one Polly Tommey.

So there we have it. This new study, which whilst far from 100% perfect is also far from the dead dog portrayed by the purveyors of science at The Autism File and Age of Autism. They think theres a conspiracy to ‘big it up’ and refuse to see the statistical truth. ASD hasn’t ever been in epidemic, theres been a stable rate for a long time. These dealers in anti-vaccinationism will just have to deal with that.

Time for a cordon sanitaire?

28 Jun

The politics of autism are enmeshed in the debate about vaccine safety over the past ten years, and will take years to be disentangled. In the UK things might be changing, but in the US high profile celebrities have given a late push to fears that by now should be consigned to history. The BMJ have run a feature piece on the “Vaccine Disputes” currently running, focusing on both the UK and US experience. Here are some points made about the UK’s anti-vaccine movements, that both highlight the problems these groups pose for vaccination policies and autism, and their weaknesses.

One of the main drivers of the safety fears are antivaccine groups. Prominent among the UK groups is Warrington based JABS, whose website still maintains that “some children have and will continue to be damaged by combined and single dose vaccines.” Founder Jackie Fletcher has a son with epilepsy and brain damage, which she blames on the MMR vaccine. Her views are widely quoted by the mainstream media.

Another group is the One Click Group, whose tactic is to circulate by email a digest of antivaccination press cuttings, “Mother wants answers as baby dies from vaccine,” is one recent headline taken from a local paper in Trinidad and Tobago. The group has emailed several members of BMJ staff, all of whom found themselves unable to unsubscribe from the unsolicited email. The group, run by a former public relations worker, Jane Bryant, is especially uncompromising in its message. Ms Bryant first came to prominence campaigning to get chronic fatigue syndrome treated as a medical condition.


Pru Hobson-West, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Applied Bioethics, University of Nottingham, has identified and studied 19 groups in the UK that are critical of vaccinations.5 They included Action against Autism in Glasgow and the London based She found the groups were all relatively small and led by one or two parents, with a membership base ranging from 60 to 2000.

Ms Hobson-West discovered the more radical groups didn’t necessarily have personal experience of vaccine damage but were often seasoned campaigners for causes such as alternative health and animal testing.

Pru-Hobson-West’s comments ring perfectly true. The same names tend to reappear like weeds in pavement slabs, and a degree of cross-over of key individuals between organisations seems apparent. What we have are highly motivated axe-grinders, some of whom may be motivated because they feel they have genuine grievances. Some, however, are complete crackpots with no stake in either vaccine safety or autism, apart from slightly unhinged views on a variety of subjects. These lead them to take an anti-vaccine stance. So, we have alternative health practitioners with a ideological opposition to vaccines, obsessional individuals who think Roy Meadows is part of a huge establishment conspiracy, and the author of a website that believes vaccines are part of a genocidal plan, while at the same time promoting holocaust denial material. The One Click Group has even resorted to homophobic arguments. These are not people to be taken seriously. In fact, these are people to studiously avoid. Any autism organisation would do well to throw up a cordon sanitairearound such parties and their associates. Here’s how they treat individuals.

David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, says he has received threats at home and at work from activists. He says the “degree of anger” seems similar to that of animal rights activists. “One GP who used to be connected to JABS recommended that capital punishment was appropriate for me. Why should I accept it? This degree of personalisation.”

Neither Generation Rescue nor JABS replied to my questions.

The One Click Group was hostile when I approached them with some straightforward questions. I was directed to another charity and, bizarrely, Peter Fletcher, former chief scientific officer at the Department of Health. When I asked to be taken off its mailing list I was told: “Unsubscribing from the One Click News Alerts requires one mouse click. If this is beyond you, never mind eh?”

And yet the media (including the BBC and broadsheets) continue to give these organisations publicity.

Professor Salisbury says: “There is no doubt that the media give disproportionate weight to the [antivaccine position]. Look at the frequency that journalists writing articles about immunisation go to Jackie Fletcher for a comment.”

“For some campaigners no study is acceptable if it continues to show no link—you get answers by rote: the study was weak, didn’t look at the right children, didn’t use the right method. It’s like AIDS denialists, and there are evidence denialists. The constituency base [of these groups] has got narrower and narrower. There are a diminishing number of people who think [there is a link]. Look at the number of people who contribute to the JABS website; it’s down to a tiny number.”

He’s right. These groups are increasingly talking to themselves (at least in the UK). They have nothing to offer.

Polly Tommey Woo-ing Gordon Brown

15 Apr

Polly Tommey was due to see Prime Minister Gordon Brown today after a successful billboard campaign, costing a reported £500,000, that invited Gordon Brown to meet with her if he wanted to save £508 million pounds. Ms. Tommey’s son is autistic and she is concerned that there is a terrible fall off in provision and support when you transition from school to adult services. She wants the government to invest in autistic people and her message is that appropriate support will save the government money by lifting autistic people out of benefits and into paid employment. As she says in her press release:

“We want better support, we want politicians to engage with us and we want the acknowledgement and support that our children deserve as fully contributing members of society.”

This is all very admirable. But Dr Michael Fitzpatrick has written An Open Letter to Gordon Brown in which he questions how she expects to achieve her aim.

In her campaign posters, Mrs Tommey, whose 12-year-old son Billy is autistic, offers to save the UK government £500 million a year by helping people with autism to get jobs. But it is not clear from the posters how she thinks this can be achieved. However, The Autism File, the magazine she edits, focuses on two issues: supporting the campaign led by the former Royal Free Hospital researcher Andrew Wakefield against the MMR vaccine and promoting ‘unorthodox biomedical’ treatments for children with autism.

The main point that Dr Fitzpatrick makes is that if her message to the prime minister is the same as the one she promotes in The Autism File she would be well advised to think again. He ends thus:

If she wants better provision of diagnostic, supportive and educational services, she might consider adding her energies to the long-running campaigns of the National Autistic Society and others, currently focused on the Autism Bill.

Ms Tommey’s supporters have been quick to respond. At The Age of Autism, Teri Arranga accuses Dr Fitzpatrick of carrying out an inquisition against the Autism Trust and quotes Trust Chairman. Oliver Jones who responded to Dr Fitzpatrick as follows:

I am both shocked and astounded having read your open letter on the Internet this afternoon. How dare you act in such an ill informed manner about a campaign that I and many others have invested significant time and effort in – when you evidently have no idea about what we are actually focused upon.
I find it remarkable that a professional person can take such an aggressive stance as you have done about The Autism Trust’s campaign without having the decency or following proper protocol by making contact with any of the Trustees and specifically myself to determine the objectives and intent of our forthcoming meetings.

The tone of the article is plain. The Autism Trust is trying to improve services and quality of life for autistic people in the UK and Dr Fitzpatrick is misrepresenting their aims and undermining their efforts because he resents Ms Tommey’s support for biomedical interventions. Having read the Autism Trust’s lengthy press release I agree with Dr Fitzpatrick.

“A Personal Campaign”

The press release is clear that this is Ms Tommey’s “personal campaign.” She wishes to speak to Gordon Brown “on behalf of the thousands of mothers of children with autism in the UK.” It repeats that this is “Her campaign” and highlights her role as Editor-in-Chief of The Autism File.


Ms Tommey obviously has a lot of business acumen and is an astute campaigner who is adept at using the media to position herself “as one of the leading figures in autism in the UK.” But, as Dr Fitzpatrick points out, her support for discredited notions about MMR and autism and her promotion of unproven treatments do call her credibility into question. This is underlined by errors in the press release. Ms Tommey claims that:

autism numbers have increased dramatically in the last twenty years from 1 in 10,000 in 1988 to 1 in 100 today.

As long ago as 1966 Lotter established a figure of 4 in 10000 for severely autistic children. When Wing and Gould examined the broader autistic spectrum in 1979 they found 20 in 10000. The present figure of 100 in 10000 includes people without significant cognitive impairments who were only added to the diagnostic criteria in 1994.

But Ms Tommey uses these false figures to argue that we face a fresh challenge as for the first time a significant number of adults enter the system. This is a direct contradiction of the NAS I Exist campaign which has successfully persuaded the government that generations of autistic adults have been ignored. The NAS is continuously engaged in discussions with government ministers and officials to get a commitment to action based on the provisions of the Autism Bill which enjoys unprecedented support amongst MPs.

Centres of Excellence

The Centres of Excellence proposed by the Autism Trust seek to provide residential communities in rural locations that provide a “safe haven” for autistic adults. They hope that such centres will provide support for autistic adults in the community, setting up in business or becoming self employed. But most people live in urban settings so it hard to envisage how they will benefit. And despite Mr Jones’ protests it is clear that the Autism Trust is as committed as Ms Tommey is to nonsense cures and treatments. Each centre of excellence will feature a wellness centre offering all manner of quackery including homeopathy, chelation and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, as well as training centre and a conference centre promoting these “biomedical interventions.”

I think that Mr Jones’ complaints against Dr Fitzpatrick are disingenuous. If anything Dr Fitzpatrick should be taken to task for failing to mention the Autism Trust in his open letter. At a time when service providers are moving away from the model of self contained autism communities in favour of closer integration of services within everyday society the Autism Trust proposes to build a worldwide network of such communities.

They expect local authorities to fund places in their residential homes while they are free to develop profitable spin offs promoting quackery. Or, as they describe it in their financial model:

The capital development and business operating model will depend on the facility mix and local partners – as well as the engagement and support available from local and national government. A mix of charitable status and commercially self-standing models will be explored in each location.


The greatest danger is not that Ms Tommey and the Autism Trust are going to persuade the government to follow their lead. But by muddying the waters with their campaign they may give the government an excuse to back pedal on existing commitments while they consult with this self appointed autism constituency. The best way forward is to get behind the NAS campaign and keep up the pressure for the provisions of the autism bill to become law.

Michael Fitzpatrick misrepresented by Age of Autism

15 Apr

Hardly news I suppose but on AoA yesterday Michael Fitzpatrick was misrepresented by someone called Teri Arranga.

Starting off by referring to Mike as a ‘backwoods doctor’ – something of an anti-British slur since Mike is a GP in London (I guess London is a backwoods now to AoA?) she soon went on to pretty much rant incoherently, built a few strawmen and finished off by quoting some other guy also ranting incoherently.

According to Arranga

…backwoods doctor Michael Fitzpatrick blasted Polly Tommey, founder of The Autism Trust, for the current campaign that seeks better supports and services for autistic individuals in the UK…

Hardly. Here’s what Mike led with:

In response to her ‘Dear Gordon’ billboard advertising campaign (see below), you have invited the British autism campaigner Polly Tommey to discuss her campaign with you on Wednesday 15 April. However, in the interests of children and families affected by autism, I hope that you will refuse support for her key activities – upholding discredited links between vaccines and autism and recommending unproven and untested fringe treatments.

Blasting? Good grief, where do these fragrant middle class ladies live? Its a statement of fact followed by a wish. None of it isn’t factual and its pretty much polite and to the point.

The fact is that the Autism File _is_ Tommey’s key activity. The other fact is that it is distinctly pro-extreme biomed and upholds links between key anti-vaccine researchers such as Andrew Wakefield. But Arranga sees some more blasting:

Fitzpatrick also blasted The Autism File magazine for including information about vitamins (oh, mercy me) and advertisements from “suppliers of biomedical products” (though none of them as lofty as Merck/Vioxx and Eli Lilly like Fitzpatrick’s cronies’ medical journals), among other things.

What escapes Arranga’s attention is that vitamins used as part of a quack ‘treatment’ for autism is both physically damaging (back in 2006 Mary Megson reported on the case of an autistic boy who was hospitalised by a DAN! doctor following an overdose of vitamins) and damaging to the future of autism research. Oh, mercy me indeed.

But no, Mike mentions the vitamins in passing. Arranga somehow neglected to mention the 15 page feature on Andrew Wakefield in the current issue of Autism File. It is peppered with ads for treatments from various biomeddlers.

Then we get to the ‘undermining’.

Fitzpatrick is trying to undermine the efforts of Polly and The Autism Trust to improve quality of life for autistic individuals and their families, many in woeful situations of deprivation and stress….Polly Tommey will be having meetings with members of the Prime Minister’s team in advance of the promised meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown himself. For Fitzpatrick to try to undermine this and to try to deny a charity the ability to do that on behalf of suffering individuals in a country deluged by autism is outrageous.

You can almost see the smoke coming out of Arranga’s ears. And for what? This is nothing but a strawman. Nowhere I can see is Mike saying Tommey shouldn’t go for her meeting with Gordon Brown. And nowhere I can see is Mike saying Tommey shouldn’t do the great things described. What he _is_ saying is that Brown should be very careful about the sort of things coming out of Tommey’s mouth about vaccines, treatments and cures. She is, on these issues, a know-nothing and I think it is absolutely correct for Mike to speak up for the autistic people and parents of autistic people who have no interest in the poor science peddled by Tommey’s publication.

Then after the strawman comes the conspiracy theory, this one bizarrely roping in Brian Deer for some totally mystifying reason:

If it threatens the Deer/Fitzpatrick camp when we want to get better services and supports for 1 child in 60 in the UK and their families, then we have touched a nerve. For example, how can trying to get decent housing and family supports threaten Deer and Fitzpatrick’s current repertoire of witch hunting? Why are they so scared that they would resort to petty tactics?

I mean, huh??? Can’t these people read? And whats this 1 in 60 number? The prevalence for autism in the UK is about 1 in 100. Weird.

Also frothing over in indignation is Oliver Jones, Chair of Autism Trust. He is ‘shocked’ _and_ ‘astounded’ (less caffeine feller):

How dare you act in such an ill informed manner about a campaign that I and many others have invested significant time and effort in – when you evidently have no idea about what we are actually focused upon

Oliver – it seems Mike has a very clear idea. Once again, at no point did Mike say that Tommey shouldn’t meet with Brown or discuss her campaign. He is merely pointing out that Tommey is someone with some decidedly odd ideas about autism treatment and that Brown should show these ideas – if they happen to be raised – the door. He also quite rightly points out that if Tommey is really serious about getting better services and education she should join NAS and support their already existing campaigns in these areas. I’m sorry Autism Trust but the phrase ‘showboating’ does spring inexorably to mind.

Their closing paragraph is genuinely amusing:

Secondly, in respect of Michael Fitzpatrick’s ill-informed letter, we would recommend that we should not seek to highlight this man in the eyes of the UK government, but, instead, we should recommend that people write to him directly. People like Dr Fitzpatrick – like Brian Deer – should simply not be allowed to undermine genuine initiatives such as Polly’s – we cannot allow this censorship.

Yeah, damn that censorship Mike (and Brian Deer again???) -how could you dare to voice your concerns and opinion in a public way? Why couldn’t you just shut up?? Oh wait…isn’t that….censorship…d’uh.

AoA have suggested 2 letter writing campaigns. The first is to deluge Mike’s inbox with emails from AoA readers. The second is to flood the PM with emails supporting Tommey.

Thats fine. But Tommey and AoA should know that a second email campaign is now under way. I’ll ask my readers here to contact Number 10 by writing an email to Gordon Brown c/o Katie Martin (Press Office in Downing Street) on email or to Michael Ellam (Director of Communications in Downing Street) on email

I’ll be writing as the parent of a severely autistic child to express my support of Mike’s points regarding Tommey’s beliefs. I hope you will too. And note that AT is an international organisation – US citizens are valid contributors also.

One Click Hacks and Homophobes

22 Feb

As blogged by Anthony at Black Triangle the One Click Group – who say they are:

…a British-based international health advocacy pressure group and worldwide raw news hub…

described Brian Deer and his involvement with the MMR case thusly:

By all accounts a gay man and therefore unlikely ever to have to face the multiple vaccine risk agonised over by parents from around the world in relation to their children…

Nice. Sounds to me like they’re a bunch of homophobic stupidniks to me. As Anthony says:

Even if Deer is homosexual, it does not necessarily mean he has no stake in vaccine safety. Homosexuals are not some mysterious alien presence in our society, they have families which include small children. Homosexuals can even adopt children.

Unless you’re a Daily Mail reading OneClickTwit of course.

They are anti-vaxxers of course and really really don’t like Brain Deer much at all. This makes the JABS loonies recently in evidence in the monumental ‘Wakefield‘ post on this blog big, big fans of theirs naturally. Amusingly, these same JABS loonies have been complaining about the horror of Brian Deer _making_ the news and then _reporting_ on the news regarding Wakefield. Not that he has, but thats how they see it. The amusing thing is that one of the straplines of the OneClickGroup is:

We not only break the news, we also make it.

They also proudly boast of receiving ‘7,000 – 33,000 hits per day’…..woah…big time baby!

Just for fun, I ran LB/RB, JABS and OneClickGroup through the Compete analyser which analyses Unique Visitors (a much more reliable indicator of traffic than ‘hits’):

Sadly, you’ll notice only two lines there. OneClickGroup didn’t generate enough statistics to be measurable.

So, this member of the antivaxosphere, carried on from homophobic attacks on Brian to carrying an alleged ‘out of control’ attack from Brian on their owner/Director/whatever – one Jane Bryant. Here’s how its ‘reported’ on the OneClickGroup website:

Brian Deer Is Out Of Control

On Monday 7 April 2008, with the Defence presentation for Dr Andrew Wakefield at the General Medical Council MMR Vaccine Trial UK concluded, Brian Deer went berserk in the Press Room of the General Medical Council. This incredible aggressive behaviour is not that of a responsible and objective journalist with ethics covering a story in the public interest….I entered the GMC Press Room to discover Deer holding court over what he clearly perceived to be his case with the assembled media. Comfortably sprawled in lounging lizard position

Out of control…went berserk…incredible aggressive…holding court…lounging lizard…

and these descriptives are used before Bryant even _begins_ her description of Brian’s behaviour. Thank goodness for impartial media!

When she does get to that transcript (which has clearly been edited) it reveals _more_ editorialising and less fact.

When asked if Deer was the complainant and if this was his case with the GMC, Deer simply exploded. Springing to his feet, placing his body inches from mine and invading my space, Deer proceeded to threaten, to rant and to jab his fingers close to my face.

Brian Deer: “No! I’ve not complained! I’ve got letters from the GMC saying I’m not the complainant! Ask me the question again! Ask me and I’ll tell you!”

Deer continued ranting: “So, you’ve this, um, dribbling idiot here,” gesturing towards investigative writer Martin J Walker who has exposed Deer’s vaccine activities in the aforementioned Complainant, “pumping out this information and you believe it and this is what this whole MMR thing has been about! Andrew Wakefield enjoys giving evidence! You get these CLOWNS who just MAKE THNGS UP as they go along!”

I wondered if any other members of the press ( the ones Brian Deer was holding court over) had reported on this behaviour from Brian. That of threats, invasion of body space and jabbing his fingers close to Bryant’s face. Funnily enough, the answer is ‘no’ – nobody from the other members of the press Brian was apparently ‘holding court’ over when Bryant arrived noticed this. I can find no record of this behaviour in any mainstream media. And there were plenty there. How odd.

Its also worth noting that Brian was right. He is _not_ the complainant and he _does_ have letters from the GMC to establish that fact.

Next in Bryant’s highly selective account was the issue of who was paying Brian. At the end of which despite not mentioning any intimidation she reports:

At this point, people in the foyer piled in to the doorway of the Press Room to witness a fully grown male journalist attempting to intimidate a press colleague and deploying classic bully boy techniques against a very small woman on her own.

What bully boy techniques exactly? Answering her questions? Or is this more of the finger jabbing and space invasion that only Bryant witnessed and reported on? Lets not forget that Bryant also directly accused Brian of threats (‘Deer proceeded to threaten’) – no sign of a threat so far…lets continue.

Jane Bryant: “Why are you being so abusive?”

Brian Deer: “Of who?”

Jane Bryant: “Of the parents, of the children…”

Brian Deer: “What parents have I been abusive to?”

Jane Bryant: “You have just been abusive to me.”

Brian Deer: “Are you a parent?”

Jane Bryant: “Yes, I am a parent, I’m also press. Why are you being so abusive? Get away from me, Brian! Stay away from me.”

With Brian Deer out of control, Editor Polly Tommey of The Autism File showed support.

Polly Tommey: “Stay away from her Brian, keep away. Look, you’re a journalist, give her some space.”

Is Bryant parent to an autistic child? I can’t find anywhere that says she is.

Anyway, notice how Tommey of the antivax magazine ‘The Autism File’ also chimes in. These two poor cowering ladies who are in terror of a man answering their questions. I’ll say it again. I can find nowhere else that reports on the eminently newsworthy story of two women being threatened by an out of control Brian Deer – other than OneClickGroup itself. In a room full of the media no one takes notes, no one turns on their dictaphones and no one turns on their cameras. The _only people_ who capture this threatening, out of control Brian Deer are a couple of anti-vaxxers. What an amazing coincidence.

At this point in the proceeding, Brain Deer calls for security. He has to call them again later that day.

Later on in her piece, Bryant accuses Brain Deer of damaging the equipment of Polly Tommey.

Interestingly, the only person’s equipment that got damaged that day was that of Polly Tommey, Editor of The Autism File. Having left her belongings in the Press Room whilst she went to conduct an interview in the foyer, two of the recordings destined for Autism One Radio were purposefully deleted by someone. I will leave One Click readers to surmise just who the perpetrator might be, who had the access and the motive.

She also says:

The GMC has now categorically on the record refused to deny Brian Deer’s complainant status. They will simply not comment on Deer. So much for Deer’s GMC back up

Which, as we know is simply incorrect. I look forward to Bryant’s correction on her massively popular website.

If you want to see the depths and lengths that St Andy’s fan Club will stoop to, look no further than this. The word of a homophobic woman who seems to mislead people about her status as parent to an autistic person (assuming I’m right about that) and who wants to paint a man as an out of control tyrant when I suspect he was just a bit pissed off.