Tag Archives: Polly Tommey

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.

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.

Credibility

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.

Danger

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.

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.