I watched PBS’s Frontline on vaccines last week, and thought it overall pretty good. Not perfect (what is?) but the numerous howls of protest from the crank Age of Autism blog (I lost count of the number of their posts) and on the Huff Post, should be enough to tell you it hit the right marks. Orac has a detailed review, The Vaccine War: Telling it (mostly) like it is about the anti-vaccine movement, so I really don’t need to review it in detail.
There is just one thing I want to highlight, though. It wasn’t on the actual TV program, but on PBS’s full online Jenny McCarthy interview. It was this:
[Questioner:] How long after the MMR was that first seizure?
[Jenny McCarthy:] You know, a lot of people think, and probably from me saying in some interviews, that it was after the MMR I noticed changes.
I don't think it was just the MMR shot that caused any kind of trigger with autism. I think it was a compilation of so many shots to a kid that obviously had some autoimmune disorders. So I would say maybe a couple of months, a month or so after the MMR, I started to notice some physical ailments such as constipation, rashes, eczema. That was like the first little sign. And then the train just kind of descended from there. [My bold.]
Jenny is saying that her son’s autism didn’t start immediately after just one shot (the MMR), but that “some physical ailments” of autism appeared over “a couple of months.” This was just “the first little sign.” (Note, just a “little” sign at that point.) But, here’s the thing, as I wrote in The Two J.B. Handleys, Jenny had, only three years ago, stated quite clearly and unambiguously something very different:
"Right before his MMR shot, I said to the doctor, 'I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn't it?' And he said, 'No, that is ridiculous. It is a mother's desperate attempt to blame something,' and he swore at me, and then the nurse gave [Evan] the shot," she says. "And I remember going, 'Oh, God, I hope he's right.' And soon thereafter -- boom -- the soul's gone from his eyes. [My bold.]
Note, not “some physical ailments” or just a “little sign” – back then it was “the soul's gone from his eyes” which, I think you’ll agree, is completely different. Also not over “a couple of months,” but “boom.” Different story.
Why does this matter? Well, Jenny, Handley and the rest have been telling us for years that the reason they know vaccines cause autism is that their kids got autism “boom” right after the vaccine was given. (With Handley it was after a shot containing Thimerosal, while with Jenny it was MMR which never had Thimerosal, but we’ll gloss over that for now.) Now that Wakefield’s MMR hypothesis has been discredited, and numerous epidemiological studies have failed to find a link with Thimerosal, the only way to keep their vaccines-cause-autism claims alive is to move the goalposts. And you see that in the Frontline program – Jenny says it’s not MMR, or Thimerosal, or too many vaccines at once – it’s “all of the above.” She actually says she doesn’t know what it is that’s causing autism, but she knows it’s the vaccines, somehow. But the thing is, if they’re now saying the signs of autism appeared gradually over several months, on what basis are they saying vaccines cause autism? If autism appeared gradually, and not “boom” after one shot, then they don’t even have the correlation (vaccine immediately followed by autism) to rely on.
And what’s more, they know they’ve changed their story and they know they’ve moved the goalposts. Why do I say that? Well, when I wrote The Two J.B. Handleys less than ten weeks ago, I included a link to the interview with the Jenny “boom” quote on Jenny’s own Generation Rescue site, Jenny: Evan's Story. Check that link now. Search Generation Rescue for any part of that interview. It’s gone. Disappeared. Never happened. Not part of the official anti-vaccine history any more. (And I know Handley read that post and saw the link because he appeared in the comments four days after I wrote it in an attempt to defend himself.) If you needed any more proof of the dishonesty and intellectual bankruptcy of Generation Rescue and the anti-vaccine kooks, there it is. Fortunately for us, there is one thing that George Orwell didn’t imagine when he wrote his famous 1984 novel, and that’s the Wayback Machine – the cache that never lets anyone completely disappear inconvenient facts they want you to forget. Courtesy of the internet, here again is what Jenny said in 2007, Jenny: Evan's Story – “and soon thereafter -- boom -- the soul's gone from his eyes.”
The hallmark of the pseudo-scientist and the kook, is they they won’t change their beliefs no matter what the evidence, instead they devise ad hoc explanations and move goalposts to accommodate contradictory evidence. Jenny and Handley have been caught, again, doing just that. Rather than re-evaluate their beliefs, they just change their previous story so that it fits the currently known facts. And they try to cover their tracks by deleting the now embarrassing things they said before. Rather strangely, they fail to notice that, with their new story, there is no longer any reason to link vaccines to autism. Either autism occurred “boom” just after the shot (and so they can point to correlation), or it didn’t. Which is it? They want it both ways.
Funnily enough, there was one thing in that PBS interview with Jenny, that I though she got right. It was this:
…that night went on Google and typed in "autism." And on the corner of the screen, in the sponsored links, it said, "Generation Rescue." And I decided to click on it, because right underneath it, it said, "Autism is reversible." And I thought to myself, well, this must be a load of crap, because if it was true, why didn't the best neurologist in the world tell me there's something I could do to reverse autism?
Precisely. And if she’s only stopped right there she could have avoided making a complete fool of herself.