Age of Autism: How Wired Magazine’s Amy Wallace Endangers Our Kids.

Age of Autism: How Wired Magazine’s Amy Wallace Endangers Our Kids.

By J.B. Handley

Wired Magazine’s recent cover story on autism, written by Amy Wallace, is titled “An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All.” (HERE) For any reader hoping for an unbiased, objective discourse on the current state of autism research, the title alone tells you that won’t be happening.

Ms. Wallace’s piece is, in fact, a glowing portrayal of one man, Paul Offit, and his relentless pursuit of the idea that vaccines simply cannot have anything to do with the autism epidemic, since the autism epidemic doesn’t even exist, and vaccines have been proven not to cause autism, and vaccines are much more good than bad, so let’s get on with it already.

As someone who has studied Mr. Offit’s talking points closely for the past 5 years, I was struck by how closely Amy Wallace seemed to echo the points that Offit frequently makes in both the press and medical journals, not only on the specific scientific questions that have and haven’t been answered surrounding many aspects of autism, but even on the more psychoanalytical questions surrounding WHY parents do the things they do (like avoid vaccines). In fact, I can’t find a single original thought or idea in the article from Ms. Wallace that I haven’t previously heard Paul Offit say, nor a single case where her ideas appear to deviate or disagree with any of the positions he takes or has taken in the past: Amy Wallace and Mr. Offit appear to be in perfect harmony.

Ms. Wallace also violates, quite clearly, her own ruminations (which I have heard Offit discuss before) about the reticence required in discourse and debate by true “scientists” that us non-scientists don’t have to abide by: “But researchers, alas, can’t respond with the same forceful certainty that the doubters are able to deploy — not if they’re going to follow the rules of science.” As you will see in a moment, Ms. Wallace’s writing is in fact filled with this “forceful certainty”, starting with the cover of Wired Magazine that states, quite forcefully and most certainly, “Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism.”

You see, Ms. Wallace gives the reader the strong impression that she is one of them, the scientists, someone who knows what the science does and doesn’t say and who knows that this silly debate — that vaccines may cause autism — is a debate who’s time has past, because, you know, the science shows us that.

One of the oddest things about Ms. Wallace’s article is the characters she allows into the debate to highlight the two sides of this conflict and tell her story. In one corner, and the corner where she spends most of her time, is Paul Offit, a doctor. He is joined by “science”, an omnipotent force, and a force that in Ms. Wallace’s world always agrees with Offit’s points (and hers, since they’re the same points). In the other corner, the corner that us lowly anti-vaccinationists have been relegated to, she shows only civilian parents: Jenny McCarthy, Barbara Loe Fisher, and Curt Linderman. Three parents. No doctors. No scientists. Like the NY Times, it’s parents vs. research. Where’s our science? In the world Amy Wallace creates, it doesn’t exist.

When it comes to facts, particularly the facts that matter most in the debate over autism, I believe Ms. Wallace fails miserably, and in many cases she simply states things that are unsupportable or quite simple to prove as untrue. I hope that this discourse, by focusing on the very specific things that Ms. Wallace wrote and the ACTUAL state of science in the autism world, will cause Ms. Wallace to correct her one-sided article, so that parents who read Wired Magazine will have a more accurate portrayal of the current reality of our understanding of autism.

* *

Ms. Wallace’s first, and most glaring failure of fact has to do with the initial fork in the road in the autism debate, the question as to whether or not autism is genetic. Co-mingled with the question of the genetic origin of autism is the question of whether or not the prevalence of autism is truly on the rise. These two questions, which tend to move in tandem, affect everything else about the understanding of autism. If autism is genetic, then it’s always been with us. If it’s always been with us, then there’s no reason for alarm, these kids have always been here, just as they are right now. For parents, just accept it, do your ABA, and give your kids the best possible life they can live, they’ll always have autism.

On the other hand, if autism is NOT genetic, but rather a product of the environment, than the prevalence numbers that are REPORTEDLY up are also TRULY up, and we have a massive problem on our hands, because then something somewhere is CAUSING autism in children who may otherwise not have it. And, if something is causing autism, we damn well better figure out what it is. And, if we figure out what it is then maybe, just maybe, we can try to reverse whatever damage it caused in our children.

So, the facts around these two relatively straightforward points – genetics and true prevalence – mean positively everything in the autism debate.

Where does Ms. Wallace fall on these two points? It’s not hard to guess.

Finish reading here: Age of Autism: How Wired Magazine’s Amy Wallace Endangers Our Kids.

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