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Autism Science Foundation's Alison Singer: In Her Own Worlds
By J.B. Handley
“Who you tryin’ to get crazy with ese? Don't you know I'm loco?” - Cypress Hill (See bottom of post.)
Alison Singer, President of a foundation based in her basement, recently spoke at the Yale Child Study Center. At about the 34-minute mark, her talk focused on our community, and why parents believe the things they believe.
I thought about writing a blistering piece commenting on all the things Ms. Singer said in her talk, but I think it’s far more compelling to simply quote Ms. Singer directly. So, the rest of this piece is Alison Singer, in her own words and in her own world, AoA readers can be the judge:
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Alison Singer, speech at Yale Child Study Center, March 2010:
Given that so much of the science is clear and so much is unknown about autism, why is it that in society today parents in general are reluctant to believe the science and there continues to be this discord in the autism community regarding what we need to study, how we should study it, and how we should treat our children?
…I think there are the two key causative factors for why families have become distrustful [of health authorities]. One is the internet. On the internet all opinions are created equal. Anyone can post a blog, anyone can start a scientific journal online, anyone can now say, “Well this study was published in a scientific peer-reviewed journal.” You really have to look at who are the peers and where is the journal published. So, there’s definitely a lot of issues with the internet.
Then, there’s influence of the media and the cult of celebrity where in our society we have become more willing to trust celebrities than doctors.
…you really have to wonder about the sites that they’re [the parents] visiting. Are they sites like the Yale Child Study Center or NIH or CDC? Or, are they visiting sites with less reputable information that’s not scientifically based like, “marijuana cured my child’s autism, you should try it”?
I could talk about the media’s complicitness in this all day.
One of the things that bothers me tremendously about the media…is something that Dr. Paul Offit has called the “fallacy of balance” which I have started to refer to as “casting” in the media.
The media feel compelled to show both sides, even when both sides are not supported by the weight of scientific evidence. So, as it regards specifically to the vaccine issue, although dozens of studies have failed to show any sort of causal link between autism and vaccines, when they report on a new study, the media feel compelled to show a parent who says, “Well, I think vaccines still cause autism.”
And, by showing two sides to the issue, it looks to the person watching that each side is equally meritorious. It also looks like half the parents feel one way and half the parents feel the other way, when in fact many times it’s very hard for CNN to find a parent who’ll say, “No, I’m not vaccinating my child because I still think it causes autism” – and this is what I’ve started to refer to as “casting”.
I will get calls from the media saying, “I need a mom in Idaho who has a child with autism and doesn’t vaccinate and I haven’t been able to find one.” And, my response is, “Well, maybe that should tell you something.”
But, they specifically will go out and call the advocacy groups and say, “Can you find me a dad who thinks vaccines cause autism?”
…In general, I think the media likes to defend the weak against the powerful. The media loves mavericks, they love people whose ideas are crazy or out there. They love to be anti-establishment. They love to say that they are taking on big pharma or they are taking on the government. They feel that their responsibility is to look out for the little guy.
…In this case, they’re really casting the parts incorrectly in that it is really the public health system that’s trying to protect our children. It’s the little guy who’s trying to make a buck off unsuspecting parents.
Anytime there’s a great piece on genetics research, you’ll see no coverage in the media. Anytime there’s any type of story that looks at mercury or vaccines, the media will be all over that.
…The media loves stories that cast the earth as this toxic environmental wasteland. That’s become very trendy. Everyone thinks we need to protect our environment and I’m not saying we don’t but some people take it to crazy extremes like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey who say, “We have to green our vaccines.” That’s a nice rhyming phrase, but what does that actually mean, to “green our vaccines”?
Vaccines are actually green. The only ingredients in vaccines are those that need to be there