By Katie Wright
Last month's cloying review of “The Panic Virus” HERE reads as if it were written by Seth Mnookin’s Mom. Truly it is the kind of “review” I give my 7 years old’s work “unbelievable! You are the smartest boy in the world! I love this picture! It should be hanging in a museum!” OK, sometimes I go overboard with praise but I am a Mom and I make no apologies for not being objective.
But why does the NYT’s columnist Dr. Abigail Zuger ‘s review of this book read like a love letter to a precocious child? Zuger’s article is rife with inaccuracies and falsehoods. She is blinded by her adoration for the medical community, fellow doctors and her powerful all encompassing disdain for dumb parents who just don’t get it. Can’t the NYT’s afford a fact checker for Pete’s sake? Wakefield’s work has been replicated. Why is Zuger so hysterically hyper defensive regarding the public’s demand for adequate vaccine safety research? Why in Zuger’s discussion of this book does she make zero effort to speak with a parent of a vaccine-injured child? Dr. Abigail’s review is not journalism. It is vaccine company advocacy at best and vaccine marketing at worst. It is an advertorial.
So than I thought to myself, “who is Zuger? What is the source of her nutty anti- consumer militancy? Why her serious hostility to ASD parents and why this need to characterize them as stupid saps?” Zuger’s quotes are priceless. Here she describes why Mnookin is right and millions parents are wrong to express the smallest concern about vaccine safety. “Mnookin explains how scientists are trained to think about causation and how profoundly this measured approach is bound to infuriate a distraught parent.” What is she talking about? It is the parents who want the “measured approach” to research. ASD families, not doctors, who want independent research done precisely because existing research is so poorly done and or paid for by the vaccine companies themselves.
Zuger has got to be one of the most anti consumer doctors in all media. Zuger’s arrogance knows no bounds. I swear, get ready, I couldn’t make this stuff up no one would believe me. I barely know where to start!
Dr. Zuger’s fan base includes an also lot of old cranks like Dr. Stephen Novella at Yale and the extreme end of the nuerodiverse spectrum. You know their spiel. Autism isn’t a problem, it isn’t rising, it is all genetic and parents who say otherwise believe the earth is flat and/or wear tin foil hats to ward off government mind control. Blah, blah, Zuger fans are so weird.
Zuger has enjoyed a long career writing about the brainless, dimwitted patient population. Her impatience with pesky lay people and their silly question asking is almost tangible in her writing.
Take this Zuger quote: “Doctors learn, over the years, to let the patient see what they see. It helps, sometimes, to descend part of the way down from the sky and give a smaller version of the big picture.” Whoa…descend from the sky! Who does Zuger think she is? God in heaven?
But wait it gets better. Zuger is annoyed when so many doltish and obviously intellectually inferior patients refuse to heed her advice: “sometimes there is no convergence of views. The patient only sees from the ground, the doctors from only the sky and they may simply have to agree to disagree.” Zuger explains this is because “doctors are not trained to think like ordinary people!”
Zuger also reserves disdain for patient who dare to write memoirs about their experiences with medical science and disease. Again with these fools, why don’t they leave all medical writing to doctors! What is wrong with them? Don’t they know they can only think in ordinary ways, they have no medical super powers!
Zuger scornfully reviews patient memoirs: “the books are filled with clichés; the dialogue stiff and unreal; the pacing is off…A fraught debate addresses the question of whether writing about an illness has actual therapeutic value, brings not just a little flush of accomplishment.” Oh, these poor little people trying to be real writers, how silly and sad. But maybe they will feel better about themselves for accomplishing something, no matter how poor the quality? Although Zuger admits that not all doctors are great writers either, she admits a “soft spot for them.” Zuger raves about the work of two neurologist writers whose “tone is appealing and their prose readable, their anecdotes give a dead on description of the ridiculously difficult struggles to do right by patients.” Ahhh, the struggle of doctors is truly never-ending! How do they do it? If only those moron patients would listen and obey her commands from the sky!
Not content to disparage garden-variety patients, Zuger also goes after survivor advocates of rape and sexual abuse. Zuger is wildly enthusiastic about the book “The Trauma Myth.” Unlike Zuger and the author of that piece of dreck I have actual experience treating survivors of sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse is an atrocity resulting in severe trauma. For a doctor to minimize or utterly dismiss the pain endured by sexually abused children is inexcusable and repellent.
Always the ardent anti-consumer, Zuger argues that those dislike “The Trauma Myth” are part of “a whole academic and therapeutic structure (afraid that this book will) undermine a host of expensive treatment and prevention projects.” Yes, clearly treatment for sexual abuse survivors as well as autism research has been breaking the banks of our nation. It is has been a huge financial drain on the taxpayers, right up there with the war in Iraq.
OK, so full circle. Zuger loves “The Panic Virus” just like she loved “The Trauma Myth.” Zuger hates patient memoirs and positively abhors consumer advocacy efforts. Zuger lives in the sky. We (mere mortals) live on the ground. She is up there, we are down here, lest there be any confusion. Zuger has trained herself to “think differently” than we do. I agree with that! So to the end I am thrilled Zuger absolutely adored the “The Panic Virus.” It only proves how far removed from reality this self-aggrandizing and compassionless woman is.
So thanks Dr. Zuger for giving “The Panic Virus” a rave review, the autism community is proud not to be associated with you.
Katie Wright is a contributing editor for Age of Autism.