UPDATE: Well, that was quick. Shortly after this article was posted, Columbia Journalism School withdrew their invitation, saying that after further review, "Age of Autism does take a clear position on the link between vaccines and the incidence of Autism, also engaging in advocacy on that position. Therefore we must disqualify the site from our study." The same person said, when inviting us in August: "I'm also a huge fan of The Age of Autism, how you've built and sustained an enriching and focused platform. It's a huge pleasure to invite you to join a community at Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism. ... What you're doing is part of a wave in the journalism world that the Tow Center wants to bring together and highlight as a trend." We warned them to expect to hear from critics but were told, "Thank you Dan for the head's up but we are happy to have you!" Que sera, sera.
Age of Autism is honored to announce we have been chosen as part of Columbia Journalism School's inaugural Single Subject News Network. An initiative of Columbia's Tow Center for Digital Journalism, the network "connects news websites that focus on one subject on an in-depth level, filling the gaps in mainstream media and innovating models for journalism."
On the weekend of November 9, the Tow Center "will host a series of panels amongst students, industry, and an elite class of 20 single subject news publishers selected by the program." I'll be on a panel discussing how to create community around a niche topic.
We really are in elite company with these other 19 online journalism sites, and as the network rolls out the names, and talks more about the increasing role that online, in-depth, independent journalism is playing in the evolving media universe, we'll keep you posted. This is a strong acknowledgement of the work all of us in the AOA community have done going on six years next month -- Kim and Mark, our tireless Contributing Editors, our valued commenters and faithful readers, sponsors and advertisers.
Meanwhile please do me a personal favor -- go to Facebook and Like the Single Subject News Network.
This week I was watching Morning Joe when they had a segment on a new Frontline episode and book on the NFL's concussion crisis, called League of Denial. It's fascinating and instructive to watch an issue reach critical mass and break through the media barriers that keep big institutions from being held to account. The NFL is having its moment of karma right now, with the widespread recognition that it has failed to tackle the problem and in fact done a massive end-run around it for a long time, even as the damage piled up like players falling on a goal-line fumble.
I grabbed my composition book and took some notes of comments from the two authors: "a trajectory of denial over a period of two decades" ... A pattern of "attacking the scientists" whose honest research raised warning flags ... A legal settlement admitting no culpability ... But change is coming from the bottom up: "suburban mothers aren't letting their kids play as much as they used to," and that will affect the NFL down the road ... Change is "around kids' mothers making these decisions ... If ten percent of mothers decide it's too dangerous, that's the end of football as we know it."
This all seems more than vaguely familiar, doesn't it, dear readers of Age of Autism?
I was riveted by the "two decade trajectory of denial" -- a marvelous phrase. It was in the mid 1990s that a pronounced spike in autism was first observed -- by the CDC, in fact. That's when the trajectory of denial took off -- Brick Township and the bogus "no increase" epidemiology, the Verstraeten and Scandinavian follies, the vaccine court hocus pocus, the Wakefield inquisition and the Offit Offensive.
Here we are almost two decades later. Do the math. The Moment of Karma approacheth.
It's also been a couple of decades since the catastrophic effects of the anti-malaria drug Lariam, approved in 1989, were first observed -- and denied, with suicides, homicides and psychosis among troops, travelers and Peace Corps volunteers being chalked up to travel stress, PTSD and personal problems, the sensitive souls of Peace Corps volunteers.
Now the denial is slowly unraveling, and the Special Operations command's decision last month to ban the drug entirely is the beginning of the endgame. Perhaps Special Ops got tired of being lied to as they watched their elite troops succumb not to combat injuries but to a "preventive" drug.
Still, at higher levels of the military and the public health bureaucracy, the impulse for self-preservation continues to manifest in delay and denial and a refusal to look at the horrendous implications. Former Army major Dr. Remington Nevin has called Lariam the potential "Agent Orange of our Generation," meaning tens of thousands of troops may be suffering lasting disability, for which they are getting no acknowledgement, compensation, or medical and mental health support.
So it's galling to see the beribboned and medal-bedecked brass continue to play dumb as they try to explain the high rate of suicide among troops and vets. Just this week USA Today ran a four-column headline that the Army is exploring "ways to predict, prevent suicides," enlisting big data to try to figure out who's most at risk and intervene.
Good idea. But there's no suggestion that data includes any pharmaceuticals. If you give hundreds of thousands of soldiers a drug the FDA warns can cause psychiatric problems and suicides "long after" someone stops taking it, shouldn't that be part of your inquiry?
And of course it's not just Lariam. Soldiers, like American kids, have become pin cushions for excessive medical interventions in a captive population, from the dubious anthrax vaccine to the wake-up pills, the calm-down pills and the what have you pills and vaccines, administered both in the heat of battle and to send veterans on their way back to the Brave New World, where even more psychoactive RXs await if they still can't get with the program. I've taken to calling this phenomenon the United States Pillitary.
But the military says it is on the case, supporting our troops. According to USA Today, "suicide is a perennial stain on the military that now grows worse each year, a trajectory [there's that word again!] baffling to military leaders and devastating to the shattered families left behind. 'It just drives me crazy that we can't figure (it) out,' Army Undersecretary Thomas Hawley says."
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.