By DAN OLMSTED
Poor Time Magazine -- they ended up with dour Russian President Putin staring out from the cover this week like the Grinch who stole Christmas. And a lot of people didn't even think he should be Person of the Year.
We had no such problem with our pick for the individual who did the most for the autism community this year -- no one is likely to call Jenny McCarthy dour, or disagree with our choice. A bunch of S words suit her to a T -- sunny, sexy, smart, silly in the right way at the right time, but most of all serious as a heart attack about autism and recovering her son, Evan.
And she was most certainly "Louder Than Words," the title of her book about "A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism." She managed to create a multimedia extravaganza, with Oprah and Larry King listening respectfully as she did the previously unthinkable -- blame autism on vaccines, in detail and at length, in front of a national audience. Of course, not even she was immune from the self-censorship plaguing the mainstream press -- People Magazine put her on the cover but never mentioned the V Word in its profile of Evan's steady recovery; and though the Chicago Tribune aired her concerns about immunizations, the Baltimore Sun sanitized away those references, the better not to worry its readers' pretty little heads. But it was too little too late.
And that was Jenny's fundamental contribution -- to put the issue out there in a way that, finally, could not be suppressed or simply swatted away. Yes, she was the center of attention, but exactly why is that a problem? She used the spotlight to put the focus back on treatment, on hope, on teamwork, on the relentless rise of autism -- and on the sheer lunacy of the public health establishment's Messiah complex about vaccines (and much else). Jenny was not going to join the hallelujah chorus. You almost have to pity the CDC (well, not really) after her hilarious call to them in the middle of her talk at the National Autism Association meeting in Atlanta.
It was typical of her breezy unselfconsciousness that she told the audience she didn't even know the CDC was in Atlanta when she arrived that morning. But she had wasted no time showing up at their door with a camera crew demanding to know why vaccines are still full of all kinds of creepy stuff. Come to think of it, isn't that what dour old Time Magazine and the august network news departments and the sober New York Times should have been doing all along? How sad for them that a former Playmate of the Year, now our Person of the Year, had the brains and initiative to beat them to it.
It's likely that the ripples from the splash Jenny McCarthy made this year will keep spreading in ways that are entirely unpredictable but of benefit to everyone working on this common cause.
So good for Jenny. Very, very good.