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This Little Piggy Crashed the Market

Animal farm3 -RED copy1 By Adriana Gamondes

Someone I know in the U.K. faction of the vaccine injury movement recently sent me an email with a link to an article by Simon Baron-Cohen, asking whether I might like to “have a go” at him (HERE).  I opened the link, glanced at the photo of a dapper Baron-Cohen in a Cambridge archway (looking either like he was bracing himself for an earthquake or posing as a saint in a niche) and thought, “No, I’m just too tired”. But I did read the article and leave a comment.

The gist of Baron-Cohen’s piece isn’t really the most interesting aspect of it. What he’s doing is pretty obvious—he’s basically calling for more censorship (than has already occurred in the U.K.) of journalists who write criticisms of the vaccine industry, or who write in support of independent scientists whose work criticizes the vaccine industry. 

He claims that media sensationalism over the vaccine question is “chipping away” at public confidence in the vaccine program and the reputations of (mainstream) scientists. Naturally Baron-Cohen never mentions the things which would make this stance ridiculous, such as the fact that Brian Deer now works for Rupert Murdoch, who’s taken a non-executive position with Glaxo, maker of the MMR—and all the rest of the gross media and political machinations surrounding the MMR-injury cover-up in the U.K. Baron-Cohen makes the usual unsubstantiated, generalized claims that “no evidence” supports Wakefield et al. or other arguments that vaccines may be implicated in the autism epidemic. It’s all gotten so old.

What I think is actually interesting about the article is watching Simon Baron-Cohen adding the finishing touches to his transformation from silly scientist to all-out propagandist to rival Paul Offit.  I believe that what brought this on is Baron-Cohen’s increasing popularity with pharmaceutical interests and pharmaceutical-embedded media (Baron-Cohen’s biggest “theory market”), coupled with his rising ire over having his alternate autism hypotheses “chipped away at” in public forums. I thought I’d share the comment I wrote with AOA rather than just throwing it into the pail over at the New Scientist:

Bad theories sometimes have bad consequences. It's not too much of a stretch to say that one lousy quant theory in investment risk analysis (David X. Li’s Gaussian Copula function, HERE ) began the cascade that brought about the international financial crisis. The theory had its proponents, who were making too much money from the market's false confidence to see the theory questioned. The bad theory also had its early detractors, who were generally ignored or detracted from themselves.

The bad theory in the case of autism is the fundamental misunderstanding of how the human immune system (and risks to it) actually works. The theory was wrought by vaccinologists and then promoted by the pharmaceutical industry, which has been making too much money in more ways than one to want to see the theory questioned. The companies which produce both vaccines and drugs, for instance, even get their "bonuses" for causing the disaster in terms of the exponential rise in sales of atypical antipsychotics, a "treatment" algorithm created by industry for the explosion in childhood behavior disorders (from $0 to $16 billion a year  from the start of the epidemic).

The human body and brain might be compared to the stock market in terms of how much is not yet understood or may never be understood. For instance, the scientists now attempting to map the human brain compared the process to crushing up the paint of a Monet to try to understand the painter's technique. The insiders know how little is understood but the hat trick is to show a face of assurance and  mystique to the public, which is exploited to keep the public's noses out of scientific "business" in case profitable theories upon which "reputations" are hinged are ever questioned. This is the slip-slide on which a scientist becomes a propagandist.

I think we're witnessing the "slide" regarding the author of this article. This piece is an example of "chipping away" at the credibility of individuals who dared to detract from a highly profitable but bad immunological theory-- that vaccines in any number and vaccine ingredients in any amount are safe for every individual infant no matter whether the infant has immune impairment from any number of causes, genetic or circumstantial.

Simon Baron-Cohen is serving up his own "quants" in defense of others and in defense of his own (for which he is greatly valued and rewarded by industry) to try to explain away why the "market" of children's health has been crashing for nearly twenty years. In short, feminism caused the epidemic. Apparently stemming from women's campaign for the right to vote, sit on juries, etc. (no one else fought for them, so it was all damned female meddling), geekettes at last found their way into higher academic and professional circles where they could meet the geek of their dreams (instead of the cavemen and nebbishes they might once have safely mated with) and go on to spawn an epidemic of super geeks.

Not that Baron-Cohen thinks this is a bad thing. Never mind the social costs of caring for individuals who may never be independent or the fact that children with autism have staggeringly high rates of other life-threatening disorders like asthma, seizures and diabetes-- or even that Daniel Tammet has not yet contributed anything of real meaning to science or physics—Baron-Cohen believes this primordial "bog" of suffering may spit out a few mathematical minds.
 
Like any mesmerizingly bad quant, a few figures in the equation might have some truth hiding under them, like the fact that nature does not tend to favor high IQ: individuals with high IQs might have more tendency to have slightly impaired immunological functions (mitochondria) and that these impairments might otherwise be benign without a concentrated environmental assault. Certainly high testosterone can lead to brain susceptibility, as can be seen in men's compromised ability to recover from oxidative stress when compared to most women.

All this might mean is that the strongest and brightest along with random individuals with transient immune susceptibilities may be falling prey to chemical injury, all because of a few lousy theories.

Public panic didn't cause the global financial crash. Public trust in incompetent and crooked financial analysts, greed and short sightedness did. 

Adriana Gamondes, a former theater director, lives in Massachusetts with her husband and recovering twins.

Comments

Gatogorra

Jennifer Dunford,

The term "autism community" isn't mentioned in this post or the article being reviewed or any of the comments as far as I can see. "Vaccine injury movement" is mentioned.

Thirty years ago, someone would have needed more than bus fare to find autism- they would have needed a travel agent.

John Stone

Jennifer

I would also like my son not to have been damaged - do you think this was a good idea?

Unfortunately, the way things look he will never be able to speak or construct a complex sentence, and he may only have very limited self-help skills. Saying this in no way reflects my feelings for him, except in regard to concern for his frequent distress and his very uncertain future. He isn't bio-diverse, he is just profoundly disabled.

Jennifer Dunford

autism comunity? to quote Eastenders on 'the gay comunity' "which bus route is that on? this is my community"

or is 'the Autism Comunity' only for the parents who tragically don't have perfect, 'normal' children they deserve /sarchasm

and yes I am on the autistic spectrum (oh and vacinated pre mmr)
yes it does often make life difficult / very very frustrating
Doesn't mean I want to cured though.

John Stone

Hi Cherry,

I wish we could ignore S B-C. Unfortunately, it is all to clear who weilds influence in the UK, and who has access to patronage.

John

Cherry Sperlin Misra

Baron Cohen needs to be ignored- not given attention. He's like Dr. Offit- He's there to distract people and get them off track as the public health and pharma folks try to stretch out the years till the truth is told. It has never been clear that Baron Cohen even knows what autism is. Someone should ask him to describe a severely autistic child. I wonder if he can do that?

nhokkanen

Thanks, Adriana, for another richly insightful report. It's good to see your byline on these pages.

Funny, I'd thought that media sensationalism was benefiting the vaccine injury denialists who shriek "anti-vaccine!!!" any time the subject is brought up for investigation.

So now we're all living with the inevitable fallouts from false confidence in finance and public health. I remember in the 1990s feeling rather skeptical of market boosters, but I never feared vaccine boosters -- even though history has shown that bottom line was and is priority one for both. Silly me.

Consumers are repeatedly assured by public health administrators that vaccines are safe, and one size fits all. Conversely Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic writes glowingly about accommodating individual immunological differences in "Personalized vaccines: the emerging field of vaccinomics" (Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2008 Nov;8(11):1659-67).

The Golden Age that Dr. Poland is digging toward will never be achieved as long as he and his policy-driving colleagues at IACC, NVAC and elsewhere continue to throw vaccine-injured children down the mine shaft.

Angry Parent in MN

Adriana you are absolutely right on the mark! The pharmaceutical industry has created what they believe will lead to perpetual dependency on their products by creating damaged individuals through their vaccines.

Too bad for them that recovery options are biomedical in nature and not dependent soley on their pharmaceuticals.

The word is spreading, no matter how hard they try to suppress it.

The more they fight back with their greed driven attempts to cover the truth, the more people question their integrity and virtue.

Putting a muzzle on honest journalists will not provide the silence they are seeking in an effort to conceal their life wrecking greed for "bonuses" and profits.

There are far too many angry parents and individuals for that to suceed.

Nicely written Ariana!

Jeanie

Adriana,
Didn't you just call it for what IT is! Yep, "get their "bonuses" for causing the disaster = exponential rise in sales = "treatment" algorithm created by industry"
And you wrapped it up very well too; great article!

Deborah Heather

Why the cencership of journalists , these people are certainly running scared , and so they should be , the research is so limited they wont do it because they are frightened of what they will find , and i think we all know what they will find , an injustice of mammoth proportions , this country is failing our children and neglacting our children , my god how much longer is this deceit going to go on for this must be tackled and know

Kelly in Big D

Reminds me of the chorus of one of my favorite songs, "Slow Fade"

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade

-Casting Crowns

Pissed-Off Parent

My understanding is that Simon Baron-Cohen is the first cousin of the Borat actor. The question is, who is the bigger hoaxer? Is the autism community very different from this Romanian village where the inhabitants were left feeling angry and betrayed?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-415871/Borat-film-tricked-poor-village-actors.html

Having said that, I do not really think the two guys are that alike. I just think Prof Baron-Cohen has been trimming for the last two and a half decades, and he ties himself in peculiar knots - but very unfortunate, then, if he blames others.

WE SHALL OVERCOME

Great letter. I especially liked your links to the financial crisis: "Public panic didn't cause the global financial crash. Public trust in incompetent and crooked financial analysts, greed and short sightedness did."

Simon Baron-Cohen is just another Bruno Bettleheim, and he will go down in history in similar fashion. He is a complete fraud and his theories are beyond stupid, they are total and useless garbage that only muddle the issue even further. As you say, the only reason he is given any coverage whatsoever is because his theory is convenient.

At least his brother's jokes are funny, sometimes. Simon was just a bad joke before, but the current actions you mention are turning very ugly. So here is to you, Simon, we add your figure to our particular museum of human infamy. You are in great company: Bettleheim, Witznizer, Offit, Brian Deer, "NYTimes' own" Donald McNeil, Gerberding and the CDC cowards who should start singing what they know, and don't let me forget the whole membership of the AAP who just don't wanna know.

mark h

Simons article is quite strange as I recall this story ran 2 consecutive Mondays as it failed to make an impact, Only when he appeared on the BBC Breakfast and spoke about the possibility of screening as a result of his work did the press wake up. Now Simon is trying to deny the whole thing was his doing.
The timing is also interesting that he is promoting a DVD worldwide which was created as part of his government funded research but whose marketing rights now belong to a company he part owns.
Call my cynical but I think the original story was just to raise his profile for marketing reasons .
Simon has failed to prove that autism is purely Genetic I wish he would admit it so that UK researchers can start to look for the real environmental causes.
Simon is the head the autism research unit and a scientific advisor to Reseach autism Charity in the UK.
he is currently active in reseach in colaboration with Lego, expect a Lego simon to be avalable soon!

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