Dear Jon: An Open Letter to America’s Favorite Hypochondriac.
You don’t know me, but we may be breaking up. I don’t actually have time to watch your show, so you won’t be losing a viewer—maybe just an occasional Youtube-clip-watcher, but an avid one. Like so many, I’d once held you up as a sort of icon of independent media in a sea of embedded shills— even if you were once led into “by puppets making prank phone calls” as you put it (oh such good times we had—sigh).
But recent events have left me wondering—are you…could you be… somebody’s monkey after all? And do you dance? Or are you really truly squarely scout’s honor a wincing, cringing, emotionally crippled hypochondriac? Please let it be the latter, Jon, for then there is hope.
After seeing your recent interview with Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano (HERE) which came off like a giggling plug for Sanofi Pasteur, my heart sank. I’m an autism parent and laughter is like a tourniquet to someone who just lost an arm in a wood chipper. In my case, both arms: my once healthy boy-girl twins began disappearing after flu shots at one year of age. It’s laugh or die for parents like me, but I’m no longer sure if you’re the kind of man I can click on in times of need.
I’ve had to think it through. On the one hand, if I myself were a clever pundit making umpty millions on cable and my parent network, which happened to have pharm-friendly ties, was hinting that I should make nice about flu shots in the midst of a marketing frenzy (and my extraordinary survival barometer was telling me that if I made the wrong noises in this instance, even if I didn’t jump on a couch or subscribe to an alternative church and was careful to never repeat my “mochachino” quip in earshot of a women’s basketball team*, something else I did or said could easily be turned into an excuse to make things far worse for me than all the other times I’d “bucked the pressure” combined), I might take a vague dislike of having people spray snot in my face and whip it into a full blown case of hypochondria in my own mind if it made me feel better about “assuming the position”. On the other hand, I might be Monk.
I like to think the best of people, so I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you’re crazy. Just in that localized way that germ freaks with OCD are. It wouldn’t actually surprise me if you turned out to be the real deal—and I mean that in the nicest way. According to the bastion of truth which is Wikipedia, you’re the son of a physics professor. You probably had a bit of Little Man Tate in you as a kid, a few allergies, weak stomach, night time fears, obsessive habits that you managed to keep to yourself, etc. According to certain theories of metabolism, it would be difficult for the body to support both an unusually energy-burning brain and a robust immune system— the price some pay for geek glory. Furthermore, excessive fear of disease obviously feeds on fact: certain illnesses still going around aren’t a day at the beach and some people, depending on their health status, may still tragically die of them. Plus you work fifteen hours or more a day in the studio where no one takes sick time; a mob of people depend on you to be at your best at every moment and being funny while you’re sick as a dog can’t be easy.
I do get it. Besides, I used to hang out with “you people”—comedians. I ran productions for the Improv in the 90s and noticed some truth to the cliché: the funnier someone is on stage, the more neurotic they are off. This wasn’t always true but there were a good handful of germophobes around. I discovered this because, not being particularly funny myself, I wasn’t a hypochondriac and had the insensitivity to show up to work hacking and spewing a couple of times.
But I just don’t know anymore, Jon... I’ll have to watch a few more old shows to figure out the psychological meaning of your little “jumpy spider hand” gesture—that thing you did when asking Napolitano if swine flu shots are “safe”. Do you do it when you’re trying to sprinkle a little “eau de truth” on a scripted promo or only when you’re being cute to hide your inner scream of terror? In any case, I’ve devised a test of your honor. If you’re really truly scout’s honor a hypochondriac, it will be impossible for you to touch the clip art below (click on the images to enlarge):
Okay, let’s just assume you couldn’t even get your finger near the screen. And let’s assume the hypochondriacal dendrites in your brain are too cunning to listen to me—a rank layperson— rattle off a bunch of drivel about the mercury in flu shots— or the squalene, formaldehyde, aluminum sulfate, diethylene glycol, MSG, bits of slimy monkey and pig innards, etc., that make up the combined recommended vaccinations. Let’s imagine you can’t hear mention of the Canadian studies showing that people who received the flu shot last year have a doubled risk of currently contracting swine flu (HERE), and that this may have to do with the Dartmouth study showing that swine flu was far more lethal in mice exposed to toxic metal than in unexposed mice, for whom the virus was mild (HERE).
I have to believe that you’ll cover your eyes and start la-la-ing if I mention that even the “little bit” of mercury in the “mercury free” flu shot we all know you get is still at least 5,000 times the EPA mercury limit for drinking water; or that it stays in certain organs indefinitely and is associated with dementia, heart disease and, in men, an increased risk of certain cancers— including unusually metastasizing prostate cancers. If you keep getting flu shots, in other words, you might as well just ditch that prostate now because, with the burgeoning rate of Alzheimer’s, you may forget to later.
I don’t think your inner Monk will be able to sit still to hear about how those with higher IQs may be at a particular risk for toxic injury to mitochondria, which Rachel Carson predicted almost half a century ago would be the downfall of many species of plant and animal— something that may relate to the doubled risk of allergies in those with certain “intellectual precocities”.
Let’s assume your mind will squirm past any arguments that many people calling out for independent vaccine research or whose children got sick post vaccination just want safer vaccines instead of the medical equivalent of a global McDonald’s Happy Meal monopoly on all consumable goods (an analogy that only works if you imagine the Happy Meal rammed into a blender along with its styrofoam box, a hunk of one of those formica tables they have in the retro Mickey D’s, some industrial floor cleaner and a bit of rat shit because you can’t sue even if your head explodes upon injection and they can stick anything they want in this stuff).
Let’s assume your assistant will stop reading at the first mention of Desiree Jennings (HERE) or my dad (HERE) or that current research found an association between Gardasil and Lou Gehrig’s (HERE). You don’t want to know that ALS —like autism, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s—all share mitochondrial injury as a factor or that the US government already conceded that vaccines can cause MS, autism and Guillane-Barre. You won’t be able to absorb the 10,000 to 15,000% rise in autism to the current 1 in 91 or that government study found that half the families presently affected stop vaccinating any of their children after diagnosis. But I know…Fox is packed with blowhards; my dad was just a guy; Desiree must have stepped on the cracks in the sidewalk; the research is theoretical; the US government concessions were…well, we just won’t talk about that; it’s “better recognition”; autism is genetic so the parents are nuts too and all the industrial chemicals in shots just make them that much better at killing the bugs that haunt your beleaguered soul.
Just for the record, I was kidding about breaking up. I don’t really think I know you either because I’m not crazy. To paraphrase Margaret Atwood, wanting to know an artist because you like their work is like wanting to know a duck because you like paté. I’m not an old lady in Boca who yells at soap villains… even if I was subconsciously influenced to let my twins have 31 vaccines before the age of two because a TV doctor on ER once shrieked that vaccine risk warnings were “not true”. I’m not kidding. Sad, isn’t it? People will die and children will be maimed because of what you said on your show. Some trust you that much. Ha ha (…not kidding).
For all the above reasons, I thought your joke about swine flu being concocted by Homeland Security and spread on sandwiches was untoward. Not all of us who are fighting for safer vaccines are conspiracy theorists and even if we were, why homeless people’s sandwiches? How silly. Why not their shoes? Don’t hobos roast them over trash fires?
Besides, not everyone in the safer-vax movement even votes for the same party and so could never generally agree on conspiracy theories. The diversity of the movement should be a red flag in itself and I know firsthand how hard it would be for you to get in line with Limbaugh on this. This is particularly true since—as one of our fine editors noted—he waited until Bush was out of office to get on the vaccine-doubting bandwagon and only did it to nail President Obama for a problem that’s been raging for more than twenty years. Too bad the president couldn’t see it coming. I hear he won’t shake hands in the bathroom. Hmmm.
I tend to be pretty cautious about wild theories in any event. Personally, I think a sick parrot crapped on a Mexican CAFO. I think that Bush, had he known about the Twin Towers attacks before the fact, would not have chosen that Jethro Bodine moment at Booker Elementary to be told the news on camera. And I have some serious doubts about Dudley Moore’s theory of the lost fleet of the Spanish Armada.
So, all told, let’s assume I can’t reach you through compassion or a Pubmed-a-thon because your hypochondriac brain defenses rebuff all emotional appeals and assaults of logic like Will Smith flinging off vaccine apocalypse zombies in “I Am Legend”. So now I’m going after your sense of self preservation.
I’m sorry—I have to do it. It’s for your own good because if you don’t get that neurotic fear of disease at least in proportion to a healthy fear of industry juggernauts, eventually you’re going to suck at what you do. You just can’t be subjectively driven so far off the mark on something this important and stay funny. Not that you aren’t in stellar company, though. A short list of your variously famous and infamous brethren in phobia— all of them a barrel of yuks: Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, Javier Bardem , Adolf Hitler.
Remember the correlation between neurosis and comic ability? Yeah, but… irreverence to irrelevance is such a short fall (see graph, click to enlarge):
See how that works? I only put men on the graph (ignore Soon Yi—everyone else does) because, though you seem happily married, I wasn’t sure if you were bothered by “girl germs”. Now for a close up on the graph and a suggested course correction:
Recovery is possible. Just ask Jim. You can bring your cold meds and a stool sample kit on your ascension from the sinking rut of comedy death. Just take a deep breath, get on the right side of history and accept the leg up before it’s too late. Stop, Jon. Just stop.
Yours truly, a concerned viewer.
*Sumner Redstone, majority owner of Viacom—the parent company of Comedy Central, CBS and Paramount Pictures— was responsible for terminating the contracts of both Don Imus and Tom Cruise shortly after both publicly criticized pharmaceutical products, though presumably the terminations were for unacceptable on-air behavior. Redstone’s charitable organization, The Redstone Acceleration & Innovation Network or TRAIN, was launched by Faster Cures, a nonprofit “action tank” of which Autism Speaks is a member. Faster Cures seeks to “clear the path to faster progress through innovative programs”. Among many honorable-sounding efforts to accelerate cancer and disease treatment, Faster Cures lobbied the NIH to loosen existing regulations on conflict of interest divulgences in medicine.Adriana Gamondes lives in Massachusetts with her husband and is the mother of twins who are currently recovering from vaccine-induced GI disorders.
Didn't we open-letter Stewart in October 2009 over his vaccine shilling and cover his pharma enthusiasm a few more times since then? Yet, big surprise, he's still at it. RIP, lamestream media. Just call the zombie whore a zombie whore.
Posted by: The Walking SpEd | November 12, 2013 at 05:38 PM
This is news? Jon Stewart is a disgusting propagandist has been for ever.
Becoming a parent to a vaccine damaged child opened my eyes to the fact that the MSM is a crock of sh@t, plain and simple.
Posted by: Julie | January 23, 2013 at 08:27 PM
Yeah!!! great Article xo Gabs
Posted by: Gabriella | October 21, 2009 at 12:16 AM
Thanks everyone. Some seriously funny comments-- fickle, yes. Mmmm, silver.
Teresa, I'm counting down until that book comes out and Nancy-- Mandel should have been on the graph along with... Michael Savage.
Political ideology aside, the capitulating writers, performers and news folk remind me a bit of "friendly witnesses" during blacklisting. The weakness of their position bled over into their later efforts. Hard to watch. William Wyler, Danny Kaye, Bogart, John Huston and others resisted. The people working for Maher are lucky.
Posted by: Adriana | October 20, 2009 at 10:36 PM
sorry, he is not so smart...he is just another fraud
Posted by: kn | October 20, 2009 at 09:33 PM
It's hard for me to describe how bad that clip made me feel. From the jocular reference to putting LSD in the H1N1 vaccine (which would probably be safer for kids than mercury, sadly) to making a joke of the "if you see something, say something" anti-terrorism campaign in NYC, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.
I used to watch the Daily Show for entertainment, but after a while, I stopped watching it. I just got tired of discussing it with people who seemed to get all their news from what is basically a comedy program. Now I'm worried that this is the only "news" about the H1N1 vaccine that those people will see. No difference between the nasal spray and the injected version, Napolitano says... I guess not: You either shed the flu virus and spread it, or you get mercury poisoning. There will be enough for everyone, Napolitano reassures us... of course, after the US government (oh, wait, that was MY money!) spent BILLIONS of dollars before the vaccine was even developed. I'll get my comedy from Jim Carrey, thank you.
..and for the record, I lived in New York for almost ten years, and the "if you see something, say something" ad campaign is not a joke. It's not funny to think that maybe if a few people had paid more attention (like airport luggage screeners watching box cutters go through on the X-ray machines at Logan Airport), we might not have the cluster**** that is the Department of Homeland Security--and we might still have the World Trade Center. Nice for Jon Stewart that he thinks it's funny--I guess everyone's tragedy is a joke to him.
Posted by: Theresa | October 20, 2009 at 09:13 PM
That "silver" correction by the MD govenor was just sad. He believes exactly what they told everyone about those fillings to make it OK- let's just identify that 1/2+ infamous neurotoxin heavy metal by it's color. It reminded me of how Homer Simpson reacts to his favorite grape soda drink "mmmmm purple".
It was incredible how every single one of those powerful men seemed to shudder and resist Maher even bringing up the topic of vaccines. They had all of this momentum taking positions on a number of controversial topics including war and racism and then were suddenly exceptionally careful with their words. Even Shandling how had no problem making rather immature and questionable jokes tried to flat out decline responding to a Maher's basic but direct question about whether he planned to get the swine flu vax. When the host of a show called "hardball" tries to caution the host of his show from raising vaccine questions, you know there's a serious concern about upsetting the people in power.
As someone who apparently doesn't have a vaccine-injured family member, Maher must really just take issue with the idea of blind conformity and trust of the establishment. The way his panel first shut down at his questioning of vaccines, it did appear to be nothing short of blasphemy. Maybe he'll make our documentary before Michael Moore does.
Posted by: ginnie | October 20, 2009 at 08:50 PM
Adriana, this was so well done! I used to watch but autism, work, time traveling (historical research :~) took precedence and damn if I didn't make the right choice. Unlike fine wine, Jon didn't get better --
Please,keep these coming ~~
Posted by: Teresa Conrick | October 20, 2009 at 06:06 PM
This guy really let me down. Love the hypochondriac comedy scale! Another great one Adriana! Let's see if he DARE respond! His writers cannot compete with the likes of you!
Posted by: Maria | October 20, 2009 at 05:00 PM
Marvelous piece, Adrianna; you are a genius. Jon Stewart may yet come around, if he takes the time to read and listen.
There's got to be place for Howie Mandel on your Hypochondriac Comedy Scale. Given his OCD and aversions, I wonder whether he's got a mouthful of mercury.
I loved your "Jethro Bodine" comparison regarding President Bush's unguarded 911 moment. Some people -- mostly with an agenda -- can't resist linking the conspiracy mentality to a consumer's simple request for medical product information.
And yeah, I saw Chris Matthews try to compare Bill Maher's quest with Tom Cruise's skepticism of psychiatric drugs. Though Matthews clearly was implying that this smacked of whack. Nice try, but Maher pushed back firmly.
Posted by: nhokkanen | October 20, 2009 at 03:25 PM
When Jon Stewart was first going to take over at the Dialy Show I heard him on Howard Stern. He cracked a joke about turning autistic for about a year after his parents divorced. I forgave him for his insensitive remark. He was younger, not married, no kids- ignorant. I loved the Daily Show for a long time. I loved when he had RFK jr. on about autism and vaccines.
For some reason I just stopped watching over time- no particular reason. I'm glad I missed this show. I guess everyone has a price.
Adriana- you are a truly gifted writer- I've enjoyed all of your articles here immensely. Keep them coming please.
Posted by: Andrea | October 20, 2009 at 02:30 PM
I have long been a Real Time fan and also loved watching Friday night's show. Did you happen to notice the governor (Maryland?) try to correct him in saying his fillings were "silver," showing how uneducated he is about what toxic exposures he's got going on....
I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair.
Does anyone know why Chris Matthews seemed so incredibly uncomfortable during Maher's discussion? He actually asked him something to the effect of "why are you fighting this fight?"
Posted by: Adrienne | October 20, 2009 at 02:09 PM
I am so sad. I love The Daily Show but now I feel betrayed. I don't understand how such a smart man can make such stupid comments. I guess money really is the root of all evil. I have to go delete this show from my TiVo now. Boo-hoo!
Posted by: jenn | October 20, 2009 at 01:39 PM
And just yesterday, after seeing his piece on "Rape-Nuts," I was ready to stalk Jon in hopes he'd have his way with me. Now I wouldn't let him touch me with a 10-inch pole. Ahh, we women are a fickle bunch.
Brilliant letter, Adriana.
Posted by: Amy Becker Clark | October 20, 2009 at 12:54 PM
This is why I was especially appreciative of Bill Maher last night on his show. He actually brought up the swine flu vax topic again as apparently he took a lot of heat from his prior statements (posted here) and wanted to clarify his general position that people should not blindly dismiss that this vax is a medical procedure like any else that should be researched by the individual before consenting. He even started to reference the polio literature that suggests the incidence was declining before the introduction of the vax, but was cut off. He did get out the stats on all of the fatalities from medical errors and put the vaccine decision in the proper context of medicine's track record, including the swine flu vax problems of the 70s. He also got in the lunacy of dentists drilling mercury in your teeth and how he wonders if his childhood allergies were connected to his vax history. I also enjoyed hearing Aleq Baldwin mention he never gets vaccines. Unfortunately he's on hiatus now & will not have a platform to address the barage of attacks that last night's show will most likely elicit. But it was certainly nice for someone to represent the voice of logic, research, and choice regarding vaccine safety and efficacy concerns, without the word autism coming up.
Posted by: ginnie | October 20, 2009 at 12:12 PM
wow, after this, he really should be inclined to hire you as a writer, vaccine issues aside. great job. thank you for speaking for those of us who neither have the time nor talent to go after those who should be smarter, but are clouded by the confusion that money equals right.
Posted by: kim | October 20, 2009 at 12:09 PM
Thanks for this, Adriana. I too love my TV comedy to combat the day's stresses.
I gave up Daily Show and Colbert Report when it occurred to me they are NPR lovers and we all know how crappy their reporting has been on vaccine safety. Also, I kinda thought they stopped being funny a long time ago.
I pretty much secretly hope that my favorite comedians won't even bring up the issue anymore because I'm too sensitive about vaccines. (I'm begging you, Louis CK, please don't ever do it.) I still haven't forgiven Tina Fey for her 30 rock episode on flu shots and Seth Meyers for taking a swipe at us on Weekend update.
That pic of Jim Carrey in Jenny's bathing suit always makes me laugh outloud. Comedy Gold.
Posted by: Amber | October 20, 2009 at 09:41 AM
After his list of swine flu vaccine "pros and cons" from the night before I had already instituted a new earlier bedtime, so I missed this interview. Looks like I made the right decision.
Posted by: Jack | October 20, 2009 at 08:40 AM