By Louis Conte
“WARNING: This Site is Hazardous to Those Who Promote Censorship”
It is becoming apparent that all of the internet activity around vaccines and autism is frustrating those who support the “scientific consensus” that there is no connection between vaccines and autism.
On January 23, Evgeny Morozov wrote an article for Future Tense called “Warning: This Site Contains Conspiracy Theories” which proposes the notion that search engines should label and flag websites that engage in discourse about the potential link between autism and vaccines. Morozov suggests that Google and Bing install a “pop up message” advising readers to “check a previously generated list of authoritative resources before making up their minds.” Morozov’s support for censorship is particularly ironic given that he has written extensively on how authoritarian regimes have used the internet to further oppression. This article was followed up by Commentary by Dr. Kevin Pho on KevinMD.com in an article titled “Should Google censor anti-vaccine claims?” Dr. Pho described Morozov’s article as “fascinating.”
Is censorship really “fascinating”? History doesn’t usually record it that way. In fact, censorship is usually accompanied by oppression – as Morozov notes. I suspect that those who have suffered oppression – and censorship – do not sit around wondering how fascinating the experience was.
That the concept of censorship is so comfortably proposed by seemingly main stream people is of profound concern to me. It seems that those who support the vaccine program have convinced themselves that the program is above discussion and public discourse. Vaccines are all good and unquestionably safe. Those who make them, administer them and supply them are all beyond reproach. Bringing up the radioactive ‘autism’ thing really throws them into a tizzy. Not only is discussion of vaccines and autism found to be against “scientific consensus” but it is now supposed to be described as a “fringe theory.” If you talk about this issue, you are a member of a lunatic fringe. You are out there in the woods, looking for Bigfoot.
But are descriptions of vaccine injury associated with autism really crazy? Should discussion of vaccine injury and autism be verboten?
The vaccine program is a complex, multi-layered government and corporate program. It is a big part of Public Health Policy. As someone who works for a local government, it is my belief that Public Health Policy issues involve the public. That means conversation – what we used to call ‘public discourse.’ But with this program, no one is supposed to ask questions and the lecturers are above answering them. In fact, it has become fashionable to remove those who pose tough questions from lectures about how to promote the vaccine program. Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine industry spokes person who has made significant income from vaccines, has had a young journalist named Jake Crosby removed from two of his lectures and has called Mr. Crosby a “stalker.” Apparently, asking hard question gets you labeled a criminal and shown the door.
Interesting how censorship is immediately followed by oppression, isn’t it?
Back in May, you might recall that Mary Holland, Robert Krakow, Lisa Colin and I published a paper in the Pace Environmental Law Review called Unanswered Questions From the Vaccine Injury Compensation: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury (http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/pelr/vol28/iss2/2/0). The paper showed that the US Government has been compensating children within the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) for over twenty years for vaccine injuries that involved brain damage and seizures. And quite remarkably, many of these children also suffered from the behavioral disorder that DSM-IV - but maybe not DSM-V - calls “autism.”
Isn’t it interesting that the US Government established a compensation program to deal with vaccine injuries? Some public discourse must have prompted Congress to do this back in the 1980’s. And in this government program, the Department of Health and Human Services has quietly acknowledged that vaccine injuries sometimes “include” autism and “autism-like symptoms.”
It seems that over the past twenty four years that when Dr. Geoffrey Evans, Director of the HHS Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation, and his staff sit down and screen all the claims filed in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and look into individual cases, the “fringe belief” isn’t so fringe anymore. The cold, hard fact is that vaccine injury is indelibly linked to autism not because of the internet or because of conspiracy theories but because of the reality of vaccine injury. We found that there were a significant number of children compensated for vaccine injury who also had autism. This had been going for years before Dr. Andrew Wakefield, blamed by Dr. Offit for the creating the controversy, ever appeared on the scene. I find it “fascinating” that Dr. Evans didn’t think that this information should be disclosed during the Omnibus Autism Proceedings, the multi-year proceeding aggregating over 5,000 claims of vaccine-induced autism. Maybe Dr. Evans feared censorship and oppression.
All those compensated cases speak loudly and clearly to plausibility and against vaccine-induced autism being a “fringe belief.” And all of those vaccine injured children with autism have family members who talk about what happened to their children.
Interestingly, we found that Unanswered Questions was censored as well. The article was given to many, many mainstream news outlets. Many ignored the peer-reviewed article, but we also received feedback that indicated that reporters and journalists were instructed not to report on the findings. As one highly placed journalist told me, “I am stunned by what you found and what is going on here…but I am not allowed to cover this story.”
And now I read and article in the Vancouver Courier that Drs. Chris Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic of the University of British Columbia (UBC) are beginning to draw fire from Dr. Offit for their recent work. Their November 2011 article in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry describes correlations and possible causal links between increased exposures to aluminum adjuvants in vaccines and increased neurological problems. Dr. Offit has informed a reporter that the peer-reviewed paper “should never have been published.” He then went on to vent his spleen about Dr. Wakefield and the MMR controversy. The message was clear: the vaccine program is above question. And if you are inclined to ask questions, remember Dr. Wakefield.
Green College of UBC planned to have a lecture series on vaccine safety. But it seems that the criticism from Dr. Offit and his crew is having its usual chilling effect. The lecture series appears to be in jeopardy and may not run. Public discourse be damned. The vaccine program must remain above inquiry.
And now it seems that those who cloak themselves in “scientific consensus " want censorship brought to the internet as well. They will try to sell it as a reasonable measure at first – nothing more obnoxious than a pop-up statement. But that is just the beginning. And history tells us that it will not be too long before censorship’s next of kin – oppression – is on display. That is what those with “scientific consensus” really want. They want contrary research retracted, rebellious doctors sanctioned, and those who ask uncomfortable questions silenced. They want websites shut down and investigative journalists run out of town. They even want to end the epidemic by un-diagnosing the thousands that they finally got “better at diagnosing” over the past twenty years. They want all discourse about vaccine injury to end. And they will claim that “scientific consensus” permits them to do so.
But there is a problem. And it is a big one.
It has to do with the fact that people – parents – are observing their children getting sick and regressing after vaccination. Some of these children go on to develop autism. These experiences are real, important, and hugely worthy of investigation. And family members will talk about what they experience no matter what the censors do.
Last year some Young men came knocking at my door after the tenth snowfall of the winter and asked if they could make a few dollars shoveling my driveway. I wanted to ask them where they had been for blizzards one through nine but I censored myself and happily agreed to have them do the job instead of me. While they were out there, one of my sons with autism went out and played in the snow and began playing with them as well. The young men were great with my son and I made a point of thanking them for being such gentlemen and good neighbors.
Then one of them said, “I have a cousin with autism so I know what this is all about…You know my aunt swears that a vaccine made him that way.”
Try censoring that.
Louis Conte is the father of triplet boys, two with autism. He has worked in law enforcement for over twenty-seven years and has been responsible for many important Criminal Justice programs in Westchester County, New York. Mr. Conte is an EBCALA Board member.