It seems that William W. Thompson has finally come over to the side of the angels.
For those of you who might have been off fishing the past few days, or like me, spent part of the week in the hospital with a gall bladder attack, I'll briefly recap what may be one of the most consequential stories ever to come out of the autism epidemic.
On Monday, August 18, a video was released by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and Dr. Brian Hooker which claimed that a major researcher for the CDC admitted that he and others had concealed evidence that moving up the date for the MMR vaccine had increased the rate of autism for African-American males by 340%. Later in the week it was revealed that the researcher was Dr. William W. Thompson, who had in fact been one of the authors of a 2004 paper by the CDC claiming there was no link between the timing of the MMR shot and the development of autism. On Friday it was reported that Dr. Thompson had been escorted off the grounds of the CDC by security personnel.
For those of us who have been in the fight a long time this news produces mixed emotions in us. I reall the optimism with which I reported on the Omnibus Autism proceedings, reporting on the Hannah Poling case which many of us thought would finally break the whole damned thing wide open, or the revelation that the Vaccine Injury program had actually given awards to at least 83 children who suffered vaccine injuries which included autism.
On the one hand I want to take this guy who has concealed this information for so many years, throw him up against a wall, and go to town on him.
On the other hand I sense a real opportunity to advance our cause among a scientific community which has been largely indifferent to us, as well as frequently hostile.
As a leader in any movement it's important to understand your adversaries, their strengths, as well as their weaknesses. What moves them, what leaves the indifferent, and what is likely to break them.
I want to share an example from a less fraught topic. Recently I attended a surprise 50th birthday party for a friend of mine, an economics professor at Stanford University in California. One of my friends' recent academic accolades was being one of only ten economists invited to the Nobel Prize symposium (held every ten years) to present on his work. The expectation is that these ten economists will probably win the Nobel Prize somewhere in the next ten years. Pretty cool that this is happening to my high school buddy.
I was also interested to meet my friends' collaborator, an economics professor from UC Berkeley, that he often talked about. The UC Berkeley professor's father had been president of a small Central American country which is often referred to as the "Switzerland of Central America" for its relative lack of violence, literacy, and commitment to democracy. But I knew from my friend that his colleague's father had recently been in prison, awaiting charges of corruption.
Eventually I made my way to the Berkeley professor and started chatting him up. I asked about his father and he told me with great pride that that his father had recently been vindicated. I asked how all of this had happened, as I recalled this his country was usually so stable, and not given to politically motivated prosecutions. The professor told me a faction had arisen in the newspaper community which wanted to go after politicians, and that his father was one of several former presidents who had all been indicted on corruption, but each one of them had been found innocent at trial.
After finishing up the conversation I went back to my friend and shared the news. "Yeah, who knew?" said my friend with a shrug. "I always figured he must be guilty!"
"I hope you didn't say that to him!" I upbraided my friend.
"Nah, I kept that to myself."
And in that moment I had an epiphany about the intellectual class. While they may be really smart, they stopped doing their homework fifteen or twenty years ago. They get their information from news sources they trust, but then often don't go any deeper.
If my friend's family had been involved in legal trouble I would have poured over every available piece of information, questioned my friend about various aspects of the case, then come to my own conclusion about guilt or innocence. I wouldn't have simply "figured he must be guilty."
Which brings me back to William W. Thompson and his class.
It isn't that the intellectual class has read all of our work, our criticisms of studies that show no links between vaccines and autism, and drawn their own independent conclusion. They've only read the "approved" version of the truth. In many ways they are both over-confident and underinformed.
But I'm not going to try to change the curiousity quotient of the intellectual class. I'm going to work with the world as I find it.
It will come as a terrible shock to them if this information makes its way into the mainstream media. I mean, William W. Thompson, he's one of us, a high-ranking CDC scientist, they'll say to themselves. They really believe what they've been told. They're like children who believe without question everything their parent (scientific community) has told them.
They believe we are wrong, angry, and vindictive. So, if the first barrier can be breached and we can convince them that important data was indeed withheld, they'll still be worried about us being angry and vindictive. And for good reason. But we want to encourage other defections.
Yes, we will demand a full accounting from William W. Thompson, not a single question left unanswered, but then we will praise him. Praise him for being the first to escape through a break in the wall and tell us we were right.
And we will put our arms around William W. Thompson, then turn and face those on the other side of the wall with wide and welcoming grins. Who else wants to join us, we'll ask? Because we know there are more scientists on the other side who are similarly conflicted, or just could not simply imagine the enormity of the lie. Let them come across and join us.
And then I think there will be the die-hards. The ones who created this mess, who directed it, and stand to lose the most from the truth being revealed. With an army of good scientists on our side, scientists who have rediscovered their conscience, we will open up that breach in the wall, take our prisoners, and put them in front of Congressional panels and public prosecutors.
For those scientists who know incriminating information, the question you need to ask yourself is, what do you want your legacy to be?
If you would like to call for a retraction of the 2004 MMR study by the Centers for Disease Control and published by the journal Pediatrics, then please go to this web-site and sign a petition.
Kent Heckenlively is a Founding Contributing Editor to Age of Autism and author of Plague: One Scientist's Intrepid Search for the Truth about Human Retroviruses and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Autism, and Other Diseases, being published on September 15, 2014. Visit his website at Plague The Book. You can pre-order the book HERE.