From the 1930s through the 1950s in America, the tobacco industry used doctors to promote cigarette smoking in advertisements in major newspapers and magazines. Despite mounting independent science showing the serious health risks from smoking, the media reported on industry studies that showed smoking was actually a health benefit.
In 1952, in a story published in Reader's Digest called "Cancer by the Carton," the truth about the link to cancer was make public to millions of Americans. (Reader's Digest did not take advertising money at that time.) The tobacco industry countered this by placing full page ads disputing claims that smoking could cause cancer.
Finally, in 1962, President John F. Kennedy directed his Surgeon General, Luther Terry, to address the conflicting claims about smoking. Terry convened a panel of independent experts to examine the science (at a time when a third to half of all doctors in the U.S. smoked). The panel reached its conclusions and announced their findings on a Saturday because of their fears of the impact they would have on the stock market.
What did the science show?
There was a clear and proven link between smoking and soaring cancer rates, especially among males, totaling about 400,000 deaths a year in the U.S.
The point I'm making here is that harmful side effects linked to a product that is profitable for both an industry and for advertisers are not going to be readily acknowledged.
Now let's turn our attention to press reports on side effects from our ever-expanding vaccine schedule. Each study debunking a link between vaccines and autism is cited as more proof that parents should keep on vaccinating. Each study that associates autism with genetics or parental behavior is faithfully reported. No one in the media ever asks who funded the study or what conflicts they might have. Likewise the press will never ask why officials refuse to call for the single study that would validate one side or other in this debate. Officials simply don't want to see a study comparing fully-vaccinated and never-vaccinated children for rates of autism and other related conditions.
The controversy over vaccines has other aspects that weren't involved in the arguments about cigarettes. Officials credit vaccines with saving millions of lives and eradicating diseases. Furthermore, the government mandates this product for children to attend school. An epidemic of neurologically damaged children due to their vaccinations is the unthinkable to vast numbers of people who have a stake in the issue.
The media eagerly gives the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the last word when it comes to vaccine safety. No one questions why the agency that approves, recommends and vigorously promotes vaccines as safe and effective is also in charge of vaccine safety. No suspicions are raised over the fact that a majority of the people who approve our vaccines also have money ties to the industry they're overseeing. When former head of the CDC, Dr. Julie Gerberding, a long-time denier of any link between vaccines and autism, left the agency and then moved to Merck as head of their vaccine division, no one in the media took notice.
The front line in the controversy over vaccine side effects has to be in the press and it's clear whose side they're on. As long as news reports continue to assure us that vaccines are safe, we can all relax. Periodic stories denying a real increase in autism and attributing the soaring rate to "better diagnosing" are further proof that there's nothing to worry about.
What the press can't deal with is a relentless, informed and well-known figure out there challenging everything they've tried to convince the public about for years. This is the position Robert Kennedy, Jr. is in currently. He's a spokesperson for protecting the environment. He has an established record for taking on the polluters and winning. He knows the science involved in his issues. When Kennedy came out with his piece, "Deadly Immunity" in 2005, linking the mercury-based vaccine preservative, thimerosal, to damaging side effects like autism, he'd gone too far. He quickly was relegated to the anti-vaccine movement.
Kennedy hasn't backed off, despite drawing a lot of criticism. He's not intimidated, making appearances all over the country in states where bills have been proposed that would end personal or religious vaccine exemptions. Kennedy compiled a book, Thimerosal, Let the Science Speak, on the mounting independent science showing that our one-size-fits-every-child vaccination schedule isn't safe. He's been promoting the movie, "Trace Amounts, " about the damage caused by injecting toxic mercury into pregnant women and children.
Since Kennedy's book came out in 2014, the U.S. media has been out to discredit his message. No one objectively looks at his arguments and reports on them. In fact, no reporter has yet stated that he or she has actually read his book.
This unwillingness to look at the science on vaccine side effects is much like the days when the press selectively gave us only the positive research on cigarettes . This isn't stopping Kennedy from speaking to legislators and on those rare occasions when the press gives him coverage. There has been a backlash to this and three recent incidents show the growing animosity to Kennedy's message.
On June 5, 2015, the Albany (NY) Times Union published an editorial entitled, No thanks, Mr. Kennedy. While the Times Union editorial board credited Kennedy with cleaning up the Hudson River, they denounced his advocacy regarding vaccines, comparing him to the likes of "former Playboy model" Jenny McCarthy.
This editorial appeared three days after Kennedy came to Albany to speak out against a bill to mandate a mercury-lace meningococcal vaccine for New York schoolchildren. That same day, June 2, the Times Union ran a story about Kennedy's visit that challenged his claim that mercury in vaccines was harmful. The story cited medical groups that denied that mercury was in any of childhood vaccines, including the meningococcal vaccine. The paper did report that one version of the vaccine actuallyincluded mercury, just as Kennedy said it did.
Rather than look at the experts and the arguments on both sides of this controversy, the Times Union shut off the debate three days after Kennedy's appearance. It didn't matter how much research he had on his side, no one was willing to look at it or talk to any of the experts who disagree with the official claims of vaccine safety.
Then on June 6 an opinion piece was published in the Times-Herald in Newnan, GA, by Dr. Joseph Perrone called, Documentaries peddle junk science on autism. Perrone attacked both Sean Penn and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for their views, calling them "wealthy celebrities pushing new documentaries that make dangerous, unproven claims about the causes of autism."
Perrone was quick to say that "a large factor" in all the autism everywhere was due to "increased disease awareness and screening." He was eager to give the last word on vaccine safety to the agency that runs the vaccine program. "The CDC alone has funded or conducted nine studies since 2003 that found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism."
Perrone slammed the film, "Trace Amounts," without once giving any indication that he'd actually watched it. "Kennedy is pushing a new documentary, 'Trace Amounts,' which repeats the widely discredited myth that childhood vaccinations contain mercury and that mercury-containing vaccines are the cause of autism. The film's producers claim the film isn't anti-vaccine - it's anti-mercury in vaccines."
So what is wrong? Why is everyone so willing to accept studies from officials who run the vaccine program unchallenged? Certainly it must have dawned on news outlets that this topic is never settled, no matter how many "no link" studies they present or how many times pro vaccine, white coated experts say the other side is wrong. Can anyone imagine that all the parents who watched their children regress into autism after routine vaccinations are ever going to be convinced that it didn't happen?
The truth is, both sides are simply going to get more vocal and more adamant about their positions. We saw it in how suddenly a hundred bills to end exemptions appeared in state legislatures following what was promoted in the press as a life-threatening measles outbreak in California.
The media has a large stake in this fight. They've been relentless in their attacks on those who question vaccine safety claims, calling them, "anti-vaccine." It's unlikely that they're suddenly going to concede that there are reasons for serious concerns about vaccines.
This was made clear to me with an exchange with a reporter who wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Times. On June 5, the LA Times published the story, Much in common, but worlds apart on the issue of vaccinating children, by Robin Abcarian.
Abcarian wrote about her discussion with three women who opposed the California bill, SB 277, that would end personal vaccine exemptions for schoolchildren in the state. While she acknowledged that the women were sincere in their beliefs about vaccines, she did not agree in their opinions on SB 277. She was confident that vaccines are overwhelmingly safe. Risks she said were "miniscule". . . "infinitesimal compared to risk from measles/pertussis/rubella etc."
I've been watching the press coverage of autism and autism and vaccines for about fifteen years. For the first ten years of doing that I would write to any reporter I found. I'd send them information, links to studies, other articles I'd found, hoping they'd pursue this further. About five years ago, I quit doing that. Reporters rarely responded, and if they did, it was a brief "thank you for your email." Instead, I turned to writing about what the press was saying and putting comments on their stories myself.
There was one line in Abcarian's story that made me think it wouldn't be a waste of time to write to her. While she compared a mandatory vaccine law to a law requiring seat belts, she said she was willing to listen. "Still, I wanted to know more about how these women think. I wanted to listen with an open mind."
I wrote to her about the things she hadn't brought up in her article.
While she acknowledged that some children would be inevitably injured by vaccines and included a Wikipedia link to information about the federal Vaccine Court, there was nothing about the total lack of liability on the part of vaccine makers or doctors.
I wrote about the secretive nature of this court and how difficult it was for parents to get a settlement. I told her about the announcement in 2011 that investigators had learned that the federal government had compensated 83 cases of vaccine injury that included autism. I brought up the Hannah Poling case where medical experts from HHS conceded her claim of vaccine induced autism as reported by CBS News in 2008. I described the conflicts of interest of those in charge of our vaccines and I pointed out the ardent efforts of Robert Kennedy, Jr. in advocating for safe vaccines and an end to the use of mercury. I included a number of links to things like Kennedy's book and the coverage by former CBS reporter, Sharyl Attkisson. I pointed out that members of the media were labeling Kennedy as "anti-vaccine," when clearly he was not and that reporters weren't willing to actually interview him about his position.
I was hopeful that something I'd sent her would cause her to research this issue further. Maybe she'd be willing to read Kennedy's book and talk to any of the experts he included.
What I received back from her several hours later was more proof to me that members of the media are simply unwilling to honestly cover this. For them, the science is settled and nothing will change that.
Hi Anne -
Thank you so much for your response to my piece today. I simply did not have the space to explain the workings of vaccine court. I did have a couple of paragraphs about how the court came to be, but had to cut them because I ran out of room. (My column appears in the print edition of the paper and unfortunately, length is an issue there.) But that's why I included a link to information about vaccine court in the digital version of my column. The information is so readily available, it can hardly be considered anything approaching secret. Hannah Poling's case certainly does not prove anything scientific about a link between vaccines and autism, and as you know the court has come under much scrutiny and criticism (as recently as this week on NPR) about its lax standards.
I can understand that parents are tired of studies that find no link. But that's almost tautological. They are looking for a certain result and not getting it, so of course they are frustrated. Impugning the researchers and scientists for a lack of independence is, in my opinion, a pointless exercise. Who am I going to believe - a frustrated parent, or a research scientist, biologist, epidemiologist, etc. etc. Sorry, but I stand with the experts, not the anecdotes.
As for Robert Kennedy, I frankly have no idea why reporters don't seek him out, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that many of them say he is deeply unpleasant to deal with. As you know, his Rolling Stone/Salon piece in 2005 was so riddled with errors that Salon had to remove it from its website. If he's your best spokesman, I think your movement is in trouble. In any case, I don't find it necessary to seek out the "official" spokesperson for topics I cover.
For my column, I wanted to sit down and have a calm conversation with some very smart, very likeable women who have spent a long time thinking about this issue. And that's what I did. I found, after hearing them out, I still disagreed with them about SB 277. I made every effort to write about them respectfully.
All the best,
The fact that the government's own experts agreed that Hannah Poling's autism was the result of the nine vaccines she received in a single doctor's visit, "does not prove anything." The cases the Vaccine Court compensated at the same time officials denied a link between vaccines and autism also prove nothing, as Abcarian told me, because this court has had "lax standards."
Abcarian said nothing about the studies that do find vaccines are linked to autism and other side effects. She dismissed the issue saying parents simply refuse to accept what all the studies are saying. Conflicts of interest, she feels, aren't a factor in accepting a researcher's findings.
Her most damning criticism was reserved for Robert Kennedy. She said he has been wrong for ten years, ever since "Deadly Immunity" in 2005. She was simply not interested in anything he might have to say.
I find it very ironic that Robert Kennedy, Jr.'s uncle, President John Kennedy called for a national commission on smoking under the direction of his Surgeon General, Luther Terry, in 1962, and that this commission reviewed over 7,000 scientific articles with over 150 expert consultants and concluded smoking was harmful. Incredibly, when Robert Kennedy, Jr. tries to show all the science on the deadly effects of injecting mercury into humans, the experts on his side, don't matter.
On the government's own website on the findings of the smoking commission in 1962, it says, "[T]he report 'hit the country like a bombshell. It was front page news and a lead story on every radio and television station in the United States and many abroad.'"
That can't happen today when the subject is vaccines and brain damage in children. No matter how much evidence piles up, the press simply won't report on it.
The Dachel Media Update is sponsored by Lee Silsby Compounding Pharmacy and their OurKidsASD brand. Lee Silsby Compounding Pharmacy is one of the largest and most respected compounding pharmacies in the country. They use only the finest quality chemicals and equipment to prepare our patients’ compounded medications and nutritional supplements. Customizing medication and nutritional supplements for our customers allows them to achieve their unique health goals.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism and author of The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public, which is on sale now from Skyhorse Publishing.