"By Dan Olmsted
I don't know what impact Robert De Niro's interview on the Today show Wednesday will have on those who don't believe vaccines cause autism, but I do know the effect it has already had on those who do. The word is "galvanic." This was a call-up-your-friends moment, and we don't get those too often.
It's been, as they say, a long cold lonely winter, and I'm not speaking meteorologically. The condescending and ridiculous premises of books like Neurotribes and In a Different Key; the refusal of those I call the "greasy nothing-burgers" in Congress to confront the William Thompson revelations; the long slog of the Merck mumps whistleblowers; the removal of Vaxxed from the Tribeca Film Festival; the triumph of SB-277 forcing vaccine mandates on California schoolkids; all of it is very wearing. And I say that without having an affected child.
Now that De Niro has put himself forward as believing there's a link between vaccines and autism, he can count on the usual drubbing for advocating a view that's been disproven, debunked, discredited and delisted, deleted. ... Just this morning, Today felt it necessary to do a follow-up piece that amounted to giving pharma a chance to recite its talking points. Dr. Ari Brown did the usual parent-blaming -- saying that they've just missed the early signs of autism, then get confused by thinking it occurs as a result of vaccination when it just happened after vaccination. This is the modern version of Bettelheim.
Because it's not just about debunking Wakefield or RFK Jr. or Jenny anymore, it's about debunking parents. It's parents versus science, as the Times famously put it. And now "science" -- really scientism, believing that one branch of human knowledge reigns supreme and knows all -- has its fangs out. You think you saw your child regress after vaccination? You are debunked by science! It's a nonsense kind of argument, really -- you can't debunk this volume of eyewitness observation, you can only claim it doesn't mean what people think it means -- thousands and thousands of people, who now are joined by the De Niros.
On Saturday I wrote about W. Ian Lipkin's Wall Street Journal piece in which he said that he'd spent 45 minutes talking to Di Nero before he pulled Vaxxed. Presumably De Niro told him he had fundamental concerns about vaccines and autism, something Lipkin didn't bother to say in the article, which is a little bit incomplete, wouldn't you say? Or maybe Lipkin never gave him the chance. Anyway, Lipkin looks like a loser in this battle, just another self-interested "scientist" unable to convince a parent that they didn't see what they saw and it didn't mean what they think it did.
All of us will have our favorite comments from this interview, which succinctly raised so many fundamental issues, but mine was when De Niro told Willie and Savannah, and by extension NBC News, and by further extension the mainstream media, that they should be investigating this: “Everybody doesn’t want to seem to hear much about it. It’s shut down. You guys are the ones that should be investigating. Do the investigating.” I don't think I can recall someone besides RFK Jr. telling the media they are failing on this story. As a journalist, it was incredibly welcome. De Niro is right. This is a story that needs to be covered, not covered up. It's a historic failure and one that will haunt journalism even longer than the cheerleading that led up to the Iraq War.
You never know what's going to make this cookie crumble, this wall fall. It may just be the equivalent of 50 percent and a feather -- one last thing that, added to the weight of the evidence of corrupt science, pharma greed, and CDC mendacity pushes the whole thing into the light. Whether De Nero is the feather, time will tell. But for now, for a lot of people who have felt increasingly isolated and denigrated, spring has sprung.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.