April 22nd, 2011 → 11:02 am @ Seth Mnookin
Well, he’s entitled to his opinion and to sell his book.
It’s true that I expressed my opinion — but I assume what Rooney was asking him about were facts, like, for instance, the fact that he quoted his daughter saying that she believed her son had gotten autism from vaccines but didn’t quote a single scientist or public health official or epidemiologist or vaccine researcher or spokesperson from the American Medical Association or the American Academy of Pediatrics.
My opinion is that that is an important questions — and it’s my opinion that that’s an important question because of the fact that there is currently a measles outbreak in Minnesota that began when an intentionally unvaccinated child returned from a trip with this family infected with the virus. So far, 13 children have been hospitalized. Six of them were too young to have gotten the vaccine in the first place. It’s my opinion that that’s an important question because of the fact that over the last several years, children in this country have died of vaccine-preventable diseases like Hib and pertussis.
Instead of questioning my motives, I would have liked MacNeil to address some of these issues. And as someone who has been in the media industry for many decades, I think MacNeil probably understands that the likelihood of a post I write on my personal blog actually goosing book sales is somewhere between highly improbable and alternate-universe unlikely. (It’s true that I have earned a total of $1.04 from Amazon purchases referred from my website…but both of those were in January.) In fact, the chance that I will ever earn royalties off of The Panic Virus is roughly the same as the chance that I will one day beat Michael Phelps in the 200 meter butterfly.
This morning when I turned on my computer, I was greeted with an article on Age of Autism written by the founder of Generation Rescue, the group Jenny McCarthy currently runs. The article focuses on the fact that for the last thirteen-and-a-half years, I have been a recovering heroin addict. It implies that my credibility among other journalists is because my “heroin-chic background” gives me a “stamp of street-cred in an oddly P.C. world.”
Before becoming a writer, Mr. Mnookin was fired from a “gopher gig” at Office Depot, worked as a day laborer digging ditches, and also worked at a coffee shop, a liquor store, and several bookstores “never lasting at any job for more than a couple of weeks” … Soon after graduating from Harvard, Mr. Mnookin became a heroin addict … I sure wouldn’t hire Mr. Mnookin in one of my companies, let him watch my kids, or go to him for parenting advice. He was a garden-variety junkie who stole money from friends and family, sorry.
This is not a secret: The reason the author of the piece, or anyone else for that matter, knows about my past is because I have written about it several times over the years. In fact, all of the information that appears in Age of Autism about my personal life comes from articles written by me.
The comments on that post, and in comments on several posts I have written over the past several days, share that same tone. I’m a “shill” and “the industry’s biggest Whore and sell out,” I should “stay under the rock you occasionally crawl out from” and “climb right back into the hole,” in the years to come, “history will make a fool out of you. Just you wait. I for one won’t forget your cowardice.” There are also comments like this one:
You got Seth Mnookin all wrong, who could possibly be better qualified to advise parents on the safety of injecting stuff into their children’s bodies than a sell-professed former junkie?
And you know what? That stuff actually bothers me. I know it shouldn’t, but it does — both because it really is painful to read things like that about yourself and because it makes me despair about the direction this debate is going in the future.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the non-verbal daughter of an Age of Autism editor was abused on her school bus.
When I’m in the middle of the cross-fire, I need to be extra sure that I remind myself that the people who get angriest about my work and my book are, for the most part, parents who want nothing more than to do right by their kids. They are parents whose lives have been turned upside down — and in many cases, parents who have been failed by doctors and educators and public officials.
I’m trying to remember that. As a wise man once said, I’m trying, Ringo–I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd driven by charity and good will. And at the end of the day, as I’ve said many times n the past, I have no way to know how I would react if I believed my child had been harmed.
But I’m not quite as sympathetic to Robert MacNeil. He, too, is a family member dealing with autism — but as I wrote the other day, in his capacity as the host of a six-part, highly publicized series on Newshour, he’s primarily acting as a journalist. If he wants to discuss the merits of my criticisms or the substance of my critique, I’d love that. But to brush off everything I’ve said by attacking my motives is only a way of avoiding the issue.