This week in PLoS: Manufactroversies, RFK Jr.’s revival, and the definition of a Mnooklear Attack

May 15th, 2011 → 8:53 pm @

Among the news I wrote about this week was a press conference in Washington DC ginning up the latest manufactroversy over vaccines and autism. (Perhaps not surprisingly, Fox News was one of the few news organizations to take the bait.) There are also highlights from a recent review on Blogcritics and a shout-out in the New York Post from Sarah Vowell. I also noted that Rolling Stone revived the error-filled Robert F. Kennedy Jr. story about thimerosal that the magazine ran in 2005 and disappeared sometime last year.

The most amusing post (for my money, anyway), was titled “In which my Seussian name is drafted in service of an Orwellian conspiracy,” and it deserves reprinting in full:

Back in late 2002, when I was a Newsweek media columnist covering the implosion of The New York Times, Mickey Kaus married my name with my employer’s and came up with Mnoosweek. It wasn’t quite a nonce usage — Kaus used it once more in Slate the following spring and Daniel Drezner referenced a Mnoosweek piece that summer — but that was pretty much it. It’s hard enough to spell Mnookin, never mind needing to turn it into a witty aphorism.

But! I needn’t have worried: It turns out I’ve recently been conferred the status of my very own eponymous neologism: the Mnooklear attack, which, according to Urban Dictionary, is:

The type of desperate attack in which public health officials and drug companies engage when trying to hide their causal roles in the the autism epidemic. Usually involves hiring drug addicts. The main goals of Mnooklear Attacks are to protect shareholders and to keep CDC staff out of jail. Ex: Did you see the Mnooklear Attack on universally respected journalist Robert MacNeil?

Occam’s Razor it ain’t…but hey, with a name like mine, I’ll take what I can get.

Post Categories: Blog post & PLoS & sillyisms

New on PLoS: Evidence, herd immunity, and “total assholes”

May 9th, 2011 → 9:55 am @

My latest PLoS blog post went up on Friday; in it I discuss a comment I made back in January at American University in Washington DC. It begins:

If there’s any one thing I’ve stressed in my talks over the past three months, it’s that parents of children who believe that their children have been vaccine injured deserve compassion and understanding. (That doesn’t mean they should be pandered to or be allowed to dictate public health policy.) I’ve also said many times that I can’t pretend to know beyond any doubt how I would react if I was in their shoes.

I do, however, know what it’s like to be a parent who feels uneasy when a doctor asks you to take off your newborn’s pants so your child can be injected with a vaccine. It’s scary. I don’t know anyone in the world who likes needles or likes watching  needles pierce their child’s skin. However, the fact that something is scary does not convey a license to blithely deny reality — which is why I find the actions of parents who have simply decided for themselves that vaccines and dangerous and at the same refuse to acknowledge the potential repercussions of not vaccinating on those around them to be morally repugnant. This is not a new position of mine; I wrote about it at length in a chapter of my book titled “Medical NIMBYism and Faith Based Metaphysics”…

Click here for the rest of the post.

 

Post Categories: Blog post & PLoS

Even more Science Online 2011’ers…

May 5th, 2011 → 12:28 pm @

In my haste to get through all of my work yesterday while simultaneously letting folks know about my move over to the PLoS Blog Network, I left off four (geesh!) ScienceOnline 2011’ers who are also on the site, namely…Emily Anthes (Wonderland) , Peter Janiszewski (Obesity Panacea) , Martin Fenner (Gobbledygook), and John Rennie (The Gleaming Retort). They’re all excellent, too…

Post Categories: Announcements & Housekeeping

A move to the PLoS blog network

May 4th, 2011 → 7:49 pm @

Two days after The Panic Virus was released, I traveled to North Carolina’s Research Triangle for ScienceOnline 2011, aka #SciO11. The annual conference, which has been transformed into one of the premier science journalism events in the world, is the brainchild of Bora Zivkovic and Anton Zuiker — and it’s no exaggeration to say that it changed my life. (Thanks again, Rebecca Skloot and Ivan Oransky, for lighting a fire under my ass and making sure I attended.) (more…)

Post Categories: Announcements & Housekeeping

Lessons from the shaming of chemically castrating doc who “endangers autistic children and exploits their parents”

May 4th, 2011 → 7:40 pm @

With the exception of Andrew Wakefield, there are no more infamous anti-vaccine “researchers” than Dr. Mark Geier and his son, David.

(photo by Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune)

Last week, the Maryland State Board of Physicians suspended Mark Geier’s license to practice medicine. (As far as I can tell, this doesn’t affect Geier’s ability to practice in the other states in which he’s licensed, including California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington.) That this move comes years too late for scores of children does not mean it is not incredibly welcome.

Read more on The Panic Virus PLoS blog…

Post Categories: Autism & excerpt & Media & The Panic Virus & vaccines

A move away from anti-vaccine propaganda at the Huffington Post?

May 3rd, 2011 → 12:45 pm @

Almost three months ago, a writer named David Kirby wrote a 3,800-word piece for The Huffington Post titled “The Autism-Vaccine Debate: Why It Won’t Go Away.” It was not an impressive piece of reporting. As I wrote in Scientific American at the time,

By obscuring the difference between anecdotes and evidence, fomenting unfounded fears, and disguising tendentious tracts as objective analyses, he might be influencing public opinion, but he’s not helping the search for verifiable truth. (more…)

Post Categories: Blog post

Heroin and ad hominem attacks

April 22nd, 2011 → 11:02 am @

On Tuesday, Robert MacNeil was on The Emily Rooney Show, which airs on WGBH in Boston. Rooney asked him about my criticisms of his reporting. This was his response:

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. (more…)

Post Categories: Blog post