Wired Magazine and Amy Wallace Drink Paul Offit’s Kool-Aid

By J.B. Handley

October 21, 2009

Unbelievable. That was my first reaction to reading Wired Magazine’s new cover story on vaccines and autism that you can read HERE. It’s not a thoughtful look at both sides of the debate. It’s not a piece providing a new spin on a well-known conflict. It’s simply a regurgitation of Paul Offit’s talking points that he’s been dishing out to the uninformed media now for years. Ms. Wallace didn’t just drink Offit’s Kool-aid, shit, she scooped the Kool-Aid out of the rusty old bucket to make enough for everyone!
The article is so misguided, one-sided, lacking in basic research, and ultimately useless, I found myself yearning for Gardiner Harris, Anahad O’Connor, or some of the other Vaccine Patriots (HERE) at the New York Times to spew out something new – at least their stories have the occasional original thought.
Ms. Wallace appears to have gone exclusively to Google University to research her feeble attempt at describing a very complex topic. Aside from a low-profile visit to Autism One, it seems Ms. Wallace never actually bothered to interview anyone from our side of the fence, perhaps she was simply too busy hanging out at Paul Offit’s Rotateq-funded mansion? Did you get a call or an email? I sure didn’t. Ms. Wallace, I would have welcomed you to spend a day at my house with my son to get, I don’t know, maybe a different take on the topic?
I grow so weary of pointing out the same logical fallacies, misstatements, and outright factual errors that many journalists make when covering this debate, it’s going to be a struggle for my stamina to analyze her tripe in detail. To save us all some time, I’ve decided to offer up her “Top 10 blazingly untrue passages” for you to enjoy, along with some comments -- feel free to add a few more of your own.
1. “To be clear, there is no credible evidence to indicate that any of this is true. None. Twelve epidemiological studies have found no data that links the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine to autism; six studies have found no trace of an association between thimerosal (a preservative containing ethylmercury that was used in vaccines until 2001) and autism, and three other studies have found no indication that thimerosal causes even subtle neurological problems.”

Comment: This is the #1 sign that a journalist is totally ignorant. What about the 34 vaccines that HAVE NOT been studied? The 50+ ingredients that no one has considered? Giving six vaccines in 15 minutes? Anyone? Bueller? It’s why the website 14 Studies was created. If you start with a belief that the “science has spoken”, you’re wrong from the get-go. (Note to Amy: did you Google Bernadine Healy? I heard she does interviews.) For a much longer rebuttal, please read “Feeding the Hungry Lie” HERE.
2. “The risk of dying from the pertussis vaccine, by contrast, is practically nonexistent ­ in fact, no study has linked DTaP (the three-in-one immunization that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) to death in children. Nobody in the pro-vaccine camp asserts that vaccines are risk-free, but the risks are minute in comparison to the alternative.”
Comment: Wow, did you ever go to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program website? It’s hosted by our lovely government. It shows 792 claims of death from DTaP vaccine, and more than 1,200 claims of injury from DTaP where an award was paid by the government. You can read it all HERE. Is that your definition of “nonexistent”? Unbelievable!
3. “Counterintuitively, higher rates of non-vaccination often correspond with higher levels of education and wealth”
Comment: It’s only counterintuitive if you think vaccines are great, never cause injury, and that the science has spoken. Most people, hearing that rich, well-educated people vaccinate less, would stop and figure out why! Maybe with their brains, education, and free time, they know something you don’t seem to get?
4. “As a result, Offit has become the main target of a grassroots movement that opposes the systematic vaccination of children and the laws that require it.”
Comment: The main targets of our movement are the CDC, AAP, and vaccine makers. Offit is an annoying sideshow, nothing more. He’s annoying because of articles like yours. He didn’t cause my son’s autism, and he has nothing to do with my son’s recovery. Offit actually has proven to be quite helpful – he’s the poster boy for the other side, which means his faults become the other side’s faults.
5. “The doubters and deniers are empowered by the Internet (online, nobody knows you’re not a doctor) and helped by the mainstream media, which has an interest in pumping up bad science to create a “debate” where there should be none.”
Comment: The mainstream media helps us? Which planet are you living on? And, the internet democratizes truth, you’d think Wired magazine would embrace that!
6. “Looking back over human history, rationality has been the anomaly. Being rational takes work, education, and a sober determination to avoid making hasty inferences, even when they appear to make perfect sense. Much like infectious diseases themselves ­ beaten back by decades of effort to vaccinate the populace ­ the irrational lingers just below the surface, waiting for us to let down our guard.”
Comment: Pot, meet kettle. Why are you boring readers with misguided psychobabble? You could have used this time to read some of the science on our side of the fence which is also peer-reviewed! Clean water, toilets, and refrigerators eradicated disease, or at least 98% of it, I’ll give vaccines credit for the final 2% -- and a whole lotta’ autism, allergies, and other demylenating illnesses.
7. “Today, because the looming risk of childhood death is out of sight, it is also largely out of mind, leading a growing number of Americans to worry about what is in fact a much lesser risk: the ill effects of vaccines.”
Comment: If 1 in 100 kids have vaccine-induced autism, this may challenge your conclusion about “low-risk,” unless you like those odds. Few parents do, and your article is unlikely to change that.
8. “The so-called epidemic, researchers assert, is the result of improved diagnosis, which has identified as autistic many kids who once might have been labeled mentally retarded or just plain slow.”
Comment: Please. Help. Me. Can’t. Breathe. Um, which researchers did you talk to? As I stated very recently, what you are saying here is 96.7% impossible (HERE), and always will be.
9. “In fact, the growing body of science indicates that the autistic spectrum ­ which may well turn out to encompass several discrete conditions ­ may largely be genetic in origin.”
Comment: Mark Blaxill, I need you, man, I really can’t take it anymore! (Read: Autism and Genetics: What We’ve Got Here is a Failure to Replicate HERE.) 

10. “Then, he came up with a rough estimate: a person could handle 100,000 vaccines ­ or up to 10,000 vaccines at once. Currently the most vaccines children receive at any one time is five. He also published his findings in Pediatrics. Soon, the number was attached to Offit like a scarlet letter. “The 100,000 number makes me sound like a madman. Because that’s the image: 100,000 shots sticking out of you. It’s an awful image,” Offit says. “Many people ­ including people who are on my side ­ have criticized me for that. But I was naive. In that article, I was being asked the question and that is the answer to the question.”
Comment: OK, this last one wasn’t an error by Ms. Wallace, it was just a quote from Offit, but for God’s sake why do they still talk to this guy? If you had 100,000 doctors in a room, and you asked them what would happen to a baby if you gave that many shots, 99,999 would say every single child would immediately die, and well before the 100,0000th vaccine! Makes you sound like a madman? I know the answer to that question.
Ms. Wallace, no one is all that surprised you wrote a piece that bad. Heck, we’re all kind of used to it. I Oh, and wipe the kool-aid of your upper lip, I heard Dr. Nancy wants to interview you. 

Unhappy with her piece? Anything you’d like to correct? You can let Amy Wallace know at ecallawyma@gmail.com.

J.B. Handley is co-founder of Generation Rescue.