Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dateline NBC's Interview with Dr. Wakefield: Live blogging

I am at the moment watching Dateline NBC's interview with Andrew Wakefield.
My impressions so far in the first five minutes: So far, they've interviewed Wakefield, and done sound bites with two parents of children with autism. What's missing so far? How about an interview with, gee, I don't know, someone who is AUTISTIC?
The story thus far has also supported Wakefield's rhetoric that autism "steals" children, offering no rebuttal to such disgusting dehumanizing rhetoric. They just stupidly swallow it.
They're also framing Wakefield's study as under covering a "great discovery". Not good. Not good.
Now they've finally gotten onto the fact that Wakefield was working as a paid researcher against MMR, and stood to profit immensely if MMR was discredited.
3 quarters of a million US dollars. Totally doing it out of the goodness of his heart, right?
They are also exposing the patent application that Wakefield filed for a "safer" vaccine than MMR, which would have also lined his pockets handsomely if his findings discredited MMR.
They are showing a clip now of Wakefield joking about hurting the children at his son's birthday party by collecting blood samples from them. One of them cried in his mother's arms, two others threw up. The people at the conference in the clip laughed. Stay classy, Wakefield.
The formal retraction is next, and the journalist being interviewed is from Channel 4 news in the UK. I've forgotten his name, I think it's Deere. He's doing a great job at exposing Wakefield for the charlatan he is, and even provided a video clip from his news station at Wakefield rudely pushing away a camera from channel 4 at an anti-vax conference where, according to the journalist, he was surrounded by "adoring mothers".
So far, the story is coming together nicely in terms of discrediting Wakefield's research and showing that he was a fraud more interested in his own financial well being than the health and safety of his subjects or the truth that would come out if he conducted his research properly.
The narrator called autism "devastating." Thus revealing once again what is missing from this story. A respect for neurodiversity and an understanding that the only tragedy about autism is the bigotry of neurotypicals in refusing to love and accept autistic people just as they are, rather than imagining them as being "whole beings" under the "broken" child with autism on the outside.
The interviewer is asking pretty softball questions. Not a single curveball yet. I was hoping for a more tough line of questioning.
The Lancet editor admits that if they knew that Wakefield was involved in an upcoming lawsuit, then they would never have published Wakefield's garbage.
Wakefield is defending taking the blood samples at his son's birthday party because he gave them 5 pounds, and saying he needed samples from "normal children".
With no due respect Mr. Wakefield, I am normal, thank you. It's your unethical, dastardly, dishonest. manipulative tactics that are abnormal.
The next part of the story involves Wakefield's devoted followers. First, there is a summary of all the studies which have shown Wakefield's study to be bull, including a Finnish one which had a sample study of over a million children!
They're now talking about McCarthy. Now they have an interview with Paul Offit. Yay! Read his book, Autism's False Prophets. He does a good job dissecting the myth.
The FBI required Offit to have a bodyguard because of the death threats he received. I knew this already, but it's good they mentioned it. It shows just how out of touch with reality and dangerous anti-vaccine activists are.
Some common sense advice for parents from Paul Offit:
".... put your child in the safest position possible."
Absolutely. I am a little interested in the fact that the interview with Offit involved almost no talks about Wakefield, but was directed towards Offit's research and his own book. I'm glad that they decided to give a doctor who still has his medical license and has a strong position in favour of vaccines his own chance to promote his book and his ideas on vaccines and parenting, I feel the interview could have been better spent if a sliver more of time had been devoted to Wakefield's fraudulence.
They're covering Wakefield's time at Thoughtful House in Texas. Once again, the only sign of people with autism we are getting in this program are brief snippets of white, well-fed, male upperclass children stimming. That's it.
Here we go! One child from Minnesota. They're emphasizing the pity based model of looking at autism, saying he still wears a diaper. They are giving him a colon scope... I am screaming inside at the idea of unnecessary surgery being performed on an eleven year old nonverbal boy who cannot consent... And talking about it on national TV!
The indignity and disregard for Thomas' privacy is making me cry.
"Bring their son back from autism." "Parents have to find the next thing on their list." are being uttered. This is disgusting. They are doing nothing to refute the idea that autism is a disease or a tragedy.
The only real tragedy here is this absolutely mediocre news coverage. They have made no revelations thus far, and have not even attempted to introduce ideas regarding neurodiversity, and have not yet interviewed a SINGLE autistic person. They could have gotten Ari Ne'eman for this interview. Or someone from the Autism Self Advocacy Network. Anybody? Hello? Bueller? Bueller?
"Rob them of their ability to communicate" was just introduced as a symptom of autism by the narrator. Hooray. Because there's only one type of communication that exists, right?
What I find interesting is that all the parents pictured as being supporters of Wakefield are all white, all seemingly middle class. Autism knows no racial nor socio-economic boundaries, but this reinforces the stereotype that autism is a condition affecting mainly the children of the rich and white.
Also interesting is the choice of language, "...autism affects more than 1 in 110 American children." Wrong. It affects more than 1 in 110 children. It affects more than 1 in 110 people. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. We do not just magically vanish into obscurity once our 18th birthday rolls around. This has to stop being framed as only an issue of children. Autism is not new, there have been autistic people for aeons before Wakefield was born.
The story is finished now. They did just as I expected: A watered down, piss poor job with dull questions that one could find in a 5 minute google search or asking their doctor. No new reveals, no attempt to dissuade the stereotype of autism as a monstrosity. But they at least showed Wakefield as a fraud and gave recommendations from the Paediatrics Society and urged new parents to vaccinate, subtly mentioning that the nonexistent chance of autism developing was nothing compared to the thought of having to buy a baby coffin.
But the attitude of the mainstream media towards autism in general continues to irritate me and make me realize we now, more than ever, need to get autistic people into prominent positions in the public psyche and media. Because neurotypical news organizations are not going to give us a fair portrayal, especially if we are adults.

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