In late January 2010, I was googling news about autism when I came across a story from the U.K. A gastroenterologist named Andrew Wakefield had been found guilty of misconduct relating to a study he’d performed on 12 autistic children. Curious, I followed the story. I soon found two fields of thought. One was that Wakefield was a liar who had written a fraudulent case study involving 12 autistic children to implicate the MMR vaccine in causing autism. The other was that Wakefield had stumbled on to a dangerous truth and had been silenced by the establishment.
As I read more and more over the next few weeks, it became clear that Wakefield was indeed a liar and fraudster, and that those supporting him had an axe to grind. It also brought to my attention that there were people who were opposed to vaccinations and wrongly believed that they caused all sorts of harms, including autism. As I continued down this path, I became angrier and angrier. Eventually, I realised that I could no longer remain silent, and so I went to the iBlog website and created African Jungle – my first blog.
3655 days ago, on the 29th May 2010, I wrote the first of what is now 368 posts. In it, I outlined what I intended to blog about.
I am going to blog about my work, about autism events and news, about the lunacy that is the anti-vaccination movement, and about other things that may take my fancy. This blog, however, will focus primarily on Autism Self-Advocacy as that is my main interest.
“Nothing about us, without us.”
Well, that didn’t turn out quite the way I planned.
The majority of my posts are tagged Anti-anti-vaccination (143), with Life (140) a close second and Autism Advocacy trailing at third (125). Segue (76) and Background Data (73) are far behind, with other categories having far fewer posts.
A bunch of my earliest posts had to do with MMR and autism. That Wakefield was hired by lawyer Richard Barr to build a case against MMR; how Brian Deer became suspicious of him and first uncovered his conflicts of interest, and later his misrepresentations; how, taken in by Wakefield’s lies, thousands of families approached Vaccine Court in the U.S. for compensation over their children’s autism; how the Omnibus Autism Proceedings ended with the Special Masters ruling against the Test Cases, and the families of Michelle Cedillo, Yates Hazelhurst and Colten Snyder unsuccessfully appealing the verdicts; that the U.K.’s General Medical Council found Andrew Wakefield and study co-author John Walker-Smith guilty of gross misconduct and sentenced them both to be struck off; and that The Lancet, which published Wakefield’s study, retracted it.
Other things I have blogged about include my work, my life, films I’ve seen, my car crash, attending cricket matches, voting, autism quackery, people from history who may have been autistic, Special Interest Group in Software Testing (SIGiST) meetings, and escaping a hijacking attempt. Most heartbreaking of all have been several posts about autistic children murdered by their parents or caregivers.
Early in October 2010, I came across an initiative to shut down social networking for 24 hours on November 1st in support of autistics.
It was an exemplar of what happens when people fail to talk to those they are supposedly advocating for. In response, Corina Becker and Kathryn Bjornstad set up Autistics Speaking Day. Social networking is a boon to many autistics. The Communication Shutdown petered out, while Autistics Speaking Day has become a yearly event. Because I live in South Africa, I was the very first blogger to post for Autistics Speaking Day in 2010. Since then, I have posted for it almost every year.
Some people were unable to access iBlog as it is a South African based domain. Some commenters on other blogs I frequent expressed unhappiness and asked me to set up a new blog on a different domain. I chose WordPress as iBlog is based on the WordPress framework, and created Autism Jungle.
Up till November 2011, I signed off my blogposts as “Jungle”. Then something happened that led me to decide to unmask. An autism parent named MJ accused me of devoicing his children by advocating. I found his argument so offensive that I revealed my true name. Since then, I have fought against attempts to devoice me and people like me from well-meaning but sanctimonious individuals who wrongly claim we can’t advocate for autistics.
Increasingly, I’ve been writing about politics. From Black Tuesday and the Secrecy Bill back in 2011 to some of my most recent posts, more and more I’ve become concerned with the actions of the politicians in charge. I’ve also blogged about low times I’ve been through. In 2016, I went through a particularly bad phase, and decided to stop blogging altogether. Some of my acquaintances talked me out of it, and I’m still blogging.
My blogging has become less frequent over the years. From typically once a week or more in the early days to once every two weeks. Life has a way of slowing you down.
Will I be celebrating the 20th blogoversary ten years from now? Probably not, but even if I choose to stop, I’ve had a good ride.