Feeding an evil narrative

Sorry I haven’t posted for over a month. Life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes.
I learnt about this noxious video from Orac and Matt.
I’ve been having problems with embedding, so here’s a direct link to the video in question on YouTube. The woman speaking in the video is Polly Tommey, one of the most longstanding supporters of Andrew Wakefield, and a fervent believer that vaccines cause autism. And what she says in the video is as evil as hell.
She says that she will not judge any parent who murders their autistic child.
There is a narrative, a poisonous, hateful narrative, that holds that autistics have such awful lives that it is acceptable, sometimes even an act of mercy, to “end their suffering”. Sadly, it’s a belief that is still all too common. Parents who murder their autistic children typically get far lighter sentences than those who kill their neurotypical children. When a news story about an autistic child being killed by his or her parents runs, there will be comments saying how difficult it must have been for the parent. Tommey’s comments feed this evil viewpoint. And yes, it is evil.
All lives have challenges and hardship. I know this personally. I have a life that is difficult in part because I’m autistic, yet it’s a pretty good one. It certainly could be better, but it could be a lot worse too. And I’m going to continue living it.
Which brings me to my second point.
Only one person can decide whether a life is worth living: the one living the life in question. Parents who murder their autistic children take it away from them and arrogate it to themselves. They declare that their children’s lives were not worth living. If you do not see just how wrong this is, I cannot help.
At Left Brain Right Brain, Matt wrote some very powerful things about this. I’m going to quote his words here because they are just so spot on and apt.

All people with disabilities are created equal. All have a right to life. A many are murdered. Why don’t you stand with them? Why do you stand with those who murder?
The phrase “parental rights” doesn’t exist in the Constitution. As a parent I am not endowed with the right to chose life or death for my child. Until you understand that, all your “freedom” rhetoric is, frankly, just a bullshit public relations effort.
When you refuse to judge, you enable. You make it just that little bit easier for parents and other caregivers to murder.

Quite. And Thank You Matt.
I have #ALifeWorthLiving.

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Happy belated blogoversary to me

A little over six years ago, I created my first blog on the iBlog platform. My first proper post on that blog was put up on the 29th May 2010. The tagline for my blog was “A blog on Autism, Anti-antivaccination and life by a South African Autist”. So much has happened since then. I hope you will indulge me, dear readers, as I take a look back.

In January 2010, I was googling news stories about autism when I saw a news story about a doctor named Andrew Wakefield. He had been charged and found guilty of a number of offences by the UK General Medical Council. Curious, I searched more. I soon found that there were two opposing viewpoints. One side viewed Wakefield as a hero who had been destroyed for threatening the status quo. The other side viewed him as a dishonest liar who had finally got what he deserved. The first side was loud, shrill and lacking in evidence. The latter was calm and backed up their arguments with irrefutable facts. As I continued reading, I came to view the latter side as correct.

I soon found out about a world that astonished me, and not in a good way. There were people who viewed vaccines as dangerous and far more harmful than the diseases that they prevented. To them, Wakefield was a hero. In 1998, he had published a “Case Study” of 12 children that seemed to suggest that the MMR Vaccine caused autism. By 2010, his work had been thoroughly discredited. Large studies investigating the supposed link had turned up no such correlation, and Brian Deer had revealed not only that Wakefield had multiple conflicts of interest, including being paid by a lawyer to find evidence for a class action lawsuit against MMR, but also that the data in the study pointed away from a link so Wakefield cooked his data. Despite incontrovertible proof of his dishonesty, they still championed him.

I got angry. Eventually, I decided to add my voice, and so I created African Jungle. Some commentators couldn’t read the iBlog domain, and because they wanted to read my work, asked me to create another blog. On November 1st 2010, I set up a blog on WordPress. “African Jungle” was taken on WordPress, so I named my second blog “Autism Jungle”, gave it the same tagline, and copied the posts I’d already written across. After that, all posts I wrote were copied to both blogs.

I first decided to post background information on the MMR-Autism Controversy. Due to Wakefield, thousands of families went to Vaccine Court in the US to seek compensation. The petitions were grouped together under the Omnibus Autism Proceedings. Six candidates (Michelle Cedillo, Yates Hazelhurst, Colten Snyder, Colin Dwyer, Jordan King, William Mead) were selected to be test cases. If they won, the other families would have their cases expedited. They didn’t. Instead, they lost devastatingly, with Special Masters George Hastings, Patricia Campbell-Smith and Denise Vowell commenting extensively on the paucity of the evidence and the incompetence of the expert witnesses. Cedillo, Hazelhurst and Snyder appealed, with the courts upholding the Special Masters’ rulings. Hazelhurt and Cedillo appealed further, with their appeals also failing.  After this, parents in the OAP began requesting voluntary dismissal of their cases.

In July 2010, my original car, a secondhand VW Citi Chico, was destroyed in a crash. I bought a secondhand VW Polo Classic, a vehicle I regret buying. Two hugely expensive services, one at 60,000km and the other at 90,000km, have soured me on Volkswagens.

Professionally, I earned both the ISTQB Advanced Test Analyst Certificate and the ISTQB Advanced Technical Test Analyst Certificate.

In 2010, some well meaning but misguided individuals proposed a Communication Shutdown on November 1st in support of autistics. This was folly, as many autistics use IT to communicate. In response, autistic bloggers and Twitter users responded with “Autistics’ Speaking Day”. I joined, and have posted every year since.

I’m an avid filmgoer, and sometimes post on the films I’ve seen. In 2015, I saw both the worst (Pitch Perfect 2) and the funniest (Spy) films in my life. I also went to see a cricket match at The Wanderers.

I also attended a funeral.

I voted in 2011 and 2014.

I went to see Tori Amos in November 2011.

Also in November 2011, I was involved in an argument with MJ, who is a father to three autistic girls. He rudely accused me of minimizing and marginalizing his children. I was so angry that I decided to reveal my true name. Prior to that, I had gone by Jungle.

I’ve read and posted about people from history who may have been autistic, including William Bligh and William McGonagall.

Polio is almost extinct.

I learnt about the pseudoscience that is facilitated communication.

I had a letter to the press published.

I have posted about quack cures, including the shocking use of sodium chlorite.

I posted on the sad death of canoeist Graeme Anderson, killed by rabies.

A Lower Court in Italy ruled that the MMR Vaccine caused autism, a verdict that was later overturned.

I saw snow fall.

I went on vacation to Portugal.

I’ve repeatedly heard that the world was going to end in a few months’ time, only for nothing to happen each time, including December 2012.

PETA is still telling lies about milk consumption causing autism.

Antivaxxers dreamed up a lie about vaccines causing SBS.

Autism Speaks showed that they were still completely tone deaf about autism.

I swam the Midmar Mile.

I have read far too many stories about autistics being murdered by their parents.

I have seen the political and economic situation in South Africa deteriorate to the point where I am seriously considering emigrating.

I have seen the antivaccine movement go from a still formidable force in 2010 to a shadow today.

I was almost hijacked.

I bought a new computer at the start of 2015 and upgraded the OS to Windows 10.

In my street, Iola Ditcham’s body was found in her house after she’d been dead for around two years.

I presented to the Special Interest group in Software Testing.

My blogging has decreased in frequency, but I hope my quality remains high. I am now one of the most read bloggers on iBlog, with African Jungle regularly appearing under the “Most Popular” list, and often in the top spot.

Happy blogoversary to me.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination, Autism Awareness, Background Data, Life, Work | 2 Comments

Bravo to the Ford Motor Company

The Ford Motor Company has teamed with the Autism Alliance of Michigan to hire autistics in the Product Development Department. The press release is here.
Bravo, and Thank You Ford.

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Lawsuit against Gardasil dismissed

Last week, Special Master Lisa Hamilton-Fieldman dismissed a suit brought by two sisters, Madelyne and Olivia Meylor, that the Gardasil Vaccine had caused them to suffer premature ovarian failure. The two plan to appeal the verdict. Madelyne suffered irregular periods before she received the vaccine. Olivia received it before her first period, which occurred when she was 15.
Merck was asked for comment. There was a key sentence in their response.

A medical history of POI has been reported by a small number of trial participants who received GARDASIL or placebo; the number of medical history reports of POI is similar for GARDASIL and placebo recipients.

In other words, this looks to be a case of chance.
Reading their stories, I can’t help but be reminded of the course taken by the parents of Michelle Cedillo, one of the test cases in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings. They introduced video of Michelle at 15 months to show she was fine before the vaccine, only for an autism expert to show that she was already showing clear signs of being autistic, and that her parents were unconsciously adjusting their behaviour towards her. Both Meylor sisters had period problems before receiving the vaccine. The Cedillos appealed, with the verdict being upheld twice. I feel that the same will happen to the Meylors.

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Circumcision as a cause of autism? Seriously?

Sometimes, I see something so mindblowingly stupid, my only response is “WTF?!?!” That was my response today when I saw an article on the Time website about a hypothesis that circumcision is a possible cause of autism. To be fair, the hypothesis and not the article is the stupid thing, but the article was not problem free.
One dubious thing in the article is that it mentions that girls are far less likely than boys to receive a diagnosis of autism. There is a lot of discussion about this fact, with some claiming that autism in girls is very underdiagnosed, which sets up a vicious circle. I in fact subscribe to this viewpoint.
A researcher, Dr. Morten Frisch from Denmark, led a study that found that boys who undergo circumcision are more likely to be diagnosed with autism by age 9. To say that this is dubious would be putting it mildly. In fact, to its credit, the article quotes a critic: Professor Brian Morris from Australia. In addition, it mentions that circumcision rates in Australia have fallen but diagnoses of autism have risen.
Bottom line: this is very weak tea.

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P.R.A.T.T.s

If you look at the bar at the top of my website, you’ll see a new page alongside “Home”, “About me” and “Comments Policy”. Namely, “P.R.A.T.T.s”.
A P.R.A.T.T. is a “Point Refuted A Thousand Times”. It is a claim that have been disproved over and over again, but which is repeated as gospel as if it were never shown to be wrong. It lists some antivaccine P.R.A.T.T.s I’ve come across. I’ll periodically update and add new ones as I find them.

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Thoughts on the death of a musical Prince

Earlier this week, Prince Rogers Nelson, the most prolific songwriter of modern times, died at his home aged 57.
Despite the fact that an autopsy is still to be performed, some of the more ghoulish antivaxxers are claiming that he was done in by a flu vaccine. Other gossipmongers are implying that he overdosed on pain killing medication. What is known is that Prince was suffering from various medical problems. A few weeks ago, his plane had to make an unscheduled stop so that he could get emergency treatment at hospital. He also had weak hipbones. The bottom line is, it is not unknown for people Prince’s age to have health issues and to die unexpectedly from them.
Because of his death, people have been downloading his music. Several songs of his featured on the Highveld Stereo Top 40 this week, including “Little Red Corvette”, “Raspberry Beret” and “Diamonds and Pearls”, amongst others. Although I wouldn’t really consider myself a fan of Prince’s music, my favourite song of his was “Diamonds and Pearls”. I was disappointed that it placed as low as it did in the Top 40. In addition, Prince wrote literally hundreds of songs for other artists, including “Nothing Compares to U” for Sinead O’Connor and “Manic Monday” for The Bangles.
I was reading through some of the things written about Prince. Certain things struck me, including the fact that he wrote songs from a very young age, and that he frequently wrote one or more songs a day. While I’m doubtful that he was autistic, I’m quite certain that he wasn’t neurotypical.

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