Shock comedian Denis Leary does not learn from other people’s mistakes. It seems he would know better than to insult autistic children after the shellacking that shock jock Michael Savage took for a similar rant just three months ago.
In his new book, Leary writes parents “want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically,” so they consult psychologists. “I don’t give a fuck what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you, yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid.”
Here’s what Savage said in July:
“I’ll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. That’s what autism is.
Savage’s vapid analysis was met with howls of protest from parents and autism advocacy groups, and sponsors fled his insipid Savage Nation radio show. Parents and advocacy groups also piled on Leary, exposing his ignorance and selfishness. Leary quickly held a press conference so he could explain that by “kids” he really meant “adults”, then he plugged his book.
Proving that there’s plenty of ignorance to go around, a Boston Fox News affiliate turned to Mark Blaxill, a biased and ill-informed anti-vaccine activist for a “fair and balanced” view on Leary’s skewed world view. Blaxill is vice president of Safe Minds, a non-profit organization that falsely characterizes autism as “a novel form of mercury poisoning.”
Blaxill believes that we are in the throes of an autism epidemic. In fact, nearly everything he says assumes that is true. “The reality of the autism epidemic is very, very real,” he told the equally credulous reporter. “And to make light of that is really a bad idea.”
But Blaxill has been making light of published science for years, as he tap dances around inconvenient facts and reams of data. Speaking at an AutismOne media roundtable discussion last spring, Blaxill called on his favorite straw man when asked to defend the epidemic – “There is (sic) no data that it’s better diagnosis. That’s just something people say to make themselves feel better,” said Blaxill.
Blaxill is partly right. Changes in diagnostic criteria alone are not enough to explain the rise is autism. But nobody is saying that. D’oC at Autism Street explains:
The classic straw man argument. No one is saying that it’s only better diagnosis – so it’s unlikely that there would be any data presented to that effect – ever. What’s being said is that there is no evidence of any autism “epidemic”, and that better, earlier, and very different diagnoses are taking place than in previous years. Here’s a quick summary of my take on what’s really being said by the scientific community:
1. There is no scientific evidence of an autism “epidemic” – not from CDDS autism caseload data, not from special education data, and not from the descriptive epidemiology.
2. The diagnostic criteria have changed.,
3. Average age of diagnosis is decreasing.
4. Better awareness and recognition are likely (if not certain).
5. Diagnostic substitution has taken place.
6. There are probably numerous other factors influencing the number of autism diagnoses.
Anthropologist and author Richard Grinker makes a more thorough case against the epidemic in his bookUnstrange Minds.
Blaxill’s argument for an autism epidemic comes down to this:
But if you believe that it’s always been with us then, something, a population epidemiologist, or a population statistician once calculated that were, before 1930, there were, uh, a 100 billion born, in the history of the world. Homo Sapiens. You know, rough calculation. If you take 30 per 10,000, 60 per 10,000, 70 per 10,000 that means that before Leo Kanner discovered autism, there would have been 300 million, 600 million, 700 million people born in the history of the world with autism. You don’t miss these children, you don’t miss these people. Where were these people before 1930? They did not exist.
Not very convincing. Most of the people who ever walked the earth lived out their nasty, brutish, short lives before Columbus set sail. It’s hard for us pampered moderns to really understand what life was like before antibiotics, vaccines, public sanitation, refrigeration, and surgery, much less even a rudimentary understanding germs, nutrition and disease processes. The worst infant mortality rate today for children under five is 28%. What chance would a two-year-old with classic autism have in, say, a 12th century peasant family in northern Europe? Or a west African hunter gatherer clan? Furthermore, he conflates classic autism, which comprises one-third of the autism spectrum, with higher functioning forms such as Asperger’s syndrome. Blaxill’s “evidence” is ludicrous, sloppy, and dishonest.
But good enough for Fox News.