Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away*
JB Handley used to be the news and entertainment media’s go-t0 guy for acerbic quotes about vaccines and autism, or what editors call “balance”. The founder of Generation Rescue, arguably the largest, best-funded anti-vaccine group in the world, was adept at playing reporters and credulous talk-show hosts.
But those days are gone. As an unrelenting stream of scientific and legal setbacks rocks the anti-vaccine movement, fewer journalists feel an obligation to balance the consensus of medical science with the unhinged rants of the nation’s number one vaccine rejectionist. A case in point: a Google News search of “World Autism Awareness Day” and “vaccines” for the first three days of April yields zero hits. The old media narrative of “some people think vaccines might cause autism” has given way to “vaccine rejectionism puts children at risk.”
The purported vaccine-autism link is dead. Survivors include Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, and Alien Elvis. Interment will be held in Area 51. In lieu of flowers, mourners can send contributions to Unicorn Rescue.
But Handley isn’t going down without a fight, and in a fawning, two-part interview on a fringe “progressive” blog, he attacks the media for ignoring him. Progressive politics has a long, proud history in the US, and its accomplishments include a 40-hour work week, minimum wage laws, civil rights, and national parks. Absent from the list are measles, mumps, pertussis, and a other vaccine-preventable diseases.
Among the subjects that inflate Handley’s voice is the mainstream media and “how ignorant they are” when they report on vaccines and autism. They don’t even know how many shots kids get, he said, citing coverage of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines as the classic case in point.
He tells his interviewer, Steven Higgs, an adjunct professor at Indiana University, of an “emerging consensus that the autism epidemic is real and caused by environmental toxins.” In fact, scientific consensus tells us there are no reliable data for or against an autism epidemic. The point apparently escapes Higgs.
Remarkably, Handley “repeatedly emphasized that he has no idea what causes autism,” and that he “couldn’t prove vaccines contributed to his son’s (autism)in a court of law.” But only a week ago Handley boasted that he would “bring the US vaccine program to its knees,” apparently over an unproven hunch.
* Antigonish, by Williams Hughes Mearns