Sorry to apply this television media term to a serious scientific matter but I’m mainly using it to mock J.B. Handley, who recently used it in his immature attack on Dr. David Gorski. But the phrase isn’t completely out of place here as Age of Autism stepped into a bit of controversy today with an incredibly juvenile attack on their most outspoken critics, [LINK UPDATED 12.3.09 WITH GOOGLE'S CACHE BECAUSE AOA PULLED THE ENTRY OFF THEIR SITE] you know, actual medical, vaccine, and autism experts.
This entry of theirs is among the more overt examples of their bias, the cult-like influence they have over their readers, and their commitment to focusing on despicable ad hominem attacks over actual scientific arguments and academic rigor.
Now as always, the comment section is full of irrational, nonsensical, vitriolic, fundamentalist tirades (and yes, I’m aware that this sentence includes character attacks but I will attempt to rise above ad hominem by backing up my character attacks with rational argument). But just don’t trust me though; by all means go to the site and judge for yourself. What is unusual for Age of Autism though is that they’re suddenly accepting negative comments, even less than civil ones, whereas I don’t recall a single comment I’ve ever made on their site ever getting published no matter how civil I made it. This could mean that they’re deliberately trying to collect some of the harsher comments as something to point to in order to make their critics look nuts. But whatever the case, several comments come from alleged fans of the site who expressed their disgust over this latest stunt along with a statement that they would not return to Age of Autism. Of course, there’s no way of knowing whether these were the true feelings of actual former fans of the site but they may very well be.
What’s also strange is that such outrage came about as a result of a stunt that’s really no lower than anything else Age of Autism has done. All they do on Age of Autism is ad hominem attacks against their critics and praising media exposure of their ideology. I sure as hell can’t find anything on the site that makes a coherent scientific argument. And here are just a few examples of me giving point-by-point criticisms of Age of Autism articles that seem particularly light on science and substance but far heavier than this particular instance on ad hominem attack and dishonest reporting here, here, here, here (also from Adriana Gamondes who’s responsible for the latest offending article), here, here (the second item in the list), here, and here. Again, that’s just to name a few examples. For the truly masochistic, use them to play the Age of Autism Drinking Game where you drink every time an article hurls baseless insults at those that don’t agree with them.
Though there may be an explanation for some of the particular outrage over this particular article beyond just its overall offensiveness, a new site called Countering Age of Autism. The site’s latest entry encourages readers to go after Age of Autism’s inclusion in the Google News Feed given that Age of Autism is not a news source but, by their own admission, just an “edgy” blog. Of course, this is just editor Mark Blaxill’s attempt to disown any responsibility for the harm he causes. It’s like Oprah claiming that she’s just putting out information to her audience and expects them to do all the research to determine the validity of any scientific claims presented on her show themselves. But as Uncle Ben taught us, with great power comes great responsibity. And if you have an audience that listens to you and trusts you, you are accountable for what you say, regardless of how you might try to spin your more repulsive tactics as light-hearted satire.
To be honest, I’m not really offended by Age of Autism’s latest stunt. I’ve seen far worse from them and had no expectations that they were better than this. And I’m surely guilty of equally offensive images on this blog from time to time. Though of course I tend to back up my position with substantive facts more often than not. Sure, I’m guilty of Godwin’s Law from time to time. I’ve compared the Catholic Church to Nazis and actually intend to write a particularly long piece either here or elsewhere soon that further attacks the Catholic Church. But it will be very long because I plan to illustrate my points with lots and lots of legitimate examples to prove my points. Bottom line is that I too am not above controversy and offending people. I actually tend to enjoy offending certain types of people (Go fuck yourself, Handley, you despicable douchebag). But what’s important to me is that this particular Age of Autism blog seemed to penetrate that veneer of righteousness that Age of Autism’s PR people have been so successful building and caused some to question that facade. Of course only time will tell if this marks the decline of the anti-vaccine propagandists the way we’ve seen a sharp decline in 9/11 denialism.
But to think, this wasn’t even the only straight hit piece the site put up today. Having learned that Denial author Michael Specter would be featured on the Daily Show this week, thehthe site urged its readers to express their outrage to Comedy Central. I on the other hand intend to write the network to express the opposite view and I encourage my few readers to do the same.