As I reported two days ago, the blogger previously known only as Sullivan has revealed himself to be none other than Matt Carey, an industrial researcher in computer hardware who himself has an autistic child. And this bit of news was very unfortunate for professional reality denier J.B. Handley, who vowed several months ago that if Sullivan was revealed to be someone other than Bonnie Offit, he would–well, here’s how he put it [emphasis mine]:
Bonnie Offit, or Sullivan for that matter, I have a simple offer: If you can produce a dad with a child with autism with a remarkable grasp of the medical and scientific literature who blogs under the name Sullivan, a man who has an inordinate grasp of the details of your husband’s patents, lawsuits, published studies, and web habits, I will make sure that the pauloffit.com website is given to you and your husband for good.
In fact, if you can produce this father, I promise to never, ever publicly write about or utter the name “Paul Offit” again.
I’m waiting, Bonnie, and I have a funny feeling I will be waiting a very long time.
That very long time was five months and indeed, now that father has been produced. Now two days ago, I joined my fellow skeptical bloggers in speculating that Handley would backpedal and make excuses why he would not carry out his end of his “offer.” But to our collective surprise, Handley actually seems willing to follow through. . .to a point:
In a previous post, I speculated that Sullivan was actually Bonnie Offit, wife of a not-to-be-mentioned vaccine millionaire. Mr. Carey’s personal outing of himself renders my speculation incorrect. As many ravenous members of the dark side I’m sure have mentioned, I also made a simple promise that if Sullivan was NOT Bonnie Offit, I would not utter said name of said leader of the Dark Side. I also offered to give up the website http://www.pauloffit.com Apparently, Mr. Carey is a parent of a child with autism. Matt, if you’re reading this, note that I really have no interest in writing about or attacking other parents, and you can expect similar treatment. My enemies are the AAP, CDC, and the vaccine makers themselves, as well as their well-paid minions. Since you don’t appear to be in any of those camps and have a kid just like me, I don’t have the heart.
So he has agreed to give up the domain http://www.pauloffit.com and is no longer referring to Offit by name. But that wasn’t really the deal now was it. Handley said: “I promise to never, ever publicly write about or utter the name “Paul Offit” again.” Not using his name was only the second condition; the first was to no longer write about him. Now it remains to be seen whether he’ll carry out that first condition from here on out, but if his childish concession is just going to be referring to Offit by thinly veiled hateful epithets to further vilify him, then I’d say that not only is he not carrying out his promise but he’s behaving even more despicably than before.
Now Handley is perfectly free to go on living in his delusional, black and white fantasy world where every reputable health organization on planet Earth is an agent of the “Dark Side” that’s out to get us but this sort of dehumanizing rhetoric has serious consequences.
I always like to put to conspiracy theorists the challenge to actually kill or capture the specific people they claim to be absolutely certain are really secretly ruling the world and destroying lives because I’m confident that they lack the courage of their convictions. But all it takes is just one crazed fanatic Age of Autism reader to take Handley’s hyperbolic rhetoric deadly seriously, and we could potentially have another Timothy McVeigh or Jared Lee Loughner on our hands. Now I’m not trying to suggest that a hyperbolic rhetoric can turn a perfectly sane individual into a psychotic killer or that the person who unintentionally sets off such a maniac is to blame for their actions. But nevertheless there are people out there who are already wound up and just need a trigger to set them off like a powder keg, and because we know those people are out there, it’s prudent to show a little integrity and self restraint by easing back on the dehumanizing rhetoric.
I’ll even admit to going too far in my own rhetoric from time to time, but I try to avoid it. Listen, whatever Handley thinks about me and the rest of his critics, I don’t believe he or any other anti-vaccinationists are agents of the “Dark Side” or are deliberately endangering the lives of children. I do, however, think that they’ve been misled into embracing an ideology and have formed an unhealthy emotional attachment to certain belief that runs contrary to the scientific facts and which has led them down a path that is unintentionally killing kids. I do not think Handley is Darth Vader or Voldemort or any other name associated with the epitome of evil.