Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When Age Of Autism Attacks

Over at Age of Autism, J.B. Handley has launched a broadside against the Internet persona known as "Sullivan".  In his attack, Mr Handley alleges that "Sullivan" is not the father of a child with autism as he claims but rather the pseudonym of one Dr. Bonnie Offit - the wife of the infamous Dr. Paul Offit.

Mr. Handley gives all sort of reasons for his allegations, reasons ranging from a comment that he found that refers to "Sullivan" as "her" to the fact that s/he never talks about his/her child to the fact that s/he defends Dr. Paul Offit at every opportunity to the fact that s/he is a person who is "smart, organized in their thinking, and extremely facile with complex medical terminology."

As an aside, that last reason makes me wonder who exactly he is talking about.  The Sullivan that I have run across and who posts at Left Brain Right Brain may be intelligent but s/he tends to make rather glaring mistakes whenever s/he tries to deal with any complex subject.

Regardless, I have to say that while I won't agree with Sullivan on much, s/he does not deserve this type of treatment.  I don't care if "Sullivan" is a humble father, Dr. Bonnie Offit, or a gaggle of evil pharmaceutical shills, it is not acceptable to attack the person.

So, Age of Autism, I think you owe "Sullivan" - whoever he/she/they might be - an apology.  Let the poor guy have his anonymity so he can continue to spread ignorance in peace.


  1. An item of interest:
    In Sullivan's own account of an exchange mentioned by Handley, Blaxill is quoted as saying, ", “The only definitive way to resolve the ambiguity is full disclosure of the amounts Offit received from all sources and he has declined to do so. So we have no plans at the moment to act on this or any other new information.” Thus, it appears that at the time, far from seeing grounds to suspect a member of Offit's household, AoA'a own editors could not be convinced that "Sullivan" had even been in direct contact with Paul Offit.

  2. Perhaps they changed their minds?

  3. Hi MJ -

    I sort of like Sullivan; among the gang of regulars at LBRB, I think he's the most reasonable.

    And compared to JB, he's far, far ahead in civility, intelligence, writing style, and pretty much any other metric you want to be on the positive side of.

    One has to wonder if JB read the painstakingly detailed post Sullivan did about some idiot in California who successfully lobbied against a group home for disabled persons on the grounds that they were more likely to be sexual predators?

    The AOA guys are really flaking out; they are their own worst enemy, but are too dumb to see it. That kind of post is a gold mine for the 'skeptics' that will keep on giving; eternal ammunition to make the point that they are idiots.

    - pD

  4. MJ, I agree.

    The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, and stooping to such measures is appalling.

  5. pD,

    As you could probably tell, I don't care too much for Sullivan. He is a bit on the fanatical side and spends an inordinate amount of time attacking people (such as Wakefield) and being actively anti-anti-vaccine. I got tired of that sort of thing a while back so I just started basically ignoring everything that he said.

    Though, to be fair, he might have changed and become more measured and I just haven't noticed. Or I could be complete wrong about him. Who knows.

    As for the AoA folks, you are right, they are their own worse enemy. They certainly like to shoot themselves in the foot on a regular basis. But then again, LBRB has a similar problem and engages in the same sort of fanaticism, just in different areas.

  6. Hi MJ
    I do think that the situation is such as you presented.
    I have been there when in 2004 first found LB/RB and when AoA appeared, also.
    BUT , even when both have the kind of bias presented one for one side other for other sometimes and I disagree with certain posters in AoA, I always keep in mind the nature of both.
    AoA is written by parents of children wtih autism and is supposed to have a clear and open position on the topic. They are not scientists that must be objective and being objective on this topic is difficult.That does not imply that I consider adequate to attack someone or many people as happens in both places. LB/RB has its own agenda and follows it. I am OK with that, whatever the mistreatment, misreprenting they do more times than I remember of the majority of the parents doing biomed. The main point is that LB/RB wants to be representative.
    Nor for me. I stop reading a long long time ago.
    Therefore IMO we have basically for me two different groups of parents, autistic adults, therapists and doctors thinking different about autism, what it is, its causes, diagnosis and treatmens. Being a mother of an autistic child and a scientist- but not in autism- is difficult in terms of maintaining the needed objective point of view, especially when you have clinical strong evidence aligning clearly with the non-accepted or consensuated view in mainstreamed majority medical science and the personal analysis of the supposed high quality evidence of vaccine safety/ or lack of environmental strong component demonstrates that it is not such, in agreement with many posters of AoA. I do my best. However, consensus does not equal the truth.To challenge consensus is not bad.
    The point is that if we want to approach to the overall situation with a strict scientific point of view, objectivity should be the norm. And in mainstreamed this seemed to imply the dismissal of parents concerns ( about concomitant exposures of vaccines and antibiotics and pediatric management of childhood) and in the extremists of biomed to consider all proven in advance.
    For me neither of the extremists position are useful, but I have found much more clues and help in AoA - and more close to my anecdotic evidence and situation,as a philosophy, even when I may disagree strongly with some. You know when I first begun, I felt so much close to ND because the core idea is one that all of us I do think adopt: the need of acceptation and love and accomodation of our autistic children needs. But the situation has deteriorated so much in terms of bias (anti -anti vaccine and antibiomed) that become anti- anti whatever.
    I consider biomed fundamental for the QoL for my son, in the context of the ND acceptation of his differences today- that may be different thanks to biomed in the future. I accept what happens today and work all levels to a better future (including in health).
    In this situation I still read everything I consider potentially interesting and useful but participate only when I feel confortable. And you may imagine where it is.

  7. Hi Maria,

    You raise some very good points. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the day to day of the infighting in the autism world and loose sight of where everyone is coming from.