Monday, October 26, 2009

Left Brain Right Brain's Jabberwocky

Jabberwocky (noun)
Nonsensical speech or writing

I think this one word sums up quite nicely where the once interesting site Left Brain Right Brain is heading.  I may not have agreed with much of what they have said but at least they were able make their points clearly and intelligently. But lately, clarity and intelligence seem to be heading out the window to be replaced with dogma, nonsense, and mean-spiritedness.

Consider the recent anonymous stalking of the mother whose child has autism.  I don't like to resort to name calling but I have no other words to describe this post where some pathetic person calling themselves "Guest Blogger" vomited years worth of hatred towards a mother simply because she was trying everything she could to help her child.  You may agree or disagree with what this mother did but you do not do what this "Guest Blogger".  You do not stalk a person online for years and then publish their correspondence to e-mail lists on a blog, out of context, and then hold them up for public ridicule.

This post represents mean-spiritedness at its worst and illustrates quite clearly the divide in the autism community.  I think it also shows how far Left Brain Right Brain has sunk.

Moving out of the slime pit, we come to a series of posts that are an attempt to analyze the recent NSCH data.  If you want a case study in how to do a poor job analyzing data, these posts are it.  In them we are treated to direct comparisons of prevalence to incidence, miss use of survey data, and a distortion of the meaning of time.  I took the time to debunk one of the posts but I didn't bother to address the others; it was too much like playing whac-a-mole (but without the fun).

But, I have to say that my favorite was the last one that looked at the "recovered" group in the NSCH data.  The group refers to the children who once had a label of autism but no longer do.  If you look at the number of this group compared to the total number of children who had autism and you end up with a controversial figure that has been dubbed the "recovery rate".  Some groups claim that is shows that children can be recovered from autism while others, like LBRB, say that the whole thing is just nonsense.

However, the only definitive nonsense is the analysis on LBRB.  Here the writers on LBRB apparently seem unable to distinguish between a child's birth year and the linear progression of time.  The result is a claim that this "recovery rate" is going down "with time".  Yet, if you look at the helpful graph on the page what you will see if that this "recovery rate" isn't going down with time, it is going down with the child's age.  Or to put it another way, the older the child, the higher the chance that they will be "recovered".  Since children tend to age from younger to older and since a hypothetical recovery would take time, I would have to conclude that the data actually says the opposite of what the writers claim.

Good thing LBRB didn't let a little thing like reality get in the way of a good story.

Anyway, moving forward in time (real time, not child birth years), we come to the latest of the absurdities, the posts about the IACC.

First up, we have the top seven mistakes that were made in the Dr. Landis issue.  Strangely absent from this list of mistakes is Dr. Landis writing down inappropriate comments in the first place.  Call me silly, but I think that was the first, largest, and most important mistake made in the whole mess.  If you are going to write trash about someone, you really should make sure that the trashee doesn't find out about it or read it online.

But, apparently writing the comments down was just fine with the rational people at LBRB.  According to them, the problem was that Dr. Landis was careless with her notes AND she should have stood up for her right to imply that her committee college was distorting the work of the IACC for their own personal ends.

That would have been a great way to rebuild the missing trust in the autism community.

The other beef that LBRB had?  That "Age of Autism decided that a surprise attack was more important that gathering all the facts and published the blog piece without comment from Dr. Landis."

I have to wonder if they gave the mother that they attacked the same courtesy?

Next, we have a call to "stop the intimidation tactics towards the IACC".  The arguments in this post get a little strange, but I think the main point is that criticizing the actions of members of the IACC should not be allowed.  I am not sure how this is intimidation, as far as I can see their are are threats or midnight visits to peoples houses.  No one has been kidnapped nor is their any blackmail.  But there has been (gasp) calls for a congressional investigation, a lawsuit, disagreements about research, and calls for committee members to resign.

In other words, politics as usual for this country.

The primary target of the post, here again, is Age of Autism.  Did you know that Age of Autism is apparently a cabal that represent all of those "anti-vaccine" groups.  Don't they know that they lost the autism omnibus and that less families are filing claims in vaccine court?

Wait, that didn't make any sense, but then again, neither did the post.

Finally, we have the declaration of war that has apparently been made against Tom Insel and the IACC by those "anti-vaccine" groups.  You know, the "anti-vaccine" cabal headed by Age of Autism.  They have their "friendly forces" which must mean it is an all out war against the IACC (no, the original post didn't make any sense either).

So, how was the war started, what was the shot heard around the world?  Simple, Age of Autism ran a post that called for Dr Insel to resign.

You know, there ought to be a law preventing just anyone from voicing their opinion about their government.  Maybe at the very least a questionnaire that asks something like "have you, or anyone you know, ever questioned the safety and effectiveness of vaccines".  If they answer yes, then by all means, prevent them from speaking or writing anything online, they could be dangerous.

I have to wonder when it became unacceptable to question the status quo.  I also have to wonder why anyone who questions the party lines of "autism is genetic" and "there is no epidemic of autism" suddenly gets labeled as "anti-vaccine".  It must be all of the open mindedness.

Anyway, it took just two days in LBRB time  for the "intimidation" to become an all-out "war" against the IACC.  I know that time moves faster on the internet, but I would have at least thought there might have been some posturing, chest thumping, or skirmishes between the two groups.

Then again, is it even possible for a small group of private citizens to intimidate a government committee, let alone declare war on it?  I think the only war here is Left Brain Right Brain's war on reality.

But seriously, Left Brain Right Brain used to be a good site, even if only to act as a counter point in the ever-present autism-vaccines debate.  You can never get any closer to the understanding something if all you have to compare notes against are people who agree with you.

Left Brain Right Brain, may it rest in peace.


  1. Nicely written.
    There gang of LBRB stalkers are on the internet using intimidation techniques and stalking members on message boards.
    Some day these cyber bullies will be held accountable.
    The example you gave at the beginning of your blog is one of many.
    I have to agree , I have seen good writing , and clear points, but they have sunk very low .
    Apparently there seem to be physicians involved in this as well.
    A little investigating can get interesting.
    Just be sure they don't take your IP and pass it around , or harrass you personally by looking up your name under whois ! If you have a domain, - hide it.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.