RFK Jr - investigative journalist?
If you've been wondering why I haven't written about the Autism and Thimerosal article in last Thursday's Salon.com, wonder no further. I've been taking the time to research the article, so I could comment competently.
And what I've found is disappointing, given the topic and the article's hype.
Read it here, rather than Salon, so you don't have to sit through a commercial. Your first impression may match mine - a conspiratorial approach that reads like a paranoid thriller. But you can read the original conference transcript here for yourself.
What? You don't want to read a 268 page .pdf file? Why not??
Fine - here's what I found. Some of what RFK Jr wrote is simply bunk. This was a large conference, over 50 participants, held in run-of-the-mill conference center a few miles outside of Atlanta, because that's where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is. There was a technology conference in the city, which apparently occupied all of the available space there, according to the organizers.
No notes or materials allowed to leave? Nonsense. Check out the request from one of the participants to get copies of slides for everyone, and the half-hearted request at the end for everyone to embargo their materials until the end of that month, when they would be made public.
But the most telling thing about this transcript is simply that it has been available on the web since November 2003. All of the other "references" that RFK Jr make are out there as well, some of it years old. The quotes that he picked out are the same quotes from an article at momsonamissionforautism.org, also dated 2003. Search for the quotes, particularly the "plaintiff" ones in the .pdf file, and you'll find that the participants who spoke them were hardly being surreptitious.
This was an RFK clip job, and not a good one.
Why oh why did he have to write this? Sure, the democraticunderground.com loves it, but this should have been written some time ago, by a real journalist, in somewhat less inflammatory tones.
Why? Because the story itself is real. Epidemiology matters! (What a great bumper sticker that would make!)
As my friends at Breast Cancer Action like to point out, the quest for cures is only part of the story, and perhaps not even the most compelling. But the rising incidence of autism has been so ridiculously dramatic over the last 15 years, that no one involved has missed it. This point is missed by the pink ribbon bunch, who ignore the doubling of breast cancer incidence in the last few decades, but that's another story.
I've blasted this article here, but I cannot urge you enough to read more on this topic. You may have read that Bill Frist is trying to attach a rider to a homeland security bill to give legal immunity to vaccine manufacturers, or that ABC tanked a story on RFK and Autism. I suppose if his article gains the issue some attention, than it's all for the good. Again, I just wish a real journalist, who knows how to attribute, had written it first.