Thank goodness for the internet. Only by ranting here, am I able to restrain myself from screaming in people's faces, waving my arms around like a crazy person.

Take today. I volunteer at a school for learners with autism (in South Africa, school-going pupils or students are called "learners"). During breaktime, while supervising the children, I chatted with two teacher's aides. We were talking about the best places to purchase books online. The one lady (who completed a psychology degree and should know better) said that she saw a book by Jenny McCarthy about autism and it was over R300 ($40) in the shops. I told her that I wouldn't buy a book by Jenny McCarthy about autism, it's a load of codswallop. She responded that she DID buy it, at that price!

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. How do I respond? The third lady didn't know who Jenny McCarthy was, so I delighted in telling her that she was a porn star who is now dating Jim Carrey and her son was diagnosed with autism. She had written a book about how he was cured through prayer, God and diet, mainly. The other lady confirmed that she believed in this, especially the diet part. I said that my main problem with McCarthy was her anti-vaccination stance. Jenny-fan-crazy-person said that she was NOT anti-vax! That's a common misconception, but she saw her on tv recently and Jenny insisted that she has never been anti-vaccination. I guessed, "on Oprah?" and she said yes.

I don't know how you all feel, but I can't watch Oprah. My brain won't let me. I'm not kidding, I become physically ill when I hear about Oprah-related anything.

Jenny-fan continued to tell oblivious lady that Jenny had some great points about vaccinations, namely that they contain heavy metals and that parents should choose very carefully which vaccinations to give to their children. For example, she said, measles, mumps and rubella are curable diseases, so there is no need to give your child the MMR vaccine. I told her that she should search for Jenny McCarthy on Scienceblogs and just read what Orac has to say about Jenny's advice. I doubt she will ever google for opposing views on McCarthy's nuggets of wisdom. The reason I doubt this is because the lady said that she believes that parents of children with autism know far more about autism than doctors.

Let's all take a break quickly just to digest that.


I said that Jenny said her child had been cured of autism, which is incurable and therefore she is either lying or the child was misdiagnosed in the first place. This caused McCarthy-fan great triumph. "Exactly!" she exclaimed, "you shouldn't trust doctors, they misdiagnose cases!" At this point my incredulity was starting to show on my face, so I changed the subject to how much the book cost online. She said after buying it, she saw it online for $13 and there was another book by McCarthy that she also wanted to buy.


I don't want to get into the facts about autism and vaccinations in this post, I just wanted to convey my dismay to a larger audience than my long-suffering partner. When researching any issue, consider the sources of your info. "Mother of child with disorder X" is not good. "Doctor who spent many years researching disorder X and published several peer reviewed papers in respected journals" is better. References at the end of articles = good. Photos of your boobs = not good. And if you're going to buy Jenny McCarthy books, it's cheaper to buy online.

Views: 105

Comment by a7 on October 21, 2009 at 10:08am
You did well not to punch the girl in quiestion, well done man.

On a different subject, please join my think atheist group, men of think atheist were you will find the positives about the jenny.

Comment by Dave G on October 21, 2009 at 10:38am
I sympathize, Prazzie.
Comment by Nix Manes on October 21, 2009 at 10:41am
Sometimes people will substitute what is easily understood for what is difficult to understand, even if what is easy is wrong.

People do want knowledge. But if the knowledge is difficult to grasp (a lot of science is hard to understand, let's face it), an easy answer is chosen, if it seems at all fathomable on the surface. As we know, once that happens it's hard to get such a person to move off the position because the truth might be too hard or detailed to bother with trying to understand.

(My father bought several copies of that book last year and gave them out as presents. I'm not kidding.)
Comment by Courtney Keahey on October 21, 2009 at 12:58pm
First, I want to agree with your stance on educating oneself. Nothing is more annoying to me than someone that agrees with a celebrity just because she had the resources to publish a book. Celebrity worship in this country is disgusting.
I have to point out some issues with your facts. First, Jenny McCarthy is not a porn star, nor has she ever been one. She modeled for Playboy. Second, not a lot is known about Autism, but they have found that in some cases diet can help manage Autism, however, it's not a cure.
I have to wonder why you feel qualified to tell someone about a book and its author that you obviously haven't read and don't really know anything about. There is no cure for autism, she never claims there is one.
I am not a fan of Jenny McCarthy and I have never read her book, but I have seen her website and I do know a little about Autism (I have a nephew with Autism). I still would not feel qualified enough to talk to someone about that book and its author.
Comment by Reggie on October 21, 2009 at 1:06pm
Way to stand up to such nonsense, even if it appeared ineffective.

On Facebook, there is an Autism group that I joined some time ago. I mosey over there from time to time and the last time I did, there were many anti-vaxers peddling their nonsense. There were a few people soldiering for science and facts, but they were outnumbered, it seemed. I posted a video about causation/correlation and the pitfalls of using that as evidence, especially in using it for the basis of their particular belief. Instead of watching the video or doing research, they just stated that it happened after the vaccine so it was vaccines and they are the parent and they know better than anyone.


Oh, and good post. Now Featured!
Comment by Prazzie on October 21, 2009 at 2:34pm
Thanks for the comments everyone.

Courtney, I suppose that your views on McCarthy as a porn star depend on what you define as pornography. The Amazon comments on the one video indicate that at least the guys who buy Jenny's DVDs consider it porn and her a star!

However little is known about autism, that vaccines don't cause it is well established, that chelation is not an effective treatment is well established, that a healthy diet with restricted sugar intake improves behaviour in some, but not all children with autism is well known, but not clinically significant (a healthy diet should be implemented by default in any case for everyone). McCarthy lies about all these things.

The reason I feel qualified to comment on McCarthy's book is because I have read about her stance and the anti-vax movement extensively. I felt that Orac's discussions of her books and her own articles online (which I have read!) gave me enough information to spare me actually having to read her entire book. McCarthy has been vocal about her son Evan being "cured" and "recovered from" autism, she has stated that autism is "reversible" and her one book is entitled "Louder than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism".

When it comes to Jenny's lies and the anti-vax movement in general, I'm pretty savvy on the literature :) I just tend to read the rebuttals from scientists rather than the woo, purely because of time restraints.
Comment by Prazzie on October 21, 2009 at 2:37pm
Reggie, do you know anything about Andrew Wakefield's fraudulent paper that started the whole mess? I read about it some time ago and now it seems there is a brouhaha over it. The Times Online article has a notice stating "This article is subject to an on-going Press Complaints Commission complaint". I wonder what that's all about.
Comment by Prazzie on October 21, 2009 at 2:40pm
Nix, did you get a copy of the book? Maybe you could take us on a guided tour :)
Comment by Pitabred on October 21, 2009 at 2:44pm
I know it's kinda rude to post links to my own blog, but I just had to share my bit about the anti-vaccination nuts. I wrote up" target="_blank">this post in response to an article by Bill Sardi. I sent him my article, because I believe in letting people know when I think that they're imbeciles, and he started threatening to sue me for copyright infringement as his first response. It's just... sad.
Comment by Pitabred on October 21, 2009 at 2:45pm
...what the heck? My link was totally macerated by using the little button. Testing it again


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