First off, I want to thank everyone who wrote or posted messages of thanks and/or congratulations. As those of you who watched the proceedings easily saw . . . nobody was expecting THAT. Wow. Four hours of vaccine-causes-autism theory. I was stunned. We haven't been in conversations like that since 2005. This subject didn't just dominate the proceedings, it monopolized them.
What appears to have happened—which I can explain—is that SafeMinds, a vaccine theory organization, out-organized all of us. They had their members camp out in the hallway so as to take all the seats in the back, and thereby have a home-field advantage towards what testimony was applauded, and what testimony was hissed at and booed. Many people on the spectrum showed up on time, but not early like the SafeMinds crowd, and so lost a chance at a seat in the proceedings, and had to watch from another room.
What appears to have happened—which I CANNOT explain—is that several members of the House—and not just the infamous Dan Burton—actually buy into the vaccine-causes-autism theories. And those that may have been neutral, were swayed by the SafeMinds crowd, imagining them to represent the majority opinion in our autism/Asperger world, and so they too pandered to them in a way that I hope makes them feel foolish down the road.
For all of your expressions of sympathy given the hostile atmosphere I/we were in, remember that preaching to the choir only goes so far. It'll always be a more productive encounter to be heard in the camp of one's ideological opponent. That said, I was devastated within that meeting to discover that the House of Representatives was an ideological opponent. The vaccine issue was dead and buried with the CDC rates in 2006/2007, when they jumped from 1 in 166, to 1 in 150. Yet the rhetoric and idiot science seems bought hook, line, and sinker by the House Committee. While I would never expect them to know the full history behind this debate, I would expect them to be able to see that the best leadership this movement has been able to muster is an ex-Playboy bunny (with no disrespect intended to ex-Playboy bunnies—they just probably shouldn't be the factors in determining what causes autism) and a racist shock jock. And I would also expect them to have noticed the recent outbreaks of preventable diseases, especially in California and Minnesota, as a result of this movement. The infant mortalities (1 only so far) in the future that may arise, thanks to the legitimization of these minority—and quack science—opinions, are now also on the heads of congress.
For those of you who did not watch the proceedings but wish to, please click here. It's over 3-1/2 hours long.
Part 1 of the proceedings (2 hours, 45 minutes?) is where you will see Committee members grill representatives from the CDC, for almost three hours, insinuating often that when they report no connection between vaccines and autism, that therefore there's been a coverup. You'll see these House members berate them, ask them questions—yet not wait for an answer before asking another question—only to pander to the SafeMinds crowd. You'll even see a ridiculously low-budget video that Rep. Burton forced everyone to watch.
But you'll also see a failure on the part of the CDC reps to stand up to the bullying (and no, it's not a stretch to use that word). I got the sense that while they did not pander to the ignorant questions—they in fact answered directly with science—they simply wanted to leave the room, and not fight back. I felt that not arguing the more strongly against the ridiculousness that they full well knew existed in that room . . . that this only encouraged the SafeMinds crowd, and the reps, to harangue them further.
Part 2 of the proceedings is where you will see testimony from us, and other panelists, as well as the Q&A that followed. Many of you have expressed outrage that I was not allowed to finish my remarks. In truth, I was over time, or, more over time than others who'd gone past the 5 minute length. What I would maybe criticize is that one of the bullies was acting as Chair in Issa's absence, who had initially given me the chance to finish my last paragraph, cut me off when I expressed my disappointment that in 2012 we were spending so much time discussing a dead issue. The timing doth betray :-)
Again, all of you, thank you. After such a circus day, I had to exit in a whirlwind right after the proceedings to catch a plane to Kansas, where I now write in a hotel room. But after such a frustrating and disappointing day . . . to open my computer and find such support—almost 250 messages on various internet outlets—I can't tell you how validated that made me feel. Thank you. You were watching, and you saw through the circus. Please forgive me if I'm unable to respond to all the posts individually.
What to do in the future, about this newly-discovered congressional mudpit? Well, GRASP long ago realized that we don't have the manpower to have a strong DC presence, but hopefully those who do can muster up some response to yesterday's shenanigans. But the hardest task, I believe, is that we do have to thank the House for at least holding a hearing on autism. This was a step. It felt like two steps backwards for the one step forward, but hopefully they won't come across as so shabby, bullying, misinformed, and manipulative next time around. If we universally condemn them for making the effort, they won't do it again. Remember that while it's a sin to be a jerk, it's not a sin to be stupid.
Lastly, the version of my testimony that is on the congressional website, is old, as I continued to tweak up until the last minute. The final version can be found here.