From Ads to Ad Homs

Saturday was amazing. I got up at some ungodly hour, packed up the kids, drove up to my parents’ house, and my mom and I suited up… in Santa suits… to join 1500 Santas in a 5K run through the town where I grew up. And we did it in a blizzard, mofos! A BLIZZARD! And the rest of the day was up up up from there. Shopping, parties, pizza. It rocked.

Sunday was amazing, too… but for all different reasons.

My morning started with a coffee while checking FB to see who’s got good snark and who’s got stupid cartoon profile pictures. Instead of snark and snorks, I got an email from Kim Wombles informing me that Age of Autism has started their attack against me.

I wasn’t surprised. After the AMC awesomeness just before Thanksgiving and the Grant Park rally last May I knew I was on their radar. And Orac’s been warning me for months, and called their shot Thanksgiving Day. I was waiting for them. I was prepared… I thought.

Unfortunately, I’m naive. I expected them to come at me with information. I expected them to be angry. I expected them to call me names. I expected them to take my words out of context. I expected them to paint me as a bad mother. I expected them to use my son’s developmental delays against me. I expected them to show up here and on their own blogs.

But they play dirty.

They’ve taken my FB profile pic and posted it on their FB page with the caption:

This is the woman who fought to pull the SafeMinds PSA’s from the theatres. It’s her FB profile page photo. She is anti-choice and wants to tell you that mercury is safe and that Thimeosal is good – according to her blog. She trolls AofA regularly. As do all the pro-vaccine-injury bloggers.

It’s sly. A thinly veiled call to arms against me. They’ve called me ugly. They’ve called me negligent. They’ve threatened to call child protective services on me. They’ve vaguely threatened violence. They’ve threatened my face. They’ve threatened to rape me with broken thermometers. They’ve posted my full name and my face… and worse…the pic is not just me; it’s me and Delaney, my infant daughter. They dragged my daughter into this. They’re attacking my baby. She’s 6 months old. And she’s being threatened.

I’m sickened and saddened and disturbed by this.

What kind of stand up organization does this? Kim Stagliano, managing editor of AoA, is out promoting her book… a “hilarious book” about raising children with autism. She’s painting herself as a loving and human mom… while having her FB fans threaten to sodomize me with broken glass and heavy metals and mocking my baby.

We’ve reported the photo. Lots of people have reported the photo. So far, FB has not taken it down. Perhaps it’s too vague to be considered a threat. (We’re not saying you should hurt her… but here’s what she looks like and here’s her baby and here’s why you should hate her… hate her in the way that satisfies you the most. We won’t judge.)

AoA has responded  to several of the comments on the page (conversationally, not to condemn), but has not deleted any. Though, they did mention that they don’t wish autism on me and my children…. which, I guess is nice. Maybe they could also not wish thermometer murder rape on me? Or at least mention that it’s rude to shove broken glass and heavy metals into other people’s orifices unless it’s something that they specifically listed on their FetLife profile?

Fortunately, I have you people. You people are wonderful. Your love and support… your emails, Facebook messages, Twitter messages, comments at Orac’s blog and others… You people sure do know how to make a girl feel appreciated. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

A few people have asked if this changes anything for me. The answer is no. Not at all. In fact, while the story of AoA’s attack spread across Facebook and Twitter, I was in a board meeting discussing the future of the Hug Me I’m Vaccinated project… the future as we’ve always seen it. I’m not about to be bullied out of saving lives.

Now I’m confident that we are the good guys. And we are fighting the bad guys.

And my children? They are beautiful and they are amazing. I hope one day they are proud to have me as a mother. I hope they understand that doing the right thing is not easy, that saving the world is hard work, that we don’t back down because the bad guys tried to hurt us, that I love them and that they inspire me. I will make the world a better place because of that. Because I can.

Also? Seriously? My profile pic is the greatest profile pic in the history of Facebook:

Since we’re talking about it anyway, you know you can buy Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated T-shirts now? You can. So you should… unless you’re an XL… then you can’t because we’re out. But we’ll get more.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. FWIW, I stand with you, Elyse. AoA’s tactics are totally out of line. Have you considered contacting an attorney to see if you have any recourse?

  2. Elyse, first off as a mother and as a human being, I just want to say “I LOVE YOU”.

    Also, you are my hero. Because its one thing to go write funny blogs and stuff… and it’s another to put yourself on the front line. You are also smart enough to know your entire family will be involved if you are involved. But, THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES TO CHANGE THINGS.

    When you start getting the crazy attack reaction, it’s because they KNOW they have no rational response and they could never win if things like “facts” were used.

    Honestly, anymore the anti-vaxxers remind me of my UFO people. The evidence (or rather lack of evidence) is clear. But, it’s like they don’t want to disband the club. If you have invested so MUCH of your life and so MUCH of your time and indeed often money…how can you admit you were “wrong”? Plus, you get to be a “big person” on tv and “saving babies”! If they admit “hmm, ok maybe I wasn’t saving babies” then they become just..well…a regular person like the rest of us again.

    Point is, you are shaking their very foundations of their self image. It’s not about autism.

    Thankfully, you are a VERY strong woman. And as a mother I want to say that while your children may be “involved” your children will be PROUD of you. What they will be learning growing up with a mom that is fighting to make lives better for others, a mom that isn’t afraid to stand up, a mom that is more than just the sexy good looking lady that you are…that is a GIFT better than anything they will ever find wrapped under their tree.

    Thank you Elyse.

  3. I can’t imagine how women could threaten the sexual safety of another woman…and well, to add your baby into that. No words.

    Fortunately, as a PP mentioned, it’s because you’re doing right and good. I’ve had my son threatened before (for not raising him with god) and the fact is, most of these people are a lot of bark and almost no bite. Cowards with no integrity.

  4. Unsurprisingly, when they don’t have the supporting facts, they resort to thinly veiled threats. Keep up the good work and stay strong!

  5. What a bunch of wankers, concern trolling is one thing, unveiled threats are another.

    And yes, that is an awesome profile pic.

  6. Long time listener, first time caller…I’m pretty sure that’s conduct listed as prohibited by the Facebook TOS. I flagged them, let’s see how many it takes to get them taken down.

    You keep doing your good work. We got your back.

  7. You don’t stand alone. Hopefully that helps some.

    And I have no doubt your children will be proud to call you their mother. :-)

  8. As I have learned since I started moving in skeptic circles, to have certain people as enemies is a badge of honor. Hats off to you, Ms. Anders. May you keep fighting the good fight. You already have the high ground, intellectually, factually, and now morally too.

  9. As I mentioned over at RI, we’ve got your back, Elyse. I admire your courage at confronting the folks at AoA and SafeMINDS so brazenly, knowing that they, cowards that they are, will bring your family into the fight.

    Keep up the good fight, Elyse. You are inspiring.

  10. Elyse, you are awesome, and we will help you do to Age of Autism what the Australian Skeptics did to the Australian Vaccination Network!

  11. The folks above have good points.

    It used to be that people could disagree without playing dirty, threatening harm (even obliquely)or dragging people’s kids into it. No more. Now people default right to dirty, in-your-face attack mode.

    You have the facts on your side and you have lots of people supporting you. You even have a frickin’ laser beam on your head! ;-)

  12. Forget the threats, these people are just idiotic.

    “She is anti-choice” – Really?

    “wants to tell you that mercury is safe” – I can’t recall you ever saying anything even close to this…

    “and that Thimeosal is good” – Saying that something is preferable to fungal contamination isn’t exactly the same thing as saying that it’s good…

    “pro-vaccine-injury” – How intellectually vapid can you get?

    “By their deeds shall thee know them” and all that. Forget the threats, forget the violence, forget the mysogeny. This person has committed a crime against intellectual honesty. How can her followers continue to be so after reading such hyperbolic flatulence?

    Keep going, Elyse. You’ve made them show themselves for what they really are.

  13. My favorite quote in the responses: “Just checked out the skepchicks blog. Weird. Like some sort of dorkosphere rejects.”
    Many of the comments have a lot of anger and vitriol aimed at Elyse, which is sad and very unfortunate. However I’m not surprised that people are willing to make these kinds of statements when they truly believe their children have been damaged by something they see Elyse as supporting. These are the same thought processes at work when books are burned, or people for that matter like the “witch children” phenomena in Africa, and which fringe organizations and religious cults count on when keeping their followers true and unquestioning. Personal attacks are always easier than having a discussion on the merits for AoA because they always lose when it’s about the science; and I hope more people will notice what they are up to when this type of character assassination is attempted.
    And it’s always a good thing to page save any threats which is nice on FB where mostly real names are used, and take then seriously. Reporting to law enforcement FB threats is not likely to be ignored or dismissed in the current climate concerning cyber bullying and internet threats.

  14. Elyse, consider this a badge of honor. They wouldn’t be trying to slander and threaten you if you weren’t having an affect on their organization. Kudos.

    Also, your profile pic is amazing.

  15. Sadly, this is their modus operandi; they don’t have the intellectual stones to argue their points so they go for the personal attack. Keep up the good work Elyse and know that you aren’t flying solo on this one.

  16. A wonderful post, Elyse, about a disgusting attack. You know that we are all behind you.
    As mentioned on the AoA FB page, they know about Skepchick and someone has mentioned that the comments are censored or some such. Let’s see if they come knocking. If someone comes looking for a debate, a debate is what they will get, I reckon. But if someone comes looking to spew bile, hate and personal attacks, they will be rightfully dismissed, as we do even amongst ourselves.

    @mrmisconception: Easy cowboy. It’s not like they broke into her apartment and stole her laptop :)

  17. Just dropping by to show my support and, seriously, I hope FB does something about it. They shouldn’t be allowed to just get away with that.

    Your profile picture is truly awesome.

  18. Best. Profile pic. Ever.

    This behavior shows all the signs of an organization lashing out because they are backed into a corner. You’re winning. WE’RE winning BECAUSE of you! Keep fighting the good fight. We’re right behind you, imaginary broken mercury thermometers be damned.

  19. Elyse –

    I have two autistic sons. Both got all the usual vaccinations. My wife and I have no regrets about that. I am completely with you on this. Keep up the good work.

  20. Thank you Elyse for standing up for the truth and not backing down! This is just another reason that people love you and will stand by you.

    One of my best friends has a son who is diagnosed autistic. We have had many discussions on vaccines and different Autistic organizations. She has done her homework about vaccines and autism. She doesn’t think twice about her sons vaccinations and is perplexed why people would want to try and change their children to make them “normal.” She has seen the diets and woo treatments that people try to peddle and is shocked and mortified.

    AofA alienates many parents of autistic children because they focus so much on trying to find a cause and a cure rather than teaching coping with the situation at hand.

  21. @James Fox: Exactly right. They are “curebies”. What curebies want is for the child they have which they don’t want because they are unable to love it to magically disappear and a child that they do want because they can love it to magically appear in its place. What is happening is that their child is triggering xenophobia in them. I blogged about it.

    Fundamentally they don’t have a “hole” inside their heart that their child can fit inside, and rather than trying to change their heart so their child does fit, they want to change the child to match their constricted ability to love.

    In times past, children with autism were called changelings, and curebie parents were the ones who killed their changeling children, calling them the non-human children of fairies who stole their “real” child and substituted the non-human fairy child.

  22. Elyse, you are amazing. They must not know who they’re messing with, though. Keep up the awesome work!

  23. We, the loyal members of Dumbledore Elyse’s army, are waiting for your command, oh famous one. ;-)

    In the meantime, I’ve done the little I can… contact Facebook for personal attacks on someone.

  24. Commented the following over at Kwombles’ post on this idiocy, but now that you’ve blogged it, I’m commenting here, too:

    My first comment: I want to note something interesting here. In the FB comment, there is a reference to “anti-choice.” A few weeks ago, someone commented to me that the “vaccine wars” are as vituperative, nasty, and mean as the abortion wars, and I tend to agree. Here is their crossover. Why? Because the reference to “anti-choice” here is NOT about abortion but about “anti-vaccine safety choice,” as confirmed in a comment on that thread by the AoA folk. Conflation, at last, but backassward. Feminism and reproductive choice are hand in hand, but for these people, making the choice to vaccinate means you’re a bad mother.

    (In other words, they’ve taken feminism and turned it inside out to reveal their misogyny.)

    Also, I’m heartened to see that at least a few people have come out to question the posting of the picture or something else reasonable.

    And I also posted this…December 5, 2010 7:13 PM

    And I looked at Elyse’s picture. Here’s what it said to me: This is a woman who is sure enough with herself to post something funny that does not–let’s face it–flatter her looks in the least but that gets across a universal parenting experience, all in one pretty damned hilarious picture.
    And now something original for here for SkepChick: Clearly, AoA is now more fringe-y than a Victorian lamp. I think it’s perhaps time to ignore them as much as possible. They’re a small group led by people with a crass, repulsive sense of “humor” (e.g., the anal probing, the “Skankchik” garbage), and there’s no point in trying to address their paranoia and offensiveness. Something that pathological ain’t amenable to virtual amelioration. They’re on the decline, their ideas–such as they are–echo around in their chamber and gain little aural traction among rational people or even people seeking information for the first time. Yes, it’s important to continue to counter vaccine misinformation, but this band of crazies isn’t just about that. Their efforts at character assassination simply don’t deserve the respect of attention. If we can avoid giving it, I think we should.

  25. You rock! And you are not alone – lock and load in your trench, thousands of like minded Skeptics are there with you. The world is between us, but I hereby send you an awesome hug.

  26. Elyse, you are amazing and are doing amazing work.

    Also, that profile pic is completely and utterly awesome.

  27. Elyse, the photo of you and your daughter is awesome. It does seem to depict the crazy/tiring/frustrating/goofy times we all have when our kids are tiny (and teenagers, as I was yelled at for not rushing her this morning!). I wonder what the AoA would say about the one photo I put up of my daughter as a baby. It is the one where there are pox right next to her eyes!

  28. I also have to jump in with the ‘your profile pic is awesome’ stuff. What, so we’re supposed to get glamour shots done for FB now? I can’t relate to that, but I can relate to your profile pic.

    Kia kaha!

  29. As a future educator, the kind of misinformation I hear at AoA (and the lesser evil, Autism Speaks) is disheartening to say the least. The anti-vax, homeopathy, diet cure-all stuff makes it impossible to get good information for parents facing this struggle and for teachers tasked with educating a child on the spectrum.

    The constant focus on “finding a cure” makes those of us on the spectrum feel unwanted or broken–instead of helping us cope with challenges, we hear constantly that we are damaged goods. I wonder if the folks over at AoA have thought about the message they are sending…

    Keep up the good work!

  30. Like I said in RI, you’re doing a good job. Ignore the idiots at aoa and their ilk.

    You are doing great work.

  31. All I can say Elyse is I love you and respect all the work you do!
    I’m am sickened by their comments. They have no idea the community they are picking a fight with!

    Keep it up Elyse!

  32. @eli54:
    This. Facebook may not care, but the FBI does. This is cyber harassment and it’s a Federal crime. And, as always, we stand with you. Honestly, this level of dehumanization is serious incitement. I’m so sorry that these people are so awful. But, if anyone needed proof that these people are out of their minds, we’ve got it. Sane, rational, grounded people don’t threaten the people they disagree with. That’s the purview of terrorists like the Klan.

  33. I just read this and haven’t caught up on the comments yet, but if there are threats to you among their comments and they are not removing them, doesn’t that pretty much equate with condoning them (under some of the current federal laws)? I’ll do some poking around once I get some more caffeine into my system, but I’m fairly certain that you can file charges at this point. There are undoubtedly people here who are better qualified then me to know just what statutes apply, but I have some spare time that I can use to look a few things up. Just don’t let it continue because when ass-hats like that start threatening/ harassing, it won’t usually stop on it’s own. (Yeah, yeah- ad hom and argument from authority/ experience fallacies. I know…)
    Good Luck.
    (Heh- scrolled up and saw that I was beaten to the punch by a HUGE margin. Letting the comment stand though. *Dons his war gear and clicks off into the fray…*)

  34. @arch_incubus
    I don’t know Fedral law but I do know they’re violating the first law of Rufus.
    “Be excellent to each other.”
    And probably also the second law of Rufus.
    “Party on Dudes!”

  35. @mrmisconception
    You’re right. I was way tempted to stoop to their level for a moment. Should probably hold back for the time being, though it is severely tempting to go Martin Gardner on them and trick then into an actual thought for a change (Though I’ll admit I’m nowhere near calm enough to handle something so delicate right now).
    For now, I’ll let cooler heads prevail.

  36. A giant hug and an enthusiastic cheer to you! I admire your ability to stay strong and sane in the face of such an emotional attack. It takes a wonderful person to not only stand up for what’s right, but to continue to do it in the face of such hate and ignorance. Keep it up! We’re all rooting for you.

  37. I’m so sorry you have to endure this. I sympathize. I once had an entire usenet group discussing raping me with a sledgehammer because I’d reported someone’s bad behaviour and they happened to be in that group. I have no idea why a sledgehammer…presumably because it’d hurt.

    People suck. :(

  38. First of all, I want to add my voice of support for all you do, but most especially for this particular fight. Don’t back down.

    Next, I want to comment on the nature of the support you’ve gotten here and elsewhere. While I agree that you “rawk hard”, and you should not let these personal attacks and insults get you down, I would not go so far as to be dismissive of the threats. It is all well and good to report them to Facebook and to pat you and ourselves on the back and say we’ve got them on the run and it shows because they are resorting to “being mean” but we should not underestimate the potential serious nature of this. All it takes is one. One lone wacko who believes. A few here (JamesFox, WhatPaleBlueDot) have advocated getting law enforcement involved and I urge you to seriously consider that. Even if it is empty rhetoric for most of the AoA crowd there may be just one person out there deranged enough to act on what he or she considers morally justifiable grounds and do something extreme.

    Do not let them silence you. If anything, get louder. But also take the threats seriously.

  39. @dpaul:

    I’m still trying to figure out how much I should be afraid. I’m taking a few precautions, for sure… which I’m not going to blog for obvious reasons. They’re definitely taking the time to find out all they can about me… they’ve blog stalked, Google stalked, FB stalked, and LinkedIn stalked me and posted my info on the thread.

    They did post where I work… which is the Women Thinking Free Foundation… MY foundation. I emailed my board and told them that they may start getting emails from people trying to fire me from my vax work. It would be amusing to say the least.

    I’m more concerned about my husband’s job… since his pays money. Mine pays in amazing posts on my Facebook wall and hundreds of Twitter followers. AoA can’t take those away from me… they can take my house.

    I’m also not sure how to handle things at my son’s school. Tell them? Don’t tell them? Drawing attention to myself at a special needs preschool? Good idea? I don’t know any of the other parents yet.

  40. To understand these people you really need to understand the mindset of a bigot (which is what they are). The bigot sees the objects of his/her bigotry as non-human, as less then human, as less than even an animal. They see the objects of their bigotry as objects worthy only of being hated, like zombies but real zombies, not the fun make-believe type.

    People should look at he wikipedia entry on the uncanny valley.

    What has happened with these people (and with all bigots) is that when they interact with someone who is not lock-step in sync with their delusional world view, it triggers the uncanny valley for them, and the person ends up being in the valley, along with zombies and animated corpses. To a bigot, that is how the object of their bigotry feels, like a zombie or animated corpse, something evil that cannot be reasoned with and which should be destroyed.

    You know when the uber Christians say that without a belief in God they would rape and kill everyone who is not like them? They are speaking the truth. Everyone who is not like them activates the uncanny valley and appears to be a monster that should be destroyed. They are not exaggerating when they say they would do all these evil things to people who are not like them. They really would do them if doing them didn’t put them in some sort of legal jeopardy. Activate the uncanny valley and people can do anything to the objects of their hatred because the object isn’t human any more, it is an inhuman monster. Doing these things to a non-human monster isn’t evil, it is the essence of goodness.

    This is really difficult for a non-bigot to understand. It is really difficult for someone rational to understand because it is fundamentally non-rational.

    This is why homophobes hate gays so much and are unable to conceive of something like gay marriage. Marriage is for people who love each other. Because the homophobes can’t conceive of gays as being human, they can’t conceive of gays as having human-type feelings such as love. It is like trying to imagine a real zombie having feelings of love.

  41. Elyse, first of all I want to say that I love you and support the work you’re doing. What these people are doing is repulsive, though it shows that they are scared of you.

    Like others, I suspect you might want to consider contacting the FBI just in case. Though most threats are usually idle, occasionally someone makes them or sees them and follows through.

  42. Contacting law enforcement shouldn’t be about how afraid you feel. It should be about the crime they are committing. I would contact the FBI and see what they advise. If you have nothing to worry about, maybe you have added evidence against those threatening someone else who does have something to worry about, like Paul Offit. These people need to know that they can’t threaten with impunity.

  43. @WhatPaleBlueDot: This.

    It’s like reporting child abuse – someone may hesitate to call child protection depending on the circumstances, but whatever it is may add to a larger pattern of violence that they has been building from multiple sources.

  44. Elyse,

    take some precautions. In the past few years I have seen these people threaten violence, physically stalk a blogger by appearing at said blogger’s home, and attempt to get bloggers in trouble with their employers. The fact that their “evidence” against bloggers ranges from laughable to ridiculous doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.

    There are researchers who would rather risk PETA than autism/vaccine parents. PETA being more a more reasonable threat. Think about that one.

  45. Elyse, after giving this much thought, I’m going to concur with the others who have advised you to contact the FBI. I know it is a big step but I think you need to be proactive if or when they do harass anyone close to you. They have done this to anyone who has deigned to criticise their information and tactics. If they don’t have a file open on them by now, they should. I do not say this lightly but I would do it if I was in your position. There is no way you should be intimidated into silence when you have only been vocal about their message.

  46. I completely agree, there needs to be zero tolerance for this behavior because they will do what ever they can get away with.

    That is true of all bullies.

  47. Another congratulations here. Plus a very deep thank you and the other Skepchicks and Dude for all you’ve done for critical thinking and skepticism.

    Please listen to those who say you should file reports with the proper authorities. Kimbo beat me to it, but she is dead on that by filing you’re building a profile of these people with the authorities.

    A question. How dirty do you want to play? Even if AoA is not a non-profit organization, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau for harassment. At least in New York back in 95? or so you could. What happened was a buddy of mine really was being a dick and calling his ex-girlfriend and leaving stupid messages, hanging up, and he honestly was just being a dick. She didn’t call the police, she called the Better Business Bureau and he received a copy of the complaint from them. I saw it and read it. It has no legal standing, but he finally saw the error of his ways. Maybe it’s just the way I think, but does have a particular charm to it.

  48. I think we should all change our profile pics to pictures of ourselves crying with whatever children we can find (I know some of us are parents, but not all of us… you can substitute your partner or a doll or stuffed animal in the place of Delaney) as an act of solidarity. It makes a lot more sense to me than cartoons, anyway. And this is a cause that actually does need awareness. Everyone knows that children are abused. Not everyone knows all of the facts surrounding the vaccine issue.

    That’s my 2 cents. I have to go talk my son into it now.

  49. Just wanted to stop in and mention my support of you directly.

    My comment was deleted from the thread, reposting it here to illustrate how sensitive the AoA excho Chamber is to criticism:

    “Bizarre, not the picture, which is kind of funny, but the comments in this thread and even the thread itself.”

    I got two “likes” before it was nuked.

  50. If you truly feel threatened, call the FBI.


    If they want to play hardball, they’ll find out what hardball is all about.

  51. @Elyse: Good for you, don’t let these assholes get away with this. If nothing else, they are creating an atmosphere in which threats of violence are considered justified. Never a good path to go down.

  52. Elyse,

    I admire that you don’t live in fear of this. You let them hang themselves. The internet provides a time stamp of when good people were threatened for recognizing the power of science.

    It is a modern-day witch hunt, and they didn’t get a witch. They got a strong, smart woman that understands science from shit.

    Rock on and keep kicking ass. I’m sad you have to go through this, but if anyone has to, you have the courage to stand up to the vacant allegations. And you have a network of friends that will be by you every step of the way.

    Someday, we all will look back and laugh, and we will laugh together.


  53. This is absolutely disgusting. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. On the bright side, you should be proud to have pissed them off this badly– I’d take that as a clear sign of your effectiveness.

  54. For Elyse: “Fight hard, don’t fight dirty” is a good motto.

    For the lurkers: I just have to say something relevant. I came out as Aperger’s in my first post not just because ignorance of what autism is sometimes causes me stress, but because when I talk about autism, sometimes I’m talking from an emotion-based perspective as well as a logic-based perspective.

    From an emotion-based perspective:

    I’m glad my pediatrician vaccinated me, even if my 1980s vaccinations triggered my autism.

    I’d rather have autism than measles, mumps, or rubella.

    I’d rather have autism than whooping cough.

    I’d rather live with autism than polio.

    Because my parents vaccinated me, I was able to go to Girl Scouts and public school.

    Because I went to public school, I was able to join band.

    Because I joined band, I had about forty friends I might not have kept otherwise, who made high school completely bearable.

    Because I vaccinated myself against meningitis, I could live in the dorms at college.

    Because I lived in the dorms, I was able to go out of state for my undergraduate work and have some experiences I probably wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed local or lived at home.

    Because my parents vaccinated me, and because I vaccinated myself, I was able to live long enough to get an Asperger’s diagnosis at 23. It didn’t change who I already was, it didn’t stop my world, and it didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t already figured out for myself.

    It did make it harder to get individual health insurance, but that’s another story.

    Basically, because of vaccines, I’ve been able to live 27 years without fear of anything except rape and certain professional wrestlers, able to get a scholarship to my first choice university, able to get a full time job in a field I love and go back to school for my master’s degree part-time.

    I was able to visit my nephew in the hospital when he was nearly three months premature and no one was sure he’d live.

    Yes, I’m on the autism spectrum, but would I have been able to do any of those things without having been vaccinated? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m more like neurotypical women my age than I am different. Maybe I’m a bit worse at dating, but less to do with autism and more to do with my religious past.

    Long post is long, but I’ll just sum it up and say: lots of parents of children on the spectrum wonder what their children might say to them when they grow up.

    This grown-up on the spectrum says “Thanks for listening to my doctor about vaccines, mom. I couldn’t have grown up without them.”

  55. @Kimbo Jones: Oh, sorry, I thought that part went without saying. I was taking the additional step of making my woo-prone family and inlaws wonder what the heck was going on with my pic as a way to make them aware of the nastiness and anti-facts stance of AofA and their ilk.

    Making as many people as possible aware of the importance of vaccinating, and the lack of a link with autism, is really important. I encounter people just about weekly who think there’s something to fear. And it’s something we all can do. Women Thinking Free and the Hug Me campaign are extremely worthy campaigns and deserve our financial support. But while I cannot do cancer research myself, and telling everyone I know that child abuse is wrong is pretty futile, I can let my sister-in-law know that Aluminum Phosphate sounds really scary, but she uses it every time she bakes a cake, and that she ought to get a pertussis booster. And she can tell everyone at her daughter’s daycare. With some issues, spreading awareness is actually a worthwhile and productive action, and I believe that this is one.

  56. @Garbledina: Thank you!

    I read something about autism for the first time last week:
    “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

    It might’ve been a publication co-sponsored by Autism Speaks that someone else in my class used as a source, actually. Lately, they’ve either started making more sense or started hiding the crazy.

    Anyway, I’ll admit I’m not typical in the persons with autism community, but I’m part of that “600% surge” in autism the anti-vaxxers and “epidemic thinkers” keep ranting about. I’m verbal, I’m literate, and I’m on the spectrum. If “they” want to use me in “their” statistics, “they” better be ready to listen, even if “they” don’t agree.

  57. @Kimbo Jones: Thank you.

    They probably wouldn’t allow it, or say that Asperger’s isn’t “real” autism, or that I’m not even on the spectrum because I was diagnosed at 23, rather than as a child (when Asperger Syndrome wasn’t part of the DSM) or in 1994, when I was 11 and 12. Like I said, I’m high-functioning, and a lot of my AS symptoms, like a feeling of alienation, socially inappropriate behavior, poor time management, etc. are sort of normal for all teenagers, autistic and neurotypical alike.

    Also, just reread my first post in this comment thread. Proof Asperger’s people don’t always have an eye for detail? The first time I typed the word, I left it as “Aperger’s”! lol… oops!

  58. @Rebecca C:

    Goddamn woman. COTW fo’realz.

    I have a Twitter “friend” who is an aspie who has some (what sounds like) severe sensory issues…. like she hates the way that showers feel and things like that.

    I remember her telling me that she could not imagine the hell of going through something like the mumps with her issues and is grateful for her vaccines.

    I wish more ASD peeps would come out as pro-vax… but really, pro-vax is a weird thing to be. Tonight, speaking to the cop she was confused by the fact that I was a pro-vaccine activist. Because what random person is like GODDAMNIT TAKE YOUR MEDICINE!

    Normal people are like, “Huh? You have pills? Can I have one?”

  59. @Elyse:

    I know, right? It’s weird that pro-vax people have to defend their position like preventative care is something odd.

    It’s not the lust-dulling pills from The Giver, people. It isn’t Neo’s blue pill. It isn’t oxy, or heroin, or goddamn homeopathy. It’s just a little bit of a dead virus that teaches your body how to fight the infection. It sounds weird, but really, what’s more natural than your body fighting off something rather than letting it hurt you?

    I’d seriously okay Gardasil or whatnot, if I were still in the accepted age range for the vaccine, and I fucking hate needles. Reduced chance of the strains of virus that trigger some cases of cervical cancer? Yes, please!

  60. I have Asperger’s too, I am not part of the surge. I am pretty sure my mother had it too, and she had it before thimerosal was even invented. I get all my vaccines (I had a flu shot this year and two last year seasonal an H1N1) and encourage everyone else to do so too. There is more mercury in a tuna fish sandwich than their is in a vaccination, even back when they had mercury in them, virtually all of them don’t now.

    I have done a lot of reading on ASDs and mercury, and I understand a great deal of the physiology of ASDs and mercury and so I can very confidently say there isn’t a connection and there can’t be a connection to vaccines or mercury because most ASDs are present at birth. The most characteristic symptom is a larger brain with more neurons arranged in more minicolumns which are smaller. The number of minicolumns is fixed in utero during the first trimester. Nothing months or years later can change it.

    There was also a gigantic exposure of children to mercury in the first half of this century. Mercury was used in teething powders, the things that parents would give their children when their children were teething. A common dose was a grain of calomel, 65,000 micrograms of mercurous chloride per dose. Many children were given multiple doses. Over 1,000 children died from what was called “pink disease” which we now know was mercury poisoning from teething powders. Tens of millions of doses were sold per year. Many tens of millions of children received many thousands of times more mercury from teething powders than received mercury from vaccines (~12 micrograms mercury per vaccine at most). Where was all the autism from mercury when children got so much mercury that mercury poisoning was a leading cause of death (~23% of child deaths were due to pink disease).

    Those in the cult of AoA are delusional to still cling to the “mercury causes autism” idea. It is completely dead as a credible causation mechanism and has been for years. There is no data in the literature that supports it.

  61. I’d just like like to add one more voice to the crowd saying thank you for standing up to these goons! I don’t know if I could if it were me.

  62. I’ve been disturbed by this ever since I saw it at Respectful Insolence last night. I still don’t know quite what to say. AoA’s threats of violence are appalling. Especially when they involve children. Children, FFS!! I am a mother of two younglings myself, and it makes me sick that someone would threaten your children. I’m so sorry I live too far away to drop off some soothing carb and sugar-heavy snacks.

    I also think What Pale Blue Dot makes good points about the myriad benefits of contacting the authorities. Glad to see that you have done that.

  63. @Rebecca C:
    It might’ve been a publication co-sponsored by Autism Speaks that someone else in my class used as a source, actually. Lately, they’ve either started making more sense or started hiding the crazy.

    Well, Bill Maher says some quotable things too, that doesn’t keep him from being ten shades of batshit crazy. :P

    Or as my mom used to say “even a blind dog finds a bone occasionally.”

  64. “Also? Seriously? My profile pic is the greatest profile pic in the history of Facebook”

    Damn straight it is.

  65. Quite a few years ago I was a breast-feeding advocate for the county (it was a volunteer gig – my kids were young and I had a bit of time on my hands). I was an active volunteer for quite a while until several moms in the group announced that they were anti-vaccine, as a bonus, one mom proudly proclaimed that her child had whooping cough…she had the child with her. It was a very eye opening experience and I was quite surprised when seemingly rational people in the group came out as anti-vax.

    Our children are vaccinated. My boys are old enough that the chicken pox vaccine was uncommon. Our daughter has had the gardasil series (really wish that had been available when I was in that age range). And we all get flu shots, every year.

    As others have said, keep fighting the good fight.

  66. @Anthropologist Underground:

    Especially when they involve children. Children, FFS!!

    And especially when they like to say you shouldn’t have a voice if you have no children or the “wrong kind” of children. As if there is such a thing. I can’t tell you how many times these people have tried to shut me up with the old “until you know the pain of living with a damaged.. blah, blah, blah”. First off, who are you calling damaged? Your own children? Really? And I shouldn’t have a voice?

    I love to point out that they are entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts. I don’t stay on those blogs very long when I do make it on there. they do not want to hear reason only concurrence.

  67. @mrmisconception:

    Well, Bill Maher says some quotable things too, that doesn’t keep him from being ten shades of batshit crazy.

    I know, I know. This is the same source the group used for their “600% surge” statistic used in the paper. A useful bit of propaganda, considering the purpose was to propose a program for an underserved population in my state, but still not true.

  68. Just to update everyone, I did file a report with the local authorities. No crimes have been committed. No one has made a criminal threat.

    But they’re watching. And the cop I spoke with tonight was disgusted by this… and reminded me to lock my door as she left.

    So that’s where that’s at.

    Also, if you’re being threatened online, contact your local police. The FBI doesn’t handle this shit unless the person threatening you is brown.

  69. Elyse,
    You have done a wonderful job of not only promoting the pro-vaccine stance, but you’ve also “put your money where your mouth is” by organizing the vaccine clinic at DragonCon, and working with your “Hugs” campaign.

    AOA is lashing out at you because you are hurting them, and that you can consider a success. But it is utterly ridiculous that they can get away with the horrible things that they are saying about you and pro-vaxxers like us. I’m so sorry that your kids are getting dragged into this! Your kids, your husband’s job and your home should be totally off-limits! They really fail to come off as “only concerned parents” when they attack your family, don’t they?

    Hopefully law enforcement officials can be useful to you, and that someone out there volunteers to be your attorney – because standing up to them will cost some money, but it is a fight that is worth it! We have to fight the tide of lies and disinformation that this world has turned into, not only for ourselves, but for our children, friends and loved ones.

    Most parents try to do the best they can with the information that they have in deciding how to take care of their children. We all need to make sure that they have the most accurate information available, so they can make the best informed decision. Since no connections, between vaccines and autism have been found, even after tons of ethically-administered, peer-reviewed and repeatable research, my choice as a parent was clear. For my children, that is vaccination against anything that we have vaccines for that could harm my children, as recommended by my trusted partner – our pediatrician.

    So hang in there, Elyse. You are not alone, and the work you are doing is SAVING LIVES, and that makes it worth it. Plus, that was a most awesome FB pic – I have often had days like that with my kids, and even now we still do – and they are school age now!

  70. Clearly I cannot begin to understand how hard this situation must be for you but know that we are all behind you and so very, very proud of the stand you are taking. As if you need telling, stay strong!!!

  71. Since FB isn’t doing what it should (and if I have read what FB says it should be doing in cases like this, but ain’t) what would they do if lots of us started deleting our FB accounts until these AoA people are shut down?

    I admire your attitude in this situation. I know exactly how I would react (over react if you speak to my wife) if anyone dared to threaten my daughters.

  72. Yeah, the screaming changes from “WAAAA!” to “MOOOOOOOM! She hit me!”
    “He hit me first!”
    “She took my Legos”
    “He took the TV!”
    and then me going “Everyone SHUT UP and DO YOUR HOMEWORK!”

    But, by gosh, my kids are here to do all this screaming, and they might not have been here to do this if they and the others around them hadn’t taken their vaccinations. That I am grateful for!

    So, yup, parenting can be a hard, frustrating, confusing, stressful job, but it has wonderful rewards! And pretty good benefits – at least when my kids hug me and tell me I’m the best mom ever! And your work is helping us all!

    So *hugs* to you too, Elyse!

  73. “The screaming never stops.”
    I think the appropriate sound effect for the profile pic is the endangered screaming bug from the Simpsons.

    Stay tough, Elyse. Every intimidation tactic and threat pushes them farther to the margins. Let them ad hom their way all the way out of relevance.

  74. First, I have to ask SkepChick – how on earth does a photo like that get out…it is too cool for school!
    You are my hero anyway and not just b/c you are on AoA’s radar now…you were already my hero. As for AoA – they are not worth a moment of your precious time. When people resort to hatefulness it is b/c they have no other recourse because the facts are simply not working out for them. Fact: Vaccines Save Lives. Fact: Vaccines do not cause autism. Fact: Children with autism need society to take serious, scientific measures to find the causes and then the cure. Wasting time on hate organizations only serves their purpose which is to distract us from our work of saving lives.
    By the way – that should be your christmas card photo – trust me, it would be the one that is kept by everyone for years to come!

  75. @Vene – I should have edited that word out when it struck me to do so…right you are, apologies from me.

  76. I just read the FB thread. HO LEE SHEE YIT!

    To summon that kind of anger, they must really believe that we are trying to give kids autism. And apparently I was supposed to get a check from Big Pharma for counter-protesting the Wakefield rally. Lost in the mail I guess.

  77. Elyse, you and I are not in agreement on the causes of Autism and the safety of the vaccination schedule. However, I am not here to discuss or debate vaccines and autism.

    I must express my disgust at what AoA has done. I don’t care how much you like or dislike someone, you NEVER bring their family into the argument. What they did appalls me, and I wanted to let you know that I vehemently disagree with what they’ve done. I might disagree with you on many things, but I respect your right to have an opinion, and I refuse to attack your family for any reason.

    Good day, and good luck to you.

  78. Congratulations for making the vaccine rejectionists so uncomfortable that they are resorting to personal attacks! Remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt when faced with attacks from those opposed to his progressive policies:

    “They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.”

  79. Hang strong Elyse- don’t let the bad guys get you down!

    Nice to see someone from the other side comment positively, MySocratesNote- however do not mistake dissemination of facts with right to an opinion.

  80. @Elyse: I tried to send you an email via the comment link about an old friend who has been through something similar. He might have some useful advice. If you don’t get my email, reply back or email me or something and I’ll try again.

  81. Well done. But please take care of yourself. Being under attack is so terribly stressful, so make sure you treat yourself nicely!

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