Monday, May 3, 2010

Jenny McCarthy Strawmen Fallacies, Take One.

After seeing some of the comments on Jenny McCarthy's Huffington Post piece (here), I decided that I would write a brief summary of some of the problems that those that claim to be "science-based" have with Ms. McCarthy. Really, it only boils down to a few minor problems blown entirely out of proportion. I'll list the major complaints I see, then address each of those complaints in turn.

Let's start with this one:

"Jenny says she cured her son."

There is a problem with semantics here. Jenny actually has said that she has recovered her son, not cured him. She continues to say that it is an ongoing process, and she has to carefully monitor his diet to make sure that he doesn't get foods that may aggravate his condition. But she has not really said that she has "cured" Evan. She has gone on to say that people who say that she has cured her son "confuse the word recover with cure." So, let's examine those 2 words.

1. To get back; regain.

2. To restore (oneself) to a normal state: He recovered himself after a slip on the ice.

3. To compensate for: She recovered her losses.

4. To procure (usable substances, such as metal) from unusable substances, such as ore or waste.

5. To bring under observation again: "watching the comet since it was first recoveredfirst spotted since its 1910 visit" (Christian Science Monitor).


1. To regain a normal or usual condition, as of health.

2. To receive a favorable judgment in a lawsuit.
Here's the definition of Cure:
1. Restoration of health; recovery from disease.

2. A method or course of medical treatment used to restore health.

3. An agent, such as a drug, that restores health; a remedy.

4. Something that corrects or relieves a harmful or disturbing situation: The cats proved to be a good cure for our mouse problem.

5. Ecclesiastical Spiritual charge or care, as of a priest for a congregation.

6. The office or duties of a curate.

7. The act or process of preserving a product.

v. cured, cur·ing, cures

1. To restore to health.

2. To effect a recovery from: cure a cold.

3. To remove or remedy (something harmful or disturbing): cure an evil.

4. To preserve (meat, for example), as by salting, smoking, or aging.

5. To prepare, preserve, or finish (a substance) by a chemical or physical process.

6. To vulcanize (rubber).
While the definitions of these words are fairly similar, there are notable differences between the two. Recovery means that she was able to restore many of Evan's skills through dietary and biomedical interventions. But, she has not cured him. Even though, psychologically, he is not considered to have autism anymore (I believe his doctors have said that he has lost his diagnosis, but I can't find that reference at this time), he still has many of the features and markers that are associated with autism. This is not a cure! A cure would be a complete eradication of the condition or disease.
Going on.
"She's telling people not to vaccinate. She is undermining Herd Immunity."
(By convention, you must capitalize things that are divine)
This one will be the one that they usually fall back on. There will also be many sub-arguments associated with this accusation, and I will try to address as many as I can remember (there are a lot of them).

To begin with, she has never said, "Do Not Vaccinate!" Never! If she believed that people shouldn't vaccinate, she wouldn't have an alternative vaccine schedule on her website.

Their response to this is usually, "But, she's pushing the idea that vaccines harmed her son, and she's warning people away with this unproven rhetoric."

No, it hasn't been pushed by Ms. McCarthy. It has been repeated over and over by parents who have seen their children have a severe reaction to a vaccine within hours of vaccination. Ms. McCarthy just happens to be one of them. This was going on a long time before she even came into the picture.
These people seem to think that the general public is too stupid to weigh the risks and benefits for themselves. Giving people information so that they can make informed decisions does not mean she is telling them not to vaccinate.
How is it unproven rhetoric? How can you know that vaccines don't cause autism if you don't know what actually causes autism. Simple logic is lost on these meatheads, apparently.
Here's another one; "She says if she has another kid, she will refuse to vaccinate him. That doesn't sound very pro-vax to me."
And that is both her opinion and her right. Since when is it wrong in this country to express an opinion? No, that comment certainly doesn't sound pro-vax. As a friend so eloquently put it, it means she is pro-choice. And, apparently, weighing the risks and benefits and making an informed decision based on these risks and benefits (she has had one child who had a vaccine reaction, and she weighs the fact that a second child could have a vaccine reaction) means one is anti-vaccine in their book. As if the world is so black and white.
"She's said that she'll take measles over autism."
Yeah, she did. And? So the fuck what? Measles in the U.S. is rarely, and I do mean rarely, a serious illness, especially with the medical care that we have. Autism, on the other hand, particularly autism like my son's, is a lifelong, debilitating disease. Oh, and's her opinion, too. Damn, people and those opinions....
"She says she's for safer vaccines and wants to green them, but what she really wants to do is get rid of them." (I've seen that one from the King of the Vaccine Injury and Death Promoter shitheads himself, Orac)
Oh, so you can read her mind? Wow! She's advocating for safe vaccines, which means that she WANTS VACCINES. Again, their tenuous grasp of logic is laughable at best.
Here's a good one.
"Jenny has gone on record saying she is for diseases coming back."
Bullshit! Here is her actual quote:
"I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their fucking fault that the diseases are coming back. They're making a product that's shit. If you give us a safe vaccine, we'll use it. It shouldn't be polio versus autism.”

Ah, but that means she's anti-vaccine since she wants safer vaccines and would want the polio vaccine rather than the disease. And of course, the cherry-picked misquote demonizes her further.
Here is my favorite one. I like this one because it shows just how hypocritical the Vaccine Injury and Death Promoters are, especially after they got all hot and bothered about a comment made on Age of Autism about Nancy Snyderman giving Offit a hummer. They dramatically went on and on and on about how mysogenistic the comment was (pressing the back of my wrist to my forehead....oh, I feel faint), and how they would Never do something like that.
"She posed in Playboy/showed her boobs/has a boob-job/does soft porn/is a blonde bimbo. Are you going to take her word?"
So, because she showed her boobs, she's wrong? Nice.
Using this logic (which isn't really logic at all, but an ad hominem fallacy...and mysogenistic to boot), I could say that we shouldn't believe Amanda Peet because she's shown her boobs in a movie or two. Thanks for clearing that up. Oh, and did I mention it was mysogenistic?
Of course, there is also the Jenny McCarthy Body count website, which is just a rehash of all the rhetoric I mentioned above. All my points apply to it as well. Not only that, but the entire premise and basis for their argument against Ms. McCarthy is based on a strawman.
You see, they all seem to think that Ms. McCarthy is our "leader." No, she's a mother who's son had a vaccine reaction. She found us, not the other way around. Many of us have been in this ordeal since long before she showed up in the picture. She just happens to have the voice and fame that allows her to bring this to everyone's attention. And whether you hate her or not, you must accept the fact that if it wasn't for her, Autism would not get the attention it now gets.
I think I'm going to make a new website and call it I'll tally up all of the mysogenistic insults thrown her way and keep a count of the ad hominem fallacies used against her whereever I find them. It'll be an interesting diversion, methinks.

Hey, if any of you, my dear readers, have any comments that you've seen against Ms. McCarthy that you think could be posted here, please do. I'm gathering a collection.


  1. Hey, when you guys find good ones, just post them here and your counter argument. I'm gathering the list together for another post at a later date.

    Here's another one:

    "She tells people to delay vaccinations. That's essentially the same thing as telling them not to vaccinate."

    So, since the CDC schedule is only recommended, and even the CDC acknowledges that it is ok to delay some vaccinations, I guess that the CDC is telling people not to vaccinate, either. Hey, the CDC is anti-vaccine according to this logic!

  2. "She posed in Playboy/showed her boobs/has a boob-job/does soft porn/is a blonde bimbo. Are you going to take her word?"

    I don't know about all you other red-blooded hetrosexual 'Merican males out there, but when a woman talks to me while she's nekkid, I fuckin' pay attention.

    You're not gettin' tha stank if she thinks yer ignorin' her!

  3. Hi Craig,

    Thanks for the complement over at AoA. You are more than welcome to quote me anytime you want.

    As for this: "I think I'm going to make a new website and call it"

    I personally think it's a waste of time. I think we should let them obsess over her boobs. It's their best critical thinking exposed.