In a media-saturated society, public figures have a disproportionate influence on people’s understanding of science and medicine. Most patients see their doctor no more than a couple of times a year, but they watch TV, go online, or read a paper daily. In our newspapers and in our news rooms, dedicated science reporters are becoming vanishingly rare. A wide range of news sources seep into this gap, but perhaps one of the most unfortunate is the “celebrity health expert”.
Uninformed statements from celebrities are nothing new, but when the queen of the antivaccination movement gets to call someone else stupid, that’s news.
Comedian Dennis Leary did little to advance the cause of humor or medical knowledge when he wrote this:
“There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you – yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.”
There is no “autism epidemic” as such, but there sure is a lot of ink spilled in ignorance, and Leary certainly seems to have a surfeit of that. But never fear, Jenny McCarthy will come to the rescue of autistic folks everywhere.
“My fight isn’t with Denis Leary, my fight is with the government — a bigger fish to fry. So I’m still gonna work on the vaccines and I’m still working on pediatricians and Denis Leary can go hopefully be more educated by every mother that stops him from this day forward to give him a piece of their mind,” she said.