ROBERT TINNELL: Greetings From The Lunatic Fringe

The seventies were a great time to be a kid. Anything seemed possible. By that I don’t mean so much cloning or a cure for cancer. I mean important stuff, like Bigfoot. Nessie. Visits from alien life-forms. Week after week, no less an authority than Leonard Nimoy himself appeared on my television, solemnly narrating case-after-case of paranormal and otherworldly encounters that, to my impressionable mind, were irrefutable.

Then, technology reared its ugly head. One-by-one, these quasi-cousins of Santa Claus began to disappear, picked apart by advances in computer science, digital photography, instant-access to massive amounts of research courtesy of the worldwide web, and not least, the growing cynicism that comes with age. Sure, some enclaves of paranormal-believers have held on – and even prospered – thanks to technology, particularly the ghost hunters. But in general, to be a believer in, say, UFO’s (and before the angry e-mails come in, I know, an unidentified flying object is just that – unidentified – and everyone should believe in that. I’m referring to spaceships carrying folks from other planets; Stephen Hawking messed me up on that) is to be marginalized. Visions of bearded, potbellied fellows in Area 51 ball caps spring to mind. In short order, these folks have been relegated to the margins, to the lunatic fringe.

Little did I know that one day I would be amongst their number.

It was not my belief in visitations by aliens from other worlds that consigned me to this intellectual wilderness. Rather it was my firm conviction that my son was rendered autistic thanks to something called thimerosal, a form of mercury, that was present in his vaccines (Note: there are also strong indications for some of these kids that the measles virus in the MMR shots is involved, as well as aluminum). I won’t go into mind-numbing detail about what he (and we) have gone through since his descent into the hell of autism – you can do that by reading my comic strip The Chelation Kid if you are so inclined.

What I do want to do is make you aware that with the government finally conducting some trials on the vaccine-autism connection, I’ve no doubt powerful interests (including Big Pharma and their various lap dogs) will be running a full-court press to marginalize those of us who dare to expose what has been done to many thousands of kids in the last several years. Let me lay a couple things on you: I don’t hate doctors and I don’t want children to be unprotected from things like polio or smallpox. The majority of the other parents of autistics I speak to feel the same way. A wonderful doctor saved my life. Another is helping us recover our son. By the same token, I don’t automatically defer to them as demi-gods. Going to school for a very long time doesn’t make you smarter than other people. It makes you better educated – to a point.

Despite the fact that since starting the strip, I’ve personally been tarred with a wide-reaching stereotyping brush, I’ll withhold from doing the same to the medical community at-large. In fact, I don’t even always agree with some of my peers’ assessments of medical professionals when it comes to the whole controversy. I think it’s a cheap shot to label that community as a bunch knee-jerkers beholden to orthodoxy and the status quo. Because in a lot of ways, they’re victims, too. Victims of something far more insidious than benign neglect or a short-attention-span or a focus on their particular field of medicine. Like these kids they are victims of the Big Pharma spin machine. The one that keeps telling you that a link between autism and vaccines has been disproved.

Look, you want to discount the anecdotal observations of parents who’ve had success treating their autistic kids through biomedical interventions, because you can only buy into the scientific method, I say “fine.” Hell, you’re probably right, strictly speaking. But ignoring a mass of peer-reviewed papers, based on studies conducted according to scientific-method, that very strongly suggest a causal connection between the vaccines and mercury, as well as the existence of an epidemic? Well, that’s flat out denial or ignorance or lying. Take your pick.