The murky politics of autism hysteria
The days of principled conservatism in mainstream politics are effectively over, if they ever really existed in the first place. What we see now coming out of the supposedly right-of-center political parties are individuals whose entire existence is based on what they claim they are not, rather than what they are.
Those who live by the creed that the enemy of my enemy is my friend are fools and charlatans, and autism is one of the centerpieces for this type of nonsense.
Donald Trump walked into the debate, very unwisely, when he spouted complete gibberish that vaccines are responsible for the purported autism epidemic. Ben Carson stepped in a related pile of anti-science dung, and Carson should have known better.
It was comments such as these that led in no small part to Carson's early exit from the GOP race this year. Trump got away with his views because they were more than offset by his other correct policy positions on the economy and foreign policy. But if he goes back to the autism and vaccines well between now and the general election, he can kiss his election chances goodbye.
There are a few rogue polls scattered around the historical landscape that claim that a sizable portion of Americans believe in the link between autism and vaccinations, but the most reliable data from Gallup suggests that this is a fringe constituency. As of 2015, 96% of the American public thinks it is important for parents to have their children vaccinated. The numbers are essentially unchanged from 2001. Just 6% believe that vaccines cause autism, and this value is relatively constant irrespective of gender, age, education, and whether or not the respondent has children.
Diagnosed autism prevalence in children is doubling about every seven years, and if historical trends continue, a quarter of all kids will be on the spectrum before 2040. Is this trend real? No chance. There is no established mechanism for such a rapid rise in this "disease," and given how experts cannot agree on what autism truly is, a massive proportion of these claimed cases are undoubtedly not true autism, but more likely the collective results of the natural variability in human abilities, bad parenting, a poor diet, overstimulation, etc. The science is strongly suggestive that these other causes are playing a key role in the "epidemic."
Since the most prevalent phobias in society today are accepting personal responsibility and using common sense, what has undoubtedly happened in many cases is that bad parents run screaming to their health professionals, saying there is something wrong with their children, and since it is politically incorrect to #BlameTheVictim, the health professionals get bullied into an autism diagnosis just to get the parents off their backs. We've seen this type of behavior also lead physicians to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections in order to get aggressive parents to leave them alone.
Telling a parent his parenting skills are inferior or that his child simply has below average intelligence or social skills due to natural causes from human reproduction often doesn't go over well. There must be a cause, the parents demand, one that isn't related to our deficiencies as parents, defects in our gene pool, or just random chance. We must have the perpetrator, and government help to deal with the problem. Ergo, out comes the autism diagnosis and the direct line into extensive and expensive assistance, commonly at taxpayers' expense.
Add to this the push from the health care industry itself, especially those pesky public-sector unions. They will say and do almost anything to drum up more business.
As an example of this, there is a controversy underway surrounding a particularly persistent parent of an autistic child who is demanding that the Ontario government – which has implemented some age-related autism treatment cutbacks – pay extremely high medical bills for the child's treatment. The website TheRebel has a video of an interview with the parent that offers a revealing quote:
I know there is 3,500 families in Ontario affected by these cuts[.] ... The $8,000 that they are offering is not enough, that will not cover the treatment. It's a $50,000 to $60,000 a year treatment and they recommend it for two years[.] ... We have five unions behind us now. We have CUPE [Canadian Union of Public Employees], we have OPSEU [Ontario Public Service Employees Union], you know, we have the Teachers Federations, we have the Ontario Federation of Labour, all behind us.
It is long overdue to start thinking critically and following the money trail for autism. This is a major industry, and when all the major public-sector unions start backing a movement that should otherwise be based solely in science – not left-wing politics – the red flag needs to be raised.
Here we encounter the unprincipled nature of political parties, of which recent examples abound. We see purportedly rabidly anti-Liberal former spokespersons for Conservative M.P.s – who themselves used to work for radical left-wing members of the Liberal Party – also present as "fellows" in a think-tank whose "Advisory Council" chair is a former Liberal Party deputy prime minister – and that includes a number of other high-ranking left-wing political operatives and politicians (of note, former Ontario NDP leader and former federal Liberal Party leader Bob Rae). About as far from ideological clarity as we could get.
Add to that the financial support of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers for Canada2020, which bills itself as "Canada's leading, independent, progressive think-tank." So Stephen Harper's conservatives were tub-thumping relentlessly for the Canadian oil and gas sector just so that same industry could give large amounts of money to think-tanks whose sole aim is to work against conservatism? That sounds incoherent.
The leader of Ontario's so-called center-right party, the Progressive Conservatives – who are in reality certainly left of center – is agitating for the autism cause, arguing that the Liberal government should follow the calls from the public-sector unions and spend vast amount of public money on a poorly defined issue that has an essentially endless liability, given the multi-decadal exponential rates of increase for autism diagnoses, which appear destined to skyrocket uninhibited until we are all autistic whether we know it or not.
To recap, the situation in Ontario is the example of what is happening everywhere: a complete lack of oversight, skepticism, and critical thought. The right-of-center parties have drunk the Kool-Aid, the far left parties and their proxies made the Kool-Aid, and the center-left parties are just drinking different Kool-Aid at the public trough. Couple that with individuals, and industries that have a web of tight linkages all across the political spectrum, and there is most certainly nobody on the bridge of the conservative ship.