Don't Listen to Jenny McCarthy
That might, at first glance, seem like an unnecessary order. I might as well be telling you, "Do not, under any circumstances, masturbate to Kurt Loder." Right? Well, maybe a few years ago. But all of that is about to change. Here's why: Recently, the former Playboy model/Actress(?) inked a deal with the power hurricane that is Oprah Winfrey. I view Oprah as the rest of you do, which is to say, with a delicate mixture of inspired awe and paralyzing terror. I know she's changed a lot of lives for the better and brought a lot of attention to worthy issues, but I also know that if she deemed a particular bowel movement of hers noteworthy, then that poop would have its own six-figure book deal before you can say A Million Little Feces. That's how powerful Oprah Winfrey is. She made Dr. Phil and Rachel Ray into household names, and now, like the sweet Momma Bird that she is, she's lovingly regurgitating a soft, warm, chunky career down the gaping throat of a hungry Jenny McCarthy. And maybe you don't think this should worry me. After all, I'm neither a troubled, rebellious teen nor a bucket of tasty, tasty chicken, so I have nothing to fear from Dr. Phil, and the only danger I face when watching Rachel Ray is in deciding whether she or her food is responsible for my boner. Take this picture for example:
What is that, a Rice Krispie treat covered in chili? My dick is hungry and my stomach wants to have sex with her, nothing's making any sense. But I digress. We were talking about how Oprah's mentorship of Jenny McCarthy should mean nothing to me because I don't watch daytime television and Oprah is not yet Supreme Emperor of Earth. But here's my worry. For years now, Jenny McCarthy has been an outspoken advocate for autism research, which in and of itself isn't troubling and is, in fact, very admirable. But there are a few problems. Informed Activist vs. Wide-eyed Crusader The problem is that she's turned herself into a fear mongering, anti-vaccination spokeswoman. She's not
2) The doctor explains that, if parents suddenly stopped getting vaccinations for their kids, more children will die.
3) Jenny McCarthy terrifies the doctors into silence by making a face that is precisely a cross between Catwoman, snakes that can hypnotize you and
4) Jenny and her antagonistic friend spend a few minutes finger-pointing and screaming at the doctors.
5) The stupid doctor with the sideburns almost cries.
Opening a dialogue and doing research is useful, but how is that useful? How is it helping anyone when you jab your finger at a doctor, and accost him like he's the root of autism while you prompt the audience for applause? [Sidebar: If you can get past what a ridiculous, overdramatic display that clip is, it's worth it to see the whiney sideburns doctor in the scrubs flip out. He never says it, but you can still totally tell that he's begging to scream "I'M A FUCKING DOCTOR! I FUCKING SAVE LIVES! NO ONE CAN BE MEAN TO ME!"]
That subheading is right. Headlines do stick. Most people don't get past the headline, in fact, so even though Jenny's thesis might be "Vaccinations might be dangerous," the headline is "VACCINES ARE AUTISM ROOOAAAARRR." Headlines stick, and then they snowball, because that's how it works. When someone gets on stage and shrieks that "vaccines contributed to autism," they're not raising awareness of autism or opening up dialogues about it; they're fostering a generation of alarmist supermoms who will say "No" to every single vaccination all too quickly, because the headline is still lodged in their brain, regardless of what comes after. Think I'm wrong? Do you remember what happened the
One day, Kimberly. One Day. Sure, there are doctors to ask, and the research is out there but, unfortunately, the things that celebrities say resonate more with the public than the things that doctors say. It's awful, but it's true. According to Science, we do this because "evolutionary pressures acting on a tribal group of protohumans instilled in us an instinctive need to listen to authority figures." So doing what an authority figure tells us is wired into our brains. The problem, Science argues, is that we've confused "famous" with "authority," and that's what makes us turn a skeptical eye on our doctors while at the same time spouting off half-remembered, misleading statistics we heard from that pretty lady on Oprah's show. Why do you think politicians go nuts for celebrity endorsements? They know that their speeches, policies and experience mean nothing if their opponent can get their picture taken with Will Smith.
"Get jiggy with alternate sources of fuel!" Talking Out of Your Ass
All I'm really asking, Jenny McCarthy, is that you understand the influence you have as a pretty, Oprah-anointed TV star and you be careful with it. A typical McCarthy justification for believing a relationship between vaccines and autism is that she "just knows" or she "can just feel it," based on her own personal observations as a parent, and her movement gains momentum by other parents that feel it or "know it to be true." In one video, I heard her say "Contrary to scientific belief, autism is not genetic and I truly believe it is a genetic vulnerability." You know why science never says it "truly believes" anything? Because it's