AutismOne 2013: A quackfest just as quacky as ever

Well, April is over, which means that Autism Awareness Month is almost over. While antivaccinationists are saying goodbye to April and whining about the very concept of “autism awareness,” I can’t help but realize that the autism quackfest known as AutismOne is less than a month away. Yes, every year around Memorial Day weekend, the glitterati of the autism quackery and antivaccine world descend upon an airport near Chicago’s O’Hare airport (what a drag, given that it can take an hour to get to downtown from there at rush hour) in order to spin conspiracy theories about big pharma and the government, learn about the latest quackery (or simply regurgitate long-existing quackery), and in general think of new ways to subject autistic children to the risk of being unprotected against vaccine-preventable diseases and subjecting them to whatever the quackery de l’année is. (Last year, it was bleach enemas, promoted by a woman named Kerri Rivera. Remembering last year’s quackfest as one of the quackiest that I can recall, I thought I’d take a look at what sort of quackery we can expect in the 2013 AutismOne quackfest.

Before I get to that, I can’t help but point out something that totally cracked me up. I rather suspect it will make you crack up too. Just take a gander at this session, Challenging the Consensus Through Effective Advocacy. Now take a look at who’s giving the talk. That’s right. I kid you not (and apparently the organizers of AutismOne aren’t kidding either). It’s Jake Crosby, and here’s a description of what he’s going to talk about:

This talk will answer questions about how you can become a more effective advocate. Discussions will range from tips and tricks for challenging people publicly at their own venues to tracking down the connections of those who defend the vaccine lobby but don’t disclose their ties. Effective narratives for countering the vaccine lobby’s talking points will also be explored.

Apparently Jake’s going to talk about how he stalks various scientists and skeptical bloggers like myself, making a pest of himself, trying to get a reaction and then blog a one-sided version of the goings-on. Then he’s going to talk about doing hilarious “six-degrees-of-separation” conspiracy mongering posts in which he spins any connection, no matter how tenuous, into an irretrievable conflict of interest. Quite honestly, I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw this.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look. It’s hard not to notice immediately who the keynote speakers are. There’s model turned comedienne turned antivaccine “warrior mother,” Jenny McCarthy, of course. No surprise there. She’s done the keynote for this particular quackfest every year of its existence, as far as I can tell. Then there’s Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Now there’s a blast from the past. Long time readers of this blog might remember that I first made a name for myself in the skeptical and science-based blogosphere when I first deconstructed an awful antivaccine article by RFK, Jr. way, way, way back in 2005. It makes me feel old just thinking about it. I mean, over eight years in the blogsophere is ancient. Apparently in 2013, he’s going to talk about Chronicling the Dangers and Exposing the Cover Up:

Has been involved in the fight to hold government health agencies responsible for the vaccine-induced autism epidemic. Kennedy’s article Deadly Immunity chronicled the cover up by the CDC and FDA blasting the agencies for putting politics before science. He comes to the conference with a new book that further exposes the dangers of thimerosal and ongoing corruption of the CDC.

Oh, goody. I wonder if I can get a review copy. I hadn’t realized that RFK, Jr. was coming out with a book this year and that he was going to exhume the rotting corpse of thimerosal antivaccine pseudoscience.

After the keynote speech by RFK, Jr., the quackery comes fast and furious. For instance, Kerry Rivera, the woman who advocates subjecting autistic children to bleach enemas, will be back for an encore performance, and apparently she’s doubling down on the bleach quackery:

What are the scientifically validated underlying causes of autism that suggest efficacy of chlorine dioxide, and what is the protocol that has helped 86 children to recovery? Underlying medical conditions are implicated in autism–infections, allergies, inflammation, etc. Chlorine dioxide combined with the other steps of the protocol has helped thousands of children in over 40 countries overcome many of these conditions.

So, a year later, Rivera has learned nothing. (I was half tempted to say, “You know nothing, Kerri Rivera,” but I’m not female, red-headed, or pretty, although I am definitely a Game of Thrones addict.) She’s still advocating feeding autistic children bleach, and I bet she’s still advocating bleach enemas as well. There is a bit of good news there. It turns out that in 2013 Rivera will graduate to become a homeopath. I can’t help but hope that she sticks to homeopathy. AT least giving out magic water won’t cause the damage that making autistic children drink bleach and or shoot it up their rectums has the potential to do.

Speaking of homeopathy, there’s lots of homeopathy at the quackfest. For example, there are three talks or roundtables on homeopathy: Sequential Homeopathy + Biomedical Science = Houston Homeopathy Method for Autism by two homeopaths from—you guessed it!—the Homeopathy Center of Houston; the Homeopathy Center of Houston Parent Roundtable; and Restoring Gut Integrity After Iatrogenic Enterocolitis: Regeneration Using Silver Hydrosol, Homeopathy, Probiotics by Robert Scott Bell.

Egads! If it’s not bleach, then it’s colloidal silver. That’s what Silver Hydrosol is! Of course, if bleach enemas, homeopathy, and colloidal silver aren’t enough for you, you can always try to treat autism with camel’s milk.

Then there’s Brian Hooker, who will apparently repeat his nonsense to an adoring audience ready to eat it up in More Lies of the CDC Regarding the Relationship between Vaccines and Autism. One can only hope he will be as hilarious in person as he is in print attacking science. Meanwhile Mayer Eisenstein will be promoting his same, tired, old antivaccine schtick, in which he tries to teach parents how to get out of the various school vaccine mandates. In fact, there’s a whole program about legal issues in autism and autism quackery, particularly getting vaccine exemptions, which is, of course, a special obsession with the antivaccine movement. If there’s one thing they hate, it’s school vaccine mandates.

If that’s not enough, the “Conspiracy Realist” Liam Scheff will tell attendees what he thinks are the The Myths of Modern Science and Medicine:

What’s wrong with science today? Investigator Liam Scheff takes apart the hidden history of medicine to reveal what’s hidden beneath centuries of propaganda. “Are vaccines really safe?” is a question too many people have had to answer in the most painful way – but it’s only a small part of the wide-reaching medical problem, revealed in this lecture.

I must admit that, after perusing Scheff’s website, I find it to be what you might call a “target-rich” environment. I mean, just check out his section on evolution, particularly his piece on How Life Came to Be. Let me tell you, I might have to revisit Liam Scheff sometime. Pure entertainment for skeptics, like a chew toy for a dog. Oh, and he’s a 9/11 Truther too. He’ll definitely fit right in at AutismOne.

Yes, it looks as though AutismOne will in 2013 will be every bit the quackfest that it’s always been, complete with book signings from a bunch of antivaccinationists pushing a book, including Louise Kuo Habakus, Kerry Rivera, and Robert Melillo, among others.