Monday, February 12, 2007

Unmasked At Last

I knew it couldn’t last. No matter how hard I tried to disguise myself, someone would eventually discover that I’m part of the ‘Mercury Militia’. I tried all kinds of subterfuge to remain hidden, but alas, to no avail. A cunning sleuth has discovered my deception and 'outed' me.

(That was sarcasm, BTW)

The first comment on Prometheus’s post What You Want is What You Get was by Bazooka Joe (sorry, no link), who linked me and my blog to the ‘Mercury Militia’, and inferred a couple of other points. The comment has now been deleted from Prometheus’s blog, as has my reply below:


Hi Prometheus,

Since you permitted Bazooka Joe’s comment, I hope that you will allow me the courtesy of a reply.

"They [linked to Generation Rescue et al, with the clear implication that ‘they’ refers to the ‘Mercury Militia’] have started blogs; here's a list:

Ian's blog, ashadeofgrey, has focused on reprinting Manny Cassanova's minicolumn research, including grant proposals and unpublished data.

So you see, it's no wonder that people like Kirby use the term, blogger, with derision. Effective blogging is not what the mercury militia do well."

The implication is that I am part of the mercury militia? Um, Bazooka Joe, can you show me any evidence where I’ve stated that mercury and/or thimerosal and/or vaccines cause autism? For the record, I’m Ian Parker, not the ‘Ian’ who sometimes comments on Kev’s blog (and maybe elsewhere), if that helps refine the search.

Regarding ‘reprinting’ Dr Casanova’s research, if you read his research you’ll find that I’ve added interpretations that go beyond what he has written, after first explaining his hypotheses from a body of work regarding minicolumns covering the period from 2002 to 2006. As for referencing the grant proposal (it sounds like you consider this pejorative), why not? I’d suggest that Dr Casanova’s reputation is as much on the line in his proposal (which has been widely distributed) as it is in his peer-reviewed published work. Besides, it included some cool illustrations.

As for ‘unpublished data’ (two papers), I know of other researchers (as in other than Dr C) who have also reviewed the same information, and the latter paper will be published shortly. FWIW, Dr Casanova forwarded me the papers because we correspond, and he knows of my high level of interest in such matters. I asked permission before I used them in my posts. The first paper is a hypothesis work, and fully referenced. The latter is now in review. The fact that some of this paper’s findings are now in circulation linked to his name (sans refutation) conveys a certain level of trust. When the paper is published, you are free to read it and compare it to my post to see how much original thought and interpretation, if any, that I have added.

I also write about subjects other than the three minicolumn posts, including some posts about ToM, autism and evolution (I waited for Prometheus to write this one, but…), and a variety of other subjects, including my daughter. If you’re interested (I somehow doubt it – if you were I doubt that I would be writing this) you can find them under ‘Blog Archive’ by clicking on the little triangular buttons on the right of the window and then following the links.

Regarding "Effective blogging is not what the mercury militia do well", while temporarily suspending disbelief that I’m part of the mercury militia, I’ll leave it to the people who read my blog to determine that. If they don’t like it then presumably they won’t come back.

As a final thought, I find it interesting that ‘we members of the mercury militia’ are often accused of ignoring peer-reviewed science, and yet my posting about peer-reviewed research is being used to indict me?



María Luján and Wade Rankin, were also mentioned - among others - in Bazooka Joe’s comment, and both tried to reply. Eventually Prometheus deleted both of our comments and added his own thoughts as follows:

"Bazooka Joe,

I think you and Ian Parker should take your discussion off this blog, since it seems to be related to your personal differences of opinion. You're both welcome to post comments here, but only if you stay a bit closer to the subject."

And following:

"Wade Rankin,

I realize now that approving Bazooka Joe's comment was a mistake, which is why I allowed Ian Parker to have a go. I do not intend to allow every aggrieved party a chance to vent their spleen at Bazooka Joe (or to allow him to reply to all of them in turn).

I have removed both Bazooka Joe's original comment and Ian Parker's reply. I suggest that anyone who feels a need for "satisfaction" find a more suitable venue (how about ?)."

So, based on Prometheus’s comment, apparently Bazooka Joe seems to feel that this is unresolved. Meanwhile, I am curious as to why I was included in this ‘drive-by shooting’? I’ll leave aside the 'reprint' reference to my three of 23 posts that discuss the work of Dr Casanova, as I think I answered that sufficiently above, at least until someone takes another shot. As for the quality of my blog, as bad and/or ineffective as it is, if you're reading this then I've sucked you in one more time. And I'll resist the temptation to go pejorative and make comments about 'reading comprehension'.

Anyway, I’m presuming that being a member of the ‘Mercury Militia’ requires something more of me than walking upright and drawing breath (I do both, BTW). My assumption is that the term ‘Mercury Militia’ refers to those who believe that ‘thimerosal’ or ‘mercury’ injected during vaccinations has ‘caused’ their child’s autism. This definition could probably be extended to include the MMR causation hypothesis as well. I would suggest that a further qualification would be that one would not only believe the above but also be relatively active and adamant in discussing the matter, but for now let's take the more relaxed definition. If anyone wants to propose another definition, feel free.

I did a quick search on my blog, looking for some key words. I mention ‘mercury’ (excluding NotMercury, the blogger) in four posts. In the Respect Meme I indicated the following:

"A related issue is that some ‘wrap themselves in the flag’. On one side, some autistics view a disagreement with their ideas as a challenge or an attack on all of those who are autistic. "If you disagree with me then you don’t respect autistics". The mirror image on the 'all autism=mercury poisoning' side is "If you don’t agree with me then you are abusing children". Er, no, on both counts."


"Respect is very relevant to the autism discussion. I would suggest that from the point of view of the neurodiversity community, respect – and the perception (and in a lot of cases the reality) of the absence of respect - is one of the driving reasons behind their participation in the debate. I would suggest that the ‘autism = mercury’ parents also see the debate – in their case with the government and with many in the scientific community – as a respect issue, and also lack respect for the ND point of view as well as for many of its proponents. And for the majority of parents and caregivers, the respect issue revolves around government and support agencies not providing the amount of care and support that is required to improve the quality of life and accommodation of those touched by autism (i.e. not respecting what they see as the conditions required to respect the right to proper and adequate support)."

In Moderate Does Not Mean Neutral, I wrote:

"Having said that, I also oppose poorly conducted science, which I believe does not serve anyone well. Exploring a reasonable hypothesis that does not have mainstream support is not poor science. Exploring hypotheses without using the scientific method and without having the goal of arriving at replicable results that can withstand peer review is poor science. Some on the treatment side have conducted poor science, and I believe that the result has been an overstatement of results and a damaging loss of credibility that may slow the ultimate search for answers. I also think that the ‘all autism = mercury’ approach has hampered other research that may find other causes, and I disagree with those that take this one-size-fits-all approach to autism research."

(You may want to pay particular attention to that last sentence.)


"We do not chelate our child, and to be honest, the process scares me. For the record, my daughter has some potential heavy metal issues (not mercury) that showed up on a mainstream test (discovered by accident – we were testing for essential minerals and ticked the toxic panel as an afterthought). Our approach has been to monitor this and try to naturally rebuild the Bear's detox system rather than use chelation. But I do not oppose others using chelation as long as they have clearly dealt with other bio-medical issues first, have tested their child and found the presence of heavy metals, and are careful to conduct chelation under qualified and experienced supervision and with regular testing/monitoring performed by reputable labs to ensure that no harm is being done."

(I think this is one of only two spots where I mention chelation, BTW)


"There is a history of extremes targeting moderates to turn situations into a clear black vs. white, ‘us’ vs. ’them’ issues, eliminating any room for diversity of viewpoints or compromise. It is easy to caricature or ridicule an extremist opponent (e.g. ‘all autism = mercury’ is downright silly), but it is harder to ridicule a moderate interventionist approach backed by replicable medical tests and following a moderate educational approach based on what many would consider common sense."

In Demeaning Words I wrote:

"Second, it is not intended as a personal attack on JB Handley or his objectives. One may agree or disagree with his views (I personally do not agree with his view - if I perceive it correctly - that all autism is the result of mercury poisoning), but that is not the subject of this post."

And finally, in Autism – It’s Not Always A Natural Variation, I wrote:

"This logic does not support the conclusion that no autism is purely genetic (75% could still theoretically be purely genetic - or more if the 60% concordance rate is too low). In fact, it supports the conclusion that autism in a significant number of cases involves at a minimum a degree of genetic susceptibility. It does not prove or disprove that the 'second hit' is thimerosal or mercury. It does not argue for or against chelation. It does not suggest that autism originates either in the womb or after birth. It does not suggest or refute the possibility that autism is curable, or that a cure is or is not desirable."

This paragraph also contains my only reference to thimerosal.

Finally, I use vaccines once:

"But I also see a discussion that is increasingly polarizing, in which accepting that others have different views is giving way to an advocacy that rejects other viewpoints as unenlightened, wrong, or not yet at their level of "awakening". This used to be a hallmark of the more activist element within the anti-vaccine crowd, but is also becoming increasingly apparent in the "autism is natural variation" crowd too. It is one thing to oppose some of the more contentious attempts to cure autism, e.g. chelation, or lupron (which IMHO is just nuts), or to reject the concept of treatment for oneself. But as this challenge to the more contentious bio-med practices is morphing into a more direct challenge against even mainstream accepted methods of investigating and potentially treating autism, I think it is time for more moderates to join the debate."

(The other spot where 'chelation' is mentioned)

So, based on the above, what exactly is it again that marks me as being part of the Mercury Militia?


Bazooka Joe said...

P wasn't joking that I touched a few nerves. Had I seen the fury I caused, I would have been much more explicit. Orac's blog is known by the EoHers as an ND blog even though I'm sure he wouldn't see it as such.

So too is your blog used by the EoHers as evidence that an environmental trigger is responsible for autism. As you know, for an EoHer, an environmental trigger is a euphemism for vaccine.

So even though you're bright and your Cassanova phenomenology reprints (or wordsmithing review, call it what you want) are very interesting (and the reason why I lurk and read your blog regularly), your blog is still used to comfort and provide ammunition to the EoHers, just as Orac's blog does the same for the NDs.

Apparently, the unintended ego bruising was done by insinuating that your blog is ineffective. From the vantage point of an EoHer who is looking to build up a case for thimerosal, Al, or the MMR to be the environmental trigger to create autism, your blog is ineffective.

Glad we could clear that up, now take a deep breath. Believe you me, a sprained Id is no fun.

Lovingly yours, Joe

I'll lurk again in a month or so to catch up on the Cassanova details. In the meantime, you can always reach me at Send me porn.

Wade Rankin said...

Gee Ian, I could have told you that any acknowledgment that exploring the question of environmental triggers or heavy metals is appropriate will label you as a member of the militia. Admittedly, of the three of us that you mention, I am the closest to actually being a member of the militia. And yes, I am indeed a member of EoH. In some folks' eyes, that is enough, no matter how many times I say that I do not believe autism to be a euphemism for mercury poisoning, and that the processes that are at work are far more complex than to restrict ourselves to a discussion of thimerosal and vaccines (although I think thimerosal and overvaccination played a key role in triggering the epidemic -- oops, there I go again using the "e" word).

Although Bazooka Joe (where do these people come up with these cute little names?) correctly points out that Orac (and presumably others of the self-styled skeptics) are often mislabeled as being part of the ND culture, I find it ever so amusing that he (is BJ a he?) thinks that is an excuse for mislabeling those who have never made that mistake.

Finally, I have to report that I checked, and there is indeed a That leads to two separate, but equally scary, thoughts. First, why did Prometheus become fascinated with that spot (and presumably, the "sport" itself)? Second, why is Prometheus fascinated by the thought of the likes of us participating?

Ian Parker said...

Hi Bazooka Joe,

Thanks for stopping by and clearing that up. Boy, am I relieved. I thought for a while there you were linking my blog to the ‘mercury militia’. Oh, wait, to a certain extent you still are...

You wrote:

"Apparently, the unintended ego bruising was done by insinuating that your blog is ineffective."

Well, no. My ego doesn’t feel particularly bruised. Of the three points you wrote, the one that got my attention the most was the one linking me to the ‘mercury militia’. The second was "focused on reprinting Manny Casanova’s minicolumn research, including grant proposals and unpublished data." As for "effective blogging", again I’ll leave it to the people who read my blog to determine that. But I will accept your explanation that your meaning was supposed to be related to the blog’s lack of utility in proving that 'autism = mercury'. I can live with that.

You wrote:

"So too is your blog used by the EoHers as evidence that an environmental trigger is responsible for autism. As you know, for an EoHer, an environmental trigger is a euphemism for vaccine"


"your blog is still used to comfort and provide ammunition to the EoHers"

Really? Is there any evidence of this ‘aiding and abetting’?

FWIW, I have no idea what EoHers think of my blog. To the best of my knowledge only two people from EoH have ever commented here. One is Wade, who I consider a good friend, and the other was JB Handley (I'm assuming he's a member?), who left one comment back in June ’06. I don’t know where the EoH site is located or of any other EoHers who visit here, and I’ve certainly never heard of an EoHer linking here or quoting me. If any are reading my blog – and they are as welcome as anyone else - then I would hope that they pick up on the thoughts contained within it, some of which were included in this post write-up. And just to be clear, I use the word 'environmental' in its broadest sense, rather than as a euphemism for ‘vaccine’, ‘Chinese industrial pollution’ or ‘forest fire’.

So, on to the second point. The implication in your comment is pretty clear that I’m just rewriting Dr Casanova’s research in layman’s terms, without adding anything by way of interpretation, insight, etc. As well, the "including grant proposals and unpublished data" strikes me as just a slight bit pejorative, or at a minimum ‘dismissive’. But perhaps my ToM capabilities are weak. Obviously to describe Dr Casanova’s findings I have to, um, well, describe Dr Casanova’s findings? Given that a) I’m not a neuroscientist and b) neither are most of my readers, I tend to write in English rather than ‘science’. But I was hoping it was clear in my posts that I was doing more than just 'translation'.

In the latest post, after describing the research, pretty much every interpretation and insight below Figure 1 is my own (although obviously I am heavily indebted to Dr Casanova in terms of my understanding of minicolumns), except where I’m quoting the paper or from other sources (including, again, Dr Casanova). In the other two posts too, I would suggest that I did a little more than just reprint or wordsmith Dr Casanova’s research, especially in terms of some of the insights and implications. I tried to be very careful in demarcating this, as per my "In addition, any implications beyond those explicitly stated in Dr Casanova’s research papers should not be attributed to Dr Casanova unless specifically noted." statement in the 'Autism and Minicolumns' post, specifically so as to not implicate Dr Casanova in any way that might damage his reputation. I said something pretty similar in the second post.

Anyway, just so things are clear from my side, if you really meant to imply that the ‘mercury militia’ is reading my blog rather than imply that I am a ‘member’, then I will accept that and chalk up the misunderstanding to a lack of clarity in your original comment. I’d prefer that the next time we ‘meet’ that any comments are exchanged based on what we’ve each said, rather than on some past grudge.

I would also ask you to take more care in future comments. Not everyone out there (and by this I don't mean you) is bright enough to actually read material themselves and make up their own minds before commenting.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Wade,

I'm sorry, I tuned out after you said "And yes, I am indeed a member of EoH." Hopefully I didn't miss any subtleties, nuances or qualifications to your diehard and implacable view that 'all autism = mercury poisoning'.

(Okay, THAT was sarcasm)

Re: mudwrestling, unfortunately the only picture in my mind is that of John Candy (not pretty).


The real queston is how DID Bazooka Joe loose his left eye and why DOES that kid Mort cover his mouth with his sweater.

Fortune: You will be linked with people you don't agre with

Send 100 comics and $1200 for magical keychain cure for autism...

Ian Parker said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks for dropping by and for pointing out the really important questions. ;-)

I knew Bazooka Joe was a gum, but never knew of the comic book history linked to it - or the 'fortune' - (sigh, ignorant Canadians). I never chewed gum when I was a kid (okay, I did occasionally, until the first time it got caught in my braces).

Of interest, Bazooka Joe wears the patch over his right eye, and Mort apparently uncovered his mouth during the 1983-1985 period (maybe reflecting the increasing confidence of the Reagan years? ;-) When the strip reappeared in '89 he was covered up again - Bush Sr never had the Reagan magic).

As to the keychain cure, I hope it's not weighted with any heavy metals. Does it have any zeolite?

María Luján said...

Hi Ian
This is the sixth time I try to post. I have some problems with the new Google entry to my blog :(

Well, it seems that Mr Bazooka Joe considered “us” as Mercury militia. I do not understand very much the “name”. What does it mean, exactly?
a-That you consider that autism=Hg poisoning?
b-That you are member of the EOH list?
c-That you consider that there is an environmental trigger / or collaborator in autism- only vaccines?
d-That you consider that there are environmental components in autism that must be further properly and carefully researched with high quality science by high quality researchers? Well this is not very accurate - calling us mercury militia in this case-because environment is ALL what surrounder you and you ingest or are in contact/ infected by. For me air, water, food, viruses, bacteria, fungus, protozoos, and xenobiotics (including medicines- antibiotics in them, vaccines, other) are all environment.
Well, if it is a or c; I am not and Wade you ´re closer by neither you are :) . Definition d is incompatible with “mercury militia” and about b) I have never considered the need of explanation, but perhaps it is needed.
Yes, I am a member of EOH list.

I begun to post in Internet 15 months ago. When I knew about EOH list, it was from reading experiences of members of the Autism-hub-bad ones-and therefore I considered that probably I was not going to participate. I really like respectful debate- such as here or in Wade´s blog-and I am not confortable when the things go downhill. After this, I knew Wade and Ian and Ginger and many other bloggers.

After near 11 months of posting, things were not equal that when I begun. They became progresively worse and worse and worse in the blogosphere until the situation of today, where I prefer only reading, but almost not to participate- at least me- except selected places here, Wade´s blog, the AutismWeb, very ocasionally in 1-2 blogs from Autism-hub and my blog- and this is why I have only few posts in my blog. And I considered that I had to know about all the aspects, even if they were extreme, to have the opportunity to make my own decision/analysis about what was happening- the Autism Act, the different aspects of Autism Speaks and so on. Otherwise you read from third people explanation and I live 15000 km away USA/Canada. I ussually read as much as I can about the general situation but mainly about published science in autism, in every field I am interested on: immunology, psychology, sociology/family of autistic people, virology, toxicology, biochemistry, metabolic and genetic problems, neurology, neurocognition, nurturing and so on. And therefore I joined EOH list September 2006.

But nobody can say that I share a or c. And also I have told clearly many bloggers from Autism-hub and other bloggers/posters that I disagree with the confrontation/insulting/sarcastic/cynical/irrespectful tone.

Now, Am I mercury militia or not????

At this point, I consider I am part of my son´s team; a team of 4 with ALSO my husband and my daughter.


María Luján (perhaps posting as Anonymous because the blog does not accept otherwise)

Ian Parker said...

Hi María Luján,

I previously wrote:

"I don’t know where the EoH site is located or of any other EoHers who visit here, and I’ve certainly never heard of an EoHer linking here or quoting me."

You wrote:

"Yes, I am a member of EOH list."

Well now, there goes my point, right out the window... ;-)

You wrote:

"Now, Am I mercury militia or not????"

I consider both you and Wade to be good friends, and - from my perspective, totally unrelated - neither of you would qualify for membership in the 'mercury militia', based on either your criteria above or my criteria.

Both of you have regularly expressed views that demonstrate considerably more depth of thought, open-mindedness, and willingness to consider other options than the 'all autism = mercury', 'all autism = vaccines', etc., that are hallmarks of those that I would consider to be the 'mercury militia'.

Unfortunately, given the depths to which the 'discussions' have descended, it is much easier for some to ignore anything that does not mesh with a close-minded, one-dimensional, and damning view of those with whom they disagree. And again unfortunately, that characteristic is found in some (but definitely not all) at both ends of the debate spectrum. The result is that there is little exploration of many of the things on which we do agree and could work together, or would if someone were to point them out.

At the end of the day, even die-hard 'all autism = mercury' proponents have to accept the fact that even if they are correct as regards to causation, not everyone is going to be 'cured'. Those that are not are still worthy human beings, deserving of acceptance, respect and accomodation. For those who are anti-ABA/IBI, parents still have to find a way to educate our kids. Most parents who want ABA/IBI are not ideologically driven, but will gladly follow any methodology or methodologies that can help autistics learn, if they are presented as actionable alternatives. For those who are 'anti-cure', there may be another road in the form of effective amelioration that can help without changing who one believes oneself to 'be'. I would suggest that accomodation, acceptance, and amelioration are in the best interests of all sides.

But why let these common interests get in the way of a good scrap?

María Luján, in terms of 'affiliations' I think you picked the best TEAM to be part of. In the end, it is the one that matters the most.

kyra said...

gee.i'm so out of it. what is an EoHer? am i one? since i question the role thimerasol had in my son's autism? not saying it CAUSED it but wonder, as any sane human being might, if injecting large amount of a known neurotoxin during the development of my son's neural tube, etc. etc. during embryonic development MAY have had SOME negative affect on his development? wondering?

ian, you keep on keepin' on. your blog is smart, interesting, personal, moving, and thought-provoking.

there is an awful lot of energy being drained by those who would attack anyone who wants to look at environmental factors as having a potentially negative impact on the health of human beings. very silly. and not very scientific. and it does nothing to promote the need for greater acceptance, understanding, and willingness to treat ALL people with respect.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Kyra,

Thank you for the kind words, they are very much appreciated.

EoH is from Evidence of Harm, the Kirby (?) book that documents the suggested link between autism and thimerosal vaccinations. I'm not totally sure, but I believe it is a yahoo group set up to discuss this hypothesis.