Being Leary of McCarthyism

By Phil Plait | October 23, 2008 9:00 pm

Oh, my brain! It’s all asplodey!

Dennis Leary is sometimes funny, but he can also be a serious jerk. It’s part of his schtick, but there are times… In a book he wrote, Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid, he says that some claims of autism are really just an excuse by “inattentive mothers and competitive dads who want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons.”

Dennis Leary and Jenny McCarthy
In a more perfect world…

He says this quotation is being taken grossly out of context. I have not read the book, so I can’t say for sure, though I can see where this might be the case. For example, he might be saying that most cases of autism are real, but only some parents use it as an excuse. Or maybe it’s simply an excrutiatingly poorly-aimed joke. He does say that he talks about autism being a real disorder, and "that I not only support the current rational approaches to the diagnoses and treatment of real autism but have witnessed it firsthand while watching very dear old friends raise a functioning autistic child."

So it sounds like he may be trying making a what he thinks is a legitimate point, though doing so in a very crass and ill-advised manner.

But then the crazy gets, well, crazier. Enter Jenny McCarthy.

She is at the forefront of the loud but grossly wrong antivaccination movement. About Leary, she says

“Whoo! First of all, let me tell you, the autism community has received probably 10,000 emails [saying] ‘Go kill him!’ ‘Go yell at him,’” McCarthy, 36, told Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush.

“[But] it’s so hard to even get up enough juice in me or energy in me to even try to fight someone that is obviously stupid.”

Wow. Where to start? With the "autism community" threatening him with death? Or her saying someone else’s claims about autism are "stupid"?

I think Leary’s comments were pretty dumb, whether he’s right or not. Stirring up an issue with this much emotion to make a joke is not such a brilliant idea. Of course, he’s not trying to spearhead a movement that creates a huge public health hazard and is literally putting the lives of our children at risk.

Having McCarthy jump on this already exploding dumbosity… well…

The stupid, it burns

Comments (63)

Links to this Post

  1. links for 2008-10-24 - Some thoughts on.... | October 24, 2008
  1. Manveet

    A comedian made a joke.

    Get over it.

  2. Well, it -DOES- give Jenny a chance to dig herself in deeper… Which is fun to watch. Quick! Hand her another shovel!

  3. A comedian who made his name smoking, drinking, yelling, being “insensitive”, and possibly ripping off Bill Hicks- who wasn’t exactly the sweetest, gentlest, stage persona ever- makes a loud, insensitive, remark.

    In other news: internet not actually tubes!

  4. Tom Marking, I deleted your comment. Threats of physical violence have no place here.

  5. Manveet said:

    “A comedian made a joke. Get over it.”

    A comedian made a BAD joke.

    Not in any order in particular:

    A Politician had a BAD idea.
    A scientist published BAD results.
    A WHOLE bunch of people espouse a really BAD belief.
    A cartoonist drew a really BAD cartoon
    A whole bunch of movies have made some really BAD mistakes in their depictions of space and physics.

    Why should we let the stupid go, whatever it’s mildness? Stupid is stupid, and should not pass unremarked upon. This man expects to make a living off of telling jokes, is it too much to ask that he do a moderate-to-good job?

  6. Thomas Siefert

    I don’t think he had much of a point it’s just a topical joke.

    My theory is: There’s no such things colds or influenzas, sneezing and coughing is just a way of getting attention.

    See? Same thing, now sick people will stop me in the street and vomit on me for making jokes about their woes.

  7. The question is are you helping by exposing the Jenny McCarthy idiocy or are you making it worse?

    I think you’re making it worse by wasting your time.

    She may be dangerous, but not THAT dangerous. And the more you give her google relevancy, the more dangerous she becomes.

    Phil, you are on the cutting edge. Don’t waste your time with dried up MTV vjays.

  8. IBY

    You could have used that cartoon in that UFO post.

    @Tman
    When certain diseases are on the rise in the U.S. because of her and her stupid idiots going against vaccines, diseases that were almost non-existent in U.S., that ain’t a good thing, and someone must do something, even if it is a little writing. Ideas are powerful things.

  9. IBY wrote:

    Ideas are powerful things.

    I agree. But bad ideas are even worse.

    TB was eradicated in the US because the “bad ideas” had no place to flourish. There is a point where debating the facts becomes counter-productive when you step back and look at the big picture.

    And we both agree that stimulating the hopes of the “bad ideas” is something that we should not do.

  10. John Phillips, FCD

    Tman, but we have learned from other fields of woo, such as creationism/IDiots intruding into the science classroom for instance, that if we do nothing they often proliferate and others often take our lack of response as either acquiescence or a tacit agreement with the woos or IDiots. Thus unfortunately, ignoring bad ideas doesn’t necessarily make them go away, if only. But instead often allows their proponents to take it further than is wise. The damage already done by the vaccines=autism and allied crowd to herd immunity in a number of countries is a case in point.

  11. Hein du Plessis

    Can we get back to science, please?

  12. MaW

    Well in the context which Phil quotes the quote here, it sounds perfectly reasonable – it sounds like he’s saying that some parents cry autism when their children don’t live up to their unreasonably high expectations. He’s not suggesting that autism itself doesn’t exist, or even that the majority of cases aren’t real.

    Of course, it’s such a little bit of quote it’s impossible to tell, which is disappointing from Phil’s usual high standards.

    As for the antivaxxers seeing sense… well, it’s about as likely as six gamma ray bursts hitting Earth simultaneously.

  13. Kevin S.

    In Dennis Leary’s defense, the sheer number of people who claim to have Asperger’s syndrome on the Internet has become something of a running joke.

  14. redxavier

    Agreeing with MaW here. If anything, I interpret his comment to be aimed towards those parents with milder forms of autism (autism spectrum disorders). That there are degrees of autism and almost ‘sub-autism’ goes some way to supporting his viewpoint that parents do want solace in medical explanations for unusual or subpar behaviour, a sort of expansion of that ‘we must have a medical condition for everything’ mindset.

  15. Weird. I read his joke as aimed at mothers who _go looking_ for diagnoses to explain their kids’ problems in school (“can’t compete academically”). I didn’t see any of that as aimed at kids who are formally diagnosed with autism, after a proper examination, or _their_ parents. That usually happens _long before_ kids start school – as is the case with Ms. McCarthy.

    In the context that Leary uses, I see nothing to be offended about – it’s another case of poor reading comprehension and failure to read context. If you listen to Leary’s “No Cure For Cancer”, he talks about people with cancer using black humour that they appreciate e.g the idea of someone smoking through a tracheotomy tube sounds sick, but it actually happens.

  16. I just want to say, as a parent of an autistic child:

    I’m no fan of Leary, and I haven’t read the full context of this quote, but even just reading the portion quoted above I don’t find it offensive at all. I don’t find it funny, but I don’t find it offensive, either.

    Jenny McCarthy, on the other hand, I find quite offensive.

  17. Having seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears parents crying “autism” (and a bunch of other things) when their little dear didn’t live up to performance expectation, and when it seemed obvious that what the child needed was parental discipline, I am forced to concur with Leary. I’m not saying all parents do this, but it does happen… For years I’ve felt that a lot of parents seem to be seeking medical explanations for the shortcomings of their children – especially in Canada where health care is mostly free – rather than looking in the mirror and asking “am I a good, responsible parent?”

  18. @Phil: “Tom Marking, I deleted your comment. Threats of physical violence have no place here.”

    Phil, let’s not leave the misleading impression that threats of violence were directed perhaps towards you which of course they were not. Of course, if Dennis Leary says the same thing then all is forgiven of course. It’s a joke, right? Considering your comment which was:

    “I think Leary’s comments were pretty dumb, whether he’s right or not. Stirring up an issue with this much emotion to make a joke is not such a brilliant idea.”

    You err in thinking that his comments were part of a joke during a stand-up routine. They were written as part of a book in a chapter called “Autism Schmautism” which should give you some sense of the importance which Mr. Leary gives to autism.

    BTW, you should have included a fuller quotation from the book which you can find by googling:

    “There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you – yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.”

    Leary is an Autism Denier, plain and simple.

  19. @Tom Marking

    Thought this statement by Mr. Leary may interest you:

    The people who are criticizing the “Autism Schmautism” chapter in my new book “Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid” clearly have not read it.

    Or if they have, they missed the sections I thought made my feelings about autism very clear: that I not only support the current rational approaches to the diagnoses and treatment of real autism but have witnessed it firsthand while watching very dear old friends raise a functioning autistic child.
    The point of the chapter is not that autism doesn’t exist — it obviously does — and I have nothing but admiration and respect for parents dealing with the issue, including the ones I know.

    The bulk of the chapter deals with grown men who are either self- diagnosing themselves with low-level offshoots of the disease or wishing they could as a way to explain their failed careers and troublesome progeny.

    Of course, this entire misunderstanding can be easily avoided simply by doing one thing — reading the book.

    Taking one or two sentences out of context — especially when it involves an entire chapter devoted to the subject — is unfair and ill-advised.

    Too often in this country, everything gets reduced to simple sound bites and very very often those sound bites are not truly representative of an author or artist’s point of view.

    Please give me the benefit of the doubt by reading all of what I wrote before attacking me.

    Now, this may just be spin and damage control, but it’s what I have to go on, having not yet read his book, let alone the full chapter instead of just a couple sentences.

  20. JRice

    Add another voice to the “big deal” pile:

    I also have a “spectrum” kid (Asperger’s). I also thought Leary was joking. EVEN in Tom’s “broader context”.

    All’s fair in love and war… and comedy.

  21. “Stirring up an issue with this much emotion to make a joke is not such a brilliant idea.”

    I beg to differ.

  22. Bernard Bumner

    I’m not even sure it is meant as a joke; it is a fairly bald comment on the state of autism as a fad self-diagnosis, and the concordent rise in official diagnosis of the condition.

    I’m not sure that the quote really lacks context – it may or may not be rigorously true, but it is a social comment with some grain of truth in it. It seems instead that there is a rather over-sensitive concern group just waiting to gnash their teeth and wail about any perceived criticism or trivialisation. Groups like the one Jenny McCarthy belongs to love to paint this kind of trivial (possibly wrong) comment as further evidence of the Us vs Them nature of society.

    Autism concern groups in general appear have made a mountain out of a molehill over this; why should anybody really care what Denis Leary has to say – right or wrong – about autism diagnosis? Does he influence policy? Is he being particualrly hateful to the point that he is likely to have a significant impact on the attitude of the general populous to autistics? Doubtful. The mainstream of autistic concern groups, carers, autistics, and health professionals would be better off dismissing Leary’s comments than becoming involved in some barely real controversy.

    There does seem to be a minority contigent of autism concern groups who carefully contrive to be as offended as possible by any insensitive slight, real or imagined. It seems to be part of the elaborate conspiratorial fiction they construct in order to claim ownership of priviledged knowledge of the condtion. They need to be persecuted and misunderstood, so that they can legitimise their own mistruths and misplaced concerns; it adds weight to their claims that the real causes are being overlooked, and that autistic people are generally and broadly discriminated against, via an uncaring, ignorant conspiracy conducted by the rest of society.

    Much of the internet commentary has now degenerated into a situation where, even after a somewhat sympathetic clarrification by Leary, he is being asked to go to greater and greater lengths to make amends (publish the chapter; pulp the book; apologise personally to each and every person with autism on the planet; donate a solid-gold, lifesize replica of Jenny McCarthy’s mouth to fund space tourism for all autistic people…).

    Really, why is the general commentary so hostile toward a comedian with a reputation for shock tactics, and little or no influence over autism policy (even indirectly), whilst Jenny McCarthy is given a prominent and consistent soapbox for her very actually damaging and offensive views?

    @ Tom Marking – it is interesting that I read that more complete quote (although I’m always suspicious of ellipsis), and actually found it lending weight to Leary’s assertion that he wasn’t denying the existance of autism, whereas you managed to infer the opposite.

    There is debate in the psychological community about the causes underlying the upward trend in autism diagnosis, and one concern is that the condition is overdiagnosed in the moderate to mild part of the spectrum (although this is somewhat exaggerated in Leary’s version). This is a very legitimate concern, because it can lead to innapropriate interventions and policy, as well as fomenting public misconception of the condition.

    One thing that we should all be able to agree on, is that violence is a stupid response to a situation resulting from either ignorance or misunderstanding. If you cannot understand that, and rise above such a response – as though it matter to whom such a threat is directed – then you will find yourself with problems indeed.

  23. Cheyenne

    I think Leary is awesome and that quote is clearly out of context. It does sound awful at first, no doubt, but it’s the kind of comedy that is his schtick (which I know is probably only appreciated by a fairly small sample of the population – me included). Leary is a huge supporter of people that were impacted by 9/11, he supports firemen (through charities and his show Rescue Me), and I think he’s pretty funny (not Chris Rock funny, but still, funny).

    “I not only support the current rational approaches to the diagnoses and treatment of real autism”. “rational” and “real”- those are some good key words- and obviously differentiate from what he was taking about. Yeah it was kind of a bit dumb thing for him to say, but he’s a comedian so please lighten up.

    McCarthy is actually dangerous though. She’s in US magazine and skewing the good work of doctors and our public health care system. She isn’t smart enough to comprehend the science behind vaccinations and she is spreading her dumbosity to others. At least people like BA try to fight that as much as they can (and quite frankly I think he writes up some pretty good articles about them, it’s a tough topic to discuss).

  24. FWIW, I have seen kids at private schools diagnosed with learning disabilities on fairly thin grounds. Maybe they really do, and maybe they don’t. But I know the only reason they got tested in the first place is that the parents are hyperachievers who can afford to drop a few grand on testing, and the kid is *shudder* average. And they know having a “diagnosis” will give them special acomodations on exams and (in their mind) an advantage. So the phenomenon does exist, though I have never seen these kids with an Autism label.

  25. Brian Hodges

    Funny thing is, if he had substituted “ADD” or “Learning Disabilities” for autism it would have been much funnier and probably more accurate… albeit “done before.”

  26. For the record, Tom Marking did not threaten violence against me. He gave a specific example of what he would do if he met up with Leary.

    Either way, inappropriate. I deal with issues that anger me all the time; it’s my job. I am pretty sure I deal with more aggravating things than the vast majority of the people who read this blog. Yet I am not violent, and while I do let my writing express my feelings sometimes, I refrain from abject insults, violence, and ad hominems. I ask my commenters to do the same, Read the comments policy, please, which is linked in my blogroll.

  27. zer0

    I for one think Leary is right on in what he said, in or out of context, it’s a least partially true. You see the same thing happen with ADHD. Kids now a days are just as cantankerous and wild as kids were back in the day, now we just have a diagnosis for parents that can’t control their children.

  28. Turing Eret

    Oi. You can’t say that line is a “bad joke”, because that line isn’t the joke. It’s a part of the joke, a piece of build-up. Judging an entire joke by one line in the build-up is kind of stupid. The Aristocrats is considered to be the funniest joke in the comedy world, but if you only heard one line of it, it wouldn’t be that funny. The same is true for any joke; if you heard one line of the build-up, it probably wouldn’t be very funny.

    The joke that Dennis Leary is telling is the entire chapter. Obviously, none of us have read it since the book isn’t out yet, but, honestly, it sounds pretty funny to me. Autism seems to be the disorder du jour for amateur diagnoses by people who want to be special or parents who want to explain away why their kids aren’t exactly the way they imagine them, much like ADD was ten years ago.

    Also, Phil, most of the best jokes rely on stirring up some pretty entrenched emotions. If there’s no emotional base to work off of, then no one cares. I’m also surprised that you’re saying that it’s “not such a brilliant idea” to be stirring up an emotional issue when religion is one of the most emotional issues out there and we revel in jokes regarding that.

  29. jasonB

    Dear Phil

    I was once burned by a soldering iron and find your cartoon of a man on fire to be most offensive. People are burned every day in this country and to make “light” of burning brains can be hurtful, even if it was well intentioned.

    PC be damned, he was making a valid point that everyone wants an excuse as to why their child is not the second coming. Sometimes we just have to be happy with being average. My male modeling career seems to hit a wall every time I look in a mirror. Find something you do excel in and have a go at it.

    Over diagnoses of ADD and ADHD has how many kids doped up on meds right now? Could the same start happening with autism?

  30. For the record, I gave Leary the benefit of the doubt, when the story first broke. I was right to do so. I think Phil, though I don’t want to put words in his mouth, also give Leary the benefit of the doubt too (read the paragraphs under the picture!)

    However Leary meant it, it was a stupid thing to say, and here on Bad Astronomy, no amount of stupid is too small to pick on.

    Take for instance:

    JasonB,

    I wouldn’t want to be PC, so I’ll just say it, you’re being an idiot.*

    Hosting threats of violence on your website can make you legally liable if you already have a policy of screening your comments, which Phil does for language. The same goes for libel and defamation. If you adopt a completely hands-off policy, then maybe not to much. These things are hard to parse legally, so why take the risk?

    Meanwhile, Phil has promised to keep this website (at least) teen friendly. Describing acts of violence in a comments section is not conducive to a overall genial tone for the website. This isn’t Pharyngula.

    Finally: Dis Phil’s blogg: He doez what he wantz.

    *Does that accusation adhere to an overall genial tone? No, but I’m working off your standards to make a point. So don’t whine about it.

  31. MH

    Leary has always been a crappy imitation Bill Hicks, lacking the latter’s wit and trying to substitute meanness instead. It fails every time – on the comedy stage, and in the arena of comedic ‘thought’ as well.

  32. XI

    I realize that this is slighly off topic, but I hope someone can shed some light on this:

    Whether or not thiomersal has an actual causal link to autism, is there really a good reason to continue using it? Is there really no other alternative? If it were no longer present, then that would pretty much squash any notion of a link, no? I mean, autism or not, I’m pretty sure it’s still not good for you.

  33. Todd W.

    @XL

    Thimerosal is a very effective preservative that prevents the growth of contaminants in the vaccine. These contaminants can lead to extremely serious adverse effects on health.

    Currently, thimerosal is only used in the flu vaccine and other multi-dose vials of vaccines shipped to other countries, particularly those with limited resources to afford/store single-does, thimerosal-free vaccines. The majority of childhood vaccines have zero thimerosal in them. Those that do have thimerosal have trace amounts. That has been the case since around 2001/2002, when FDA called for manufacturers to stop using it in U.S. vaccines.

    At any rate, thimerosal has been used with no significant health effects for several decades. It should also be noted that the type of mercury in thimerosal (ethylmercury) is eliminated from the body pretty quickly and does not build up like methylmercury does (the type for which the EPA has set exposure guidelines).

    Hope that addresses your questions. The FDA and CDC have more information on thimerosal at their web sites.

  34. Todd W.

    err….should’ve been “XI”, sorry.

  35. Law Mom

    I, for one, and glad that he made that comment. I know that this kind over-diagnosis occurs with ADD/ADHD, but wasn’t aware that it goes on with autism, too. It explains a lot. My kids’ elementary school had a autism program that parents from the surrounding community fought to get their kids into. Most of these kids were mainstreamed for a few hours a day, so my kids had plenty of contact with them over the years. They became quite knowledgeable about the disorder and very compassionate, but they occasionally mentioned that so-and-so was not really autistic, just bad.

  36. I think Leary has a semi-valid point (and not just because I’m a fan). I don’t think that it’s a large part of the population, but a small part.

    Here’s why. Which might seem a little convoluted and based on personal experiences:
    My brother is mental retarded. When he was younger, the doctors mostly just wanted to push ritalin on him. Don’t get me wrong, it did help him to a point, but they never wanted to take him off of it, and he only stopped taking it because he started to have liver problems. I had several friends in high school and college who were on the doctor likes to push ritalin bus too. That was the big thing in the late 80s through mid-90s.

    I see the “your kid has autism” bus as the same thing. I’m not saying that it’s not real, nor that its a problem, but I think the doctors are overly happy to just quickly diagnose that as the problem and be done with it. I say that, because of the experience with my brother, I’m usually given the students in martial arts that have attention problems, or need special help. The ones that stick with it long enough, tend to “grow out of their autism”. I’m not an expert, but I dont’ think you can grow out of autism.

    I think too many people get the first doctor’s opinion and stop there instead of getting second or third opinions. I blame the For Profit “non-profit” Health Insurance beast for that one though.

    I think that was Leary’s point though. Instead of actually finding out what the real problem is, they throw money at Doctors, and take the first thing they hear that makes them feel better. Yes he’s crass, bu that’s his deal.

  37. Gary Ansorge

    XI: thiomersal was discontinued in childhood vaccines in 2001.

    The one thing to remember about academic performance is that over half the population is mediocre, ie, average. Most parents want their kids to excel but it just isn’t in their cards(read DNA). Only ten percent of the population are academically talented. Them’s the numbers. Too bad, so sad,,,

    We have a rapidly evolving, technologically complex society in which most people are not likely to be proficient. Perhaps some day we’ll know how to improve those capabilities in the general population but that time is not now,,,

    Intellectual spectrum disorders are just another way of saying that evolution is inefficient, chaotic and not very nice. For those of us lucky enough to be elite, we may need to accept that we lead the way to an uncertain future and it is our responsibility to carry those less gifted on our broad(intellectually speaking) shoulders. The only way I know to convince the average Joe to let us help him, is to quite disparaging the less talented in our species, accept the limited gifts they are able to contribute and stride boldly onward.

    I love this species,,,so contentious, young and yet full of possibility.
    We’re all in this reality together. We will forever need the support of those who may only be able to toil with their hands as well as those who work with their minds. There’s no crime in being just average,,,

    GAry 7

  38. XI

    yeah, i realize that it is very effective at prevent fungal growth and whatnot, but it surely isn’t the only game in town. Given the fact that, in many cases, perception is reality (sadly), why not sidestep the issue altogether? I’m sure there must be a reason, but i’ve been unable to find it in my very limited research. But thanks for the reply.

  39. I work in psych and can tell you for a fact that kids are way over-diagnosed.

    The correct diagnosis most of the times is, “Kids being kids” plus the additional diagnosis of “bad parenting.”

    Yeah, you’re kid is energetic and you’re fat and drunk. No wonder you can’t keep up with him. So instead of being an actual parent you get your kid a diagnosis of ADHD to drug your kid into submission.

    Seriously, I blame the doctors who don’t have the peanuts to set the parents straight. Instead they bow to the demands of parents (and the drug dealers). KaChing!

    If it were up to the dealers EVERYONE would have a diagnosis that requires drug therapy.

  40. Calli Arcale

    The function of thimerosal is as a preservative. Single-dose vaccines are more expensive (and in some cases, arguably less eco-friendly) than vials of vaccine which can be drawn up into syringes and given to patients. The problem with the multi-dose vials is that needles are puncturing a membrane and going into the vial over and over — not the same exact needle (you never reuse a needle), but nothing is totally 100% sterile, so pathogens could get into the vial each time a needle is put into it. So, preservatives are added to kill any pathogens which do get in.

    Preservatives are also used during the manufacturing process, to keep the vaccine batch clean before it is loaded into single- or multi-dose vials. If the vaccine is going into single-dose units, the preservatives are first removed. (Traces may remain.)

    Thimerosal is widely used because it is inexpensive, effective, and basically safe in the tiny amounts needed to effectively prevent contamination. I’d rather have thimerosal in my flu shot than staphylococcus aureus! ;-) I’m not sure what alternatives exist; in general, the strategy used for removing thimerosal has been to switch to single-dose vials. In the developing world, this luxury does not exist. Their meager funding for vaccination programs has to stretch as far as possible, so they have to use multi-dose vials as much as possible.

  41. Todd W.

    @Gary Ansorge

    I would add that beyond the DNA factor, one must also consider teaching methods and learning styles. The way subjects are taught generally do not work for every individual in the class, so people that are “average” in the most common systems may suddenly be quite brilliant when taught using a method that more closely matches their learning style.

    I would also add that “learning disorders” may have nothing at all to do with the student just not getting the material. In some situations, kids that “act out” or get poor grades may understand the material very well, very quickly. The problem is that they get bored and don’t want to do the work because it’s tedious and doesn’t challenge them. Alternatively, the student may be such a perfectionist that if they can’t get their work done in just the way they want it, they give up on it instead, either failing to turn it in on time or turning in incomplete homework.

    So, while DNA may contribute to someone being of “average” intelligence or ability, the environment also plays a significant factor in how well they learn and apply the material.

  42. XI

    @Calli Arcale,
    thats a good point about the multi vs single dose. Especially considering that cost is very much an issue when providing vaccines for developing countries. Thanks!

  43. @Todd “The bulk of the chapter deals with grown men who are either self- diagnosing themselves with low-level offshoots of the disease or wishing they could as a way to explain their failed careers and troublesome progeny.”

    Todd, there have been several explanations offered to explain Mr. Leary’s comments in his book. Namely,

    1.) It’s all a joke (he is a comedian after all)
    2.) His comments were taken out of context

    I wish the Leary apologists would stick to one or the other of these. Certainly, his comments in US magazine lend no support whatsoever to explanation number 1 so I wish people would just drop that defense.

    Concerning his explanation in US, Leary claims he is mainly talking about adults diagnosing themselves. Then why the comment about “Yer kid is NOT autistic.”? Is that also a comment about adults? I would suggest Mr. Leary go and consult the definition of autism contained in the DSM IV. The symptoms must manifest themselves before age 3 in order for it to be considered autism. Thus, if a grown man suddenly comes down with all the symptoms that he never had before he would not qualify as autistic. Also, he tends to suggest that it is adults diagnosing themselves or parents diagnosing their children which is not the case. Medical or educational professionals are the ones doing the diagnosis. So I guess Leary must think that they are all involved in the conspiracy to diagnose dumb, stupid people as autistic.

  44. jasonB

    Dear Chemist

    I liked the joke, you apparently didn’t. Do you deny his premise, that perhaps some may be over diagnosing the problem?

    ” Why should we let the stupid go, whatever it’s mildness? Stupid is stupid, and should not pass unremarked upon. This man expects to make a living off of telling jokes, is it too much to ask that he do a moderate-to-good job?”

    And you shall be the arbiter of all which is stupid? I guess you never want to be offended, is that what had your panties in a gather?

    You disagree with someone and they’re an idiot? With intellectual skills such as that you’ll do just fine with the PC police.

    Whine? Na I just consider the source and snicker.

  45. Todd W.

    @Tom Marking

    The primary point of my quoting Mr. Leary was to address your comment:

    They were written as part of a book in a chapter called “Autism Schmautism” which should give you some sense of the importance which Mr. Leary gives to autism.

    as well as the strong negative emotions that the excerpy from his book may evoke. What I got from his statement is that the chapter is not a “joke”, but it is a form of comedy: satire. But, again, without having his book available to read, I shouldn’t be making assumptions. And I think that bit of advice applies to everyone speculating on it, on either side.

    Suffice it to say, that getting really POed about it without knowing what the rest of the chapter is, well, that’s uncalled for. Reserve any opinions on the matter until it you (in the general sense, not Tom in particular) fully understand it. And even then, threats of violence, even if not said/written in earnest, are uncalled for…not to mention amount to the tort offense termed “Assault”.

  46. Todd W.

    oops…forgot to close the blockquote after “gives to autism”.

  47. Let Denis know how you feel – This website is collecting letters and sending to Denis, his business associates, movie and TV studios, and the press.

  48. Yu Mi

    If he thinks autism=bad parents then I wonder what Leary would feel if someone told him that Alcholism is not a disease and that it’s just an excuse for stupid bad people to make them feel better about themselves and was just an excuse to drink more.

  49. Tom Marking

    @Todd: “And even then, threats of violence, even if not said/written in earnest, are uncalled for…not to mention amount to the tort offense termed “Assault”.”

    Oh, please. What Phil failed to mention is what my so called “threat of violence” entailed. It entailed my fist meeting up with Mr. Leary’s eye or perhaps nose at a certain point in the future, nothing more. (As I recall you all applauded when Buzz Aldrin did something like that.) I’m sure he’s getting a lot worse threats than that from the thousands of people in the autism community who he has managed to upset. In all likelihood nothing will happen to poor, whimpering, Mr. Leary. He can go find the rock he crawled out from under and go hide there if he wishes to.

    BTW, there is nothing in his comments in the US magazine piece to suggest that his chapter on autism was a satire. Why didn’t he claim it was a satire if that was his intention?

  50. Tom Marking

    @jasonB “Do you deny his premise, that perhaps some may be over diagnosing the problem?”

    Yes, as a matter of fact, I do deny it. The burden of proof is on those who assert that this is happening. It’s up to you and Mr. Leary to share with us your evidence for this assertion and you’ll need to name names. Who is overdiagnosing autism? Who has been falsely diagnosed with autism? Please give me one name of one person who has been falsely diagnosed with autism and the name of the doctor who provided the false diagnosis.

  51. Tom Marking

    @Rick “Let Denis know how you feel – This website is collecting letters and sending to Denis, his business associates, movie and TV studios, and the press.”

    Rick, thanks for the web site. I’m going to follow up on that. Hopefully we can send Mr. Leary’s career to the same place that Michael Richard’s (a.k.a., Kramer) career went. It seems I’m not the only one who is angry at him. This one really cracked me up. I had to edit it for NSFW:

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2008/10/real-firefighte.html

    Managing Editor’s Note: The author of this letter is a real firefighter. Timothy Dwyer spent sixteen years with FDNY before leaving his career to become full time caregiver for his son who has autism.

    October 15, 2008

    Denis Leary
    The Leary Firefighter Foundation
    594 Broadway, Suite 409
    New York, NY 10012

    Denis:

    Since you make your living off the backs of Firefighters, many of whom like myself have a child with autism which you have now chosen to make fun of, how about you be a man and come to Long Island and see my son’s school. Observe first hand my fat, lazy, stupid child suffering from autism. I bet you wouldn’t last 10 seconds with my son or on the fire floor. You wish you could walk in my shoes. I am a founding parent of the ELIJA School for children with autism spectrum disorders in Levittown, NY and a 20 year NYPD/FDNY veteran.

    There are many firefighters struggling with autism and all your foundation does is buy tools for the city, just more —- for them to carry. You do nothing for Firefighter’s real problems. So come on out, get your head out your — and pry open that fat wallet of yours that was filled thanks to the real characters of the FDNY.

    We are a struggling school and your “humor” doesn’t help our cause. The only people who can make fun of autism are those whose lives are consumed by it. Between autism and fires, you got nothing. Last year we made $25K on our Guns and Hoses Comedy Event. This year we need to make $50K to survive. See what you can do brother.

    Timothy P. Dwyer
    Retired FDNY

    P.S. Enclosed please find the DVD of Rescue Me, the complete first season. It was going to be part of a fundraising basket, but is now useless to us. Consider it a donation to your foundation. Go buy some more toys for the city. They lose more money in a day that what it costs us to run our school for a year. Thanks man.

  52. Pop

    I see a mountain, a mountain so high. It started as a mole hill so low to the ground. All this Hoorah over all, ya’all’s reaaction to Phil’s reaction to Leary. Leary is a comedian and businessman. He intentionally says and writes things to get reactions for his monetary benefit. When anyone, Phil included pick up Leary’s comment, it just adds to Leary’s coffer. If Phil wants to critize Miss Jenny, it has a place here on his blog. If he wants to comment on Leary it has a place here. The rest of us should keep our fingers quiet. None of our comments back to Phil and all of the other readers has made one wit of change to Leary’s feelings or thinking, nor to Miss Jenny’s for that matter. What am I trying to say (write)? Everyone, ease up. What you wrote here now, ain’t gonna matter next week. WhooHoo, my two cents worth, or is that too sense worth?

  53. Scottso

    Honestly I haven’t read through all the comments, but my gut reaction to your article is “I’m glad someone crossed the ‘politically correct’ line and called it like it is.” That’s pretty much what he does and that’s his “shtick” — pushing the boundaries. Every comedian you would label great has done or does the exact same thing, granted, some more blatantly than others. But that’s what makes it funny. There is a grain a truth in the craziness. He even makes clear, per your own quote,that he is sympathetic to those children who are truly autistic.

    I’m all for exploding the issue. It doesn’t really get examined by the Joe Beer watching Football crowd unless someone makes it an issue that CNN and/or FOX news picks up and as that is the “masses” those are the ones that really need to pay attention.

  54. @Scottso “But that’s what makes it funny. There is a grain a truth in the craziness.”

    Yeah, it’s very funny right up to the point where he calls you, your kind, your profession, your disability, your race, your loved ones, etc., etc., FAT, DUMB, and STUPID. I’m sure there’s a section in the book just for you, Scott. I hope you will find it as hilarious as you seem to do the part about autism.

  55. Andres Villarreal

    @Law Mom: (and others)

    In this blog and many other places I have seen Autism handled in a far too simplistic way as far as diagnostics go. There is no definitive diagnostic procedure for autism, no conclusive link between physical injury and autism, a wide range of behaviors that fall into the general category of autism.
    It is still too early to expect agreement between all the physicians about all these subjects, so there is ample space for every parent with an agenda to bend the situation to his needs.

  56. “Please give me one name of one person who has been falsely diagnosed with autism and the name of the doctor who provided the false diagnosis.”

    *Crickets*

    LOL, yeah, that’s what I thought. Feh.

  57. Java Man

    Someone probably already pointed this out, but I will degrade the signal-to-noise ratio anyway.

    Dennis Leary = Crass + Insensitive.

    Get over it, Jenny.

  58. quasidog

    I find that drawing attention to this is even more stupid.

  59. Todd W.

    @Tom Marking

    Just being technical. A threat of a fist connecting with part of the facial anatomy does constitute Assault. Also, I was not among those praising Buzz for his act of battery. Personally, I think he was wrong to do it, however much it may make people feel vindicated.

    As to whether it is satire or not, based on what I’ve seen of his other work, satire seems a likely attribution. If he’s established that he uses satire quite a bit in his routines, is it necessary to spell it out for people? Though he didn’t explicitly say “it’s satire”, that’s the impression I got. My guess is that he is taking some aspect of society that he thinks is stupid (e.g., people using an inappropriate and inaccurate diagnosis of autism as a scapegoat for why they or their children are troublesome) and holding that aspect up to ridicule. In other words, satire. Whether he is justified in his choice of target, that’s another matter and one of taste.

    But, I still stand by my comment that regardless of whether or not he is right or wrong, threats of violence are out of line. I also stand by my statement that judgment should be reserved until the full chapter has been read. That includes my own judgment of it as a work of satire.

  60. Jason

    I think you have to consider the source from which this ignorant comment came from. Denis Leary himself.
    Here’s a guy who chain smokes fully knowing the risk of nicotine. That should tell you something right there. Anybody who would willingly add carciogens to his body should give you a hint of his overall stupidity and lack of common sense. Why is it a surprise then that he scoffs off something he cant get a grasp of. After all he’s too busy writing books and filming his tv show where he pretends to be a firefighter. It must be nice living in a fantasy land. I also love how all these arm chair docters on here like to throw their opinions down people’s throats that autsim is a hoax etc, when they negelct to look at the statistics. It’s easy and ignorant to say “Oh more kids are plain stupid nowadays” but you tell that to parent who’s child cant look them in the eyes. I’m not surprised by all the ignorance on here though. Everybody is a knowitall and when facts are presented, like Leary, most of you choose to go into denial and fantasyland. It’s no wonder our great country foolishly and blindlly reelected a moron as president even after they admited there was no weapons of mass destruction. Bush singlehandedly let the economy tank too and gas went from 1.50 a gallon to almost 5.00 last summer, and all the ignorants who refuse to believe vaccines are poison are the same people who turned they back on what was happening. Before you come to conclusions, do the research and you’ll discover vaccines today contain mercury and discarded fetus tissue among other things. Keep believing what the government and Denis Leary are telling you though. And buy his book to make him richer so you can see his words were taken out of content as he claims.

  61. Nelly

    Many adults who claim to be autistic these days are not autistic but simply disturbed individuals who use “autism” to mask emotional handicaps caused by other disorders. My sister was obsessed with autism for four years, tried to have herself diagnosed, tried to get her son diagnosed, then moved on to our mother and myself, and finally claimed to have the expertise to diagnose as autistic everyone, dead or alive, in our entire extended family. Well, she did get diagnosed herself, but not with an autistic disorder. She was hospitalised after a sever psychotic break and was found to suffer from a schizophrenic psychotic disorder.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »