Insights from the Paul Offit Interview, Part I: Waking the Silent Majority

By Chris Mooney | February 15, 2010 9:25 am

(If you haven’t yet heard the first episode of the new Point of Inquiry, you can listen here, and I also strongly encourage you to subscribe via iTunes from the same page.)

There were many aspects of my interview with Paul Offit that I found very informative, even surprising, and I thought I would highlight some of them here on the blog this week. Perhaps the first was Dr. Offit’s response to my second question–when I asked him, around minute 6, about all the hate mail he receives (including some death threats). I was expecting dire tales of the extremism that had been directed at my guest; but instead, Offit opened up about the incredibly positive response his book has received:

When I wrote the book, I assumed it would merely galvanize those who didn’t agree with my point of view, and who would angrily write to me, hatefully–but that wasn’t true. I think what surprised me with this book, after I wrote it, is that I have received hundreds of emails, probably about 800 emails, from parents of children with autism, including severe autism, that have said, “Thank you, I never thought it was vaccines, Jenny McCarthy presumes to represent me, but she doesn’t.” This book is going to be coming out in paperback in April, and in the introduction, the revised introduction as a preface to the new paperback edition, I basically apologize to parents; I feel like, whenever I heard a parent of a child with autism I would sort of cringe at some level, thinking they would be anti-vaccine. That’s not true. I think frankly, most of them don’t feel that way at all.

Offit went on to talk about the “silent majority out there of parents that don’t buy into this vaccine-autism debate, and frankly are angry about it.” To me, it’s just another sign that the worm is turning on vaccine-autism claims. The movement may even be courting some serious backlash at this point.

In any case, that’s the first of many insights from the Offit interview, and I’ll be blogging more of them this week. Once again, you can listen to the podcast and subscribe here. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Paul Offit’s book, Autism’s False Prophets, if you don’t already own it: Just follow the link below:


CATEGORIZED UNDER: point of inquiry, vaccination

Comments (2)

  1. bob

    Got no love on the previous entry, so I’ll try my question again here, since you brought up this silent majority again.

    Why didn’t you bring up your idea about building bridges to the leaders of the antivax community? Did you think it wasn’t necessary (or have you changed your mind about it) because Dr Offit told you that he gets lots of positive feedback from the “silent majority”? I doubt it, because I don’t think this “silent majority” is news to you, since overall vaccine compliance in the US has thankfully remained very high.

  2. I’m part of the (not so) silent majority.

    One need only cruise the celebrity websites for reactions to a recent statement by Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey to see that the majority don’t agree with them.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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