Now for a Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity.
The winner of the Big Red Nose this week is Robert Kennedy Jr., the son of former Attorney General and former senator Robert Kennedy. RFK Jr. is one of those anti-vaxxers, as they're called, people who claim there is a link between a vaccine preservative called thimerosal and autism, based on the presence of a mercury compound in the preservative. They claim this even though when you rely on evidence from actual studies instead of from anecdotes, the supposed relationship disappears and the pharmaceutical industry hasn't even used thimerosal in routinely recommended childhood vaccines for the last 14 years.
Which means all those anti-vaxxers are clowns, as I said - I think rather gently - a couple of months ago when I called them "wrong scientifically and wrong ethically and wrong practically." But I have a particular reason for plucking RFK The Younger out of the crowd here.
In a speech last week, Kennedy used the term "holocaust" in reference to this imagined vaccine-autism link.
Some folks, as you'd expect, were not pleased about his use of the term, so on April 13, he issued a statement saying "I want to apologize to all whom I offended by my use of the word holocaust to describe the autism epidemic. I employed the term during an impromptu speech as I struggled to find an expression to convey the catastrophic tragedy of autism which has now destroyed the lives of over 20 million children and shattered their families."
Okay, we have two problems here. First, even though he used the active "I offended" rather than the passive "those who were offended," this is still a non-apology apology: It admits he offended some people but never actually admits that what he did was in and of itself offensive. Instead, he tries to explain it all away as the result of an "impromptu struggle" to "express the catastrophe."
The other is his problem with basic math.
|Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.|
Thus, people under 20 number about 87,500,000 (27.3% of 320,590,000). Twenty million is 23% of 87,500,000. Thus, Kennedy is claiming that 23%, nearly a quarter, of everyone in the US under the age of 20 is autistic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the actual rate of autism, or more exactly, autism spectrum disorders, is 1 in 68, or about 1.5%. Which means that Kennedy's figure is more than 15 times the actual rate, which is well into clown territory.
Robert Kennedy, Jr., failure at science, failure at math, an embarrassment to the memory of his father - and a clown.
Sources cited in links: