Friday, September 16, 2011

The Huffington Post's Autism Big News Page Ain't What It Used To Be

When the Huffington Post merged with AOL there were some who wondered about the impact of the deal on the Huffington Post's positioning outside the news establishment. Emily Bell explored this concern at the UK's Guardian in AOL + Huffington Post = disaster? :

Huffington achieved a miracle for web publishing in 2005, by getting high-profile contributors to write for nothing, through a mixture of charm and brand association. One can imagine now, with the money for their labours residing with AOL, that bargain will abruptly come to an end.

Part of Huffington Post's success was its vibrance and its position outside the establishment. It has now not only joined an establishment, but joined one where most people feel about as close to the brand as they do to Walmart.


A rather troubling aspect of the whole episode has been the baffling message, repeated by Huffington in an editorial on the site today, that this merger is "1 + 1 = 11". One hopes that this does not mean, for the sake of the HuffPo staff and the AOL shareholders, that the deal is quite literally nonsense."

The Huffington Post has certainly changed with respect to its Autism Big News Page.  One of the most obvious changes is the assertion of content control by the elimination of the autism blogs directory at the bottom of the page.  Even this humble autism blog could be found in that directory on occasion. There was no apparent attempt to control the blogs that were featured in that directory with a variety of blog site perspectives  shown on a perpetually rotating basis. Now, unlike some other Big News Pages at the HP the rotating autism blogs directory is gone.  At the same time the content appears to have changed.  The days when a David Kirby and others could ask questions about  autism and vaccine safety appear to have disappeared.  Featured prominently near the top of the page is the recent IOM rehash of  studies ...  which has purportedly determined for all time that there is not, has never been, and can never be, forever and ever Amen,  any remotely possible association between autism and vaccines, vaccine schedules, vaccine ingredients, vulnerable population subgroups or vaccine ingredients including those those vaccines containing ingredients which cross the placenta and which are given to pregnant women.  Vaccine autism discussion is now officially dead at the Huff.

To its credit the Huff Autism Big News page still contains some articles about increasing autism rates but look for that to change as the AOL-HP managers ultimately realize that real increases in autism, by necessary implication, involve possible environmental factors.  Such factors could include anything in the air, water, or food supply that we consume. They could include toys and jewelry. They could even include ingredients of prescription drugs and ... things injected into pregnant women and young children.  When the realization that commercial interests could be implicated sinks in look for the autism prevalence studies to disappear or morph back into the "its gotta be genetic" mandate that ruled autism research funding over the past decades.

Look too for more "community" blogs with feel good stories about autism. Don't look for stories that describe the harsh realities of severe autistic disorder or the lives of so many persons with actual autistic disorders  spent dependent on the care of others.  Look for another generation of stories about Temple Grandin and the new wave of  DSM5 autistics like the John Elder Robisons, Ari Ne'emans, Alex Planks and other very high functioning persons featured by Autism Speaks and the mainstream media. 

Don't look for autism reality at the Huffington Post Autism Big News page any more. Look for autism nonsense, autism feel good fluff, just like most large media sites.

The Huffington Post Autism Big News Page ain't what it used to be.

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