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Full Disclosure in Correcting My Error In Writing About Other's Errors

Posted Sep 12 2008 10:26am
Last week David Kirby posted this HuffPo piece. I posted it to my site.

A short time later, Mr. Kirby posted this to the EOH list, outing well known autism author, Roy Richard Grinker, Ph. D., as someone who was posting anonymously in the comments section.

RE: This comment on Huffpost:

“Unfortunately, Mr. Kirby continues to believe that California's DDS enrollment figures constitute epidemiological data. They do not. The author even makes a claim about statistical significance! He also introduces a new term into the discussion -- "full spectrum" -- (which he suggests is equivalent to Autistic Disorder) -- and states that the DDS counts only Autistic Disorder, not PDD-NOS, or Asperger's, or Down's Syndrome children with autism, or any other phenotype. This is absolutely wrong. Not even the best epidemiological studies are particularly good at distinguishing among the subtypes. It is truly disappointing to see the Huffington Post continue to publish phony epidemiology.”

Signed: Mfano

But “backstage” I see that his email is actually

If Dr. Grinker would like to debate this subject out in the open, using his real name, I would be more than happy to take part. You would think that someone of his stature would have more pressing things to do with George Washington University’s time and bandwidth than send anonymous, erroneous comments to national political blogs.

I also posted this to my site.

A list member on the Evidence of Harm list noted that Dr. Grinker has a habit of posting anonymously to talk about his own work.

Update: From "celiacdaughter" on the EOH list:
...If you search some of his (Mfano) previous posts you will also note that he enjoys using the third person when discussing himself:

"So Foresam, tell us: how Grinker should look for autistic adults? The woman Grinker and Chew wrote about in the blog wasn't on record anywhere as autistic. Grinker doesn't say, but she probably bit herself and smeared feces too. No one missed her. She was called mentally retarded and given lots of treatment and care. She just wasn't called autistic"...

I also posted this to my site.

Then a little while later, Mr. Kirby announced that he had inadvertently broken the HuffPo privacy policy in making the information public and apologized for the breach.

Dear List members

I have been informed by the editors of the Huffington Post that it is against the rules to reveal the identity of people who post comments on the blog.

I was not aware of that rule.

I apologize to Huffpost and, particularly, to Dr. Grinker, for the violation. Please do not attempt to contact him directly. He made his comment in the full belief that his identity would not be revealed, and we all need to respect that decision.

Again, my apologies to everyone.


I did not see the post.

Kristina Chew Ph. D. wrote to me and asked that I remove the information on Dr. Grinker. Dr. Chew is a co-author of Dr. Grinker.

I checked the EOH list and found Mr. Kirby’s apology. And sent her this reply.

Hi Kristina,

I just read all this and am genuinely unsure of what to do here.

Let me think about this.


As I was thinking about the ethics involved, an email arrived from Mr. Kirby arrived asking me to remove the information in deference to Dr. Grinker.

I then decided to remove the information in an attempt to “keep the peace”.

Dr. Chew noted that I had forgotten to remove Dr. Grinker's name from the labels, so I did.

I also removed four comments from the post that referred to the deleted information as they only served to pique one's interest in the deleted information.

kristina has left a new comment on your post "The California Numbers: Autism Declining Among Th...":

In your "update," you quote David Kirby's message on the EoH Yahoogroups List in which he revealed Roy Richard Grinker's identity, as well as some additional messages from the EoH Yahoogroups List on this matter. Mr. Kirby's revelation of Prof. Grinker's identity was a violation of the policy of the Huffington Post. It is therefore inappropriate for the EoH messages to still appear on your blog.

Thank you very much.
Kristina Chew

Kristina Chew

kristina has left a new comment on your post "The California Numbers: Autism Declining Among Th...":

Thanks very much, Ginger. As you've removed the update, perhaps it might also be possible to remove the tag for Roy Grinker? Best wishes from Kristina Chew

Posted by kristina to Adventures in Autism at 7:07 PM

Camille has left a new comment on your post "The California Numbers: Autism Declining Among Th...":

Any comment on the way David Kirby outed the commenter he didn't agree with to the EoHarm yahoo! group?

Do you think it's OK that he outed an anonymous commenter? I guess you did because you posted the details of the outing here, approvingly.

Do you think Kirby ought to apologize to Grinker in public? Do you think Arianna needs to apologize for bamboozling her commenters into thinking they were anonymous to the bloggers?

Posted by Camille to Adventures in Autism at 12:17 AM

Ginger has left a new comment on your post "The California Numbers: Autism Declining Among Th...":

Well Camille, commenting on all that would kinda defeat the point of taking it down, now wouldn't it?

Posted by Ginger to Adventures in Autism at 9:11 AM

After reading discussion of the incident today, I realized that I had fallen into the same trap that I accuse main stream media of doing, making editorial decisions based on politics. I have replaced all the information so everything is back on the record.

I should not have taken the information down.

I apologize for doing it.

Today I reposted the information and sent the following email to Kristina Chew, Roy Grinker and David Kirby:

At the request of Dr. Chew and Mr. Kirby (who related Dr. Grinker's wish), the information on Dr. Grinker's anonymous posting on HuffPo was removed from my site. I was very reluctant to do it, but did so to keep the peace and try to honor the requests of those involved.

After seeing the fall out from my decision, it is apparent to me that my choice was a poor one and I have corrected it by reposting the information. I will be following it up with a discussion of the matter in a separate post. All of this information is relevant to the autism debate, Dr. Grinker's deception, Mr. Kirby's breaking of HuffPo rules (unknowingly or not), Mr. Kirby's public apology, Dr. Grinker's lack of any kind of mea culpa (as far as I know), Mr. Kirby's and Dr. Chew's request to have the information taken down, and my poor choice to self-censor after the fact.

One of my central complaints in the autism debate is the strangle hold on information that prevents the public from making informed choices on who to trust and what advice to take. When I removed the information I violated my own policy and took part in something that I have been criticizing for three years.

If any of us are to be of help to those with autism and their families, openness, transparency and integrity are essential. To be as frank as I can be, everyone needs to stop worrying about their bull shit reputations and do the right thing. If you make a mistake, then apologize and clean up your mess as best you can and face the consequences.

Any of us with letters after our name or books on autism don't have the maturity to do that, then we should not be a part of this discussion. Too many people's lives depend on its outcome.

Ginger Taylor, M.S.

I try to run an honest blog, I have tried to be as open and transparent as I have challenged others to be. I will work harder to maintain that standard in the future.

I am sorry for the lapse in judgment.
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