A Chili Victory
|June 30, 2014||Posted by Jim Preston under Skeptical Activism|
In early April 2014, The Chili’s Restaurant chain announced that in support of National Autism Awareness Month, on April 7 it would donate 10% of customers’ checks to the National Autism Association. If you look over the NAA’s website, it appears to be a worthy recipient of such donations. It has a lot of information about autism, and resources and support for families with an autistic child.
A little deeper reading, however, reveals that their “Causes of Autism” page states, “The National Autism Association believes: Vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.”
As any good skeptic with even a little knowledge in this area knows, the evidence overwhelming indicates that there is no connection whatsoever between childhood vaccinations and autism. So regardless of any good work that the NAA does, its position on vaccines calls into question its worthiness as a charitable recipient.
Soon after the announcement, the news spread quickly across social media, by skeptics who knew the truth about the NAA. The Chili’s Facebook page was inundated with critical comments. By the time I heard about it through a Facebook share on April 6, Chili’s had already issued a statement retracting its plans to donate to the NAA.
There are two ways you can look at Chili’s about-face. Either the person (or committee) that chose the NAA knew about their anti-vax position but didn’t think there would be such a backlash about it, or they just didn’t look into the NAA enough to know that it was anti-vax. I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt; if you’re looking around for an autism-focused charity, you see the name “National Autism Association”, take a quick look around their website, it looks like a very reasonable, worthwhile recipient. Indeed, as far as I can tell, the NAA does do good work in helping families of autistic children. It is sad and unfortunate that that work is tainted by their taking a position that is antithetical to everything that modern medical science knows about autism and vaccines.
The lesson here is the power of social media. A recent report by Gallup concluded that “Social media are not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be. … 62% of the more than 18,000 U.S. consumers it polled said social media had no influence on their buying decisions.” That may be true, but when it comes to spreading the word about a cause, or in this case a well-intentioned but ill-informed choice, social media is a fantastic tool.