Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jenny McCarthy's Toxins

It's been over a month since McCarthy started on The View. It's been over three months since I wrote about her for The Atlantic and CNN, and I still get emails about her, the good work she's doing, or endorsements of her movement and charity, if not her.

Her key belief is that autism comes from toxins. Cures for autism emerge out of cleansing your children of toxins.

I've tried, when writing about McCarthy, to be polite. I've never referred to her past profitable experiences without her clothes on. I've never referred to her hair color as relevant data for accusing her of a lack of intelligence. Generally, I've tried to take her at face value as a special-needs mom desperately seeking answers, finding them in a snake oil salesman, becoming a believer, and leveraging her celebrity power to do serious harm.

But sometimes I have to wonder - does even she believe anything she says, or is she actually just hawking snake oil. She's certainly generated huge revenues and vastly increased her public profile through her marketing of herself as the "sassy and sexy single mom."

She's become a major spokeswoman for e-cigarettes. She's hearkening back to earlier eras of cigarette advertising (NPR had a great piece on this), making smoking sexy, while extolling the virtues of modern technology.

But mostly, what she's doing, despite having written at length about trying to quit smoking while pregnant, is now cashing in on convincing people that it's sexy to inhale a toxin (nicotine). And this is all unregulated, at least for now, while the FDA rules on e-cigarettes, which means that in many states (Illinois has banned this), the devices can be sold to minors.

And yet, the emails continue. Jenny is here to stay and will save our children from imaginary threats, all while perpetuating the damaging ideas that autism is a disease, vaccines are dangerous, and e-cigs are sexy.