The British Medical Journal recently published a piece arguing that the concern over nut allergies in Western society has gotten to the point where it more closely resembles a mass hysteria rather than a legitimate health concern. The claim is not that there are not people with extremely severe allergies to nuts, but rather that from that point there is a wide ranging exaggeration of the risk of such allergies and a corresponding overreaction in efforts to protect people with those allergies.
Joel Stein wrote an op-ed for the LA Times referencing the BMJ article which has the very unhelpful title, Nut allergies — a Yuppie invention (however, at most newspapers, op-ed columnists do not write headlines, so the headline is probably due to some smart ass editor rather than Stein). The article itself is very clear — echoing the BMJ article, Stein says there are a small number of people who have severe nut allergies but that the absurd overreaction at public schools and elsewhere is really due to a mass hysteria-like condition.
Mark Fraunfelder at Boing! Boing! then chimes in with what is little more than a non-sequitur,
I wonder if he would have written this piece had he witnessed a child go into anaphylactic shock, as my daughter did when she ate a cookie with hidden nuts in it. It was very scary.
If Stein had said there was no such thing as people with severe allergies to nuts, that might be a valid complaint, but that wasn’t Stein’s point at all. This is a bit like someone chiming in every time Boing! Boing! posts about the latest failings of the TSA with “I wonder if they would have written that piece if they’d had a friend who almost died on 9/11. That was very scary.”
And, of course, because this is Boing! Boing!, Mark is free to introduce his daughter as a trump card over science, but commenters on the blog are not free to call him on it.
A poster who claims he is a biologist points out that while he’s sorry to hear about Fraunfelder’s daughters problem, that the issue Stein is raising is a scientific question that you can’t simply dismiss by invoking a single anecdote (and goes on to say the post sounds a little like Jenny McCarthy’s explanation of her anti-vaccination/autism nonsense).
Of course this is what it looks like after the Teresa Nielsen Hayden brigade gets done with it,
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It’s not enough that Mark invoking his daughter in that context is simply a cheap emotional trick to try to shut down debate, but TNH and her minions have to go the rest of the way and censor anyone who calls him out on it.
Well, that’s Boing! Boing! these days.