Balance (or: stop giving nut-jobs a voice)

Imagine you’re a journalist, writing a story about the families who lost loved ones in 9/11. Would you print the views of someone who said that 9/11 never happened, and that the families were all part of a zionist plot, in the interests of balance? Or let’s say you’re writing about the deaths of soldiers in Iraq. Would you quote Fred Phelps, the loathsome arse who pickets funerals because “God Hates Fags”, in the interests of balance? Of course you wouldn’t, because these people are nutjobs who deserve (at best) pity, not publicity.

So why, when we’re talking about vaccinating kids against cancer, do papers interview Christian Voice?

Devil’s Kitchen is on the case
, and he’s using even more swear words than usual. And while he’s being a tad unfair – he’s using the term Christians to refer to a small subset of idiots whose views, I hope, aren’t representative of mainstream Christian views – he’s nailed the “vaccination will turn kids into tarts” argument.

For crying out loud, we don’t complain that people who are given a tetanus or rabies jab will deliberately go out and encourage a dog to bite them, do we?

I laughed so hard at that, coffee came out of my nose.

The problem with this story is that the “balance” means the debate we’re getting isn’t the right one. The “will the jag cause promiscuity?” thing is a non-issue, but it’s taking column inches that would be better spent on more serious questions such as: is the vaccine as effective as the manufacturer claims it is? If a child is vaccinated at 12, will there need to be a booster shot a few years later – and if so, what do we need to do to make sure those shots happen at the right time? Are there any potential side effects that mean, for example, that some kids shouldn’t be vaccinated?

Everything else is just noise.