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Bullshit Media

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.

19 replies on “Balance (or: stop giving nut-jobs a voice)”

Does anyone ever avoid casual sex because of the risk of cervical cancer?

Vaccines are a rare example of a public good in the technical sense, as opposed to how people usually use the phrase, to mean “a good thing for members of the public”. To be more precise, opting out of vaccination programs is a public bad. But that’s when you’re talking about wiping out a virus altogether, like we did with smallpox. ITV news interviewed a woman the other day who had had cervical cancer herself and who was concerned that her daughter not go through the same thing. For her, wiping out the virus population-wide wasn’t really the issue; she just wanted to protect her daughter. And, for that, she doesn’t need the state or the NHS: she can just go and buy the vaccine. But of course she won’t, because she’s British. “I’ll do anything to protect my daughter,” she said. “Yeah,” I thought, “except spend money.”

> 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?

As long as they’re sufficiently euphemistic about it, all too frequently, yes.

Note to self: pick better examples. Howzabout – you wouldn’t write a feature about cancer and suggest powdered shark cartilage can cure you… er…

Vaccines are a rare example of a public good in the technical sense

Financial too, I’d imagine. Unless you included that in your “public good” thing.

I don’t know much about vaccines, but does this one last permanently – and if so, would the woman pass on immunity to any children she might have? Eradicating a huge percentage of cervical cancer cases in a few generations would be pretty amazing.

/knows sod-all about this subject

But of course she won’t, because she’s British.

Or broke? Didn’t see the interview so I’ve no idea of the circumstances, but I think most people expect the NHS to pay for this kind of stuff. Although I agree, would be better if the complaint was “I paid for this, but the NHS would save XXX if it made it available for free”.

> Or broke?

Nice house, nice clothes, etc. Besides, she said she’d do anything. How expensive is a vaccine? Would she downgrade her car? Go to a cheaper hairdresser for a few months? Move into a smaller house? I mean, this is her child’s life she’s talking about.

> most people expect the NHS to pay for this kind of stuff

Yes, but it goes further: most people see it as a stark choice between the NHS paying for it and it being unavailable.

> Financial too, I’d imagine.

Possibly, though I reckon the much-vaunted savings the NHS gets through bulk-buying are probably wiped out by Gammon’s Law.

Here’s what I meant about a public good, by the way.

Thinking about this some more, I think DK’s wrong about this:

> 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?

Being bitten by a dog is in no way fun, even if the dog isn’t rabid. Having sex is. He’s comparing a vaccine that makes a nasty and very dangerous thing slightly less dangerous but no less nasty with one that makes a fun and slightly dangerous thing slightly less dangerous and no less fun. To suppose that people’s incentives will be similar in both cases is errant nonsense.

Christian Voice are wrong, but not for that reason.

Being bitten by a dog is in no way fun, even if the dog isn’t rabid. Having sex is.

I knew someone would pick this up; I just couldn’t think of a better one as I typed.

Um… How about rubella? We give that to women (at about age 12, I believe) because of the damage that it does to foetuses. However, we don’t expect the girls to immediately go out and have sex and not worry about getting pregnant, do we?

but does this one last permanently…

If the frequency of exposure is high enough, yes. And if it is as high as they seem to think, then the vaccine should last for life (or longer than sex life).

… and if so, would the woman pass on immunity to any children she might have?

Very unlikely. AIDS is one of the few organisms that is small enough to cross the placental wall. HPV is rather bigger and it is highly unlikely (hopefully!) that a child will be exposed to HPV in a short enough time to ensure the continuation of the antibody.

DK

I think that you are all forgetting the bigger picture here. If a women is inclined to be promiscuous in any way then she obviously deserves to die (painfully) of cancer. Stands to reason, that does.

It doesn’t matter what age either – she’s obviously a whore and deserves whatever punishment Satan proscribes.

I think that’s how it works.

A lot of Christians in the US don’t believe in vaccines for anything – period. I don’t know what particular strain of Christians that is. I’ve met a few in my life and have completely forgotten. As one does when they encounter the forgettable..

I’m sure there’s a fetish community that enjoys taunting rabid animals for sexual gratification so I’m not sure Squander is entirely correct that it’s universally “not fun”. ;-)

A lot of Christians in the US don’t believe in vaccines for anything – period.

Yeah, there are a few sects (and a few mainstream religions too) like that. Fair enough, if that’s what they believe then more power to them (although I’m uncomfortable with it if they demand their kids don’t get treatment – for all richard dawkins is a fundamentalist as much as the religious fundies he goes after, I think you could argue that stuff validates his claim that claiming kids are a particular religion before they’re old enough to make up their own minds is a form of child abuse). Where I have a problem with it is when instead of saying “ok, this lot are hardcore, fair enough” journos and broadcasters give them a platform as if they’re the other side of the debate. Which they’re not, any more than we should have flat-earthers moaning about how the space shuttle will be eaten by giant space turtles. Or whatever :)

Which reminds me of a radio programme I listened to this morning. I feel a blog post coming on…

I’m sure there’s a fetish community that enjoys taunting rabid animals for sexual gratification

If there isn’t, someone reading this blog will have set one up and made their first million bucks from it by the weekend :)

The anti-vaccine crowd does have some overlap with Christianity, but, in my experience, there’s probably a lot more overlap with environmentalism and the everything-should-be-natural fruitarian hippies.

agree there are plenty of subscribers to alternative medicine who refuse vaccinations (though oddly they all typically were vaccinated as oppressed toddlers) but the ones I know did so for “biblical” reasons. In my experience and coming from a family of bible-beaters, their faith is a factor in every life-choice they make so overlap is expected. But, I do see a distinction between coincidental overlap and “Jesus told me that vaccines are bad.” Even worse than not permitting vaccinations of course is refusing medical care at all. So you have families who have 20 children because they don’t believe in birth control and not one of those kids is vaccinated and will not be taken to a hospital because prayer will reattach the arm that the rabid older brother cut off with the ax from the woodpile.

Of course, the latter ends up prosecuted and sent off to jail. On a tangent, today 2 parents were ARRESTED and their kids taken to foster care because they accidentally left their 3 year old at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The parents were there with extended family (I think something like 15-20 people) and didn’t notice the child wasn’t with them. But did they deserve to be arrested for neglect? If that’s the case, my parents need to go serve some time b/c my sister was left at Baskin Robbins ice cream at the mall in 1978.

So my digression is basically irritation that you can stand behind the Lord and not protect you or your child from illnesses that have wiped out entire communities in the past and refuse them medical care..but you can’t leave them at Disney World in a mob scene without going to jail. So let that be a lesson to you, future parent.

> today 2 parents were ARRESTED and their kids taken to foster care because they accidentally left their 3 year old at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

That should stop them doing it again, anyway.

So let that be a lesson to you, future parent.

Don’t go to disneyworld? ;-)

I just wanted to post because my security word is bungle and I felt like typing Bungle.

anyway, I don’t think you should go to Disney World. I don’t think it could handle you. :-)

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