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Russell Brand, Jonathan Ross and MMR

I will shut up about MMR in a minute, but I wanted to link to this post by Scots Law Student:

Saying that children’s vaccines cause cancer is a sure fire way to terrify parents and this should have been as well received as Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand’s Radio 2 phonecall.

It’s a fair point, although of course the Barnett discussion was about autism rather than cancer – after all, scaremongering about vaccines actually harms children, whereas unfunny pranks don’t do any real damage. In an ideal world our campaigning newspapers would ignore the latter and scream the place down about the former. Then again, in that world certain papers wouldn’t manufacture anti-BBC sentiment to suit their own commercial agenda, they wouldn’t spend their whole time telling readers that everything in the world causes cancer, and they wouldn’t be guilty of anti-MMR hysteria that makes Jeni Barnett’s broadcast seem like very small potatoes indeed.

On the subject of which, Holford Watch has put together an exhaustive summary of the story, the legal threats against Ben Goldacre, the blog reaction and the involvement of Stephen Fry. Fry’s not just there for the techy things in life, you know.

If you’re interested in this, you really ought to check out Goldacre’s Bad Science book. The section on MMR will make you jump up and down in fury. I read somewhere (can’t remember where, sorry) a suggestion that we’re heading for a similar health scare over the cervical cancer vaccine, with evangelical groups pushing stories of the “this girl had the vaccine and her brain exploded” variety in the hope that gullible newspapers will run them.

Okay, back to gadgets and internet things…

7 replies on “Russell Brand, Jonathan Ross and MMR”

Thanks for the mention, I’d like to point out, just to show I’m not hearing cancer where it’s not there, she reads out an unattributed email making this horrifying claim – the section was transcripted by: http://scepticsbook.com/2009/02/06/further-to-the-transcript-of-jeni-barnetts-diatribe-on-lbc-937fm/

“TIMESTAMP: 2.00 …

JB: Well, thank you so much, my darling, that was Amanda in Hayword’s Heath.

“I was just listening to your show, if people took the time to look at what’s in vaccines, they would think twice about giving them to their children. As well as not being a hundred percent effective, they also have cancer-causing agents.
Timestamp: 3.00
“Also a child’s immune system takes approximately two to three months to fully get up and running from birth. Also, if we look at the countries that have the highest population vaccinated, you will notice that they have the most allergies. I’m not totally against immunisations, but we should be giving children at least a year to develop their own immune system to deal with the onslaught.”

I didn’t say that – I wish you’d given me your name? There’s a third way, says somebody else who’s nameless: “Why don’t we allow children to have the jabs individually?” Why not? It’s half-past two!

END 3.35

[STATION IDENTIFICATION – ADVERT FOR HER NEXT GUEST]”

A throwaway statement (but so is “MMR causes autism”) and one which she unhesitatingly read out, with all that entails in the public’s mind about statements made on the radio, without verification.

Oh, sorry, I didn’t pick up on that. That’ll teach me to post before I’ve had coffee :)

Not having daughters, I’ve never had much interest in the cervical cancer vaccine but I know that one of my friends has already refused to have her daughter vaccinated because of the scare-mongering tactics of the Swiss & German media.

> In an ideal world our campaigning newspapers would ignore the latter and scream the place down about the former.

Why must this be an either/or thing? Why should they have ignored what Ross and Brand did? It was reprehensible.

> certain papers wouldn’t manufacture anti-BBC sentiment to suit their own commercial agenda

I think there’s a tad more to it than that. The BBC completely ignore their own charter. I know for a fact that a lot of people who support the BBC in principle detest it as it currently is. The Ross & Brand affair was a classic example of the sort of thing that gets those people riled up, which is exactly why it became a far bigger scandal than had it been merely the BBC’s competitors trying to manufacture a bit of fake outrage.

None of which is to say that Jeni Barnett isn’t a fuckign idiot, ’cause she is.

It doesn’t have to be an either/or thing, but if the Mail can only go after one big target at a time then I’d much rather it went after things that, y’know, actually *matter*. Irrespective of what you think about Brand/Ross, it simply wasn’t an issue until the Mail made it into one – and the coverage they gave it was way over the top. What the brand/ross thing does show, though, is that the DM can be like a terrier when it wants to be – but with health stuff it’s happy to print a quick scare and then bugger off.

> I think there’s a tad more to it than that.

I don’t think there is. DGMT has big stakes in commercial radio, commercial TV, online and various local news things, so it’s a direct competitor to the BBC in loads of different areas. If the BBC were crippled, it’d be fantastic news for the company. Anti-BBC articles in the Mail are essentially the same thing as the blatant Sky plugs in Murdoch papers.

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