Abuse, Threats of Violence, Claims of Innocence, and Hypocrisy from the Anti-vaccine Camp.

I’ve been quiet of late because, well, I have a life, but the anti-vaxxers are outdoing themselves again and instead of taking to Twitter with multiple tweets I thought I’d collate my thoughts here. That won’t take long, I’m apparently one of the ‘sheeple’ and we are said to let the media do our thinking for us but I’ll give it a crack.

This week the Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessey hit back at the abuse she has received from anti-vaxxers, in newspaper stories and a video of her reading out messages they had sent her. Good on her, I admire her stance and strength on all things vaccination. Predictably, as they do when they have to look in the mirror at their own actions, the anti-vaxxers went into meltdown declaring themselves innocent, screeching “it wasn’t us” and “pro-vaxxers did this to discredit us” and demanding proof from the minister. One genius even observed that one message was 212 characters long and Twitter doesn’t facilitate messages of that length. Oh dear, someone please tell him that Twitter is only one means of electronic communication.

Then today, Anti-Vaccination Australia released a “press release” on their Facebook page again declaring their innocence. Of note is the location of which the release was posted; Perth, Western Australia.

AVA protest their innocence.

AVA protest their innocence.

I quote:

“Recent Media releases by Jill Hennessy have been full of yet to be founded accusations against the Australian community that chooses not to follow the Vaccine Schedule, either in part or entirely.

Our community, which does indeed span the globe in terms of networking, is equally disgusted by the vulgar and abusive messages and tweets that Ms Hennessy has presented. To be clear, we do not condone nor promote such behaviour in any part of the community.”

The Anti-Vaccination Australia moderator who resides in Perth is Shawn Dhu. This Shawn Dhu:

I took a look in the cesspit that is the Anti-Vaccination Australia group, and it took me 30 seconds to find these two posts encouraging people to send emails to Minister Hennessey. The second one is one that was read out in the video Minister Hennessey made.

"Go get her, evil bitch."

“Go get her, Evil bitch.”

Again, I quote:
“tell the evil bitch it’s time she faced the music and the australian public will know for sure now that they are hiding something by banning Vaxxed and it won’t matter anyway because there are thousands of us spreading right now that they’re hiding proof that MMR causes autism. Go get her! Evil bitch.”

Then, of course, there is another moderator encouraging people to post on a page set up to attack  Minister Hennessey: 

"Let her know how you feel."

“Let her know how you feel.”

 

There is more, but to be honest I CBF.

The most glaring piece of hypocrisy here is Shawn Dhu claiming that he and those he associates with are innocent of abuse and asking the Health Minister to “engage in a civil, full and frank debate” with them. I will leave you with Mr Dhu and his associates’ idea of such engagement:

UPDATE 24/10/16

What is is with anti-vaxxers and their endless supply of foot bullets? I just spent my whole commute home from work laughing at the screen shots from my automatic capture software. Being the kind person that I am, I’ll share them with you. First up was an official-looking legal demand:

14797335_10154626079533879_1740074120_n

A legal demand via Facebook post.

I’m sure she was acting on legal advice when she took to my facebook page as well. Here she makes unsupported claims, adds a couple of insults and thanks me for the “free publicity.” You’re welcome, I presume that means you are retracting the legal demand to remove the screen captures within 24 hours? Cheers. I’m a busy person and I don’t know if I could have gotten to it so quickly anyway.

 

Thank you for the publicity. Your'e welcome!

Thank you for the publicity.             

Wanting to make sure I see her change of heart, she posts another legal notice in Anti-Vaccination Australia for me.

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Curiously, someone by a different name then came along and posted an identical message on my Facebook page. I have no idea how that happened unless someone was playing in the sock drawer and got their socks mixed up!

WRONG SOCK!

WRONG SOCK!

I don’t know if someone who can’t get her socks on right should be throwing out childish insults like “wet your pants” but anti-vaxxers aren’t known for logic or intelligence I suppose.

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Here We Go Again. Credulous Media Enabling Another Cancer Disaster.

A story appeared in the Sunshine Coast Daily on the 14th April 2016 with the headline:   

“Cowgirl chooses alternative therapies to treat cancer.”

Carissa Gleeson is a 22 year old woman from Western Australia who was diagnosed with a synovial sarcoma in 2015. She has spent much of her time working on cattle stations and has a love of the land. Now she is channeling that passion into beating her cancer. 

What an awful shame that she appears to be seriously misguided. 

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Carissa Gleeson

Just like Jess AinscoughCarissa was offered conventional treatment but has refused in favour of putting her faith in a cancer quack/ entrepreneur. Jess chose Gerson “Therapy”, while Carissa is following the lead of  Ty Bollinger and his documentary that includes the usual suspects including Mike Adams, Stanislaw Burzynski  and Joseph Mercola, just to name a few. Carissa’s cancer is a slow progressing one with similarities to the cancer that Jess had, so it will appear for some time that her “treatments” are working, until it becomes clear that they aren’t.

Her “treatment” regime which sounds all too familiar to those well versed in cancer quackery involves:

  • A change in diet
  • Cutting out all processed sugar  and other processed foods from her diet.
  • Only eating organic foods, including fresh vegetables grown in her own garden.
  • A program of supplements.
  • Drinking lots of alkaline water.
  • Cleansing / juice and water fasting.
  • Emotional healing.
  • Colonics.
  • Hyperbaric chamber.
  • Ozone therapy.
  • UV blood cleaning.
  • Bi carb.
  • PolyMVA.
  • Glutathione.
  • High dose intravenous Vitamin C.
  • Using an infrared sauna every day, “just to help flush things out of the body, and to move out the toxins.”

The first two things on that list would benefit the health of just about anyone. They won’t cure cancer though, not even when combined with the rest of the quackery on the list.

Also like in the case of Jess Ainscough, this pursuit of unproven quackery is putting a financial burden on the family. At the time of writing, Carissa’s gofundme fundraising page has received $13,320 of a $60,000 goal. Goodness knows how much she has spent so far, and how much she will need in the future to continue this nonsense. $60,000 is nothing to be sneezed at though, and it seems that is just a proportion of the costs of her  “treatments”. Quacks and alternative ~to~ medicine proponents tell us that cancer is big business. It sure is for some, certainly not for those they aim those comments at, but rather closer to home. 

Finally, and again, just like Jess Ainscough, if Carissa insists on following this path, she will succumb to the cancer and the quacks who encouraged her down the path of useless treatment while profiting off her will be nowhere to be seen. If we do hear from them it will be to place the blame of her death clearly at her own feet for not doing their treatments right, or not having the right, or positive enough attitude. Along with them not working, the other predictable outcome with alternative cancer “treatments”, is that when they don’t work,the patient is blamed.

It is as unethical as it is offensive. 

It remains to be seen whether the Australian media will fail this girl and the public by telling her story in the same way that it told the story of Jess Ainscough. Her story was told as one of a girl who miraculously cured her cancer, while she was slowly dying from an indolent cancer that was taking its expected course. The Sunshine Coast Daily is off to a bad start. I hope that they, and other media see the error of their ways on stories like these and report on them responsibly. 

Let This Be A Lesson

In this post, written in February 2014, I threw out a challenge to the media to dig a bit deeper and report on the actual story of Jessica Ainscough and her story of vegetable juices, coffee enemas and cancer survival. I wrote:

“And media. When is someone going to call her out and report on this situation for what it is instead of fawning over the beautiful young girl who drinks green smoothies? It is time someone in the media took a close look at this situation and exposed the cold hard facts.”

It would only have taken a scratch on the surface to reveal that all was not as it seemed, but no one bothered. The media reported her story, as told to them by Jess, without question. Until she died, then there was quite a few articles examining the futility of the treatments she chose to undertake. Too little too late though, that same media had already made into a minor celebrity as “the girl who cured her cancer”.

Over the past few weeks another ‘amazing cancer survivor’ Bell Gibson is taking a fall from grace with revelations that her cancer story appears to have been a lie. At the time of writing Ms Gibson is yet to provide evidence that she ever had brain cancer, and has suggested that the other four types of cancer that she claimed to have developed were ‘misdiagnosed’.
Penguin Books has pulled her “The Whole Pantry” recipe book off the shelves in Australia, and the app with the same name has been quietly removed from the app store. 

I like what Media Watch had to say on the issue:

“Now what’s remarkable about Belle’s remarkable story is that no one who swallowed it apparently bothered to check it was true.

Not the publishers at Penguin. Nor the chaps at Apple. Nor a parade of media admirers at The Sunday Telegraph, News.com.au, Cosmopolitan, Australian Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Elle, and Channel Seven’s Sunrise among others.

So when you see a story like this in future, whether you’re a journalist or a reader, it’s worth remembering this tip from the ABC’s health expert Dr Norman Swan, who told Media Watch: “The general rule in health and medical journalism is the same as any other form of journalism, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.”

Bell shares her story on Sunrise.

Bell shares her story on Sunrise.

I couldn’t have put it any better myself. I hope that media take stock and learn from this embarrasing situation. The consumers of Australian media deserve better. They deserve due dilligence in health reporting.   

Fan Mail From The Wellness World

It has been one hell of a week around here. When the news broke last Friday that Jess Ainscough had passed away from the cancer she attempted to cure with Gerson ‘Therapy’, I took a few moments to pause and reflect on what the response should be on this blog. I decided to acknowledge her passing with this brief post, but to give her loved ones  respect and space by not making comment on their loss at this time. We all know what it is like to lose someone we love, and I did not want to exacerbate their pain in any way.

But then, fans and followers of Jess started googling her name and found this blog in their thousands. I guess considering the amount of traffic that has been here this week,  the amount of unpleasant and nonsensical comments left is actually quite low. In any case, there has been too many of these comments to keep up with and moderate so I have numbered and collated them in one document for anyone who cares to spend their time reading the whole 25 pages of them, and I’ll share a few highlights here. One comment in particular sums up exactly how nefarious Gerson ‘Therapy’ is. Put simply, by ‘France ‘ (comment #98): if it doesn’t work, its your own fault.

“If it didn’t work for you, it is because you have done something wrong or because it is not working for you. Jess has stopped the ferson (sic) therapy 2 years before she passed away and used other natural treatments. The gerson therapy is powerful. It is helping a lot of people out there. It is dangerous when it is not done properly like you probably have. No need to blame the therapy for your own mistakes.”

The comments generally fitted into the following categories, and I have included some excerpts for your reading pleasure. You can use the numbers to locate the full comments in the document here.

1. Outright insults and abuse, some even included passive aggressive ‘concerns’ or ‘well wishes’ for my troubled self.

Bex: (6) “Cold, heartless person u are.”

Bec: (7) “You should be absolutely disgusted with yourself, people like u make me sick.”

Drmschafer: (8) “What a horrible human being… Your ignorance and hate are what’s wrong in this world.

John: (96) “you are a complete troll utter gutter crap fuck off with your big pharma deluded nonsense”

Sarah: (13) “My sympathy to you for the hurt you must be experiencing in your life causing you to want to take it out on others around you.”

And finally, Kate (15). She wins ‘best on ground’ for the insults section with this sterling effort:

“You are a Dog shit person.”

 

2. People who miss the point (being the spread, and profiting from health misinformation and the concealment of her actual condition), and think the issue is Jess’ freedom to make her own personal medical decisions.

Deborah (31) “Last time i checked Australia was a democracy were people are free to take whatever medical journey they choose. “

Nichola (32) “Jess exercised her right to choice. To judge this is absurd. “

Cat: (38) “Why the outrage – are we a democratic society – do we not have choices available to us? Why vilify someone for their medical choices?…”

Kate (39) “Honestly how dare anyone judge Jess and her choices…. She had every right to make choices for her body and her life.”

 

3. People who thought Jess had never made any claims about being in the process of curing, or having cured herself.

I moderated most of those through and responded with a link to this post detailing all the instances I could be bothered finding of her making such claims.

4. Fans of alternatives to medicine or those with  anecdotes about cancer ‘cures’.

Jim: (30) “…people die from cancer. Even people who choose only conventional treatment – thousands die undergoing medical treatment for cancer just as they do with natural therapies. This is not an excuse to discredit natural therapies. There is a place for both natural and conventional treatments in cancer.”

Grahame (34) “Alternative therapies do work but it’s not a magic bullet for every case.”

Katie (44) “Nutrition CAN reverse many cancers and truly has. I have no experience with the Gerson therapy, but my aunt cleared cervical cancer that threatened to take her cervix and uterus in 1990 by eating a raw vegan diet, taking supplements, quitting smoking, quitting caffeine etc.”

 

5. People wanting to tell me how unsuccessful or bad conventional treatment is, how evil doctors and pharmaceutical companies are.

Mike (37) ” Ive stopped my melanoma with quakery… open your eyes to GP system and Big Pharma..you are blind to death by chemicals….”

Gisele (50) “Right, because every cancer patient treated with chemotherapy did survive… It is sickening that people prefer to throw a chemical bomb into their body in the hope to stay alive… CHEMICALS!”

Anon (61) ‘I don’t want to knock doctors here – I believe they truly want the best for their patients but at the end of the day they are obsequious to the drug companies who peddle chemicals to treat cancer. Can’t make money from a carrot juice can you? So there’s no incentive for them to promote it or test it? You can’t blame them either, they have shareholders who need a return – that’s just way the world works.”

Elk (78) “Why not pick on the non successful Chemo, Surgery and Radiation treatments which only serve greedy multi-national pharmaceutical corporations and radiotherapy corporates who make huge profits while patients who choose these treatments suffer terrible side effects. Sadly the medical establishments dont want to know about alternative treatments and instead pander to greed when it comes to cancer.”

B.D (93) “for those of you who think the Oncologists and Surgeons have all the answers and have your best interest at heart, I hope you never have to find out how foolish you are.”

 

Then there was Michael (46) who simply asked “Rosalie, who pays you?”

Because I couldn’t possibly have an opinion without someone telling me what it is and paying me to express it. Right?

And when I failed to moderate all this nonsense through, then came the cries of “CENSORSHIP!”

Pomona (55-59) “I bet you don’t publish my comments ! You appear to only publish those comments that are in line with your ‘ideal’ world & agenda.”

“Just curious ???? Where’s the comment I posted half an hour ago ????? Didn’t you like it ??????

I guess It’s too controversial ,its SAD as too many people are afraid to talk about what I just commented on (shame I wasted my Sunday afternoon writing to you). Please post it ! I’m sharing some very important TRUTHS !”

Cayley (73) “wow you are just as selective with with comments you publish – and you cpmpain to Jess about deleting yours. Seriously this is not cool. Dont you have the guts to publish my comment because you know its the truth.”

Toni (75) “Interesting how comments against Rosalies beliefs are not showing…”

I had to chose an overall winner, I think the prize would go to Sarah (42) for her armchair psychiatry. Enjoy:

“…the explanation for these people’s apparent complete lack of compassion toward another human being that has made the most sense to me is the research brought forward by leading psychologists and the National Institute of mental health. Having studied psychopathy in depth, they claim to have come to the conclusion 1 in 100 people have psychopathic, sociopathic tendencies. This can be as simple as an inability to feel empathy for others.

If you research these tendencies, it begins to make sense how the majority of us feel a deep sadness for the loss of Jess and an immense compassion her family, and others, seemingly a small minority, display a complete lack of empathy instead choosing to cause further harm. We cannot understand how they see no problem with their behavior however we don’t know that they have the capacity to feel this compassion. It makes it easier not to take it so personally. People with these tendencies have brains that are wired differently. they don’t know what they don’t have the capacity to feel. This post is not intended to cause offence, it is presented for consideration of a very real problem. The concern is the damage inflicted by these people in our communities as demonstrated by pages such as this. …”

 

So these folks are the kind of folks who watched Jess waste what time she had left on this earth following restrictive diets and pointless rituals. They cheered her on in their smug, superior, ‘knowledge’ that they all knew better than science and medicine, thinking she was infallible due to this superior ‘knowledge’. What they actually did was enabled and encouraged a young woman to squander the only chance she had. Jess may have made different choices if she didn’t have legions of google ‘researchers’ wellness warriors cheering on her every foolish utterance. She may have made the same choices. We don’t know.

What we do know is that the wellness industry isn’t quite as full of positive, vibrant, healthy souls full of love and light as they would have us think. The mail received here in the past week is evidence of that.

Even more predictable is they way The Gerson Institute washed their hands of her with this tweet.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 7.15.26 pm

They took $5,500 per week, for three weeks to host Jess at their institute and convince her that she could  cure her cancer with their ridiculous regime. They used her in publicity and she raved about them endlessly, no doubt raising their profile in Australia. Just like all health charlatans though, once it became apparent their quackery doesn’t work they pulled out the tried and tested method of blaming the victim. These people have blood on their hands, but most certainly no conscience weighing them down.

 

Edited to add: The Gerson Institute have issued a defence of their therapy tribute to Jess. Apparentley their ‘therapy’ isn’t a cure now, and it “can’t save everyone”. But they think it is important that people are free to chose pointless, expensive ‘treatments’ that won’t help them. Yup. No conscience at all. (Thanks to Alice for the tip).

Jessica Ainscough passed away 26th February 2015

This evening, Jessica Ainscough’s partner informed her followers that she passed away on the 26th of February by sending out this notification:

FullSizeRender

I know many people will have a lot to say about her passing, but please, lets just pause and spare a thought for her family, friends and those who loved her. There will be a time for discussion about Gerson “therapy” and other details, I don’t think it is now.

My thoughts are with those who loved Jess and are hurting right now. 

Rosalie.

 

EDITED TO ADD:

To all the fans of Jess who have stopped by to share their thoughtful input, love and light,  vitriol and insults, you have now been published in this post. 

Anti-Vaccine Campaigners Take Heed: Australia Will Not Tolerate You.

It’s been a bad week for anti-vaxxers.

After the upcoming Australian tour of American osteopath and anti-vaccine campaigner Sherri Tenpenny was leaked by opponents, Australians were outraged. We don’t tolerate anti-vaccine campaigners too well down here; see the destruction of the Australian Vaccination – Skeptics Network (AV-SN) for evidence of that. The good folk at Stop the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network (SAVN) have worked tirelessly for years to put a stop to the misinformation and financial shenanigans of the AV-SN and by all appearances their work is done. I am assured that they are ready to continue their good work should the zombie that is the AV-SN rear its ugly head again, but even Meryl Dorey admits that membership (or, financial support from supportive parties, once a large proportion of the AV-SN’s income), is no longer their focus. Could it be that Ms Dorey knows that the AV-SN is so on the nose that even she accepts that their support base has been all but wiped out by the exposure that SAVN wrought down on them?

Anyway, I digress. Sherri Tenpenny is an American osteopathic physician who was raised unvaccinated by her anti-vaccine parents and missed the whole third grade of her schooling due to vaccine preventable and other illnesses. It’s a shame she didn’t learn about science, evidence and the peer review process in her training, but then again, anti-vaccinationism is more like a religion than a position a person arrives at via science and evidence. It is a position anti-vaxxers hold on to ferociously despite the mountains of good evidence that proves them wrong. They don’t care about evidence, they only care about their position. Ms Tenpenny definitely fits this mold and holds some truly bizarre beliefs about vaccines. Reasonable Hank provides some insight into Ms Tenpenny and the tour here

Ms Tenpenny keeps good company.
Ms Tenpenny keeps good company.

Once news of her visit down here was leaked, SAVN and the pro-vaccine community swung into action. Letters have been written to ministers requesting her visa be disallowed and to venues asking they reconsider hosting the anti-vaccine events. Then the media got wind of the campaign and it was all down hill from there for Tenpenny and the organiser, Stephanie Messenger. Ms Messenger holds equally bizarre beliefs about vaccination and is the author of several idiotic children’s books including “Melanie’s Marvelous Measles”. Reasonable Hank collated all the media coverage here and you might find the Diluted Thinking investigation of the businesses / charities linked to the tour interesting as well. At the time of writing the media coverage count sits at 32 news items, none of it has been positive for the anti-vaccine campaigners. 

At this stage, six event bookings at five venues have been canceled by venue management, two venues have not commented, and Rydges Hotels are citing “freedom of speech” as their reason to honor their booking. This wont end well for Rydges, you can contact them here to share your thoughts on their stance. It has been confirmed that the venues were misled about the nature of the events, with the bookings being made by a “charity” of Stephanie Messenger’s called “Get Rid of SIDS Project Inc”. This “charity” is set up to “promote the prevention or the control of diseases in human beings”. I can find little information about the activities of this “charity” except that they sell cot mattress covers telling parents they prevent SIDS. That’s a whole other issue, and considering that Ms Messenger asserts on her website that “SIDS in Australia mostly happens at 2, 4 and 6 months – some will definitely be vaccination deaths!”, I hate to think what this “charity’s” activities actually involve. 

Ms Tenpenny, Ms Messenger and the rest of the anti-vaccine community have learned something they should have already known, and they have learned it the hard way. Australia will not take their nonsense lying down. Australians will tackle them and their dangerous misinformation head on. We don’t like people lying to parents for profit or endangering children. Anti-vaccine campaigners will never have it easy in this country. Take heed.

Now, who better than grumpy cat to have the final word for this post?

No welcome mat for anti-vax campaigners in Australia.
No welcome mat for anti-vax campaigners in Australia.

Updated to add: Ms Tenpenny’s tour of Australia was canceled, due to the backlash against her and the venues planning to host her. Australia stood tall and said “No you don’t, not here.” I couldn’t be more proud of the way the community swung into action on this. Well done to all involved, particularly SAVN  for taking the lead, and having set a previous example of how to deal with anti-vaccine campaigners by their excellent work dismantling the Australian Vaccination – Skeptics Network. 

An Open Letter to the Wellness Warrior

It is becoming clearer every day that your cancer has taken its expected course, (give or take a year or so, Drs can’t be exact), in spite of all your time at the Gerson retreat and the promises of Gerson ‘Therapy’. In spite of the arduous juicing and organic dietary regime, the coffee enemas ‘removing toxins’ from your body, all the natural ‘therapies’, the powers of your ‘medical intuitive’ all your hard emotional and spiritual work, self-love and self-focus. It appears that you were lied to and misled by the very people you turned to for ‘care’. The people who convinced you that if you only do everything right, you will be cured. It also appears that the only ones who were ever honest with you were your real, medical doctors, and what they predicted is currently playing out.

In the beginning you publicly shared everything about your condition, your ‘treatment’, your daily routine. It seemed like nothing was off limits. Making and publishing a video demonstrating how you do coffee enemas made a lot of us cringe, but not you. Your readers were treated to daily updates and stories of your chosen path and how well it was working. Now that things have taken a turn for the worse, you have retreated with little explanation, stopped the information flow to those same readers who cheered you on, supported you, purchased your products and essentially have made your current lifestyle possible. They have been unceremoniously shut out and dumped from your journey now that reality is setting in and life is no longer sunshine and roses.

cat not speaking

You have a unique and important opportunity right now. You can admit to your followers, and those you have influenced to follow your path that you were lied to, and taken advantage of by dishonest cancer entrepreneurs when you were at your most vulnerable. You have the opportunity to speak to people with cancer, in your situation, and tell them that their cancer is not their fault for living an impure life or not being positive enough. You can tell them that having cancer that progresses it is not their fault for not eating exactly right, or thinking the right thoughts. You have the opportunity to use your influential platform to warn people that there are those who will take advantage of them. That just because conventional medicine doesn’t have all the answers, doesn’t mean that alternative methods will work.

The choice is yours, keep trying to project the lie, keep misleading your followers and blame yourself for not doing all the things right, or admit that cancer is a bastard. It is not a message or a blessing, it is a disease and its aim is to kill people.

What do you want your legacy to be? The girl who deluded herself and as a result, misled thousands of people – some vulnerable cancer patients themselves, until the bitter end? Or the girl who stood up and was bravely honest. The girl who spoke out about how unscrupulous people took advantage of her vulnerability, and saved others from going through the same?

How not to do transparency. (Includes update on 26/09/2014)

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On February 24th this year Jess Ainscough wrote a blog post trying to defend her actions of deliberately misleading her followers about her condition. She admitted that ‘Gerson Therapy’  had not cured her cancer, however, she stopped short of explaining her … Continue reading

False Balance or, as Original as My Cat.

Today has been a frustrating day. A day of same old, same old. A day of people repeating the same things they have gotten wrong in the past. A day that showed some people are incapable of stepping outside the safety of  their own comfortably held ideas and learning from past mistakes. A day where much of the media showed themselves as incapable of having original ideas or a social conscience.

What has caused my displeasure?

The tired old method of including an anti-vaxer in any immunisation news story.

The National Health Performance Authority’s report on childhood immunisation coverage was released today, which caused a flurry of media reports as one would expect.

It should have been simple. For some it was. The Age got it right with a story that simply stated the facts. The Byron Bay based Echo got it right too, with commendations for communities with high immunisation rates, and a dire warning from Dr Steve Hambleton president of the AMA, for those below the safe levels for community immunity.

The Maitland Mercury did a great piece too, reporting that the area has one of Australia’s top immunisation rates with 95.5 per cent of children ­vaccinated across the city and only 46 children not fully immunised.

Studio 10 outdid everyone with four minutes of strong, no nonsense commentary on the issue. Take a bow, Studio 10.

The Sydney Morning Herald, gave a non-vaccinating mother free rein to rattle off a bunch of anti-vaccine misconceptions in what could only be described as an exercise in normalising stupidity.  They must have copped some heat for it because later in the day these two sentences were added to the story:

According to the the federal Health Department’s “Myths and concerns about vaccination” vaccines do not weaken the immune system, but strengthen it by giving it the power to fight more diseases.

The World Health Organization has studied the concept of “immune overload” from multiple vaccines and found there is no evidence it is a real phenomenon.

Now that isn’t an exhaustive list, just the ones that came to my notice throughout the day. Then there was the T.V coverage, with journalists looking for participants from the early morning as indicated by this tweet at around 10am by Dr Dave Hawkes:

“Just contacted to be on TV tonight about vax rates in Melb. Said no bc I will not appear alongside antivaxers to give them credibility.”

Well done Dr Hawkes. It’s great to see some people understand the issues that qualified experts appearing in stories with anti-vax activists raise.

And it went on. Radio and T.V, falling over themselves to create false balance stories about immunisation including experts, and unqualified folks who find their ‘reckons’ in the google machine. The only one I actually got to watch was the channel 7 news at 6pm which included anti-vaccine mother and son activist team Wendy and Kenny Lydall, and a representative from the National Center for Immunisation Research and Surveillance. It went something like this;

(Obviously I am paraphrasing.)

Kenny: “I had chickenpox and measles, and that was fine. I’ve traveled in Africa and I didn’t catch anything.”

Cut to Wendy in her garden… Something about she didn’t vaccinate Kenny ‘cos she had severe reactions to vaccines herself.

Cut to representative from the National Center for Immunisation Research and Surveillance saying: “Children who aren’t immunised are at risk of catching some very nasty diseases.”

OH, YOU MEAN THE ONES KENNY JUST SAID HE HAD AND “IT WAS FINE”?

That went well, didn’t it?

Then over on channel 9 an anti-vaccine chiropractor appeared in a story. I know this type and they have no business speaking their special brand of nonsense in an immunisation news story.

To the elements of the media, and the experts who insist on participating in this kind of false balance: YOU ARE NOT HELPING!

Media, just stick to the facts. Don’t try to manufacture a story, if you must ‘add something’ to your report, why not speak to a parent who thinks vaccinating is an important personal and community issue? A parent who lost their child to a vaccine preventable disease? Or a parent living in fear because their community has such a low immunisation rate diseases are always present? A person living with the long term effects of  having contracted a vaccine preventable disease?  Or one of many community groups working to raise awareness of the importance of immunisation and the dangers of vaccine preventable diseases? You can add some interest to your story without giving a platform to dangerous, misinformed fools.

Professionals and experts, I’m going to give you a step by step way to deal with this issue.

1. Media make contact about a story, you ask “What is the angle of the story and will you be including an anti-vaccine advocate, or non-vaccinating parent?

2. If the media outlet tells you there will be none of the above, congratulate them and go ahead.

3. If the media outlet says there will be an anti-vaccine advocate, or non-vaccinating parent, simply say no. Explain to them what false balance is, how you appearing with such people adds legitimacy that they and their arguments are not entitled to, and that giving the ‘other side’ airtime is actually harmful to the community.

What is the worst thing that could happen? The media outlet gets someone else. Well, at least it isn’t you lowering yourself to appear in such nonsense. Or, they might go ahead with the anti-vaxxer alone. Knowing most of Australia’s anti-vaxxers, that probably isn’t a bad thing. They are pretty good at making themselves seem a bit unbalanced. At least you can hold your head high because you are not enabling false balance on such an important issue.

If you all do it, you can create change. People already are, why don’t you step up and be part of educating the media and stamping out this nonsense practice?

The false balance story is as original as the story my cat tells me every day when I come home from work: She is starving, and hasn’t been fed for a week. She has been telling me that for 15 years. Same old, same old. Surely the media and those who play a part in this circus are more original than my cat! Or are they?

cat

 

Two other bloggers had something to say about this as well. You can find those blogs here and here.

Edited to add: To the anti-vaxxers who have been commenting, thanks for stopping by. This post is about false balance,  if you feel you have something worthy to add to the issue of immunisation, I suggest you do it where the real discussion on that takes place: in the scientific peer review process. Get yourselves an education, do original research to actually test your claims and submit them to the peer review process. Don’t come here trying to have an argument armed with personal beliefs and tid-bits you found on google. I will not waste my time, or that of my readers by passing your nonsense through moderation. The same goes for the howls of “censorship” that will result from this statement.

Now, I have to go to work. My cat needs more food.