Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Shot

Evidently, I did not empty my spleen with my earlier post. Or perhaps, John Evo's note of support in the Comments there reinvigorated me. Or maybe it's just that I note that as of this moment, a link to Carrey's piece is still near the top of the HuffPo's home page. At any rate, here are some more thoughts on the same subject.


Remember back not too long ago, say, around 2004, when we thought we were on the homestretch to eradicating polio worldwide?

Sadly, we are less optimistic lately. Thinking about why that should be is useful.

Along with funding shortfalls and regional insecurities due to war, one of the biggest stumbling blocks, one not so far overcome as far as I am aware, has been radical Muslim clerics in parts of Africa and Asia who have managed to scare their followers into refusing the vaccine for their children. They have told them that the injections were contaminated by HIV, or were a plot by the infidel West to render their children sterile, or whatever. The details of the lies aren't so important; my focus is on the general principle of misleading people and causing them real harm by preying upon their fears.

I wonder how many of the people responsible for letting Jim Carrey's nonsense stand in the HuffPo, and how many of those who see no reason why the HuffPo should take the post down, were also tsk-tsking about the gullibility of Those Other People and criticizing the fearmongering of their mullahs.

It strikes me that there are at least two elements of the liberal stereotype on display here at the HuffPo -- an excessively uncritical tolerance for "all points of view," and too much of an instinct to embrace a pitch that demonizes any group who can be tagged with a name that starts with "Big." I'm not sure which one bothers me more.

This is not a call for censorship. I am not saying that Carrey is not entitled to say whatever he wants. It is, however, a call for responsibility. The HuffPo is read by millions of people, and as such, has attained the status of a credible source of information. People who don't know any better, or who are too lazy to seek out multiple sources, may take Carrey's misinformation as gospel. And unlike, say, running an astrology column, there are serious risks to health and safety here, and not just at the individual level. Have a quick Google for measles outbreak, for example. It's enough to make you think we're sliding back into the Dark Ages.

By the way, on my specific example, it is not enough that Carrey adds a few weasel words to his post ("We have never argued that people shouldn't be immunized for the most serious threats including measles and polio …"). The point is, too many readers will come away from reading his blatherings remembering only "vaccines: bad." The results of the above search bear this out; clearly, earlier charlatans selling the same message as Carrey is have already had an effect.

As I said, Carrey has the rights to hold whatever crazy notions he likes, to refuse to learn anything about science, and to say whatever he wants. But the Huffington Post should not be a party to his anti-vaccine hysteria. They should take down his post and tell him to get his own damn website. They should also apologize for putting it up in the first place and for letting it stand as long as it has. If they won't do that, they should at least commission a responsible piece from someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about, and place a prominent link to this piece at the beginning of Carrey's stream of garbage.


Anonymous said...

Not to be too funky about this, but what, exactly, is the downside here? These peeps are doomed to a lifetime of immersive religious befuddlement anyway.

bjkeefe said...

There are at least two big downsides. First, innocent children are paying a needless price for their parents' own stupidity. Second, other people who have not yet been immunized but who aren't opposed are put at increased risk of infection before they have the chance to get their shots.

And then, as a consequence, there is a third downside: the societal costs to caring for these people.

teresa said...

Sounds like a witch hunt...Not all parents are followers of Jim Carey, but with the knowledge of medical professionals who are questioning the rate of pushing these vaccines into a completely healthy infant. Both of my children are on a delayed vaccine schedule with the assistance and respect of my MD. We had a relative that lost their little baby boy just days after coming home, SIDS is unexplainable also. We are just taking some of the risks out of placing ourselves at risk for "overdosing" our infants. I recommend vaccines just as the CDC has a "recommended" schedule, my children aren't cookie cutters. My medical professionals have assisted and personalized it for the health of my children through education and love. I have taken much criticism and praise for this stance. My children have no allergy's and are over all healthy. Praise the Lord, I might have done something correct as a parent. Societal costs for caring for autism, asthma and allergy children has consumed us enough! Read it all before you speak, talk to many to educate yourself, then decide personally what is right for your family. I am an American where I have the right to do so!