We Need a Vaccine For Misinformation

The BBC are reporting that Russian troll accounts are being used to spread anti-vaccination misinformation, in-line with their usual tactic of being for and against certain political parties.

Anti-vaccination is a dangerous viewpoint that’s largely based on twenty-year-old discredited research that link the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine to autism.

When I first heard about anti-vaxxers, they were a fringe-group of conspiracy-peddling “concerned” parents. For me, this was all the way back in 2011, when social media hadn’t quite become the all-encompassing monster it is today. I remember reading some article about them in my first year at University. I became very angry, but also realised that very few rational people would actually buy into their way of thinking.

Flash-forward to 2018 and Europe has had 41,000 cases of measles in the first half of the year — twice as many as in the whole of 2017. The anti-vaxxer movement has established a presence in the age of mass communication, and it turns out that Russian troll groups have been stirring the pot in recent years.

You’ll only find the conspiracy theories of the anti-vaccination movement peddled as legitimate from crackpot outlets, such as Infowars, and celebrities with more money and time than common sense — such as Jim Carey, Charlie Sheen and Donald Trump.

The thing that’s always made me (and most other sentient humans) furious about the myth of the link between the MMR vaccine and autism, is that they’re telling the world that they’d rather their child were dead than be on the autism spectrum.

Think about that for a second, they’re so against the idea that their child might not have a “normal”, “average”, “run-of-the-mill” existence, that they’d rather they contract a deadly, preventable disease. This isn’t love for their child, it’s hate and ignorance.

Personally, and I’m really not advocating for this to be law, but anti-vaccination propaganda should be considered ableist.

There’s still so much more to understand about autism spectrum disorder, and I’ll admit that there’s still a lot of unknowns — but one of the knowns happens to be that there’s zero proof of a connection between autism and vaccination.

Those that argue that there is, are simply saying that, “some children who are vaccinated, also have autism.” Some basic fact-checking reveals that 92% of American children receive the MMR vaccine (data taken from 2013), but less than 2% are diagnosed with an ASD.

The conclusions they’ve drawn between one thing and another is like saying that consuming cucumber before the age of two causes a fear of penguins in later life.

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Some people don’t vaccinate for “religious reasons”, which is equally dangerous to not vaccinating due to misinformation. It’s important to state that not many mainstream religions agree with this. It’s typically Scientology or its 19th century predecessor with fewer (but not entirely without) aliens — our old friend Mormonism.

My personal stance on religious freedom is that it should be entirely allowed, providing it doesn’t infringe on the individual liberties of another. I’m agnostic, but I’d defend a Christian’s right to wear a cross to work, a Muslim’s right to daily prayer or a Buddhist’s right to be better than the rest of us. None of these acts have a damaging effect on anyone but the person with faith.

Not vaccinating your child, leaving your child highly susceptible to contagious and preventable diseases — that does effect other people, especially babies. If, say, a four-year-old child of an anti-vaxxer contracts measles, and then spends time with an infant who has not yet been vaccinated, that infant’s life is now at risk from someone else’s carelessness.

I’m not saying it’s not also tragic that the hypothetical four-year-old has a life-threatening illness — it’s not their fault that their parents are susceptible to misinformation — but it would be far more left-field for the family who planned on vaccinating their child.

Vaccination is one of the only positive covenants we make as a society that most of us can agree on. Vaccination is using centuries of medical knowledge and scientific research to say, “No, our children will no longer die from preventable diseases — not on our watch!”

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More and more people are starting to break from this covenant, and if they ever become the majority, then a ridiculous amount of lives will be at risk. I know that’s not a scientific number — “a ridiculous amount” — but I’m not a scientist.

And neither are those who push an anti-vaccination ideology. They’re either ableist, anti-autism campaigners, who would rather see their child die than be in any way different to the “average” person. Or they’re easily-influenced people, who’ve been convinced by a religion or troll social-media account; Who, to the detriment of society, have decided to procreate.

That’s why I choose to put my trust in the decades of scientific consensus and not the conspiracy theorists.

It makes perfect sense why Russian troll accounts would be sewing this particular discordant seed in Western societies — it’s another thing for us to fight each other over, with them having to input very little effort in exchange for democratic disillusion.

“Why start a war of weapons against the country with the most powerful military in the world? When you can wage a war on the minds of its citizens, and watch them devour each other from thousands of miles away.” — Me, right now

Oh shove off, that sounded alright.

I genuinely love that people care about things in 2018; Everyone has an opinion (which is wonderful) and people are more informed than they’ve ever been. But an increased amount of information via the internet, also allows for disinformation to spread just as rapidly.

In recent years we’ve seen political campaigns, ideological groups and even individuals take advantage of this new loophole. And it’s likely that we’re not even in the eye of the hurricane yet.

All we can do is urge each other to find the consensus on matters of science — nobody is saying you have to believe one single source. We need to push each other to not just receive online information from one location, because to follow one ideology from one outlet is no different to being a member of a cult.

And please, for the love of humanity, vaccinate your children.


Today is Friday, August 24th and I’ve been listening to Mitski this morning — very good.

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8 thoughts on “We Need a Vaccine For Misinformation

  1. THANK YOU. This whole topic is so frustrating. The problem I see is that people read a headline and they decide not to vaccinate as if they just read an entire book. Or they’ll only get their information from blogs, and not from reliable sources.

    This is a dangerous epidemic, and it’s (unfortunately) going to kill or maim a lot of innocent people.

    Yari

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It’s a curious phenomenon. Of course, it’s part of a larger number of such things — everything from chemtrails to lizard people. Apparently, we live in an age of willful stupidity.

    I have a friend who is in the anti-vax camp. She was raised in a Christian cult with its own school system that did not, of course, teach much in the way of the sciences or critical thinking. When she escaped their compound at age 17, she was poorly prepared to sort out truth from bullshit. Oddly enough, she is quite skeptical of science and scientists.

    Real nice person, though. Compassionate, caring, generous, kind, intelligent (but misguided), conscientious, etc. Better than many people, I’d wager.

    I see you live in Colorado, Matt. What part? I live in Colorado Springs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve also noticed that the people who come out of the strictest of environments often possess those qualities you mentioned – great to hear it anecdotally though 🙂

      I’m thinking of people who’ve left the Westboro Baptist Church, or various cults and sects, who’ve since denounced those beliefs and practices. They seem to have the qualities your friend does.

      I’d like to think that we live in an age of information, and that the stupid people have always existed, it’s just now they have a platform where we can see them all for what they are.
      That’s not on-brand cynical enough for me though, so I’ll enforce the idea that that’s how I’d LIKE to think – but the reality is more likely that otherwise intelligent people are being influenced by misinformation.

      I’m in Colorado Springs too! Been here for almost a year, moved from the UK. I love living beneath the mountains.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It used to perplex me no end how some very intelligent people could harbor quite irrational views and opinions. Then I stumbled across some science on the subject. Turns out, the brain uses mostly different circuits for intelligence and rationality. Hence, it’s easily possible for such a bizarre combination as a very intelligent, but very irrational person to exist.

        I wandered into the Springs about 25 years ago. Met my best friends here. Besides them, I stay because of our proximity to wilderness. Even if I don’t get up into mountains much these days, something in me needs to know the wilderness is close by.

        Have you considered living in Manitou? Pretty close to the mountains, Manitou.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve noticed most of the folks who leave Colorado won’t settle for less than the majestic Pacific Northwest. It seems to be the only part of the country most feel is more beautiful than here.

        As for myself, I have no intention of moving, but if I did, I’d consider New England. More of a literary tradition there.

        Liked by 1 person

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