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.
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!”
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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