By Cathy Jameson
An honest mom’s response made late last week during an interview opened the doors to a circus frenzy typical of the mainstream media. If you’ve stayed up with vaccine and autism news since that comment aired then you’re already well aware of the lively conversations that have taken place on the internet about it.
A great number of people came out of the woodwork offering their opinion about vaccines and about Kristin Cavallari’s choice to not vaccinate. Some people left a comment or two in online forums while others cranked out a good 10,000 or more. Everyone had something to say. Or prove. Or demand. Or yell IN ALL CAPS. Quite a few parents who have children with documented vaccine injuries merely wanted to leave a heartfelt thanks while other people, many of whom appear to hail from a pro-vaccine stance, badgered those parents with malicious responses in reply.
Baiting parents and belittling them and their well-thought out opinions
became the new discussion. It wasn’t about Kristin anymore. The attack turned toward the parents who have wised up about vaccines. Moms were belittled. Their science was shot down. Parents were told their anti-vax choices were putting innocent people at risk. It never makes sense to argue that point because the majority of people in this country have the choice to vaccinate or not. It’s quite simple, really. If we parents don’t want to vaccinate, they don’t have to. That right is protected by law. But some people forget that little fact and would rather have an online hissy fit instead.
Even though I had several opportunities to say something as the story went viral, because I too am thankful Kristin’s knows that she has a choice in the matter, I kept out of the fray. I watched instead. Many times I wish I hadn’t. I am all for discussing and offering insight to others in a public forum, but there is no need to point fingers at moms who are vocal about a personal decision. But that happened repeatedly last week.
As the days went on, while the media did nothing to calm the drama they started, more people added to online conversations. What struck me as the most unfortunate after reading thread after thread after thread was that in all the comments, not one person chimed in saying,
Thanks for the info, everyone! Your incredibly heated discussions have offered me a significant amount of useful insight. It even helped me make the decision to vaccinate/to not vaccinate my child. Keep up that fantastic back-and-forth dialogue. I’m sure it’ll help someone else too!”
Nope. Not one.
One lesson can be learned from the internet conversations this week. It’s that people who believe unequivocally in vaccines are holding steadfast to their beliefs, and that people who believe unequivocally that vaccines cause adverse reactions and autism are holding steadfast to their beliefs too. I respect that each has the right to hold firmly of their belief. But no one should be bullied like parents in this community are and with what happened on the red carpet when a mom spoke up.
So, what do we do? Continue to watch insults being lobbed at us? With the media leading the way, we’re bound to see that continue.
In today’s world, being vocal about vaccines and autism comes with a risk. That was an important and hard lesson that I personally learned a long ago. But even with that risk, when I have spoken up in the past, I didn’t regret it. I hope Kristin doesn’t either.
I chose to watch this time. By the time I could jump in, the pot had been stirred too much for me to think my input could make a difference. I have no doubt that there will be plenty of other chances for me to chime in though. I’ll do that when I’m certain that my voice will help someone.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.