The things you have to think about when you get involved in the vaccine safety issue! Lately I’ve been wondering about the state of the global warming debate, prompted by vaccine injury deniers who say ideas like ours are so goofy they are similar to denying that global warming is real.
This week, I was forwarded a release from Voices For Vaccines titled Avoiding False Balance: Vaccines in the Media. It makes the usual Offit-style points about settled science and study after study showing no link between vaccines and autism, etcetera after etcetera, and included this particularly unpleasant complaint:
“Giving scientifically invalid ideas equal weight to established and verifiable scientific facts by including them in the piece without addressing the fact they are false (e.g., allowing an interviewee to say her child’s autism was caused by vaccines without including a correction—by the reporter—that scientific consensus shows this parent's statement is unwarranted based on the evidence).”
So if someone like, say, respected neurologist Jon Poling said that vaccines caused his daughter Hannah to regress into autism in front of his own eyes, as affirmed by the U.S. government, and compensated by $20 million in our taxpayer dollars, it would be the reporter’s duty to say something like, “Correction: Poling’s statement is false, based on the evidence. Hannah did not regress into autism before his own lying eyes and the government was wrong to compensate them for vaccine injury that led to autism.”
What really caught my eye was the claim that the vaccine safety “debate” is just like the climate safety “debate” – i.e., that it doesn’t exist outside of air quotes. To wit:
“For several years, journalists covering the climate change issue saw it as a controversy requiring equal air time for both the climate change scientists and the handful of scientists—most of them funded by oil companies—who felt the climate was not warming. This approach prolonged—and continues to prolong—a period of doubt about climate change. The result of the media’s approach to this issue is that while more than 98% of climate scientists are in agreement that our planet is warming, people in the United States are split on the issue. The result is that we’ve been hindered in addressing pressing issues related to combating climate change and are seeing the very real effects the lag in action caused by this manufactured uncertainty is having.
“Vaccines are a remarkably similar case, in that the scientific consensus on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is perhaps even more overwhelming.”
Yeah, not true what they said about climate change. According to Slate on April 6, “Americans overwhelmingly agree that global warming is happening. Out of 3,143 total counties in the United States, majorities of just 39 counties disagree. That means nearly 99 percent of all counties in the country ‘believe in’ global warming—with the holdouts confined to deeply conservative places like Limestone County, Alabama, or coal-producing Putnam County, West Virginia. That aligns broadly with a recent 98-1 Senate vote that global warming is real and ‘not a hoax.’ The lone holdout in that vote was Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker.
I think what the mopey dopes at Voices For Vaccines might be talking about is whether climate change is man-made or not. There is more of a split on that, although once again the majority agrees: “A steady 57 percent blame humans for global warming,” Gallup reported last month.
Now if that were the proportion in a presidential election, it would be called a landslide. But still, it shows there are plenty of doubters. Some of them fear for their livelihood, some of them strongly believe they are right, and some are important elected officials – and a lot of them take money from the fossil fuel industry, as Bill Moyers pointed out: “All told, 170 elected representatives in the 114th Congress have taken over $63.8 million from the fossil fuel industry that’s driving the carbon emissions which cause climate change. They deny what over 97 percent of scientists say is happening — current human activity creates the greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat within the atmosphere and cause climate change. And their constituents are paying the price, with Americans across the nation suffering 500 climate-related national disaster declarations since 2011.”
So alert the media, I guess – people have different opinions in a democracy, some of it depending on how an issue affects them personally, and money skews politics in the America of 2015. It’s a conflict of interest, kind of like all the pharmaceutical money pouring into Congress and onto the network news to silence the vaccine-safety debate, and a lot like Voices for Vaccines’ billing itself as a “parent-driven organization supported by scientists, doctors, and public health officials.” Right, and if you go to their Web site and click on About, you’ll see they are an “administrative project” of something called the Task Force for Global Health, and if you go to that Web site and click on About, you’ll see their partners are “non-profit organizations working in developing countries for the benefit of improving global health in local communities.” It’s a hall of mirrors that leads back to vaccine zealotry funded, at some point on upstream tributaries, by vaccine manufacturers and their public health pals. It's dirty money washing through the system.
("Donors" to TFGH, according to their 2013 annual report, include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CDC, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Novartis, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and something called, rather ominously, U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6.)
So the vaccine-autism debate is like the climate change debate only in the fact that one side (exemplified by Voices for Vaccines) has a huge conflict of interest they try to avoid disclosing or claim has nothing to do with their position. What the vaccine-autism debate is really like, as I’ve said many times, is the run-up to the Iraq war where one side -- the one with all the power and access and ability to shape public opinion -- used twisted data to drive its agenda, colluded with private enterprises like Halliburton, and drove us deep into another big muddy from which we have yet to recover and, in fact, may not. (While we're sending drones over Pakistan and building ill will -- Pakistan officials are talking about charging former CIA agents with murder -- the country just signed a $46 billion infrastructure improvement pact with China. We are not winning the future by fighting everyone else in the world.)
Let’s give the last word on VFV's precious "scientific consensus," which must never be questioned, to the late author Michael Crichton, M.D.:
“Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
“There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism