Respectful Insolence

If I lived in the U.K., I don’t know if I could blog. After all, the U.K. has some of the most plaintiff-friendly libel laws in the world, far more so than here in the U.S., in that in a libel case it is up to the defendant to prove that what he wrote is true, not the plaintiff to prove it false and defamatory. Just go back to 2000 and the most depressing exhibition of that very principle, namely disgraced pseudohistorian David Irving’s libel suit against Professor Deborah Lipstadt for having referred to him as a Holocaust denier (which he undoubtedly is) in her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. It happened to Ben before when HIV/AIDS denialist quack Matthias Rath sued him for libel. Fortunately, Ben won.

This time around, Ben complained about a DJ named Jeni Barnett, who is clearly an antivaccine nut and not afraid to spew her nonsense on her radio show, throwing out the usual antivaccine canards about big pharma conspiracies, the “science was wrong before” doggerel, and the claim that measles “wasn’t so bad.” Now, her radio station LBC is threatening to sue Ben over this for “copyright infringement” because Ben had posted a segment of her show in which she ranted on and on about the evils of vaccines. And she’s still doing it on her own blog:

I am not a scientist, I would not claim to be a scientist. When tested on the contents of the MMR vaccine I told the truth. I did not have the facts to hand. Was I ill informed? Yes.As a responsible broadcaster I should have been better prepared as a parent, however, I can fight my corner. I don’t know everything that goes into cigarettes but I do know they are harmful.

As a professional should I have been better prepared – YES – but the discussion took off in a direction I hadn’t expected when I received a vicious phone call from a Nurse I was utterly thrown. I won’t get thrown again.

I find it interesting that the vitriol that comes out of the pro MMR lobby is precisely why Allopathic medicine is struggling. Most of us who seek alternatives allow others their position but often the ‘others’ have a real problem allowing us ours.

Doesn’t change my mind though. The fact that I decided not to have my child jabbed was my decision alone. And it is a lonely decision. To be singled out and held totally responsible for a measles, mumps or rubella ‘epidemic’ is clearly ludicrous.

Single jabs on demand? Why is that a problem?

Injecting tiny babies with substances that may compromise their immune system needs to be looked at not shouted down.

Translation: Barnett doesn’t know what she’s talking about when it comes to vaccines, and to her Ben and all those who were alarmed at her proudly spewing ignorant pseudoscientific nonsense all over the airwaves and willing to call her out about it publicly are being so very, very mean to her. Wah! Obviously they’re all in the pockets of big pharma, too.

Not to mention that they hate mothers.

Media idiots like Barnett (not to mention Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, Don Imus, and all the other celebrity morons who value anecdotes over science, don’t have a single clue about what science is), and abuse their position of influence to spread misinformation that scares parents into not vaccinating do bear a significant part of the responsibility for measles outbreaks.

As Ben pointed out, MMR uptake in the U.K. dropped from 93% to 75% (below the level necessary for herd immunity) and to below 50% in London during the decade after Andrew Wakefield published his dubious research and the British media ate it up. It continued to perpetuate the myth long after it was discovered that Wakefield had been in the pocket of trial lawyers who were suing for vaccine injury and had an interest in a different measles vaccine–also long after others showed just how incompetent Wakefield’s original “research” was. Now, in the wake of hugely decreased MMR uptake, measles cases in the U.K. jumped again last year, this time by 36%, causing NHS officials to be very worried that the number of cases will continue to climb.

Thank you Andrew Wakefield.

And thank you, idiots like Jeni Barnett.

Yes, no matter how much Jeni whines about the meanness of it all, it is entirely fair to lay part of the blame for the resurgence of measles in the U.K. at the feet of idiots like her. Don’t believe me? Well, thanks to yet another failure of the memory hole due to the Internet, Barnett’s attempt to silence herself in essence by suppressing any use of the recording in which she ranted on, has failed. Go listen for yourself, and the complete transcript is here, thanks to the hard work of some bloggers. Read it and weep at the misinformation of it all. And tell Barnett’s radio station and its parent company that you don’t appreciate its intentionally intimidating a blogger in order to defend an antivaccinationist loon that they hired. Let them know that you especially don’t appreciate its intimidation of Ben Goldacre, who doesn’t make a lot of money working for the NHS. He doesn’t have the resources to defend against a lawsuit, and LBC knows it. The contact information is at BadScience.net. It’s also a good thing to offer him your moral support and advice.

While you’re at it, you could go and give Barnett an education on her blog for promoting such idiocy on her radio show. I’ll listen to the segment when I get home from work; unfortunately I didn’t see most of the e-mails people sent me about this until early this morning, and I didn’t have time to listen; all I could do was whip off this quick post, but I’m more than happy to do what little I can to support Ben.

ADDENDUM

Here is the full transcript:

  1. Part 1 – Science Punk
  2. Part 2 – The Lay Scientist
  3. Part 3 – PodBlack Cat
  4. Part 4 – The Skeptic’s Book of Pooh-Pooh
  5. Part 5 – The Quackometer
  6. Part 6 – Holford Watch

Comments

  1. #1 Primus
    February 6, 2009

    Thanks for picking this up. Had only seen it on BoingBoing and was very distressed at the amount of anti-vaxxers showing up in the comments. Someone actually cited JPANDS as evidence that autism rates dropped after thimerosol was removed from vaccines.

  2. #2 bob
    February 6, 2009

    Wow, she even has the gall to wonder if “you Bad scientists” would treat her if she fell ill. I’m not even going to list all the problems with what she’s saying, as crediting her with mistakes and fallacies would imply that she’s actually attempting to make a cogent argument. What a putz.

    Please keep us posted about anything we can do to help Ben, beyond DL the interview and (likely futilely) comment on her blog.

  3. #3 Felix
    February 6, 2009

    There’s a FaceBook group you can join to show support for Ben.
    Let’s remind these corporate bullies how many people care about the issues of MMR, science, and suppression of criticism.

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=47955872103

  4. #4 Thony C.
    February 6, 2009

    Today on the BBC news they anounced that Britain had a 30% increase in measles in 2008 in comparison to 2007! Go figure!

  5. #5 ESPness
    February 6, 2009

    The Bad Science site seems to be down. I hope its not a bad sign.
    Isn’t the ‘motherly love beats science’ angle copyrighted by Jenny. Someone should tell her lawyers.

  6. #6 Matt Heath
    February 6, 2009

    @ESPness: I’m pretty sure Bad Science is just pharynulated and boingboinged.

  7. #7 Mu
    February 6, 2009

    I wonder if you could make vaccination of every member of your household mandatory as a condition of employment – kinda like drug testing. There sure would be a sound economic argument for it, the only question is, would you have to offer a religious waiver to not get in conflict with anti-discrimination laws?

  8. #8 Podblack
    February 6, 2009

    Hi,

    If you’d like a read-through of every transcript, head to the following:

    The Full Transcript:
    Part 1 – Science Punk
    Part 2 – The Lay Scientist
    Part 3 – PodBlack Cat
    Part 4 – The Skeptic’s Book
    Part 5 – Science Punk
    Part 6 – Holford Watch

  9. #9 FreeSpeaker
    February 6, 2009

    So, we have another ill-informed anti-vaccinationist who now joins the ranks of J. B. Handley, who had to retract a good portion of one of his cyber-squatting websites, Andy Wakefield, Kathleen Seidel, et al.

    When will these people realize that they no longer control the flow of information and cannot stop the tsunami of widespread propagation of information that occurs in the blogosphere? Do they not realize that an attack on one blogger is considered to be an attack on all bloggers (exepct for Kirby and Olmsted, who had to be shamed in responding in Kathleen’s behalf)?

  10. #10 Pareidolius
    February 6, 2009

    More celebrity mommy hubris. Both Jeni and Jenny both insist that while they aren’t scientists, they are mommys who know what is best for their children (and evidently everyone else’s children, who will be at increased risk from their unimunized spawn). Her broadcast sounded like it was penned by Jennifer Saunders for an episode of AbFab. The letters on her blog are almost unanimously critical.

  11. #11 Kevin
    February 6, 2009

    Orac, while your views here happen to coincide with my own, I don’t think you’re doing yourself any favours by encouraging your readers to go school this woman, on her own blog, while also freely confessing that you haven’t even listened to what she had to say.

    Repeatedly calling somebody an “idiot”, when you’ve not even listened to their opinions… come on. That’s what the other side does.

    You happen to be correct this time. She is an idiot. As you will quickly discover when you do listen to what she said.

    If you want to take a moral high ground based on reasoned argument and/or the scientific method, it might be better if you’re doing it based on evidence, rather than just what some other blogger says.

  12. #12 Orac
    February 6, 2009

    I had read enough of the transcripts at that point to know an antivaccinationist when I see one, not to mention that I also trust Ben Goldacre’s judgment in identifying antivaccinationist nonsense.

    I now know, having gone through the stuff, that I was not mistaken. In fact, it’s worse than I had expected based on Goldacre’s description.

  13. #13 Podblack
    February 6, 2009

    Yes, it is worse. This is really nasty stuff. I was finding it really difficult not to scream out ‘YESS!!!!’ when ‘John Of Epsom’ said what he said… and then to have ‘Amanda’ say what she said next…. urgh.

    By the way, Orac, if you’re after some details on Jenny McCarthy’s first book on anti-vaccine, please contact me on my site. The site http://www.stopjenny.com is currently undergoing some improvements and you might like to check out a resource.

  14. #14 Baalcebub
    February 6, 2009

    I am a little bit scared here. Badsience.net appears to be down. Are the nut jobs really that powerful? It would be a shame if Goldacre was somewhat silenced because the nutjobs just happen to have a lot of legal muscle.

  15. #15 Podblack
    February 7, 2009

    Baalcebub – the answer as to why Ben’s site is down:

    http://podblack.com/?p=1225

  16. #16 DLC
    February 7, 2009

    how depressing. It is of course a nuisance suit intended to shut Goldacre down. Didn’t work the last time it was tried either. Also depressing to see that vaccinations are down by as much as that.

  17. #17 Badger3k
    February 7, 2009

    I went to her blog, and only went through the first 13 comments, but most were articulate and well-informed on actual evidence. I didn’t go further, but from what I have read so far, I doubt it will have an effect on her. It’s a shame that her kids and their friends may be the victims of her fears and ignorance.

  18. #18 Shawn S.
    February 7, 2009

    Here’s how he can recoup his losses. Every time he wins a libel suit he has a counter suit for those others calling him publically a libelist for no substantial reason! It isn’t like he doesn’t have the proof… I wonder if that’d work? Hmm…

  19. #19 Sam C
    February 7, 2009

    …it is entirely fair to lay part of the blame for the resurgence of measles in the U.K. at the feet of idiots like her [Barnett].

    Yes, but Dr Ben’s recent book makes a different point: he doesn’t pull punches on blaming the quacks and denialists, but he is most angry at the mass media for providing conduits for this nonsense to reach the public.

    Friendly newspaper columnists can write any opinionated rubbish that their soft little brains have absorbed. In the world of quackery, “alternative health” correspondents can write that some quack remedy is good for the joints (or whatever) whereas the manufacturer of the rubbish couldn’t dare put any such lies on the packaging due to medicine licensing regulations.

    In this case, LBC have given uncritical air time to a denialist because it makes good radio, irresponsibly ignoring the public health implications.

  20. #20 blf
    February 7, 2009

    It’s my understanding the threat—not an actual suit—is from LBC and Global Radio (LBC’s owner). A quick check on the LBC site suggests they accept advertising for broadcast on-air (I may be mistaken here). I would suggest boycotting the companies who advertised (assuming there are any) during the stupid witch’s show. Once it is accurately determined who they are, write to them (and LBC and Global Radio) and explain why they are now on the “never buy” list.

    Unrelated to the above idea, Ben’s given an
    interview with journalism.co.uk about the threatened suit:

    Goldacre on the ‘intellectual property absolutists’ – LBC’s legal warning
    February 6th, 2009
    Judith Townend

    Ben Goldacre found time for a chat with Journalism.co.uk today in regards to LBC radio legal team’s request that Goldacre remove audio from a radio show concerning MMR vaccinations. Three days ago, Goldacre – Guardian columnist, BadScience.net blogger, Bad Science author, doctor etc. – had posted the extract of a radio broadcast by LBC’s Jeni Barnett on his blog – a piece Goldacre believes ‘exemplifies every single canard ever uttered by the anti vaccination movement.’ He has now removed the offending audio after Global Radio lawyers contacted him to say it was an infringement of copyright. However, bloggers have been quick to upload the audio elsewhere.

    … some of the things Ben Goldacre said during the interview [ an audio clip will be posted later after editing ]:

    * “It genuinely never occurred to me – for even half a second – that what I was posting was any kind of infringement of any kind of law at all.”

    * “To me I heard a very, very irresponsible piece of broadcasting, but more importantly a very instructive piece of broadcasting (…) particularly in the case of MMR – the media’s irresponsible and misleading reporting has led to quite serious public health outcomes.”

    * “I suspect they [LBC] are intellectual property absolutists. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt because the alternative is that they wanted to silence discussion”.

    * “This has had massively paradoxical effects (…) “It’s gone from being a little one-off blog post that I wouldn’t even write about in the column to this enormous cause-celebre.”

    “This episode today, this ‘debate’ if you want to frame it in mawkish terms, is not about the dangers of MMR, it is about the dangers of the media,” Goldacre added.

  21. #21 Dr John Crippen
    February 7, 2009

    Excellent.

    Glad you have picked up on this already. In fact, you would be fine blogging in the UK. The law’s bark is worse than it’s bite over here. But Ben is what is called a “junior hospital doctor” over here ( a resident) and does not have the money to take on city lawyers. But the attempt to stiffle his comment has had the reverse effect.

    I have just put up a FULL TRANSCRIPT of the original broadcast here:

    http://nhsblogdoc.blogspot.com/2009/02/jeni-barnett-mmr-measles-and-bad.html

    I’m told that a transcript is not breach of copyright. I’ll let you know if the lawyers take a different attitude. Jeni Barnett is a “C” list celebrity, sometime bit part actor, and has now found a parking place on talk radio. She is at home talking about diets, women’s fashion and celebrity gossip. She knows nothing about medicine – and it shows.

    But Ben’s blog raises much bigger issues. Most bloggers (including you and I) make FREQUENT use of excerpts (with full accreditation). We need to take a stand in the UK to make sure we are not stopped. Our government has been making noises about censoring blogs for sometime. Very worrying

    John

    Dr John Crippen

  22. #22 Shay
    February 7, 2009

    “So, we have another ill-informed anti-vaccinationist who now joins the ranks of J. B. Handley, who had to retract a good portion of one of his cyber-squatting websites, Andy Wakefield, Kathleen Seidel, et al.

    When did Kathleen go over to the dark side? Her last few posts have looked refreshingly sane to me.

  23. #23 JKW
    February 7, 2009

    No Kathleen, Offit et al were victims of JB.

  24. #24 David Colquhoun
    February 7, 2009

    Despite the law, I’d guess there are at least as many forthright blogs in the UK. The threats aren’t restricted to the UK anyway. Yale’s lawyers told Youtube to take down my little video, Integrative baloney @ Yale. They did so, but it immediately sprang up elsewhere on the web. After pressure, internal as well as from me, they eventually relented. Most of the legal threats are just threats and never go to court. Ben took down the show as asked, so he’s presumably safe. It’s what happened next that is really rather beautiful.

    A bunch of his friends, of all ages, sat up late to transcribe the broadcast and post it in pieces (“fair quotation”). Others went further and posted the whole thing. In a short time the censored item was in 70 places on the web and all but one of the first page of a Google search for ‘Jeni Barnett MMR’ referred to the stuff that lawyers had tried to censor.

    The lawyers can give up. If they try censorship they get just the opposite. Wonderful!

  25. #25 HolfordWatch
    February 7, 2009

    Brian Deer discusses Andrew Wakefield and his research in the Sunday Times. Perhaps after the revelations in last year’s Autism Omnibus Hearings we shouldn’t be too surprised but it is all rather dispiriting to learn just how shoddy the scientific underpinning of all this sound and fury was.

    No researchers have been able to replicate the results produced by Wakefield’s team in the Lancet study…

    In evidence presented to the GMC, however, there has emerged potential explanations of how Wakefield was able to obtain the results he did. This evidence, combined with unprecedented access to medical records, a mass of confidential documents and cooperation from parents during an investigation by this newspaper, has shown the selective reporting and changes to findings that allowed a link between MMR and autism to be asserted. [Brian Deer: Hidden records show MMR truth]

    However, it is a timely reminder that this was a story of poor science, amplified by the media into what Ben Goldacre characterises as the MMR hoax.

  26. #26 PaulG
    February 8, 2009

    There are a few sites about with the full transcript in one place, plus links to the audio…

    http://themilligan.wordpress.com/2009/02/07/jeni-barnett-spouting-pure-unadulterated-ignorance-about-the-mmr-vaccine/

    The above is one, plus check out The Holford Watch…

    http://holfordwatch.info/

    for excellent coverage of the blogs following topic.

    The Milligan also follows up with a look at the Wakefield articles and possible connection between him and Barnett.

    As ever, the blogosphere has run rings around the lawyers, and the heavy handed approach of the broadcasters has resulted in the whole thing blowing up in their faces.

    So, all-in-all, in the U.K., it’s actually been quite a good weekend for dispelling nonsense and presenting the evidence.

  27. #27 Svetlana Pertsovich
    February 9, 2009

    The situation with measles in the world and in my country.
    http://dinoquest-3.blogspot.com/2009/02/epidemics-of-measles-in-world-great.html

  28. #28 ama
    February 9, 2009

    Hi, folks, here we got a handle for the infamous radio affair of Jeni Barnett:

    http://www.oust-jeni-barnett.com

    Please support Ben Goldacre and spread the news!

  29. #29 MikeB
    February 9, 2009

    The blogosphere is on it, but where is the rest of the media? The Times is reporting it, but zilch yet from the Guardian (if you can’t report something about your own writer, then what are you doing?), nor anything else. And certainly not from the BBC or Channel 4. I’m sick of hearing about bloody Carol Thatcher (good riddance), but this is a story where lives could be at stake. I suspect that if someone on the ‘Today’ programme does read the blogs and follows up with a piece, Ben will quickly find that LBC stops being stupid.

    I don’t expect the Mail or the Express to cover it, since hell has yet to entirely freeze over, but the rest of the media is being handed a story with huge ramifications, yet refuses to touch it. If its not on ‘Today’ tomorrow morning, I’m writing in, and hope everyone else will do the same.

  30. #30 ama
    February 12, 2009

    The bullying Missis Bigmouth has erased stuff from her web-site. But it is too late…

    http://www.oust-jeni-barnett.com

    We are on her heels.

    Do not forget: In January a 12 year old girl in Switzerland died of measles. She was not vaccinated.

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