"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

the way to counter bad speech is with more speech - this is how it is done

Last night, I was killing a few minutes scanning my twitter feed and lo and behold I find the Toronto Sun's Lorrie Goldstein taking a shot at some bureaucrats for overstepping their mandate in a ridiculous way like those crazy bureaucrats always do, what with how they waste public money and breathe our air and get bureaucrat cooties on everythink and stuff.
I know, must be a day of the week that ends in "Y." right? Because if a government employee found the cure for cancer the Sun would be bitching that they had denied the private sector the chance to do it cheaper and for profit, buncha goddamn soshulists!
Anyways, Mr. Goldstein was fretting on Twitter that Toronto's public health department had issued a press release calling on ABC to fire Jenny McCarthy from The View over her very public campaigns to get people to stop having their children vaccinated. 
He felt this was one of those ridiculous bureaucratic overreaches that was none of the public health authority's business and whatnot. And as usual, a half dozen or so fans had joined the conversation with  complaints that the employees at the public health board were paid and wasn't that an outrage and why didn't they fire this greedy loafer who runs the public health department and hire one of the hundreds of unemployed doctors in Ontario to the job better and cheaper etc etc etc ad nauseum.
I'll let  you look up Jenny McCarthy's sincere but completely wrong-headed crusade to stop vaccinations. Googling  "Andrew Wakefield" might be a good start.  Suffice to say that she has used her B-list celebrity status as former Playboy model and MTV VJ and 80s almost it-girl to campaign against the use of vaccines because she thinks vaccinations caused her son's autism. She is assuredly wrong and the medical studies she cites have long since been exposed as fraudulent. I do not question her sincere belief or dedication to her cause, but she is just plain wrong. And her advocacy has caused thousands of people not to get their children vaccinated, which has led to a return of nearly vanished diseases like measles in North America because, basically, people are stupid. But I digress.
So Lorrie Goldstein was tweeting about this and basically complained that Jenny McCarthy was none of Toronto Public Health's' business and it was ridiculous for them to call for ABC to fire her.
i jumped in to tell him he was wrong and we went round and round and round as you do when you argue with a conservative  -- he tried the usual false equivalencies and tried to claim that I had put words in his mouth and that I claimed said he opposed vaccination  when I had done no such thing. He would not admit that countering disinformation about health issues was a key task for public health officials. My favorite was his argument that "you spread the correct information the old fashioned way, by hard work, not stupid press releases"  I guess he figured the public health department should be going door to door to tell people Jenny McCarthy is wrong and vaccinations are a good thing, or sending everyone telegrams or standing on a soapbox on the street corner. like back in the old day when we all wore onions on our belts or something, rather than doing what they did.
The thing is, what the Toronto Public Health PR people did has worked beautifully. They have Goldstein and every other political columnist is Toronto talking about vaccinations and none of them, not even those like Goldstein that think their call to fire McCarthy is an overreach, are going to tell you that Jenny McCarthy is anything but wrong. It has drawn attention to the issue of misinformation around vaccination.
At the same time, they have seized the high moral ground and done what public health officials are duty-bound to do -- fight the spread of misinformation about a vital health issue.
I doubt very much that anyone at the Toronto Public Health dept. thought for a single second that ABC would fire Jenny McCarthy, but by publicly calling for her to be fired, they have garnered all sort of attention, got everyone talking about the issue and reminded everyone not to pay any attention to dingbat celebrity health advice.
While I know that congratulating public employees other than the police and military for a job well done is anathema to anyone at the Sun, this really should appeal to them and their readers. After all, for little or no cost to the taxpayer, Toronto's public health department has managed to piss off a Hollywood celebrity activist, raise awareness around a vital public health issue, stem the tide of anti-scientific bullshit and maybe convince a few more people to get their kids vaccinated.

Bravo to the Toronto Public Heath department's PR staff.

Update: After sleeping on it for the night Mr. Goldstein seems to have realized he didn't really have much to complain about. He didn't exactly say I was right and he was wrong, but I never really expected he would. He did at least admit that the U.S. has 50 states.

One of the others who jumped into the fray provided this link to info on the antivaccine kooks that Toronto Public Health are trying to counter.


http://www.wikio.com

1 comment:

democommie said...

Jenny McCarthy used to be a spectacularly sortapretty young woman. I don't follow her or her crusade--she's just plain fucking wrong about vaccination.

I'm reminded of something P.J. O'Rourke (the only funny libertarian that I've ever read) said about progress (and I paraphrase--to put it mildly--here).

"The people who complain about all of the exhaust fumes from automobiles in the metropolitan NY area HAVE missed out on an opportunity to walk streets knee-dip in horse manure and enjoy the various maladies that arise from having enormous piles of shit, everywhere,"

Vaccination undoubtedly causes problems, serious ones, for a number of people. Not vaccinating--I grew up in the fifties, Jenny, and I KNEW people with infantile paralysis caused by polio.

Stick to taking care of your family (or not) and we'll take care of ours.