Jeni Barnett recently hosted a ridiculously bad discussion of the MMR vaccine, on LBC radio, 7th January 2009. Highlights included, for example, her admitting that she did not know what was in the MMR vaccine – after ranting at some length about what she perceived as the risks of vaccines and their ingredients.
We are therefore pleased to see Jeni admitting that she failed to act as one would expect a responsible broadcaster to:
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*
It has to be said that the correspondences between Jeni’s mistaken beliefs and the misinformation promulgated by Patrick Holford are quite striking. However, although Patrick Holford’s blog has a tiny readership, Jeni tour de force was distributed to a far larger audience and is therefore more immediate. (Patrick Holford’s books, sadly, have a larger readership for their canards although they contain even more misinformation than Jeni managed to cram into her programme. You may recall Patrick Holford encouraging his readers to sign a petition in support of Dr Andrew Wakefield although he doesn’t ever seem to have got round to doing so himself. Patrick Holford and Andrew Wakefield: Patrick Holford and Andrew Wakefield’s Discredited Findings Part 1 and Part 2.)
Given that vaccine scares can have significant health impacts – and that Jeni has now admitted some of her failures – we trust that Jeni and LBC will be apologising for and correcting the errors in the broadcast (this might take a few hours – update, we’ve just attempted to address some of Jeni Barnett’s MMR canards and it is arduous). We also trust that – despite the somewhat strident tone of the blog post we have linked – Jeni is working on a fuller apology, which she will post as soon as possible. How very sad that no such apology or correction for his errors, misinformation and disinformation will be forthcoming from the likes of Patrick Holford.
* The grammatical error was in Jeni’s original blog post.
Update: 21:40, it seems that LBC’s lawyers have been in touch with Dr Ben Goldacre of Bad Science to insist that he should remove the recording of the MMR segment of Jeni Barnett’s programme.
Two days ago I posted about a broadcast in which their presenter Jeni Barnett exemplified some of the most irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves.
To illustrate my grave concerns, I posted the relevant segment about MMR from her show, maybe 20 or 30 minutes, which a reader kindly excerpted for me from the rest of the three hour programme. It is my view that Jeni Barnett torpedoes her reputation in that audio excerpt so effectively that little explanation is needed.
LBC’s lawyers say that the clip I posted is a clear infringement of their copyright…
Frankly, this roll call of people spouting irresponsible nonsense or even egregious misinformation in the public domain and then suing people who criticise them for it is getting out of hand.
Updates and related reading
A random assortment of legal threats following criticism.
The gentle art of homeopathic killing. Quackometer ran into further trouble with Dr Obi: Netcetera are Recreant Milquetoasts and Poltroons. Positive Internet Stand Tall.
Patrick Holford sends out blustering letters. See, e.g., Response to a threatening letter from Mr Holford. We believe that the Press Complaints Commission has received complaints from Patrick Holford that have not been substantially upheld. He, did, of course, intimidate the Independent into removing an article that criticised the treatment of a child during one of the school projects with which he was associated.
The Mighty David Colquhoun and the saga of Ann Walker and her alleged blood cleansers.
Who can forget: Stuart Pivar Sues PZ Myers.
Instances of academics being sued for voicing their criticism. Legal threat for criticising neurobabble lie detector.
There are probably more but it is all rather depressing. More updates may follow.
Update 2: 22:26: Fortunately, for those who missed the programme, there may still be opportunities to listen to it because Dr Rachie has a copy. We shall let you know when and if it becomes available.
Goldacre makes an interesting suggestion:
Without a formal opinion and a guarantee of legal backup that would last for the duration of a case, and financial resources to cover the cost of losing, it seems to me that the only legally safe way to keep this sorry piece of audio in the public domain is by large numbers of bloggers posting individual brief chunks, and blogging critically about them, using “fair use” uncontroversially for brief slices, with me perhaps keeping tabs here of where people have posted these discussions and excerpts, in one reference post. Now there’s an idea. It might also be a useful project for media students as well as bloggers…
Interested parties might go over there, when a copy of the audio files is made available, and bag a segment to blog.
Update 3: Feb 6th. Thank you to the commenters who have alerted us to the presence of the file on Wiki Leaks.
It also seems as if some progress is being made with various people having selected part of the discussion to analyse on their blogs. There will be further updates.
Update to the transcripts:
Frank Swain of Science Punk: Jeni Barnett MMR show – full transcript
Martin of The Lay Scientist: The Barnett Transcript: Part 2 – The homeopath’s phone call. Martin has made some comments of his own.
Podblack of Podblack Cat: Jeni Barnett On LBC 97.3FM UK Radio – Vs John From Epsom
Dr Rachael Dunlop of Sceptics’ Book: Jeni Barnett talks to Amanda, mother of 8. This section covers ~ 19 to 24 mins of the Jeni Barnett MMR segment. To see the preceding section head to podblack.com. For the full audio, head to my YouTube channel.
We, at HolfordWatch are hosting Part 6: Jeni Barnett and the Phone Call with Yasmin on the LBC MMR Segment
Update 4: several blogs are now publicising the legal chill and providing their own take on the matter and related issues.
Dr Crippen of NHS BlogDoc: Jeni Barnett and LBC start the clean-up operation
Frank Swain of Science Punk: LBC sic lawyers on Ben Goldacre over criticism of MMR show
SJ Cockell of Fuzzier Logic: MMR scaremongerer sicks the legal dogs on Ben Goldacre
Podblack of Podblack Cat: Ben Goldacre – Will Not, Should Not, Be Silenced On Jeni Barnett.
Political Scientist: URGENT: The Joy of Law
Martin of The Lay Scientist: Jeni Barnett on MMR – The Complete Show.
Jason Brown of A Drunken Madman: More medical mendacity.
ES Armstrong of Scattergum: Jeni Barnett is an idiot.
Dr*T of Thinking is Dangerous: Is there a proper media lawyer in the house? Your country needs YOU.
Teek of consider, evaluate, act: Goldacre threatened with legal action over criticism of anti-MMR radio broadcast – UPDATED
Common Sense has updated the Measles graph for England and Wales.
Dr Rachie of The Sceptics’ Book: What are LBC and Jeni Barnett afraid of?
Press Gazette: LBC in legal warning to Ben Goldacre over MMR blog post
Quackometer: Jeni Barnett and Irresponsible Broadcasting
MacSpider of Spider Comment: Jeni Barnett, LBC, stupidity and threats
Londonist: MMR, For Some Reason, Still Controversial
Michael Grayer of Non-Toxic: Many Many Rants… and not much evidence.
Julie Oakley of Julie’s Pictures: Ben Goldacre – my hero! – an excellent outline drawing.
On Medica mentions Ben Goldacre and Jeni Barnett: Highest number of measles cases in 2008
Tony Hatfield of Retired Ramblings: Ben Goldacre,Jeni Barnett, MMR and LBC’s Heavy Legal Hand..!
Adam Bowie of The Ballad of Adam Bowie: Ben Goldacre and LBC
Media Watch: Bad Science v. Bad Lawyers
Dave Blog: The “Controversy” That Won’t Die
Plashing Vole: parataxis: Jeni Barnett is an ill-informed loon and a danger to the public
No Rock and Roll Fun: Global radio menaces Ben Goldacre
Jacob Aron of Just A Theory: Ben Goldacre vs. Jeni Barnett: legal troubles over MMR scaremongering
Matt Wardman of The Wardman Wire: Ben Goldacre of Bad Science Threatened by Lawyers for LBC and Jeni Barnett
Judith Townsend of Journalism.co.uk: Goldacre on the ‘intellectual property absolutists’ – LBC’s legal warning
Tom Reynolds of Random Acts of Reality: Bad Lawyering
PZ Myers of Pharyngula: Ben Goldacre and Jeni Barnett on LBC Radio
Bigger Pills: KO’d with a triple jab
Random Dumber Generator: Radio Station Fights Criticism With Copyright Claim
Orac: Help Ben Goldacre out…he’s being sued again (We hope not, it depends on the nuance behind a takedown letter with “reserved rights”.)
Phil Plait at Discover: UK in trouble? Measles, antivax garbage on the rise
Streisand is calling department at TechDirt: Radio Station Uses Copyright Claim To Try To Silence Bad Science Critic; Guess What Happens?
Nice shout-out by Greg of Lstrblg: The price we pay for the anti-vac movement
Miss Prism of a Somewhat Old But Capacious Handbag: Today’s irresponsible tripe courtesy of Jeni Barnett
Gareth Klose has some thoughtful questions: Is scientific tear-down fair use?
Electric Halibut wants to know: isn’t MMR scaremongering all a bit 2007? Quite.
Matt Dalby of Santiago’s Dead Wasp: legal bullying of bad science blog
Neil D of Harry’s Place: Ben Goldacre receives legal warning
Witch Doctor asks: Jeni Who?
Paul Flynn asks: Spot the Ignoramus?
Solveda at Musings of a Phenomenologist: When MMR attacks (or LBC and Jeni Barnett, what were you thinking?)
The Skeptic’s Field Guide: Help Ben Goldacre Beat Off This Artifice
Martial Arts Planet Forum: MMR, Jeni Barnett and Bad Science
Jon Bounds of The Bounder: Bad Science Needs Help or At Least Link Love
Verbal Gas Pedal of A Much More Exotic: The dangerous ignorance of Jeni Barnett harms children
Gary Marshall of Big Mouth Strikes Again: BadScience.net in MMR quack attack
Porcospino: Talk radio is bad for your health
The Jobbing Doctor: The Ben Goldacre Fan Club
Sceptics’ Book reproduces a comment left by Ben Goldacre on Jeni Barnett’s blog: What are LBC Radio and Jeni Barnett Afraid Of? and Damage Control for LBC’s Jeni Barnett’s MMR Rant Backfires Globally and on a Massive Scale
Jane’s The One carries a strong response to the news of LBC’s heavy-handed reaction to Ben Goldacre and she declares: bloggers are the free press.
Infectious Diseases Dr Verity of Verity at Work: Alarm Bells, Lassa, Snow and the End of the MMR Scare
Law Librarians mentions the kerfuffle: While I’m Here
Chris Ward of Terroir: Jeni Barnett Is An Idiot
Karl Haro von Mogel of The Inoculated Mind: Go Download This
Dr Grumble reveals why he will not agree to record an item for LBC radio again: LBC sharks
Daniel Onions of Phoebus Gins (what is not to love about those names) wonders if LBC are trying to deliberately stir this up: Jeni Barnett and Bad Science
Two Nil Blank Blank 20__ swears to Beelzebub that this kerfuffle has become London’s Biggest Conversation
Mick of Bright Reason warns that you may lose IQ points if you choose to listen to the notorious MMR segment: Badscience, Jeni Barnett woo-woo and the Streisand Effect
John Connell of John Connell – The Blog: Send in the lawyers. John has listened to the broadcast. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he reports:
the call from the ‘vicious nurse’ was, in fact, a call from a rightfully angry health professional who had obviously had enough of listening to the incoherent babbling of Barnett and her self-evident ignorance of the subject upon which she had chosen to pontificate. The nurse in question was far from vicious – she simply put Barnett right with a few salient facts.
Fish n Chimps of CMM News: Shock as Z-list Celeb Talks Out of Wrong Orifice
On the grounds that LBC is a commercial radio station that depends on advertising revenues, and on the even more tenuous grounds of this blog being about media monitoring, I present an example of a radio presenter firing off a rant that can physically harm or even kill children…
There’s a strange wind blowing through British celeb media at the moment, with lynch mobs after Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand, Carol Thatcher and Jeremy Clarkson for referring or talking to people in an insulting manner. What Barnett has said is far, far worse because of its potential to encourage gullible or ill-informed parents to make a decision that they may well regret later.
Forgive the extended quotation but this is a very interesting take on current events in media-celeb land.
Jonathan of No Sleep ‘Til Brooklands: Jeni Barnett and MMR. Jonathan is bemused at the cavalier sneering way in which Jeni dismisses Yasmin’s recommendation that if she were looking for information about vaccination on the internet, then she might consult a reliable source such as the Department of Health rather than sources of error. Apparently, “The Dept. of Health frightens people”.
Yeah, you don’t wanna be running into the Department of Health down a dark alley. That pretty much sums up the standard of evidence Barnett is working from; throughout the whole show she relies on anecdotes, a ludicrously fuzzy understanding of science, a breathtaking array of logical fallacies and a lot of vague suspicions about the motives of people promoting MMR (a level of skepticism she apparently doesn’t have towards, say, homeopaths who call in to deride vaccines despite making their living out of selling the alternative)
Cubik’s Rube unusually has: A blog post on a Friday. He notes that even after she has realised that she should have been better prepared:
Jeni hasn’t given up her impassioned defence of emotion and instinct over information and understanding.
Masks of Eris is finding that: World Sucks.
In UK, Ben Goldacre, a nice and sensible person, is again bothered by woo-woo people of unspeakable acephaliousness — and since they have no facts, and no talent for handling them even if they did, they use lawyers.
Professor David Colquhoun of dcscience: Jeni Barnett and LBC: dangers to public health. Like many others, Prof Colquhoun disagrees with Jeni’s characterisation of her exchange with Yasmin as ‘vicious’:
The opinionated and ill-informed actress turned talk show host, Jeni Barnett, spent an hour or so endangering your children (and hers) with what most surely be one of the worst ever accounts of measles vaccination…
She was abominably rude to a well-informed nurse who phoned in to try to inject some sense into the conversation…
When will people learn that lawyers are not the proper way to settle matters of truth and falsehood.
As ever, vigorous sentiments, well-expressed.
Commonplace Book offers a lively and a propos quotation from Tim Minchin: Jeni Thick-ett.
In the current hysterical climate, where a comedian can be banned from the airwaves for three months for leaving crude answerphone messages to the grandfather of one of his conquests, or the daughter of an ex-Prime Minister can be sacked on the spot for a stupid comment made, off air, to a colleague, I am surprised that Barnett hasn’t come in for more stick…
After reading [the transcripts], I was tempted to quote some [lines from Tim Minchin’s fabulous Storm], specifically the lines:
Keeps firing off clichés with startling precision
Like a sniper using bollocks for ammunition
John at Sore Eyes has some reservations about the size of the chunk that Ben excerpted but fully agrees that LBC is being disproportionately heavy-handed: LBC are bullies, pass it on
Skepacabra notes the latest heavy-handed legal reprimand: Ben Goldacre is Being…
Andres Guadamuz of Techno Llama offers a thoughtful and interesting legal opinion that is well-worth reading in full: Bad Science meets bad copyright.
Beyond the strict legalities of the case, one has to feel that Bad Science has done nothing ethically wrong, on the contrary, the reproduction of the clip serves the public interest. Those who espouse the blatantly damaging view that MMR should be trashed, and worse, use their public standing to further such myths, should be held accountable. It is typical of those with indefensible positions to use, misuse and abuse copyright law in order to stifle debate (Scientology anyone?) Copyright law serves a clear purpose to society, but when it is used to censor and remove contrary opinions then the public interest should prevail.
Guadamuz has also published: Update on Bad Science row.
Gimpy has his own opinions on where some of the blame for Jeni Barnett’s remarkable antivax rhetoric comes from: Jeni Barnett’s MMR scaremongering – the role of homeopathy.
I will focus on a particular vice of mine. Homeopathy. While bloggers and others are justifiably getting angry at Jeni Barnett and the media over this issue I think it is important to look at professions that feed and grow strong on such public emanations of ignorance and doubt…
Barnett may believe she is just sharing her opinions with her listeners and giving a forum for a spectrum of views but she fails to realise or fails to care that the mistrust and disinformation broadcast across the radio waves by LBC is being absorbed by homeopaths, packaged into a bitter narrative of fear and mistrust of science based medicine, and sweetened with a sympathetic ear and a sugar pill. Homeopaths view such voices in the media as reinforcing their beliefs and giving them more confidence in their practices.
Anti-vaccinators have exploited the internet for years. Websites, blogs, and forums are widely used by activists to promote their wrong-headed cause. However, when the pro-science pro-vaccine lobby use similar methods a common accusation is leveled at them. Here it is posted at JABS, the UK’s leading anti-vaccine website.
There is no way all of this could have happened so quickly without Pharma backing.
Demotivated posters now offer a little something in the style of despair.com: Jeni Barnett and Measles Was Never That Bad Anyway. A rather sadder version of what is fast becoming the Jeni Barnett: Measles was never that bad anyway meme.
David of Cloud Soup ponders on a peculiarly british myth of MMR and autism: Jeni Barnett, MMR and Bad Science
Martin Stabe makes a glancing reference to the kerfuffle and states that it is to Jeni Barnett’s credit that she defended herself and is allowing comments that disagree with her: Jeni Barnett: MMR and Me
Electric Halibut has now perused various transcripts of the infamous Jeni Barnett segment and come to the conclusion: there’s a fine line between “finely tuned animal” and “weird”
Dr Crippen of NHS BlogDoc implores parents to get their children immunised: Jeni Barnett, MMR, Measles and Bad Science. Will she accept the challenge?
Chris Gerhard of The Dot in …—… muses:You can’t put it back in the box.
It seems the clever Lawyers at LBC have not really paid attention to how the web works. Specifically “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”. This post is part of that routing.
JQH of Letting Off Steam has put up a response to the transcription of Jeni Barnett’s phone exchange with Yasmin: Jeni Barnett, Antivaxxer.
Dr Petra has produced a very thoughtful piece that ranges across the issues of professionals working with people in media to explain their work and the actual dynamics of some of the exchanges in Jeni Barnett’s LBC Radio MMR segment: Ever wondered why health professionals don’t want to work with the media and the public are misinformed on medical issues?
There are major problems within journalism currently about the level of understanding of health and science issues by presenters, researchers and other media staff. While a minority appear to have a good grasp of what’s going on and take time to read evidence and seek professional input, the majority of reporters are often poorly placed to understand and discuss complex and emotive health issues and lack the time, training and/or enthusiasm to get to grips with health or science evidence.
The result is a lot of opinion expressed as fact; endless hard-to-argue-with-rhetoric…
I think from reading [the transcript] it’s pretty easy to see whose dialogue you could describe as ‘vicious’ – and it wouldn’t be Yasmin.
Time and again myself and colleagues are invited onto TV or radio programmes or interviewed by print media journalists where we are interrupted, ignored, misunderstood, misquoted, ridiculed and quite often (as in the case of Yasmin above) deliberately insulted.
The Jobbing Doctor has produced British Medical Blogs 18 which is rather dominated by the issue of L’Affaire Ben Goldacre and Jeni Barnett. He tells a rather poignant story from his medical school days.
There has been a continuing unease that misguided colleagues and assorted quacks can, with a credulous and compliant media, start to cause significant damage to the health of children.
When Jobbing Doctor was a medical student, centuries ago, aeons ago, a young child with measles-induced brain damage was presented as a clinical case at his medical school. He had permanent brain damage as a direct result of SSPE (Subacute Sclerosing Pan-encephalitis), which is a direct result of Measles. This was a defining experience in Jobbing Doctor’s career. He never forgot this.
The World Is a Lesson In Perspective urges people to donate by PayPal to Ben Goldacre.
If you like the London Bus Generator, go straight to Northern Doctor for another version of Jeni Barnett’s very own meme: Raging across the blogosphere.
Phil Chamberlain of Taking Out the Trash writes: On dishing it out and taking it.
The difference with [Jeni Barnett] and other parents is that she is in a postion of authority and her programme sets the terms of debate for the public….
It’s not good enough to be a little ignorant and a bit fluffy and think you’re just helping confused parents take control. You need to take this stuff seriously or you need to go and find a job where you can’t cause damage to other people.
There is, of course, a delightful Facebook Group: Defend Ben Goldacre from LBC
DBH of The Great DBH Rant has gone through the transcripts and concluded: Jeni Barnett Anti-Vaccination Drivel – Irresponsibility at its best. DBH wonders:
I wonder if she would want to get into any sort of intellectual debate about vaccinations when she doesn’t have that button in front of her which allows her to switch off a caller. Since this unfortunate show has been on air and she was rightly criticized by bad science blogs left, right and centre, she has posted unrepentant posts on her own blog, depicting herself as a victim.
DBH posts a follow-up asking that: The MMR and Autism Link Should Be Binned for Good Now which works both colloquially and ‘for the greater good’. He highlights what happened with Dr Hwang Woo-Suk and sums up with a pertinent observation:
Dr Hwang Woo-Suk has since apologised to the nation. Dr Andrew Wakefield still stands by his research and the links between MMR and autism. We need an end game to this whole mess to stand a chance of putting this debate to rest once and for all, such that we could get on the road to acquiring herd immunity for measles again.
Richard Brennan refers to the dispute in his newsjiffy: Dr Ben Goldacre accused of copyright infringement by LBC 97.3 FM following MMR show blog posting.
Paul Flynn has had an opportunity to explore the transcripts and audio further since his last posting and he is taken aback: New nuke : old calamity.
Jeni Barnett is angry at the response to her broadcast and describes a nurse who rang in to disagree with her as “vicious”. I listened to the exchange. The nurse was quiet, persuasive and courteous even though Jeni talked over her, cutting her off, and yelling at her with shrill irrational accusations.
The law must not be used to silence Ben Goldacre and the other voices of reason…
I hope to table an EDM about this disgraceful incident.
Peter Groves of IPso Jure takes time out from legal-beagling to highlight Dr Ben Goldacre as ‘a person of many accomplishments’ and to credit him as the originator of the fine expression, “intellectual property absolutists”: IP news round up.
Simon HB of No Rock and Roll Fun is another blogger who has had more time to read through some of the transcripts, posts and follow-ups. He has posted his own follow-up: Global Radio: Jeni Barnett Defends Her Position.
The real question is why Global are sending legal threats to Ben Goldacre when, really, they should be calling in their presenter and asking why she thinks having procreated is some sort of excuse for taking a biased and wrong position on a programme where she should have been acting as a balanced moderator.
Guido of Guido Fawkes is pleased that: LBC Get Wiki Leaked.
Guido loves Wikileaks. They are like a risk management tool for bloggers…
Distributed defiance of lawyers is something the Dead-Tree-Press can’t do. Bloggers are the free press.
The Milligan comments on parts of the transcripts: Jeni Barnett Spouting Pure, Unadulterated Ignorance About the MMR Vaccine. After much study and analysis, The Milligan concludes:
This ignorance is broadcast to a lot of people. The DoH doesn’t frighten me, but the idiot Barnett scares me a lot. Thankfully my three kids have been vaccinated, and with every passing day, I vaccinate their minds against people like her.
jdc of jdc325 offers a comprehensive MMR Round-Up that ends with rather a dispiriting summary of the state of MMR and vaccination discussion amongst self-styled health gurus and in mainstream media.
measles cases continue to increase and people like Holford, Barnett, Halvorsen, and Burne continue to misinform people with media outlets such as LBC and the Evening Standard providing a platform for their misinformation. It’s pretty disgusting and I think that these people, quite frankly, should be ashamed of themselves. I somehow doubt that they are though.
The Milligan has returned to the corpus delicti and picks through the nasty mess: Jeni Barnett and her anti-vaccination drivel.
Bankrupt Artist remarks that: Jeni Has A Blog and Andrew Wakefield Says The Thing That Is Not. However, after reviewing Jeni Barnett’s comments and Brian Deer’s latest revelations about Andrew Wakefield, there is a final, albeit bleak, rhetorical flourish. “Where’s your Messiah now, hmmm?” Robert Saunders of Flies and Bikes likewise lays some of the blame for Jeni’s ignorance at the feet of both Andrew Wakefield and the media who give him such a pulpit: Thank you, Andrew Wakefield.
Dr Grumble uses this incident to talk about generational differences in truth-seeking: Journalists. He draws some telling parallels between standards is the media and some current crises:
It’s the lack of intelligent criticism of our policy makers and the sloppy reporting of science and, for that matter, most other topics that need any intelligence to make sense of them that matters. Where, for example, were the journalists that criticised our bankers? Where were the journalists that raised concerns about doggy mortgages? Where were the journalists to inform us on the value of the mutual organisation?
AP Gaylard of A Canna’ Change the Laws of Physics has an outstanding discussion of the notion of informed consent: Ignorant refusal. Gaylard identifies one of the cruxes of Jeni Barnett’s misguided defence when she repeated the mantra that:
“you’ve always got to hear two sides, you’ve got to make an informed decision”.
The problem with this is that truly informed decision making is not about giving a hearing to “two sides”; it is about being in possession of the full facts. A patient needs, “information about the benefits and risks of the proposed treatment”. A patient does not need mis-information. It is possible that one side requires little or no consideration at all: it may be entirely spurious.
One of the problems with Barnett and her ilk is that they don’t actually support the public getting access to the information they really need. Instead, they promote their litany of myths and misconceptions: Wakefield “wasn’t really allowed to have his say”; MMR isn’t useful because it isn’t perfect; MMR is linked to autism; Measles isn’t a serious health problem. Anyone who disagrees with them is likely to be accused of being in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry.
Mike Stanton of Action for Autism: Jeni Barnett, Bad Science and MMR asks
What is it about critics of MMR that makes them so litigious?…
As ever, when faced with a choice between common sense and a conspiracy theory, the anti-vaccination lobby plays true to form.
The Fabulous Unity of the Ministry of Truth provides some pithy coverage of the issue, slightly incredulous that Jeni Barnett and the LBC lawyers seem to be ignorant of the Streisand Effect: Jeni Barnett – Pig Ignorant and Proud. In response to Jeni’s impassioned claim that she feels that she must share her personal dilemmas with her listeners, Unity drolly remarks:
Well that would depend very much on the kind of personal dilemma Ms Barnett is talking about. If it something like ‘Should I shop at Evan or M&S?’ or maybe ‘Pizza or KFC’ then she’s amply qualified to share her dilemma with the world but when it comes to vaccinations it patently obvious that she hasn’t got a clue what she’s talking about, in which the old adage about keeping schtum rather than proving what an idiot you are would seem one that she would do well to take to heart.
JQH is more than a little exasperated to realise that despite all of the attempts to improve her knowledge base: Jeni Barnett Does Not Get It.
Dr Rita Pal of NHS Exposed has a challenge: Come On Jeni Barnett, Get Out of Your Duvet And Answer Your Critics. She even offers some pointers.
If you are going to give us the “luvvie” argument, its not going to work. We want to see you defend yourself and we want to see you put your scientific arguments on your blog. We want you to do it now ie put your cards on the table Jeni. Quite frankly at present, we all think you have potential bimbo tendencies and you have probably been reading too many Daily Mail Femail articles. Show us we are wrong, show us you can back up your views with scientific references. Try and use PubMed, try and read all the material in front of you and justify your programme. You owe the public this.
Andy of Thinking Is Real finds some small amusement from: Ben Goldacre in MMR Law Suit.
One small thing I do find amusing (yes, small things amuse me) is that on her own blog, Jeni Barnett says “Should anybody from BAD SCIENCE read this I urge you to continue the debate…” while at the same time, Goldacre is being warned to remove the very material which is central to the debate.
Mark Thompson of Mark Reckons gives an overview of the cross-political support on this issue:Bad Science and Ben Goldacre vs LBC. He raises an issue that exercises us on HolfordWatch when it comes to matters of public health:
This whole episode to me demonstrates why it is dangerous to allow ill-informed people to have lots of airtime to espouse their views largely unopposed…At the very least, Barnett should have had someone like Goldacre on the show to stand up for the opposing view.
Go and see the excellent photograph posted by RZ at Ward 87: Jeni Barnett – The Ostrich.
Sean the Blogonaut tells: A Tale of Two Jennys.
Jenny McCarthy and Jeni Barnett are two minor celebrities that have taken it upon themselves to endanger the wider community with their elevated media status by speaking out against vaccinations.
Hannah King of Just a Whisper in the Wind could scarcely believe her ears: Jeni Barnett on MMR.
She lauded a Homeopath loving mother who called in, but a doctor and a Health Worker were both shouted down, laughed at and played with.
Psychodiva is a nurse and deplores Jeni Barnett’s: Scaremongering in the media. She reproves Barnett’s blithe dismissal of childhood illnesses as trivial:
Dr Peter Strebel, an immunisation expert at the WHO, stressed that even in countries with good health services, measles could be very serious.
“Parents and doctors need to be reminded that measles is a highly contagious disease,” he said. “Even healthy and well-nourished children, if unvaccinated, are at risk of measles and its complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis and, although rare, death.”
Contrast this with Jeni’s opinion from the broadcast:
“if its viral, and childrens immune systems are strong whats the problem?”
Grumpy RN has a round-up and lends her support to Ben Goldacre in L’Affaire Jeni Barnett: The NHS.
[T]he anti-vaccine lobby has recently had a boost from a broadcaster on LBC radio. When the broadcaster was taken to task by the excellent Ben Goldacre at Bad Science her lawyers immediately attacked him threatening him with legal writs.
Scots Law Student asks: Jeni Barnett on MMR – is copyright law right for this case? One very pertinent observation is that different groups operate by different rules of conduct even when it comes to comparatively lightweight critique:
Dr Goldacre claims to have posted the long extract as it was the only way to convey the content which he took issue to without claims of bias or selective editing – in other words fair use of the extract for purposes of review. I think that’s a very carefully thought out reason to put the 44.2 megabyte file on his site and would be accepted without question in an academic debate in which you live and die by the rule “you cite your sources or people can’t trust you”.
The whole post is well worth reading and other on-point observations include:
Saying that children’s vaccines cause cancer is a sure fire way to terrify parents and this should have been as well received as Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand’s Radio 2 phonecall…
The company who own the rights to the audio have an undeniable right to control (and profit from if they should wish) the distribution of their property and so they have sent a letter to Goldacre with a strongly worded request to remove the extract from his site. They ominously chose to “reserve [their] rights” in relation to him so it’s possible that, even though Goldacre has followed their instructions, there could still be a court appearance in his future. I think that is unlikely in all honesty but cannot be certain either way. While I’m prepared to call this a lawyer being careful to leave their client’s options open, the idea that he could be sued after complying with a letter just seems unfair – the copyright breach is closed now, surely?…
[Using copyright as a tool for silencing critics] This is a terrible precendent to be setting and has horrible ramifications in any situation but particularly so in the case of public health (if the ratio of immunised to non immunised people in a society drops below 83-96% herd immunity breaks down and that society starts to be at risk from measles epidemics and that threatens us all – parts of London, in particular, are already far past this point and may only be a matter of time).
Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy feels that it is outrageous that: Ben Goldacre legally threatened by LBC.
Skeptical Dog wonders if cluelessness is a common thread: What Is It With Jeni and Jenny?
Jonathan M Gitlin of Ars Technica notes: Bad Science columnist attracts a lawsuit threat. He is, however, looking for an upside:
In some ways, the lawsuit may wind up being a public good. LBC’s legal attempt to stop more people hearing the broadcast has almost certainly failed, now that Goldacre’s cause has been taking up by the Internet community. If it results in a greater public awareness that the antivaccination movement belongs in Bad Science, that will have been a good thing.
The Great Simpleton calls upon his readers to: Save the Bad Science 1.
No matter what you think of MMR, trying to surpress someone like Ben Goldacre is crass and censorial and I urge you to go and read the story and offer support if you can.
Kendrick Curtis of Lieutenant H mentions the story: “Bad Science” columnist Ben Goldacre and LBC’s Jeni Barnett and highlights the juxtaposition of this kerfuffle with Brian Deer’s latest articles about Andrew Wakefield. Johat of Moansters Incorporated invites readers to: Immunise yourself against Bad Science.
Unlike normal vaccinations, this one will not hurt a bit. Visit Bad Science to learn more for free. When you’re hooked, which I’m sure you will be, then buy the Bad Science book and learn how to take apart the bad science dumped on us by the media everyday.
Autism News Beat offers some nice coverage and light snarking: Stalk Radio.
Apparently, the decades-long innovation know as the world wide web is not diffusing fast enough for old media types. Lawyers for LBC 97.3, a London-based talk radio station, are learning the hard way that censorship doesn’t work on the internet, and that which was supposed to be censored is merely amplified, a phenomena known as the The Streisand Effect…
Radio personalities such as Jeni Barnett are a symptom of a much larger problem – the dumbing down of the consumer population. As news and entertainment media meld into single, amorphous glob, the line between science and wishful thinking becomes hazier.
Hopi Sen of A blog from the back room mentions the issue pithily: Big serious thoughts: MMR. Hopi muses that evidence indicates the Jeni has been foolish which is something we all do but notes,
It’s believing that this is something to be proud of that makes her a damn fool.
Lee of Lee’s Blog is riled: My mite against Jeni Barnett.
Jeni Barnett…broadcast a thing on the radio (lacking a better term) containing a full set of standard anti-vax nonsense but with some idiocy all of her very own to boot…
An actual practicing nurse…called in…The radio creature calls Yasmin vicious, but I don’t see anyone being vicious in this segment but the creature herself.
I will add that this radio creature claims to be merely arrogantly ignorant instead of actively vile.
Carl Morris of Native HQ identifies: LBC Radio vs. Ben Goldacre (A Perfect Storm of Bad Science).
In brief: while cases of measles in children are increasing, presenter Jeni Barnett on LBC radio takes a very vocal stance against MMR immunisation. Blogger and doctor Ben Goldacre opposes, on the grounds of bad science while posting a recording from the show to make his point. Almost immediately, LBC issues Goldacre with a legal takedown notice citing copyright infringement.
Or in other words, LBC begins a virtual perfect storm in blogs and the mainstream media.
Autism News Beat offers a shorthand version of Jeni Barnett’s attempt at self-justification: Jeni Barnett’s mea culpa.
Sure I misinformed the public about vaccines and added to the fear mongering and ignorance that is harming children, but it’s not my fault because I didn’t know what I was talking about. And talk radio is hard work, so please knock it off with the challenging questions.
Following the mention on BBC Radio’s Start the Week (audio</a), this morning, this story has now made it into print. David Aaronovitch decries: The preposterous prejudice of the anti-MMR lobby. After a synopsis of the kerfuffle, some recent experiences and Brian Deer’s further revelations about Andrew Wakefield’s research, Aaronovitch declares (semi-seriously):
I’m passionately for Goldacre, and why I find myself wondering whether we can file a class action against LBC for permitting a presenter to inflict her preposterous prejudices on her listeners, to the detriment of someone else’s kids.
Of course, we are constrained to mention that, after calling for a debate, Jeni Barnett has seen fit to delete comments from her blog. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they have disappeared from the internet… The Milligan is also rather pleased to discover that the internet has a startling memory: Jeni Barnett – aka The LBC Idiot – No Debate Here. Danni of The Great DBH Rant is likewise underwhelmed at this latest strategic blunder: Jeni Barnett Has Removed All Comments To Her Blogposts Concerning The MMR Drivel And The Aftermath.
Simon Fodden of Slaw carries a synopsis:Bad Science, Journalism, Law and the Internet. While agreeing that Barnett spoke nonsense, he somewhat reprimands Goldacre for having such little familiarity with “basic copyright law”. Overall, he concludes:
The contest continues and will doubtless turn out to be a storm in a stein, but if it introduces you to Goldacre’s writing on bad science — or even just to the issue of vaccination panic — it’ll have done someone some good. The chances that it will result in the improvement of science journalism are very small, however.
The utterly charming Stephen Fry has not only sent out a Twitter to his many followers, asking them to support Ben Goldacre, but has left a comment on Ben’s blog:
The fatuity of the Jeni Barnett woman’s manner – her blend of self-righteousness and stupidity, her simply quite staggering inability to grasp, pursue or appreciate a sequence of logical steps – all these are signature characteristics of Britain these days. The lamentable truth is that most of the population wouldn’t really understand why we get so angry at this assault on reason, logic and sense. But we have to keep hammering away at these people and their superstitious inanities. We have to. Well done you and well done all you supporting. I’ve tweeted this site to my followers. I hope they all do their best to support you. Publish and be damned. We’ll fight them and fight them and fight them in the name of empricism, reason, double blind random testing and all that matter.
Could Stephen Fry be more of a mensch about this?
Feb 10: Jeni Barnett has removed not only the comments but now her blog posts about the MMR issue. Sorry that links don’t work – however, on the internet, you never really lose things…
Morus of Daily Kos has posted in support: Ben Goldacre needs our help.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Grauniad…but there are a couple of sections that trump every other newspaper I’ve ever read.
One of these, is ‘Bad Science’ by Dr Ben Goldacre. He exposes the advocates of truthiness in all their pernicious and disingenuous anti-glory. His most important campaign has been to discredit the lies spread by rogue clinician Dr Andrew Wakefield, about causal links between the MMR vaccine and autism. Goldacre won that round, but is now in a bit of trouble. He might need your help.
Andreas Guadamus of TechnoLlama has now published: Update on Bad Science row.
Feb 12: Ben Goldacre is interviewed for Out-Law Radio about the Jeni Barnett, LBC 97.3 Radio MMR Radio Segment. There is an intriguing discussion of copyright and why fair dealing might or might not apply to the substantial chunk that Goldacre reproduced. Rather hilariously, although there is a lawyer to speak to the possible right that Goldacre had to act as he did, Global Radio seemed to have refused to talk about the issue, unless it was off the record. Global Radio then issued a statement, only to retract it. It seems that we may have over-estimated the state of their preparedness and reputation management plans.
March 10: Skeptics’ Field Guide offers a guide to spotting factoids in the form of a podcast (14 mins in for the Jeni Barnett segment) and offers a useful deconstruction of part of Jeni Barnett’s freeform dialogue.