The first part of the list is: Jeni Barnett and the LBC Radio MMR Vaccine Segment: Updated with links of blog coverage.
We are now constructing a supplementary list of blog posts and other coverage of Ben Goldacre v. Jeni Barnett, LBC and Global Radio in re: MMR Vaccine Segment 7 Jan 2009 from Feb 11 2009 (with some key posts from the first list). This will be a rolling update for some time.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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
I don’t think there is any claim – and we can frame this as Goldacre’s law if you like – any claim so stupid anywhere in the world that you couldn’t find at least one doctor or academic who was willing to put it forward.
Dave Cole offers his account: The bully pulpit, or, why I’m Ben Goldacre. He points out the need for checks and balances:
[Jeni Barnett] the fact that you’re on the radio doesn’t give you immunity from people pointing out your errors.
Chris Read of Labour Home starts off with an odd anecdote that comes right: MMR idiocy and my blue tie shame.
Last week I wore a blue tie to work. No big deal. Or so I thought. Today, my great-uncle died. I wear a blue tie, my uncle dies. Now, the doctors may say it was a heart attack – but come on, we all know doctors. In the pockets of PC Zanuliabore, money-grubbing apparatchicks etc etc.
I could get the idiot press to warn people, the Express and Mail will hopefully help spread the word. Luckily though, if people don’t wear blue ties no-one will actually get hurt. If people don’t immunise their children though, people most certainly will.
However, the suggestion that we should consider reverting to single jabs is not well-made out for some of the reasons that we previously discussed and it was disingenuous of Andrew Wakefield to resurrect that suggestion as a solution to averting a measles epidemic recently.
Loft and Lost provides a brief, simple summary at: Big Trouble at Bad Science.
Ben is, of course, one of the modern world’s heroes, and his Grauniad column is unmissable and his book (called, er, Bad Science ) is a great read.
Support that man! And read his stuff. And buy his book. You know it makes sense.
Lee of Lee’s Blog has been thinking further and finds some correspondences with Ray Bradbury and EC Comics and an incident from US history: More on Jeni Barnett. Eventually, it comes down to tolerance and manners:
It is sad that everyone’s first recourse these days is to threats and hostility, instead of the civil actions exemplified by Ray Bradbury. There is always the mailed fist inside the velvet glove, we know that, but it isn’t necessary to start smashing in the doors with the mailed fist as your first move. You could try a polite knock, first.
Daddy M of T Minus 9 Months has been putting together L’Affaire Jeni Barnett and Ben Goldacre with the recent revelations about Andrew Wakefield’s research: The Only Unforgivable Thing. There is a fine overview of why single jabs are not a good idea or a reasonable mechanism for avoiding an epidemic of a vaccine preventable childhood illness.
Wakefield is revealed as a public menace to whom it is not unreasonable to attribute the blame for the children who died or were permanently affected by the measles, mumps or rubella.
Instead, Andrew Wakefield says he’s done nothing wrong and has nothing to apologize for and the damage he caused to public health continues to needlessly hurt people.
Steve Beasant is supportive of an Early Day Motion: MMR SCAREMONGERING MASSIVELY IRRESPONSIBLE – LAMB. However, constructively, Lamb has made a useful offer that probably does not encompass Andrew Wakefield:
Cases of measles have risen dramatically in the last three years. Jeni Barnett’s remarks could potentially affect the take-up of the vaccine, and I invite her to come with me to meet with a leading expert to learn more about the risks and advantages of vaccination.
Pertcha of Cafe Au La Tao slightly delayed vaccinating her children but finds herself agreeing with criticisms of the coverage:
:As for the fearmongering aspect, that is something I totally find myself agreeing with Goldacre. The show wasn’t doing a reasonable or rational talk on the subject, and that’s just pathetic.
Cheryl Morgan of Cheryl’s Mewsings briefly announces that she is: Arriving Late to the Party after being alerted by Neil Gaiman.
Modne Bzdury offers this commentary which is fairly clear even if you don’t read the language:
Ben Goldacre 10 – 0 Jeni “cenzura” Barnett.
Spyderkl of Evil Mommy had always thought that Europe and the UK were more rational about vaccination so is disappointed to learn about: The Crazy on the Other Side of the Pond.
Wayne Myers of Diary of a Busker has an extended response to the copyright, legal and public health issues raised by this incident: Goldacre, Barnett, and the Death of Authority. He makes several interesting comments about the nature of authority:
Barnett’s defence – to the extent that she has one – is that no-one really knows either way whether or not MMR vaccines are dangerous, and presumably this too is the line that LBC are taking. By taking this line on the radio, Barnett was invoking her own authority – as a big shot broadcaster on radio – in such a way as to potentially cause some listeners to agree with her and not have their children vaccinated. Clearly, Barnett took this line as a result of her inability to understand authority of a different kind – the authority that comes with the scientific method. As a man who has made a career from championing the authority of science over the authority of media, this was an obvious barn-door type target for Goldacre, and the spat wrote itself from there….
And there is a ray of hope, culturally. It’s something to do with the screen you are looking at and the fact that people like Ben Goldacre – whose authority is built on trust that has been built up over time and is thoroughly deserved – are only a click away. It’s a very new ray of hope in the grand scheme of things.
Dr Crippen of NHS BlogDoc has a couple of matters that he would like to clear up:What happened to smallpox? And an apology to Jeni Barnett. He gives a good overview of the size of the problem of ill-informed media coverage as well as providing a poignant, historical, photograph of a young child with smallpox – a disease that is now extinct because of the vaccination programme.
why don’t parents allow their children to be vaccinated? Answers on a postcard to Jeni Barnett, Carol Vorderman, Andrew Wakefield, Christina England and all the rest of the science deniers.
As she so often does, Kristina Chew has some intriguing observations around the language of autism as well as useful comments on some of the children’s cases in the Wakefield story: Words Say.
One reason that the alleged “link” of vaccines to autism is turning out to be so detrimental is that this hypothesis of autism causation suggests that having autism means an individual is “damaged” or has been “injured,” or even “poisoned”; that autism is something that an individual can “get.” Autism, it’s implied, is analogous to some sort of external agent, some thing “outside” a child, that somehow “gets into” him or her and “makes” him or her “become” autistic.
Lizzie C of Musings of The Geeky One shows some of the power of technologies that are so alien to Jeni Barnett, LBC and Global Radio: Assistance Is Requested. Called to action by Stephen Fry and inspired by Ben Goldacre, she has written a very thoughtful letter to LBC and we hope that she receives an appropriate response.
I’m terribly sorry if this comes across as rude, but I’d like to take issue with some points raised during a recent discussion of the MMR vaccine.
I’m only 16 so I have very little specific medical knowledge of the vaccine itself but I’m pretty sure the diseases the vaccine should prevent can be incredibly serious to those who contract them.
DBH of The Great DBH Rant is one of several bloggers wondering: Jeni Barnett, LBC, Stephen Fry, MMR Vaccination – Can We Milk This? Interestingly, one of the things that DBH would like this to be milked for:
Now would also be a good time for the NHS to put out a better campaign for the MMR vaccine. The current one has no bite to it, as Dr Aust has talked about.
Ruth Seeley of If not now, when? has: Not your usual blog post – help Ben Goldacre fight ignorant talk radio. She has a nice take on what NYT recently called “intuitive toxicology”.
I find it very strange in a world that so readily accepts an outright ban on peanut products being brought into schools because a small proportion of children (one per cent!) suffer from an allergy that resistance to a vaccination that has clinically proven to control outbreaks of diseases mistakenly labelled ‘childhood diseases’ (since there is nothing ‘childish’ about the consequences that can result from measles, mumps, and rubella, including retardation and sterility) is so entrenched.
Quackometer wonders if Jeni Barnett and LBC 97.3FM have the slightest inkling of: London’s Biggest Conversation.
This is not a game. Lives are at stake – and that is the central thing that LBC failed to consider before they let Jeni Barnett loose with her homeopath fuelled delusions. I join Ben Goldacre in calling for you to make on on air apology, “prominently and in the same slot.” They should allow the evidence for MMR to be presented clearly and knowledgeably without space for misinformation and prevarication.
Can you make London’s Biggest Apology?
Orac wonders “when will the cranks ever learn?”: Another failure of the memory hole, thanks to the Internet.
Phil Chamberlain of Taking Out the Trash mentions the update: Dishing it out big time. He also makes an observation that (sadly for Jeni Barnett) is probably true of a lot of people.
Not living in London, I didn’t even know Jeni existed before a couple of days ago but now she is indelibly linked in my mind with a particular kind of selfishly irrational behaviour. You know, the one where people drive their kids to school in 4x4s and park in the no parking zone while talking on the telephone.
Dr Petra Boynton provides a summary of the timeline for the Barnett, Goldacre, LBC, Global Radio incident and how it rippled out and calls for: Taking a New View on the Current MMR/Media Debate From a Social Science Perspective. As is to be expected, this is a thoughtful and well-argued piece calling for involvement from other disciplines that have relevant expertise to contribute.
For example, the Jeni Barnett phone in on MMR has been transcribed and appears in audio form (links to both available in Ben’s recent blog linked above). Those skilled in qualitative analysis could at this time provide some much-needed input to how the discussion went, what devices were used to convey particular messages, what issues were covered, and where interruptions and disagreements took place.
Why would this conversation analysis be useful?
The supporting arguments for this are compelling. However, Dr Petra then goes on to suggest:
How much more good could we do if we moved information and advice on MMR to blogs, websites, magazines and forums for parents?
Hm. Quite a lot of bloggers and parents do that, and i) the rebuttal can be arduous (see Dr Steve Novella’s Cut and Paste Gish Gallop for some anti-vaccinationist boiler-plate) ii) quite a number are banned very quickly, no matter how mild-mannered their explanations. [I will back fill some links on this but the Bad Science forums are currently down because of server load.] Dr Ginger Campbell was recently taken aback by the objections (some of which might be termed as Nastygrams) to the mere fact that she had interviewed Dr Paul Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets about vaccine safety. However, Dr Petra’s ideas deserve careful consideration:
This story is about so many issues. On the surface it’s about poor media practice and bad health advice, but the resulting activity provides us with a rich seam of data and an opportunity for critical reflection that should, if we accept the challenge, inform our practice, improve our skills as communicators, and make it that much more likely that we can promote MMR effectively.
Michael Grayer of NonToxic has noticed that many of the lists of transcripts are slightly incomplete: The Jeni Barnett MMR transcript – actually in full!. We should emphasise that it is the lists, not the transcripts, that are incomplete.
Matt Dalby of Santiago’s Dead Wasp has a small confession buried in: Update on Bad Science Situation.
And here is a confession, like probably a lot of my readers who have no real scientific or medical knowledge I have in the past thought there might be ‘something in’ all manner of alternative nonsense. On the topic of MMR I read the Private Eye coverage of the concerns raised by Andrew Wakefield which have subsequently been shown to be unfounded. Being a careless sort then I believed what was written…And this is one of the useful things that I have learned from reading Bad Science over the last few years – if it is something I know nothing about then better to remain sceptical about mainstream coverage until I’ve done some research and looked at what actual experts have to say.
An excellent take-away lesson. A number of people were persuaded by Private Eye because they trust it. It is unfortunate that Private Eye has yet to reconsider its opinion on this matter and issue a clarification or update.
Dr Aust has a good assessment of the media influence of Jeni Barnett’s platform and rhetorical devices. He discusses some valuable research that examines precisely the confluence of factors that influence decisions about vaccination participation and presents a detailed list of them. Dr Aust remarks, “it is not hard to see in their list pretty much every one of the “arguments” that Jeni Barnett produced on her show, and since”.
Judith Townend of Journalism.co.uk has been diligent in attempting to obtain a comment from Robert Common, the agent for Jeni Barnett, as an update to this story. She obtained a comment that was quite unsatisfactory to several of her commenters and has issued a clarification from Common: Personal comments detract from original MMR / LBC debate. Now, we agree strongly with that sentiment – Jeni Barnett’s personal comments about Yasmin in which she characterised her phone call as “vicious” were shameful. Oh, apparently, that is not what Common meant. However, well done to Judith who can only report on whatever unsatisfactory material that is given to her.
Derek Lowe of Corante has alerted his US readers to this story: Autism and Vaccines Boiling Over Yet Again.
As Goldacre points out, she seems to have covered every possible anti-vaccine trope, despite the fact that some of them were mutually contradictory and many of them made little sense to start with. The British media – many parts of it, anyway – has not covered itself in glory on the whole vaccine-risk story, and this latest outburst was too much for Goldacre to take.
Goldacre makes an important point, one that’s been made before but has to be kept in mind when you’re listening to the news coverage of any disputed issue. He quotes Jeni Barnett as:
”. . . explaining endlessly that all she wanted to do was “start a debate” (because in the media everything is 50:50, and the truth lies exactly half way between the two most extreme views)
He’s right; you run into that sort of thing all the time – readers who’ve had occasion to deal with Intelligent Design people and other creationists will recognize it immediately. “Teach the controversy” “Let’s hear both sides of the debate”, and all that. It’s another example of the disconnect between science works (or should work) and the political and social arenas. There are some big differences in the way disputes are resolved.
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/defence 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.
Tribune Magazine has a comment piece by Oli Usher: Kicking against the pricks on pseudoscientific rubbish.
[T]he anti-MMR movement, instead of giving up and moving on, has decided en masse to reject knowledge and evidence, and instead to embrace ignorance and anecdote. And they show no sign of going away.
The Guardian’s “Bad Science” columnist Ben Goldacre – who, like Richard Dawkins can usually be relied upon to be both right and infuriatingly confrontational at the same time – has made a point of attacking the MMR-sceptics in print and on his website. Although he’s a good and clever writer, I don’t always agree with his style. When dealing with lay people sceptical about scientific fact, it’s a lot more helpful to engage with them than to insult them. Far better to convince than to ridicule, even if ridicule is fun.
However, I can make an exception in this case. The ignorance here is wilful and the damage real, and it needs to be rooted out once and for all.
Simon Bradshaw of Law Clanger has donned his blogging jacket to post: Fair Dealing and Unfair Supression. In Bradshaw’s view:
Under the circumstances, where Ben Goldacre had no text or copy of the MMR segment of the programme to refer readers to, where he reasonably sought to avoid accusations of selective quotation, and where he had serious and detailed critical comment on virtually every aspect of the material in question, it seems to me that he would have had a very strong case indeed for asserting fair dealing.
…[W]e’ll never know as Ben Goldacre has taken down the recording on the basis that he cannot afford to test the issue in court. This is understandable but unfortunate, as it means we will have to wait either for someone to be in a position to defend a test case or for legislative clarification (and given that there has just been a round of reviews of copyright exemptions, I don’t expect another one any time soon).
Dr Crippen of NHS Blog Doctor has learned of what looks like LBC using its superior size to ignore a complaint from a small organisation that LBC may have misappropriated the small organisation’s copyright. Dr Crippen compares and contrasts the behaviour of Jonathan Richard’s in re: L’Affaire Jeni Barnett and Ben Goldacre with that of Lesley Douglas following the notorious Brand-Ross-Sachs incident. Dr Crippens asks: Jonathan Richards : a talented broadcast journalist of the utmost integrity? This seems to be one of those rhetorical conventions, like the Latin constructions that anticipate the answer, “No”.
Richards is still in post at LBC. His masters will not be pleased that LBC’s incompetence and irresponsibility is now part of an EDM in the House of Commons. Richards has presided over this debacle. He could so easily have put the lid on the problem. An immediate apology. Lifting the copyright restrictions so that the broadcast could have been freely and fairly discussed. An offer to allow an eminent paediatric immunisation expert a right of reply on LBC. So much could have been done. Instead, by his ill-judged behaviour, he has allowed the good name of LBC to be dragged through the mud.
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.