Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Attack of the Stupids: Applied Anti-intellectualism in Vaccines

GAAAAAHHHH! Why? Just, why?!

I did a stupid thing. I read comments on the internet.

Anyone with a brain knows not to do such things. Comments are laden with trolls and people who neglect to research a topic before forming opinions. Often they're riddled with failed sentences, atrocious spelling, and grammar that could give Ebonics a run for its money.

Maybe it's my morbid curiosity. I want to see how readers of a given article will react to information. Sometimes I am amused by the idiocy on display. On occasion, I can smile ruefully and shake my head. Today however, I was frankly disturbed.

As part of my writing, I regularly comment on the stupid things/mistakes made in our society. Frankly, there are quite a few. In a country where citizens feel entitled to choose whatever they want, regardless of the consequences, one encounters quite a bit of stupid emotionally based decision-making.

In this case, I was reading an article put out by the Scientific American about vaccines.  The article outlined the dangers of not vaccinating children and the problems surrounding the whole debate - namely parents being misinformed and therefore deciding to not vaccinate.

Despite the mountains of supposed evidence (I'll be honest, I didn't read it though I did glance and citations from several other non-profit immunization websites) supporting vaccination, parents seem to feel it is unnecessary and incredibly dangerous.

Judging by the comment section, this appears to be accurate.

I remember having chicken pox. It sucked. Hell, I had a bad case of mono. That was 20 times worse. If I could keep my kid from getting that, I would. In a heartbeat.

I say these things even after having a flu-like reaction to a flu shot (once) and joint pain after receiving the lime disease vaccine when it was brand new. I've been around the world and seen first hand some of the results of disease. I've also been spared from said diseases because I got immunizations before going (thank you very much, but I'd like to avoid typhoid and rabies!).

It also helps that I am *not* a medical doctor. I have no training. I do, however, have training in media literacy. So when I come in contact with a website or article I know if it's bunk or quality information. Personally, I will take the advice of third party research and countless doctors (and global statistics!) before listening to my uneducated relative's advice (no offense to my family, but none of them are medical doctors).

I have to believe this rampant refusal to listen to experts is the result of one of America's horrifying tendencies - anti-intellectualism. Don't get me wrong, everyone doesn't need to go to college (but medical doctors do!). Everyone doesn't have to be a deeply trained expert. I freely admit this. Yet so many Americans refuse to listen to experts. We return to this do-it-yourself, pull-up-your-bootstraps mentality that while installing a door may be annoying but isn't problematic. However when it is involved in healthcare, it is quite a different matter.

While I am nothing like a medical doctor, I do have a graduate degree. Several interviews with prospective employers have resulted in comments about my education. I've been called a "high-flyer" and "fancy." Keep in mind - this was from *prospective employers.*  Seriously? Are you retarded? High-flyer? Really?!

I know my education sounds fancy and completely ivory tower (Peace and Conflict Studies BA and Global and International Studies MA), but I'm quite able to talk about pop music, super hero movies, and the annoying drivers with whom I share the road. I may use more than one syllable regularly, but I don't think I'm inaccessible.

I can deal with people thinking I'm *fancy* and ignoring what I say (even if it may annoy me). But I can't understand why you would ignore mountains of evidence supported by your doctor. Yes, doctors do make mistakes. Yes, we should ask questions. I fully believe that (and know it). But I'm much more inclined to worry about medications that aren't as strictly regulated as vaccines are (I'm thinking in particular of Yasmin which did a number on many women resulting in a series of lawsuits).

What I would ask is this: educate yourself. Read reliable sources of information about this - not forums or comments. Read peer reviewed articles and look at third party non-partisan websites presenting verifiable facts. Examine your own opinions and why/how you came to them. Were they based on hearsay? Did you make emotional decisions based on logical fallacies? If you still think you shouldn't vaccinate and your kid contracts measles which results in an inflamed brain, I can't say it will be much of a loss. They didn't start with much in the first place, at least if we look at genetics (or environment!).

Ha! Just kidding... Ahem.

Maybe we should investigate the contagiousness of stupidity... Oh wait, that's proven.

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