Help Ben Goldacre out…he’s being sued again

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