Something to be thankful for: No anti-vaccine propaganda with my Harry Potter

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., and, despite the crappy economy, there are still things to be thankful for. For instance, skeptical activism can still be effective. Remember how on Sunday Skepchick Elyse put out the call to Skepchic readers to complain to movie theaters that were reportedly going to be airing a public service announcement from the anti-vaccine group SafeMinds? (Actually, “public service announcement” is a misnomer; it should be called a public disservice announcement.) This was a truly disgusting and deceptive bit of misinformation that I discussed as part of the anti-vaccine movement’s propaganda efforts earlier in November. In response, Elyse urged Skepchic readers to flood the relevant theaters with complaints about showing an anti-vaccine advertisement prior to its movies.

Now here’s what we can be thankful for: It worked. At least with AMC Theaters. Last night the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism, which had been teaming up with SafeMinds to raise money to show these ads during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, just cried “¡No mas!

At least for now:

SafeMinds was notified late yesterday afternoon that AMC Theaters has decided to block the SafeMinds Public Service Announcement (PSA) on influenza vaccines with mercury. The PSA alerts parents and pregnant women of the presence of mercury in most influenza vaccines and the ample availability of mercury-free alternatives. The CDC has declined to give a preference for the mercury-free versions, so it is important that the public is aware of its options. AMC’s advertising representative had reviewed and approved the PSA to run in AMC cinemas over the Thanksgiving weekend. A small group of vocal vaccine proponents dismissive of mercury concerns learned of the PSA and bombarded the AMC website, leading to the company’s decision to prevent its release. SafeMinds thanks its supporters who viewed the PSA and contributed to its efforts to educate the public to avoid unnecessary mercury exposure. Mercury in all forms is dangerous, especially to the developing fetus and infants, as referenced on the PSA website www.safemindsflu.org. SafeMinds will continue its mission to educate the public on this important healthcare topic.

Let me fix that for ya:

A respectable-sized group of advocates of science-based vaccine policy exercised their First Amendment right to speak out to a business that was about to make a huge mistake and show ads with an anti-vaccine message that potentially endangers public health. SafeMinds will continue its mission to miseducate and misinform the public on this important healthcare topic, and advocates of science-based medicine will be there to counter it.

Not surprisingly, the anti-vaccine movement is not happy. It’s trying to flood the AMC Theaters website with complaints. If you have time after your Turkey today, please, go to the following threads and thank AMC Theaters for doing the responsible thing:

As you can easily tell, the first link was a thread started by those of us pushing for AMC to reject the ads; the second from anti-vaxers.

So, as I leave the computer to help prepare for the Thanksgiving feast, I do so with a smile on my face that is wider than even the usual smile of anticipation of the food and comaraderie to come. I also do so with the knowledge that this is merely a skirmish in which the forces of science have been (mostly) victorious. The war goes on. Indeed, we will need to be even more vigilant. As commenter Benedetta put it on AoA:

These advertisments will have to be more sublte, sneaky, under the radar – like that advertisment on Television that I have seen a few times.

The one that says 1 out of 88 children of miltary familes have autism.

(Spelling left intact.)

And I have no doubt that future attempts by the anti-vaccine movement will be more subtle, sneaky, and under the radar. I also have no doubt that, now that Elyse has scored serious points against SafeMinds and Age of Autism, the anti-vax loons will be targeting her. It’s how they work.

Finally, I haven’t seen the new Harry Potter movie yet. I was out of town last weekend, and life’s been way too busy over the last few days. My wife and I were thinking of going tomorrow sometime. I think we very well might be going to the nearest AMC Theater to see it. One way to show your appreciation to AMC would be to choose AMC the next time you go to see a movie.