MMR and me. And propaganda.

I used to think propaganda was about making people adopt a particular ideology or political stance, but increasingly it seems to be more about causing paralysis by sowing confusion and division.

“Bad actors” stoke up anger and spread falsehoods on both sides of controversies, to degrade the level of debate. Even something as stupid as claiming the Earth is flat can serve your purpose. In fact any noise that makes it harder for people to evaluate evidence and come to a rational decision is potentially useful. It doesn’t matter if some of the facts being hurled around are true, they will be buried in the lies, anger and stupidity. Someone who believes nothing they hear is as ignorant and helpless as someone who believes everything.

The above could have been triggered by any number of current issues, but the reason I’m writing it now is the news that the UK has just lost its relatively recently acquired measles-free status. This is because of a decline in take-up of MMR, presumably influenced in part by various anti-vaccine propaganda campaigns waged for the reasons above, although complacency because the vaccination has succeeded in reducing the occurrence of the disease seems also to be a factor.

This is very sad, children will suffer and die unnecessarily.

I was nearly fooled by the fraud at the start of the MMR controversy, and worried about it for ages, this is what I wrote for the Guardian a few years ago, in case it is still helpful to anyone.

Life and Physics

I have a doctorate in physics. My wife has one in chemistry. We have an 11-year-old son, who should have got his MMR jab in 2003

A lot has been written about the MMR scare of just over a decade ago. More is being written now because children who were not immunised back then are getting measles. The scare has been thoroughly debunked by people who took risks and did a lot of work. I’m not going to add anything to that.

But I do want to add a personal story. It’s no big deal, but it might be helpful to some people. So here we go.

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About Jon Butterworth

UCL Physics prof, works on LHC, writes (books, Cosmic Shambles and elsewhere). Citizen of England, UK, Europe & Nowhere, apparently.
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