LBC, MMR, Jeni Barnett, an Early Day Motion, the Times, and, er, a bit of Stephen Fry…

February 10th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, dangers, jeni barnett, LBC, legal chill, MMR, regulating media, scare stories, stifling criticism | 155 Comments »

I thought since a few days have passed that I should let you know what’s happening with the slightly ridiculous LBC situation. If you skip to the bottom you will find a discussion on some mischievous activism which I think has great potential.

Since LBC unwisely threw their legal weight around to prevent you from being able to freely experience and ponder that astonishing 44 minute tirade against MMR, the inevitable has happened. The audio has been posted on a huge number of websites around the world, over 120 blogs so far are linking to the story, and more importantly, hundreds of thousands of people are talking and reading about the ignorance that Jeni Barnett exemplified in that worrying broadcast. It has been covered in the Times, and an Early Day Motion is being set down in parliament.

We should remember that this is not about Jeni – and it goes without saying that you should not be abusive towards her – it’s about how her work on the 7th of January exemplified everything the media has done for ten years now to create a vaccine panic, and it’s about the fact that we should be free to discuss that, and hear the clip, as it is instructive, and will help everyone to better understand how people like this help to create outbreaks of serious diseases.

The blogs covering the story are all listed below but a few really stand out.

Firstly, these six appeared out of the blue and into the fray, devoting hours to producing a transcript in the hope that this would be less likely to trigger legal action from LBC. I’m extremely grateful for their moral support:

Part 1 – Science Punk
Part 2 – The Lay Scientist
Part 3 – PodBlack Cat
Part 4 – The Skeptic’s Book
Part 5 – Science Punk
Part 6 – Holford Watch

The audio has appeared in more places than I can count, with WikiLeaks being a clear example, as well as the inevitable YouTube.

Listening again, you really can hear how well Jeni exemplifies the media’s misrepresentations which have caused so much harm to public health. We’ve had a mumps outbreak in 2005, and now measles is on the rise. The looong story is spread around the sciencier bits of the web (or if you like paper then in my book, or this one) but essentially you can see the history of the vaccine panic in two sets of graphs. Infectious diseases had of course been declining for a couple of centuries, but this is when vaccines were introuced:




You can also see that the MMR vaccine, and a concerted coverage programme, was associated with an almost final drop in measles. And then on the following graphs we can see what happened when people like Jeni Barnett, Melanie Philips, Carol Vorderman, and the entire British news media decided that vaccines cause autism.

One major mumps outbreak so far in 2005, causing infertility and worse, and now an impressively rapid year on year rise in measles:



Measles is not a trivial infection for everyone who gets it. Some will have brain damage, some will die.

The debate is no longer about MMR, it is about the dangers of an ill-informed media, and that’s why I’m so glad to see that people are finally taking notice of how startlingly irresponsible so many journalists and editors have been in this regard.

Prominent appearances for this LBC episode include David Aaronovitch in The Times, Start the Week on Radio 4, Cory on BoingBoing, Stephen Fry, the Press Gazette, Paul Flynn MP, Guido and Ars Technica, to name a few, although the glamorous ones aren’t as cool as my real friends. There are also podcasts coming on (which I genuinely recommend as a good read btw), Out Law, and more.

As I said, there is an Early Day Motion going down in parliament today from Norman Lamb and Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat shadows for Health and Science respectively. Please encourage your MP to sign it, the easiest way to contact them is through TheyWorkForYou, and the EDM is Number 754:

“That this house expresses its support for the use of the combined MMR vaccine, notes with concern the re-emergence of measles and the loss of life and long term health problems which will afflict children as a result of the decline in the vaccination rate which followed Dr Andrew Wakefield’s now discredited research paper suggesting a link between MMR and autism; expresses its disappointment that ill-informed comments by presenters such as Jeni Barnett on her LBC radio show will continue to cause unfounded anxieties for many parents and are likely to result in some parents choosing not to vaccinate their children, recognises the right of Jeni Barnett as a parent to make her own judgement about vaccinations for her own children but implores her and others in the media to act more responsibly when making comments in the public domain and expresses its hope that in the future, reporting of the issue of MMR will be less sensationalist and more evidence based”

I assume (and I suppose hope) that I will hear no more from the lawyers at Global Radio and LBC now that I’ve taken down the clip, and in any case it can now be freely heard and discussed all over the place. As John Gilmore said: “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it”. If they return making threats I don’t know what I will do, but we can cross that bridge.

It’s been interesting to learn about the law from a dozen or so passing lawyers who have popped up to comment. Basically, there is no clear answer on whether posting 44 minutes of foolishness for discussion is legal or not, and the only way to find out is to go to court. Now, given that lawyers are expensive, and the loser is probably liable for the winner’s legal fees, it strikes to me that a company like Global Radio worth over half a billion pounds has a bit of an advantage in this situation, since losing, for me, would mean losing, well, I don’t actually have anything to lose.

My point is, without being too Billy Bragg about it all: this is a law that apparently works a bit better for wealthy people.

I think it is reasonable to find this frustrating. In medicine we have protocols: we try to lay out very clearly and simply how something works, what the likely outcomes are, the best moves, and so on. I don’t see why this would be difficult in law. Doctors and academics have been bending over backwards to make their work readily accessible and understandable to people outside the profession for many years, with considerable success. Lawyers, meanwhile, with the assistance of judges and those who make laws, seem sometimes to make their money out of obfuscation, out of the uncertainties and continent-sized grey areas. To me that’s not just unhealthy, it also feels eerily unfamiliar, to come across an industry where so many key players seem to have a paradoxical interest in making things not work.


Before we get onto a nice quote from Jeni I think it would be good to discuss what we can do about all of this. Obviously you must get your MP to sign the EDM. I’ve also been chatting to Simon Singh (I just write and talk, he’s much more sinister than me when it comes to strategy) and we have informally considered a coordinated campaign of civil disobedience, essentially everyone phoning in to LBC whenever Jeni (or anyone?) is on, demanding an apology, some public recognition of the harm that can come from irresponsible broadcasting, and an undertaking that she will not broadcast on the topic of health again without getting a basic understanding of the issues.

I’m not sure about this, as I think there is moral high ground to be lost, but I would be very glad of your views. It is certainly the case that while newspapers and TV stations can and do ignore their public, collectively we could actually cripple the phone-in component of LBC, in response to their irresponsible broadcasting, as an act of protest, which is an interesting thought.

There is complaining to OFCOM, although I have no doubt that they will prove to be as spineless as the PCC, and it’s possible that their constitution is written in such a way that complaints about this kind of obvious wrongdoing are not upheld. Gimpyblog notes: “Jeni Barnett may be irresponsible and unapologetic but she is acting within her rights, and apparently
within OFCOM guidelines, which are firm on subjects such as sex, drugs and the occult, but not on public health”. It’s hard to see how the Jonathan Ross / Russell Brand / Andrew Sachs saga is a huge issue but this, on public health, is not, but there you go.

Those who have written to LBC seem to have received “we did little wrong and we fixed it fine ourselves” responses from their Programme Director (he gave me, I am sorry to say, what I experienced as gales of shouty self-righteousness when he telephoned me, which I felt was an unhelpful use of “off the record”, but I have no interest in personal disputes). This all suggests to me that there is little insight, and therefore little chance of improvement internally at LBC. It may be worth complaining to the parent company Global Radio, although I can’t find a clear way to.

update someone has sent me these: “ – chairman of Global; – big cheese (Headmaster on Fame Academy)”

There is also, of course, the wider issue. You could regard this as your stimulus to make a pledge to take on anti-vaccine quacks wherever they appear, and make a deposit in the karma bank, promising to write a letter, or a blog entry, or make a formal complaint about the next outburst you see in the media. I think this is very important.

Please let me know if you have any other ideas.

And lastly I will leave you with some Jeni joy. After 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), Jeni has first deleted a couple of hundred comments from her blog, criticising her ideas and actions. Like a poem about the media’s MMR coverage for the past 10 years, it seems this is a “debate” where one person asking stupid questions has complete control over the microphones and can edit, delete, and disappear views at will. It is no longer permissible, for example, to read any defenses of Yasmin on Jeni’s site, the nurse who rang in to disagree with LBC’s presenter from an informed perspective. Jeni describes this nurse, on her now commentless “blog”, as “vicious”.

Luckily Jeni’s posts, and all comments to the blog, are archived for you by Le Canard Noir here:

I don’t think Yasmin was vicious. I think she was very polite and patient. I don’t think if I was LBC I would welcome a wealthy presenter with a platform using it to attack a member of the public who rang in to my radio station, but there you go. Yasmin and I have spoken since and she is pursuing her own formal complaints. How can I demonstrate her unviciousness to you? With the clip itself. Here is Yasmin talking to Jeni. She’s very good.

TIMESTAMP 39:00 into Jeni Barnett LBC Segment, 7 January 2009.

JB: And I think that the reason you fill up my telephone-there are no calls being able to come in at the minute- is because you’re phoning is because there isn’t a definitive answer. There is no absolute answer.

As a parent, whether you are male or female, you have to make a decision based on your family history. I took my daughter who kept getting ear infections when she was a kid and one of the doctors said to me, “If you do not give her an asthma spray, and do not do this, that and the other, she will die within a week”. You don’t say that to a young mum, well, I was an old mum but she was only a little person.

Since I had asthma and my mother in law died of asthma and I’ve told you this before, that doctor didn’t take into account where I was coming from. I required him to look in my child’s ear and give me some indication of what was going on so I could make an informed decision.

I, however, am not like Yasmin in Chelsea. You would – what would you have done in that situation?

Yasmin: I’m just wondering how much longer your programme is on air. Because I give hundreds of MMR vaccines and all the work that we do in general practice is probably being undone by your programme in 15 minutes and I think it’s very irresponsible.

JB: Why. [Indistinct]

Yasmin: It doesn’t seem to be based on any facts. I’m very sorry to hear that your child had autism but if you…

JB: My child. Yasmin – [not] my child – somebody else’s child had autism.

Yasmin: Somebody else’s child, I’m very sorry to hear that. But if they read the Wakefield study in the Lancet in 1998, Dr Wakefield actually said that he didn’t prove an association between MMR and…

JB: Well he wasn’t really allowed to have his say, was he, Yasmin. He was kinda…

Yasmin: I think he was. I think he said it recently in court.

JB: But you’re not…

Yasmin: I think he’s being tried for medical negligence. I think that your programme is extremely irresponsible. You’re talking…

JB: Ah, let me just ask this…Let me ask you this before you go on with that.

How, if you are so certain that your MMR jab is correct, how can 15 minutes on LBC 97.3 rock what people are thinking?


Yasmin: Well, you’d be surprised. And at the moment we are expecting a measles epidemic and it’s because of people like Ken Livingstone and people like yourself.

You talk about young mothers who have a very difficult decision to make and, I agree, they do, and I spend a lot of time talking to them. But people like you don’t really make it any easier for them.

And you were just talking about somebody with an ear infection. I’ve been talking to somebody I know who had a child who woke up with the contents of their ear on the pillow and that was down to the rubella virus.

So you really need to think about what you’re doing here and why you’re doing it.

JB: Well, you see, I could argue, Yasmin, that you have to think about it, too. I’m allowed…

Yasmin: I do, every day.

JB: And so do I, as a parent, and that’s what I’m saying.

Yasmin: I’m a parent. And one of my children has had 3 doses of measles [sic. Possibly meant MMR] and there’s no problem with it. You could have a hundred doses of measles [sic. Possibly meant MMR] and it would do nothing.

[Yasmin and JB talk over each other]

JB: But why give them the vaccine if they get the measles? I never can understand that.

Yasmin: We don’t give vaccines to children who have had measles. They need a combined vaccine of measles, mumps and rubella.


If they have one dose the studies show that they possibly need to be revaccinated within a couple of years to make sure that that protection carries on for life.

JB: Do you not think, though, that as a parent, I am allowed to make a decision about what I put in my kid’s body?

Yasmin: Yes. And do you not think that a parent whose child has cancer and is having chemotherapy and has a much lower resistance to things like measles, mumps and rubella, has a right for their child to go to normal Primary…

JB: Absolutely, absolutely.

Yasmin: A normal Primary School. But because there may be one child in the class, such as yours, who is lucky to have the immunity, that child might get measles, mumps or rubella and die.

JB: Yasmin, my daughter did not have decent immunity which is exactly why I did not have her inoculated.

Yasmin: We don’t. We wait until your child is well and fit enough to give the MMR.

JB: But I don’t want my child to be fiddled with with all sorts of stuff that’s in a vaccine. Now why…

[JB and Yasmin talk over each other]

Let me finish.


Yasmin: Could you tell me what’s in the vaccine? What do you think is in the vaccine?

JB: No, I can’t.

Yasmin: Then how can you make a decision for your child? You’re taking about parents having to make decisions for the child but if you go into any secondary school, which I have done, we’ve been asked to vaccinate kids against MMR, they all say they want it.

If you’re deny immunisation then you’re denying health to your child and other children.

JB: No, no, no. My child is absolutely strong and healthy in many ways…

Yasmin: Then you’re one of the lucky ones aren’t you? If your kid had chemotherapy…

JB: Listen, listen, listen. Yasmin will you stop…Stop.

Yasmin: You’d want your child to be protected, wouldn’t you?

JB: Stop being so dramatic about it. If you

[JB and Yasmin talk over each other.]

Yasmin: You should think about what you’re doing in this programme. You’re doing a lot of damage. A lot of damage.

JB: Well, maybe. I don’t think so.

Yasmin: You don’t know what you’re talking about. You can’t even tell me what’s in an MMR vaccine so you shouldn’t be talking about it.

JB: Well, I can get it…Shall I get it off the internet, Yasmin?

Yasmin: Yeah, get it off the internet, from a reliable source, the such as the Department of Health

JB: Really?

Yasmin: and then I might listen to you, yeah.

JB: The Department of Health frightens people.

Thanks, Yasmin, for your call.

I think it’s quite interesting. When I was told I had a high blood sugar, I was told in that room I had diabetes. I don’t have diabetes, I have high blood sugar. My blood sugar’s normal now but they frightened me. Which is what people like Yasmin does.

This is LBC 97.3.

Blogs covering the LBC MMR story:

This list is adapted from the indefatigable and amazing Holfordwatch who have a regularly updating post here:

The list is immense, and will probably grow more.

Frank Swain of Science Punk: Jeni Barnett MMR show – full transcript

Martin of The Lay Scientist: The Barnett Transcript: Part 2 – The homeopath’s phone call. Martin has made some comments of his own.

Podblack of Podblack Cat: Jeni Barnett On LBC 97.3FM UK Radio – Vs John From Epsom

Dr Rachael Dunlop of Sceptics’ Book: Jeni Barnett talks to Amanda, mother of 8. This section covers ~ 19 to 24 mins of the Jeni Barnett MMR segment. To see the preceding section head to For the full audio, head to my YouTube channel.

Quackometer has part 5: Jeni Barnett MMR Rant Transcript with “Dr Rob”

We, at HolfordWatch are hosting Part 6: Jeni Barnett and the Phone Call with Yasmin on the LBC MMR Segment

Update 4: several blogs are now publicising the legal chill and providing their own take on the matter and related issues.

Dr Crippen of NHS BlogDoc: Jeni Barnett and LBC start the clean-up operation

Frank Swain of Science Punk: LBC sic lawyers on Ben Goldacre over criticism of MMR show

SJ Cockell of Fuzzier Logic: MMR scaremongerer sicks the legal dogs on Ben Goldacre

Podblack of Podblack Cat: Ben Goldacre – Will Not, Should Not, Be Silenced On Jeni Barnett.

jdc of jdc325: MMR Scaremongering From Jeni Barnett: LBC Use Legal Chill Tactics. Ugh.

Political Scientist: URGENT: The Joy of Law

Martin of The Lay Scientist: Jeni Barnett on MMR – The Complete Show.

Jason Brown of A Drunken Madman: More medical mendacity.

ES Armstrong of Scattergum: Jeni Barnett is an idiot.

Dr*T of Thinking is Dangerous: Is there a proper media lawyer in the house? Your country needs YOU.

Teek of consider, evaluate, act: Goldacre threatened with legal action over criticism of anti-MMR radio broadcast – UPDATED

Common Sense has updated the Measles graph for England and Wales.

Dr Rachie of The Sceptics’ Book: What are LBC and Jeni Barnett afraid of?

Press Gazette: LBC in legal warning to Ben Goldacre over MMR blog post

Anthony Cox of Black Triangle: MMR and legal threats and The Today Programme’s irresponsible MMR interview

Quackometer: Jeni Barnett and Irresponsible Broadcasting

MacSpider of Spider Comment: Jeni Barnett, LBC, stupidity and threats

Londonist: MMR, For Some Reason, Still Controversial

Michael Grayer of Non-Toxic: Many Many Rants… and not much evidence.

Julie Oakley of Julie’s Pictures: Ben Goldacre – my hero! – an excellent outline drawing.

Cory Doctorow: SCIENTIST WHO CRITICISED DJ FOR VACCINATION SCARE TALK GETS COPYRIGHT THREAT and Boing Boing: Scientist who criticised DJ on LBC radio for vaccination scare talk get copyright threat

Tweet from Phil Plait.

On Medica mentions Ben Goldacre and Jeni Barnett: Highest number of measles cases in 2008

Tony Hatfield of Retired Ramblings: Ben Goldacre,Jeni Barnett, MMR and LBC’s Heavy Legal Hand..!

Adam Bowie of The Ballad of Adam Bowie: Ben Goldacre and LBC

Media Watch: Bad Science v. Bad Lawyers

DavBlog: The “Controversy” That Won’t Die

The Plummet Onions: Extremely bad science

Plashing Vole: parataxis: Jeni Barnett is an ill-informed loon and a danger to the public

No Rock and Roll Fun: Global radio menaces Ben Goldacre

Jacob Aron of Just A Theory: Ben Goldacre vs. Jeni Barnett: legal troubles over MMR scaremongering

Matt Wardman of The Wardman Wire: Ben Goldacre of Bad Science Threatened by Lawyers for LBC and Jeni Barnett

Judith Townsend of Goldacre on the ‘intellectual property absolutists’ – LBC’s legal warning

Tom Reynolds of Random Acts of Reality: Bad Lawyering

PZ Myers of Pharyngula: Ben Goldacre and Jeni Barnett on LBC Radio

Bigger Pills: KO’d with a triple jab

Random Dumber Generator: Radio Station Fights Criticism With Copyright Claim

Orac: Help Ben Goldacre out…he’s being sued again (We hope not, it depends on the nuance behind a takedown letter with “reserved rights”.)

Phil Plait at Discover: UK in trouble? Measles, antivax garbage on the rise

Streisand is calling department at TechDirt: Radio Station Uses Copyright Claim To Try To Silence Bad Science Critic; Guess What Happens?

Nice shout-out by Greg of Lstrblg: The price we pay for the anti-vac movement

Miss Prism of a Somewhat Old But Capacious Handbag: Today’s irresponsible tripe courtesy of Jeni Barnett

Texturbation has some strong views

Gareth Klose has some thoughtful questions: Is scientific tear-down fair use?

Electric Halibut wants to know: isn’t MMR scaremongering all a bit 2007? Quite.

Matt Dalby of Santiago’s Dead Wasp: legal bullying of bad science blog

Neil D of Harry’s Place: Ben Goldacre receives legal warning

Witch Doctor asks: Jeni Who?

Paul Flynn asks: Spot the Ignoramus?

Bad Science Meets Bad Broadcasting

Solveda at Musings of a Phenomenologist: When MMR attacks (or LBC and Jeni Barnett, what were you thinking?)

The Skeptic’s Field Guide: Help Ben Goldacre Beat Off This Artifice

Martial Arts Planet Forum: MMR, Jeni Barnett and Bad Science

Jon Bounds of The Bounder: Bad Science Needs Help or At Least Link Love

Verbal Gas Pedal of A Much More Exotic: The dangerous ignorance of Jeni Barnett harms children

Gary Marshall of Big Mouth Strikes Again: in MMR quack attack

Porcospino: Talk radio is bad for your health

The Jobbing Doctor: The Ben Goldacre Fan Club

Sceptics’ Book reproduces a comment left by Ben Goldacre on Jeni Barnett’s blog: What are LBC Radio and Jeni Barnett Afraid Of? and Damage Control for LBC’s Jeni Barnett’s MMR Rant Backfires Globally and on a Massive Scale

Infectious Diseases Dr Verity of Verity at Work: Alarm Bells, Lassa, Snow and the End of the MMR Scare

Quercus: MMR: As the actress said to the doctor…

Law Librarians mentions the kerfuffle: While I’m Here

Chris Ward of Terroir: Jeni Barnett Is An Idiot

Karl Haro von Mogel of The Inoculated Mind: Go Download This

Dr Grumble reveals why he will not agree to record an item for LBC radio again: LBC sharks

Daniel Onions of Phoebus Gins (what is not to love about those names) wonders if LBC are trying to deliberately stir this up: Jeni Barnett and Bad Science

Two Nil Blank Blank 20__ swears to Beelzebub that this kerfuffle has become London’s Biggest Conversation

Mick of Bright Reason warns that you may lose IQ points if you choose to listen to the notorious MMR segment: Badscience, Jeni Barnett woo-woo and the Streisand Effect

John Connell of John Connell – The Blog: Send in the lawyers. John has listened to the broadcast. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he reports:

Fish n Chimps of CMM News: Shock as Z-list Celeb Talks Out of Wrong Orifice

Jonathan of No Sleep ‘Til Brooklands: Jeni Barnett and MMR.

Cubik’s Rube unusually has: A blog post on a Friday.

Masks of Eris is finding that: World Sucks.

Professor David Colquhoun of dcscience: Jeni Barnett and LBC: dangers to public health.

Commonplace Book offers a lively and a propos quotation from Tim Minchin: Jeni Thick-ett.

John at Sore Eyes: LBC are bullies, pass it on

Eastwood DC of Dread Tomato Addiction (you may want to read Mark Clifton’s 1958 essay if you would like to understand the name) suggests: The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers

Skepacabra notes the latest heavy-handed legal reprimand: Ben Goldacre is Being…

Andres Guadamuz of Techno Llama offers a thoughtful and interesting legal opinion that is well-worth reading in full: Bad Science meets bad copyright.

Gimpy has his own opinions on where some of the blame for Jeni Barnett’s remarkable antivax rhetoric comes from: Jeni Barnett’s MMR scaremongering – the role of homeopathy.

Anthony Cox of Black Triangle has done some follow-up: Transcripts of Jeni Barnett on MMR on LBC Radio and he tells us that the rumours of a Conspiracy? have already started.

Demotivated posters now offer a little something in the style of Jeni Barnett and Measles Was Never That Bad Anyway. A rather sadder version of what is fast becoming the Jeni Barnett: Measles was never that bad anyway meme.

David of Cloud Soup ponders on a peculiarly british myth of MMR and autism: Jeni Barnett, MMR and Bad Science

Martin Stabe makes a glancing reference to the kerfuffle and states that it is to Jeni Barnett’s credit that she defended herself and is allowing comments that disagree with her: Jeni Barnett: MMR and Me

Electric Halibut has now perused various transcripts of the infamous Jeni Barnett segment and come to the conclusion: there’s a fine line between “finely tuned animal” and “weird”

Dr Crippen of NHS BlogDoc implores parents to get their children immunised: Jeni Barnett, MMR, Measles and Bad Science. Will she accept the challenge?

Chris Gerhard of The Dot in …—… muses:You can’t put it back in the box.

JHQ of Letting Off Steam has put up a response to the transcription of Jeni Barnett’s phone exchange with Yasmin: Jeni Barnett, Antivaxxer.

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?

The Jobbing Doctor has produced British Medical Blogs 18

The World Is a Lesson In Perspective urges people to donate by PayPal to Ben Goldacre (don’t, I don’t need money, I need ideas).

If you like the London Bus Generator: Raging across the blogosphere.

Phil Chamberlain of Taking Out the Trash writes: On dishing it out and taking it.

There is, of course, a delightful Facebook Group: Defend Ben Goldacre from LBC

DBH of The Great DBH Rant has gone through the transcripts and concluded: Jeni Barnett Anti-Vaccination Drivel – Irresponsibility at its best.

DBH posts a follow-up asking that: The MMR and Autism Link Should Be Binned for Good Now

Richard Brennan refers to the dispute in his newsjiffy: Dr Ben Goldacre accused of copyright infringement by LBC 97.3 FM following MMR show blog posting.

Paul Flynn has had an opportunity to explore the transcripts and audio further since his last posting and he is taken aback: New nuke : old calamity.

Peter Groves of IPso Jure: IP news round up.

Simon HB of No Rock and Roll Fun: Global Radio: Jeni Barnett Defends Her Position.

Guido of Guido Fawkes is pleased that: LBC Get Wiki Leaked.

The Milligan comments on parts of the transcripts: Jeni Barnett Spouting Pure, Unadulterated Ignorance About the MMR Vaccine.

jdc of jdc325 offers a comprehensive MMR Round-Up that ends with rather a dispiriting summary of the state of MMR and vaccination discussion amongst self-styled health gurus and in mainstream media.

The Milligan has returned to the corpus delicti and picks through the nasty mess: Jeni Barnett and her anti-vaccination drivel.

Bankrupt Artist remarks that: Jeni Has A Blog and Andrew Wakefield Says The Thing That Is Not.

Robert Saunders of Flies and Bikes: Thank you, Andrew Wakefield.

Dr Grumble uses this incident to talk about generational differences in truth-seeking: Journalists.

AP Gaylard of A Canna’ Change the Laws of Physics has an outstanding discussion of the notion of informed consent: Ignorant refusal.

Mike Stanton of Action for Autism: Jeni Barnett, Bad Science and MMR

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.

JQH is more than a little exasperated to realise that despite all of the attempts to improve her knowledge base: Jeni Barnett Does Not Get It.

Dr Rita Pal of NHS Exposed has a challenge: Come On Jeni Barnett, Get Out of Your Duvet And Answer Your Critics.

Andy of Thinking Is Real finds some small amusement from: Ben Goldacre in MMR Law Suit.

RZ at Ward 87: Jeni Barnett – The Ostrich.

Sean the Blogonaut tells: A Tale of Two Jennys.

Hannah King of Just a Whisper in the Wind could scarcely believe her ears: Jeni Barnett on MMR.

Psychodiva is a nurse and deplores Jeni Barnett’s: Scaremongering in the media.

Grumpy RN has a round-up: The NHS.

Scots Law Student asks: Jeni Barnett on MMR – is copyright law right for this case?

Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy: Ben Goldacre legally threatened by LBC.

Skeptical Dog wonders if cluelessness is a common thread: What Is It With Jeni and Jenny?

Jonathan M Gitlin of Ars Technica notes: Bad Science columnist attracts a lawsuit threat.

The Great Simpleton calls upon his readers to: Save the Bad Science 1.

Kendrick Curtis of Lieutenant H mentions the story: “Bad Science” columnist Ben Goldacre and LBC’s Jeni Barnett and highlights the juxtaposition of this kerfuffle with Brian Deer’s latest articles about Andrew Wakefield. Johat of Moansters Incorporated invites readers to: Immunise yourself against Bad Science.

Autism News Beat offers some nice coverage and light snarking: Stalk Radio.

Hopi Sen of A blog from the back room mentions the issue pithily: Big serious thoughts: MMR.

Lee of Lee’s Blog is riled: My mite against Jeni Barnett.

Carl Morris of Native HQ identifies: LBC Radio vs. Ben Goldacre (A Perfect Storm of Bad Science).

Autism News Beat offers a shorthand version of Jeni Barnett’s attempt at self-justification: Jeni Barnett’s mea culpa.

The Milligan is also rather pleased to discover that the internet has a startling memory: Jeni Barnett – aka The LBC Idiot – No Debate Here.

Danni of The Great DBH Rant is likewise underwhelmed at this latest strategic blunder: Jeni Barnett Has Removed All Comments To Her Blogposts Concerning The MMR Drivel And The Aftermath.

The lovely Stephen Fry has sent out a Twitter to his 8 billion followers, and left a comment on my blog. I mean, seriously, this man wakes me up every morning.

The fatuity of the Jeni Barnett woman’s manner – her blend of self-righteousness and stupidity, her simply quite staggering inability to grasp, pursue or appreciate a sequence of logical steps – all these are signature characteristics of Britain these days. The lamentable truth is that most of the population wouldn’t really understand why we get so angry at this assault on reason, logic and sense. But we have to keep hammering away at these people and their superstitious inanities. We have to. Well done you and well done all you supporting. I’ve tweeted this site to my followers. I hope they all do their best to support you. Publish and be damned. We’ll fight them and fight them and fight them in the name of empricism, reason, double blind random testing and all that matter.
Stephen xxx

I think LBC and Jeni should issue a clear apology for the show, prominently and in the same slot. I think they should make some public acknowledgement of the harm that can come from such irresponsible broadcasting, and give a clear undertaking that Jeni will not broadcast on the topic again, or any medical stories, without getting a basic understanding of the issues. I know that they won’t, but that’s what I think they should do, and I think they should release this clip freely so that we can all understand and discuss the anti-vaccination, anti-reason movement better, and try to prevent them from doing any more harm. That is what the clip is needed for, I think it is only fair that we should be able to have this discussion, and they should be keen to facilitate it. I think they misjudged this situation, and they could very easily set it right.

I think, in all honesty, that these people need to grow some insight.




I am incredibly grateful to Positive Internet who host this blog for free: they have been amazing, with the on-call engineers working in the middle of the night to get everything back online when it became clear we could no longer cope with the traffic. They even fixed my cackhanded wordpress install. If you make the corporate decisions in your workplace then you should absolutely use them, I’ve genuinely never seen anything like it. I don’t need money for legal costs or anything so no donations please, unless you want to subsidise sellotape to fix the laptop or help me get admin/research assistance.

Oh and for a day or so comments will take a while to appear because the page can only rebuild itself occasionally when the traffic is so high.

Update: This activism suggestion from a reader

Might it be worth suggesting via your blog that everyone sends a letter to the members of the board of global radio:

As well as everything you’ve said about the potential damage to public health caused by Jeni’s broadcast, the letter could suggest something along the lines that it undermines their support of children’s charities:

And perhaps suggest to them that they make donation to a relevant charity. e.g.:

If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

155 Responses

  1. aphasia said,

    February 10, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Thanks for the detailed update. Good on you and all the other bloggers. Keep up the good work.

  2. JQH said,

    February 10, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Yes. Good stuff.

    Re the proposed activism, I am of the view that ringing her show to demand a retraction could be perceived as hounding her. She will certainly spin it that way, judging by the way she spun her conversation with Yasmin.

    I’m glad to read that Yasmin is persuing her own complaint, especially after the inaccurate description of her that appeared on JB’s blog.

    Oh btw – thanks for the namecheck but its JQH not JHQ. Glad to see there’s been so much coverasge. If Jeni Barnett wanted a debate, she’s certainly got one.

  3. danielrendall said,

    February 10, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    I’m not convinced the ‘civil disobedience’ idea is a good one. From my position as a lurker on various blogs, my perception is that scientists are usually fairly reasonable, whereas the the anti-science mob tend to sound rather agitated. Yet still they complain of persecution at the hands of the scientists. I suspect that a campaign of the kind you outline would merely reinforce the siege mentality these people seem to have.

    What would be useful (that is, it would be useful to me IMHO since I am a bear of very little brain and therefore potentially useful to other similar bears) would be something akin to the Index of Creationist Claims (, but debunking with all the various anti-vax claims and statistics. For example, the chap from asserted in a now-extinct post on Jeni’s site:

    “It is so easy to prove all vaccination is useless (and dangerous, just look at smallpox vaccination) and that MMR is killing way more kids than measles would be doing with or without vaccination (deaths declined by 99.4% before vaccination, so it didn’t do anything, end of story)”

    Looking at the graphs posted above, I am wonderfully intrigued to know where his 99.4% figure comes from (and, indeed his assertion about MMR). I will give him the benefit of the doubt and presume that he has, in his mind, a set of facts and a way of connecting them to arrive at these conclusions. In my ideal world, there’d be somewhere I could go to understand his reasoning or lack thereof. As it is, I fear I shall have to remain mystified (I refuse to go to in an attempt to unravel it, as I fear that madness may lie in that direction).

    I’m aware that much excellent work has been done by bloggers to refute various claims and accusations. I suppose I’m suggesting that it would be good to have it all clearly laid out in one place. Maybe such a thing already exists and my inexpert googling has failed to locate it. Any pointers would be appreciated!

  4. julie oakley said,

    February 10, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Like you I’m in two minds about activism. I know that I dispensed with my deluded views on homeopathy after reading your blog, but I might have become extremely entrenched and defensive if I had felt I was being attacked. I think that in a face to face situation, eg commments on her blog or phoning in, courtesy (such as that shown by Yasmin) is imperative and I would be concerned if a concerted phone in would backfire.

    By the way, I did laugh at the way the LBC presented the current furore as this poor little sixty year old lady being the victim of vicious e-mails etc. Well I’m only ten years younger and I hope that when I’m sixty I won’t be pulling the frail old vulnerable lady card.

  5. lucifer said,

    February 10, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Great to see the support this is getting :)

  6. artificialhabitat said,

    February 10, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Email to MP sent, for all the good an EDM will actually do.

    You may be right about the perils of bombarding them with calls. These people usually suffer from an extreme persecution complex anyway, it’ll only add further fuel to their delusions.

    Still….. tempting

  7. SliderSteve said,

    February 10, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    I never tire of instances where people/companies have attempted to unjustly silence a critic only for the ‘act of attempted silencing’ to backfire so catastrophically and make them wish they had left well alone.

    Championing reason and a better public understanding of science is a a fight worth taking on. The more instances of Ben and other articulate people like him, bringing to the public’s attention issues like this, the more people/companies will be exposed.

    This exposure can only help improve the moral zeitgeist.

  8. kerledan said,

    February 10, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Stephen Fry (above) expresses it so concisely yet eloquently: in a nutshell, the heart of the matter.

    “The fatuity of the Jeni Barnett woman’s manner – her blend of self-righteousness and stupidity, her simply quite staggering inability to grasp, pursue or appreciate a sequence of logical steps – all these are signature characteristics of Britain these days. The lamentable truth is that most of the population wouldn’t really understand why we get so angry at this assault on reason, logic and sense. But we have to keep hammering away at these people and their superstitious inanities. We have to…..”

    This man is a National Treasure.

  9. A full time unpaid carer said,

    February 10, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    I wrote this:
    Dear Willie Rennie,

    I am writing to ask you to sign the EDM formally posted tomorrow 11/2/09 as talked about by Dr Ben Goldacre on his blog “BadScience”.

    As you may know, this follows some highly irresponsible media coverage and reportage by broadcaster Jeni Barnett at the end of last week, but includes other high profile media personalities such as Ken Livingston and Carol Vorderman who ignore empirical scientific research and logical reasoning and in my opinion, will cause death and long term damage by more and more parents not taking the offer of MMR vaccine for their children and the concomitant rise in cases of mumps, measles and rubella. These “celebrities” carry a certain kudos and give a false reassurance that they know what they are talking about.

    I then copied the wording of the EDM.

    I hope this adds to the growing swell of people outraged by JB and her garbage.

  10. seenoevil said,

    February 10, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    I’m watching this with interest.
    Seems like a battle of the new ways vs. the old ways of media communication.

  11. El Pollo Diablo said,

    February 10, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    I’ve also fired off an email to my MP (Edward Davey, Lib Dem for Kingston-o-T). Hopefully he’ll be signing this, too!

    Probably worth pointing out that there is “An audience with Jeni Barnett” in Croydon on the 26th March. Could be interesting, but it costs £14.50.

    More details here:

  12. LucienSanchez said,

    February 10, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Excellent update Ben, thanks. This is my first comment on here, so I just thought I’d say thanks for entertaining me for the few days or so since John Crippen’s blog first directed me here.

    Section 1 of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code (link: is entitled ‘Protecting the Under-Eighteens’). Section 1.1 of this states:

    Material that might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of people under eighteen must not be broadcast.

    I’m about to lodge a complaint to Ofcom regarding Barnett’s broadcast with specific regard to this point – the first point in the Broadcasting Code. As a paediatric SHO, I am witness to the harm that measles and mumps in particular can cause, and her ill-informed baiting cannot help the situation.

    I’d advise others to do the same. Weight of numbers worked in the Brand/Ross/Sachs saga; why not put them to good use for a damn good cause?

  13. SmartBlonde said,

    February 10, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Agree with most of your points, but I feel the need to defend the UK legal system (someone has to!). I should point out first that I am not a lawyer, just a lowly library school student and aspiring law librarian. I do have some subject knowledge of law, and very good knowledge of copyright law (librarians have to – the consequences are worse for us than for lawyers if we get it wrong!), so I may be (slightly) qualified to comment here…

    You say that: “In medicine we have protocols: we try to lay out very clearly and simply how something works, what the likely outcomes are, the best moves, and so on. I don’t see why this would be difficult in law”. It is so difficult in law precisely because of the way our legal system has evolved. In law, there is no clear-cut, right-or-wrong answer to anything. This is what the law students I have worked with find the most difficult to come to terms with. It needs to be this way because every case is different. The UK operates a common law system – meaning, in effect, that two cases where the material facts are the same should have the same outcome. However, the key phrase here is “material facts”. The lawyer’s job is to work out what is relevant and what isn’t. This is how the law works, and how it should work. I’m not saying that some lawyers don’t take advantage of that, but that isn’t entirely what it’s about. Personally, having done some legal research myself, I believe that lawyers get paid so much because no-one would do it if they didn’t. Seriously, it’s unbelievably tedious.

    Regarding copyright law specifically – there I agree with you that the letter of the law is unhelpfully vague. The CDPA allows for some copying under “fair dealing” – although fair dealing is not an exception per se, but a possible defence – but does not define what constitutes fair dealing. In general, if something is for non-commercial use or private study, or review/criticism (as in your own case), then it should count as fair dealing. However, this may not apply if you have copied a “substantial portion” (this is also left unhelpfully vague – it could mean in terms of the volume of material you’ve reproduced, or could be just a single paragraph, etc. that happened to contain the main point of the argument). In theory, this was left vague so that it could be decided on a case-by-case basis, to maintain a balance between the rights of the consumers and the rights of the authors. In practice, there is currently a heavy bias towards the rights holders. Copyright law is lagging way behind the current situation (how do you even enforce copyright on the Internet??), and is in need of a massive overhaul, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    Ok, taking my librarian hat off now! Just wanted to add that I agree with some of the above posters that bombarding LBC with phone calls is a bad idea – that doesn’t just look like bullying, it is bullying. This woman already has a persecution complex, don’t justify it. I thought that some of the comments on her blog (at least, the archived version) were heading towards that area – posting a rational argument is fine; posting nothing more than “you’re an idiot”, or words to that effect, is petty.

  14. seenoevil said,

    February 10, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    @ SmartBlonde
    “posting a rational argument is fine; posting nothing more than “you’re an idiot”, or words to that effect, is petty.”

    Hear hear. iirc something Dr G has emphasised in the past in the forums. Attack the argument, not the person.

  15. penglish said,

    February 10, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Ah, we can comment again… (I tried before but I think the server was overloaded, so I posted at

    “We’ve had a mumps outbreak in 2005, and now measles is on the rise.”

    The reason for the mumps outbreak was different. (The poor uptake of MMR is a very serious concern; but it’s also important not to use arguments that aren’t valid.)

    There’s a cohort of people who’ve only had one mumps jab.

    Scientists at CDSC, the predecessor of Health Protection Agency’s Centre for Infections realised that we were on the verge of a measles epidemic, in the 90s. The reason for this is that we’d only been giving a single dose of MMR , which wasn’t sufficient. You need to have >90% of the popn to be immune to measles, and a single dose is only effective in 90-95% of people, so even with 100% uptake you can have outbreaks.

    To prevent the expected measles epidemic, they had a campaign in which pretty much the whole school population was given a second dose. But there wasn’t enough mumps vaccine available, so an MR (measles and rubella) jab was used instead of MMR. This cohort of people therefore only had a single dose of mumps-containing vaccine, and about 10% of those who only had one dose of mumps-containing vaccine remained susceptible to mumps. See:

  16. Lord of Chaos said,

    February 10, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    It’s amazing really how some people just don’t really how coming down heavy handed with the legal stuff can be a realy cack handed way of trying to win an argument.

    So depressing that there are people like her out there. And ever worse that people listen her.

    On an aside, i’ve read lots of stories and the mup and measles epidemics, but I haven’t seen anything about rubella? Come to think of it most of the anti-MMR lot focous on measles. What’s the deal?

  17. clobbered said,

    February 10, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Ben says “This is no longer about MMR it is about an ill-informed media”. I think it is even worse than that – it is about a narcissistic culture where everybody thinks that their opinion is as good as everybody else’s and that *everything is opinion*.

    Once you reduce scientific fact to mere opinion (and I agree that the media has been instrumental in this tragic misconception), then why isn’t Jeni’s opinion as good as anybody else’s?

    This is why I don’t think a phone-in to LBC is a good idea. Just because 10,000 people ring in, it doesn’t make them right (though obviously they would be, in this case). What if some stupid “alternative” blog got 10,000 people to ring in and say doctors just want to kill babies? Would that make it right? It strikes me as completely unproductive.

    Thanks to people like Evan Harris, I think the point has been made. Let’s hope LBC has learned its lesson and moves on.

  18. plastictastic said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:02 am

    We all loved Stephen Fry, and now we love him even more.

    Email to local MP sent re: the EDM. Might not rockl the world, but ‘every little helps’.

    By the way – this may have been covered already in the comments elsewhere – but wrote a complaint to LBC using their on-line system, only to get a 404 error when I submitted – have they taken a damage-limitation screw-driver to their website perchance!? Mucky.

  19. The Biologista said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Remarkable just how badly Jeni and LBC screwed this up. It could have been just another Bad Science blog. Instead it’s everywhere!

  20. plastictastic said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:13 am

    @The Biologista, agreed – why won’t organisations like LBC engage in situations like this rather than wriggle and squirm into deeper doo doo – they make it so much harder for themsleves. Credibility can be salvaged.

  21. Gypsum Fantastic said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:13 am

    Is it me, or have the posts (as well as the comments) about this been removed from the blog this evening?

  22. plastictastic said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Yes, they’ve gone, presumably deliberately although I’m sure there’s some sort of computer malady story ready to be wheeled out.

    Somewhat superbly, all of the deleted posts are hosted here:

    Hurrah! :-)

  23. pv said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Lord of Chaos said,
    February 10, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    So depressing that there are people like her out there. And ever worse that people listen her.

    Listening is one thing. Being persuaded or taken in by it is another. What I find so depressing is that so many people give so much more weight and credibility to words uttered by “celebrities” and ignorant hacks, than be people who’ve devoted their life’s work to understanding and whose job it is to know. The news media bears a huge responsibility in my view for blurring the lines between education and entertainment, fact and fiction; treating them with equal gravity. Health related news is a fine example, with it’s obsession with anecdote, opinionated celebrity “experts” and general dumbed down superficiality.
    They’d rather roll out Jenny McCarthy and devote column miles to her than, say, Simon Baron Cohen, because the public “identifies” with celebrities so much more than a dry medical doctor or professor. Celebs make more money for the media than does anyone who might be regarded as educated and informed.
    And we mustn’t forget that scientists are popularly portrayed and seen as the bad guys. Mums with sick children are always the good guy underdogs.

  24. fontwell said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:26 am

    I agree with previous posts in thinking that a mass phone attack would be counter productive. It gives LBC/Jeni the ammunition for ad hominem attacks, which is their idea of a valid way to win an argument. We need to win by evidence and reason (and publicity), and while a tactic like that might be briefly very satisfying for us, I don’t think it will further our cause at all.

    I am greatly encouraged to see what a response the broadcast has now gathered and have urged my MP to support the EDM.

    Is it really true that Ken Livingstone is an anti-vaccer? I expected better of him.

  25. Philippa said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:32 am

    I’m completely appalled. Have just listened to this shrew and bombastic know-nothing and am stunned.

    All that rubbish about ‘my kids didn’t get measles (and its ruebella ?!) or mumps…

    Doesn’t she realise that it’s because of herd vaccination levels that her kids didn’t get it and that it’s about group responsibility???

    Honestly, she deserves prosecuting for crimes against public health.

  26. matthewoconnor said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Nice work, Dr. Goldacre. And Yay! Alice in her bib!

  27. liquidcow said,

    February 11, 2009 at 1:32 am

    Got to agree that the phoning-in thing is a really bad idea, it probably does amount to bullying as someone said above, and it makes people on this side of the argument look arrogant and petty, which undermines the argument in the eyes of people yet to be convinced.

    I second the above poster who said that this whole thing is indicative of a horrible trend that has been emerging for years now where opinions are made sacred, regardless of whose they are and what they are based on, and even when they are clearly and demonstrably wrong. For some reason it’s become wrong not to ‘respect’ someone’s opinion; in other words to disagree with them, or to know that they are wrong, and attempt to persuade them otherwise.

  28. gadgeezer said,

    February 11, 2009 at 1:57 am

    #16 Lord of Chaos.

    On an aside, i’ve read lots of stories and the mup and measles epidemics, but I haven’t seen anything about rubella? Come to think of it most of the anti-MMR lot focous on measles. What’s the deal?

    On the issue of MMR safety and why single jabs are not advisable which also covers rubella (via Holfordwatch and with permission).
    For readers concerned about the safety of MMR, AP Gaylard has usefully produced a table of what Dr Paul Offit styles as “Studies exonerating MMR”, drawn from Offit’s book, Autism’s False Prophets (Gaylard has thoughtfully provided the full references and links to online content, where available.)
    As for the issue of single jabs, major charities have reviewed this issue and they have come to a very different conclusion. I would urge interested readers to download and study the deaf-blind charity Sense Position Statement on the issue of MMR because it also responds to the calls for single jabs as well as detailing the difference that MMR has made to the incidence of congenital rubella syndrome.

    An immunisation strategy can only ever be effective if there is mass uptake, meaning that choice between single vaccines and MMR cannot be part of an effective vaccination programme. One of the difficulties with MMR uptake is that, while the prevalence of measles, mumps and rubella in the UK is low, the incentive to vaccinate can appear less. From the perspective of an individual parent, the risk of their child contracting an infectious disease can seem small compared with the risk of possible (or perceived) adverse reactions to immunisation. However, this is only true if vaccination levels remain high. It is actually the counter-argument to this view that is the rationale for vaccination programmes – that the risk of vaccine damage is extremely low compared with the risk of the ill-effects of contracting the disease.
    At the same time, low uptake of rubella vaccination could actually have worse consequences than no uptake. If there were no vaccination against rubella, then most people would catch rubella in childhood and would subsequently be immune. A low uptake of vaccination would mean that the virus would still be able to circulate, but that fewer children would become immune in childhood. Outbreaks of rubella would be less common than the epidemics that would occur with no vaccination, and so a cohort of unvaccinated and un-immunised children would increase each year and get older, with the burden of the disease shifting to those who are most at risk. Thus the impact of an outbreak in terms of congenital rubella syndrome births could be greater.
    For MMR vaccination to be effective, uptake needs to be above 95%: this is why boys as well as girls need to be vaccinated. From 1970 to 1988, schoolgirls were vaccinated against rubella, and this did have some success in reducing the number of rubella births. However, the real breakthrough came in 1988 when MMR was introduced for all children. This reduced rubella births by a further 90% – there were 447 congenital rubella births between 1971 and 1980 and 38 between 1991 and 2000…
    Thanks to vaccination, rubella damage is now rare. However, this means that many people do not realise how dangerous rubella can be. In the United States, people from the Amish community have exercised their right for their children not to be immunised against rubella. As a result, in 1995, one baby in 50 born to Amish parents was born severely rubella damaged…
    It has been be argued that even if the Government believes MMR to be safe, they should provide single vaccines as an alternative because then more children would be vaccinated. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support the suggestion that allowing single vaccines would lead to a greater uptake of MMR, and a significant amount of evidence to show that it would have the opposite effect. Single vaccines would be less effective than MMR and there is no evidence that they would be safer. Sense believes that it is unethical to promote six invasive procedures instead of two without sound scientific support, and when there is evidence that such a strategy would have negative effects. [They then give their reasons and some very good, supportive figures.]…
    parents may opt not to vaccinate their children, particularly their sons, against rubella. This would lead to increased risk to pregnant women. Unvaccinated boys can catch rubella and go on to infect pregnant women, including their own mothers. This is exactly what happened before MMR was introduced….
    [Reprise of what happened the last time single vaccines were offered because of a (groundless) vaccine scare.] In the 1970s, following a decrease in uptake of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) vaccine, single vaccines for pertussis (whooping cough) were offered, with diphtheria and tetanus vaccines given separately. What happened was that over half of parents chose to vaccinate their children without the pertussis component. Coverage fell from 80% to 30%, there were three epidemics of pertussis, thousands of hospital admissions and around a hundred deaths. It took nearly fifteen years for vaccine uptake levels to recover…
    [Sense list of recommendations] The Government should continue to offer MMR and should not make single vaccines available as an alternative.

  29. James H said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:30 am

    I think Simon Singh is correct. We could discuss the benefits (and successes) of organised protest in a democracy, but those of us without a broadcasting platform get precious little chance to protest against issues we consider to be of moral importance. Not to do so would be dull passivity bordering on a sin of omission.

    I certainly don’t think we should coordinate an ad hominem attack on Jeni, this would be bullying and I am not in favour of persecuting the ill-educated. I think she is intelligent enough (if not educated enough) to grasp the moral issue that kicked this off in the first place: ought wealthy companies be able to stifle debate and threaten Doctors by flexing legal muscle and resorting to “legal chill” tactics? There are over a thousand members of the group “Defend Ben Goldacre from LBC” (1,408 at last count) and many would happily make a call between 1pm and 4pm on a weekday, not to tell her she’s an idiot, but to ask her if she thinks threatening legal action was the right thing to do. I started the group and thus can message them all with one click, I am sorely tempted to do so. I really do think Jeni should be kept in mind, she is human and a spew of hate calls would be morally wrong. Nevertheless, our inclinations to protest should not be stifled by an insipid stiff upper-lip national trait. Such timidity is slightly pathetic and LBC should not be spared such a tactic.

  30. rathgild said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:33 am

    Just a quick note to let you know I’ve shared your blog and the MMR story on my Facebook account (over 300 friends) so hopefully this will start propagating there as well. Maybe the weight of public opinion will make this stupidly, irresponsible woman see sense. My text with the link is as follows:

    Jeni Barnett, a broadcaster of little repute and even less medical knowledge, seems to think that she has all the answers when it comes to immunisation. As a result she devoted an entire show to the evils of MMR vaccination. She is (irresponsibly in my opinion) trying to persuade listeners in the LBC broadcasting area that the vaccine is dangerous – despite all the studies that prove it is safe. She advocates Dr Andrew Wakefield’s discredited findings as being fact even though the UK General Medical Council had charged Wakefield with serious professional misconduct, including dishonesty in relation to this controversial research (10 of the 13 co-authors withdrew their names from the paper). The result is that inoculation uptake is now less than 80%, well below the herd immunity level; measles cases have increased by 2300% since 1998; two children have already died, and a measles epidemic is on the horizon.

  31. nipsey said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:37 am

    actually billy bragg likes to protect his own IP just a little too much for my tastes, so i think he would be on the opposite side of this from you

  32. synchronicity said,

    February 11, 2009 at 4:29 am

    This whole thing looks an awful lot like the Tom Cruise Scientology fair use case when his rants were put up on youtube a while back; when they protested, it became newsworthy, and the contested footage was no longer covered under copyright laws. Once again, the internets win, and free speech endures!

  33. madarab said,

    February 11, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Keith Olbermann of Countdown just named Wakefield the ‘Worst person in the world’. That is a big deal here in the US.

  34. Lizzie76 said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:09 am

    A post in agreement (in part) with SmartBlonde. In law, people also “try to lay out very clearly and simply how something works”- that’s the aim of legislation, which is always drafted in as simple a way as possible. The wording of the “fair dealing” provisions in the legislation governing copyright is actually pretty straightforward. The uncertainty (which I appreciate is frustrating) only arises because the law has been drafted to address the substance of what’s being considered rather than the form. Hence it’s not possible to say that a 44 minute audio clip is too long to be allowed as fair dealing or that a 4 minute clip would be ok. There’s no definite rule of thumb because it’s a question of the facts in each particular case, and the law needs to be flexible enough to be applied in a common sense way. The uncertainty is an unfortunate consequence of this necessary flexibility. In fact, I’ll go further than SmartBlonde- I don’t think that lack of a definition of a “substantial part” is unhelpfully vague- it’s deliverately undefined to allow flexibility.

    Obviously in this particular case it’s clear to any sensible person (and would, IMO, have been very clear to a judge) that LBC were attempting to use copyright law in an utterly disingenuous and heavy-handed way in order to stifle debate- that’s not what copyright law is about and I personally don’t think they would have got far in court. However, I wanted to make the point that the vast majority of lawyers and judges are doing their best to make the law understandable and accessible to everyone. Where answers aren’t clear, it’s usually because the questions are complicated. The main issue, as I see it, is not with how laws are drafted but with the unavailability of legal aid in civil matters; this definitely gives an unfair advantage to whoever has the deeper pockets.

    I can certainly see that dealing with LBC’s lawyers would give a poor impression of the profession. However, I think it’s extremely unfair to suggest that uncertainty in the law exists because it’s in lawyers’ interests that it does. Some lawyers obfuscate and exploit uncertainty, just as some doctors twist data to support their pet theories; the vast majority in both professions are honest and do their best to help laymen navigate what is necessarily a technical world.

    Would guidelines help? I’m not sure- copyright law governs rights in IP between individuals, not between the individual and the State, and while the law is created by Parliament it is applied by the Judiciary. For the Government to pop up with a set of guidelines might actually be rather unhelpful, as individuals would not be able to rely on them (the legislation is what is applied in court, not anything else). Government guidelines would effectively be no more than a random third party’s gloss of the law. If changes are needed, they need to be in the law itself, and in this I agree with SB that copyright law is hopelessly out-of-date.

  35. jtjbooth said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Hi Ben

    I’ve followed (well lurked on) your blog for a long while now; I’ve admired your stance over so many issues but I felt I just wanted to add my small word of support over the ongoing debate regarding LBC and Jeni Barnett.

    I’m a GP with an interest in child health, and I’ve been plugging away at the vaccine message since I’ve started work in Primary Care. Locally, we have a pretty high take-up on MMR – thanks largely to a recently retired and somewhat evangelical local paediatrician – but I’m still astonished at the level of resistance parents still display. I found myself going over the arguments again just this morning, in fact.

    After sanitation, I can’t think of a single public health measure that has saved more lives than vaccination; I think it’s a national (no, international) scandal that these wonderful interventions have become discredited and that presenters such as Ms Barnett can perpetuate the pernicious myths about MMR with such little insight.

    Thank you for all you’ve done this week: the anxious parents I spoke to this morning were directed to look at for a rational overview of the issues.


    James Booth

    PS My first child arrives in a few weeks: they’ll be sporting one of your bibs with pride!

  36. mikewhit said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:44 am

    “Dr Ben Goldacre on his blog “BadScience” ” – don’t think Bad Science is a blog – as in, online personal journal – but they’ll know what is meant !

  37. CarlottaVance said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:56 am

    If LBC/Jeni Barnett do not see fit to seek to undo the damage they did in her 45 minute segment, one option, which might get LBC’s attention, is to write, politely, to their advertisers.

    Many of these are responsible corporations who build their business on the basis of science – (I worked for one for 20 years) – and would not wish to be associated with this anti-MMR hysteria. I have only listened to the podcast – so don’t know who advertises on them, but, for example, I doubt the makers of Pampers (P&G) or Huggies (Kimberley Clark) would wish to be associated with these anti-MMR views.

    The prospect of potentially losing advertisers might give LBC pause for thought.

  38. the chiggler said,

    February 11, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I complained to LBC about Jeni Barnett’s relentless propagandizing of the MMR hoax and received a reply from Jonathan Richards who is Programme Director LBC News. His very brief response (which ignored all the issues I raised) included the observation, “By the way you’ll also be interested to know that Jeni is now receiving abusive emails from people for merely having long held views (however naïve those views might be).” I replied to him expressing my incredulity that he could characterize Barnett’s lies and distortions as simply “naïve”, or that he could excuse them on the ground of the logical fallacy that they were “long held”. I also included the observation that in a democracy, citizens should respect each other’s beliefs; and citizens have a right to express their beliefs. But in a democracy, a broadcaster such as LBC has an obligation not to broadcast lies and excuse them as “naïve views”.
    My email was promptly returned and marked undeliverable.

  39. michael said,

    February 11, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Hi Ben,

    Firstly – hounding Jeni, not a good idea IMO. She has become metonymic for the wider problem with media reporting. Let’s see what Ofcom decide (if a little optimistically). When I complained to Ofcom I actually highlighted the use of an anonymous email claiming vaccines were carcinogenic as a significant cause of the offensive. Hopefully complaints will at least be partly upheld.

    Secondly, I’m listening to the clip on – and many of the arguments are those echoed in your book, which on the whole I enjoyed. I do have one criticism though. Your arguments are mostly sound, and I don’t disagree that the media has misrepresented and sensationalised the whole MMR controversy. However, what I do take point with, is the notion that this started in the media. Let’s not forget that this story about a connection did start in the scientific community. It emanated from a peer reviewed journal – and probably one of the most respected of those, the Lancet! Has anyone ever investigated how the paper came to be published, or how it was found to merit a press conference? What did the reviewers make of it during the peer review process? Surely there was some failing in the whole system that led to this, because make no mistake the Lancet paper – no matter how often it has been discredited, denounced, retracted, etc. – was the spark. We aren’t talking about Patrick Holford or Gillian McKeith in the MMR case – this was a peer reviewed journal article, and I don’t think the blame can be laid solely on the media.

  40. shiroboshi said,

    February 11, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Here is a thought (not sure if anyone mentioned it yet):

    Is it worth raising this issue with LBC’s advertisers? Do they want to be associated with a station that is clearly so inept at handling sensitive matters? Is it worth pointing this out to them?
    Or would this be simply vindictive? (You know, like sending lawyers after people etc.)

    Anyone got a list of advertisers at LBC?

  41. garpal gumnut said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Jeni’s posts back to Feb 3 have disappeared from her site.

    Shame is creeping in and I think she has received the global message.


  42. mikewhit said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:01 am

    I presume there is a “legal” version of Godwin’s ‘law’ – whoever rolls out the lawyers to stop debate is deemed to have lost the argument …?

  43. philco said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Hi Chiggler,

    I got the same error message when I replied to Jonathan Richards’ obfuscations to my own email.

    I tried firstname.lastname, which didn’t give an error message, but didn’t get a reply either.

    I very much got the feeling that he was hacked off with the number of complaint emails he’d received for a program “broadcast over 4 weeks ago”

    Shouldn’t have mishandled it so badly then…

  44. calj said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I am a long time reader of Bad Science but, unless you dust off my unused maths degree, I am not a scientist. I have no time for alt med or MMR scaremongering. In fact I can’t understand why Ben thinks that homeopathy placebo could form a useful service within the NHS. I don’t believe that for one minute. These people are beyond our reach. We can only try to limit the effect that they have on others.

    I think it’s time to leave Jeni Barnett alone. I find this whole thing rather distasteful and akin to bullying. I hope the suggestions of harassing her either at work or at public events do not come to anything. I feel that a lot of angry people with no interest in MMR, or bad science in general, have jumped on this bandwagon simply to feel justified in giving someone a hard time.

    She surely won’t do it again and LBC (and perhaps other broadcasters) will be far more careful in the future. Hopefully Ben has learnt something from this too.

  45. philco said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I’ve just spotted this on James Whale’s blog on LBC

    “This man needs a round of applause and these hemp-bag carrying, sandal wearing mind altered hippies need to leave all us normal folk alone.”

    About a Northern Ireland Minister who blocked some climate change advertising.

    A troll to see if he can generate the same blogstorm as Jenni? He says in the same blog entry “I just wish we had followed France’s lead and gone nuclear years ago.” Which might help in combatting Global warming, which leads me to think troll.

    In addition, I remember James Whale from talk radio “oop North” as a teenager. One thing he isn’t is stupid. He’s been doing the talk radio game for a long time, and regularly filleted the ignorant and ill informed. A different class to Jenni.

  46. wickedissues said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:20 am

    On a lighter note, I tuned in to the JB show on Monday, when the topic under discussion was ‘SAD’ (you know, Seasonal Affective Disorder) and the guest was Alastair Campbell. JB opened by praising the excellent work done by a number of slebs in raising SAD awareness, being open, etc, etc. One of those name checked was … Stephen Fry!

  47. CarlottaVance said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:43 am

    38 Shiroboshi – see #36 – Great Minds and all that. I might even listen to Ms Barnett this afternoon to see who does advertise on her…..One watch out – if anyone does write, DO NOT threaten to boycott products – that is completely counter productive – more in sorrow than in anger is better: ‘I am surprised a responsible manufacturer such as XYZ would, however inadvertently, associate themselves with views which are putting children’s lives at risk, and ask you to bear this in mind next time you consider your advertising choices’….

    Interesting how they do things differently in the US – this is from the entry requirements of the Freehold Township Kindergarten:

    “Students must have all immunizations including four doses of DTP, three doses of polio vaccine, MMR, three doses of hepatitis B vaccine and one dose of varicella vaccine or a history of chicken pox”

  48. science_fox said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Just to say the EDM is no 754 by Lamb, Norman

    So that your MPs know what you are talking about.

  49. jasper said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:54 am

    MP duly requested to support EDM. Await his reply.

    Agree with SmartBlonde and Lizzie76. The grey areas are inevitable when trying to define and apply (hopefully) morally informed rules to complex areas of human activity, and sometimes it simply comes down who has the best legal team and the views of an individual judge.

    As an aside, anecdotal evidence only I know, but I think you’d be surprised at the number of lawyers who originally wanted to be medics! On the other hand, it’s clearly a slippery slope; look at the number of politicians who started as lawyers!

    Hopefully LBC/Global will take a broad view and realize that resorting to litigation will be seen as an attempt to stifle debate on an issue of huge public importance.

    Stephen Fry for Prime Minister!

  50. spk76 said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Well it seems a few more critical comments have managed to get on to her most recent non-MMR themed blog entry:

    Wonder who approves the comments before making them live?

  51. muscleman said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:12 pm


    Come to think of it most of the anti-MMR lot focous on measles. What’s the deal?

    In short Andrew Wakefield’s ‘research’. He claimed to find measles virus in the guts of kids with autism. The problem being the methods used to get these data mean he was certainly seeing contamination from the positive controls. This is why all the other authors of the infamous paper withdrew their names from it. The guy who did the actual experiments has dissociated himself from them.

    They don’t focus on mumps or rubella because no campaigning doctors with ethical issues decided to do uber sloppy rt-pcr for mumps or rubella sequences.

    BTW I have done enough pcr in my time to know that if you push it hard enough it will give you something that looks like what you want, which is why you always need bullet proof negative controls, of all sorts. They are tedious to set up though which is why they get left out.

  52. cybergibbons said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    The response from Jonathan Richards to my complaint:

    “The incident you refer to happened four weeks ago. The presenter was given robust feedback about her performance straight afterwards. She is entitled to have her own views but must present a balanced debate. Since then the subject of MMR has been discussed several times on LBC without any comment from bad science or any other quarter. At the time of the original broadcast I received three complaints. We take the subject of MMR and other public health matters extremely seriously.

    I’ll wait to hear from OFCOM. ”

    I also e-mailed: (Head of Production)

  53. huey said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    I love the comment on this audio about tv science docs making Ben want to ‘gnaw his own cock off’ out of boredom, which resonates with me – a lot of documentaries just will not get to the POINT! there’s a lot of unnecessary suspense.

    Having said that, there was a good Horizon on last night about dream research, which had a lot more of the actual scientists doing the talking, which Ben said he liked about Radio 4 science programming…

  54. James H said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    AS regards Jonathan Richards from LBC. I too got an email from him after I complained using their online form. I tried to reply and it was bounced back. I filled a further form, pointing out it was a little cowardly to send emails from a non-returnable address. He CLAIMED (in a second response to me) “I don’t know why it won’t return” but it now seems clear this has happened to others. Clearly he knows damn well he is using a non-returnable email address but like Jeni would rather fire off opinion and delete the criticism.

  55. cybergibbons said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I just e-mailed directly, which did not bounce.

    I’m not 100% sure of the Global Radio e-mails – it could just be that the domain accepts everything. I’m asking around to see if anyone has an internal Global Radio e-mail address so they can be contacted directly.

  56. longdehua said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Attack the argument not the person etc… but some (surviving) bits from JB’s blog were too good to avoid drawing attention to:

    About me:
    “I was told by an extremely intelligent journo that being sacked once is okay but being sacked three times is de riguer otherwise you ain’t worth the paper you’re suing. I have been sacked from pretty much every job I have done.”

    Random blog excerpt:
    “Everything squeaked this morning. The womans shoulder strap on her bag outside the Tate.

    Walked past the Tate Gallery.

    There were few people until I arrived on Millbank. Commuters walking in droves into offices. Nobody smiled.

    I bought a tub of oats and granola from Pret a Manger, they added steaming hot milk. Worra treat.

    I took a taxi home. The driver was originally from Canning Town. He told me how he used to jump off the cranes into the Thames when Canary Walk was flat. I tipped him hansomely for his conversation.

    A big day.

    Listen I am now a proper writer…’s very exciting….”

  57. penglish said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks, spk76, for this link:

    What wonderful comments! Here are some of them:

    6. At February 10, 2009 10:19 PM bob thebuilder wrote:

    Somehow, the entry you tried to comment on does not exist
    I got this message on your page about MMR, so am posting here. Luv ya Jen.
    “I would like some of my critics to try and run a three hour programme.” – You’re absolutely right, Jeni. What these ‘scientists’ fail to realize is just how difficult it can be filling 3 hours of air time on a subject for which you ‘do not have the facts at hand’ – it can’t have been easy for you and my heart goes out to you. These ‘scientists’ just want to take the easy route, studying 3 years for a degree in their subject, followed by another couple doing a master’s, slogging away in obscurity, with many hours wasted in blind alleys when research goes nowhere, and then when they do want a bit of glamour and get published, they are put under the scrutiny of their peers in their so called ‘peer reviewed’ journals before they can even get a word out. What a bunch of wasters. Wouldn’t medicine advance a bit faster if we just stuck a microphone in front of them and let them make it up as they go along? Hear, hear for you Jenny!

    7. At February 10, 2009 11:08 PM Mojojo Jojo wrote:

    You know dentists are all dreadful allopaths, and therefore in the pay of the man.

    They’ll have you full of big-pharma antibiotics without so much as a by-your-leave. Antibiotics have side-effects you know. What they don’t tell you, is that before dentists were invented, people never had bad teeth.

    It’s all a conspiracy. I think you’re very brave to speak out.

    8. At February 11, 2009 8:03 AM arthur brain wrote:

    It’s perfectly simple: you are not intellectually or educationally equipped to pass comment on vaccination, as proven by your ignorant, wrong, and dangerous opinions on the subject.

    And when somebody who *is* qualified to tell you about it, you quite evilly label them “vicious” for simply telling you the truth.

    Face it Jeni: you are quite clearly a moron, just like all those other morons who are currently causing measles and mumps epidemics in Europe as a result of their ill-informed views.

    9. At February 11, 2009 9:05 AM Johnny Boy wrote:

    I note that you are still having the audacity to have the word “honesty” on your blog, after claiming dishonestly that you were interested in a debate about MMR.

    Fortunately you still seem to have your live appearance coming up where people may be able to politely explain to you what harm you are doing with your refusal to apologise. I hope that you will have a think before then, and research the science, as it genuinely is pointing in only one direction.

  58. Vince Whirlwind said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Yeah – get into her guys – people who talk crap and kill kids deserve no mercy.
    Comment her Blog to death!

  59. calj said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    There is nothing “wonderful” about calling someone – however mistaken – “evil” or a “moron”. I wonder if Ben is in favour of these sorts of comments being left.

  60. gadgeezer said,

    February 11, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    #53, calj, judging by Ben’s words:

    We should remember that this is not about Jeni – and it goes without saying that you should not be abusive towards her – it’s about how her work on the 7th of January exemplified everything the media has done for ten years now to create a vaccine panic…

    So, not, I would have thought.

  61. mrmuz said,

    February 11, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    It’ll be interesting to see how they react to this. I doubt Jeni Barnett had anything to do with the legal biz, that’s just S.O.P from media corp lawyers these days (all those years at law school + articles etc to use Mail Merge on cease and desist letters).
    She could come out and say she’s been given a lot of food for thought and even run a couple of special shows so both sides can have it out (as there seems to be a big lack there. Although as Ben says in that journalism site interview, it’d take a radio show a day long to sort though all the things she got wrong. And then it’d take two days to sort though all the assorted sniping the antivaxxers would do to that day long show).
    I wish I was that much of an optimist. My money is on a show in a few weeks along the lines of
    ” Three weeks ago I was subject to an attack, an organised attack by people attempting to silence me. I did a show on peoples rights as parents to decide what goes into their children and the culture of fear surrounding that, which I think is fair enough. Now, I’m not a scientist, I admit that. But I ran afoul of the Bad Science brigade. And I was inundated, Inundated! with responses from all over the world who have nothing to do with me or this country. And I was scared. And it takes a lot to scare me, let me tell you. And This. Did.
    And it scares me to think that people like this will organise themselves at a moments notice to come after someone for merely speaking his or her mind. I think Noel spoke about this very issue the other night. Governments aren’t listening to people anymore, lines of communication are breaking down. And I think free speech is under threat in this country.
    June in Deptford, your thoughts on this…”

    And so it goes. The civil disobedience angle would be good at the start of a potential scare that’s getting too much coverage (Wi-Fi EMR perhaps?) but this seems too big and goes deeper into the UKs culturally entrenched alt-medicine (I say this from reeeally far away and just from reading around stuff I find here, so grain of salt and all that).
    The whole premise is defensiveness against percieved lies, coverups and bullying. And there any disgreement can be very easily construed as such. People digging their heels in against the evidence is like a minor act of self determination now.
    There’s a lot of playing it by ear to be done and a bit of righteous anger here and there is good (and proper). But this just developed a life of its own so I think pushing it would be a mistake.

  62. James H said,

    February 11, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Although I am in favour of a mass call-in to LBC I think it is VERY ill advised to attack Jeni. She is not evil and she is not stupid (though clearly she is ill-educated and ill-informed). Hate mail on her pages puts us in an extremely bad light. She’s dug herself a hole and doesn’t quite know how to go about getting out. This is about her comments on MMR but it is equally about the diproportionate response of LBC to Goldacre’s posting of the audio clip. Ad hominem attacks on her does him no good.

  63. CarsmileSteve said,

    February 11, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    EDM listed here:

    probably handy to refer one’s MP to “EDM 754 MMR Vaccine and the Media” rather than c&p the whole thing…

    also from the link above you can see who has signed.

  64. gadgeezer said,

    February 11, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Agreed, Jeni per se is almost irrelevant in this, except as a example of somebody who uses unevidenced arguments in a public place.

  65. pseudomonas said,

    February 11, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    A bit of a “me too”, but yeah. Jeni Barnett doesn’t need any further convincing about how we feel about things, and name-calling doesn’t make anyone look very dignified.

  66. colmcq said,

    February 11, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Fighting the fight and all that, It’s good to see JABS doing their level best to perpetuate the current anti-vax hysteria:

    This thread really bothers me more than most I’ve seen; my post will be taken down sharpish I suppose, but you gotta try.

  67. Logas2 said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    The Wright Stuff had a debate this morning on whether or not Parents should have to produce proof of vaccination before kids are allowed into school. Lowri Turner was on it and was awful.She started the show by announcing she had just qualified as a nutritional therapist and a hypnotherapist. Then when the debate came up dismissed herd immunity, and children unable to get the vaccine as reasons every child who can should have the jab. Then she pushed the single vaccines as an alternative to the MMR. Another ignoramous who should be put right.

  68. HolfordWatch said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Nobody’s parent or etiquette teacher but it is vitally important to address the arguments and not the person in circumstances such as this.

    Ben’s guidance seems very clear on this matter.

    A number of Bad Science bloggers will be wearily familiar with the grind of ad hominem to which they are subjected on a regular basis. Likewise the tedious accusations of being in the pay of Big Pharma or the blithe suggestions that most doctors or researchers are corrupt liars. Such accusations are not only untrue but wearisome – and that is their intent, to grind down by attrition rather than the use of reasoned argument.

    Some Bad Science bloggers know what it is like to shield a computer screen from other members of the family in case they see the latest barrage of emails that range from abuse to the occasional threat of severe bodily harm or worse because one chose to write about vaccination or a similarly contentious topic.

    This is not appropriate and it is difficult to conceive of any circumstances under which it would be.

    As Ben emphasises, the discussion is about public discourse and the standards of health and science journalism – both the ‘informed’ and opinion pieces.

  69. HolfordWatch said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Under the heading of stuff that those with the moral high ground don’t do:

    1 Dr Ginger Campbell is experiencing a flood of unpleasant email for even interviewing Dr Paul Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets about vaccine safety.

    2 Some of you will know that Kevin Leitch removed his blog for a while because a certain individual was posting deeply repugnant material concerning Kev’s child.

    3 Paul Offit and other vaccine researchers have been subjected to death threats serious enough to require some security measures.

    4 Many of you will be familiar with Ben Goldacre’s own zealous crew of commenters who follow his postings only to post their own, off-topic enthusiasms that tend to be riddled with ad hominem attacks.

    There is nothing to be gained from abandoning the moral high ground – although there will always be occasional lapses of judgment and taste.

    There is a lot of material available for people who can contribute something by learning about the issues so that they might answer some of the questions that they come across. JB’s canards and Wakefield’s response to Deer contain links to many further sources.

  70. gimpyblog said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    HolfordWatch makes a good point about abuse. I myself have been subjected to a great deal, particularly from homeopaths. I tolerate most of it because it is a good way of indicating the level of debate to which people can sink. It would be a shame if the vast majority of polite, if firm, posts on Jeni’s blog were to be ignored by Jeni in favour of the small number of abusive posts. This might give an opportunity to muddy the waters by citing only the abuse in any response.

  71. muscleman said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks for the link. I know what Ben means when he complains that there is nothing on the box worth watching. I flicked back and forth from the sleep docu last night, but didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. I was over on BBC4 watching the Pif, Paf, Pof episode of Flying High for the first half for eg. Then it was over to the History Channel for an episode of Reilly Ace of Spies for the writing and acting even though I’ve seen it several times before.

    Better than some silly wibble about a detective who is a psychic or who investigates ghosties and goulies. It’s getting chronic that schtick. If it wasn’t for the digital channels showing really good old stuff and the sport I wouldn’t watch tv.

    Mind you I did like the first Moses Jones, missed the second, red button time.

  72. ianrs1967 said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Jonathan Richards absurd reply to my (relatively, ok quite strong) complaint, and my reply to him (which bounced, naturlich). Also,I wonder if m’learned friends could construe this line: ‘But Ben’s done a great job for his site, whilst allowing Jeni Barnett (60 year old woman) to now face abuse from his followers’ as defamatory?’ Just a thought. Actually, probably not, but this is LBC’s current strawman, as others have pointed out. Also the sexism and ageism are simply marvellous.

    All power to the great leader, who must I now abuse?? Sorry, don’t know what came over me.

    ———- Forwarded message
    Date: Feb 10, 2009 6:26 PM
    Subject: Re: Website: Feedback and Complaints
    To: LBC Complaints

    I hardly know where to begin with this unpleasant reply. Are you implying that if you’d been asked you would have consented to the use of the audio? If so it seems harsh to be threatening legal action because of a ‘breach of etiquette’. Very public spirited.

    ‘Allowing Jeni Barnett (insert ageist and sexist descriptor here) to now face abuse from his followers’ : are you implying he has in any way encouraged abuse? and you’re the one threatening legal action? A pitiful strawman comment. And as for abuse??? Have you looked at the modern media? Have you listened to how radio talk show hosts talk to guests they don’t agree with? And are really saying that you value the delicate sensibilities of a presenter who has publicly argued in favour of a course of action which has massively disrupted a major public health project over the the proper way to conduct public discourse over health? Over the children with mumps or the adults who will get it with even more unpleasant results in the future. Over the children for whom measles proves to be fatal?

    And more importantly, you and media people like you continually and untruthfully talk about ‘balance’ and ‘having a debate’ when the evidence for a ‘debate’ doesn’t exist! There are no proven or likely harms from the MMR vaccine, and there never were.

    And someone who actually wants to present the truth to the public about subjects like this is threatened with legal action because a radio programme is put onto a website. shameless. And to repeat, your answer is a shallow disgrace.

    On 2/9/09, LBC Complaints wrote:
    We’ve had countless debates on MMR since this particular broadcast, we
    should have been asked for permission to use the audio. Simple as that,
    a matter of etiquette. A matter of putting things properly into context.
    But Ben’s done a great job for his site, whilst allowing Jeni Barnett (
    60 year old woman) to now face abuse from his followers.

    Jonathan Richards
    Programme Director LBC News 1152 & LBC 97.3
    Group Head of News Global Radio

    —–Original Message—–
    Sent: 08 February 2009 20:00
    To: LBC Complaints
    Subject: Website: Feedback and Complaints

    whilst I think Jeni Barnett’s anti-MMR show was deceitful and
    ridiculous, how can LBC justify a legal threat to someone broadcasting
    her words and fallacies in the interest of improving knowledge of public
    health issues? It is entirely disproportionate and implies that LBC
    prefers to pursue minor infractions of copyright than to improve public
    health and knowledge about public health issues.

  73. Rachel said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Oh no; people are throwing abuse? That only undermines the assertion that those on ‘this side’ of the wall are rationalists who base their opinions on evidence. Maintain the moral high ground indeed.

    By the way Ben – “renaissance” means “rebirth” :-)

  74. iantanner said,

    February 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Interesting to read in yesterday’s Education Guardian that most (all?) American States have a ‘No Jab, No School’ law and,as a result, vacination rates easily exceed 90% (there are let-out clauses).
    Perhaps we should be campaigning for the same here?

  75. scotslawstudent said,

    February 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    “To me that’s not just unhealthy, it also feels eerily unfamiliar, to come across an industry where so many key players seem to have a paradoxical interest in making things not work.”

    I don’t agree that it’s like that – I think you will find it much more familiar if you think of the issue being that small facts can change the outcome dramatically.

    The grey area isn’t because a man in a wig needs to flip a coin and say the rich person wins, it’s simply because some of the facts (which we, the public, don’t fully know just because it’s not possible to know everything about a situation without going into extreme depth) will affect the judge’s reasoning to a lesser or greater extent and all that someone who is not in possession of all the facts and arguments from both sides can do is to outline the framework law which will be applied and run it with the facts that are public knowledge and give a “probably” analysis.

  76. evolicious said,

    February 11, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Commentors here and elsewhere on this matter (including you, Mr Fry!): it is distressing to see the word “woman” used as implying a further level of criticism. Possibly most people do not even realise that they are employing the term in this way, but it is only when the object of discourse is female do people use the gender-specific term in things like:

    “this woman …”

    “the Jeni Barnett woman’s …”

    “this [insert your negative adjective of choice] woman”

    It is highly unusual to see “man” used in this sort of fashion. If you’re writing this in a comment, please stop and think about why it is that you’re not using “person”. Would you use the word “man” in that same way?

    Disclaimer: This is in absolutely positively no way meant to be construed as support for Jeni Barnett, she is an idiot. It is nitpicking about subtle sexist bias in language.

  77. biggerpills said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    After my blog was posted in the list above I checked my stats and found I’d had a couple of whois lookups around the same time. This seemed a bit odd, given that on the site I state that I’m an *ex*-PR- ie, someone who no longer has much influence over the media and isn’t worth suing!

    Interesting though… has anyone else found themselves being looked up? Anyone had personal attacks as a result?

  78. Thomas Greenan said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    My personal reaction to the civil disobedience thing is that it probably would lose moral high ground, and that it would be a bad idea (although if LBC repeatedly did this kind of thing it might change my mind).

    Good luck, it’s really heartening to see people rallying around like this.

  79. The Biologista said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Is there any update on the status of that early day motion? It must have caused some consternation at LBC to see the matter taken so very far.

    @biggerpills: I would guess the whois lookups are some very half-hearted and amateurish sleuthing attempts by some upset anti-vaxxers. Usually, there’s very little they can really determine from such a check.

  80. dadge said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Although the media has done a terrible job in reporting about MMR over the last ten years, most of the responsibility for the fiasco lies with the medical establishment. I wrote to Tony Blair back in 2002 to complain about the pisspoor response to Wakefield. Between them, the Department of Health, the NHS and the GMC could’ve done a much better job of countering the scaremongering. I hope that between them they will learn their lesson.

  81. biggerpills said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    @The Biologista: the whois lookups won’t give away much at all in my case! Hosting a site in the US can have its advantages 😉

    I was just surprised as it just seemed such a petty thing to do. The anti-vaxxers must think I’m a senior exec for BIG PHARMA writing a blog with childish category titles as a cover. Little do they know I’m a lowly temp saving up to go back to uni and that in a year’s time suing me may be even less worthwhile! Do you think someone out there is going through Holfordwatch’s list and compiling a dossier on us all?

  82. soveda said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Ben, thanks for the link, I’m not mainstream enough to have had abusive emails yet but I’d echo the comments about doing unto others as you would have them do.

  83. soveda said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    P.S. Does that make of part of the posse now?

  84. Jimms said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Anyone else noticed noticed the “nerdy url fun” you can have with the LBC feedback form?

  85. jonnyroberts said,

    February 11, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Might be worth sending polite letters to the members of the board of global radio:

    As well as everything you’ve said about the potential damage to public health caused by Jeni’s broadcast, the letter could suggest something along the lines that it undermines their support of children’s charities:

    And perhaps suggest to them that they make donation to a relevant charity. e.g.:

    Keep up the good work!

    Jonny Roberts

  86. kerledan said,

    February 12, 2009 at 5:31 am

    CarsmileSteve gave us the link to the EDM on MMR and the Media…..

    Only 5 MPs have signed, so far……

    I’ve asked mine to sign and to say why not if he declines…..

  87. The Biologista said,

    February 12, 2009 at 11:17 am

    @biggerpills: You should feel honoured that the fanatics have noticed you! I’m not getting any whois lookups and I am very disappointed.

  88. kerledan said,

    February 12, 2009 at 11:36 am

    19 MPs now, so 14 more since 0531 this morning…..

  89. Mongoose said,

    February 12, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    There is still a debate to be had about MMR safety:

    Authors’ conclusions
    The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate. The
    evidence of adverse events following immunisation with MMR cannot be separated from its role in preventing the target diseases.

  90. kpartner said,

    February 12, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I’m sure the MMR vaccine is, by any reasonable definition, safe. However, it is not helpful to counter scaremongering about the vaccine by scaremongering about the dangers of the diseases. I am utterly fed up with being unable to get sensible, rational information from either side of the debate.

    If I read the graphs above correctly, in the 1960s there were up to 800,000 cases per year whereas last year there were 1,300 so let’s get this in perspective.

    For me as a parent the ONLY rational reason I can think of for giving my child the vaccine is to help society by preventing the diseases it protects against becoming as prevalent as they were in the 1960s. As far as I can tell, there is a miniscule chance of my child getting any of these diseases and practically ZERO chance of any serious damage or death resulting.

    A campaign focused on appealing to our social responsibility rather than patronising us with tiny probabilities (as set against the very real upset that is involved in administering the vaccine) would be more likely to succeed.

    As I said, I am certain that MMR is safe, it’s just that there seems to be nowhere to go for sensible, balanced debate. Not least because of ignorant journalists looking for scare stories about the vaccine.

    Give me the facts:
    1) what is the percentage chance of a 3 year old getting measles or mumps?
    2) what is the percentage chance of any serious damage resulting?
    3) what is the percentage chance of adverse reaction to the virus?
    4) what would happen if MMR vaccine takeup continued at current levels?

    Anyone know the answers? I’m a rational, intelligent man with a Science degree and I don’t have any strong opinion on either side of the debate.

  91. HolfordWatch said,

    February 12, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Special Court for Autism Omnibus Hearings does not find that MMR or other causations were credible.

    Details of the petitioners’ attempt to exclude the authoritative testimony from Professor Stephen Bustin concerning the conditions at the laboratory whose results underpinned the flaws in Andrew Wakefield’s research.

  92. GlennF said,

    February 12, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    In Washington State, parents may opt out of vaccinations by simply declaring they have a religious reason for doing so.

    While a great supporter of separation of church and state here, and without the desire to subject people to undue persecution or questioning about their faith, it seems that this method of allowing a vaccination to be skipped should be removed and replaced with something like what was used for conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War.

    In that case, to plead that you didn’t believe and war and would not fight (without getting jail time), you had to present some evidence of the firmness of your beliefs over time, such as a statement by a religious figure, counselor, etc.

    I would argue that the public benefit from vaccination is demonstrably so high, that to take a pass on vaccination for your children, in whose future the state has an interest in protecting, you should have to submit a detailed statement explaining in strictly faith-based terms how vaccination violated your religious beliefs, backed up by a statement from another person not related to you.

    If you’re a freethinker, fine: you write a statement of freethinkingness. But you present that statement to a public health official who provides an explanation of vaccination and answers questions.

    I suspect with a bar like that, people with genuine religious disagreements (such as Christian Scientists) would clearly be able to find the exemption they sought, but overwrought parents would be unable to do so.

    I have two children. With the uncertainty about thimerosol, I made sure that vaccines they were given lacked mercury (although a few years later, I believe that no link has been demonstrated), and those vaccines were available in the form.

  93. GlennF said,

    February 12, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    @89 kpartner: “As far as I can tell, there is a miniscule chance of my child getting any of these diseases and practically ZERO chance of any serious damage or death resulting.”

    Actually, that argument only works when looking in the past with high vaccination uptake, not into the future, with low uptake.

    There is now a probably 1 in 10 or higher chance in Britain (and in my state of Washington in the US) that your child will at some point in their childhood be in contact with someone with an infectious disease that could have been prevented by vaccination.

    I’m making that 1 in 10 odds up out of partial cloth, because the odds aren’t miniscule, but they aren’t huge, either. I’ve been reading about outbreaks of things like pertussis around the U.S., and it’s pretty clear what the trend is.

    By vaccinating your children, you’re giving them some substantial edge of protection against an outbreak. The consequences of contracting M, M, or R are extremely high; the risks are now far above non-zero; the downside of the MMR vaccine appears to be vanishingly low (but not zero).

    Thus, the logical course is to benefit your own child, and, incidentally, increase the benefit to society. You can be entirely selfish about this one.

    If vacc. rates go back up to the high 90s, then there is less of an argument to be made for vaccination for any individual, but then you slip down this slope again.

  94. JohnED said,

    February 12, 2009 at 8:04 pm


    As Yasmin said to Jeni, go to the NHS website. Clear informative impartial advice.

  95. used to be jdc said,

    February 12, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    I emailed my MP (who was seemingly unaware of the content of the LBC broadcast) to ask him to sign the EDM. I’ve also pointed him in the direction of the transcripts of the show.

  96. ama said,

    February 12, 2009 at 10:29 pm


    It is of no use to send Jeni Barnett anything like emails, faxes, letters or to try to talk with her.

    These people will NEVER understand. We often had discussions about talking WITH people.

    After the years all our fellows came to the conclusion that we were right from the beginning: The only way to handle esotters is to write ABOUT them.

    In her own regime Jeni Barnett can ignore and erase everything. But in the free world she can’t. And this is it.


    You need sound and clear rhetoric strategies to deal with slimy ghosts. In a verbal discussion there is nearly never the possibility to stop them and to point out all neccessary items. In a WRITTEN thing, like a forum, web-page or blog (if that is admin-ed correctly) you can dissect point for point everything the slime said, wrote, or did.

    As an example: Jeni Barnett duck out like Jehova’s Witnesses when talking with persons who KNOW some real facts about vaccination.
    So is was neither possible for Yasmin not the doctor to get her on the point of infectuosity.

    Jeni Barnet claims that anyone with a good health can withstand an infection with measles. But the truth is: Before the age of 14, about 97 percent of the population DO GET MEASLES — if un-vaccinated.

    Now, does Jeni Barnett want to tell in public, that 97 percent of the population are in bad health? Does she belong to a super-tough minority, or special species, or what!?

    Jeni Barnett continously spits out bullshit and bullies the persons she has on the phone. If she is cornered, she pulls the plug.

    Each of her wrong statements and twists and bully attacks must be made public.


    It is very tiring to wade through lenthgy discussions.
    The rethoric used must be short and precise “on the spot”. A blog is not the right technical tool for such. A forum or a real web-page is suited much better.

    All the items of the readio broadcast should be PIECE FOR PIECE analyzed.

    This analysis still is missing.

    Right now we have many blogs, etc. which cover parts of the transcript and some comments. But the COMPLETE analysis still waits to be done. So, please, try to make it.

    If you want, you can do it in the TG-1, which has no space limits (except for the lenght of a forum post and of a subject line). Or do it in another forum. But, please, do the “kitchenwork” of getting a clean and readable text about the “Affaire Jeni Barnett”.

    Thank you

    watchdogs at the TG-1
    ( )

  97. HolfordWatch said,

    February 12, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    #95 ama – the transcripts have been distributed onto several blogs to facilitate analysis by people with different interests and expertise.

    We have put some rebuttals of some of Jeni’s anti-vaccination statements and ideas at HolfordWatch. We link both to academic papers and other blogs with analysis of particular topics or sections. It is a post with a reasonable set of resources that might assist other people who are able to make a closer analysis.

    We have Part 1 of the initial blog reaction to this story – because we were working quickly in the early hours after the story broke, the first 50 or so links aren’t annotated. The remainder of the links in the round-up and in the 2nd round-up (which is still being updated) are annotated and should indicate which posts are reaction and which contain some form of analysis and on what topic.

    We would be delighted if people used these as a resource to perform a closer analysis of the call, or to identify typical canards and to gather together appropriate answers and links to be able to respond with them if they should come across them on a message board or similar.

    The comments on Jeni’s blog posts probably contain a fair amount of analysis and some useful resources if people were willing to pull them together.

  98. ama said,

    February 13, 2009 at 1:15 am

    I am terribly sorry, but that stuff is unreadable.

    To give you an example:

    The original texts are in English and the analysis is in German, but you will understand what it is about.

    POINT 1:

    Please do make quotations in PRINTABLE CHARACTERS. E.g. like this:


    quoted text


    It looks a bit awkward, but it is about the only means to fight forum and other scripts to mess up these quotation markers.

    The “*” are neccessary to prevent the interpration by the scripts. The scripts would else kill these markers and convert to HTML commands.

    That might look nice, but when copying with cut+paste all HTML stuff is omitted, so the whole text and it contexts are garbled.

    Using our markers will enable anyone to copy from whereever to anywhere else without losing the contexts.

    In dealing with quotations it is of utmost importance to keep the contexts and to PRECISELY differentiate between originals (quoted texts) and the comments, etc.

    POINT 2:

    An original has to be dissected line by line. Otherwise you in most of the cases end up with some spaghettis covered all over the place – exactly what the blogs made of it.

    In the TG-1 we dumped some of the blog stuff. We did not care for the links in it, we only took the text as attracts and urge all readers to follow the source links above the texts.

    So, what we have is not readable.

    We were and are working on other topics and all our time goes there. So we do not have the time for a line by line analysis.

    We now will take the transcripts and put them into on thread, so that the readers will get a COMPLETE overview in ONE PIECE.

    I invite you all to join us.

    To easy addressing, we were donated a domain:


  99. ama said,

    February 13, 2009 at 2:03 am

    Okay, here we go:

  100. HolfordWatch said,

    February 13, 2009 at 8:25 am

    #ama97, it would seem that nobody else has the time or motivation to carry out the sort of exacting work that you specify.

    The transcripts were segmented for fair dealing reasons. I gather than complete transcripts are available in several places by people who are less concerned about such matters.

    Yes, of course a line-by-line analysis would be interesting however, Jeni’s phone call is interesting for reasons other than its actual content.

    I repeat again that we the transcripts and rebuttals exist for other people to use if they wish.

    I am pleased that your method of working is obviously working for you when responding to other contentious issues.

  101. HolfordWatch said,

    February 13, 2009 at 8:27 am

    #ama97, it would seem that nobody else has the time or motivation to carry out the sort of exacting work that you specify.

    The transcripts were segmented for fair dealing reasons. I gather than complete transcripts are available in several places by people who are less concerned about such matters.

    Yes, of course a line-by-line analysis would be interesting however, Jeni’s phone call is interesting for reasons other than its actual content.

    I repeat again that we the transcripts and rebuttals exist for other people to use if they wish.

    I am pleased that your method of working is obviously working for you and you group when responding to other contentious issues.

  102. kpartner said,

    February 13, 2009 at 11:24 am

    OK, I’ve been to the NHS site and here is a classic example of the manipulation of figures that winds me up so much:

    “About one in every 1000 immunised children may have a fit caused by a fever. This is called a ‘febrile convulsion’. However, if a child who has not been immunised gets measles, they are five times more likely to have a fit.”

    So, if I have my child immunised, there’s a 1 in 1,000 chance of a convulsion resulting from it. OK, clear enough.

    It’s the next line that’s the problem. Apparently, if my child gets measles, there’s aa 1 in 200 chance of a convulsion.

    The key part of that line being IF. Given that there were 1,000 cases of measles in 2008 and there are approx 10 million children in the UK, that would seem to indicate a risk factor (per year) of 1 in 10,000 of my child getting measles and therefore 1 in 2,000,000 of my child getting convulsions if he DOESN’T have the vaccine compared with 1 in 1,000 if he DOES.

    In other words, he is 2,000 times more likely to have a convulsion if he had the vaccine than if he doesn’t.

    I am NOT suggesting that this is a good reason for not having the vaccine because a 1 in 1,000 chance is still a pretty long shot and I don’t imagine the long term consequences of a convulsion are serious.

    My argument is that, on both sides of the debate, figures are given that are not directly comparable but the wording suggests they are.

    Whether a particular child has the vaccine or not, the chances of something bad happening are very remote. Therefore, the vaccine programmes should be seen and promoted as a social duty rather than via scaremongering about an individual risk

  103. Daveip said,

    February 13, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    My daughter had her first dose of MMR vaccine at the recommended age.

    She contracted measles about two months before her third birthday. It’s a notifiable disease in Malaysia, as I think it is in the UK, so we knew there was a bit of an outbreak in our area. Because the uptake rate is generally quite low, so there is no herd immunity.

    Fortunately, my girl barely noticed there was anything wrong with her, and her brother, 16 months younger, escaped completely. I really pity parents who are unable to vaccinate their chilren, either because of lack of provision, money (it’s free to Malaysian children, but not to foreigners’), etc, but to be denied because of brainwashing is absolutely despicable.

  104. HolfordWatch said,

    February 13, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    #102 kpartner, one of the issues discussed in the Sense Position Statement is that of the perception of relative risk.

    An immunisation strategy can only ever be effective if there is mass uptake, meaning that choice between single vaccines and MMR cannot be part of an effective vaccination programme. One of the difficulties with MMR uptake is that, while the prevalence of measles, mumps and rubella in the UK is low, the incentive to vaccinate can appear less. From the perspective of an individual parent, the risk of their child contracting an infectious disease can seem small compared with the risk of possible (or perceived) adverse reactions to immunisation. However, this is only true if vaccination levels remain high. It is actually the counter-argument to this view that is the rationale for vaccination programmes – that the risk of vaccine damage is extremely low compared with the risk of the ill-effects of contracting the disease.

    One of the difficulties in calculating likelihood or comparative risk figures is that there are so many imponderables. If an individual child is not vaccinated but lives in a community of vaccinated people or those with natural immunity, then the chances of contracting measles may be very small.

    However, if a larger number of parents decide not to vaccinate their children and they freely attend places others congregate (schools, public transports, shops etc.) then those children are more likely to come in contact with the measles virus and develop it seems that Measles is so contagious that every child with measles infects 15 others (pdf). There are possibly some models of contagion building into epidemics depending on the unvaccinated % or non-immune percentage of the community but, offhand, I don’t know them.

    As a wider point that might seem irrelevant to the individual but a shared social responsibility, Angus mentions his child with leukaemia in another thread. There are more children surviving with leukaemia or similar and it is important for them that there is a reliable degree of herd immunity. In May 2008, Professor Salisbury sent out a memo, CEM/CMO/2008/07, in which he reminded people of the importance of vaccination and herd immunity for protecting such individuals.

    cannot emphasise enough the risk that measles presents to immunosuppressed individuals, particularly children. Between 1974 and 1984, of 51 children who died when in the first remission from acute lymphatic leukaemia, 15 of the deaths were due to measles or its complications. While the incidence of measles has declined since then and the coverage of measles-containing vaccine has increased, there have been about 1000 confirmed cases reported in England and Wales in the last 12 months. There are ongoing outbreaks in other European countries.

    MMR vaccine cannot be given to immunosuppressed individuals, so their protection is dependent on avoiding exposure to the virus.

  105. mikewhit said,

    February 13, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    If your child has signs of a fever (check temperature using a proper thermometer as well as other symptoms) they should be given an antipyretic such as paracetamol to avoid ‘febrile convulsions’ that are due to “brain overtemp alarm”, IIRC.

    You can get this as ‘own brand’ syrup or if you want to pay a bit more for the same stuff, ‘Carpol’.

  106. biggerpills said,

    February 13, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Dr Michael Fitzpatrick on the MMR scare:

  107. mikewhit said,

    February 15, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Sorry, my last posting about reducing fevers was addressed to ‘kpartner’, when they said “children may have a fit caused by a fever. This is called a ‘febrile convulsion'”

  108. mikewhit said,

    February 17, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Looks as if the EDM signature count has topped out at 28 – unless MPs have a frenzy of reading at the end of half-term … maybe BS readers do not come from a wide-enough selection of constituencies …?

    Or perhaps the rest are Jeni-fans.

  109. kristenSF said,

    February 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    I contacted my MP (through your very handy link) and I received a letter yesterday from him to let me know that he has signed the EDM!

  110. used to be jdc said,

    February 19, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    I’ve left a comment on my blog post about LBC noting the activism suggestion re a letter to the board of Global Radio.

    The EDM: My MP has told me he won’t sign the EDM as he “doesn’t feel comfortable with it” – despite apparently agreeing with the points I made.

  111. joemyerscough said,

    February 20, 2009 at 12:10 am

    If anybody is interested, here is a piece that I produced for Roundhouse Radio’s ‘Art Attack’ on the now infamous Jeni Barnett broadcast…

  112. biggerpills said,

    February 20, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Heheheh, just seen this has made it into this week’s Popbitch email. The story doesn’t look too convincing though…

  113. MattWPBS said,

    February 20, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I’d think that the phone in ‘blockade’ would be a good idea. Put them under the sort of pressure that the editorial side can really understand and make their lives difficult. Keep it up until they agree to Jeni hosting a segment in the same timeslot discussing the evidence and redressing the issues that could be caused by something like this.

  114. monkeychicken said,

    February 20, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    I have a few questions…..

    What about freedom of speech?

    Who is to blame for the rise in measles….

    -the anti-MMR lobby and the scientifically illiterate media?

    -the scientific community for failing to adequately engage the media and the public?

    -parents who do not have the skills to weigh up conflicting advice when making choices for their children?

    -the scientific community, the minister for health and the NHS refusing to be pragmatic by permitting the vaccines to be provided separately at a limited extra cost?

  115. drjazzz said,

    February 20, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    “Looking at the graphs posted above, I am wonderfully intrigued to know where his 99.4% figure comes from”

    Daniel Rendall, it is measles deaths that declined by that figure before vaccination. The pro-vaccine camp (of which we can include Goldacre) always sticks to disease incidence graphs. However that may not reveal the ‘taming’ of an illness which may occur due to improved living conditions.

    As far as autism goes what the pro-vaccinists won’t tell you is that autism just isn’t known to develop in the unvaccinated – the unvaccinated Amish don’t get it, and the Somalian children entering Minneapolis get it in very high levels along with their vaccines but none of them had it before arrival – and when Kanner discovered it in the late 1930s he proclaimed no-one had seen it before.

    All the evidence I’ve seeen showing that MMR doesn’t cause autism simply shows that it causes it at no greater rate than the measles vaccine it replaced.

    One has to be very careful of bad science on both sides of this debate! tread and research carefully.

  116. used to be jdc said,

    February 20, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    @drjazzz: “the unvaccinated Amish don’t get it”.

    Really? Are you sure about that?
    See this post and/or this one. See also:

  117. used to be jdc said,

    February 20, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Your first question – What about freedom of speech? What about the idea being responsible and taking care to find out the facts before you make pronouncements about medical treatments to a large audience?
    Second question – FWIW, I’d say it’s the anti-MMR lobby and the scientifically illiterate media that bear most responsibility for the rise in measles.

  118. teej said,

    February 21, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    I wrote to my MP about the EDM and have just received a reply. It seems to be trying to convince me of the safety of MMR and doesn’t even mention the EDM. It would appear they didn’t even bother to read my letter. Apparently theydon’tworkforme after all.

  119. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 21, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    if people are given the brush off by their MPs can they please post their names here?

  120. ACH said,

    February 22, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Cheryl Gillan, Conservative MP for Chesham & Amersham. Said she’d “look into it, speak to the minister responsible and get back to me” No further response and has not yet signed the EDM.

  121. gadgster said,

    February 22, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    I wrote to my local MP, Mike Peinning, who is Shadow Minister for Health.

    He wrote back saying that he had signed the EDM.

    He’s not on the list of signatories here

    I’ve written again asking him if he’s *sure* he signed.

  122. mikewhit said,

    February 23, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    EDM count stuck at 28 …

  123. mikewhit said,

    February 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    “As far as autism goes what the pro-vaccinists won’t tell you is that autism just isn’t known to develop in the unvaccinated” – so which vaccines are being implied here – autism has been observed at least throughout the 20th century and well before MMR was introduced in the last decade or so.

    Smallpox ? Polio ?

    At least this is a testable hypothesis, disprovable by autism diagnosis in an unvaccinated Amish person.

  124. used to be jdc said,

    February 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Philip Davies, Conservative.

  125. Irate_Joe said,

    February 23, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Joan Ruddock, my MP, has not even responded to my letter asking her to sign the EDM. According to her information on “” she has never signed an EDM!

    pretty fekked off with her right now…

  126. gadgster said,

    February 23, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Joan Ruddock is a in the Goverment, Under-Secretary of State at the newly created Department of Energy and Climate Change.

    According to the guide to Early Day Motions here:

    “Ministers and whips do not normally sign EDMs.  Under the Ministerial Code, Parliamentary Private 
    Secretaries “must not associate themselves with particular groups advocating special policies”, and 
    they do not normally sign EDMs.  Neither the Speaker nor Deputy Speakers will sign EDMs.  Internal 
    party rules may also affect who can sign early day motions.”

    Still, should at least reply to you.

  127. Irate_Joe said,

    February 24, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Ahh, Thanks for the info. I guess I will let her off on that one then.

    I agree she should have replied though. Perhaps she will reply to my letter asking her why she didn’t reply to the last one….

  128. drjazzz said,

    February 24, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    from mikewhit:

    “As far as autism goes what the pro-vaccinists won’t tell you is that autism just isn’t known to develop in the unvaccinated” – so which vaccines are being implied here – autism has been observed at least throughout the 20th century and well before MMR was introduced in the last decade or so.

    Smallpox ? Polio ?

    At least this is a testable hypothesis, disprovable by autism diagnosis in an unvaccinated Amish person.


    exactly! it is all vaccines that must be under suspicion.

    Dr Viera Scheibner and Browyn Hancock wrote in 2001:

    “You might even ask on email lists if there are any unvaccinated children that have developed autism, and you may get back a negative response. We ourselves have only been able to find 2 such cases, and in each case there was another clearly identifiable immune assault. We have found NO case of it developing in a previously healthy unvaccinated child.”

    As far as I am aware, this is absolutely the case and that medical science knows of no such child, whether Amish, Somalian, or any other.

    All the evidence held to prove that MMR doesn’t cause autism shows at best that it causes it at not much greater rate than the measles vaccine it replaced.

  129. Irate_Joe said,

    February 25, 2009 at 1:56 pm


    “….We have found NO case of it developing in a previously healthy unvaccinated child… …As far as I am aware, this is absolutely the case and that medical science knows of no such child, whether Amish, Somalian, or any other.”

    So wrong I don’t know where to start.

    Here is an example you may be familiar with. Cedillo v. HHS (Autism Omnibus Proceedings).

    “Analysis of the record, especially certain videos, demonstrates that
    Michelle was exhibiting symptoms of autism even prior to the MMR
    vaccination in question.”

    Autistic spectrum disorders are complicated and diagnosis [of Autism] is not straightforward, however, in this highly publicised case, Autism experts clearly diagnosed autistic spectrum symptoms prior to vaccination.

    ref –

  130. mikewhit said,

    February 25, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    “exactly! it is all vaccines that must be under suspicion.”

    However, the converse does not hold, i.e. if you cannot find any autistic children that were unvaccinated, that does not indicate that vaccination causes autism.

    And the sample population of unvaccinated children must be much smaller in many countries.

    An interesting TV programme a few years ago on autism suggested that tracking eye movements of children while showing them images of scenes containing people and objects showed correlation for autism diagnosis in terms of amount of attention paid to faces as opposed to objects – the autistic children seemed to pay equal attention to objects and faces whereas the non-autistic showed a preference for faces.

    I don’t know if anything more came of that, but it would certainly allow a more objective before-and-after study to be performed.

    It might be that the cases that the anti-vaxers allege occurred, were those cases in which the correlation with autism was already present, in which case they are simply arguing post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

  131. Irate_Joe said,

    February 25, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Generation Rescue, Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccination propoganda machine, even conducted a (seriously flawed) survey in an attempt to show that vaccinated children have a higher prevelance of Autism and other neurological conditions. The survey is even named “the Cal-Oregon Vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated Survey”. That unvaccinated children develop Autism is implicit in the design of the survey itself!

    I will link to Generation Rescue’s discussion of its survey out of politeness. Please disregard their bogus analysis.

    Amusingly, another analysis of the results of this same survey show that unvaccinated girls [participating in the survey] are almost 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders than vaccinated girls {participating in the survey) and 15 times more likely than girls in the general population. Something is obviously rotten here but it smells of statistics to me so I will let more competent minds explain.

  132. Plato-says said,

    February 25, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Dugg :)

    Keep up the good work.

  133. drjazzz said,

    February 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    irate joe, we’re talking here not of a children born with ASD, but of a child that appears completely without any ASD and then develops full, classic autism – there are many, many parents that see this happen following a vaccination shot. But this is what, as far as I am aware, is absolutely not known to happen should the child receive no vaccines whatsoever, unless there’s an alternative immune assault which can be readily indentified.

    Hence the importance of the word ‘develop’ in the sentence I quoted.

  134. plastictastic said,

    February 25, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Received a letter from my MP (Conservative) today in response to asking him to sign the EDM. He hasn’t signed the EDM.

    “Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the MMR vaccine.
    The overwhelming evidence points to the MMR vaccine being safe, and any claims to
    the contrary have never been proven.
    Any vaccination programme must be not only safe and effective, but must also
    command public confidence. This is why the Conservative Party have called in the
    past for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to take
    decisions as to which immunisations people should receive.
    On a related point, whilst MMR vaccination rates remain high, I believe that it is not
    the right time to call for the introduction of single vaccines. Indeed, single vaccines
    are not currently available on the NHS, and no single vaccine currently available has
    been licensed. However, my Party has made clear in the past that if vaccination rates
    fall below the critical point where herd immunity can no longer be guaranteed, the
    Government has a responsibility to examine the case and effectiveness for the
    introduction of single vaccines on the NHS.
    Thank you for writing to me on this issue.

  135. mikewhit said,

    February 26, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Did you just ask “sign this motion” or did you introduce the issue before asking ?

    That response from your MP doesn’t really say anything much and does not give a reason as to why he might not sign up.

  136. mikewhit said,

    February 26, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Just for the record, there must be data for unvaccinated children who have suffered the actual illnesses concerned and then “gone on to develop” neurological problems – any stats there ?

  137. puck said,

    February 26, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Hate to be a proverbial spanner but it isn’t about the media but about the issue of vaccination. What Jenni says needs to be looked at seriously!This isn’t about the whims of a few middle class media luvvies- so stop being patronising.There are plenty of ‘luvvies’ on both sides of the fence. Quite what MR S Fry knows about the subject remains to be seen. Many experts have concerns about vaccination and it aint bad science.Lets take a few facts. A lot of money is spent out in cases of vaccine damage so stop pretending it is safe. Safe for who? What is an acceptable risk? Well we would need evidence and since no double blind trail has been done on any vaccine-never mind- MMR how can we decide? Your graphs Ben are misleading.Death rate from measles declined from 1 100 per million in mid C19 to virtually nothing by mid 1960s. Vaccine only introduced in 1968. Think, look at the facts and stop mooing.

  138. mikewhit said,

    February 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Incidentally, what about those recent studies by Baron-Cohen regarding foetal testosterone and “autistic traits” at age 8:

  139. Irate_Joe said,

    February 26, 2009 at 12:27 pm


    I am not at all sure that you know what you are saying. The weak distinction you draw between children born with ASD as opposed to those who “develop” ASD is somewhat confusing… Autism is largely diagnosed on the basis of child development. However, as I am trying to understand the point you are trying to make, when you say “…develops full, classic Autism” are you refering to Regressive Autism?

    Assuming it is, I am not at all surprised that you are not aware of any child that has developed this condition and been entirely unvaccinated. Being entirely unvaccinated (and having no other immune assault as you specify) is extremely rare in most, if not all, populations. Developing Regressive Autism is also an extremely rare occurence. The number of children who fit into both categories will be vanishingly small. But there are some…

    Here is a quote from a concise (though somewhat out of date) article produced by the UK department of health.

    “If the MMR vaccine and autism were linked, regressive autism would be far more common in vaccinated children than in unvaccinated ones. But this is not the case.”

    I am assuming they wouldn’t make such a statement without evidence. When I have a little more time I will post a few more supporting links.

  140. Gareth S said,

    February 26, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I have just received a letter from my MP. It is on paper not email so will paraphrase;
    “I strongly agree with you…scare stories…puffed up by the press in a disgraceful manner, were a disgrace.
    I did not sign the EDM originally because I had not actually heard the radio broadcast it referred to but following your letter I have now added my signature as I do support the general thrust of the EDM.”
    Wow. writing to your MP actually does work!
    I will now get her to visit badscience

  141. plastictastic said,

    February 26, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    @mikewhit: yes, I did give the background to the issue – I agree that the response doesn’t say anything except ‘i’m sitting on this fence here’, and doesn’t address the issue. He used it purely as a promotional exercise for his party in my view. Ah well, was worth a try.

  142. Irate_Joe said,

    February 26, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Have you ever read Not Mercury drjazz? I can’t say for certain but it sounds to me like her second child has regressive autism, was never vaccinated and didn’t suffer any “alternative immune assaults”.

    If I remember correctly there are a couple of people who claim to be in the same position as her in the comments. I know this is entirely anecdotal and not something that I would really consider evidence, but you guys like that kind of thing no?

    I have read, several times, that “true believers” cannot be persauded by reason or evidence and I am beginning to feel like I am flogging a dead horse. So, unless someone says something so interesting that I can’t resist replying, I am going to leave this here.

  143. JohnED said,

    February 26, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Wrote to my MP Mohammad Sarwar, but no response at all. Shouldn’t be to surprised as theyworkforyou state:

    “Replied within 2 or 3 weeks to a low number of messages sent via during 2007, according to constituents.”

  144. mikewhit said,

    February 26, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    If the case is pukka then surely it acts as a ‘black swan’ since as I said above, any unvaccinated cases would disprove the original hypothesis of ‘regressive autism due to vaccine(s)’.

    Those individuals may indeed have had a “side-effect” from the vaccine, had they been vaccinated, which would then be erroneously identified as the “cause”.

    And it still leaves the question unanswered – which part of the vaccine delivery mechanism is being blamed by the anti-vxers ?

    How about being scratched by a sewing needle dipped in a runny cowpox blister ?

    A polio sugar-lump ?

    Bacteria and viruses off the floor eaten by a child picking up a dropped sweet ?

  145. pjc60 said,

    March 1, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    My MP – Maria Eagle – can’t sign the EDM as she’s a member of the Government.

    However, she did reply to me with a very supportive letter.

  146. teej said,

    March 1, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    My MP is Robert Wilson (Conservative). The reply I received is exactly the same as plastictastic’s except it has the sentence “As you may be aware, both David Cameron and Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health have signalled their faith in the vaccine by underlining that all of their children either have had or will receive the MMR vaccine” inserted after the first sentence.

  147. mikewhit said,

    March 2, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    I eagerly await my MP’s reply to see if it’s also a cut-and-paste job.

    However, he does seem to have given considered replies to my previous communications, so I live in hope – just a figure of speech, I’m not that sad really !

  148. mikewhit said,

    March 5, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    WoW – EDM count has gone up to 105, and our MP has got his name down: nice one ! Cosmic !

  149. HobbesLondon said,

    March 10, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Well I have just received a mealy mouthed letter from my MP Lynne Featherstone who feels unable to sign the EDM on the basis that it “is poorly worded and does not contribute constructively to the debate about this serious matter”. Probably trying hard to appeal of the woo loving yummy mummies who inhabit a large part of her constituency.

  150. 24alex said,

    March 11, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    I have written to my MP via theyworkforyou
    Not gonna hold my breath.

  151. ivy said,

    April 1, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    You have made several allegations against Dr. Wakefield and his studies Mr. Goldacre. Could you kindly tell us why is Dr. Wakefield not struck off the GMC register? Mind you he is only facing the GMC for ethical issues and not for the studies. That tells us something don’t you think?

    I have another question. Is it a possibility that parents are not actually following the press, rather they merely want the option of single vaccines for their children? Why underestimate the public and think everyone follows what the press tells us?

    When you raise allegations, you need to be armed with answers to questions directed at you.

  152. ivy said,

    April 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Why is compensation being dished out?

  153. ivy said,

    April 1, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Dr. Wakefield has never advocated against vaccination. Could you clarify what exactly your issue is with?

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  155. carolm said,

    June 6, 2012 at 6:40 am

    How absolutely absurd! I have never heard of this woman before in my life (I’m Australian) but everything she says is just brain drool. And it sounds all the more ridiculous transcribed. I cannot wrap my head around the idea that she doesn’t want to return to days when children died of these diseases BUT she believes it’s “an individual choice”. Every time I try to understand what that means, I feel as though my brain has been anaesthetised. Does she want people to vaccinate their children or not? Does she want her children getting these diseases or not? I’m not sure she even knows her position.

    And if I hear one more person say “I’m not a doctor BUT…” or “I’m not a scientist BUT…” I will cry with frustration.