Er, “help”. Legal Chill from LBC 97.3 and “Global Radio” over Jeni Barnett’s MMR scaremongering

February 5th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in Global Radio, jeni barnett, legal chill, MMR, stifling criticism | 228 Comments »

[Update: recent developments are now available here, including an EDM in parliament and discussion in mainstream media]

[Update: links to transcripts and audio hosted elsewhere at bottom of post]

One more thing, since Stephen Fry excellently tweeted this post to his 8 billion followers (weirdly he wakes me up every morning) I’ve had to activate supercache to prevent the site from dying. This means your comments will be stored for later but can only appear intermittently, sorry about that, nice to have you, and do look around for the site for more educational moronbaiting entertainment.

LBC have instructed their lawyers to contact me.

Two days ago I posted about a 7th Jan 2009 broadcast in which their presenter Jeni Barnett exemplified some of the most irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves. This is important because it can cost lives, and you can read about the media’s MMR hoax here.

To illustrate my grave concerns, I posted the relevant segment about MMR from her show, 44 minutes, which a reader kindly excerpted for me from the rest of the three hour programme. It is my view that Jeni Barnett torpedoes her reputation in that audio excerpt so effectively that little explanation is needed.

LBC’s lawyers say that the clip I posted is a clear infringement of their copyright, that I must take it down immediately, that I must inform them when I have done so, and that they “reserve their rights”.

To me this raises several problems:

Firstly, I don’t even know what “reserving your rights” means. They are a large corporation worth around a billion pounds (genuinely), I am some bloke, they have a legal team, I have no money, they are making threats using technical terminology and I actually don’t understand what those words mean.

Secondly, more importantly, as I have written at length, the media have systematically and irresponsibly misrepresented the evidence on MMR. It is my view that individuals like Jeni Barnett – but more importantly, organisations like LBC and Global Radio who give them a mouthpiece and a platform – pose a serious danger to public health, with their ignorant outbursts, disseminated to the nation. This clip was extremely instructive as an example of that recurring theme, and it deserves to be freely accessible and widely discussed.

MMR vaccine uptake has dropped from 93% to around 75%, and to below 50% in London. Furthermore, the media have shown no sign of recognising and acknolwedging their role, and so it seems likely that they will go on to cause further harm on this but also, more importantly, on many other issues. I write about all this because I think it is interesting, and extremely important.

But thirdly, there is a question of the basic tools you need to illustrate a point. The clip I posted was, to my mind, hideous and unremitting: it went on for so long.

In fact it was so long, so unrelenting, and so misinformed that I really couldn’t express to you how hideous it was. If I tried, without the audio, you might think I was exaggerating. You might think that I was biased, that I was misrepresenting Jeni’s demeanour and views in this broadcast, that LBC and their parent company Global Audio are living up to the standards of basic responsibility which we might reasonably hold them to, as they shepherd Jeni’s views and explanations into our cars and kitchens. You might think that I was quoting Jeni out of context, cherrypicking only the ridiculous moments from an otherwise sensible, proportionate and responsible piece of public rhetoric.

Many of the specifics are discussed in the other post and associated comments (of varying sobriety as ever), but as a further brief illustration which has come to light today, on her website, Jeni Barnett is angry at the response to her broadcase being brought to a wider audience, and she is describing a nurse who rang in to disagree with her as “vicious”. Now, parenthetically, this strikes me as a slightly unkind and inappropriate thing to do as a wealthy public figure, a television and radio presenter, with an industry and (today we see them) lawyers behind you, to an individual working in the NHS for the good of the public on a low wage, with no such outlets, and no such resources. But more than that, I thought the nurse was actually very polite, despite Jeni talking over her, cutting her off, and expressing, as we have already discussed, unhelpful and ignorant views in a rather shrill and irresponsible fashion.

How can I convince you of this, if not with the audio recording?

You may wonder whether this legal move from LBC and Global Audio was solely about concerns over lost revenue, and infringement of copyright. That may well be the case. To be clear: if a listener is very motivated, the whole Jeni Barnett show, like all LBC shows, can be purchased from the company online, if you go through a registration process, give your credit card, and pay £4. I do not wish to deprive them of money, although I don’t think I’m realistically your first port of call if you are a regular LBC listener.

Ultimately it seems to me that the most important outcome of LBC’s actions will be to prevent an embarrassing, irresponsible and, more than anything, instructive piece of broadcasting from being more widely heard and discussed. That is a great shame, because episodes like this, and discussions around them, are important for the wider questions of the responsibility of the media, the misrepresentations and misunderstandings of evidence in science and health that they promote, and the impact that has on public health.

It is also concerning to think that it might join that long list of situations where lawyers have been used in a way that has retarded debate on important health issues (such as, in extremis, this memorable episode when a High Court judge criticised Andrew Wakefield for trying to use libel law to silence his critics).

So. If anybody is a proper media lawyer and is able to offer their services for free, do please contact me.

Without a formal opinion and a guarantee of legal backup that would last for the duration of a case, and financial resources to cover the cost of losing, it seems to me that the only safe way to keep this sorry piece of audio in the public domain is by large numbers of bloggers posting individual brief chunks, and blogging critically about them, using “fair use dealing” uncontroversially for brief slices, with me perhaps keeping tabs here of where people have posted these discussions and excerpts, in one reference post. Now there’s an idea. It might also be a useful project for media students as well as bloggers, and will bring google juice and visitors.

If you felt that this was an irresponsible piece of broadcasting, and an inappropriate use of the public bandwidth – which is licensed to companies such as Global Audio as a privilege by the nation – you may wish to complain about Jeni Barnett’s MMR show of 7th January 2009 to OFCOM.

www.ofcom.org.uk/complain/

Lastly, if they genuinely wish to “start a debate” – as the phrase is so commonly used – then I would invite LBC, Jeni Barnett, Global Audio, and their legal team to reconsider, and simply give permission for this clip to be made freely available, in the public domain, in full, as it was broadcast, so that it can be widely heard, understood, and discussed. The debate here is not about the dangers of MMR, but the dangers of the media.
Update and transcripts +/- audio
14:00 6th Feb.
Running to get on with other stuff (grrr) but here is audio, transcripts, and a couple of quick points.

This is not about LBC or Jeni Barnett in general, this is about one perfect, instructive, illustrative example of a whole genre of irresponsible journalism that drove the media’s anti-vaccine campaign for ten solid years, with serious consequences for public health.

Because of that, I think it is important that this piece of audio can be heard freely, discussed openly, understood, and learnt from. I genuinely cannot understand the impulse to restrict that.

The audio is being hosted by various places below, and transcripts of the show are available spread around the following sites for the moment. Let me know if it is legal to post one transcript all in one place and I will do so, clearly I have no idea about copyright. Thanks to HolfordWatch for gathering these links.

Part 1. Frank. Jeni Barnett MMR show – full transcript
scienceblogs.com//2009/02/jeni_barnett_mmr_show_-_full_t.php
Part 2. Martin of The Lay Scientist. The Barnett Transcript –
www.layscience.net/node/485
Part 3 Podblack Jeni Barnett On LBC 97.3FM UK Radio – vs John From Epsom
podblack.com/?p=1222
Part 4 Rachel Dunlop of Sceptics’ Book
This section covers ~ 19 to 24 mins . To see the preceding section
head topodblack.com. For the audio head to my YouTube channel.
scepticsbook.com/2009/02/06/further-to-the-transcript-of-jeni-barnetts-diatribe-on-lbc-937fm/
Part 5 Quackometer
www.quackometer.net/blog/2009/02/jeni-barnett-mmr-rant-transcript-with.html
Part 6 Holfordwatch Jeni Barnett and the Phone Call with Yasmin on the LBC MMR Segment
holfordwatch.info/2009/02/06/jeni-barnett-and-the-phone-call-with-yasmin-on-the-lbc-mmr-segment/

I can’t listen from this ancient PC in the bush but I’m told that the original joyous audio clip is available in the following locations:

www.layscience.net/node/484
scepticsbook.com/2009/02/06/damage-control-for-lbcs-jeni-barnett-mmr-rant-backfires-globally-and-on-a-massive-scale/
www.mattwardman.com/blog/2009/02/06/ben-goldacre-of-bad-science-threatened-by-lawyers-for-lbc-and-jeni-barnett/

wikileaks.org/wiki/Bad_Science:_Jeni_Barnett_MMR_and_vaccination_slot_on_LBC_radio%2C_2009

www.thatsfuckingstupid.com/index.php/2009/02/dont-tell-anyone/

Lastly, I write for a hobby, I can honestly say it never occurred to me when I took an excerpt of audio, broadcast on the airwaves into kitchens and cars, and made a brief blog post about it, that this could be considered “theft”. I welcome people lifting my output, I expect them to link back to me so people can find more of the same, and I am glad when people use my ideas and analyses, even (with a fleeting grudge) unattributed: that is what they are there for.

To me, these people with their lawyers, and their millions, are from another world. The fact that this has gone from a small blog post about a stupid radio clip to a blogstorm is a bit weird too, but excellent for getting a wider discussion going about the way that the media misrepresent health risks, and create scares.

Update – links

Amazing. Holfordwatch have kept track of the speed with which this story has spread overnight. I’m so pleased to see this dismal scaremongering, and LBC’s intemperate response, getting wide coverage.

www.boingboing.net/2009/02/05/scientist-who-critic.html

www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=43020&c=1

www.mediawatchwatch.org.uk/2009/02/06/bad-science-v-bad-lawyers/

blog.dave.org.uk/2009/02/the-controversy-that-wont-die.html

theplummetonions.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/extremely-bad-science/

teekblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/goldacre-threatened-with-legal-action.html

scatter-gum.blogspot.com/2009/02/jeni-barnett-is-fucking-idiot.html

mycolleaguesareidiots.com/archive/2009/02/06/401.aspx

plashingvole.blogspot.com/2009/02/jeni-barnett-is-ill-informed-loon-and.html

xrrf.blogspot.com/2009/02/global-radio-menaces-ben-goldacre.html

www.adambowie.com/weblog/archive/002659.html

retiredrambler.typepad.com/tonys_ramblings/2009/02/ben-goldacrejeni-barnett-mmr-and-lbcs-heavy-legal-hand.html

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.

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 www.blacktriangle.org/blog/?p=1894″>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.

BPSDB

It’s also had about a million tweets, including this from Phil Plait (yay), and the audio has appeared on wikileaks, but for how long I don’t know (millionaires take note: I am not responsible for the content of external websites).

I’ve also had emails saying that various people are working on transcripts, they’ve coordinated now and they’re almost complete. I’ve been sent a bit of one and I can only say, in black and white text this content is exceptionally informative reading. As I said at the outset, this is one of the finest exemplars I have seen of the antivaccination genre and I look forward to having it in a form where its strengths can be discussed again.

This was a broadcast on the public airwaves, it was widely felt to be irresponsible and misleading, and a review of it, and discussion about it, was important and informative. If Jeni, LBC, and Global Radio really felt that access to information was important, and that debates were worth having, I think they would encourage their legal team to reconsider, and simply give permission for this clip to be made freely available, in the public domain, in full, as it was broadcast, so that it can be widely heard, understood, and discussed.

Anooooother update:I have just had an off the record conversation with a senior person at LBC. I don’t understand why it has to be off the record, again, instead of a normal discussion about the issues, podcasted, whatever, but there you go.

I’m not allowed to tell you what we talked about (ricockulously…) but the bottom line is, I made the arguments, and they are adamant they will not allow this audio to be posted freely. Without details, I’m a nice guy, I wanted to like him, I wanted him to like me, I couldn’t believe we could disagree, but it was like communicating with someone from another universe.

One more thing, someone just gave me some money, it’s kind but I really don’t need money here (the paypal link below is ancient), more important is that people discuss the massive danger that the media now pose to public health, and that you complain whenever and wherever you see similar examples of foolishness.


Okay two more things
, since Stephen Fry excellently tweeted this post to his 8 billion followers (weirdly he wakes me up every morning) I’ve had to activate supercache to prevent the site from dying. This means your comments will be stored for later but can only appear intermittently, sorry about that, nice to have you, and do look around for the site for more educational moron-baiting fun.

It goes without saying that you should not be personally abusive to or about Jeni. This is about ideas, not character.


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228 Responses



  1. The Biologista said,

    February 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    ““If it’s a viral thing and childrens’ immune systems are strong, what’s the problem?”

    Is this implying that any virus is only a problem if you don’t have a strong immune system?

    I’m not in any knowledgeable about medicine or biology, but that seems silly to me.”

    It is indeed. Strong immune system or not, an unfamiliar virus can do a hell of a lot of damage before adaptive immunity kicks in and that can take days to weeks depending on the nature and extent of response needed. The damage done by a virus is only partially based on the strength of a person’s innate immune system, the part which kicks in immediately. It’s a blunt tool and can be overwhelmed by a very high dose of a virus, or subverted by a very “sneaky” virus.

  2. penglish said,

    February 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    The idea of compulsory vaccination isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. I wrote an article about this recently for Vaccines in Practice (www.vaccinesinpractice.co.uk/vip/default.asp issue 2), and there’s a better article in the Lancet:

    Salmon DA, Teret SP, MacIntyre R, Salisbury D, Burgess MA, Halsey NA. Compulsory vaccination and conscientious or philosophical exemptions: past, present, and future. Lancet 2006;367(9508):436–42 (www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673606681440/fulltext).

  3. Andy Graham said,

    February 9, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    This is not in any way sound legal advice. For that go preferably to a barrister or other qualified legal professional. However, here are four things which might have worked if you’d had the money:

    1) Claim a public interest defence. Your argument would be that it is in the public interest that fraudulent and dangerous views are challenged and that the only effective way to challenge such views is to present them (by copying) and then criticise them. Essentially, if a judge thought that you served the public interest and that you didn’t copy more than you needed, you might get lucky and win. I think your arguments in your post would serve admirably as an argument to present to the judge.

    2) Claim fair dealing for the purposes of criticism and review. One relevant case involved L Ron Hubbard, who was denied an injunction to prevent quoting of “substantial portions” (i.e. more than is acceptable in a standard fair dealing defense) of a Scientology pamphlet because it served the public interest to allow someone else (a former disciple) to criticise the pamphlet and the religion in a book. The case is called Hubbard v Vosper and it went to the Court of Appeal.

    3) (Daft idea) In the case against Peter Wright (who wrote Spycatcher) the judge declared that his book “reeked of moral turpitude” and therefore attracted no copyright. This is not a popular defense to copyright infringement but might apply here!

    4) (Even dafter) In order to attract copyright a work needs to be the result of due skill, labour and judgement. I think we can all argue against both the skill and judgement aspects of this radio broadcast.

  4. gadgeezer said,

    February 9, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    I have lifted all of the following from Holfordwatch’s coverage (with permission).
    I would direct interested readers to The Expert on Measles, Dr Diane Griffin. Dr Griffin is the editor of the definitive Field’s Virology and her status is such that she has contributed the chapter on measles for the last 3 editions. She gave testimony at the Autism Omnibus Hearings in the US. She details the remarkable immunosuppressant effects of the measles virus (see pg. 2738 onwards, Day 11 Autism Omnibus Hearings pdf). It seems that measles not only challenges the immune system itself, it suppresses response to other challenges so most deaths from measles are related to secondary infections.

    So there is a period of time which is initiated during this acute phase that children are more susceptible to other infectious diseases. So this is a very clinically important complication or outcome or by-product of measles and all of the data suggests that it’s clinically related, as I say paradoxically, to the fact that the immune system is so activated and so engaged in making a response to measles that it is not appropriately positioned to respond to some new challenge that comes along at this same time… [pg. 2768]…
    So a number of viruses that are particularly pathogenic, actually, have figured out how to block the interferon response in order to have a better chance of really causing a more severe disease. And wild-type measles seems to be among those viruses that can do that…[pg 2772]
    We forget in the US what a serious disease [measles] was and why it was such an early target for the development of a vaccine, because the [mortality] is substantial. And the mortality is substantial, even in developed countries. It’s less in developed countries but it’s substantial. And if everyone gets it, that’s a lot. [pg. 2797]

    And it is generally acknowledged that measles is so contagious that every child with measles infects 15 others (pdf)which rather highlights Dr Griffins’ warnings that the no. of children who contract it is so high that even a comparatively low mortality rate can produce a high number of deaths.

    As No Sleep ‘Til Brooklands says:

    I can imagine that in an alternate universe somewhere the NHS has withdrawn the MMR vaccine, citing a 12-subject preliminary study claiming a link to autism, in which the doctor involved reportedly tweaked his results. In that universe, The Mail is running screaming headlines about every subsequent child death from measles, and columnists are suspicious that the decision to withdraw was merely financial, that the NHS and Government have simply decided that letting a few kids die of measles is ‘cost-effective’.

  5. gadgeezer said,

    February 9, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Missing link: And it is generally acknowledged that measles is so contagious that every child with measles infects 15 others (pdf).

  6. gadgeezer said,

    February 9, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    On the issue of MMR safety and why single jabs are not advisable (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 Sense Position Statement on the issue of MMR because it also responds to the calls for single jabs.

    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.

  7. JoanCrawford said,

    February 9, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Is it worth contacting people with experience in this sort of legal headache?

    Private Eye printed a ‘bad science’ article of their own in the current issue.

    I’m pretty certain that they would be more than happy to give you the time of day.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see this little furore in the next issue.

  8. fraserjopp said,

    February 9, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Ms Barnett appears to have deleted all comments from the two blog entries covering this matter on her site, and is refusing further ones, saying ‘the entry does not exist’. Comments are still available on other areas of her blog (e.g. ‘I am pogged on dumplings and custard cakes.’) are still available.

    I may be wrong, but this doesn’t seem like the action of someone who is ‘interested in the debate’.

    Onwards…

  9. NorthernBoy said,

    February 9, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    I’ve emailed private eye with a link to this entry, along with a suggestion that they could perhaps go some small way towards redeeming themselves for previously taking the anti-vaccination track if they highlight LBC’s mendacity while at the same time as supporting the scientific consensus.

    I am not holding my breath, though. They do seem to prefer a “little man against the big corporation” storyline to the truth.

  10. daniao said,

    February 9, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Re fraserjopp (#214)
    Yes, I noticed that the barnett blog has miraculously slimmed down for the only 2 interesting entries there. I suppose a malicious person might suggest we all swamp remaining discussions (eg the one about the barnett pigging out in chinatown) with queries about mmr. Or what she means by “I am interested in the debate not a witch hunt” if she deletes all comments contributing to the debate.

  11. ama said,

    February 9, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Am I mistaken or did that horrible Kodderschnauze (sorry, don’t know how to translate THAT… :-)) erase ALL comments concerning her desastrous derailing?

    www.oust-jeni-barnett.com

  12. EleanorC said,

    February 9, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    www.lbc.co.uk/send-jeni-a-message-3429

    … if you should want to, for any reason …

  13. michael said,

    February 9, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    @daniao – maybe it’s worth just respecting Jeni’s wish to no longer continue the debate, it’s her blog and she ultimately has a say over what’s posted there. We can hope she has taken on board the comments from those opposed to her viewpoint, and their criticisms of her actions. We can also hope she’s decided to tread very carefully when tackling such an emotive topic, or at least do some even rudimentary research. Though forgive me for being a little sceptical about both of those! Either way, lets remember that this has begun to resemble something of a persecution and Jeni’s become the focus for a wider anger at inappropriate media hysteria. I can sympathise that she probably is feeling quite harassed and stressed by the whole thing. I, and others, have complained to Ofcom about the broadcast, and as far as I’m concerned it’s for them to deal with Jeni and her editorial team. The copyright issue is probably little to do with her personally, and I’d be tempted to see it as a separate matter.

    I’ve never listened to Jeni’s radio show before, for all I know she’s normally an excellent radio chat-show host. Listening to the transcript, as I commented in an earlier post, it’s clear she was way out of her depth on this occasion. It’s important to remember that this is also the fault of her editorial team. A 3 hour show is not made spontaneously and this was a significant discussion, it must have been planned and discussed. The editorial team should have helped Jeni to research, and advised her appropriately, instead of allowing her to run off at the mouth with unfounded opinions.

  14. spk76 said,

    February 9, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    What a pity all the comments on her blog have been removed – allowing such a free and open debate on her site was pretty much the one thing that people were commending her for.

    So much for her being “interested in the debate”.

  15. michael said,

    February 9, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Hers isn’t the only blog where comments are going missing … I posted on here a couple of hours ago and that post seems to have mysteriously disappeared. In it I’d suggested, in summary, that maybe it was best not to harass the woman on her own blog seeing as many have already complained to Ofcom, and to remember after all that she is the mouthpiece for a show that will involve a number of editors, producers, ‘researchers’ etc. They all share the blame. … wonder how long this post will last?

  16. michael said,

    February 9, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    oops! my post seems to have returned – sorry!!

  17. stephenfry said,

    February 10, 2009 at 1:29 am

    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.
    Love

    Stephen xxx
    twitter.com/stephenfry

  18. stephenfry said,

    February 10, 2009 at 1:30 am

    “and all that matters” – I should ended with. Damn. Ruined the effect. !

  19. ignatz mouse said,

    February 10, 2009 at 1:34 am

    Let’s hope JB uses the same reasoning when it comes to installing anti-virus software.
    I just posted a complaint to Ofcom. First time i’ve ever complained about anything.It was worth the wait.
    Good on’ya Ben.
    More Bad Science podcasts, please!?

  20. Bemused Wolf said,

    February 10, 2009 at 1:37 am

    Just got this from Stephen Fry’s Twitter, along with over one hundred and sixty thousand other people.

    If even just half of them complain, it’ll surely get a result for you.

  21. ginger said,

    February 10, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Its amazing how people manage to get away with spouting such ill-informed claptrap. The media is the last great unregulated body. When will ‘evidence based journalism’ be introduced where sources have to be cited so you can scrutinise he evidence yourself to make informed decisions?

    If we take the lead from Jenni Barnett and use the cigarette analogy – if anyone went public and outright promoted cigarette smoking there would be uproar against them – there is so much overwhelming scientific evidence to say that cigarette smoking is harmful. In the same way, she is promoting a practice which an overwhelming body of evidence says is harmful i.e. not vaccinating.

    This could be just another sad example of the media being uninformed and presenting ill thought out opinions as fact. The saddest, and quite frankly deeply upsetting part of it all is that as a direct result of the media frenzy, children (and potentially adults later in life) will not only be killed but permenantly and seriously disabled.

    On the other hand, if journalists seriously consider the MMR vaccine to be a cynical money-making exercise, then consider the real cost – a couple of quid for a vaccine, hundreds of thousands of pounds for a lifetime of care for a severely disabled child.

    The insult thrown at the medical profession is also sad. That a professional body which spends its entire working life attempting to improve the quality of life of those within its care would knowingly put those same people at risk is preposterous. ‘Evidence based medicine’ is the order of the day – everything done for a patient has to have proof of benefit behind it, be it a medication, a procedure or an investigation.

    Evidence has to stand up to scrutiny and the Wakefield paper does not. Why is it that one badly researched and poorly written paper condemns an entire profession? What is the motive for this entire professional body to to abandon all ethical and moral principles to participate in what would have to be a mass deception of global proportions?

    Jenni Barnett should not be condemned however tempting that is. For a long time, the mass media perpetrated a fraud on the population. It is not suprising that the hype is still believed whether in public or private. A suitably knowledgeable person, in posession of all the facts should sit down and have a sensible conversation. Review the evidence – ALL the evidence; for AND against. The only way you can make an informed decision is to be in posession of all the facts.

  22. lucifer said,

    February 10, 2009 at 1:56 am

    The full audio is also available here:
    www.dirtmind.com/top_stories/jeni-barnett-scaremongering-about-mmr-on-the-radio-443.php

  23. Johnathon said,

    February 10, 2009 at 2:10 am

    I’m locking down this site. New comments won’t appear till the lockdown is rescinded, but they should be stored for later display.

    On the up side, all you guys coming in from Stephen Fry’s Twitter shouldn’t take this site offline :-)

    Johnathon – Positive Internet on-call Engineer

  24. mandrill said,

    February 10, 2009 at 3:01 am

    I have posted about this on my blog at keithneilson.co.uk

    I have also created torrents of the audio for those who know of P2P filesharing and they can be found at either:

    www.mininova.org/tor/2266689
    or
    thepiratebay.org/torrent/4715089

    This kind of magical thinking cannot be tolerated in the media of the 21st century. Jeni Barnett should be pilloried and shown up as the ignoramus that she is.

  25. bf said,

    February 13, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    She seems to have deleted her MMR blog post(s) entirely now.

  26. Kactus said,

    March 30, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    It makes me SICK that this woman thinks it should be a priority NOT TO FRIGHTEN PARENTS rather than give them accurate information and an informed choice. From reading the transcript of part 6.

    *calms down*

    They need to teach basic scientific methodology in primary schools so that people stop using anecdotal evidence to frighten other people. In fact I’m going to try and teach my kids this as early as possible when I have kids, I’m going to take responsibility for filling any gaps I feel have been left by schools. Why do people think it is their right to do whatever they want? With rights come responsibilities! If you have the right to make decisions about your child’s health and vaccinations and so on, you have the responsibility to base that decision on proper information, not on anecdotal evidence and fearmongering. You have the responsibility to make sure that your decision doesn’t harm other kids around yours, or society as a whole. How difficult a concept this seems to be!

  27. Loster said,

    June 8, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I come down on the side of Ms. Barnet, I have to admit. I don’t think we can take out of the equation the fact that pharmaceutical companies make ridiculous sums from the creation, marketing and sale of vaccines (how many more types of vaccine are appearing all the time).

    One thing also confuses me. If vaccines are supposed to create immunity how can an unvaccinated child be a danger to a vaccinated one? It doesn’t seem the herd immunity argument holds up to me.

    I believe there are powerful political and economic forces at work in this arena, and they are much better trained at rhetoric than most of us. Goldacre does an amazing obfuscatory job here; focusing on his part as victim of corporate bullying, all the while his pro-vaccine message gets delivered to the reader “under the radar” and as if it where a fact. This article is also a great testament to the power of internet marketing; the memes in this article will have now infected countless net users (like a virus!) and will be making the national mind up more and more .

    Ultimately, one has to ask oneself. IF, just IF vaccines have (even in just isolated cases) caused conditions as serious as autism (and there SEEM to be no shortage of parents willing to testify to this – I met one on the train to Manchester once!), isn’t this reason to pause and re-consider the hard line approach?

    Of course the empiricists will probably come back with “just follow the evidence” but if the evidence (i.e. which studies are accepted, which are denounced as works of the devil) is subject to the same economic and political biases that all other areas of modern life are, how can we trust it? Doesn’t personal testimony (of parents) have greater value here?

    Just as with smoking, just as with mobile phones, there are MASSIVE disincentives to corporate powers for any link with childhood damage to be established. It is no wonder that Wakefield was disgraced and now Ms. Barnett is being vilified.

    I don’t doubt that people like Jeni Barnett are not the most scientifically trained or informed, but there is a good case opposing vaccines, and it isn’t going to go away as Millie above says. There may even be some truth in it, who knows?!

    It just doesn’t seem to make sense to be injecting preservatives and some animal tissue with culivated viruses on them (I am also not the most informed here) into the blood streams of young children, before they have adequate defenses against such toxins. I mean, please, ask yourself, could it be true that vaccines are not the benign public saviour of our children they are touted to be?? Could they be more about business than public health?

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