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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jenny McCarthy, Vaccines, and Twitter

Alexandra Petri writes at The Washington Post:
“What is the most important personality trait you look for in a mate? Reply using #JennyAsks,” McCarthy tweeted 
Tweeters were quick to seize the opportunity that had been handed to them on a large golden platter, garnished with parsley and with an apple stuck in its mouth. The hashtag was instantly hijacked by people promoting vaccination.

(Phil Plait, at Bad Astronomy, has a good selection.)

This is great and encouraging, if you like science. But there is one problem with the backlash. Actually, there’s two: it makes it seem as though this is a debate, however one-sided, and it just preaches to the choir. The choir hears someone saying “Hey, can you believe that in 2014, some crazy person still believes the earth is flat?” But someone else hears, “Some people still believe the earth is flat. Others call them ‘crazy.’ ” Every time the Round Earthers resoundingly win a debate, you perpetuate the notion that it’s a debate, not a set of facts that are simply not up for discussion.