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Anti-Vaccination Blog SkeParent Doesn't Publish Negative Feedback

Usually I ignore the topic of vaccination, because we’ve got other parents here who focus on that. I’m more of the voice of parenting angst. But I’m actually somewhat bothered by an article that skeparent linked to about vaccination. I’m not going to link to the article I’m referencing, because increasing links in boosts the google search position of an article, and the last thing we need in the world is more prominent fear mongering when it comes to vaccines.

But I do want to highlight some sloppy thinking in this mystery article, which I guess you could probably find from Skeparent, over there in the sidebar. This is fairly typical of the anti-vaccine movement in general, so it doesn’t really matter who I’m referencing. I could pick any random anti-vax article and probably just write boilerplate about it and be about as accurate.

For example, the article mentions that Japan stopped using MMR. They don’t mention that Measles in on the rise in Japan. They don’t mention that even without MMR in Japan, Autism continues to rise, even though they claim that autism is linked to MMR vaccination. They claim that vaccines aren’t 100% effective, but they don’t actually point out that the rates of measles in unvaccinated and vaccinated populations are very different, instead giving the impression that unvaccinated children are just about as likely to contract measles as vaccinated children.

This is a technique called “Cherry Picking”, where an advocate for some position selectively cites data from a study while completely ignoring other data from the exact same study. So, for example, if the CDC reports that in a particular measles outbreak, 45% of the affected children were vaccinated, they mention that. They ignore the fact that of that 45%, the majority had not received a recommended booster shot. And they don’t mention that the unvaccinated population is much, much smaller than the vaccinated population, but still makes up the majority of measles cases.

It’s a special kind of dishonesty, this data filtering. I don’t think that it’s conscious… if it were, they wouldn’t put the links in the blog article. The blog author simply grabs what looks like corroborating evidence from a source, and then adds it to the impressive looking list of references at the end of the article. The fact that the majority of the sources recommend earlier vaccination and increased booster shots, or that some sources contradict claims from other sources, is just ignored completely.

On the other hand, the author moderates all comments on her blog, so that the only comments that appear are “Wow, you’re so smart and I love you so much and thank you for standing up to the evil forces of evil”, so maybe it is intentional. I mean, she has to have read the comments from myself and others by now (the comments she hasn’t posted) and so she should be aware that she’s selecting data and ignoring data.

But maybe, since she doesn’t let negative feedback go public, she can sort of put it out of her mind. Not really read it, just sort of skim it and then delete it when it’s not complimentary. That would make sense.

I think I’ll bring this around to parenting angst now (you knew I would). Highlander talks back to me. A lot. More than I like, actually, and more than is really helpful or appropriate. He says things like “I’m not your friend”, or “I’m mad at you”, and other deep expressions of 3-year-old anger or frustration. Which is bad, in some ways. But it’s good in other ways… and one way it’s good is the rare occasion when he says something incredibly nice, like “You’re a good Daddy.” Because I know he means it. He isn’t punished for saying mean things (except that I’m less happy) and he isn’t rewarded for saying nice things (except that I’m more happy), so there’s no real pressure on him to be a certain kind of commenter.

The real pressure is on me, to keep parenting despite some negative feedback, to ignore the temptation to give in in order to get positive feedback. That makes the rare parenting kudo better, I get the dual satisfaction of both doing what I think is the right thing to do and being thanked for it.

Too much restriction of your feedback loops leads to a bovine complacency, a self-satisfaction born of self-delusion. It’s easy to believe you’re the best parent in the world if you never allow negative feedback, it’s easy to believe you’re the smartest blogger on the block if you delete all the negative comments, and it’s easy to believe that we don’t need the MMR vaccine when the measles is basically dead.


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