Free Markets, Free People

Media Manufacturing Controversy … Again

What else is new, right? In the last presidential election, it was the “War on Women”, with George Snuffleupagus firing the first volley with an oddball question about contraception. This time around, it’s a report from Chis Christie’s tour of the UK:

As he toured the United Kingdom on Monday, Chris Christie seemed to leave his tough guy persona back in the United States. The potential Republican 2016 presidential contender punted on questions about whether Americans should vaccinate their kids amid a 14-state outbreak of a disease which is staging a comeback after being largely eradicated by science.

“All I can say is we vaccinated ours,” Christie said, while touring a biomedical research facility in Cambridge, England, which makes vaccines.

The New Jersey governor added that “parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

Not exactly controversial unless you spin it the right way (which CNN does in the above article by accusing the New Jersey Governor of being uncharacteristically mealy-mouthed). And it would really help if you could get another potential candidate on the record saying something similar. Enter Rand Paul:

In a contentious interview today, Sen. Rand Paul said he’s heard of cases where vaccines lead to “mental disorders” and argued that parents should be the ones to choose whether they vaccinate their children, not the government. Paul is a former ophthalmologist.

“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul, R-Ky., said in an interview with CNBC anchor Kelly Evans.

“I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing, but I think the parents should have some input,” he added. “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom.”

Again, not terribly controversial except for the “mental disorders” part. Which is what the media are now running with to paint all conservatives as “anti-vaxxers”:

NBC News – “Rand Paul: Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
CNN – “Paul: Vaccines can cause ‘profound mental disorders'”
ABC News – “Rand Paul Says Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
HuffPo – “Rand Paul: Children Got ‘Profound Mental Disorders’ After Receiving Vaccines”
Vox – “Rand Paul says he’s heard of vaccines leading to ‘profound mental disorders’ in children” – “Paul Repeats Baseless Vaccine Claims”

So on, and so on. The New York Times tackles it this way:

The politics of medicine, morality and free will have collided in an emotional debate over vaccines and the government’s place in requiring them, posing a challenge for Republicans who find themselves in the familiar but uncomfortable position of reconciling modern science with the skepticism of their core conservative voters.


The vaccination controversy is a twist on an old problem for the Republican Party: how to approach matters that have largely been settled among scientists but are not widely accepted by conservatives.

Suddenly, we’re all talking about vaccines and how those nasty, anti-science Republican weirdos are dangerous to society. Funny how that works. And of course, never let facts get in the way, such as Paul being correct about the mental disorders thing. Here’s his statement again:

I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.

Guess what? The CDC agrees with him (my emphasis):

MMR vaccine side-effects
(Measles, Mumps, and Rubella)
What are the risks from MMR vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.
The risk of MMR vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps or rubella.
Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems with it.
Mild Problems
Fever (up to 1 person out of 6)
Mild rash (about 1 person out of 20)
Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (about 1 person out of 75)
If these problems occur, it is usually within 7-12 days after the shot. They occur less often after the second dose.
Moderate Problems
Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses)
Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4)
Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses)
Severe Problems (Very Rare)
Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)
Several other severe problems have been reported after a child gets MMR vaccine, including:
Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
Permanent brain damage

These are so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine.

While extremely rare, do long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, or permanent brain damage count as “profound mental disorders”? I guess you make an argument that not all such cases do, but I would think permanent brain damage fits the bill.

Ironically enough, the article actually highlights that Paul and the CDC are on the same page:

There have been some reports of “lowered consciousness” or permanent brain damage after a vaccine is given for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) or measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), but the CDC says that these are so rare that a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be determined.

Note that the CDC does not posit a causal connection, but then again neither does Paul. Indeed, he further clarified:

“I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related — I did not allege causation. I support vaccines, I receive them myself and I had all of my children vaccinated,” Paul said in a statement. “In fact today, I received the booster shot for the vaccines I got when I went to Guatemala last year.”

Too late, since the media has its juicy soundbites already.

None of this is to say that GOP politicians don’t do this to themselves. Paul certainly didn’t have to even raise the specter of a potential causal link between vaccines and mental disorders. He should have known that, regardless of what the CDC and science says, most everyone was going to associate his comments with the debunked autism link. Even if there was a proven causal link, it’s so incredibly rare as to not be deserving of a mention. I get his thinking from a liberty perspective, but message delivery is vital and Paul failed at that.

The Chris Christie statements, on the other hand, don’t strike me as even slightly off, but clearly there was a theme building here amongst the media hivemind. The idea that the guy who insisted on quarantining the Ebola nurse is super interested in liberty does sound a sour note, and Christie probably should have led with the idea that routine vaccinations are safe and effective which is why everyone should get them. Seems like a rookie mistake for someone who’s been in the limelight for quite some time.

Not that it matters. The theme has been set, and the narrative will now run its course. Inconvenient facts such as who the anti-vaxxers really are, or what Democrats have had to say on the issue, will be glossed over or simply dismissed. And all vaccines will be treated the same so that if a GOP candidate balks at mandating, say, a flu vaccine, he or she will then be tarred as an anti-science, ant-vaxxer. Democrats and the Left will be fine with this since they have zero problems with government mandates. And thus the media has neatly cleaved the country it two wholly separate and unequal parts in order to drive the political wedge deeper.

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34 Responses to Media Manufacturing Controversy … Again

  • Shorter right winger: Just because Rand Paul used anecdotes rather than data doesn’t mean he’s against vaccines; he’s just against data!”

    Right wing dude seems to miss the fact that the problem the media has with Republicans and science is the Republican’s refusal to acknowledge data. Rand and Chris continue to demonstrate the sort of rejection of data as a policy making aid amongst the “tax cuts WILL someday increase income tax revenue, despite the fact it has never happened” crowd is alive and well

    • Riiiight Timb, because it’s only Republicans who aren’t vaccinating their kids right?
      Actually resistance to vaccination, or agreement with vaccination has proven to be pretty much the same no matter what your political affiliation is.
      Google is your friend.

      And since you’re talking tax cuts, if you’re worried that the Federal Government doesn’t have enough of your money to spend, why don’t you send the IRS more of your money than you need to this year instead of talking about someone else having to do it.
      Money talks, bullshirt walks.

      • And by “not vaccinating” what exactly is meant?

        My kids have the full range of normal vaccines (right-winger that I am). But back when the swine flu was all the rage a few years ago the issue of whether or not to vaccinate my first child against that was raised. I had a feeling that the whole thing was overblown and we opted not to get the available vaccine. Kind of a good choice, since it now has been shown to have caused narcolepsy in a disproportionate number of children who received it. Now on our third child last year we were asked if we wanted to vaccinate her against something, I forget what exactly but it was some stomach virus I think. After probing the district nurse it turned out that it was really only needed by babies/children who had already suffered malnutrition or other severe diseases and were likely to get very sick if infected. In other words, immigrant and refugee children from certain countires… but they couldn’t come out and say that (kind of like trying to find out the sex of your baby in an ultrasound, they won’t tell you unless they think you don’t culturally care if it is a girl). A normal healthy child would not be at risk for bad consequences. So turning down that optional vaccine was a no-brainer.

        But MMR, whooping cough, TBE, hepatitis if travelling, etc? No problems with getting those. I might not be ancient yet, but I still vaguely remember people getting very sick from those things.

    • “tax cuts WILL someday increase income tax revenue, despite the fact it has never happened”

      AnOTHER self-parody artist, rat here on our stage. It’s happened many times, ya moron. You just filter the data out through that shit-pack in you skull.

      Case-in-point…??? Watch France.

    • Shorter lefty: “I no read good. Don’t know what words mean and you a poopyhead.”

      Sadly, that’s giving you’re comment far too much credence.

    • Timmy, I have two family members who are strongly anti-vaccine and have refused to vaccinate their kids. They also have a bad habit of taking data and interpreting it in ways that match their own preconcieved notions. But, guess what? They’re not right wingers. In fact, they’re very left wing. And it’s been my experience that more left wingers are anti vaccine than right wingers are anti vaccine. This is simply another attempt by the media to paint the right with a very broad brush and ignore the evidence that it is their side that is actually anti-science and anti-vaccine.

    • Oh noes! Timby sticks his neck out and gets it chopped off by those who know way more than him. How embarassing! 🙂

      Yeah, the irony vis-a-vis the desired MSM narrative is that the real danger to “herd immunity” is the Hollyweird Anti-Vax crowd and unvaccinated 3rd-worlders (esp. from south of the border). So it’s no surprise the Left is running interference over the truth and Timby just parrots the nonsense.

      • The unemployment #’s are DATA, and DATA is, uh, facts, and uh,
        it’s facts are, uh, data, so that means it says what it says and it’s, uh….
        scientific because it’s based on facty data!

        And therefore since it’s data whatever they say it say it means must be true!

        Cuz science
        Silence infidel! Racist!

      • People who should be working are not finding work. People who should be retiring are still working. Since the beginning of the recession in 2007, 2 million fewer Americans are employed. The 25 to 54 age group has seen a decline in employment of 6 million workers. The 55+ age group, in contrast, has seen an increase in employment of 4.8 million workers. Employment in the 16 to 24 group is down by 1.8 million.

        “Roaring!” LOL!

        • “The 55+ age group, in contrast, has seen an increase in employment of 4.8 million workers.”

          And I will bet most of that is involuntary and part-time employment. Thanks to zero real interest rates and forced early “retirement” some of us have had our “Golden Years” debased to silver. Thank goodness Obamacare will save us thousands of dollars per year.

  • It’s all about making sure everyone knows that if you vote Republican you’re a climate change denying, Biblical creationist, wife repressing/beating, gay bashing (and so on and so on) neanderthal, rather than an enlightened intelligent slipper jammie wearing cocoa sipping supporter of everything Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren stands for.

  • of course, it should be noted that the highest concentration of a vaccination types and be easily traced as someone else pointed out elsewhere by putting app in everywhere there’s a whole foods store about.

    that said, it should perhaps be noted paul stand on this is apparently the correct one, giving the parents the choice. And let’s be honest, this is a complete reversal from. just a few years ago.

    Does anyone suppose that absent Obamacare, and the government’s ultimate power in matters of Medicine these days, this would be an issue at all?

    • …this is a complete reversal from. just a few years ago.

      Not so much and not really. Many or most states allow a parent to opt out of “mandatory” vaccination programs. It isn’t new, and there have long been ways to wire around the “mandate”.

  • o, by the way, I note with a certain degree of irony the proximity of this post to the one entitled to you, or some such. Is there any doubt that’s happening here, as well?

  • entitled when the government lies to you. Sorry for the error

  • The vaccine controversy is to cover over the blame for the measles and other disease outbreaks thank to Obama’s immigration policy.

    You see its not the lack of proper medical evaluation of imported illegal immigrant children with a genuine prospect of deportation or at least quarantine, it your fault for not all being fully vaccinated. You’re making the Big Zero look bad.

    I’m a strong supporter of vaccination and it pretty much does require everyone to play along to work, but you can’t force medical treatment on anyone of sound mind. You can, however, prevent them from posing a risk to others. However, if the illustrious Republicans can’t re-frame the debate that easily to get themselves out of hot water, they shouldn’t be taking up the space and give others a try.

    • ‘other disease outbreaks’, like Enterovirus D68?

      • I suspect there is more happening (or at least expected) than D68 or measles. They have those stories under control. They are laying a narrative for the future.

        If they ever come up with an ebola vaccine, we’d all be expected to take it to allow America to become Africa’s ebola lifeboat.

  • “Democrats and the Left will be fine with this since they have zero problems with government mandates.”

    Only as long as the mandate doesn’t force them personally to do something they don’t want to do.

    Sure, they’re all in favor of mandates on everyone else, and they don’t mind having laws that nominally force them to do stuff they would do anyway, but they squawk just as loudly as anyone when it’s their own ox being gored.

    • That’s a good point. If the mandate were “everyone must attend church/temple/mosque services once per week” we’d here plenty of Sturm und Drang. Until then, we’re stuck with actual politicians and their acolytes pushing mandates up the wazoo, as the Left cheers them on.

      Somewhat relatedly, what are your thoughts on the alleged FCC rules turning the internet into a “public utility”?

      • Telecommunications regulation (Title II) is one of the main reasons all major providers of mobile telephone service suck toxic waste. Subjecting the Internet to that would have the same effects, slowing down innovation and raising costs.

        Right now, internet service has some of those problems already because it is controlled by a cable monopoly. But that’s the fault of local governments. We’re on the verge of seeing that problem change, with Google Fiber being one of the main drivers. Once cities realize the competitive advantages of excellent broadband, the worst aspects of cable monopolies will fade in cities with any kind of eye on the future. The cable companies will have to learn to compete on price and service if they are to keep even a small fraction of their current customer base. Many of them will fade into well-deserved irrelevance – unless the FCC props them up as “telecommunications services” and puts the same kind of crap in place that we see in the mobile market right now that tends to assure an oligopoly.

        A lot of the large Internet companies (Amazon, Google, etc.) like the FCC’s rules, but I think that’s short sighted. No doubt they would gain some advantage from the consistency they would see in the Internet, and they would not have to endure the worst aspects of the regulation (that would fall on the providers). They started by pushing net neutrality, which I originally thought (circa 2008) might be needed to control monopoly providers, but now think is unnecessary as the market begins to evolve towards more providers. The bigs still want it, and I guess they think while they’re at it, they might as well support ramping up regulation in other ways. That gets them a predictable environment in which they can focus on squashing smaller competitors through their ability to navigate the regulatory mazes, and not have to worry about losing influence over the Internet to the providers.

        Google is on both sides of this game, and I was initially a bit surprised that they back the FCC on this. Notice the cities they chose in the most recent round of Google Fiber: Raleigh, Nashville (yay!), Charlotte, and Atlanta. Not a single big northern city on the list. Well, who in their right mind wants to work with the rapacious politicians and thuggish union bosses in, say, Chicago? So Google Fiber appreciates the ability not to hamstrung by government and various rent seekers.

        But I thought about it, and realized a couple of things. First, their main business is not on the provider side, so they seem satisfied to clamp that side down. Second, I guess they think they’re big enough to get Google Fiber through whatever maze the FCC sets down, and simultaneously erect barriers for the next upstart that threatens them on the provider side.

        TL/DR version: The FCC is trying to set the stage for another round of crony capitalism. To predict the results for internet service, take how things worked out in the mobile phone service space, and then add monopoly local service in many areas. I don’t like the probable results.

  • This actually far more clever than it seems.

    See, the Democratic apparatchik know that in order for someone to vote Democrat, it helps a lot if they grow up alive. (It is not, strictly speaking, necessary, but in the aggregate it’s still helpful.) And they face a problem. Deadly old diseases might ravish their voting base, killing all those reliable Democratic voters-in-waiting and maiming others who may be less inclined to be Democrats after that smack in the face of reality. How are they going to convince their Democratic-voting parents to get their little voters-in-waiting vaccinated?

    You could try a public education campaign, but you’ve spent years turning your voters into people who consider the accusation proof, and you certainly don’t want to push back against that… that’s your bread and butter. You’d rather see the little voters-in-waiting die than lose that play from the playbook.

    So you turn another meme on your voting base… the EVIL RETHUGLICANS hate vaccines! They’re pro-, no, uh, anti-, errr SOMETHING BAD ABOUT VACCINE CHOICE and also DUMB HICKS flyover country something something. Doesn’t have to make sense, postmodernism pounded that out of your base 50 years ago, thank no-God.

    It doesn’t have to move a single vote in this election to be of benefit, because in the next couple of years as vaccination rates skyrocket in upscale ‘burbs as the strong, independently-thinking mothers of the Democratic Party all march in lockstep to get their children vaccinated lest the other strong, independently-thinking mothers shun them as being secretly (gasp) REPUBLICAN.

    It’s the long game.

  • One of the worst parts of this is, that some vaccines aren’t 100%. They just lower the infection rate enough so that the tried and true quarantine and isolation can be employed. But these people are acting like it is the solution. In some cases, its only part of the solution.

  • Silly person. Everyone knows it’s left-wingers who are anti-vaccination. Right-wingers are against fluoridation.

  • “These are so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine.” is not a vindication.

    I do believe Paul’s story that he was trying to refer to the erroneous belief that people have that the correlation between the two (“my baby got shots and now I’m noticing my baby’s autistic”) means a causal connection.

    But he chose his words very poorly, and should expect the media to be hostile.