With a major outbreak of measles in Wales,which is having serious public health implications,it has brought into renewed media and public focus the faded controversy about MMR/measles mumps rubella combined inoculation from about a decade ago.My own daughters would have been about 8-9 and 10-11 then.
At least one researcher had picked up on some public concern that the combined injection led in some children to altered behaviour and autism related symptoms.That research seemed to have some credibility,and the press/media did not just follow it,but its sees added to if not actively created a lot of hysteria out of it.Eventually,it seems not only was that research discredited but the doctor behind it was and remains vilified and was struck from practising as a doctor.Yet there were other things going on too.The state and the NHS refused to allow the administration of the injections separately,which whilst it may have been more expensive might perhaps have been a pragmatic resolution which would not have led to the public vulnerability which has now been identified.In addition,the then “prime minister”and his partner,who is also a public figure in her own right refused to indicate whether they had allowed their own,then young son to be inoculated with MMR.That was a failure of leadership,as in that case a private act represented a public consequence.
The media acted in my opinion like they typically now do,going after not news and information but sensation and profit.It sowed confusion.Increasingly people in this society respond to such irresponsibilty and failed leadership with distrust.
We are also increasingly lectured and hectored from various quarters about the importance of the rational and of science.Yet i am far from the only one who sees that the science is reported selectively and often connected to particular and mostly capitalist interests.It is my opinion too that as ALL knowledge is at some level or other socially constructed,facts become VERY difficult to establish especially if they are to remain facts over a protracted period of time.
Although i do not know whether immunology is an interest of or field of expertise of his,i wondered what the Pope of Science(or scientism)might have to say.At one time,perhaps att the same time he was Professor of something like the Public Understanding of Science.Perhaps rather than lecturing us “believers”that we are stupid,wrong,evil,child abusers,he could have stepped into this debate and done something useful,by tempering or focussing the debate.Instead i think there was a loud silence from that quarter.
I am enraged by all of this,and i must admit I’m enraged by some of the current rewriting of history by the media in again “running with”this debate,this real public concern.The coverage does not really deserve to be called an investigation.I still think that the controversial researcher had a right to say what he thought was right.I was not aware that being wrong was by itself a crime-if that were the case we would all be in court fairly frequently.And actually that same”prime minister”ought then to be in Court for war crimes and for being wrong over WMD/weapons of mass destruction in Iraq!
Last,but not least for the present,I don’t take kindly to lectures from parents of young children,who are suffering the consequences of that previous media/scientific/political failure or chaos to parents of young children a decade ago.If you think you are making the best informed decisions for your children now,what do you think most if not all of us were doing a decade ago.I am not the enemy,nor is any other parent.If you must point the finger point it at Blair and government,and the media then and now.Actually there is some consistency,continuity,commonality here-on the one side,parents trying to do the best they can and on the other a failure of political leadership,with politicians and a media who can never be trusted.At best science itself seems to have sat silently in the middle,answerable only to the highest bidder-which just happens to be the media and politicians.This raises fundamental questions about the construction and value of science.It is as slippery as other knowledge(if there is a hierarchy it may score over theology,but it is all trumped by philosophy,NOT science itself)and it is PAID FOR………the science that tends to win out tends to have the most money thrown at it.I suggest that scientists have been bought and paid for and that they actually have to refer to moral values and demonstrate them if they are to be believed.