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How not to report science and medical news, vaccine edition (addendum)

Here we go again (rest of the post below the fold because there is a video that autostarts):

“Irreprehensible”? “One in nine” are being diagnosed with autism? Where on earth did he get that figure? Can’t CNN find more intelligent people to feature when it comes to reporting about the Wakefield retraction? Someone capable of putting together a rational argument, rather than a nearly incoherent bunch of conspiracy mongering strung together in seemingly random order? His arguments are painfully obtuse, and thus far there’s only one skeptical voice in the comments.

On the other hand, this is what CNN says about its “iReports”:

So you know: iReport is the way people like you report the news. The stories in this section are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post. Only ones marked ‘CNN iReport’ have been vetted by CNN.

No kidding.

Oh wait. The video above is marked “CNN iReport.” That means it was vetted by CNN. Who vetted it? J.B. Handley? Whoever vetted the video, this looks like yet another EPIC FAIL on the part of CNN, whose “vetting” process clearly leaves something to be desired. True, the video above is not as bad as featuring Kim Stagliano on its actual TV programming. After all, it’s just on the website, where not nearly as many people will see it.

But it’s bad enough.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

30 replies on “How not to report science and medical news, vaccine edition (addendum)”

I’d love to say something intelligent here, but I’m pretty sure my brain is eating itself from that amount of stupid.

But to summarize, the corporations are trying to poison people in “regular-land”. And the scientific community shouldn’t go back, and you know, review what was previously said by other scientists. Isn’t that the point of medical journals?

“Irredeemable” to reason is having Stagliano blub her nonsense, basically unchallenged, to a wide audience. We are having this problem in Australia also, so take heart.

Hopefully not for much longer. 😉

ADHD might be around 1 in 9, though it varies widely depending on where the data comes from.

The guy has no idea what a medical journal is. He seems to the “The Lancet” is some pharmaceutical company or other part of the big conspiracy.

He demonstrates clearly the deep hole The Lancet got itself into. Parents think that the journal put it’s stamp of approval on the conclusions and that by publishing it it was The Lancet, not Wakefield et. al who were claiming the conclusions were valid.

The Lancet should have listened to the four reviewers who, even in 1998, said the paper should be rejected.

Four reviewers!

On the other hand, there is the chance that this guy punked CNN. It is that bad.

The Lancet is “some science outfit” like the NY Yankees are “Some baseball club” .

Whilst I’d support the Lancet from a purely scientific point of view, I think that in these circumstances they should have just left that paper be. The antivaxxers are finally slowly turning back into the ridiculed herd of conpiracy theorists they once were, and now this paper gets retracted and every CNN watcher has to make YouTube videos, and everyone has to give their Twitter the same colour, and t-shirts will be printed, and for about two weeks, the Big Pharma Conspiracy will be the most important thing in the world.

That may have sounded a bit bitter. Imagine it being read out loud by a kitten.

I have not watched the video as it causes disruptions at work but the tenor of it from Orac and other commenters shows some reason for hope. They sound desperate and stupid. The more that happens, the harder it will be to push a coherent and believable message.

The odious Wakefield lied and was caught. That fact will not be so easy to whitewash. They will try but eventually they will need another idol. It will not be so easy to pull one over on a “Lancet” type publication again. At least I hope not.

Alan–if you’re running Firefox, there’s at least one “Stop autoplay” add-on that you can get at (There may be similar for other browsers.)

Is that similar to ‘irregardless’?

Irrespective and regardless of its dubious origins, “irregardless” is, for better or worse, a legitimate word now. I avoid it like the plague myself, but it has appeared in quite a few copy-edited works and as such is now recognized by the mainstream dictionaries. As much as it pains me to say it, you can no longer legitimately say, “That’s not a word!”

“Irreprehensible”?!? What would that even mean??? At least “irregardless” was a portmanteau between two synonyms, so despite the fact that the “ir” arguably negated the “regardless”, it was still clear what was meant. What would “irreprehensible” mean? “Without respect to reprehensibility”?!??!??

James Sweet,
It pains me also to hear ‘irregardless’ used. My father, now rolling in his grave, railed constantly against it’s use costing me and my brothers no small number of lectures on the proper use of our native language. For me, it still defines a speaker’s lack of education when I hear it and discounts any message where it is used.

“Is that similar to ‘irregardless’?”

Like the man said, it seems like a highly coincidental possibility.

“Irreprehensible” (adj) – Not deserving of censure or condemnation; that which should be approved; worthy.

Hey, if he can invent a word, I can invent a definition.

One of the claims you hear frequently including here is variations of “autistic behavior” occurs immediately after vaccination. Has anyone ever looked at whether this could be true, not because vaccines cause autism, but because the act of sticking a needle into a young autistic kid’s arm results in autistic behavior? I have heard that autistic kids can often be identified very early based on their reactions to birhtday cakes with candles being placed in front of them (i.e. looking at videos of their birthday parties). If this is true, it would not indicate that candles cause autism, just that they trigger autistic symptoms.

With the other video, this guy says his son has an extra arm of chromosome 15, and that’s what caused his autism. I think this one’s a fake. Also, he refers to living in “regular land.”

With the other video, this guy says his son has an extra arm of chromosome 15, and that’s what caused his autism. I think this one’s a fake. Also, he refers to living in “regular land.”

I think you’re looking too hard for Poes and fakes and seeing the signs of an insufficiently crafty cover story where there’s really only human imprecision. “An extra arm of chromosome 15” sounds like a colloquial description of this.

Thanks for the link, Andyo–although the comments are downright depressing. It required every drop of Pinot in my glass to read through to the end 🙂

re: 16 @MikeMa

For me, it still defines a speaker’s lack of education when I hear it and discounts any message where it is used.

I’m usually in agreement with you, but not so much in this case, as irregardless is an actual word, albeit “nonstandard.”

I find it utterly abhorrent myself, but I wouldn’t be so quick to judge those using it as being uneducated, merely ignorant of its nonstandardishness. And, perhaps, lacking in good taste and judgment.

Our beautiful language evolves over time, for better or, as in this case, for worser.


Thanks for the link, Andyo–although the comments are downright depressing. It required every drop of Pinot in my glass to read through to the end 🙂

Posted by: Jennifer B. Phillips | February 5, 2010 11:34 PM

God, the comments! I see some of the crazies are STILL going about the thimerosal crap.

I left one of the comments, you can probably guess which!

Entertainment Tonight – Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy Get Serious on Autism, Scientific Censorship and Monkeys

“Hollywood couple Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy have written a lengthy statement accusing vaccine manufacturers of spinning a “remarkable media campaign” to repress a breakthrough study in the debate over the possible role of vaccines in the autism epidemic.”

“McCarthy is the mother of an autistic child and author/activist for that cause, and the couple says that a crucial vaccine study using monkeys by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a respected and well-published gastroenterologist, contains “stark and devastating” data that “will lend substantial credibility to the theory that over-vaccination of young children is leading to neurological damage, including autism.” They contend that “the fallout from the study for vaccine makers and public health officials could be severe.” Link to statement.

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