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The Endless Empty Sea of Media Irresponsibility

Thousands of examples to choose from, but this MSNBC headline caught my eye today:

Teen suffers rare illness after swine flu shot – Boy diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, but CDC says no clear link.

The headline suggests the CDC thinks there might be a link, just not a clear one. Or they just don’t want to admit there is a link. Or something.

Actually, the CDC and other medical scientists say there is no link, for the very good reason that there is no link.

Many journalists are people of courage and integrity, who genuinely want to make a difference to the world by telling the truth, and thereby helping to find real solutions to real problems.

Then there are people like John Pilger and Michael Moore, who get awards and money for a career of spectacular distortions.

Somewhere in between are journalists like MSNBC medical reporter JoNel Aleccia, who can get a good headline, and either don’t think or don’t care about the impact of what they write.

JoNel’s story will make parents think the H1N1 vaccine is dangerous. Some children will not be vaccinated who otherwise would have been. Some of those children may become seriously ill when that illness could have been avoided. Some may die.

This article Nerve Disease from H1N1 Vaccine from cheap and nasty ‘news’ site examiner.com is even worse.

One thing following another does not mean the two are connected. The rooster crowing does not cause the sun to rise.

This Telegraph article – People will die after swine flu vaccine – but it’s just coincidence – explains how that coincidence works:

Dr Steven Black and colleagues calculated that if 10 million people in Britain were vaccinated, around 22 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome and six cases of sudden death would be expected to occur within six weeks of vaccination as coincident background cases.

In other words, the same number of people would have been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome or suffered sudden death whether they had been vaccinated or not – they just wouldn’t have the vaccination to blame it on.

.. research also suggested that 397 per one million vaccinated pregnant women would be predicted to have a spontaneous abortion within one day of vaccination.

But this is the rate of spontaneous abortion that would occur on any given day out of a group of one million pregnant women during a vaccination campaign or not.

As the article points out, a headline reading ‘Man wins lottery after swine flu jab’ would make just as much sense as the MSNBC headline.