The Boston Globe: “Anatomy of a Panic”

January 9th, 2011 → 2:58 pm @ // One Comment

The Boston Globe, the newspaper I grew up reading, ran David Shribman’s review of The Panic Virus in today’s paper:

In the past decade Seth Mnookin has become a chronicler of some of the icons of American popular culture. He wrote a popular book, Feeding the Monster, on the ascent of the Red Sox, and a controversial book, Hard News, on the scandals of The New York Times. Now he is taking on another modern phenomenon, the movement against vaccinations. …

But in a larger sense, this volume is less about the insurrection against inoculations than it is about the democratization of information. It is less about the movement to battle the medical establishment than it is about the ability of social networks to mobilize for what Mnookin and most mainstream scientists and doctors believe is a bad cause. It is less about reasoned debate than about the free flow of information through the Internet. It is less about the contagion of ideas than about the contagion of misinformation and mistrust that metastasizes in the new technology. …

In time, freedom from disease has become an important American freedom. But skepticism of the American medical establishment became (and remains) an important part of the civic landscape, often inflamed, Mnookin contends, by shoddy shock-seeking journalism. …

Mnookin compares the vaccination opponents to those who don’t believe in global warming or evolution. And he blames the media for tolerating misinformation and validating “the notion that our feelings are a more reliable barometer of reality than the facts.’’ The ironic thing about Mnookin’s book is that he implicitly summons his profession to the admonition from the Book of Luke addressed to physicians: Heal thyself. This book is Mnookin’s effort to begin the healing process.


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One Comment → “The Boston Globe: “Anatomy of a Panic””


  1. Yudhie

    10 months ago

    Just watched this. Something itesrenting that you both agreed on in the beginning is that it hurts the credibility of doctors when vaccines are presented as perfect. Included in this is the frequent blanket denialism of problems.There were so many things I could respond to, but I don’t want to write ten pages. To begin with, I disagree with the characterization of all those with concerns about vaccine safety as anti-vaccine . When I hear this term applied to everyone who has concerns, I have doubts about the speaker’s objectivity.Yes, some people are truly anti-vaccine. Some believe that all vaccines are bad, that none have more benefit than risk for anyone. But too often we hear conversations that go something like this:A: My child received XYZ vaccines and then had XYZ adverse reactions and has not been the same since. B: You are anti-vaccine! Diseases are dangerous, vaccines are good! It is irresponsible not to vaccinate your kids! This parent did vaccinate, and saw adverse consequences. The point is that these consequences need to be better understood, for the sake of understanding who is susceptible, how to prevent these adverse reactions (to the extent possible) and how to treat them. Families of children who suffer adverse reactions feel quite abandoned. Because of the need to support the vaccine program, they are told that what they saw happen did not really happen. It’s all a big mystery.

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