On Lies, Trust, and an Omelette Bar


When I first starting writing my December 2nd column on the evils of lying, I started from a stance that lying was, as a rule, relatively harmless. But by the time I was winding up my research, I had a whole new perspective.

“Lying” sounds like something we teach kids not to do, because it’s kid stuff, not all that important, little white lies from little kids to save them from a ‘whupping.’

Lying is not supposed to be something that normal adults would do with any sort of regularity, because responsible adults are expected to stand by what they say, do, and believe.

As children, we were told to expect that people in respected positions would always speak the truth. That’s the oath people take when their words are important … they swear to ‘tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

But what happens when the people we are meant to believe … our elected leaders, civic leaders, corporate leaders, religious leaders … lie to us to further their own agendas? Their words then warp the teachings and beliefs necessary for a just society, based on respect for the veracity of each other. And that is some scary stuff.

brainwashing eyes wideWhen those lies become a continuous stream, and range from nonsensical, easily disproved, contortions of actual facts to major leaps of nonsensical confabulation, the problem becomes how to control a citizenry in which a large percentage has bought into the deluge, and effectively becomes a brain washed cult, no longer able to differentiate truth from lies.

Lying dissolves our trust, and trust is the invisible ‘glue’ that makes modern society and civilization possible. A fractured trust in leaders and important organizations is a very bad thing; that trust is the glue that allows us to survive disasters, participate in community activities, address inequality of income, and share our knowledge in order to increase our general health and happiness. Trust is difficult to earn, and easily lost, and yet it is possibly the single most important ingredient necessary for improving the human experience.

trust meI read recently that only 19% of millennials think the average person can be trusted. But the weird thing is that, despite all evidence to the contrary, they DO trust the system. and they believe that they, themselves, are trustworthy They just don’t trust each other.

Back in the good old days, say, around 1967, about 56% of us believed that ‘most people can be trusted.’ Our ability to trust is actually on the decline, and has been for quite some time. And that is because we have been lied to by those in whom we had previously put our faith.

why do you lie liarIt’s hard to put your faith and your money into the hands of someone whose own hands have been caught looting the cookie jar. When social media exposes the stories of people, just like yourself, who have been lied to, or who have been cheated by those in whom we are asked to trust, our credulity becomes strained.

 

Governing bodies, big and small, have asked us to trust that they had our best interests at heart. Unfortunately, too many of those officials have later been found unworthy of having their words believed. And it doesn’t matter if they had very, very, VERY good reasons to lie to the people; our rational brains may forgive them, but our gut never will.

trust me I'm from the govtToday, only 1 in 3 Americans believe that most people are trustworthy. Less than 1 in 3 trust that other drivers are competent, or would trust a clerk or website with their credit card. 1 in 4 people trust their employers, and less than 1 in 5 adults trust the government.

But here’s the interesting thing – when you ask people how much they trust people who are their neighbours, the numbers go up; 39 percent of millennials trust their neighbours, as do 73 percent of seniors.

Proximity and personal experiences with others tend to encourage trust; it is difficult to distrust someone with whom you have much in common. If you have a solid education, with a lot of exposure to different classes of people, you are more likely to trust a wider range of individuals than someone with an inadequate field of reference.

It’s interesting that those who are mentally, physically, or emotionally isolated have a harder time trusting individuals of varying colours, interests or abilities. ; These individuals will easily take as gospel, information that shows people unlike themselves to be untrustworthy.

Perhaps it is from this group that Trump draws his base; certainly, their blind faith in him, and loyalty to his campaign of fear and hatred of non-American humans is mystifying.

There was certainly a suspension of disbelief visible when Trump’s blatant gaslighting of America was in full display during his State of the Union speech. The president falsely claimed that fencing along El Paso‘s border with Mexico had directly reduced violent crime, despite FBI data that said otherwise.

el paso border crossingStatistics show that violent crime in El Paso has been falling steadily over the last 25 years. There was a little uptick, just for a bit, after border fencing was installed in 2008, but other than that, the statistics are clear.

Despite being shown that his information was false, Trump doubled down on his lies at an El Paso rally, asking his rapt supporters to accept as true his assertions over what had been gleaned from federal government data.

And it seems like his faithful are happy to believe whatever they are told.

He continued his bluster when he declared his fake ‘national emergency’ on Friday, telling the assembled dignitaries and journalists that he just didn’t believe the statistics that came from his own administration, that showed record low border crossing, that less crime was committed by undocumented immigrants than by native-born Americans, and where exactly the flow of illegal drugs was happening at the border.

He chose instead to believe statistics he’d been given that came from less reputable sources.  ” On Jan. 27, he tweeted that the cost of illegal immigration so far this year was $18,959,495,168. We traced that number to a report on the right-leaning One America News Network. The figure appears to be based on an estimate from an outside group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), though the OAN figure was considerably higher.” (Washington Post)

snake oil salesmanHey!  let’s not let facts get in the way when we’re selling to the rubes! Somebody’s gotta buy this snake oil!

Trump’s willingness to flat-out deny reality when it doesn’t suit his purposes highlights one of the dangers of his presidency: He is shameless about not just contradicting the findings of his own government agencies but constructing a fact-free alternate reality where immigrants are violent criminals, drugs and tied-up women are pouring across the southern border, and the number of people making a dangerous trek through remote regions to enter the United States presents an existential threat. (VOX)

 Immediately following the declaration of emergency, Trump fled to his retirement home lair in Florida. While ‘chillin’ like a villain,’ it seems that El Presidente was caught “in flagrante delicto” at the omelette bar.

trump omelette bar Feb 2019 post national emergency

(well… caught red-handed with a plateful of bacon, that is … _

 Impeach this guy? More like im-poach.

I’ve gotta wonder if this really is him – after all, this guy looks like any generic, unhealthy old grandpa who has just wandered up to the ‘all you can eat’ cart at a cheap Best Western or Holiday Inn.

What is with the open garbage can? The multiple bottles of ketchup? The general slovenliness of the place, and the caption missing from the photo that should be saying, ‘With cheese, Mr President?” “Yeah… let’s make America .. grate again…”

If that is indeed the ‘luxury’ resort that costs it’s members $200K a year to enter, the decor is surprisingly outdated and cheap looking, like it was bought from the Wayfair returned items outlet.

The ten year old Walgreens poster, showing Trump as a younger and fitter man (remember when he really WAS 6 ft 3?) has got to be a cruel reminder to his wife and kids that daddy’s ability to ‘walk the walk’ has degenerated into “daddy needs to ride in the golf cart or we’re not gonna make it to the corner for ice creams!”

Is it really him? He looks dazed, like he hasn’t had his Adderall yet.  is this photo shopped, because enquiring minds want to know …where’s his hair? His ‘tan’? Those dozens of chins? His enormous behind?  Is that a chemical peel on his cheeks or vitilago? And did he raid Kim Jong Un‘s daddy’s closet for that outfit?

trump obama who wore it betterIf it turns out that this is, in fact, the emperor unclothed, then this photo has done a real service, at least to some of us. His base will likely never believe that the Trump that regularly throws a news hand grenade into our living rooms and then wanders off to play golf is not the pompous, pompadoured autocrat usually seen swanning around in his black ‘fat coat.’

His base will scream that the photo is ‘fake news,’ and that the libtards are once again continuing on their persecution of their anointed one’s preordained reign.

But for the rest of us, photographic proof that this harbinger of the apocalypse is nothing more than an old, frail man, with no real friends or any cultural significance beyond what the GOP have draped around the wizard’s image, is a moment to be savoured like a fine wine.

Trump’s followers want to wallow in Trump’s fantasy world, even if that world is filled with criminals and horrors. They don’t want to accept a reality that doesn’t include their Orange Emperor promising his loyal followers untold riches trickling down upon them.

baldwin trump 2019Thankfully, we still have access to alternate points of view. Saturday Night Live no longer allows it’s skits to be streamed on YouTube, so I can’t embed the fun Alec Baldwin had with his impersonation of Trump’s rantalogue last night. But it went something like this ….

” “This is a big one, so I don’t want to waste any time,” Baldwin, in full faux tan and blond wig regalia, said to open the show. He then claimed to be over six feet tall and “shredded,” adding that he looked forward to the visiting Hanoi with Chairman Kim who “is a very cool, misunderstood guy.”

 “There’s a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country — from the southern border, or the ‘brown line’ as many people have asked me not to call it.” Wall works. Wall make safe. You don’t have to be smart to understand that, and in fact it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

Elsewhere in the speech, Baldwin‘s Trump confessed that he had to “fake” the national emergency and said he’d mulled over enacting the death penalty for non-violent crimes. He then said that he knew signing the declaration would lead to “immediately [being] sued.”

I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favor and then it will end up in the Supreme Court and then I’ll call my buddy Kavanaugh and I’ll say ‘it’s time to repay the Donny,’ and he’ll say, ‘new phone, who dis?’ And by then the Mueller report will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over..” (FOX News)

Thanks, SNL.  I needed that.

 

Liar Liar Pants on Fire!


by Roxanne Tellier

When we’re kids, we’re terrible at telling lies. You can spot a kid that’s telling a tall tale a mile away, because they’re just not great at deceiving others.

Deception and lying are all part of a cognitive understanding called a Theory of Mind. That’s the realization that we all have our own knowledge, beliefs and opinions … that development informs us that we all have different minds.

Over time, we learn to tell ‘social’ lies, the fibs that get us through our days. “How are you today?” the cashier asks us, and we cheerily inform her that we’re just fine, despite the screaming headache we’re trying to ignore. Or someone asks if they look good in their new coat, and we tell them they look amazing.

pinochioSalespeople lie a dozen times a day, or if not lie, at least they’ll minimize the defects of an item, and maximize it’s benefits. We lie on our resumes, and on our dating profiles .. at least a titch … and we lie when we want to look smarter or more informed than we really are.

Peer pressure and our need to fit the perceptions and expectations of others drives a lot of the lying. We want to look good to others, and to do so, we often have to ‘enhance’ our reality.

We lie to avoid the consequences of mistakes, we lie to buy time, we lie to spare other people’s feelings. We may be lying for all the right reasons, but we’re still lying.

All of that lying comes at a cost. What we really crave is honesty, or at least the belief that someone is being honest; complete honesty is the access to ultimate power. When we feel that a person is telling us the truth, we hand over our power to their keeping. We believe that they have our best interests at heart, and, in effect, must be better people than we assume ourselves to be.

But trust is a fragile thing. And even if the person who broke that trust tells us with sweet words and warm embraces that our trust was broken for a very good reason … once we no longer trust, we can no longer cling to a faith in the person that has broken the code of truth.

And when you pile lie upon lie upon lie … the very foundations of a relationship proves to be built upon quicksand. Not a great thing if it’s in a romance, but if that relationship is between a nation, and it’s leader, there’s an enormous price to pay, and it’s a dangerous place for a nation – or a planet. Especially a planet where Pinocchio demands absolute fealty, constant attention, and has the codes to a nuclear football.

“On January 20, Trump’s truthful hyperboles will no longer be relegated to the world of deal making or campaigning. Donald Trump will become the chief executive of the most powerful nation in the world, the man charged with representing that nation globally—and, most importantly, telling the story of America back to Americans. He has the megaphone of the White House press office, his popular Twitter account and a loyal new right-wing media army that will not just parrot his version of the truth but actively argue against attempts to knock it down with verifiable facts. Unless Trump dramatically transforms himself, Americans are going to start living in a new reality, one in which their leader is a manifestly unreliable source.” Politico, January 1, 2017.

There’s a crushing irony in Trump, who promised to be the ‘law and order’ president, who has racked up a blinding total of over 6000 lies since taking office, telling Americans and the world that he believes the words of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who denies having been involved in the murder of U.S.-based, Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

don't lie to meBelieves MbS, may I add, over the findings of his own CIA, the actual tape of the screams of the man being murdered, and the fact based reality that nothing happens in the Kingdom of the Saud’s without the leader having full knowledge of all actions taken in his kingdom, and in his name.

I’m sure it’s not only those of us who are parents or grandparents that smelled the aroma of defensive lies well before they were fully baked in Trump’s oven of hypocrisy. He did, after all, begin cooking them up even before the Saudi’s had had a chance to properly season those lies with the blood of their tortured and murdered victim.

Kids lie because they have no power. They lie to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions. But leaders have ALL of the power; if what they are doing or proposing is in the best interest of those they lead, there’s no need to hide their words or deeds. Trump’s deep dish lying is only necessary when there’s double dealing, corruption, and personal greed afoot.

But then again, Trump has a lot of practice in both the telling of, and the swallowing of, lies. He’s essentially based his entire presidency and legacy on a roiling sea of tall tales, myths, innuendo, misrepresentations, denigrations of truths, and lie after lie after lie. And his claims are usually at the expense of those whose sole mission in life is to present truths – be it the CIA, the FBI, or the free press.

He’s denied that Russia had any interest in putting him into office, even as witnesses, texts, and chains of emails come to light proving his collusion. No matter what proof is laid on the table, Trump, that sly dog, manages to twist and turn the truth, until his base can be convinced that there’s no smoking gun of evidence, just a ‘light’ claim of wrong doing that he denied at the time, but that if you look at it from his point of view, was never wrong doing, and even if it was, it wasn’t a crime and certainly not illegal .. and hey presto! There’s your new normal … a candy coated lie that everyone wants under the tree at Christmas.

The Teflon coating of Trump’s America is nothing but a veneer of protective lies. Just ask special counsel Mueller, who’s spent the better part of a year and a half exposing the lies of 45’s cronies, lies that come to them as easily as breathing. Or ask those he’s caught in those lies, those that once swore utter loyalty to the Father of Lies, in exchange for a sniff of power … Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn, to name but a few.

Whether it was lying about the paying off of sex scandals, the fiddling of campaign finances, or Russia’s involvement and meddling into the 2016 election, and whether it was for power, loyalty, or reasons we may never understand, Trump’s ex besties will be paying a steep price for lying to federal authorities.

Yes .. I’m aware that all presidents lie. The difference here, though, is the frequency, and the intent .. Nixon, Reagan, Clinton... no question that they were caught lying, in attempts to protect their reputations.

But Trump seems to lie because he just can’t help himself. There’s no matter so small that he can’t find a lie inside it; during the campaign, PolitiFact found that he lied 70 percent of the time. It’s knee-jerk, it’s just what he does … George Washington could not tell a lie, Trump cannot tell a truth.

(anecdotally, Trump once told his butler, Anthony Senecal, that the tiles in a nursery at MarALago‘s West Palm Beach club had been made by Walt Disney himself. Knowing that was false, Senecal protested. Trump’s response was: “Who cares?”)

He is the Boy that Cried Wolf. Many of us can no longer believe anything he says, ever.

Even the most brilliant human brain can only cope with so much misinformation. For the majority of us, we’re easily overwhelmed with a flood of false statements. Our coping mechanism soon becomes overburdened, and ultimately, we begin to absorb the disinformation as a new reality, no matter how implausible those statements may be.

yes masterAnd Trump is also the master of another form of lying, so insidious that most people don’t even see it coming …he practices ‘illusory truth,‘ … the sheer repetition of the same lie until it begins to register as truth in our minds, and even causes the actual reality and truth to be erased from our memories.

Keep repeating a lie and it begins to seep into our minds as truth. Say it enough, and we’ll no longer be able to recognize truth at all.

Worse still, our efforts to refute those lies only serves to solidify the lies as truths. The brain can’t parse out a phrase like, “it’s not true that all migrants are gangsters.” Instead, it filters out the first part, and seizes upon the second as what is important. Refutations and retractions will do nothing to change judgments and decisions we make based upon false information.

I wish that I could tell you that there is an easy way to change the minds of those who have absorbed this administration’s lies and misinformation and made those deceptions into core beliefs. But I cannot. In point of fact, the processing of all of this false information has physically altered the minds of the ‘true believers’ as surely as those of religious cultists. They literally cannot hear any information that does not correlate to what they have accepted as truth.

The base of Trump’s followers will not willingly drop their acquired values; they are far more likely to double down on their emotional connection to the lies than to hear statements that belie what they have come to consider gospel. Trump’s base will have to be ‘deprogrammed’ by someone able to reshape their minds. We can only hope that whomever comes along to do so, has honorable intentions, and the good of their country top of mind.

 

Addendum:  When I first started writing this column, I came from a very different perspective. By the time I was winding up the piece, I was shaken to my core.

“Lying” sounds like something we have to teach kids not to do; kid stuff, not all that important, a mere peccadillo, as they used to say.  But it’s so much more than that. When the people we are meant to trust … our elected leaders, civic leaders, religious leaders … lie to us to further their own agendas, their words can warp the teachings and beliefs of a lifetime. And that is some scary stuff. Manchurian Candidate stuff.

If you have an interest in the science of lies, please read this article – especially the second half – and be prepared to look at America with an entirely different and more educated eye by the end of the read.

The distressing reality is that our sense of truth is far more fragile than we would like to think it is—especially in the political arena, and especially when that sense of truth is twisted by a figure in power. As the 19th-century Scottish philosopher Alexander Bain put it, “The great master fallacy of the human mind is believing too much.” False beliefs, once established, are incredibly tricky to correct. A leader who lies constantly creates a new landscape, and a citizenry whose sense of reality may end up swaying far more than they think possible. It’s little wonder that authoritarian regimes with sophisticated propaganda operations can warp the worldviews of entire populations. “You are annihilated, exhausted, you can’t control yourself or remember what you said two minutes before. You feel that all is lost,” as one man who had been subject to Mao Zedong’s “reeducation” campaign in China put it to the psychiatrist Robert Lifton. “You accept anything he says.””

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/donald-trump-lies-liar-effect-brain-214658

Meep Meep! and other Augusty Thoughts


No matter how you may feel about Senator John McCain‘s political past, with his recent demise, you cannot help but remember that he was a war hero, and a stand up guy. His passing leaves us short of what might have been the last real gentleman standing in the Senate. As his life becomes a memory, those who knew him well remind us of those moments that defined a Giant of the Senate and of a politician who frequently eschewed partisanship for a wholehearted defence of democracy.

Even in death, McCain holds firm to his principles. As I read this morning, “John McCain told friends months ago that he didn’t want Donald Trump at his funeral. Instead he wanted former President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush to attend his funeral and deliver the eulogy. McCain famously lost to Bush in the 2000 Republican primary race for President, and then lost to Obama in the 2008 general election for President. Yet McCain chose these two men — one Republican and one Democrat — to eulogize him.

McCain thus ensured that his funeral would be bipartisan and inclusive, making it all the more glaring that current “President” of the United States wasn’t invited.”

Imagine what a horrific human being you have to be, to be barred from both McCain’s funeral, and the funeral of Barbara Bush. And this is the guy who thinks he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. He couldn’t negotiate peace between the two types of candy in an M&M bag.

November can’t come soon enough ….

storms coming

 

In a week that hints of a possible end to the Trump administration’s reign of terror, it is a real comfort to know that the rule of law must ultimately prevail, even over an administration as venal and corrupt as this one.

And yet, there are still those that hold a grudging admiration for the Grifter in Chief, and his army of wily surrogates and spokespeople who seek to stop his feeling any sort of retribution for his heinous , malicious whims and vindictive executive orders.

wile e coyoteThey will assure you that they would never .. NEVER … vote for the Orange Manatee. But they just can’t help themselves from grinning – just a little – when he wriggles out of yet another moral or ethical dilemma.

It’s like Trump is the RoadRunner, constantly outwitting the smarter, but nonetheless ultimately hapless, Wile E. Coyote. 

For many who feel vaguely discontented with their lot, there’s a real anger towards ‘smart people,’ those who ‘caught the breaks,’ and are often considered part of a group that seems to be determined to keep the regular Joe down. There’s a resentment for those who have more success, and a belief that somehow, those guys had more, and unfair, advantages.

tall poppies 2Because of the tales and tropes we’ve grown up believing, there can be a real bitterness in some. It is as though they believe that intelligence is a negative characteristic, that should be hidden from others, or at least, played down with great modesty.

They believe that “Real Men” don’t have to study, let alone ‘think’ … Real Men just DO! They naturally have all the information they need to solve any problem, even if it’s not in their field, or their realm of expertise. They are simply born with that ability. It’s just something that ‘real men’ know in their always righteous guts.

So when a confident, if completely incapable, con man comes along – especially one that ticks so many of our culture’s other boxes .. he’s tall, he’s imposing, he takes no shit, he is in charge, he’s got a lot of women in his life, whether through matrimony or a lifetime of libertinism … those same people can feel like they’re looking at a man of action. If not a hero, then at the very least, an anti-hero, whom they can admire.

They look at this man who will literally shove aside other men to be fully spotlighted and in charge … and something inside them admires that brutality.

trump shoves PM of Montenegro

Mistaking recklessness for bravery, lasciviousness for virility, and self-preservation for selflessness, they are happy to carry the 72 Year Old Toddler‘s water.

The OranguTAN likes to come off as a sort of lovable rogue, always ready with a quip, even when it is completely inappropriate or critically cruel of others. It’s all about the luck, the wit, the simple act of being The Donald, rather than any sort of actual information, data or reality. He is completely averse to any pretension of knowledge, or the acquiring of same, disdaining his crucial daily briefs and demanding that they instead be solely bullet points and pictographs. Because a man of his stature, you see, must always be on the run, on the go, being a manly man, playing golf, grabbing pussies. Busy busy!

Eventually, of course, there will be retribution. But up until that fateful day, there will be many who will throw their careers and bodies in front of Mad King Donald, as he stumbles toward a possible impeachment and a probable indictment, believing that their loyalty will be rewarded, if not in the White House halls, than in the publishing offices where they will flog their memoirs for big bucks, in hopes of bringing joy to the slathering, puerile readers who will never come within a thousand miles of such proximity to ‘greatness.’

Until the day that the roadrunner catches Mr Wile E.

the muellering

……………………………………………………..

In the flurry of convictions, plea bargains, and requests for immunity this week, one long time comrade of the Gibbering Gibbon found his string of publications in the spotlight – and most definitely not in a good way.

David Pecker, notorious tabloid king, owns nearly every supermarket tabloid and gossip sheet in the United States, including the flagship publication National Enquirer. In an effort to get ahead of the rush of those seeking immunity deals, he’s admitted to having withheld stories detrimental to the Trump campaign, by using ‘catch and kill;‘ the practice of buying up a story and then burying it. This would very likely constitute an unlawful contribution to the Trump campaign of 2016.

He’s even admitted to having an office safe dedicated solely to stories and photos of Trump in flagrante delicto. This ain’t no Geraldo hoping for an Al Capone bonanza – this is the real deal.

But while we wait, and silently shudder at what might lie within the safe’s depths, I think it has to be noted that Pecker did not just hide Trump’s offences, he maintained a constant assault on Hillary Clinton throughout the course of the campaign, on his tabloid’s covers.

national enquirer hillary covers

Despite all this Democratic insistence of ‘going high when they go low,‘ this abuse of the public’s trust, in the lies and smearing of one presidential candidate in favour of the other, cannot be ignored. While the tabloids may be considered ‘entertainment,’ there are many parts of the United States when their words are considered ‘gospel,’ based mainly on how many lesser educated people were raised – to believe that words in print must be true, simply because they have been printed.

We already know a big chunk of Americans – the ones Hillary so rightly called ‘the deplorables‘ – did and do believe these accusations and lies. They continue to buy into Pecker’s steady drip of venom against Democrats, anti-gun activists, and civil rights advocates .. every damn Saturday when they pick up their groceries at the local Wegmans or Albertsons, and then trot down to the VA for a rousing chorus of “lock her up.’

If Hillary can’t bring herself to sue the bejeezus off this turd, a civil suit should be brought against his publications. His stories constitute a willful assault upon the attention spans of the ignorant and the poorly educated.

Lies, propaganda, and a relentless, overt attack on one candidate to assure the political success of another is not free speech – it is collusion between Trump and Pecker, and campaign meddling, and it needs to be acknowledged as such.

trump pecker enquirer

 

Manufactroversy – Measles and Vaccines


CDC measles graphI’ve been off the grid for several days with no time to research or write. But I can assure you that my absence was not due to having measles! I was vaccinated as a child, my children were vaccinated, and their children have been vaccinated. In fact, due to the wonders of vaccines, measles had actually become extinct in North America by 2002.   

iron lungFor those who weren’t around in the 1950’s or earlier, a vaccine may seem silly and old fashioned. But people my age and older remember growing up when children could still get polio; most of us had friends who had spent time in an iron lung, or who were still recovering, if they’d been lucky enough to survive.

smallpoxAnd most of us knew someone with scars left from having had smallpox. Edward Jenner invented the very first vaccine, for smallpox, in 1798. Before that, 30-35% of people who caught ‘the pox’ died, while the rest were left with horrible scars, usually on the face, and possibly blindness, limb deformities or osteomyelitis. When smallpox was finally eradicated in 1979, it had already killed an estimated 300–500 million people in the 20th century alone .The disease is now effectively extinct; the last known case was in 1977, in Somalia.   

(for more information on other horrible diseases eradicated by vaccinations, please read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eradication_of_infectious_diseases)

vaccinationOur parents were more than eager to protect their children from these horrors. And when vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella appeared, they were added to what we were given. Why would parents let their children suffer, if there was an alternative?

Vaccination (or inoculation) is essentially the administration of a material made from the antigen (antibody generator) of the disease you wish to avoid. That material stimulates the immune system, which either completely prevents an individual from getting the disease, or at the least, weakens the impact of the disease.

In a way, it’s sort of how homeopathy works, where a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people is given to sick people in hopes of curing similar symptoms. But homeopathy is considered a pseudoscience, and is not effective beyond having a placebo effect.

The real science of medicine, on the other had does work. And until a British medical researcher, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, wrote a now discredited 1998 paper claiming that there is a link between the MMR vaccine and the appearance of autism and bowel disease, most of us were simply happy to ensure our children lead healthy livretracted-lancetes.

(Not only was the study discredited, when his results were never able to be reproduced, but a 2004 investigation identified undisclosed financial conflicts of interest to do with his research. He was also charged with misconduct by the British General Medical Council when it was found that autistic children had been given invasive procedures, like colonoscopy and lumbar puncture unnecessarily.)

Unfortunately, former Playboy nude model/MTV host Jenny McCarthy, heard about this study, and believed the theory, citing her own autistic son Evan as proof positive that Dr. Wakefield was correct in his findings. She became a vehement activist and promoter of alternative autism treatments, and pushed for research into the possibility of environmental causes.

jenny mcCarthy CNNApparently disregarding the updated information on Dr Wakefield’s misconduct, and despite what now seems to be a misdiagnosis of her son’s illness (seizures more consistent with Landau-Kleffner syndrome, often confused with autism,) McCarthy took to the airwaves, beginning in 2007, spreading her beliefs before mass audiences, including the respected Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live and Frontline.

a lie can travelWith such a high profile, her stance became very popular. And as hard as it is to get a ball rolling, it’s just as hard to change its direction. There are now millions of people who treat her three books on autism as bibles, despite the misinformation they contain.

It has been said that that McCarthy’s “unfounded claims that vaccines cause autism have been one of the greatest impediments to public health in recent decades.” Her short 2013 stay as a co-host on the talk show “The View” was highly criticized. McCarthy’s credibility rating remains high, despite her anti-vaccine stance. Since The View is largely aimed at parents, many believed further discussion of the discredited theory would endanger the public.

a lie doesn't become truthIn an open letter article in Time Magazine, senior writer Jeffrey Kluger criticized McCarthy, saying, “Jenny, as outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough continue to appear in the U.S.—most the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children because of the scare stories passed around by anti-vaxxers like you—it’s just too late to play cute with the things you’ve said. You are either floridly, loudly, uninformedly antivaccine or you are the most grievously misunderstood celebrity of the modern era. Science almost always prefers the simple answer, because that’s the one that’s usually correct. Your quote trail is far too long—and you have been far too wrong—for the truth not to be obvious.”

Many who followed the misguided theory pointed to a correlation between an increase of many conditions that used to go by other names now being called autism and the administration of the MMR vaccine. The fact is, we are now more informed and able to recognize the span of autism spectrum disorder. It is that ability to provide a better diagnosis that has created the apparent rise in the number of autism cases.

As early as 2007, Skeptic.com had already laid out the truth about the discredited theory.

“During a question and answer session after a talk I recently gave, I was asked for my opinion about the vaccine/autism controversy. That was easy: my opinion is that there is no controversy. The evidence is in. The scientific community has reached a clear consensus that vaccines don’t cause autism. There is no controversy.

Science-vs-BSThere is, however, a manufactroversy — a manufactured controversy — created by junk science, dishonest researchers, professional misconduct, outright fraud, lies, misrepresentations, irresponsible reporting, unfortunate media publicity, poor judgment, celebrities who think they are wiser than the whole of medical science, and a few maverick doctors who ought to know better. Thousands of parents have been frightened into rejecting or delaying immunizations for their children. The immunization rate has dropped, resulting in the return of endemic measles in the U.K. and various outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. children have died. Herd immunity has been lost. The public health consequences are serious and are likely to get worse before they get better — a load of unscientific nonsense has put us all at risk.”

The facts are that research shows that the vaccinations do not contain materials that cause autism. There have been over 1 billion vaccines given, and study after study has shown that there are no negative long-term consequences.

autism speaksLast week, Rob Ring, chief science officer at Autism Speaks, said in a statement posted to the group’s website. “Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism.The results of this research are clear: vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.”

surgical masksNow, I’m all for freedom of choice. Parents who are concerned about their child receiving a vaccine SHOULD talk to their paediatrician, and make an informed choice. If that choice is not to vaccinate, then, for the sake of ‘the herd’ – the millions of others who may be affected by that choice – families who opt out of vaccination should be isolated from those they may contaminate.

Stop it might be measlesMeasles are very contagious. Even hours after an infected person sneezes or coughs, everyone who is in the area is potentially affected. And that includes babies too young to safely receive a vaccine, and the elderly, who may have come to the end of their immune safety. About three out of 10 people who get measles will develop one or more complications including pneumonia, ear infections, or diarrhea.

Does that seem fair? Does it seem right that someone who ‘feels’ that their child may develop … MAY develop … a problem .. a one in literally a million chance .. should potentially be allowed to let their child impact upon other people’s health?

prohbitingWe live in a world that has outlawed everything from scented toilet paper to peanut butter in schools, and smoking anywhere. The receptionist at my medical clinic has to wear a face mask all winter because she won’t get a flu shot. Much as I hate the restrictions, I respect those who have lobbied to protect everyone, as opposed to those who chose to follow their own conscience, whether their information is correct or incorrect.

I don’t get to smoke in the park; you don’t get to subject others to your unvaccinated child.