If you can’t sell your journalism, sell controversy

I’m in the nation’s capital, as I am from time to time when the rigorous requirements of my job demand it, and I picked up a copy of the Baltimore Sun. (I like to see what’s up in the city where my alma matter is located.) It was the usual bit of this and that, with the mayor resigning, a ton of people coming out of the woodwork to try and replace her, and more violence in the streets. Then I saw that someone had tweeted an article from the Baltimore Sun to a friend of mine… And then my blood boiled.

To call it an “article” is too much. It was an opinion piece by William Reichel and Emily Tarsell from Timonium, Maryland. It has a ton of misinformation about the HPV vaccine. The usual tropes about how the vaccine is not safe, is not effective, causes too many deaths and disabilities. If they had the space to write it, these two would have probably blamed the Kennedy assassination on it.

Dr. Jen Gunter (an awesome, brilliant medical writer and physician) wrote a lengthy rebuttal of Reichel and Tarsell’s nonsense. In it, she goes point-by-motherf*cking-point over the whole thing and demolishes it. The opinion piece is so full of inconsistencies that I’m beginning to wonder if William Reichel really is a doctor. Because, he’s a doctor.

See, the opinion piece omits the titles of the people who wrote it, but they submitted it to an anti-vaccine website a month ago and clearly show the titles of the two people. Furthermore, in the antivaccine site, they post links and “references” to articles about cervical cancer and vaccines from three years ago (or longer). Just their first claim, that the vaccine has “never” been shown to prevent cervical cancer is an enormous lie. (Or it’s a lack of researching more recent findings about the vaccine’s ability to reduce the rate of cervical cancer precursors in women who were vaccinated compared to women who were not, which they’ll probably chalk up to better vaginal sanitation or something.)

First, who is Emily Tarsell? She’s a board member of an anti-vaccine organization and has stated that her child died from an HPV vaccine reaction. She also published “research” in the form of data analysis of a questionnaire and outright dumpster-diving of the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. She was even interviewed by Katie Couric because, you know, ratings. Something happened to her child, sadly, and she has swallowed the anti-vaccine hook, line and sinker.

And William Reichel? He’s thanked in the “paper” published by Emily that I mentioned previously. (Seriously, they interviewed about 40 people who were not selected at random for any kind of adverse event after the vaccine and, surprise, found that the vaccine is made from Satan’s sperm is dangerous.) Anyway, he’s been a darling of the anti-vaccine legions for a while. Back in 2011, he apparently sent Senator Barbara Mikulski a letter about his concerns with the HPV vaccine. In it, he states that he is personally concerned about the vaccine. He signs the letter by identifying himself as an affiliated scholar of a center for bioethics. I guess ethics don’t apply if you’re anti-vaccine.

Oh, have no doubt in your head that these two are anti-vaccine. They’re collaborating with anti-vaccine activists. They ignore some very good, very solid research on the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine. And they play the anti-vaccine card of finding causation between vaccine administration and severe effects (like death) when, at worst, there is an association and, at best, there is nothing there. (See what I did there with the whole worst/best thing?)

What really grinds my gears is the Baltimore Sun’s willingness to publish this nonsense. I’m sure that they’ll say that it’s an opinion piece, and that it wasn’t written by a journalist. (It wasn’t written by an objective person, that’s for damned sure.) But why publish dangerous misinformation? If I were the parent of a teen, and I didn’t know anything about the vaccine, I’d be thinking twice about whether or not to give my teen the vaccine. I’d be wondering if there is any truth to what these two have written. I’d probably Google them and then go down a dark path that would end in my teen getting, at best, genital warts one day or, at worst, cervical/penile/anorectal/throat cancer.

It’s not the first time that the Baltimore Sun has published an anti-vaccine piece. I guess that, if you can’t sell your journalism, you gotta sell controversy.

5 thoughts on “If you can’t sell your journalism, sell controversy

  1. Nvicp rejected Ms. Tarsell’s claim that the vaccine killed her daughter because the evidence didn’t support that even to the program’s lax standard.

    Click to access MORAN.TARSELL033012.pdf

    It’s tragic that Christina Tarsell died so young. But the evidence doesn’t support blaming the vaccine.

    • The poor young lady needed better follow up with a cardiologist. Even if the echo did not show a physical abnormality, the EKG results needed to be reviewed. Perhaps doing a 24 hour or so EKG using a Holter monitor.

      One thing my son is always asked at a cardiology appointment is if he ever feels dizzy.

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