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Offit Teaches Physicians How to Talk To The Public About Vaccines: Contemptuously Lecture, Stonewall, Bully and Throw Them Out

Posted Jan 20 2012 10:46am
Reading Jake Crosby's piece today on being thrown out of yet another Paul Offit speech, I am struck by the ironic pattern in these speaking engagements.  

Paul Offit (and Seth Mnookin) have been holding events at prestigious institutions to tell medical professionals and academics how to handle the public on the vaccine controversy.  Yet I think that it is completely lost on them that they are not just giving a speech on how to handle people who question the current vaccine program, they are actually holding a lab, will full scale demonstrations, on how to handle people who question the current vaccine program.

Because people don't really pay as much attention to what you say as they do to what you do.  (Ask any parent trying to teach a child NOT to do something that they do themselves.  "Don't smoke kids.  Now pass mommy her cigarettes.")  And what Offit and Mnookin have done, is offer a bunch of words that will likely have little impact, but then actually demonstrate how to treat doubters of their message, which has a huge impact.

So here is the take away that event goers are getting when attending an Offit/Mnookin event:
1.  Offit gives a lecture at NIH entitled “ Communicating Vaccine Safety Science to the Public ,” says a bunch of words, then demonstrates how to communicate "vaccine safety science" to someone who is a steakholder in the issue (Jake Crosby, who may be vaccine injured) by falsely accusing him of being a stalker, by not letting him ask a question (although he is behaving completely appropriately) and by throwing him off the premises. 

Take away:  To communicate with the public, talk AT them.  If they have questions that you don't want to answer, make them your adversary and have them removed from the property.

It is OK, and even preferable, to demonize vaccine safety skeptics, and treat them very poorly. 

Bully them.


2.  Offit gives a lecture at Yale entitled “ Hard Knocks: Communicating Science to the Public ,” says a bunch of words, then demonstrates how to communicate "science" to someone who is a steakholder in the issue (Jake Crosby, who may be vaccine injured) by falsely accusing him of being a stalker, by yelling at him, by not letting him ask a question (although he is behaving completely appropriately) and by throwing him off the premises.

Take away:  To communicate with the public, talk AT them.  If they have questions that you don't want to answer, make them your adversary and have them removed from the property.  Offit has also inferring that the "Hard Knocks" do not refer to the medical professional being "knocked" when trying to talk to communicate to the public, but actually to the vaccine safety skeptic who was actually "knocked" trying to communicate with the medical professional.  "When engaging the public, it is OK to give them 'hard knocks'."
It is OK, and even preferable, to demonize vaccine safety skeptics, and treat them very poorly. 
Bully them.

3.  Mnookin gives a lecture at  American University's School of Communication entitled  " How to Communicate with Anti-Vaccine Parents ," says a bunch of words, then demonstrates how to communicate "science" to someone who wants to make their own vaccine decisions, by telling the audience that you are offended and repulsed by such parents, and that you think they are "Total Assholes."



Take away:  To communicate with the public, hold them in contempt.  Even when they are parents earnestly working in the best interests of their vulnerable children.

It is OK, and even preferable, to demonize vaccine skeptics, even as you admit that vaccines may not even work for their child.

Bully them.

4.  Mnookin appears at the  “ Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research ” event,  says a bunch of words, then demonstrates public responsibility in vaccine discussion by falsely accusing a stakeholder in the issue (Jake Crosby, who may be vaccine injured) of being disruptive at events, by not letting him ask a question (although he is behaving completely appropriately) and by throwing him off the premises .

Take away:  It is responsible, when dealing with vaccine safety skeptics, to talk AT them while only allowing them to sit quietly and listen.  If they have questions that you don't want to answer, make them your adversary and have them removed from the property.
It is OK, and even preferable, to demonize vaccine safety skeptics, and treat them very poorly.
Bully them.

Do you see the pattern here?
Mnookin and Offit ARE teaching the medical world how to treat those who have questions about vaccine safety.  They are to be treated very poorly.  They are to be held in contempt and bullied.  They are to be removed from the premises.
But of course the problem for medical professionals in taking this advice, is that when they try it in their offices, they loose the argument, the loose the patient, and they loose their reputation in the community.  Taking Offit's advice is akin to shooting oneself in the foot for anyone whose job actually requires them to have a conversation with a member of the public.
And the Offiteers have lost at least A QUARTER of the public to the conclusion that vaccinating according to CDC recommendations is a greater risk to their child than adhering to their recommendations.
So I will echo Mary Holland's most salient question to Paul Offit in this last exchange:
"Would you be willing to engage in a public debate about the vaccine issue?”
And we see that the answer is, and always will be, the one that Offit gives:
“There is no need to debate the science; the science is in.”
Their answer is "No."  


So as Offit (who has become the Bagdad Bob of vaccination) and friends lock the doors to the ivory tower from the inside, to protect themselves from vicious graduate students in epidemiology at that hotbed of anti-science anarchy, George Washington University; but what they don't seem to have noticed is that all they have done is locked themselves in a broom closet, away from the real vaccine discussion that matters.  Their tiny mutual admiration society is having little impact in the direction of vaccine uptake rates, because they are not engaging with the vaccine decision makers.  You know... their customers.  The discussions that are changing vaccine uptake are happening at coffee tables, at bus stops and over back fences.  

I have them on a weekly basis, I don't accuse people who question me of being disruptive or being stalkers, I don't treat them with contempt, i don't call them "Total Assholes," I don't shout them down when they try to ask questions, I don't throw them off the premises and I DO engage them for as long as they want to talk about the issue.

I can show a mother that the claim that "The science is in and vaccines don't cause autism" (and apparently now encephalopathy) is a complete load of horse shit in 2 minutes on my cell phone from our health officials own words documents and web sites.  Not only is Offit not there to defend his stupid claim, local pediatricians are completely ill equipped to win back moms who have been educated at the coffee table, because the only thing they have been taught to do with these moms are:

1. Hold them in contempt.

2. Talk AT them.

3. Don't allow them to ask questions.

4. If they challenge your stance, throw them out.

And then of course, the next time they are at coffee, it's all, "OMG... you were totally right.  They don't know anything about vaccine injury!  He couldn't answer the questions and just tried to bully me!  What is the name of your pediatrician who is cool with your vaccine choices?"

So by all means, keep it up you two... keep it up.  Nothing proves my points more to all the women I talk to than the way you behave.
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