Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Oprah Menace

Recently Newsweek had a substantial article on the pernicious effects of Oprah Winfrey's influence. It covered a lot, but the main problem is that she provides a prominent platform for a lot of charlatans peddling unproven self-improvement and health ideas yet doesn't do much of anything to show that these ideas may be unsupported scientifically, outright quackery, or even potentially harmful.

Specifically, she's provided a forum for former Playboy bunny Jenny McCarthy, who used to just be an irritating media presence but has now become the public face of the movement against immunization. This is based on the idea that immunization causes autism, which has been soundly discredited. With parents undeterred by the evidence provided by actual scientists doing actual research and instead choosing to follow the brain-dead former host of MTV's "Singled Out," the L.A. Times is reporting that a number of schools in wealthy areas, particularly charter and non-Catholic private schools, have levels of non-immunization high enough to become a problem with herd immunity. In other words, it's not just a matter of personal choice, but a legitimate public health problem.

People are taking bad advice from a nude model and making it more and more likely that diseases that had essentially been eradicated in the developed world will once again infect and kill children. I hope they're proud of themselves.

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