A new post by Orac discusses various tactics of the anti-vaccine movement, with reference to a new paper published in the journal Vaccine. (Link is to a pdf – apologies if this isn’t accessible to all as it’s well worth the time spent reading.) In the paper (entitled Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm — An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement), Anna Kata comments on how the combination of ready access to information via internet search engines, combined with a post-modern attitude to science as a means of viewing the world, have enhanced the spread and uptake of anti-vaccination messages.
In fact, you could argue that this combination enhances the spread of pseudoscience per se. For that reason I found Anna’s concluding statement particularly valuable & (like Orac) have reproduced it here (with bolding for emphasis):
… [F]inding common ground with those who question, fear or crusade against vaccines** is no easy task. Their arguments are constantly shifting and evolving – this has been furthered by the fluidity of the Internet and social media. While acknowledging and correcting flawed arguments is important, an approach that moves beyond providing “the facts” is likely needed. With the anti-vaccination movement embracing the postmodern paradigm, which inherently questions an authoritative, science-based approach, “facts” may be reinterpreted as just another “opinion”. This issue is as much about the cultural context surrounding healthcare, perceptions of risk, and trust in expertise, as it is about vaccines themselves. For these reasons it is possible the minds of deeply invested anti-vaccination activists may never be changed; therefore it is for both the laypersons with genuine questions or worries about vaccines and the healthcare professionals who work to ease their fears that keeping abreast of the methods of persuasion discussed here is essential. Recognising anti-vaccine tactics and tropes is imperative, for an awareness of the disingenuous arguments used to cajole and convert audiences gives individuals the tools to think critically about the information they encounter online. It is through such recognition that truly informed choices can then be made.
** or in favour of other modalities