As doctors we used to think that the Internet was an evil, dirty place. At once point it was. Look at the story of vaccines and autism. What started as a fraudulent MMR-autism connection by Andrew Wakefield was ultimately buoyed up and fueled by the mob. The vaccine-autism connection will down in history as one of the health infosphere’s greatest failures.
The racket held Google’s spiders at gunpoint. “Communities” like Age of Autism (look for Hell to freeze over when you find a link here) served as the center of community for a pseudo-empowered group of parents brainwashed into thinking that the best course of action was to threaten heroes like CHOP’s Paul Offit and pediatricians who had spent the better part of two generations struggling against deadly childhood diseases. Brainwashed young parents echoed the conspiratorial voices of a vocal minority fueled by corrupt information. It was a generation of young parents lost in hyperspace and disconnected from reality.
Call it bad crowdsourcing with dangerous implications. Epidemic groupthink under the auspices of Jenny McCarthy.
CNN recently declared the vaccine-autism connection finally over. While I’d like to agree, the vaccine-autism connection was dead before it ever began. But Age of Autism trudges on like a drunk zombie tragically disconnected from the rest of the world, still angry and playing the victim of monsters like me.
Whenever I hear ‘information is good’ I think of the great autism-vaccine hoax of the early 21st century. All I can think about is the number of young, impressionable parents who fell as frightened victims to the echo of misinformation.
Let it be a lesson to all of us who turn to the hive for information.