I have a long and not-so-friendly history with The Huffington Post: My second post for this blog was titled “The Huffington Post — Featuring Bad Science and Facile Reasoning Since 2005,” and in the 19 months since then, I’ve written about how HuffPost features dangerously ignorant dreck, I’ve bemoaned the site’s “medical review board” signing off on vaccine fear-mongering, and I’ve written about how HuffPost has played a major role in perpetrating the myth that vaccines can cause autism.
I’ve also been hopeful that the launch of the site’s Science channel in January marked a change in attitudes — and it has, to some extent. (Heck, they even let me post a piece that implicitly criticized their past actions.) But recently, I’ve been despairing that the good work being done on the site has actually served to amplify the crazy. I wrote a piece about this that ran today on Txchnologist:
A little more than a month ago, HuffPost Science asked me to do a video interview for a piece they were putting together on why, despite the massive amount of information to the contrary, so many people still seemed to believe there was a link between vaccines and autism. The resulting five-minute segment, which ran on June 12 and was titled “Vaccines and Autism: Controversy Persists, But Why?” hits on a lot of the points I’ve been talking about since my book The Panic Virus was published in early 2011—including the media’s role in spreading misinformation.
Less than three weeks after that piece ran, the site prominently featured this gem: “Rob Schneider Links Autism to Vaccines, Rails Against Big Government.” …
The fact that…the offending piece ran on The Huffington Post’s Comedy channel doesn’t mitigate the ways in which [it] tarnish[es] the responsible reporting that occasionally appears on the site. It also doesn’t change the fact that an important part of The Huffington Post’s business plan is to use that responsible reporting as an implicit validation of this type of dreck. The “Also on HuffPost” box at the bottom of the Schneider story includes an embedded video of the HuffPost Science interview I did last month. Either the intention was to counteract Schneider’s paranoid conspiracy theories (which implies that his viewpoint is valid enough to need refuting) or to provide a different take on the story (which implies that there are two “takes” on this story in the first place). The effect is the same either way: delusional scare-mongering is treated as being worthy of rational discussion.
You can read the rest of the piece (and some entertaining comments) over at Txchnologist.