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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Immunization Deniers Censor School Students" (part of "The Age of Denial")

immunization deniers censor school students is one thing for adult humans to express their disbelief of established scientific facts. We know, obviously, that former scientific truths over centuries have been proven to be mistaken, and one might even welcome such questioning by informed individuals using established methods of scientific inquiry.

     What angers me even more, however, is when younger people are influenced by ignorant deniers—a nearly inevitable event given parental influences and the attempts of communities such as those in the early 20th century Scopes trials to determine what information their children will be taught (see my piece on Inherit the Wind below). Even more troubling, moreover, are situations in which students simply exploring truths, are harried or denied in their efforts.

     On July 21st of this year, the Los Angeles Times reported, in an article by Eryn Brown, that students of Carlsbad, California High school involved in that school’s award-winning broadcast journalist program had come under fire by those individuals and authorities who oppose immunization. The so-called “signature program” is their regular CHSTV broadcast, reporting from school studios on a wide range of subjects, “ranging from final exams to nearby wildfires, delivered by a teenage staff.”

      Another related program is the production of documentaries, produced by an “extracurricular offshoot of the program,” CHSTVfilms. The idea for the film on immunization came from a local Rotary Club group, who had been working on for 20 years to promote immunization in San Diego County. Group members were worried about the fact that the vaccination rate “was starting to slip,” and that increasingly larger groups of kindergartner parents in the county were seeking exemptions from immunizations.


                      Health advocates were alarmed to see diseases like measles and

                      and whooping cough…emerge anew. In neighboring Orange

                      County, 22 people came down with measles in the first five months

                      of 2014—part of a frightening nationwide surge for the virus,

                      which was officially eliminated in the U.S. in 20000.


     The students involved and their advisors felt that the Rotary proposal “seemed boring,” and “they bristled” when the Rotarians began to dictate how the movie should be made.

     Ultimately, they determined to do the movie only on their own terms, exploring the subject from both sides of the controversy surround immunization.

      Club officials agreed, and the students proceeded on their production, although the Rotary raised the $60,000 to cover the student effort.

      Reading studies, talking to medical experts and interviewing parents and a well known local osteopath who had spoken out against the vaccines, the students came to their own conclusions. If, in the beginning, the article reveals, “some of the students…believed vaccines and autism were linked,…they changed their minds as they researched.” As one of the students, Allison DeGour, responded, “It was all social controversy. There was no science controversy.”

     The final version of their film, titled “Invisible Threat.” was completed in the Spring of 2013, and was shown to select audiences. The student work took a strong pro-vaccine position.

      Critics soon began actions against the film, particularly when the film was set to be screened on Capitol Hill. Groups such as Focus Autism and AustismOne complained about the film’s Rotary backing and the involvement in the script by teacher Douglas Green. Although Green admits that he operated the camera in some scenes, but that the students all had a hand in the writing, edition and shooting of the film.

     Because of the controversy and threats the school has received if they dared to air the film, school authorities have delayed the launch of the film, which one student—now a sophomore in USC’s Annenberg School of Communication’s broadcast journalism program—described as “disheartening.” Most students and parents at the Carlsbad school have still not seen the student film.

     After months of postponement and fears of showing the film, school authorities now promise that they will post the film on their Web site on August 1st, in conjunction with National Immunization Awareness Month. Given the reported sophistication of the film, however, one can imagine that the film’s makes might have sought a larger audience for their work, still basically censored through the efforts of deniers.


Los Angeles, July 22, 2014

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