McCarthy certainly has a more pleasant, or at least less confrontational, television style. Really the only problem with hiring her is that her life’s mission at this point is the advancement of dangerous fictions about vaccines. She devotes a great deal of energy to promoting the untrue belief that vaccines lead to autism, and it seems possible that she now views her career as a television personality and prominent celebrity as a means of carrying out her mission to spread what she believes is the truth about autism.
Vaccines don’t cause autism. Vaccines, instead, prevent disease. Vaccines have wiped out a score of formerly deadly childhood diseases. Vaccine skepticism has helped to bring some of those diseases back from near extinction. Children have actually died as a result. Vaccine skepticism isn’t just some “alternative viewpoint” that is stupid but ultimately harmless, like “detoxing” or 9/11 trutherism. Parents have been convinced by McCarthy and the people she works with and promotes. They have forgone vaccination for their children. The result has been the recurrence and spread of preventable diseases. It’s incredibly irresponsible for a broadcast television network to think Jenny McCarthy should be on television — in a position where her job is to share her opinions — every day. It should seriously be a major scandal.
But McCarthy’s idiocy is of a very different, and much more damaging nature than the standard-issue right-wing idiocy of Elisabeth Hasselbeck. McCarthy is not expressing a disagreeable political position, she is spreading misinformation that has actual, tangible health risks. America’s public health authorities should be sounding the alarm. The American Medical Association and the surgeon general should be publicly calling on ABC to reverse its decision to hire McCarthy. They should have begun the campaign before the announcement was official.
Vaccine conspiracies, like so much modern cult conspiracy culture, perpetuates itself and lives on indefinitely thanks to the community-building and archiving of the Internet. With the help of some very prominent advocates, with huge audiences and a great deal of influence, it has spread far beyond the fringe. McCarthy has been one of the movement’s most prominent voices for years, and, infuriatingly, much of the media has treated her bullshit as weepy celebrity “awareness-raising” fare instead of crackpotted nonsense.
Pareene also reminds us the many Huffington Post articles giving credence to this idiocy, with links.