Thursday, March 2, 2017

Baseless Skepticism on Malaria Vaccine

Baseless Skepticism on Malaria Vaccine 

Lance D Johnson from natural news published an electronic article called:  New malaria vaccine injects subjects with 50,000 live parasites that invade the liver… claims to be “100% effective”. In this article Johnson tries to bring doubt to the efficacy of research published in Nature(journal) regarding a new form of malaria vaccination.


“About 214 million people were infected with malaria in 2015, about 438,000 died from malaria. Nearly 90% of those deaths were in Africa.” (World Health Organization). Considering how deadly malaria can be in some parts of the world it is baffling that someone would oppose the presentation of a new treatment methods which presents such promise.

The First method Johnson uses to trick his readers is his writing style and grammar. The rhetoric used in the article published on the anti-science site Natural News is indicative of language expected from an intellectual. From the perspective of an individual with little scientific background the arguments read logically. This is derived from the dialect of academia which is usually inaccessible to individuals with limited education. Just because he sounds smart doesn’t mean he is smart. As one of my favorite rappers put it: “This slang that I speak don’t change that I’m deep”.

The second method Johnson uses to make his readers doubt the findings are broad generalizations about vaccines, claiming healthcare has burdened the world with dependence on more immune system stimulants that weaken long term humoral defense systems. Considering the rate at which viruses and pathogens evolve it is beneficial to regularly update vaccines, if maintenance of good health isn’t a priority to his readers they are welcome to abstain from vaccination. To say vaccines, weaken humoral defense systems is absurd because the purpose of vaccination is to strengthen the immune system. Subtle lies of this nature throughout his article builds the sense of doubt as you continue reading. References to plant based anti-parasitic blood cleansing compounds are stated in the article. If you select the links to these compounds you are redirected to another pages on the Naturalnew.com domain with a short abstract from a research paper taken out of context.

The last and most effective thing Johnson does to convince his readers to doubt the 100% efficacy of the vaccine is to ask good reasonable questions and provide no answers. For example: “How is this really any different from just getting malaria and treating it with drugs?” and “Will the injected live parasites find a way to survive inside people over time?”. It would be difficult to have any insight on these questions without reading the original publication or interviewing researchers who worked on the project. The vaccine is still in the clinical trial phase, there are still years of development left before it is available to the market. Ironically Johnson cited two trustworthy articles as his sources. One citation was an article from Deutsche Welle (Germany's public international broadcaster) and the other from Science Daily (they cited the Nature publication). Considering Johnson writes for Natural News I doubt any respectable scientist would want to answer any of his questions despite how reasonable they may be. He might also lack the background to fully comprehend the findings originally cited in the nature publication. By citing two valid articles Johnson is able to construct his own article on Natural News to fit his agenda while limiting hard science.

Through elitist rhetoric, over generalization, and the presentation of reasonable questions Johnson is able to create an article that seems as valid as any other in order to promote the anti-vaccination sentiments of his Natural News.

Sources:
http://www.naturalnews.com/2017-03-02-science-claims-new-malaria-vaccine-live-parasites-is-100-effective.html
http://www.dw.com/en/kremsner-new-malaria-vaccine-is-100-percent-protective/a-37587227
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170215131606.htm

Posted by Michael Aflakpui (group A - Week 4)

13 comments:

  1. It actually baffles me how much fake science news there is, especially on diseases such as Malaria since it's so dangerous and every year kills so many people. With all the ways this author tried to persuade the readers, it would be difficult for anyone to not believe him. It's amazing how you were able to break down the entire article and actually see how it is fake news. I also think that people who do not get vaccinated against Malaria in places with high risk for it are just silly.
    Posted by Ana Carolina Nepomuceno

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    1. Thanks, I agree the level of sophistication the author uses to convince his readers is impressive to say the least. I wouldn't have noticed I was reading fake news if I didn't fact check. This is partially because most of the article is true. I see why you may think people in high risk areas who don't get vaccinated are silly but you have to remember who these people are. Most of them aren't people with wifi in their homes reading articles like the one published by Johnson and making a decision not to get vaccinated. The majority of these people are poor, living in third world countries with almost no access to information or healthcare.

      Posted by Michael Aflakpui( group A)

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  2. The way the author presented the information would definitely be convincing to anyone without scientific knowledge on the subject of vaccines. The comment he made about healthcare that "has burdened the world with dependence on more immune system stimulants" is honestly kind of funny because it is the complete opposite of what vaccines are supposed to do. It is also concerning that he cites real science articles but takes them out of context and presents only what he wants people to believe and not the facts.

    Posted by Sierra Tyrol

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    1. I was really impressed with the authors ability to frame the information to his narrative. The power of interpretation is highlighted in this article. People often think the side that is right wins the argument but I believe more now than ever that the best debater wins, not the correct one.

      Posted by (Michael Aflakpui)

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  3. I love that you quoted something from one of your favorite rappers. It's nice when we can add a personal touch sometimes. As you mentioned, science literature is often not easily accessible to the general public because many don't understand the language. So, when someone publishes an article that is easy to read we are often to eager to accept it for what it is and not do any further research. On the topic of vaccines, the general public is often also eager to avoid them because of things like a rise in the percentage of children with mental disorders or allergens. When, in all reality, the evidence that vaccines are responsible is limited and often irrational. I wonder if these authors of "fake science news" think they are correct?

    Posted by Anna Potorski

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    1. Thanks, I wasn't sure how the quote form the rapper would come across but I believe if we are going to deconstruct this alienating language of academia, we might as well start here. I also wonder if they actually believe the ideas they are spreading. Its hard to know. If a fake news site had direct connections to some cooperation which would benefit for their misinformation then it would be clear what the motives are but part of me thinks these people really believe what they are saying.

      Posted by Michael Aflakpui (group 4)

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  4. You did a really great job of analyzing this article and picking out the parts that make it especially fake. I like the point you made about how a normal person would have no reason not to second guess Johnson's statements. What I don't understand about fake science news is this: what's the point? Why would anyone want to discourage people from believing in an effective vaccine for Malaria? Like Anna said above, do these authors really think they are correct? Maybe they really believe that their statements are factual, or maybe they are just trying to stir the pot and get people talking about a particular subject. The subject of Malaria is an important one, however, I do not think there is any need to bring any negative attention to it.

    Posted by Taylor Irwin

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    1. I honestly have no idea why they do it. I would speculate there are religious implications. Maybe they think they are doing the rest of us a favor and we just don't know any better.

      Posted by Michael Aflakpui(group A)

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  5. Melissa StephensMarch 4, 2017 at 8:00 AM

    Thats really good that you were able to see past the scientific language because sometimes that can be difficult. Other people might see that and think that it must be right because the guy sounds smart. Its also impressive that you were able to see this as fake news because you needed a background in the subject to know actually what vaccines are and how they work. My biggest question is why would someone right this? It does nothing for the writer and its actually a huge waste of time on his part and the readers when we could be reading something to actually learn!

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    1. I have been asking myself these same questions lately. But what is the point of anything. Maybe for entertainment? I binge watch tv shows sometimes and it's a complete waste of time I could be using for something more productive. That doesn't change the fact that it's satisfying. Why do people generally watch news channels that are in line with their political beliefs? Its nice to get reinforcement that your beliefs are valid, if not for the sake of entertainment.

      Posted by Michael Aflakpui (group 4)

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  6. I really like the way you broke down the article and pointed out what the author did to trick readers. I think writing style is a useful way to be convincing but it is often overlooked by the reader. It’s interesting to me that the author of the article chose to write falsely about a disease such as Malaria since there doesn’t seem to be much controversy about the disease itself.

    Posted by Hannah Jordan (2)

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Yes writing style seems to convey alot. Just a reminder, the writer was trying to convince people that the new vaccine that reported 100% success in a recent stage of clinical trials is a sham because he thinks vaccines are generally unnecessary.

      Posted by Michael Aflakpui

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