Saturday, February 07, 2009

Global Radio: Jeni Barnett defends her position

Having blogged yesterday about Global Radio's heavy handed attempts to smother Bad Science (having been quite happy to propagate bad science, without the capital letters).

In the interests of balance, Jeni Barnett has posted a blog entry defending her original broadcast. Or attempting to:

I am not a scientist, I would not claim to be a scientist. When tested on the contents of the MMR vaccine I told the truth. I did not have the facts to hand. Was I ill informed? Yes. As a responsible broadcaster I should have been better prepared as a parent, however, I can fight my corner. I don't know everything that goes into cigarettes but I do know they are harmful.

So... let's just work through that thought. Jeni is admitting that she didn't know what she was talking about; she admits that she was being "irresponsible" as the presenter of the programme for holding forth on a subject about which she didn't have any of the facts, but somehow justifies this because she has a child.

And then she compounds the problems by suggesting trying to create a fallacy: "I don't know what goes into cigarettes, but I know they're bad."

Eh? But surely you know that cigarettes contain carcinogens, which is why they cause cancer. You presumably know there's evidence, lots and lots of it, which links cigarettes to lung cancer. If you don't know about that evidence, you probably shouldn't be broadcasting on radio; you probably should be thinking about doing some basic GCSEs.

But even if that level of ignorance was defensible, saying "I know cigarettes are bad, I don't know how" doesn't justify broadcasting dangerous rubbish about MMR. Because MMR doesn't cause autism, so implying that it doesn't matter you don't understand the science of MMR, it's enough to know it does harm is doubly foolish - it's foolish because it simply isn't good enough to take such a weak approach to a difficult subject; it's foolish because it simply isn't true to claim that there's a danger in the triple jab. And you'd know that if you'd researched the subject. And as you admit, you hadn't.

The real question is why Global are sending legal threats to Ben Goldacre when, really, they should be calling in their presenter and asking why she thinks having procreated is some sort of excuse for taking a biased and wrong position on a programme where she should have been acting as a balanced moderator.

Jeni wails:
I would like some of my critics to try and run a three hour programme.

Eh? You can't call someone for turning up to do a show, admitting they didn't have any facts on the subject they were talking about, and still blasting out fallacious science if you haven't presented a three-hour radio programme. What's that even mean, Jeni? "It's enough having to remember to play the commercials and not crash the news - you can't expect me to know what I'm talking about."
I am interested in the debate not a witch hunt.

A debate - although not one where you're bothered to find out what you're talking about before starting it.
Should anybody from BAD SCIENCE read this I urge you to continue the debate, and if it gets too heated there is always the option of turning me off.

Well, yes, Jeni - except the problem is, anyone can turn you off. What they can't turn off is the rising level of measles cases that are being generated by ignorant commentators like you frightening parents into not getting their children inoculated. And if you're going to justify doing that, it's probably in all our interests to have your show switched off permanently. On the supply side.