A Letter to the Editor of the Sunshine Coast Daily

Accuracy, Clarification and Accreditation

Dear Sunshine Coast Daily,

I am writing to you regarding a piece which was published on the 5th of June online (initially titled, “Viral anti-vaccination meme shocks professionals“, later updated to “Druggie meme set up to enflame vaccination rage”), which appeared in print as, “Anti-jab meme was done in humour”.

The original online version of the article was written without the knowledge that the meme graphic was a parody of anti-vaccination posters – which could have easily enough been discovered by performing a reverse Google Image Search or checking the Something Awful watermark on the original uncropped picture. I left a comment on your website to let you know the origin of the image, with a link to a blog post that I had written explaining the location and context from whence it came.

I checked the online version of the article again when I received email confirmation that you had received my comment and discovered that the article had been updated to include an explanation as to the origin of the image.

The re-write of the first paragraph began,

UPDATE: MEMBERS of the online community have claimed responsibility for an internet meme linking vaccination to drug abuse.”

I would like for it to be clarified that no members of the ‘online community’ have claimed responsibility for the image; it has been on Something Awful’s website for all to see since July 2013. The wording of your article can be read as implying that I may be claiming responsibility – I wish to stress that I have no affiliation with Something Awful, nor the creator of the image. I was made aware of Something Awful’s Photoshop Phriday when it went online, as I am a strong advocate for vaccination and monitor the activity of anti-vaccination groups. Furthermore, I would like to make it clear that I do not endorse the creation, nor sharing of this image.

I was also somewhat surprised when I read the updated article to find that my blog post that I’d given you a link to in the comments had been quoted rather extensively in the article – seven paragraphs, no less. While I am more than happy that you updated your article to improve its accuracy, I would have greatly appreciated being credited for my research and writing. The online copy had an inline link to my blog, which read “A post explaining the meme said:”, while the paper copy merely had this text with no attribution at all. My name, blog name and contact details appear prominently on the blog post from which you took my writing and I would have been pleased to have been quoted for your article, had there been reasonable attribution provided alongside my work.

Also, in the print version, there is a typo. In my post, I wrote “It has been said that some of the most effective satire is nearly impossible to distinguish from the truth.” – the print article has replaced “effective” with “active”. While I agree that this meme was rather active at the time of publishing, this is not what I wrote!

Finally, I would like to note that “Druggie” is a pejorative label for people with substance addictions and that perhaps a different term may have been more appropriate to use in your publication.

Best Regards,
Jo Alabaster
Blogger, evidenceplease.net

UPDATE 12th June 2014, 1:45pm: I have just received an email from the acting editor of the Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper, letting me know that they’ll be publishing my letter (edited for length).

Original text of the Sunshine Coast Daily article on the parody anti-vaccination meme, published 7:06am 5th June 2014, by Megan Mackander:

Viral anti-vaccination meme shocks professionals

A CONFRONTING image circulating on social media, connecting drug-use to vaccination, has mortified Sunshine Coast doctors.

The image, which came from an unknown source, flies in the face of experts driving a campaign to boost vaccination rates across the Coast.

The Sunshine Coast has the lowest vaccination rate in the state and the third lowest in Australia, with only 87% of five-year-olds fully immunised.

An alarmingly low 64% of five-year-olds in the 4552 region – which takes in Maleny, Conondale, Witta, and Crystal Waters – are fully immunised.

The image, which depicts a drug addict slumped in a corner with the text “their first injection was a vaccination: protect your children from vaccinations”, has gone viral on social media and has recently found its way to Coast news feeds.

[image]

The meme that is circulating at the moment has caused concern for Sunshine Coast doctors.

Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association president Dr Di Minuskin described the image as “outrageously incorrect” and reiterated that vaccinations remained a safe and effective measure of protecting children and the larger community.

“I am horrified that this type of message should gain any validity,” Dr Minuskin said.

“If anyone receives this image via social media I would recommend they swiftly assign it to the trash box where it belongs.

“Not only is the information outrageously incorrect, it is irresponsible to be creating unwarranted fear about such an important issue.”

The image, which is not new, but has recently gone viral across the Coast, comes just weeks after anti-vaccination campaigner Meryl Dorey was allowed to deliver a 90-minute address at the Sunshine Coast Healthy Lifestyle Expo.

Ms Dorey declined to comment about the image.

Sunshine Coast Public Health director Andrew Langley said while vaccination rates had been on an upward trend since the 1990s, the current level in the region should be higher.

Updated version of the Sunshine Coast Daily article on the parody anti-vaccination meme, published 12:17pm 5th June 2014, no author credited:

Druggie meme set up to enflame vaccination rage

UPDATE: MEMBERS of the online community have claimed responsibility for an internet meme linking vaccination to drug abuse.

The meme found its way on to Sunshine Coast Facebook pages- some for and some against the messages the meme was sending.

The sharing of this images prompted outrage from Sunshine Coast doctors.

The image flies in the face of experts driving a campaign to boost vaccination rates across the Coast.

The Sunshine Coast has the lowest vaccination rate in the state and the third lowest in Australia, with only 87% of five-year-olds fully immunised.

An alarmingly low 64% of five-year-olds in the 4552 region – which takes in Maleny, Conondale, Witta, and Crystal Waters – are fully immunised.

The image, which depicts a drug addict slumped in a corner with the text “their first injection was a vaccination: protect your children from vaccinations”, has gone viral on social media and has recently found its way to Coast news feeds.

A post explaining the meme said: “… the most effective satire is nearly impossible to distinguish from the truth. As such, occasionally a graphic or quote which has been created as a parody is shared on social media, creating confusion, fear and outrage among a wide range of people… particularly those not familiar with the source and their particular brand of humour.

“One such example is currently doing the rounds; a graphic which appears to be an anti-vaccination claim, which seems to suggest that childhood vaccination leads to heroin use, due to needles being regarded as something positive.

“I’d like to reassure anybody concerned that this has not been created by an anti-vaccinationist (though, being familiar with the wide range of bizarre claims made by anti-vaccination campaigners, I can understand why it could be read as real).

“Furthermore, in case I need to clarify this, there is no known causal link between vaccination and intravenous drug use later in life.

“This graphic was created as a part of Something Awful’s Photoshop Phriday in 2013, in which SA forum participants tried to create over the top parodies of anti-vaccination posters.

“After showing some examples of actual anti-vaccination memes, the SA admins issued a challenge: “If they can take anti-vaccination posters to this level of absurdity, imagine what we can do!”

“Unfortunately, this one has escaped its context and repeatedly gone viral..”

[meme image]
The meme that is circulating at the moment has caused concern for Sunshine Coast doctors.

Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association president Dr Di Minuskin described the image as “outrageously incorrect” and reiterated that vaccinations remained a safe and effective measure of protecting children and the larger community.

“I am horrified that this type of message should gain any validity,” Dr Minuskin said.

“If anyone receives this image via social media I would recommend they swiftly assign it to the trash box where it belongs.

“Not only is the information outrageously incorrect, it is irresponsible to be creating unwarranted fear about such an important issue.”

The image, which is not new, but has recently gone viral across the Coast, comes just weeks after anti-vaccination campaigner Meryl Dorey was allowed to deliver a 90-minute address at the Sunshine Coast Healthy Lifestyle Expo.

Ms Dorey declined to comment about the image.

Sunshine Coast Public Health director Andrew Langley said while vaccination rates had been on an upward trend since the 1990s, the current level in the region should be higher.

Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper, week of 5th June 2014, no author credit.

Thanks to PK Kent for sending me a photo of the print copy.

Thanks to PK Kent for sending me a photo of the print copy.

Transcript:

Anti-jab meme was done in humour

MEMBERS of the online community have claimed responsibility for an internet meme linking vaccination to drug abuse.

The meme found its way on to Sunshine Coast Facebook pages – some for and some against the messages the meme was sending.

The sharing of the image prompted outrage from Sunshine Coast doctors.

The image flies in the face of experts driving a campaign to boost vaccination rates across the Coast.

The Sunshine Coast has the lowest vaccination rate in the state and the third lowest in Australia, with only 87% of five-year-olds fully immunised.

An alarmingly low 64% of five-year-olds in the 4552 region – which takes in Maleny, Conondale, Witta, and Crystal Waters – are fully immunised.

The image, which depicts a drug addict slumped in a corner with the text “their first injection was a vaccination: protect your children from vaccinations”, has gone viral on social media.

Created about a year ago, the image was revealed yesterday as a parody competition, where forum participants on a site called Something’s [sic] Awful, were challenged to create over-the-top parodies of anti-vaccination posters.

An online post explaining the meme said: “… the most active [sic] satire is nearly impossible to distinguish from the truth.

“As such, occasionally a graphic or quote which has been created as a parody is shared on social media, creating confusion, fear and outrage among a wide range of people… particularly those not familiar with the source and their particular brand of humour.

“I’d like to reassure anybody concerned that this has not been created by an anti-vaccinationist.

“Unfortunately, this one has escaped its context and repeatedly gone viral…”

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