Sunday, July 03, 2011

now, where's Hopi Sen when you need him...

Daniel Davies has long had a beef with the government over its PR strategy towards the MMR vaccine, for which he sometimes seems to hold Ben Goldacre responsible. No, it doesn't make much sense to me either, but as a student of the Davies oeuvre, I think it can be best understood as a system of interlocking grudges. I personally think spite is underrated as a progressive force, so I don't have that much to complain about here.

Anyway, what I think this particular grudge is lacking is a sense of what might have been done differently. The official line-to-take was that there was nothing wrong with the MMR vaccine. Among the press talking points of the Tony Blair years, this stands out for having been the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, although this wasn't as obvious then as it is now.

As far as I understand it, D^2's point is that the government could have done more to accommodate the concerns of people who were worried about it. This is where I'd like to see an alternative proposal, though. Does this seem to you like a convincing media strategy? Obviously, what follows are caricature scenarios rather than specific proposals.

There's nothing wrong with it, but you're right to be worried

Let's try that one again from the top.

There's nothing wrong with it, but if you're rich you can go private

I think I see the problem.

There's nothing wrong with it, but if you're worried about it, here's a lot of content-free warm words and canned emotion. Hey, it's the Blair government - we've got more than enough to go round!

It is worth remembering that one of D^2's major criticisms is that the government was too patronising.

There's nothing wrong with it, but we must recognise the Very Real Concerns...

Ah, yes, those. We've met them before; I seem to remember a rather good essay on very real concerns.

Further, of course, all of these plans would have had the same fundamental failure mode, in that they would all have been reported as JABS WILL RAPE YOUR MORTGAGE: OFFICIAL by the Daily Hell and the Diana Tits.

I suspect that any answer to this will involve Blair refusing to say whether his kids got the MMR or not. I note that, tiresome prat that Blair was about it, John Selwyn Gummer stuffing a burger into his daughter is not actually remembered as a rhetorical triumph on a par with "I have a dream..." nor even as a masterpiece of cynical PR on a par with "The pound in your pocket has not been devalued".

Of course, there really was something seriously wrong with the burger, in fact all the burgers, and Gummer bore significant responsibility for letting that state of affairs persist. So even though he's apparently a nice old church gent who writes books about the environment these days, there's a grudge worth bearing.


john b said...

(as usual when I comment, there's a "should I comment here or at the other place?" meta-comment)

I think Dan's point re MMR is that other government shithousery made the Wakefield view more plausible than it otherwise would've been, not that it responded badly to the MMR scandal given the situation their previous shithousery landed them in.

(I'd disagree re Gummer, though. Although he's an objectionable prick in many ways, there was nothing wrong with the burger he gave his sproglet, and it's turned out that all the BSE-infecting-humans stuff was indeed bollocks.)

john b said...

(see: I'm not dead, you're not dead, nobody we know's dead, meat didn't kill us, vegetarians have good PR people)

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