Media… Panic !

11169012_10152605654661362_1842778891_n*picture by me from The Sunday Telegraph, April 19th 2015, pages 10, 11.

Everyone already knows that media is an exaggerated version of the truth, nothing is usually as deadly, big or ugly as they make it seem. In this whole controversial topic, thinking about ‘Media Panic’, I began to research something that I am interested in, why does the Prime Minister feel our kids should be vaccinated?

I started this discussion in my tutorial class where I bought up the fact that it was probably a matter of making more money, when my class mates reminded me that I was in Australia where vaccinations are free and not in America where the Big Pharma will generate $35 billion from vaccines sales this year and is projected to take in over $59.8 billion by 2019 (Organic Consumers Association, 2015). Maybe Mr Abbot’s reasoning behind such a controversial change was having to supply hospitals with more staff and medicals supplies for the huge amount of unvaccinated children rushing in. I then found that on the 20th March 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that measles elimination had been achieved in Australia (Department of Health, 2014). I also found that there has only ever been 4,079 cases of Whooping cough registered in all of Australia to date (Vaccine hub, 2015), that’s 4,079 cases in let’s say 23 million people, that sounds a little radical to start forcing parents to vaccinate their kids based on these facts.

I began to think back to my high school days where I studied Personal Health and Development, we were taught we had to be vaccinated or else the minority of us who hadn’t would cause a huge impact on the community. An open letter to legislators currently considering vaccine legislation written by Dr Tetyana Obukhanych, who holds a PhD in Immunology reassures us that our biggest fear of letting unvaccinated children attend school can cause an outbreak is a false statement, as most of the vaccines that are mandatory today are not designed to prevent the transmission of infection rather, they are intended to prevent disease symptoms (Tetyana Obukhanych, 2015).

‘NO JAB, NO PAY. NO PLAY’ caught my eye in the Sunday Telegraph, it was hard not to read the story of immune-deficient brothers Levi and Jude Fulton who’s family have cut all links with family and friends that refuse to get all vaccinations including the flu shot. It seems a bit extreme when I put it like that, considering that Levi and Jude have spent their entire lives in Sydney’s Children Hospital being secluded from any kind of infection or disease, but what about patients’ diagnosed with HIV, AIDS and other immune deficiency problems like Chron’s disease, lupus erythematosus, alymphocytosis, X-linked agammaglobulinemia among a lot of other diseases that have existed prior to this vaccination panic. Why have they not been important enough to cause a panic?

The way public health officials and the media have been promoting irrational fear feels like we are living in a dystopian science fiction novel.

While some argue that the media is simply acting to protect the public health, there has been a near complete abandonment of fair and balanced journalism.  Should media coverage that has swallowed the propaganda produced by the opposition leader and failed to carefully research or independently analyse other facts influence our choices. What ever happened to the right to my own body? We should be vaccinated by choice and not by fear of losing our benefits.

Why is the media targeting these stories now, to create this massive panic between parents who are radical and parents who are not. To side with Tony Abbot and get $6 from your GP to get vaccinated or lose up to $1500 if you’re not. Is this new media panic necessary?

Referencing

Department of Health, 2014. Measles – Elimination achieved in Australia. Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-measles-elim-announce-2014.htm. [Accessed 18 April 15].

Maiden, S  2015. NO JAB, NO PAY, NO PLAY, Sunday Telegraph, 19 April. Pages 10, 11.

Organic Consumers Association, 2015, Dissolving Illusions about the Measles Vaccine. Available at: https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/dissolving-illusions-about-measles-vaccine. [Accessed 16 April 15].

Obukhanychi, T 2015, Thinking mom’s revolution, ‘An open letter to Legislation from Tetyana Obukhanych’. Available at: http://thinkingmomsrevolution.com/an-open-letter-to-legislators-currently-considering-vaccine-legislation-from-tetyana-obukhanych-phd-in-immunology/. [Accessed 17 April 15].

Vaccine Hub, 2015. Whooping cough, ‘Get the facts on immunisation’, Available at: http://vaccinehub.com.au/content/whooping-cough. [Accessed 16 April 15].

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Media Effects

media effectWe put a kettle on, the water boils. So who is responsible, me or the kettle? For years people have been blaming media for their problems. The media says I’m too fat, the media says I’m too thin, the media made me more violent. But who controls the media? Is our society run by secret intelligent assigned monkeys to play some kind of sick trick on us? Or are we too in denial to admit that we, ourselves, in fact influence what we see and read?

Media effects are usually perceived as negative, video games such as ‘Manhunt’ have been banned in countries like the UK and New Zealand after a fourteen year old boy was cruelly stabbed by his friend who was supposedly obsessed with the game. Ever since more and more video games have been linked to violent and antisocial behaviour. Interesting enough a research by psychologist Christopher Ferguson, published in the Journal of Communication, argues otherwise. Ferguson and his team point out that many laboratory-based studies into the effect of media violence have measured aggression in test subjects through “less aggressive outcomes ranging from filling in the missing letters of words through delivering non-painful noise bursts to a consenting opponent.”

We gain a lot of knowledge from reading newspapers, books, articles and visiting websites. We use music and videos to shape our moods and often to trigger a wanted emotion. With the advance of social media, Facebook and other methods of online communication have grown dramatically and improved our way of interaction by allowing us to connect with people we might have not seen for years, family members and friends who are overseas.

So how do we define the effects of media being positive or negative in our lives? And most importantly, who do we blame?

As human instinct, it is always easier to blame our problems, insecurities and mistakes on someone or something else. In chapter 3 of Media Effects by W. James Potter, he talks about four media-influenced functions that are; acquiring, triggering, altering, and reinforcing. The one that interested me the most, is altering because he talks about an exposure during the media that can alter something that’s already present within ourselves. So for example, if I was angry at my Mother while playing ‘Manhunt’, I might get an aggressive and cruel thought or attitude towards her, however, if I was content with our relationship while playing the same game, it would not have an impact on my thoughts or attitude at all.

James Potter then goes on to explain the forth influenced function which is reinforcing, again he points out that media is simply reinforcing an idea or an emotion that is already present in ourselves, making it harder to change our own opinion as we are carefully selecting parts of the media that best agree with our feelings and morals.

This, however, is a very broad term that can be argued either way. Being a 21 year old teenager very dependent on all kinds of media, I fear it’s our own ignorance and lack of profound knowledge and research that leaves us exposed to the effects of media. A strong and intelligent mind would not be easily affected or corrupted by anything, perhaps only opened to new perspectives and point of views.

Putting the kettle on, and complaining that we got burnt by the boiling water is the perfect metaphor for media effect today.

Referencing

BBC News 2004, Game linked to hammer murder, available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/leicestershire/3934277.stm, accessed 18/03/2015.

C, Ferguson 2014, ‘Journal of Communications’, Does Movie or Video Game Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When, International Communication Association, Vol 65, Issue 1, pp 193–212.

W, J Potter 2015, ‘Media Effects’, What is media effect?, Sage Publications Inc, pp. 41-46. Available from Sage Journal Articles.