Tag Archives: Media

“The Panic Virus” and the Origins of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

The Panic Virus paperback version ©2012, Simon & Schuster, all rights reserved.

On February 28, 1998, the revered British medical journal The Lancet published a brief paper by then-high profile but controversial gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield that claimed to have linked the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine with regressive autism and inflammation of the colon in a small case number of children. A subsequent paper published four years later claimed to have isolated the strain of attenuated measles virus used in the MMR vaccine in the colons of autistic children through a polymerase chain reaction (PCR amplification). The effect on vaccination rates in the UK was immediate, with MMR vaccinations reaching a record low in 2003/2004, and parts of London losing herd immunity with vaccination rates of 62%. 15 American states currently have immunization rates below the recommended 90% threshold. Wakefield was eventually exposed as a scientific fraud and an opportunist trying to cash in on people’s fears with ‘alternative clinics’ and pre-planned a ‘safe’ vaccine of his own before the Lancet paper was ever published. Even the 12 children in his study turned out to have been selectively referred by parents convinced of a link between the MMR vaccine and their children’s autism. The original Lancet paper was retracted and Wakefield was stripped of his medical license. By that point, irreparable damage had been done that may take decades to reverse.

How could a single fraudulent scientific paper, unable to be replicated or validated by the medical community, cause such widespread panic? How could it influence legions of otherwise rational parents to not vaccinate their children against devastating, preventable diseases, at a cost of millions of dollars in treatment and worse yet, unnecessary child fatalities? And why, despite all evidence to the contrary, have people remained adamant in their beliefs that vaccines are responsible for harming otherwise healthy children, whether through autism or other insidious side effects? In his brilliant, timely, meticulously-researched book The Panic Virus, author Seth Mnookin disseminates the aggregate effect of media coverage, echo chamber information exchange, cognitive biases and the desperate anguish of autism parents as fuel for the recent anti-vaccine movement. In doing so, he retraces the triumphs and missteps in the history of vaccines, examines the social impact of rejecting the scientific method in a more broad perspective, and ways that this current utterly preventable public health crisis can be avoided in future scenarios. A review of The Panic Virus, an enthusiastic ScriptPhD.com Editor’s Selection, follows below.
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REVIEW: Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture

Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture ©2012 McGraw Hill Professional, all rights reserved.

This past weekend, over 130,000 people descended on the San Diego Convention Center to take part in Comic-Con 2012. Each year, a growing amalgamation of costumed super heroes, comics geeks, sci-fi enthusiasts and die-hard fans of more mainstream entertainment pop culture mix together to celebrate and share the popular arts. Some are there to observe, some to find future employment and others to do business, as beautifully depicted in this year’s Morgan Spurlock documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. But Comic-Con San Diego is more than just a convention or a pop culture phenomenon. It is a symbol of the big business that comics and transmedia pop culture has become. It is a harbinger of future profits in the entertainment industry, which often uses Comic-Con to gauge buzz about releases and spot emerging trends. And it is also a cautionary tale for anyone working at the intersection of television, film, video games and publishing about the meteoric rise of an industry and the uncertainty of where it goes next. We review Rob Salkowitz’s new book Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, an engaging insider perspective on the convergence of geekdom and big business.
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Interview: Digital Footprints of Modern Advertising and Media

Who among us has not computerized our bills, thinking that reducing paper consumption was more Earth-friendly? Or increased accomplishing anything and everything by email that used to be done by snail mail? On a larger scale, media and advertising (and to some degree entertainment) has had the same idea, moving away from traditional print to digital delivery models. At the Sustainable Media Climate Symposium in Manhattan last December, Don Carli spoke about the new and somewhat controversial concept of ‘Tree Washing’ within the advertising and media industries, specifically the notion that modern technology use and methodologies leave a larger carbon footprint than the traditional paper industry:

The video, and idea, caught ScriptPhD.com’s attention in a big way. Mr. Carli, the director of the Institute for Sustainable Communications, has hypothesized extensively about whether digital media is worse for the environment, including a recent white paper about the guilt that this new dilemma has incurred in consumers. Eager to learn more, ScriptPhD.com sat down with Mr. Carli to discuss the technology and environmental challenges presented by modern media and advertising conduits, how technologists and creatives can work in concert with environmental and watchdog organizations to mitigate these challenges as technology continues to evolve in our lives, and why it’s in businesses’ and brands’ best interests to compact carbon footprints. For our complete interview, please click “continue reading.”
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Earth Day Guest Article: Plastic Beads and Sugar Water

Happy Earth Day, 2010!

Here at ScriptPhD.com, we pride ourselves on being different, and we like thinking outside the mold. So for Earth Day 2010, we wanted to give you an article and a perspective that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. There is no doubt that we were all bombarded today with messages to be greener, to use less, to be more eco-conscious, and to respect our Earth. But what is the underlying effect of advertising that collectively promotes The Green Brand? And has the Green Brand started to overshadow the very evil—environmental devastation—it was meant to fight to begin with? What impact does this have on the future of the Green movement and the advertising agencies and media that are its vocal advocates? These are questions we are interested in answering. So when we recently met Matthew Phillips, a Los Angeles-based writer, social media and branding expert, and the founder of a new urban microliving movement called Threshing, we were delighted to give him center stage for Earth Day to offer his insights. What results is an intelligent, esoteric and thoughtful article entitled “Plastic Beads and Sugar Water,” sure to make you re-evaluate everything you thought you knew about going green. We welcome you to contribute to (and continue) the lively conversation in the comments section.
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Selling Science Smartly: Green Advertising with RIESTER

Much of today’s messaging about the environment, green initiatives and ways for the public to make a difference physically and fiscally are centered around media and advertising. To wit—even amid the deepening recession, one market has seemed to defy the economic downturn: green and environmentally-friendly product launches. Sadly, however, a large and growing subset of the eco-conscious creative collective is enveloped in hyperbole and hubris, a term the industry has labeled “greenwashing” that we will discuss in much greater detail in another article. It was natural then, that as part of our Earth Week coverage, ScriptPhD.com undertook green advertising as part of our continuing “Selling Science Smartly” series. Here, we profile a case study of several impressive (and effective) campaigns by the West Coast-based RIESTER, including work on recycling, clean air, and the first fully-integrated municipal sustainability campaign in the US. We also had an opportunity to speak with RIESTER’s executive team, who provided insights into their creative strategy, why green advertising is more challenging than ever before, the crucial importance that interactive played in their success, and why every agency should be blogging more.

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Selling Science Smartly: Dow Human Element Campaign

When it comes to the interface of art and science, in many ways Madison Avenue finds itself in the position of the early days of sci-fi entertainment, where campy, unrefined productions took decades to evolve into the sophisticated films and shows we enjoy today. To be brutally honest, 95% of current science and technology advertising ranges from hackneyed to terrible; unimaginative, uncreative, uninspired. But here at ScriptPhD.com, we want to focus on the superlative 5%. What makes these campaigns work, what elevates their content above the crowd and most importantly, how do they fit within the theme of the science or industry they are promoting? This is why we are expanding our umbrella of coverage—which has heretofore included film, television and media—to the final frontier: advertising. In our brand new series entitled “Selling Science Smartly,” we will profile the best that science and technology advertising (print, TV, radio, digital and everything in-between) has to offer. Where possible, we will interview the respective campaign’s agencies and creative teams to give you a rarely revealed behind-the-scenes purview into the process and foundation of making these ads. We are proud to launch the series with the exceptional Dow Human Element campaign, including an in-depth interview with Creative Director and mastermind John Claxton of Draftfcb Chicago, who breaks down the thought process behind the creation of the campaign.

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From the Annals of Psychology: Fear and Loathing in a Modern Age

“First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” These inspiring words, borrowed from scribes Henry David Thoreau and Michel de Montaigne, were spoken by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his first inauguration during the only era more perilous than the one we currently face. But FDR had it easy. All he had to face was 25% unemployment and 2 million homeless Americans. We have, among other things, climate change, carcinogens, leaky breast implants, the obesity epidemic, the West Nile virus, SARS, avian/swine flu, flesh-eating disease, pedophiles, predators, herpes, satanic cults, mad cow disease, crack cocaine, and let’s not forget that paragon of Malthusian-like fatalism—terror. In his brilliant book The Science of Fear, journalist Daniel Gardner delves into the psychology and physiology of fear and the incendiary factors that drive it, including media, advertising, government, business and our own evolutionary mold. For our final blog post of 2009, ScriptPhD.com extends the science into a personal reflection, a discussion of why, despite there never having been a better time to be alive, we are more afraid than ever, and how we can turn a more rational leaf in the year 2010.

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The Flu, The Facts, The Media and You

A microscope image of the H1N1 Swine Flu influenza virus.  ©2009 CDC, all rights reserved
A microscope image of the H1N1 "Swine Flu" influenza virus. ©2009 CDC, all rights reserved

We are in the midst of a pandemic, folks. A pandemic of fear. A truly formidable novel strain of influenza (H1N1) is spreading worldwide, creating an above-average spike in seasonal illness, the genuine possibility of a global influenza pandemic, and an alarmed public bombarded with opposing facts and mixed messages. It’s understandable that all of this has left people confused, scared and unsure of how to proceed. ScriptPhD.com cuts through the fray to provide a compact, easy-to-understand discussion of the science behind influenza as well as invaluable public health resources for addressing additional questions and concerns. Our discussion includes the role of media and advertising in not only informing the public responsibly, but effecting behavioral change that can save lives. Our full article, under the “continue reading” jump.
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