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Auchter's Art: If only we could vaccinate against misinformation

Nov 3, 2017

There was a story from the Detroit Free Press this week about an Oakland Country judge getting death threats because of recent rulings.

The cases involved divorced parents and their disagreements over whether to vaccinate their children. Oakland County Circuit Judge Karen McDonald ordered a 9-year-old boy to be vaccinated in one case and questioned the qualifications of an anti-vaccination witness in another.

A couple things about this caught my attention.

First, it seemed a pretty good example of how the dangers of fake news transcends politics. As Google, Twitter and Facebook testified before Congress this week on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the issue of deliberately misleading stories on social media may seem to have only right vs. left implications. But misinformation can also lead to ugly family issues and death threats (not to mention a potential public health crisis).

Second, the truth matters more than opinion. My wife and I had our kids at home — natural births with a midwife instead of in a hospital — so we are a bit predisposed to be skeptical of traditional medical conventions. And earlier in the decade when stories questioning vaccination safety broke, we were definitely drawn to them. But science and accurate reporting has proven the overwhelming advantages of vaccinations.

In that spirit, I feel the need to acknowledge the technical inaccuracy in the cartoon. A vaccine is generally something that's given to prevent illness, not treat it. Of course I noticed this approximately three seconds after I finished the drawing. But then I should also make clear that I'm an editorial cartoonist, which is not the same thing as a reporting journalist. My job is occasionally helpful; a fact-based journalist is absolutely vital.

John Auchter is a freelance editorial cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder the University of Michigan.