We live in the land of free speech.
All of our opinions should have the same weight, right?
Well, opinions yes.
Too often now, people are given the opportunity to express their non-professional opinions as facts, often head-to-head with experts, falsely making it seem like those opinions are equally valid.
Or it could even be a professional opinion, but it is still false balance if 99.9% of the professionals in the same field have the opposite opinion.
This type of false balance or false equivalency comes up when discussing many different topics, especially in science and politics.
For example, in a debate about science, you would be providing false balance if you gave an equal amount of time to those who believed that the earth was flat, that gravity isn’t real, or that the moon was made of cheese. Climate change is an even bigger topic that we still see a lot of false balance in the media.
“…it is important to recognise that the balance of media reporting does not necessarily reflect the balance of the argument among the involved professionals – by this is meant that equal weighting might be given by the media (and thus the lay community) to those for and against the vaccine although opponents of vaccination might be a very small number, as for example happened with both pertussis and MMR.”
David Baxter on Opposition to Vaccination and Immunisation the UK Experience – from Smallpox to MMR
False balance is especially common when the media discusses vaccines.
False Balance about Vaccines
Vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary. This has been proven time and again.
“There are issues that are not a matter of free thought, on which all opinions have the same weight. This is simply because they are not just ideas, but facts. The safety of vaccines is a fact, as well as their importance for preventing dangerous diseases.”
Robert Villa on Vaccines: a case study of false balance on TV
When you see Bob Sears or Jay Gordon or other ‘vaccine experts’ on the news, you aren’t hearing from doctors with an equally valid view, backed up with scientific research, as vaccine experts from the CDC, FDA, or AAP.
Doctors who push parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules have anecdotal data and their own opinions, which many real vaccine experts view as dangerous.
What To Know About False Balance and Vaccines
False balance is dangerous. It not only scares parents from vaccinating their kids, but leads them away from standard treatments for asthma, eczema, and even cancer, often with tragic results.
More Information About False Balance and Vaccines:
- False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune
- Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines
- Is the TODAY Show Stoking Vaccine Fears?
- The Sharyl Attkisson Journalism Award
- Recommendations for Reporting About Vaccines
- Avoiding False Balance: Vaccines in the Media
- Vaccines: a case study of false balance on TV
- Balance Fallacy
- The danger of fair and balanced
- False balance – cultivating counterfeit controversy to create confusion
- Science deniers use false equivalence to create fake debates
- How ‘balanced’ coverage helped sustain the bogus claim that childhood vaccines can cause autism
- Another Outbreak of ‘False Balance’?
- False balance about Stanislaw Burzynski and his disproven cancer therapy
- Study – Opposition to Vaccination and Immunisation the UK Experience – from Smallpox to MMR