Ted Kuntz writes to CBC – their response and Ted’s reply are below:
To the Attention of:
Mr. Jack Nagler, CBC Ombudsperson firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. Nagler
I’m writing to you because I’m very concerned about what the CBC has become to many Canadians.
I am the parent of a vaccine injured child, now deceased. I have spent more than three decades investigating the science which is purported to be the foundation for our current vaccine program and government policies pertaining to childhood vaccination. I’ve learned that the reality is much more complex and different than we have been led to believe.
In my efforts to bring awareness to this critically important topic, what I have experienced is that vaccine safety is one topic that is not permitted to be discussed at the CBC. When the topic is vaccine safety, informed consent, or vaccine injury the CBC is no longer willing to host dialogue and honestly debate ideas. Amongst my fellow parents, the CBC has lost its value and its purpose and has become obsolete. This is most unfortunate for the media that purports to be “Canada’s broadcaster”.
Can the CBC be a force to help heal the divide?
On March 29, 2019 I reached out to Charlie Cho, the Associate Producer of ‘The Early Edition’. My goal was to invite Charlie and the rest of the CBC to help me create a safe space where ideas could be shared, information exchanged, fences dis-mantled, and relationships mended. This is what I wrote Charlie:
“Good Morning Charlie
First of all, I want you to know that we are wanting the same thing.
I trust that both of us are here to be of service.
I trust that both of us are interested in healthy children. You, and others, are fighting so children don’t die of infectious diseases.
Thank you for your efforts with this.
I’m fighting so children don’t die from vaccines.
Both are real.
I’m simply asking the question – Is what we are doing working?
This is an important question to ask over and over. We should never stop asking this question.
The medical industry is advocating for policies that mean:
- The loss of informed consent
- The loss of parental rights
- The loss of therapeutic choice
- The loss of the freedom to discuss this issue
I’m advocating for:
- The right to informed consent
- Parental rights to medical decisions
- Better science that includes inert placebos, long-term clinical trials, better adverse events reporting, compensation for vaccine injury, and vaccinated vs. unvaccinated studies
- Rich discussion
This is not just a medical issue. It is also a civil rights issue.
I’d like us to be able to have rich conversations that honour each other’s perspective and experiences.
I want the loss of my child to vaccine injury to be just as important as the loss of a child to an infectious disease.
I want us to make wise decisions, not reactive decisions.
I think we want the same things.
Will you join me in this conversation?
Will you help me to build a container where true dialogue can happen; one that holds everyone’s voice?”
Mr. Nagler, I’d like to explore with you how we might move in this direction and how the CBC can be a force to help heal the divide that has been created in our society with regard to the differing perspectives on the safety and effectiveness of our current vaccination program.
Can I offer one possible action that would move us in that direction?
Might the CBC make a commitment to refrain from using the label “anti-vaccine”? This label is dishonest and divisive and impedes our ability to develop a deeper understanding of the perspectives of parents whose children have been harmed by vaccination and are now ‘vaccine risk aware’.
This simple act would help to create a climate that makes constructive dialogue more possible.
Will you work with me on this goal?
Is it possible the CBC could become an agent to heal this manufactured divide in Canada?
I can’t imagine a more worthwhile goal than this.
I look forward to your considered response.
Ted Kuntz, parent
CBC response to Ted
May 2, 2019
Dear Ted Kuntz,
Thank you for your email of April 10, 2019, addressed to CBC’s Ombudsperson. General Manager and Editor in Chief Jennifer McGuire asked me to reply.
You wrote to express concern over use of the term “anti-vaccine” in health stories and public policy coverage. “This label is dishonest and divisive and impedes our ability to develop a deeper understanding of the perspectives of parents whose children have been harmed by vaccination and are now ‘vaccine risk aware,'” you said. The CBC should stop using the term “anti-vaccine” in order “to create a climate that makes constructive dialogue more possible,” you added.
I respectfully disagree that the entrenched compounds “anti-vaccine” and “anti-vaccination” are inaccurate, unfair or inappropriate in any other way. Allow me to explain.
“Anti-vaccine” and “anti-vaccination” are clear, neutral, fact-based terms with deep roots. They are tied to the now largely archaic label “anti-vaccinationist,” first used in the 1880s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Some people refer to the modern anti-vaccination movement as “vaccination hesitancy,” including the World Health Organization, which classifies it as one of the Top 10 risks to global health in 2019.
Ten Threats to Global Health in 2019
World Health Organization — The United Nations
But we feel roundabout language like “hesitancy” is bureaucratic and misleading in this context because it implies indecision, vacillation, etc., rather than the general opposition typically articulated by people who campaign against the conventional medical wisdom of vaccination. An excerpt from CBC’s internal style manual expands on this point:
“Be aware that some people challenge the terms ‘anti-vaccine’ and ‘anti-vaccination’ as too broad. They argue that the descriptions do not apply to those who say they’re simply reluctant to embrace vaccines until they can be convinced the treatments are safe.
“But the prefix ‘anti-‘ actually has shades of meaning. Sometimes, it implies outright opposition to a thing, person, idea, and so forth (e.g., anti-abortion, anti-monarchy). At other times, however, it simply means general ‘antagonism toward’ — as in expressing strong reservations, advocating strict limits, etc. This latter sense has been part of the English language for more than 200 years, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Common examples include anti-trade and anti-regulation (i.e. anti-trade often suggests ‘limits on trade,’ and anti-regulation often means ‘minimal government regulation’).
“Therefore, if people are largely opposed to vaccination until they can be persuaded otherwise, it’s fair and accurate to say they’re currently anti-vaccination rather than pro-vaccination by any reasonable definition.”
— CBC LANGUAGE GUIDE
It’s worth noting that when we interview someone with specific, science-based concerns over the effectiveness of a given vaccine, our guidelines caution against automatically describing the person as part of the general anti-vaccination movement. We also discourage use of language that’s demonizing or inherently judgmental, such as “vaccination deniers,” unless attributed.
Finally, our guidelines specifically cite the need to stick to responsible, fact-based reporting in our coverage of public health policy. Here’s another excerpt from CBC’s internal manual:
“When directly relevant to a story, it’s helpful to briefly state why a group or an individual is against vaccination. But always make it clear that most medical experts advocate vaccination as a safe, effective way to help prevent the spread of various illnesses…. We can, and should, report different perspectives over time, including any verified cases of problems associated with specific vaccinations. But the journalistic principles of fairness and balance do not require us to give equal weight to unorthodox opinions that challenge prevailing, science-based public health policy in every story.”
— CBC LANGUAGE GUIDE
Thank you again for your email, If you have specific examples of what you consider to be unsafe vaccinations, flawed scientific research, etc., I suggest you consider contacting CBC’s main news assignment desk to talk to a journalist about the possibility of investigating your story. In the meantime, I hope this reply clarifies why we consider the established terms “anti-vaccine” and “anti-vaccination” accurate and appropriate.
Standards Editor, CBC News
Ted’s reply to CBC
May 15, 2019
To the Attention of:
Blair Shewchuk, Standards Editor, CBC News
Jennifer McGuire , General Manager and Editor in Chief
Dear Mr. Shewchuk and Ms. McGuire
Thank you for the courtesy of a response (May 2, 2019) and your consideration of my invitation to the CBC to refrain from using the label “anti-vaccine” when referring to parents of vaccine injured children.
As the parent of a child who was severely injured by a vaccine product and is now deceased, there is great suffering in losing a child in this way. As great as this suffering is, there is even more suffering in having my son’s injury and death ignored, dismissed and denied in the public square.
While this causes great harm to the heart of a grieving parent, there is an even more significant impact as a result of this systemic denial of the potential of these medical products to cause injury and death. Parents and the medical profession are lulled into a false sense of security that all vaccine products are safe for all children. This denial puts every child at risk and creates a false divide in a community where those who have experienced vaccine injury are excluded, even shunned by their own community.
The public discussion about vaccine product safety is essentially non-existent. Concerned parents are asking legitimate questions and they deserve serious answers rather than denial and dismissals. Instead, the message we are told is that there is nothing to discuss. The mainstream media has utterly failed to properly inform the public about the subject of vaccine product safety, and rather than engaging in respectful dialogue, there is a tendency to bully parents into silence and compliance.
Justification for Use of Term ‘Anti-Vaccine’
With regard to your justification for the use of the term “anti-vaccine”, while this term may be technically accurate, as you have explained, there are valid reasons to carefully re-consider the impact of the use of this term.
When referring to individuals with a developmental or intellectual disability, it is technically accurate to use the terms “idiot” or “retarded”. However, as we have evolved in our understanding and compassion as a community, we have adjusted our language to be more sensitive and respectful.
As a compassionate society, we have also learned to take into consideration how these individuals, groups or cultures wish to be represented or described. When European settlers first arrived in the new world, they referred to our First Nations people as “barbaric” and “savages”. Today, no respectable journalist would use such language when referring to our First Nations people.
Individuals and families who have experienced vaccine injury have repeatedly made requests as to how they wish to be acknowledged or described. Various terms have been put forward including – ‘parent of a vaccine injured child’; ‘vaccine risk aware’; or ‘victim of vaccine injury’. Unfortunately, the mainstream media refuses to make use of the terms and descriptors desired by this population.
A Single-Minded Pursuit
I understand the rationale for failing to use such terms. For to use these terms would be to acknowledge that vaccine products, like every medical product, can and do cause injury, even death. In our single-minded pursuit to increase vaccine uptake, it is necessary to deny or disavow any acknowledgement that vaccine products are unsafe for some.
My caution to the CBC is that to persist in the use of inappropriate, dishonest and disrespectful labeling creates the marginalization of a growing segment of the population and supports a false and contentious divide in the community. Families, neighbourhoods and communities are being negatively impacted by this false and destructive construction of their experience of a medical product.
The use of the terms “pro-vaccine” and “anti-vaccine” creates a false, narrow and dishonest construction of the topic of vaccine product safety. The use of dualistic, rigid and constricted language fails to capture the complexity of the topic and reduces debate to an overly simplified perception. It is akin to using language as “good parent” and “bad parent”, or “honest journalist” and “dishonest journalist”. Such reductive framing does a disservice to the community’s understanding of the issue and prevents the opportunity for a fuller and richer exploration of its true complexity.
The use of dishonest and disrespectful language also undermines our trust in the integrity of the medical profession and the media.
Recommendations of Dr. Peter Doshi
Dr. Peter Doshi, Associate Editor for the British Medical Journal (BMJ) made the following statements about good journalism as pertains to vaccinations:
“Good journalism on this topic will require abandoning current practices of avoiding interviewing, understanding, and presenting critical voices out of fear that expressing any criticism amounts to presenting a ‘false balance’ that will result in health scares. If patients have concerns, doubts, or suspicions — for example, about the safety of vaccines, this does not mean they are anti-vaccine.
Approaches that label anybody and everybody who raises questions about the right headedness of current vaccine policies as ‘anti-vaccine’ fail on several accounts.
Firstly, they fail to accurately characterize the nature of the concern. Many parents of children with developmental disorders who question the role of vaccines had their children vaccinated . . . and people who have their children vaccinated seem unlikely candidates for the title.
Secondly, they lump all vaccines together as if the decision about risks and benefits is the same irrespective of disease — polio, pertussis, smallpox, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis B, influenza, varicella, HPV, Japanese encephalitis — or vaccine type — live attenuated, inactivated whole cell, split virus, high dose, low dose, adjuvanted, monovalent, polyvalent, etc. This seems about as intelligent as categorizing people into ‘pro-drug’ and ‘anti-drug’ camps depending on whether they have ever voiced concern over the potential side effects of any drug.
Thirdly, labeling people concerned about the safety of vaccines as ‘anti-vaccine’ risks entrenching positions. The label (or its derogatory derivative ‘anti-vaxxer’) is a form of attack. It stigmatizes the mere act of even asking an open question about what is known and unknown about the safety of vaccines.
Fourthly, the label too quickly assumes that there are ‘two sides’ to every question, and that the ‘two sides’ are polar opposites. This “you’re either with us or against us” thinking is unfit for medicine.
Contrary to the suggestion — generally implicit — that vaccines are risk free (and therefore why would anyone ever resist official recommendations), the reality is that officially sanctioned written medical information on vaccines is — just like drugs — filled with information about common, uncommon, and unconfirmed but possible harms.
Medical journalists have an obligation to the truth. It’s time to listen—seriously and respectfully—to patients’ concerns, not demonize them.”
All Truth Passes Through Three Stages
German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer stated – “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
It would appear that the CBC, at this moment, is firmly entrenched in the first two stages of Schopenhauer’s three stage paradigm. There is no doubt that at some point society will accept vaccine product injury as self-evident and get on with the important task of creating safer vaccine products. However, this important task will only be delayed by the persistent use of ridicule and violent opposition to the reality of vaccine injury.
My hope, as expressed in my original letter to the CBC Ombudsperson, is that the CBC would be an organization that would help accelerate this progression in the community’s recognition, understanding, compassion and responsibly addressing the reality of vaccine injury and help heal the false divide that has been created with regard to the differing experiences of the safety of our current vaccine products.
And so, I repeat my original request:
Will the CBC make a commitment to refrain from using the labels “anti-vaccine” and “anti-vaxx” when referring to individuals who have experienced vaccine injury, and parents of vaccine injured children?
This simple act would help to create a climate that makes constructive dialogue more possible and help advance medical knowledge.
I can’t imagine a more worthwhile goal than this.
Ted Kuntz, parent of a vaccine injured child, now deceased