There are few issues guaranteed to galvanise community concern and action more than when children – and defenceless children at that – are involved and caught up in controversy.
That will probably explain the backlash this region has seen in the past week with the arrival of a talking tour by a group calling themselves the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN).
The network organised public forums in Tamworth on Monday night and again in Armidale last night.
Its president, Meryl Dorey, has promoted the sessions as awareness-raising about vaccination – but for about 90 per cent of respondents to The Northern Daily Leader news stories about the visits, they’ve been seen as something more sinister.
The Leader’s website has seen a flurry of feedback, both on Facebook and on our opinion pages.
Ms Dorey and her supporters have argued their right to a democratic voice to highlight what they say are their concerns about the actual effectiveness and danger of vaccinating your child.
They have that right and Australians all would argue we all do.
However, the pundits contend that the AVN is simply a smokescreen for some fundamentalist claptrap that parades as alternative health advocacy. They have pointed out that the group’s teachings or preachings, whatever you prefer, goes against all the health science we have and the credible research we see provided from the medical fraternity.
Our readers say the data trotted out by the group is selective and untested.
In a region such as Tamworth, where the vaccination rates for such things as measles, whooping cough and mumps is among the highest in the state, the debate has raised awareness on another level.
Some readers have been quick to point out the dangers inherent in the upholding of the democratic process.
One writer, “lesliethornton”, said, succinctly, we think: “Free speech, for all its benefits, has its drawbacks – not least of which is the fact that duplicitous, solipsistic charlatans like Meryl Dorey have a voice in our country. The best we can hope for is to innoculate society with enough commonsense to tune out when she begins blabbing on about conspiracy theories, bogus alternative therapies and such irresponsible and dangerous tripe”.
In this age of worrying Facebook ferals and internet viral slander and inanity that masquerades as informed opinion, it is another modern lesson.
Says it all really, even though we are reminded of that philosophic mantra, “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (Voltaire, 1906).