Vaxxed film controversy reveals flaws in both camps' arguments

Vaccinations save lives. This much we know. 

For two centuries or so, children have been subjected to a few modest jabs of a needle to ward off the petri dish of ghastly illnesses poised to prey upon their developing immune systems.

The rise of the anti-vaxxer is, therefore, worrying. 

Those who don’t safeguard their children against debilitating diseases – like rubella, whooping cough and polio, to name just three – not only put their own offspring at risk, they also threaten the wellbeing of other children with whom they have contact.

It is an entirely unintelligible choice. 

But the community decrying a Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival decision to screen documentary Vaxxed: from Cover-up to Controversy are also behaving irrationally.  

They want the film censored, but have not actually seen it. 

Yes, the film was axed from a New York film festival earlier this year for fear it would breed dissent about immunisation. 

That festival’s director, actor Robert DeNiro, has since said he regrets the decision.

In lobbying CLIFF to drop the film from its program, critics end up looking and sounding a lot like the anti-vaxxers they detest, certain in what they believe but without having interrogated all the information available. 

Opting not to protect children against the scourge of disease is indeed a tremendous physical risk to the community.

But precluding people from asking challenging questions and from making provocative films is threatening to the cultural capital of a society.

In the meantime, anti-vaxxers and the film’s naysayers could both use a shot of common sense.  

Abhorred by the idea of the film? Don’t watch it. 

Indifference is the antidote to offence, not censorship. 

Demanding something be banned does little other than draw attention to it, sell tickets and encourage a fledgling festival to repeat the process next time. 

Conversely, organisers are unlikely to screen another film of its kind if no one bothers to attend. 

To those who have made a decision not to vaccinate their children, may this controversy provide another opportunity to re-examine the value you place on your child’s life. 

- Mark Kearney, journalist

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