Being A Comedian Is Not A Licence To Be A Jerk

Tricky Ricky

So, I logged on to Twitter this morning and saw that Ricky Gervais had appeared to have poked a hornet’s nest with a stick again. Nothing unusual there, I thought – he’s always coming out with jokes designed to outrage people (that’s his shtick he shares with his fellow outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins). What did stop me short though was that one tweeter had objected strongly – and in strong language – to a joke about self-harming, having been a self-harmer herself.

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And Gervais had retweeted her without comment, or responding to her. What followed for the unfortunate critic was several hours of non-stop vitriolic abuse. Gervais, hours after the fact, deleted the retweet that had kicked it all off. He then deleted the passive-aggressive abusive subtweets he’d aimed at her, but alas for Ricky, the mighty Print Screen button has been the downfall of many an ass-covering attempt:


It’s pretty clear from those tweets that not only did Gervais know what the result of him retweeting her would be, he didn’t care.

Finally, hours too late, he instructed his pack of wolves to leave the poor woman alone -

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This was utter bullshit. Gervais’ actions were the equivalent of throwing chum in shark-infested waters. He knew what would happen. He knew his followers would rip her to shreds. Because he’s done it beforeand bragged about retweeting people who insult or criticise him and siccing his 4 million followers on them. Now, here’s where some point out well, these people are abusing him, they want him to see their nasty or critical tweet, so they’re getting what they deserve. Except for that number I mentioned above: 4 million followers. One retweet from Gervais and these nobodies on Twitter attract the instant ire of at least hundreds of rabid fans, who proceed to fill their mentions columns with particularly poisonous bile. As a comedian, Gervais should have a thick skin. In addition there are the options of blocking or ignoring the tweeter. This is not an equal power dynamic. Gervais gets one uncomplimentary tweet from them, they get hundreds of people abusing them back. It is cowardly. In other words, it is also bullying. And bear in mind this is a man who’s considered ‘edgy’ and ‘brave’ for mocking Hollywood moguls at an awards ceremony.

Moving on then – in other news, Ricky Gervais is teaming up with Katie Price to end…online bullying of people with special needs.

You’ll appreciate the extreme irony already, but the irony intensifies and becomes more bitter when you discover what he, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington did to Victoria Wright, a woman with facial disfigurements which they cruelly mocked on the Ricky Gervais Show. It happened 10 years ago, but this kind of cruelty scars people, especially those who receive it regularly in a world that’s not kind to those who are different. Victoria tells her story here.

So, it’s great you want to end the bullying of the vulnerable Ricky, but first I suggest you look up the saying ‘physician, heal thyself’.

Rufus Hound? More Like Rufus Dog

In the same 24 hour period, another British comedian, Rufus Hound, displayed a deeply unsavoury side in a tweet to former Tory MP Louise Mensch:

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Charming.

Whether you agree with Mensch’s politics/approach to feminism or not (and she has plenty of detractors) this is beyond the pale. Hound pathetically attempted to justify this misogynist slur in a long equally misogynist tweet saying how in his experience, it wasn’t sexist. Oh and how suggesting a woman’s blowing her boss only in a figurative sense is totally not sexist. Yeah, you’re not a woman, Rufus – you don’t to be the arbiter of what is or isn’t considered misogynist, OK? And let me tell you now – the tweet was definitely sexist, and in that follow-up tweet you took an industrial digger and tunnelled all the way to Mansplainersville.

Which brings me to a wider pattern I’m noticing among modern-day comedians. I enjoy black comedy and edgy humour that cuts close to the bone, but there’s an increasingly nasty undertone or basis to a lot of jokes and skits these days. And judging from these comedians’ behaviour off-stage, it’s less to do with them trying to be provocateurs than the kind of person they really are. Ricky Gervais exemplifies this – we have two clear-cut examples of him bullying two women who are ill-equipped to deal with it, and it’s not a coincidence that the conceit behind his highly successful series An Idiot Abroad is he and his mate putting another of his mates in increasingly uncomfortable situations. The difference of course is Karl Pilkington’s in on the joke, but part of the humour (aside from Karl’s reactions, thoughts and sayings) is derived from him making someone uncomfortable.

So if you need an outlet for your unpleasantness, comedians, restrict it to your stage or show. Otherwise it’s just human bear-baiting.

Thatcher: Neither A Lioniser Nor A Ghoulish Hater Be

 

Since the news of Baroness Thatcher’s death broke, I’ve been bouncing back and forth on Twitter trying to push back against two completely opposing attitudes – the first, and on the surface most obnoxious being the gleeful cries of ‘Ding dong!”while apparently opening magnums of champagne in spontaneous street parties while dancing to the Clash. People have plenty of reason to despise her, but such macabre delight in the death of a fellow human being reflects badly not on Margaret Thatcher, but her haters. I deliberately put a photo of the young Margaret, because as always with polarising politicians, we forget they didn’t always exist in the form in which we knew them while they were in power. We forget they’re as human as we are, and so we feel free to spew the kind of hate usually reserved for mass-murderers.

On the other hand, we have the many, many conservatives -on both sides of the pond – hailing her as the greatest PM since Churchill and possibly the greatest peacetime PM full stop. Communism’s greatest foe, scourge of the Argies, a champion for freedom and liberty, Britain’s Iron Lady and Saviour, etc, etc, etc.

Bollocks.

A particularly egregious case of this is – surprise! – Andrew Sullivan. It baffles me how a gay man can admire a woman who passed the singularly horrendous Section 28, which banned local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’ in general and especially not in schools. The message to gay people was clear: your country is ashamed of you, and is going to pretend you don’t exist. This nasty, discriminatory, humiliating piece of legislation designed to keep gay people as second class citizens exposes a rather large chink in his idol’s armour, yet Sullivan (whose sense of irony seems to have been surgically removed) titles his piece “Thatcher, Liberator”. Life in Britain pre-Thatcher, he writes, was insane. She restored much needed sanity. The cruel unionists were slowly killing their members  by forcing them to work in the mines.  Never mind that for these miners this was the only way to put food on the table for them and their families,  St Maggie nobly put an end to such suffering by putting them out of work to suffer from desperate poverty instead. Sullivan was, of course, a student at Oxford for the entirety of Thatcher’s first term, followed by an almost immediate move to America to work for the New Republic. So as you can see Sullivan experienced virtually nothing of the real Thatcher’s Britain, which oddly enough seems to be a pattern among her fervent admirers.

Having been born just as her rule as PM was coming to an end, I know nothing of 80s Britain either. But I know my father, who held a degree in mathematics and was a member of a professional body as a qualified actuary, had to leave Britain for South Africa to find work. There were absolutely no jobs, or opportunities to be had. Though Thatcher’s spiritual successor Iain Duncan Smith would have called my ridiculously qualified dad a snob for refusing to stack shelves after all that hard academic work.I know my grandmother, a weaver from Dundee, saw factories close as British industries crumbled under the Iron Lady’s iron fist. She and her family moved, coincidentally, to South Africa too to escape Thatcher’s new ‘sane’ Britain.

Margaret Thatcher is an object lesson in irony, in that her policies produced results contrary to her very strident beliefs. She trumpeted the need for people to be self-reliant, and implemented policies that made millions dependent on the dole. She hailed the British spirit during the Falklands War, even as her intransigence during the strikes caused bitter divides between families, friends and communities. And what about Margaret Thatcher, champion of freedom? She deplored and fought against the oppression of Communism, and declared anti-apartheid political prisoner Nelson Mandela a terrorist. In the case of South Africa, first Thatcher not only did nothing to bring down apartheid, she actively opposed sanctions – with the laughable reasoning that it would ‘hurt the black majority most’. You can’t hurt people who’ve got less than nothing.  She was anything but a champion of liberty to an oppressed Chilean under Pinochet, Thatcher’s BFF. Or to a Cambodian living in fear of the Khmer Rouge. These aren’t small blots on an otherwise pristine copybook, but ugly, glaring contradictory holes in the carefully cultivated myth of the Iron Lady, foe of tyranny.

The final myth that needs to be torn down is Margaret Thatcher the Feminist. “I hate feminism. It is poison,” said Maggie herself. And say what you will about her, she was never disingenuous. This hasn’t stopped people from declaring her a ‘feminist icon’. Why? Because she’s a strong woman? History is littered with equally powerful women who broke the mould, but nevertheless remained the exception rather than the rule and did nothing to raise the status of their fellow women. And that is what Thatcher did. If Emmeline Pankhurst had only fought for and won the vote for herself, would we applaud her as a feminist icon? Thatcher is worthy of women’s admiration in many ways:  she was a trailblazer, pursued her own path, won the leadership of a party in a overwhelmingly male-dominated profession, and did all this while raising a family. But those achievements did not unlock doors and shatter glass ceilings for women as a whole.

The Real Benefits Scam

With the House of Lords voting to approve the coalition government’s truly awful welfare reform package which will plunge thousands of families below the poverty line, and Ed Miliband’s Labour Party already stating that they’ll vote for amendments to the bill, and won’t actually oppose it, Britain took a considerable turn for the worse today. And the worst of it is it’s a bill based on out-and-out lies and pure, vicious ideology.

Let’s start with the £26,000 cap on household benefits, and how the Government arrived at that figure. Iain Duncan Smith claims that this is the average household income in Britain, but this is extremely misleading, as the Guardian points out (the article as a whole is an informative Q&A piece on the consequences of welfare reform):

Critics say it is excessively draconian. The Children’s Society says the cap confusingly compares non-working household income with average household earnings. Were it to align the former (more fairly) with average household working income – which includes tax credits, and a range of benefits – the cap would be set at £31,500. This would mean thousands of poorer households would not be pitched into poverty by the cap.

What the Conservatives have successfully bludgeoned out of people’s minds is that housing benefit is not actually income. It does not in fact go into the pockets of the people receiving it, but goes to pay the rent their private landlord is charging.  And as housing benefit makes up the bulk of the average household on welfare’s payments, the right wing’s justification for this horror of a bill, namely that people on welfare at the moment can earn more than people who work, is shown for the pack of lies it is. If you want to blame anyone for ‘excessive welfare spending’, as our dear Prime Minister David Cameron puts it, blame the landlords who jack up the rent to ridiculous levels. After the banking industry, the housing industry is probably the next most in need of regulation. But of course, the Government’s attitude to this is: if the rent is too damn high, move!

Yesterday, the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the reforms were not designed to “punish” families.

He told Sky News: “I simply make the point to them that the purpose of this is not to punish people but it is to give fairness to people who are paying tax, who are commuting large distances because they can only afford to live in the houses that they have chosen.”

It’s particularly galling that this dismissive ‘just move to a cheaper area’ message is coming from a group of people to whom moving house involves using taxpayers’ money to finance the mortgage and furnishing of a second home in London. Unfortunately, poor people don’t have the option to put the costs of upping sticks on expenses. And, of course, there’s the fact that moving house would have a serious impact on children in myriad ways; being uprooted from a place they call home, having to change school and start all over at a new one with no friends, living in reduced circumstances (but hey, you and your siblings, who may be of the opposite sex, being packed together in one bedroom is no big deal according to Duncan Smith, who also lies about the charity Shelter defining this as homelessness on its website; it doesn’t). And there’s the problem of finding another house. As anyone with any actual experience of the real world will know, a great many landlords refuse to accept people on welfare as tenants. Finding a house that suits your family’s needs is not easy either. Hard as it may for the green-eyed monsters of the Daily Mail to believe, the reason those large families they pin on their front page in their idea of public shaming live in large houses is – this will come as a shock, I know – large families need more space.

A one-size-fits-all plan is a supremely cack-handed approach at the best of times, but when it impacts actual human beings, the results are even more horrendous. A single parent family with, say, 3 kids in London will have very different needs to a two-parent family with one child in Liverpool. To force the same cap on everyone receiving benefits, regardless of individual circumstances, is not only incredibly stupid, it’s unfair and yes, contrary to what Iain Duncan Smith says, punishes people. Because that’s what this is all about, really. The Tory approach to winning elections is and always has been: further improve the lives of their traditional voting bloc, the rich; then get a big slice of the middle-class to vote for them not by making their lives better, but by fanning the flames of resentment towards those on welfare and making the poor’s lives shittier, to make the middle feel better about themselves. It’s the same dynamic you see in the battle over public sector pensions; instead of encouraging the private sector to offer their employees better deals, the Tories instead dishonestly bash public sector employees and work to strip them of the pension rights they have earned by accepting reduced salaries during their working lives. It’s disgusting, it’s despicable, and tragically, it works.

And here’s the most depressing thing about this whole sorry debate:

All three parties are behind the benefits cap in principle – but there are disagreements over the details.

And then there’s this, which makes you wonder what the fuck the point of even having an opposition party is:

Labour reacted cautiously, suggesting that it would try to find a compromise. “Labour won’t be voting against the benefits cap, but we will be seeking to amend the Bill.”

That’s the sort of bold, principled leadership we’ve come to expect from Ed Miliband’s Labour!

In Britain, people on welfare are now everybody’s whipping boys – not just the right wing’s. And this a prime example of why I laugh my head off at the idiotic liberals in America who whine when a bill that is inherently progressive whatever happens to it gets watered down. Here, the only thing that gets watered down by our allegedly ‘left wing’ (ha!) parties is right-wing political and economic theory.

 

 

I’m Just A Teenage Douchebag, Baby

The Oxford University application process goes like this: you fill in an application form, attach a sample of your work relevant to the subject you’ve applied for along with a teacher’s reference. If you’re in luck, they invite you for an interview and entrance examination which takes place over a couple of days, while you stay as a temporary guest in the halls of residence at the Oxford college you chose, or were assigned to. You then get either a rejection or acceptance letter in the post some weeks later.

 

Miss Elly Nowell, pictured, had other ideas. She decided that she would turn her nose up at Oxford immediately after the interview. You see, she’s just too grand for one of the best universities in the world, as her the rejection letter she wrote to Oxford indicates.

 

 

Ms Nowell’s letter began: “I have now considered your establishment as a place to read Law (Jurisprudence).

“I very much regret to inform you that I will be withdrawing my application.

“I realise you may be disappointed by this decision, but you were in competition with many fantastic universities and following your interview I am afraid you do not quite meet the standard of the universities I will be considering.”

Should the university wish to “reapply”, her letter continued, “while you may believe your decision to hold interviews in grand formal settings is inspiring, it allows public school applicants to flourish… and intimidates state school applicants, distorting the academic potential of both”.

Someone should study how it is teenagers manage to cultivate and refine smugness, arrogance and condescension to the highest level, because it’s a talent that really does peak in this age group and afterwards declines at varying speeds depending on the kind of person you are.

But yes, Elly, you’re right. It’s appalling that Oxford chooses to interview students in its college buildings which have existed for centuries, are some of the most glorious architecture to be found in Britain, and are steeped in history and the presence of the great and good who passed through its doors. Down with this sort of thing, I say! Bring in the bulldozers, and wipe out centuries of history, beauty and achievement so that snotty teenagers may avoid being exposed to those things…sorry, avoid being ‘intimidated’, I mean.

She said: “It was while I was at interview that I finally noticed that subjecting myself to the judgement of an institution which I fundamentally disagreed with was bizarre.

I spent my entire time there laughing at how seriously everything was being taken.

It’s at this point that I wish I could reach through the screen and smack this horrible, bratty little bitch silly.

There’s an unfortunate tendency amongst the British left to treat the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and their graduates with contempt because a majority of attendees are wealthy ex-public schoolkids. Never mind that these universities are the best in Britain, are the only British universities to feature on the world’s top universities list, that they offer an exemplary standard of education, have resources like the extraordinary Bodleian Library (Oxford) or the Botanical Gardens (Cambridge). No, instead the attitude is: they’re elite, therefore they suck.British left-wingers, in other words, behave ironically exactly as US right-wingers do towards the Ivy League.

Instead of constantly knocking them and making fun of ordinary kids who want to go to Oxbridge, we ought to be applauding these dreams and fighting to make it easier for state school and poor kids to achieve them. And it’s precisely because there are so many students who would dearly love or have loved to have the opportunity to go to these educational utopias that Elly Nowell’s little stunt makes me so angry. She was given an opportunity…and she spat on it, before declaring it never meant anything to her anyway.

Ms Nowell admitted that her email was not meant to be taken 100% seriously.

She said: “Oxbridge is a fairly ridiculous and prominent elitist institution, yet unlike the monarchy or investment bankers it is rarely mocked.

“Even comedians tend to avoid Oxbridge as a subject.

“Being a successful student should depend on the student, not on whether or not a couple of academics have deemed you to shine in a twenty-minute interview.”

So basically: she messed Oxford and busy academics’ time around for a cheap laugh. Seriously, fuck you.

As I’ve pointed out above, this is absolute bollocks. Oxbridge gets mocked all the time, both in good-natured Stephen Fry’s dig at Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder: “Oxford’s a complete dump”, anyone?) and mean-spirited ways. But yeah, it’s elitist. Fuck yeah, it’s elitist! Because elitism isn’t necessarily a bad thing! What people forget is that while the university’s make-up is skewed in favour of those from privileged backgrounds, it doesn’t let people in for being rich. It lets people in for being really bloody smart.

And, Elly dear: if you carry that “a twenty-minute interview shouldn’t decide your fate” attitude into the job market…in your case it won’t be the Tories’ fault that you can’t get a job.

 

 

 

 

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Dumb Belles Of The BNP

When I initially read this, I called Poe’s Law – it simply had to be a spoof, because while I’ve seen a lot of breathtakingly idiotic stuff from following US politics, I thought nobody could actually bring the weapons grade stupid you are about to see in this article interviewing BNP ‘babes’. But parody it is not.

You no longer need to be a hatchet-faced National Front refugee to join the whites-only club. The fascist menace no longer wears jackboots. It no longer flags down the number 25 bus with a hearty “Sieg Heil”. Nope, ours is a new, gentler, more airbrushed age. Feminism’s here, so now girls can dig race hate too. As the BNP’s attempts to reposition itself as a mainstream party have advanced its perimeter far beyond the usual crewcuts-n-tats brigade, we spoke to three of the more acceptable new faces of the unacceptable. What a bunch of hotties! Phwoar! Makes you aroused to be British.

Basically, Vice.com decided to interview/take the piss out of these brownshirt bombshells. The result? 24 carat comedy gold. Here’s one of them, Rebecca Edwards, 23, showcasing her formidable intellect:

When people say the BNP is a fascist party, what do you think?
Fascist – I don’t understand that word.

Think of Nazi Germany, or 1930s Italy.
I can’t even remember when that happened really, but I’m against them anyway.

This girl should run for office.

She follows that up with this gem:

What do you think symbolises Britain best?
Well, I used to know Britain as strong, and over the past couple of years, I don’t know if I’ve grown up, but I’ve seen it going soft. The memory I have is the war, and how we fighted [sic] all the people in WWI and WWII, and it makes me proud to be British.

So, she can’t remember when Nazi Germany happened, but World War 2 makes her click her Ginger Spice Union Jack platform heels to the tune of Rule Britannia for a country she loves can’t wait to get out of. Move over Einstein.

What’s the best thing about living in Britain today?
I hate Britain and I want to move to Spain in the next couple of years, ’cause our country’s not England any more. It’s very rare for English people to live here any more. When I went to Lanzarote, I felt more English there than I do here, and that’s no exaggeration.

So, if you just can’t handle your country being taken over by an imaginary tsunami of foreigners, be a foreigner taking over someone else’s country! That’ll learn ‘em. Oh and please, please do move to Spain. Britain’s collective IQ would rise at least 50 points, with the added bonus that you would finally have done something genuinely patriotic. Win-win.

Read the whole thing and the other interviews with other hilariously thick racist chicks – and also this interview with Miss Edwards which basically goes: “How dare you post things I actually said? Now people think I’m racist and dumb, which I’m totally not! Dumb, that is.”

Stuff like this proves that Andrew Sullivan and co, instead of promulgating the horrendous Bell Curve bullshit, should consider the theory that there is a strong correlation between racism and lack of intelligence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTW Phone Hacking: Dead Soldiers’ Families Also Targeted

Sweet Jesus. The News of the World scandal hits rock bottom:

Phones owned by relatives of dead UK soldiers were allegedly hacked by the News of the World, a national newspaper reports.

The Daily Telegraph claims the phone numbers of relatives of dead were found in the files of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

The Government can’t resist calls for a full public inquiry for much longer. And who knows what further revelations are coming? However, it will be extremely hard for it to get worse than being discovered to have hacked the phones of bereaved families of the men who fought and died for us. I’m running out of variants of ‘disgusting’ to describe this loathsome rag’s actions.

 

 

Rebekah Brooks Is Either Incompetent Or A Liar

Rebekah Brooks continues to deny all knowledge of the despicable hacks into Milly Dowler and 7/7 families’ phones, leading to only two possible conclusions: either Brooks was so incompetent an editor that she had no control over and no idea of what was being done by her own newspaper, or she’s a liar, neither of which does her credit.

As the Independent revealed today that she asked the same private detective who dug up the Dowlers’ number to do other searches, I’m leaning towards the latter.

Ms Brooks, while editor of NOTW, used Steve Whittamore, a private detective who specialised in obtaining illegal information, to “convert” a mobile phone number to find its registered owner. Mr Whittamore also provided the paper with the Dowlers’ ex-directory home phone number.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, which successfully prosecuted Whittamore for breaches of the Data Protection Act in 2005, said last night it would have been illegal to obtain the mobile conversion if the details had been “blagged” from a phone company.

Ms Brooks, who said yesterday she was “shocked and appalled” at the latest hacking claims, admitted requesting the information. But she said it could be obtained by “perfectly legitimate means.”

I highly doubt that, but let’s leave the ‘means’ aside for a minute and focus on her actual request – trying to discover the private owner of a private mobile phone for no justifiable reason, on top of gaining access to a phone number that was removed from the directory books precisely to stop unwanted callers from obtaining it. Ethics, schmethics.

 

From New Labour To Hard Labour

In the row over public sector pensions which led to tens of thousands of workers going on strike today, the Tories have behaved as you’d expect: with threats and continuing to turn the word ‘fairness’ into newspeak. You would think, however, that the party whose roots are entrenched in the labour movement, hence the name ‘Labour’, would be sympathetic, if not supportive of the public workers’ battle to secure the pensions which compensate for poorer salaries than those in the private sector.

But alas, the Labour leadership has shown no sign of returning from the centre-right ground staked out by Tony Blair. For all the taunts of ‘Red Ed’ and suggestions of radicalism, Ed Miliband is not so much Marx as Milquetoast: an ineffective leader who put himself in the ridiculous position of attempting to bash the Government while offering absolutely no support to to the striking workers, calling the strikes ‘wrong’:

Labour leader Ed Miliband has delivered a blunt message to striking teachers and council workers: “You’ve made a mistake.”

Addressing the Local Government Association conference at the ICC in Birmingham, Mr Miliband said: “I understand the anger of workers who feel they are being singled out by a provocative and reckless government.

“But I also believe this strike is wrong. Negotiations are on-going and it was a mistake to go on strike.”

And days earlier, Ed Balls adopted the mantle of concern troll by telling mutinous workers that striking would just play into the Tories hands, and so they shouldn’t strike:

Ed Balls has urged public sector workers not to strike over the government’s planned pension reforms saying: “The trade unions must not walk into the trap of giving George Osborne the confrontation he wants.”

Between the two of them, the Eds illustrate exactly why people did decide to take industrial action – because if they didn’t stand up and fight for their rights, who would? Certainly not this awful Labour Party that has never been less worthy of the name. Tony Blair created ‘New Labour’, perhaps the current incarnation should be called ‘Hard Labour’.

UPDATE: Paperback Rioter has a good piece up giving background to the whole sorry situation and showing what a crock the Tory and Miliband positions are,

Lunatic Ex-MP George Galloway: “Where’s The Evidence Tiananmen Square Massacre Happened?”

Since apologising for Saddam Hussein and the Iranian regime apparently wasn’t low enough for him, George Galloway’s now plumbing the depths of atrocity-denial by claiming there’s no evidence the Tiananmen Square massacre ever happened:

Never let it be said there’s a brutal authoritarian dictatorship Galloway doesn’t like. The guy’s a British left-wing version of Pat Buchanan.

(via Liberal Conspiracy)

 

 

 

Measles Cases Explode In UK, France Thanks To Fake Science

I will always maintain that striking Andrew Wakefield off the list of those permitted to practice medicine was nowhere near a severe enough punishment. For the damage he and his cohorts inflicted and are still inflicting on children, he should be in jail.

More than 330 cases of measles have been reported in the first three months of this year in the UK, nearly as many as were reported in all of last year. According to the Guardian, a total of 334 cases of measles have been confirmed in England and Wales, as compared with 33 cases for the same period last year, and 374 in all of 2010. There have been outbreaks in universities, schools and in individual families, with most of the cases occurring in London and the south-east, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber.

Even more alarming are figures about measles cases in France where more than 5,000 cases have been reported this year. The World Health Organization says that, as of mid-April, 6500 cases of measles have been reported in 33 countries. Outbreaks have also occurred in Denmark, Germany, Norway and Serbia.

To illustrate how awful this is: 5000 is the number of cases France reported for the whole of last year. We’re only halfway through 2011 and they’ve reached that number already.

Please parents, make sure your children are vaccinated with the MMR jab. It is your responsibility to your children and others’ children to prevent it spreading.