How vaccine scares spread

Ben Goldacre of The Guardian interviewed on NPR’s On The Media:

There’s something very interesting about vaccine scares. These are cultural products. They’re not about evidence. If vaccine scares were about genuine scientific evidence showing that a vaccine caused a disease, then the vaccine scares would happen all around the world at exactly the same time, because information can disseminate itself around the world very rapidly these days. But what you find is that vaccine scares actually respect cultural and national boundaries.

Viral marketing, indeed.


More from the debate about Chris Anderson’s Free, this time from Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow writing in The Guardian:

There’s a pretty strong case to be made that “free” has some inherent antipathy to capitalism. […] There’s plenty in our world that lives outside of the marketplace: it’s a rare family that uses spot-auctions to determine the dinner menu or where to go for holidays. […] But for the sizeable fraction of this material—and it is sizeable—that was created with no expectation of joining the monetary economy, with no expectation of winning some future benefit for its author, that was created for joy, or love, or compulsion, or conversation, it is just wrong to say that the “price” of the material is “free.” The material, is, instead, literally priceless. It represents a large and increasing segment of our public life that is conducted entirely for reasons outside the marketplace.

I think Doctorow totally nails it, suggesting that Anderson’s misreading of Hyde is actually the heart of the problem with Free. Where Hyde sees two economies, a commercial economy and a creative economy, Anderson sees only one. Doctorow:

And here’s where Free starts to trip up. Though Anderson celebrates the best of non-commercial and anti-commercial net-culture, from amateur creativity to Freecycle, he also goes through a series of tortured (and ultimately less than convincing) exercises to put a dollar value on this activity, to explain the monetary worth of Wikipedia, for example.


The new Penguin on Design series looks smart and sounds promising. A great lineup of titles, including the reedition of Bruno Munari’s classic Design as Art in print. John Berger’s brilliant Ways of Seeing, which began as a TV show, is also included in the series. In addition to Penguin on Design, I’m also looking forward to Penguin’s edition of Deyan Sudjic’s new book The Language of Things, coming soon to the U.S. For two different perspectives on Sudjic’s book, these reviews from The Guardian (pro) and Frieze (con) are each worth a look.


In fall 2006, Jim Crace’s book Useless America was advertised on with a September 2007 release date. When Crace himself got an email from Amazon alerting him to this fact, he was shocked. He’d never written a book called Useless America, and, as far as he knew, no such book ever existed. Read more at Crace’s great editorial in The Guardian.


Always pushing the envelope, Lars von Trier pushes movies ever closer to games with his newest film, “The Boss of It All.” As The Guardian reports, von Trier’s new film was filmed using “Automavision: a new way of filming without using a cameraman,” and plays a game called Lookey, which sends viewers on a visual treasure hunt, looking for imperfections or elements out-of-context in the film. “Von Trier has offered 30,000 Danish kroner (£2,700) to the first person in Denmark to identify all the film’s Lookeys, along with the opportunity to be an extra in his next film.”


The Guardian reports on two bar managers from the south of England who decided to clone Coke. Marginally related, a map that shows a county-by-county distribution of generic names for soft drinks.