The Virus of Hysteria

Dalrymple’s February contribution to City Journal is a review of the new book Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All by Paul A. Offit, on the hysteria that resulted from the study by Andrew Wakefield purporting to link vaccines with autism and other maladies. Dalrymple concludes that “Offit’s book is therefore not only an interesting scientific saga in itself, but a kind of cultural X-ray of our society.”

This statement presents a fact that in my opinion can be observed constantly throughout the Western world:

We are now so safe that all hazard appears anomalous to us, a deviation from nature’s normal course. It must be someone’s fault.

And the following has already been quoted at least once on the Web, and is destined for our page of Dalrymple’s very best quotes:

It is noise that makes the world go round as much as money, with truth coming in a poor third…

3 thoughts on “The Virus of Hysteria

  1. Rachel

    TD’s medical writing are the usually only time I strongly disagree with him.

    People sometimes are “anti vaccine” not so much because of health scares but because they dislike the forced intervention of the state into people’s personal lives.

    I once had a reaction to a Rubella vaccine myself. I only had a flu like symptoms, temperature and Rubella rash for a week following the injection. Therefore I know that reactions do happen. It seems logically possible they could be far worse than my reaction was. I don’t think questioning and investigating whether a vaccine is dangerous or not is “hysterical”.
    The thing I disliked about my Rubella vaccine reaction was being forced into having the injection by government law. It was mandatory at the the time for all 13 years old school girls in that part of England to receive this horrible injection in order to avoid Rubella in any teen that happened to get pregnant.

    His statement I most disagree with:
    “We are now so safe that all hazard appears anomalous to us, a deviation from nature’s normal course.”

    Autism cases has risen expodentially in the last 30 years, even when you take into account improved detection.

    Cancer has risen.

    Astmas cases have risen.

    Certain bowel illnesses have risen. (e.g IBS, food allergies, Celiac, Chrohns desease, Bowel Cancer etc.)

    M.E, Gulf War Syndrome, AIDS are new deseases.
    M.E and Gulf War illness has no treatment. Current AIDS treatment doesn’t sound wonderful from what little I’ve heard.

    I don’t feel like I’m so safe from hazard and illness. I myself have fibromyalgia, a common pain condition with no known cause, no cure or really good treatment available apart from the pain killers I am on now.

    It’s obvious that we are better off then we were before cortisone, antibiotics and Polio vaccines were invented circa 1940’s-50’s. But to say:
    “We are now so safe that all hazard appears anomalous to us,…”
    …No way.

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