20 votes

So my Grandma is slowly turning into an Antivaxxer thanks to platforms like Facebook... So I wrote her this essay this morning.

Oof Grandma... Get your head out of your ass woman.(This is in Jest, Grandma knows and thought it was funny. ya'll chill)* Where are you getting your news lately because I just sent you an article from our national news organization and you just told me you can't believe it... Why?

We live and love in the beautiful free country of Canada and despite any individual political leader, we can find comfort in the fact that we have many elected officials that listen to their constituents and ultimately intend to better the lives for our nation. Canada is a mighty developed country and she has designated important bodies to help protect us from the wolves that prey on the weak. We have the CBC a nationally funded non profit organization that has authorship and integrity to the journalists they hire and a long history of helping the truth and redacting and outright dismissing disinformation (now more commonly called fake news). In this article I've sent you, it has sources directly involved in the measles outbreak, including doctors who are licensed through a board that verifies their integrity and ethics and authority in medicine. Also sourced is the CDC; another body that was appointed by Canada herself to keep her citizens healthy and safe, these are not groups of scientists with a vested interest to lie to anyone as that would jeopardize the safety to our entire nature... Yet these highly educated and well funded scientists are refuting your hypothesis grandma.

I think in order to understand what is happening here we need to both step back and ground ourselves in a neutral territory towards a scholarly pursuit and work towards the advancement of our society. To do this we need to frame our perspective to that of a scholar to which I think you and I both agree we are proud to call ourselves anyway. Me, a university student and you an independent researcher: truth be told, as a student of an organization like Ryerson, I have access to a wider breadth of knowledge in our online resources and databases of peer reviewed articles that I can search through with ease, but our goal will be the same and can be achieved only if you think critically with everything you read - you seem well versed in this regard so kudos let's proceed.

As a critical thinker and scholar we are nothing without our authority which is provided through our knowledge-base in factual information. I don't need to be an expert in biology, medicine, or even journalism to be able to have confidence in reading the news article I sent you; but as a scholar I have the ability to verify the authority to the people making the claims in the article. Every person involved in a professionally investigated article are sourced and cited and provide proof to their authority. It's why the CBC discloses their journalists and is also why they'll happily fire them if they fuck up - their integrity is on the line - same with every scientist working for the CDC. Canada does not have a vested interest in the perpetuation of fake news and disinformation, this isn't fucking Russia! (or the U.S. for that matter - Fox news is GOP run television FYI).

This is critical thinking and needs to be understood before you assume authority to the Facebook posts you read. Think of the platform you are getting your news from - Facebook: an American company with a vested interest in advertising to its users. They are NOT a news agency and have zero regulation in verifying the authority of authorship. Anyone can write any shit they like, and the more clicks they get, the more money Facebook makes. In-fact they will happily sell any message you like so long as you're willing to pay for it. I can post just about anything under the guise of "free speech" so long as it does not contain "hate speech" (technically a crime in Canada) and then pay Facebook a couple hundreds of dollars to get that post higher up on my friend's walls. It's how their platform works and regardless of whether a post has been promoted by Facebook themselves or not they are in the business of clicks. In this age of terrorism and fear mongering, the posts, articles, links, and videos that induce the most controversy and fear will gain the most clicks - this is human nature! Facebook doesn't care, they got their money as they are now one of the largest messaging services in the world, second only to WeChat which is a government controlled chinese messaging app linked to their social credit system meant to repress their citizens... hmm...

As Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously said in his thesis Understanding Media, “For any medium has the power of imposing its own assumption on the unwary… But the greatest aid to this end is simply in knowing that the spell can occur immediately upon contact, as in the first bars of a melody.” unfortunately the advent of social media has only perpetuated the scaling of the media, the importance of the messages, and the shallow knowledge-base of its users to apply the unwary en masse.

To quote a larger bit of McLuhan to drive this point home:

“The American stake in literacy as a technology or uniformity applied to every level of education, government, industry, and social life is totally threatened by the electric technology. The threat of Stalin or Hitler was external. The electric technology is within the gates, and we are numb, deaf, blind, and mute about its encounter with the Gutenberg technology, on and through which the American way of life was formed. It is, however, no time to suggest strategies when the threat has not even been acknowledged to exist. I am in the position of Louis Pasteur telling doctors that their greatest enemy was quite invisible, and quite unrecognized by them.” (McLuhan was a man before his time., this was written in 1954) “For the “content” of a medium is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. The effect of the medium is made strong and intense just because it is given another medium as “content.” The content of a movie is a novel or a play or an opera.
The effect of the movie form is not related to its program content. The “content” of writing or print is speech, but the reader is almost entirely unaware either of print or of speech.”

Do not kid yourself, social media is no different than any other media. The content of the message is NOT the message. Who is posting the dribble and fake news and WHY? understand the author and their authority and you will begin to think critically again. You wouldn't pick up a history book without knowing who authored it would you? Facts are facts, and fake-news is disinformation by another name.

Now to return to our CBC article about measles and your claim that there is a connection to the MMR vaccine which has the potential to cause autism (despite how fucking stupid this shit is, I'll entertain your hypothesis for a moment).

  1. Where are your critical sources and statistics to prove any semblance to propose such an outlandish hypothesis? Because I can't seem to find any real ones in my databases here and every time I've asked you for your proof you've failed to provide any.

  2. If the vaccine were to cause autism you accept that there is a chance this vaccine may put a child at harms risk. The reality is you are saying you'd rather risk your child potentially getting a deadly disease and potentially becoming maimed and permanently injured through contact with the disease and worse contaminating others and spreading the harmful pathogens to others just out of fear of potentially could get autism... again, supported without any fact or evidence? Janet's post from Antivax-moms facebook group is non an authority of fact and no medical body has rightfully confirmed a case of autism to the MMR vaccine... so where is our proof again? Big-vaccine is out to give autism to our children?

  3. By not immunizing your children you are immorally upholding your child's life over that of your nations and against those you interact with on a day to day basis. You are no longer in a small town - we are a massive country with very loose borders so we can invite friends and family to visit. But when we don't protect our basecamp, the wolves will get in. That goes for fake news just as much as it goes for measles. We already have guards on duty to protect our children, our sick, our immune deficient elders and infants from harmful diseases. These treatments work and you and I are the proof in the pudding. Where is this form of tribalism coming from where you would rather "protect" from autism but not measles, mumps, and rubella? These are the wolves we must fight, and we can't let our guard down just because a post of Facebook has a few thousand clicks.

We are in the age of disinformation and globalization, whether we like it or not there are a select few who are controlling the messages we perpetuate online. Unfortunately it's the confusion and lack of authority to the messages that has guided us towards a harmful future that is now killing children all over the world.
https://medium.com/the-method/anti-vaccination-is-killing-children-in-europe-658415c54a04

stop spreading misinformation and think critically. You are better than that... you are a scholar!

I love you, and I hope you take this to heart.

EDIT*
Seeing that the post was more appropriately moved to ~talk I'm hoping I can start a bit more of a dialogue that has unraveled from talking with the rest of my family. I told my internal family about my conversation with Grandma which we've all had by now, we bring fact, she still isn't sure there isn't a bigger picture that she isn't seeing. She's been fed too many stories to really believe the true ones. How are we meant to respond to this? My dad kinda pissed me off, he said it's like pushing on rope and said it wasn't even worth the effort - especially since someone like my Grandmother doesn't intend to have anymore children and all her family members are well ingrained in the Ontario health system... despite his position, we get issues where families are believing information and causing significant harm to our society... what do?

My bad argument style aside, has anyone else felt like they've been pushing on rope lately?

25 comments

  1. [5]
    Dovey Link
    I stopped reading at "get your head out of your ass woman," and I imagine your grandmother would too. If you want someone to change their opinion, that's not a good way to start off.

    I stopped reading at "get your head out of your ass woman," and I imagine your grandmother would too. If you want someone to change their opinion, that's not a good way to start off.

    22 votes
    1. Nile Link Parent
      fair, but you also don't know my grandma ;)

      fair, but you also don't know my grandma ;)

      11 votes
    2. [2]
      Nmg Link Parent
      OP knows their grandma best. If she has a tough skin, she will take it lightly.

      OP knows their grandma best. If she has a tough skin, she will take it lightly.

      6 votes
      1. Nile Link Parent
        she laughed and told me to wash my mouth out. She said it's a bit long to read today so hopefully I can return with some of her comments and thoughts and some of the more "rational?" thinking...

        she laughed and told me to wash my mouth out. She said it's a bit long to read today so hopefully I can return with some of her comments and thoughts and some of the more "rational?" thinking commenters here that know my grandma for some reason can give me advice on how to rebuttal.

        6 votes
    3. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. Nile Link Parent
        you could read as condescension, but you are assuming my grandmother's disposition.

        you could read as condescension, but you are assuming my grandmother's disposition.

        5 votes
  2. [7]
    Micycle_the_Bichael Link
    I'll point out a few things, but based on your post itself and the comments you've left you're less interested in getting feedback and more wanted people to praise your perfect essay. (1) You'd be...

    I'll point out a few things, but based on your post itself and the comments you've left you're less interested in getting feedback and more wanted people to praise your perfect essay.

    (1) You'd be better off having an actual discussion and not writing an essay. Essays don't allow for further explanation/clarification or give the other person a chance to respond. More likely that she'll dig her heels into the ground and firm her stance. Especially if she feels attacked. See (2).
    (2) Jesus Christ this essay has so much condescension it was difficult for me to finish it and I'm not even the one being attacked. As you stated above, we don't know your family, but if we want to generalize this to arguing with people, in general, the only thing this essay is going to succeed in doing is getting people to think you're an egotistical prick, not want to talk to you, and not take any point or argument you make seriously.
    (3) It feels like this was written by the caricature of how every extreme right-wing group portrays the "liberal college elite". No that isn't a compliment.
    (4) Personal attacks are another great way to get people not to discuss their beliefs with you anymore and entrench themselves in their beliefs.

    Personally, I'd scrap the whole thing and start over but you seem convinced this is the only route to changing your grandmothers mind so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ you do you.

    14 votes
    1. [6]
      Nile Link Parent
      I hear you, I've attempted to have a conversation with her before about it and tried to figure out where she was getting her information from. I've been baffled by her position as all her children...

      I hear you, I've attempted to have a conversation with her before about it and tried to figure out where she was getting her information from. I've been baffled by her position as all her children are vaccinated yet has been adamant that these vaccines are harmful to her grandchildren. Also I feel like maybe you dug into a line of condescension and assumed the content of the essay is about getting my grandma to not be an antivaxxer... it isn't. I am trying to get her to think critically again because that was once something she was very good at. It's sad to see her grow old and potentially senile but we've always talked back and forth through long format letters. She was a classy lady who would send you a ten page letter and expect your comments to everything entailed.

      There is a reason I posted this in humanities and not politics or science or medicine. This was an extension to a long running conversation I've been having with my grandmother that has only been getting harder and harder to defend. She is being fed massive amounts of miss-information and wouldn't seem to accept my conversational sources which is now ironic because in her eyes I'm expected to take her word for it. So I figured I'd write her just as she would write me. I only wanted to share a part of our lives with you all and you took it in a pretty awful light.

      3 votes
      1. [5]
        iiv Link Parent
        I think your approach is wrong. Do you want her to change her mind, or do you want to lecture her? All that stuff about fake news and how free Canada is is irrelevant. Only use the three points at...

        I think your approach is wrong. Do you want her to change her mind, or do you want to lecture her? All that stuff about fake news and how free Canada is is irrelevant. Only use the three points at the end.

        1. Ask her for proof for her position.
        2. Point out that even if it is true that vaccines cause autism, isn't it a lesser evil to vaccinate anyway, because the risks of disease are greater than the risk of autism.
        3. Point out that it is immoral to risk the herd immunity since some people can't get vaccinated without getting very ill.
        4. Reiterate that there is no proof that vaccines cause autism.
        5 votes
        1. [4]
          Gaywallet Link Parent
          Have you considered that challenging someone to prove their position will put them on the defensive? The last time you shared an opinion and someone asked you to prove why you were correct, how...

          Have you considered that challenging someone to prove their position will put them on the defensive? The last time you shared an opinion and someone asked you to prove why you were correct, how did it make you feel?

          /u/Nile and you are both arguing in a classic debate style - prove your point with as much factual evidence and logic as possible. While this is great for debates, and is the scientifically accurate way to prove a point, humans are quite fickle and will quickly toss logic and reason to the curb in favor of rationalization and emotion.

          My experiences with humans have revealed the following:

          1. People love to think that they are both more educated and more important than others.
          2. People like to feel like they are being helpful.
          3. People will freely share their thoughts and ideals.

          Given these three points, I've found the following approach to be very successful in learning and changing opinions:

          1. Ask them to clarify their position. If they make a statement like "vaccines cause autism" the question to ask is why? "Really? I had never considered that. Why do you think vaccines cause autism?" would be a good example of a question that does not question the authority of their position, and in fact is implying that they are an authority (appeal to #1). It's asking them to share their thoughts (#3) which will make them feel like they are educating someone (#2).
          2. When they state something that is factually false, misleading, otherwise wrong, such as "doctors have found a link between vaccines and autism", do not directly attack the argument. This is the fastest way to put them on the defensive, and it does not matter whether you are correct or not. The goal here is not to prove a point, it's to change a mind. Instead, probe them with directed questions. In this case, most people know there's a lot of evidence supporting the counter claim, so a response might be "I've heard of studies which did not find a link between vaccines and autism, why do you think that is?". It's also not a bad idea to directly defer to their expertise with a statement like "there seems to be a lot of conflicting information here, how did you sort through it all and come to your conclusion?". In a situation that is not as clear cut, simply question the points which seem weak conclusions. The goal here is to reconsider the points - often times people will reach conclusions about these through their own inherent biases (we will more readily accept questionable evidence that our viewpoint is correct, because it agrees with our view).
          3. Hopefully #2 will be able to be repeated in order to get someone to examine their own thought process. It's very possible they came to a conclusion a long time ago and their existing biases have kept them from critically re-examining their viewpoint. Keep in mind that they very likely will not admit to being wrong at this time. The key is to get them to re-examine their thoughts and maybe in the shower, on a walk, or at bed sometime in the future they'll start to realize that their own thinking was wrong. The key here is that they need to be the ones to figure this out. It is very unlikely they will reach this conclusion with you telling them that they are wrong... Think back to the last time you changed your mind on a significant topic, perhaps one that defined your identity or viewpoint. Did someone change your mind, or did you change your own mind?
          10 votes
          1. [3]
            Nile Link Parent
            wow very well written. Your first point is perfect. Your second point sounds like a lot of the vocal conversations I've tried to have with my grandmother in the past. There's a reason why the two...

            wow very well written. Your first point is perfect. Your second point sounds like a lot of the vocal conversations I've tried to have with my grandmother in the past. There's a reason why the two of us achieve more understanding with each other on long format though so that's why I went my route this morning. And of course number 3 would come if I had better executed your first point alongside your second. You're well spoken and I appreciate the input!

            4 votes
            1. [2]
              Gaywallet Link Parent
              I'm glad you found this information useful! Most of this is an adaptation of the information presented in the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I'd highly recommend...

              I'm glad you found this information useful! Most of this is an adaptation of the information presented in the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I'd highly recommend picking up a copy and giving it a read as it's made a huge difference in my life.

              3 votes
              1. Nile Link Parent
                ugh okay... I've been putting off that read for awhile ever since CGP Grey and Brady Haran started H.I. and wouldn't shut up about it for awhile. I'll pick it up!

                ugh okay... I've been putting off that read for awhile ever since CGP Grey and Brady Haran started H.I. and wouldn't shut up about it for awhile. I'll pick it up!

                3 votes
  3. [2]
    Dovey Link
    This article on "The Principle of Charity" was posted on Tildes previously and I saved it to re-read as needed. I like what it has to say about styles of persuasion.

    This article on "The Principle of Charity" was posted on Tildes previously and I saved it to re-read as needed. I like what it has to say about styles of persuasion.

    6 votes
    1. Nile Link Parent
      that was a good read, it's always nice to remind ourselves how we form our opinions and this goes for making opinions and defending those opinions too. This wasn't an essay to be submitted to my...

      that was a good read, it's always nice to remind ourselves how we form our opinions and this goes for making opinions and defending those opinions too. This wasn't an essay to be submitted to my school, just to my grandma haha! but thank you for the good read.

      1 vote
  4. Nile (edited ) Link
    Thought I'd give Tildes a go, a couple of my points were borrowed from some comments I read awhile back on reddit, so some of the word choices might be familiar. Namely the wolves analogy and...

    Thought I'd give Tildes a go, a couple of my points were borrowed from some comments I read awhile back on reddit, so some of the word choices might be familiar. Namely the wolves analogy and basecamp - when I read a comment along these lines I knew then how I would frame defense to try and teach my grandma what is actually going on. I then extended that beyond to my own research a thesis in digital media while I'm studying Architecture at Ryerson University in Toronto.

    Also link to the original article mentioned in the essay: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/father-vancouver-measles-outbreak-1.5022891

    3 votes
  5. [7]
    Nile Link
    Since everyone here in humanities seems to have an opinion on how I should speak to my grandmother and the type of relationship we have... here's a couple points from her initial response, I'll...

    Since everyone here in humanities seems to have an opinion on how I should speak to my grandmother and the type of relationship we have... here's a couple points from her initial response, I'll keep the Canadian bits too because that's what we like to talk about and some of you missed that point. (bare in mind, she hasn't fully read it, just skimmed, so I don't intend to respond until she's done the same):

    "I may be awhile getting back to you, I need to shovel a path to the shed for wood. I'm burning the last bit of it in order to pull the propane bill down. The snow is over my knees and yesterday when I fell in it, with that depth it was hard getting up.It is also hard to shovel. I will not try to answer to your email until I have had time to read it. this was a story I have not been following, and on a very fast perusal, something bothers me about it. The boy who contracted measles was 11. That he had not vaccinated him due to an autism scare was a crock. The statistics for autism are scarey, and I feel sorry for Kyle (my cousin gave birth to an autistic girl last year, I'm yet to meet her unfortunately, this is what she is referring to). I know there was some talk awhile back that she would have to go into an institution. I am not antivax, but one shoe size does not fit all. When your father had the small pox vaccine, he spiked a fever of 105.8 F, high enough for brain damage, and high enough for death. Trenton hospital refused to take him for fear he had small pox. I packed him in ice, and when the icicles were gone from the roof, I used the beans from the freezer. What I have been getting on MMR and autism, is a suggestion that, if possible, that needle should be delayed until the child is 36 months, and the immune system has more time to mature. Sorry I would have to know more about the case you presented to hazard an opinion.
    I will reiterate that they need to find an answer to autism, The statistics are too high, no matter who you listen to,and if that means taking a good hard look at lifestyles in general, so be it. The MMR vaccine is one of the more reliable vaccines, and there is no excuse for delaying it until the age of 11, but there may be reasons to delay it past 12 months, and yes I had the measles etc. etc.. I grew up without needles, nor was the measles needle available when your Dad was growing up. Did you have it? I am not sure, The measles vaccine was licensed in Canada in 1963, and publically funded in 1970., and yes your Dad had the measles making the needle unnecessary. Due to uncle R's (I'm going to redact a name here just to play safe) allergies I was advised by the doctor to not vaccinate the children (for a time) due to the possibility of vaccine shedding. and I reiterate one shoe size does not fit all.."

    this was a cut down from what she sent me... a lot more personal things were included... also was only like 20 minutes after I sent it to her. But that said... I see movement from earlier conversational arguments

    4 votes
    1. [6]
      cfabbro Link Parent
      Honestly, what did you expect? You posted a letter (so presumably were looking for commentary on it) that you sent to someone that starts out with "Get your head out of your ass". And you posted...

      Since everyone here in humanities seems to have an opinion on how I should speak to my grandmother

      Honestly, what did you expect? You posted a letter (so presumably were looking for commentary on it) that you sent to someone that starts out with "Get your head out of your ass". And you posted it to ~humanities of all places too, a group that is for discussing topics related to the academic disciplines of anthropology, archeology, history, linguistics, literature, politics, philosophy, religion, and the arts, none of which are even remotely related to what you're discussing with your grandma except in only the broadest possible terms. So this particular topic is rather inappropriate here IMO. Speaking of which, I have moved this to ~talk, but I can move it to ~health if you would prefer.

      4 votes
      1. [4]
        Nile Link Parent
        no that's completely fair! I didn't see ~talk and think it's more appropriate over there for sure. definitely not health! didn't mean to misconstrued the kind of conversation I was looking for....

        no that's completely fair! I didn't see ~talk and think it's more appropriate over there for sure. definitely not health! didn't mean to misconstrued the kind of conversation I was looking for. More or less wanted to just talk to people about the idea of falsities embedding into our culture and how we are meant to react to them. Sorry if I stepped out of the intended forum.

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          cfabbro (edited ) Link Parent
          It's fine, don't worry about it too much... Tildes takes some getting used to. :) p.s. And while I don't think even had you posted it to ~talk initially the response to your letter would have been...

          It's fine, don't worry about it too much... Tildes takes some getting used to. :)

          p.s. And while I don't think even had you posted it to ~talk initially the response to your letter would have been much different, it at least might have been more what you were looking for instead of such harsh criticism. Although I would suggest perhaps trying to frame your topic better in the future to explain what exactly you're wishing to discuss... since leaving it open to interpretation as you did generally invites criticism of your form moreso than promoting discussion on the subjects you touch on in your essay.

          5 votes
          1. Nile (edited ) Link Parent
            haha maybe... it is hard to express nuance of speech in text* regardless... it certainly takes awhile to build a report with someone especially to be able to talk to them so loosely and blunt. I...

            haha maybe... it is hard to express nuance of speech in text* regardless... it certainly takes awhile to build a report with someone especially to be able to talk to them so loosely and blunt. I love my grandma and she knows it, don't you guys worry. I just also love technology and worry a bit when I see the stuff that is perpetuated as truth on social media... shit's scary

            Edit: just read nuance of speech.

            1 vote
          2. Nile Link Parent
            also maybe I shouldn't have used the word essay, just so use to forming thoughts and opinions in long format with her that we've grown use to calling them essays.

            also maybe I shouldn't have used the word essay, just so use to forming thoughts and opinions in long format with her that we've grown use to calling them essays.

            1 vote
      2. Nile Link Parent
        makes sense now, as a first time poster, long time reddit lurker, I was wondering why I was being met with a lot of hostility. Should have read up on the "~"? better? I don't know the terminology...

        makes sense now, as a first time poster, long time reddit lurker, I was wondering why I was being met with a lot of hostility. Should have read up on the "~"? better? I don't know the terminology that's used here yet... what do we call ourselves? what are the different forums called (subreddit's on reddit... what are they here)?

        1 vote
  6. [3]
    Nile (edited ) Link
    See main body text edit.

    See main body text edit.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      cfabbro Link Parent
      You can edit your original topic text to include this, if you want (though I would suggest making it clear it's an edit). More people are likely to see it before they make a comment themselves if...

      You can edit your original topic text to include this, if you want (though I would suggest making it clear it's an edit). More people are likely to see it before they make a comment themselves if it's in the topic text at the top rather than a comment at the bottom.

      1 vote
      1. Nile Link Parent
        good point, thanks!

        good point, thanks!

        2 votes