#stopavn's Operation Nutcracker: Wings Over Woodford

Vaccination Saves Lives: Stop The Australian Vaccination Network

Right now, as I hit "publish" on this post, anti-vaccination campaigner Meryl Dorey will be preparing to speak to the crowd at Woodford Folk Festival's Blue Lotus. Speaking against her will be Professor Andreas Suhrbier, an immunology expert who actually does know some facts about vaccines. It's an absurd, even comedic mismatch of knowledge, bringing together as it does one of Australia's leading experts in vaccination and an innumerate conspiracy theorist from Northern NSW.

While this is going on, 500ft above the Woodford site, a banner will be unfurled, sending a simple message to everyone on the site, not just the few hundred squeezed into the Blue Lotus.


Now, Big Farmer refused to stump up the money*, so this simple but important public message was funded through community donations. Upwards of 30 members of Stop The AVN put in cash to fund this effort, which was coordinated by the marvelous Robin Hilliard.  This was true citizen activism, and it puts the craven appeals of Meryl Dorey to shame - because this money actually went to the project it was meant to fund.

Oh, and incidentally the cost amounted to less than 1% of the AVN's annual reported revenue.

But perhaps a recap, now that Woodford is in full swing, would be appropriate?

In early December, a group of bloggers became aware that Meryl Dorey, disgraced sometime president of the Australian Vaccination Network, was booked to appear at the Woodford Folk Festival, and would be delivering a talk entitled "Autism Emergency: 1 child in 38". Meryl Dorey is Australia's most prominent anti-vaccine campaigner and, more recently, Australia's most debunked woman. Her anti-vaccine, anti-science, anti-reality spoutings sparked such outrage in 2009 that a loose-knit group of concerned citizens came together to form Stop The AVN, which has been fighting anti-vaccine rhetoric ever since. The AVN has since had its charity status revoked, and was subject to an unprecedented public warning issued by the NSW HCCC.

Dorey's appearance at Woodford would have perhaps been her most high-profile unopposed appearance since the emergence of Stop The AVN, whose tireless efforts have led to the media spotlight being turned, with most outlets now rejecting her "expertise" - some spectacularly, such as Tracey Spicer hanging up on Meryl mid-sentence. Some hold-outs remain, generally in conspiracy-mongering talkback jock backwaters, but overall her audience is vastly reduced.

So there was no way Stop The AVN would be letting Dorey have a free kick at Woodford.

Grassroots support soon emerged after a few key blogs put out stories. Mama Mia showed some interest, and on 13th December published a story on the piece which has become the definitive description of  the Woodford Problem. The comment area became a warzone within minutes, though the side of vaccine advocacy had the clear upper hand in terms of intellectual supremacy and, oh, you know, facts. Even Dorey popped by to post some poorly-doctored graphs but was soundly sliced to ribbons by commenters wielding the scalpel of scientific fact.

All the while, more blog posts were springing up, Twitter lit up with Woodford-related tweets, and mainstream media started to show an interest. More high-profile bloggers joined the groundswell, and eventually Bill Hauritz, festival organiser, popped his head over the parapet to defend his position to Mamma Mia's Rick Morton.

He was unapologetic, even combative.

At this point, all hell broke loose. This is where an easily handled PR pothole turned into a gaping rift of public disapproval. Folk festival promotes known health danger. Organiser unapologetic. Public furious. Newspapers, TV and radio picked up the ball and ran, and all the while the internet kept hammering away. Hauritz backtracked on his story and claimed he'd referred the matter to the committee. QLD Premier Anna Bligh expressed serious concern but noted she couldn't exert editorial control. AMA QLD president Dr Kidd gave a sternly worded expression of disapproval and best of all, QLD Health Minister Geoff Wilson branded Dorey's information "nonsense" and called the AVN a "fringe group" (both true).

If Dorey had any shame at all, she'd have fled the country with a towel over her head.

But still, Woodford kept her on the bill.

That is until Christmas eve, when a post hidden away on the Woodford Facebook page was unearthed in a sweep by a few moderately bored SAVN members. Apparently, Dorey's talked had been pulled and replaced with a "forum" in which Dr Andreas Suhrbier would bring the facts, and Meryl Dorey would get to wield the bullshit.

And that brings us here. With a plane orbiting Woodfordia at 500ft and, if all goes according to the established standards of reality, Meryl Dorey having her ass handed to her on stage in a finely crafted presentation box. Consider it a late christmas present, Meryl.

As for Woodford, do you think they'll want this kind of fiasco again next year? Not if they're sane. I have no doubt the festival's backers will be questioning whether this sort of media storm will be happening again. In fact, I guarantee it, because we'll be reminding them.

So, in summary, The Woodford Fiasco is another nail being driven home into the AVN's coffin-lid, though the anti-vax zombie that is the Australian Vaccination Network continues to twitch and call out for MOARR BRAINS!!

Help us put a stop to it once and for all. Join Stop The Australian Vaccination Network.


* none of us actually asked Big Farmer. He's very busy at this time of year. I think he moonlights as Santa Claus.

posted @ Thursday, December 29, 2011 2:45 PM


Comments on this entry:

# re: #stopavn's Operation Nutcracker: Wings Over Woodford

Left by K Sturgess at 12/29/2011 4:29 PM
Who do I talk to for a podcast interview about this?
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