James Calvert deposited Pathologies of the Post-Truth Era: Vaccine hesitancy, fake science and the post-factual debate on the MMR vaccine in the group CityLIS on Humanities Commons 2 years, 10 months ago
In 2019, the World Health Organization identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the top ten threats to global health. One of the most noteworthy of ‘eradicated’ diseases in the Western world – measles, has made a resurgence as a direct result of the immunisation threshold not being reached in an increasing number of countries. The decline in public confidence around the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is due to many reasons, but one significant contributing factor is the ‘anti-vaccination movement’ and its persistent spreading of false and misleading information on social media. The aim of this dissertation is two-fold: (1) develop an understanding of how a rapidly changing information environment has led to the emergence of a post-truth era in which the rational, evidence-based domain of healthcare is under assault from the anti-vaccination rhetoric of the MMR-autism controversy; (2) develop an understanding of how the post-factual characteristics of the vaccine debate are producing information pathologies of decision-making that are influencing the uptake of the MMR vaccine.
This dissertation met both these research aims through a literature review and a case study that utilises document analysis. This research produced a number of key findings: the anti-vaccination movement and the dissemination of false and misleading information about the MMR vaccine has been exacerbated by the changing information environment through the increasing dominance of social media and the phenomenon of the ‘echo chamber’; the characteristics of the post-factual vaccine debate are based on fake science and an increasing contempt for expert knowledge that is driven by Web 2.0 technologies and post-truth thinking. The conclusion drawn from this research points to the development of information fluency and the evolution of digital literacy to help society recover its fluency and effectiveness at dealing with information that has largely been lost in the post-truth era.