The Greater Good is an antivaccine documentary (and illustrative example of the pernicious genre medical propaganda film) that made its rounds in the expected circles, and were promoted by the usual group of conspiracy theorists and anti-science advocates (such as Joe Mercola and Barbara Loe Fisher). They even tried to push it on public schools. It is dealt with in some detail here.
The basic set-up is familiar, and the agenda clear:
- Present some tragic stories of “vaccine injuries” to manipulatively appeal to the viewers’ emotions, without too much discussion of details to ensure that it is impossible to verify or falsify (at least one of the central stories has been demolished in court, thus giving the interviewees even more room to recruit the viewer’s empathy in their attempt to build a conspiracy theory targeted at Big Pharma, the courts, all of medicine, science and the need to evaluate evidence carefully; the other cases present no evidence whatsoever that vaccines are actually to blame for the tragic events beyond correlations that do not really seem even to be genuine correlations). Nor does it, of course, mention how vaccines prevented uncountable tragedies by eradicating small-pox and polio, since that doesn’t really fit the chosen narrative.
- Create a manufactroversy by pitting a few real experts against a panel of pseudoscientists and conspiracy theorists, then editing he results to fit the desired narrative.
- Then dismiss the real experts (but trying to make it seem like everything is fair and “balanced”) and plump for the conspiracy theories and the pseudoscience the “documentary” had built up to accepting all along.
The pseudoscientistst and conspiracy theorists presented as experts include:
- Bob Sears, who has now firmly endorsed the anti-vaccine movement, and whose misinformation about medical issues targeted at parents is a serious cause for concern given his celebrity status. In the documentary, he primarily runs a blatantly dishonest toxins gambit and tries to claim, against better knowledge and judgment, that vaccines haven’t been sufficiently well studied for safety (This is false, and Sears knows it; he’s lying.)
- Larry Palevsky, who writes articles for anti-vaccine sites and promotes and recommends a wide array of quackery and faith healing, including “acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, chiropractic, osteopathy, cranial-sacral therapy, environmental medicine, homeopathy, and essential oils, along with natural healing modalities such as aromatherapy, yoga, Reiki, meditation, reflexology, and mindfulness.” In the documentary, Palevsky pushes the toxins gambit for all its worth, since it’s a more effective means for scaring people without background in chemistry or medicine than being accurate or truthful; he even tries the breathtakingly intellectually dishonest “the vaccines didn’t save us”gambit.
- John Green III, another anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist.
- Christopher Shaw, a currently legendary, Canadian anti-vaccine crank responsible for several of the garbage “studies” frequently cited by the antivaccine movement.
- Barbara Loe Fisher, the granddame of the anti-vaccine movement herself.
There are also a couple of lawyers (such as Kevin Conway), bent on misrepresenting the role of the vaccine court. It is also worth noting, if anyone had any doubts about what kind of “documentary” this is, that the end credits state that “this film was vetted by Dr. Lawrence D. Rosen, MD, FAAP and Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld, MD, FRCP for scientific and medical accuracy,” which is more or less like consulting whale.to. Dr. Rosen is an “integrative” pediatrician who is chair-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine and staunchly anti-vaccine; indeed, he seems to still think that thimerosal causes autism (though he is notoriously vague), which is an idea approximately as well-refuted as flat earth). You can read more about Dr. Shoenfeld here.
The producer, Leslie Manookian (formerly Leslie Manookian Bradshaw), is – apparently – a homeopath, which means she is about as ridiculous as you can get in the realm of pseudoscience (though she had the whereabouts not to list those qualifications on the filmmaker bio page), and has previously been active in the comment sections of vaccine-related blog posts. (She also used to list mercola.com, Mothering Magazine and the anti-vaccine website NVIC at the top of her list of vaccine information sources). After the “documentary”, Manookian has apparently become something of a mainstay at pseudoscience and anti-vaccine conferences, such as Freedomfest, and has been associated with the Weston A. Price foundation, a quack organization if there ever was one. In 2015, Manookian and the foundation’s Kim Hartke managed to get a piece of anti-vaccine propaganda posted as press release on CNBC’s Globe Newswire, consisting primarily of the old antivaxx shedding myth disguised as “news”. (It is discussed here).
Diagnosis: Apparently an influential figure in the antivaccine movement, Manookian is a crank through and through. Dangerous.
Hat-tip: Respectful Insolence