F-bombs, B-words, and other things you probably shouldn’t say when trying to win someone to your side of an argument

“Bulls&%#. You really need to get a f@#$!#% clue. The CDC is nothing but a front for big pharma. The flu shot has never been tested in human studies. The strains are guesswork, and get this thru your f@#$%&* head b#$%@, mercury is poisonous in any form. To infants and kids is lethal. How f@#$%#@ stupid can you f@%$@#$ get you inbred b!@%#.”

Can’t we all just get along?

So, I am trying my best to be polite and respectful of others’ concerns, addressing vaccination questions that I hear commonly in my practice in a non-confrontational way, working to offer a data-driven counterpoint to much of the misinformation that is out there on the internet. But this is what I get in return. Now, the majority of people who respond to my posts or email me with questions are NOT like this guy. They are merely seeking further information to help them address their vaccine concerns and they do so in a collaborative and respectful way. Thank you to all of those readers out there who are open to dialogue! But this type of response is, unfortunately, not uncommon.

It’s no wonder physicians are hesitant to speak out.

When physicians and other pro-science people try to speak up in support of vaccinations, they are often attacked. These attacks can be as benign (though they’re not really benign) as calling someone an inbred B-word or they can go as far as posting negative comments on internet rating sites, negatively affecting a physician’s reputation and impacting their ability to attract new patients and build their practice. The most vocal of our vaccine advocates, like Dr. Paul Offit, have even received death threats for their efforts to keep our kids and communities safe and healthy. Even if you disagree with vaccine recommendations, is this really who you want representing your side of the argument? Is this really how we want to treat the people that have spent years of their lives working to keep our community healthy and safe and who would be there for anyone that needed their help?

Exactly what is the point of such a comment?

After reading this comment on my Flu Vaccine 101 blogpost, I have to wonder if the writer thinks he is going to change my mind about vaccines based on his rant, which includes personal insults and utterly incorrect information. All he managed to do is call out his own ignorance, tick me off and make me dig my heels in deeper when it comes to my stance on vaccinations. Physicians reading this…. This is the type of person we are NOT going to convince of the truths about vaccines. This guy is not going to believe reason and fact and is not worth the effort. Patients reading this…. I applaud this guy for giving us a master class in how NOT to try to win an argument. While medical professionals would never stoop to such rude behavior in a discussion with a questioning patient, this approach does remind us of how negative words, accusations, and offensive posturing can be off putting. In having vaccine discussions with our patients, we as providers need to remember to engage our patients with compassion, care and respect. In other words, the opposite of what this guy has done.

How can we do better?

Let’s call this blogpost a cry for civility. There is enough of “us vs them” in this world. If we are going to understand each other better, we have to cool the fires of anger and frustration. We have to open our ears and our hearts. We have to treat each other with dignity and respect. If we don’t, we can count on the fact that our position and our reasoning will be ignored.

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