Pro-life and “anti-vax”

Public health policy aims to protect society from disease - sometimes, at an individual's expense. One person in 2.4 million inoculated with the polio vaccine gets the disease. Before the vaccines were introduced in the US in the 1950s, however, the virus afflicted tens of thousands each year, so the public wins, despite that minuscule individual risk. Growing numbers of malcontents, the "anti-vax" campaigners, allied increasingly with the Tea Party movement in the US, detest their government's directives on vaccination.

The effect can be seen in the fallout from the scare over the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) single jab. Where 95 per cent of the population is vaccinated, the probability of the measles virus finding a body in which to propagate diminishes; and so measles eventually disappears. When the MMR jab was (falsely) linked to autism, however, UK vaccination rates dropped and so measles is on the rise. Non-immunised people keep the germs in circulation.

It's not just anti-vax individuals at risk. Newborns, for instance, aren't immunologically ready to take the vaccine - they rely on not coming into contact with the disease. Tea Party activists, therefore, face a dilemma. Can one pursue a pro-life crusade for the unborn while also defending the right of the unvaccinated to endanger babies?

This article first appeared in the 01 August 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The rise of the far right

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Goldsmiths diversity officer Bahar Mustafa receives court summons in wake of “#KillAllWhiteMen” outcry

Mustafa will answer charges of "threatening" and "offensive/ indecent/ obscene/ menacing" communications.

In May this year, Bahar Mustafa, then diversity officer at Goldsmiths, University of London, posted a Facebook message requesting that men and white people not attend a BME Women and non-binary event. There was an immediate backlash from those also enraged by the fact that Mustafa allegedly used the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen on social media. 

Today, Mustafa received a court summons from the Metropolitan Police to answer two charges, both of which come under the Communications Act 2003. The first is for sending a "letter/communication/article conveying a threatening message"; the second for "sending by public communication network an offensive/ indecent/ obsecene/ menacing message/ matter".

It isn't clear what communciation either charge relates to - one seems to refer to something sent in private, while the use of "public communication network" in the second implies that it took place on social media. The Met's press release states that both communciations took place between 10 November 2014 and 31 May 2015, a very broad timescale considering the uproar around Mustafa's social media posts took place in May. 

We approached the Met to ask which communications the summons refers to, but a spokesperson said that no more information could be released at this time. Mustafa will appear at Bromley Magistrates' Court on 5 November. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.