How One Small Nonprofit Irked a MTV Star
It’s amazing how one simple action can result in a landside of meaning.
On May 14, I realized that the organization that I work for, the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (CCIC), aka ImmunizeCOKids on Twitter, was blocked by Jenny McCarthy, aka JennyfromMTV on Twitter.
Okay, so that’s a little odd. That is the only user I know that blocks CCIC.
Sure, CCIC has put out some tweets about Jenny. She has made herself a major target for the pro-vaccine movement. What is really odd is that the block was in response to only three tweets with her user name in it. In the name of complete transparency, I’ve included the actual tweets:
ImmunizeCOKids: @shuwu – great work – “Open Letter 2 @Oprah” poetic, smart & dead-on post about deal w/ anti-vax @JennyfromMTV http://ow.ly/6uY7 (May 14, 2009 – http://twitter.com/ImmunizeCOKids/statuses/1796433253 )
ImmunizeCOKids: Poetic, smart and dead-on post about @Oprah signing deal with anti-vax @JennyfromMTV “Open Letter to Oprah” http://ow.ly/6uY7 (May 13, 2009 – http://twitter.com/ImmunizeCOKids/statuses/1776457638 = 13 RTs of this ow.ly shortener)
ImmunizeCOKids: Jenny McCarthy is on The Doctors TV show today – very inflammatory. She is on twitter now too @JennyfromMTV (May 6, 2009 – http://twitter.com/ImmunizeCOKids/statuses/1716401176 )
And in all fairness, here are the tweets that just included her name and not her Twitter ID:
ImmunizeCOKids: Weigh in! Future of BioPharma: Jenny McCarthy vs Autism and its effects on the public http://ow.ly/6ggj (May 11, 2009 – http://twitter.com/ImmunizeCOKids/statuses/1765254086)
ImmunizeCOKids: Why is Oprah Winfrey promoting vaccine skeptic Jenny McCarthy? Slate Magazine http://ow.ly/5rFB – thanks @JeffStierACSH & @bobfinn (May 6, 2009 – http://twitter.com/ImmunizeCOKids/statuses/1718911892)
ImmunizeCOKids: Agreed on the fiction of vaccines = autism part. Thanks Babble! “Jenny McCarthy To Get Her Own Talk Show?” – FameCrawler http://ow.ly/5gZ7 (May 5, 2009 – http://twitter.com/ImmunizeCOKids/statuses/1708699412)
Social media is a very important strategy for CCIC’s mission of increasing vaccination rates to keep Colorado’s kids healthy. CCIC engages in Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to share our message of confidence in the safety of vaccines. Specifically, we use Twitter to encourage and support the majority of parents who are vaccinating their children, confront misinformation about vaccine safety and share articles from a wide array of sources.
Blocking on Twitter? What’s the Point
As someone who lives and breathes social media (I author three Twitter accounts), the blocking function on Twitter has always perplexed me. Why would you ever want to sever a line of communication in this way?
For those unfamiliar with the function, the block feature on Twitter ensures that you and the blocked user do not follow each other or direct message each other. It doesn’t prevent the blocked user from visiting the user’s profile or writing ‘@ replies’ about them. It just ensures that the user is blissfully ignorant of all the comments the blocked user is continuing to add to Twitterspace. This is from Twitter on their blocking function:
Are you sure you want to block ImmunizeCOKids? Here’s what blocking means:
You will no longer show up in the blocked person’s list of friends.
Your updates won’t show up on the blocked person’s profile page.
The blocked person will not be able to add you as a friend.
For us at CCIC, it is the rich dialogue that makes Twitter so powerful. We receive tweets at least once a week from parents telling us that we are liars and that they staunchly believe that vaccines are dangerous or that vaccines cause autism. We want to keep the dialogue open with all parents. We want to know what exactly is frightening parents and what concerns them about vaccines. It is such a great asset to be connected with concerned parents, have a respectful conversation that educates and empowers parents to make an informed decision about the health of their children.
Moreover, a ‘brand’ like Jenny McCarthy blocking CCIC on Twitter has interesting social media branding implications. It encourages us to assume that she isn’t open to any opposing views. It tells us that contrary to what she says in the media, she doesn’t want a dialogue about this issue. She wants a platform.
David and Goliath
So why are we so excited about being blocked by Jenny? It’s that she cared enough to take the time to block CCIC. It’s that she cared enough about what we are saying to end the conversation.
It’s a lot like David and Goliath. Jenny is a super-human symbol of the anti-vaccine movement (Jenny states that she is ‘anti-toxin’ and not against vaccines- aren’t we splitting hairs?). CCIC is a small but vocal organization in Colorado making sure physicians, nurses and public health providers get the vaccines, resources, and continuing education they need to keep kids healthy. Our total budget amounts to about 1,400 copies of Jenny’s latest book (which not a dime of that budget comes from pharmaceutical companies, btw). CCIC is insignificant in Jenny’s world but important enough to heed a reaction.
Can this open a dialogue?
A good vaccine advocate friend pointed out that this might be an opportunity to have the sides of the great vaccine divide sit down and have an open, real conversation. We think this is an opportunity to come together on the one issue that we can agree on which is protecting the health of children.
So in the end, this is an honest, open invitation to Jenny McCarthy to have a conversation. We both want to do what is right for children; we just have different paths to the same goal. Let’s find a common ground of respect and move forward in protecting children.
Until then, we’ll be here in Colorado protecting children from disease just like we do everyday. Jenny, we hope to hear from you soon. You know where to find us on Twitter.
About the Author: As the Communications Manager for CCIC, Dawn Crawford leads all messaging for the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (CCIC). CCIC is a state-wide nonprofit that ensures that physicians, nurses and public health departments get the vaccines they need to keep Colorado’s kids healthy. CCIC is very active on the ‘interwebs’ as an advocacy organization promoting the prevention of vaccine preventable diseases. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.