The Accusations Against Vaccinations on the Internet: Autism, Mercury and Immunological Overload

  • Andrea Grignolio


Data, harsh data, are the only thing that count, we could say, paraphrasing a famous quotation from Stendhal’s The Red and the Black about the truth. At a time like the present, when we are submerged by information by media, it is not at all easy to find our way around to distinguish between what is true and what is false, in the sense of reported untruthfully or partially, or even fictive, in the sense of fake or fabricated. For my generation, which saw it come into being, the Internet has been and is a marvellous opportunity of cultural growth. Its strength lies in the freedom of the web, but so does its weakness. Alongside books and articles written by the most authoritative experts on every possible subject of human knowledge, there are texts that are cobbled together, manipulated or invented. The historian Carlo Ginzburg said this admirably in his lectio magistralis when he received the prestigious Balzan Prize (several of its winners have also received a Nobel Prize) in September 2011:

Some have said that the Internet is an instrument of democracy. Taken literally, this statement is false. We have to add: it is an instrument of potential democracy. The motto of the Internet can be summarized in the words, paradoxical and politically incorrect, pronounced by Jesus: “Whoever has will be given more” (Matthew, XIII, 12). To navigate in the Internet, to distinguish the pearl from the sow’s ear, you already have to have had access to culture—an access which normally (and I speak from personal experience) is associated with social privilege. The Internet, which potentially could be an instrument that could attenuate cultural inequalities, in the immediate, exasperates them. Schools need the Internet, of course, but the Internet, to be used according to its potential (let’s say realistically one-millionth of its capacity), needs state schools that really teach.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Grignolio
    • 1
  1. 1.Unit and Museum of History of Medicine, Department of Experimental MedicineSapienza University of RomeRomeItaly

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