Subverting the Marxist paradigm: Vaccination discourse in New Zealand mainstream and alternative online media
While vaccinations may be desperately sought out in developing countries, many more industrialized countries are now facing the perplexing quandary of citizens opting not to vaccinate for a myriad of individual reasons. Vaccination rates in New Zealand are amongst the lowest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). New Zealand ranks 33rd out of 35 developed counties for immunizations, according to Unicef’s State of the World’s Children report. In the middle of 2009, a measles outbreak in New Zealand was declared by the Ministry of Health as a precursor to a “potential measles epidemic.” In August of 2009, the incidence of reported measles for the year was more than 10 times the number of measles for the entirety of 2008. The decline in New Zealand immunization rates could clearly be attributed to many factors: cultural changes, a lack of information received from medical practitioners, fear of a corporate conspiracy and religious beliefs are only a few of the myriad possibilities. However, the information in available and accessible media must also be included as a potential barrier to vaccination. Such low rates of immunization protection warrant an examination of both the alternative and mainstream press to uncover what type of discourse exists in relation to vaccination campaigns. This study examines the discourse of anti and pro-vaccination discourse in New Zealand alternative and mainstream online media within the framework of Marxist ideology. Vaccination rates have an explicit dependence upon Marxist ideals of communal support for overall efficacy. Immunization schedules are most successful within a society when entire communities are vaccinated. The praxis and theory of Marxism within the production of alternative media, much like vaccination campaigns, depend upon egalitarian, community-minded ideals. Alternative media have been traditionally very hard to categorize, but a comprehensive review of scholarly literature reveals a strong Marxist propensity within the community of alternative media. One might expect to find this Marxist ideology throughout pro-vaccination discourse given the nature of vaccinations and also that these perspectives might be more frequently located within alternative media, which have been found to depend upon these same egalitarian ideologies. This study tests this assumption and questions whether online alternative media represent vaccination differently than the predominantly capitalistic mainstream media. In doing so, this research will explore the occasional conflicting nexus between the ideology of an issue and the ideology of a medium. While Marxism depends heavily on communal belief systems, it also serves as a framework to denounce corporate power. It is possible that alternative media might usurp their previously held communal tenets of operation in favor of corporate denigration. This research will examine whether the organizational norms and practices of an institution can be circumvented when the possibility of denouncing a core oppositional ideology arises. These findings will be considered in relation to spreading health campaign messages through appropriate media channels. In doing so, this paper hopes to contribute to the growing body of research examining health communication within alternative media delivery campaigns.