Over the summer, ABC Network made the cynical decision to hire anti-vax mouthpiece Jenny McCarthy to replace Joy Behar on its long-running daytime talk show, The View. While momentarily surprised that venerable journalist Barbara Walters would take a seat next to someone as scientifically illiterate as McCarthy, who plays fast and loose with facts, I quickly remembered that the business of television is not the business of ethical journalism. In the former, controversy and outrage are believed to result in an uptick in the Nielsen ratings. The decisionmakers at ABC--and I have reason to believe Barbara Walters was not one of them--clearly believe that the universal condemnation that followed the announcement that McCarthy had been tapped will lead to curiosity-seekers tuning in to see if McCarthy embarrasses herself again on the topic of vaccines.
But this tactic is a risky one. It's failed before, and I wager that it will fail again. We saw this happen just last month with Kris Kardashian's cringeworthy talk show, Kris. It was recently canceled after a six-week run, despite the network bosses betting on the big reveal of Kim Kardashian's baby and an appearance by Kanye West to draw viewers. It didn't happen. The difference between hiring Kris Kardashian and ABC putting Jenny McCarthy at the table on The View is considerable. Kris's show will be, and perhaps has already been, forgotten. ABC, on the other hand, has seen its reputation damaged--badly. At a time when the network is clamoring for more viewers, its gamble on McCarthy has lead so far only to widespread criticism, not just from parents (12,000 of whom signed a petition protesting the hire--which resulted in absolutely zero response from ABC), but also from media critics. No one praised this as a brilliant move to draw viewers.
This leads me to Voices for Vaccines' fantastic National Do Anything Except Watch the View Day on September 9th, the first day McCarthy will appear. (Disclosure: I am one of the VFV administrators, but I did not come up with this wonderful idea--Karen Ernst did). The idea behind it is to send a message to ABC--but, more important, the real world beyond the halls of the network--that we are not interested in McCarthy, her views on vaccines (or on Botox, which she's injected into her face, or on Syria, for that matter), and that we know desperation when we see it. To make this thing stick, Voices for Vaccines is encouraging people across the country to snap a picture of what they are doing INSTEAD of watching The View tomorrow. Working? At a playdate? Grabbing coffee? Watching paint dry? Getting a vaccine? Once you've snapped that photo, Tweet it to @voices4vaccines with the hashtag #notwatchingtheview. Consider adding @abcnetwork to your Tweet. If you like Facebook better, post your photo to the Voices for Vaccines' Facebook page. Need more information? Check out Voices for Vaccines' press release on National Do Anything Except Watch the View Day.
As for me, and my family, we have big plans for September 9th that do not include watching The View. School. Work. And the Tdap vaccine booster for my husband, because he wants to protect our newborn niece and our asthmatic daughter, for whom pertussis would be devastating.