[back] Selective Hearing: Brian Deer and the GMC.

May 21, 2009

Review of Selective Hearing: Brian Deer and the GMC

Two thumbs Selective Hearing: Brian Deer and the GMC.
A film released this week by Cry Shame: www.cryshame.com

By Martin J Walker


In bringing the fitness to practice case against Dr Andrew Wakefield, Professor Simon Murch and Professor John Walker-Smith, the General Medical Council in the UK listened to the Sunday Times journalist Brian Deer and excluded the views of hundreds of parents of vaccine damaged children. Who is Brian Deer: vigilante for truth or front man for Big Pharma? Selective Hearing covers Deer’s part in the heartbreaking betrayal of vaccine damaged children by the British government.

Alan Golding is a Welshman, a film-maker and a man of considerable principle. Although Alan does not have autistic or vaccine damaged children he has given himself completely over the last two years, the duration of the Wakefield, Murch and Walker-Smith Fitness to Practice hearing at the General Medical Council in London, to the cause, of parents of vaccine damaged children.

Alan exemplifies a quite different kind of artist-activist than the usual NGO backed PR promotion worker, whose life, work and budget fit cosily into the category of a salaried campaign organiser. During 2007 and part of 2008, Alan produced three short films about the conflict over MMR. The idea of the films was to show clearly that there was another side to this huge struggle, a side that the media was not reporting. Alan's early work with a production company working for a mainstream television company, included a notable series of programmes about historically important buildings in Britain, but left him with a sense of despair at the superficial way in which film journalists pursued their subjects.
Like myself, with my reports of the GMC hearing, Alan threw himself into Andrew Wakefield's campaign with complete disregard for how he might live his life when he found that the gathering tide of the campaign drowned any wage earning work. When Alan found that for obvious reasons, you couldn't always depend on those you campaigned for to subsidise your work, he got a job three days a week, which paid his expenses while working on his films.
Alan's first short films for Cry Shame showed him to be a powerful agit-prop director and camera man. These films didn't shrink from facing up to the medical establishment and the vaccine producers, they used humour, theatre and satire to pursue their point. One of them attracted the litigious ardour of Britain's vain and vexatious Director of NHS Vaccination and Immunology. The threat was like water off a duck's back to Golding who simply and quietly pledged himself ready to take on any legal case directed against him and his film work.
Somehow, film making is grander than writing, I have no doubt that people read my reports of the GMC hearing, half imagining that all I need is a stub of a pencil, a piece of paper and a bit of free time. I can see, however, that film is a different matter and during 2007 and 2008, I wondered how long Alan would last.  Towards the autumn of 2008, he began work on a film about Brian Deer, the only person in the world to make a formal complaint to the GMC about Dr Wakefield. As grateful as they were, Cry Shame members were expecting another short film, darting in and out of the controversy while landing a couple of heavy blows on Deer. When the film didn't materialise over the coming year, I personally did not understand what Alan was doing until, a couple of weeks ago, he called me to tell me that he wanted to check some facts with me and that the film was almost finished.
'How long is it', I asked, out of general interest.
Alan laughed, 'Around an hour', he said. Then I understood: Alan had been making a 'proper' film.
When I saw the film I was bowled over by it; this was the real thing. A beautifully organised and filmed campaigning documentary, which was scrupulously fair to Deer, using only his own words to hoist him. Now, I have watched the film in amazement and awe a number of times since that first viewing. Because the film is not just a ten-minute agit-prop account of a campaign, it raises a whole series of new questions about the media. It is Alan's hope that journalists and news editors will view it with an eye to a debate about journalists who write subjective accounts masquerading as fact in leading newspapers.

But, of course, newspaper owners, editors and journalists are like any other self-interested professional group and they are unlikely to begin hitting themselves about the head with this DVD.
For the moment Selective Hearing is open for free public viewing through the Cry Shame site (www.cryshame.com) and until some enterprising broadcaster realises its merit and makes it available on public broadcast TV or a major private TV station, there is no doubt that this brilliant campaign documentary will remain one of the best committed films about a vital and controversial political subject, mainly unseen by the public.
Martin J Walker is an investigative writer who has written four books about aspects of the medical industrial complex. He started focusing on conflict of interest, intervention by pharmaceutical companies in government and patient groups in 1993. Over the last three years he has been a campaign writer for the parents of MMR vaccine damaged children covering every day of the now two year hearing of the General Medical Council that is trying Dr Wakefield and two other doctors. His GMC accounts can be found at  www.cryshame.com, and his own website is, www.slingshotpublications.com.