New York Post, March 18, 2023
Did you make any “worrisome jokes” about the Biden administration’s proposal to send agents door-to-door to browbeat people to get COVID vaccines? Then you were a public enemy guilty of spreading dangerous disinformation.
Did you ask questions about COVID policy? You were guilty of a tactic “commonly used by spreaders of misinformation to deflect culpability.”
Did you complain to anyone that vaccine passports violated your liberty? You were deluded, if not depraved, and guilty of propelling a deceptive “anti-vaccination narrative about the loss of rights and freedoms.”
Your tax dollars at work: These are the bizarre revelations from the latest and perhaps funniest Twitter Files from Matt Taibbi.
Last week, House Democrats pounded Taibbi as a “so-called journalist,” a hypocrite, a threat to the peace and a stooge for Elon Musk.
Now, Taibbi has settled scores with “The Great Covid-19 Lie Machine,” exposing the machinations of federal contractors spurring social-media companies to censor Americans who doubted COVID decrees.
The latest Twitter Files installment focuses on Stanford University’s Virality Project, which federal agencies bankrolled to engage in “detecting and mitigating the impact of false and misleading narratives related to COVID-19 vaccines.” The Virality Project, partnering with other federal contractors, sent weekly “anti-vax disinformation” reports to Twitter and other social media companies.
Mike Benz, president of the Foundation for Freedom Online, notes that the project was “deputized by [Homeland Security] to censor millions of . . . opinions . . . about COVID.”
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, whose lawsuit is shattering Biden administration coverups, described the program: Federal health officials in the Surgeon General’s Office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health and Human Services collaborated in a “censorship enterprise called the Virality Project, which procures the censorship of enormous quantities of First Amendment-protected speech.”
Disinformation warriors worked overtime to suppress “false” claims about the side effects of COVID vaccine, especially the true claims. Since the Food and Drug Administration officially (and speedily) approved COVID vaccines, any reports of side effects were automatically disinformation.
The Virality Project recommended that social-media companies suppress “stories of true vaccine side effects” and “true posts which could fuel [vaccine] hesitancy.” The project “routinely framed real testimonials about [vaccine] side effects as misinformation, from ‘true stories’ of blood clots from AstraZeneca vaccines to a New York Times story about vaccine recipients who contracted the blood disorder thrombocytopenia.”
The FDA now admits that the vaccines can cause strokes in senior citizens; many studies have linked the vaccines to myocarditis in young males.
The Virality Project derided as “misinformation” claims that the vaccines failed to prevent COVID transmission even after the CDC conceded the vaccine’s failure on that score.
Reverence for Washington poohbahs was the key. The Virality Project, Taibbi declares, “was specifically not based on ‘assertions of fact,’ but public submission to authority, acceptance of narrative, and pronouncements by figures like Anthony Fauci.”
In June 2021, a Freedom of Information Act request spurred disclosure of Fauci emails revealing his flip-flops on masks and his kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party. The Virality Project warned Twitter that the emails were being exploited “to foment increased distrust in Fauci’s guidance and in American public health officials and institutions.”
But it wasn’t cynics’ fault that Fauci proffered disgracefully dishonest claims.
The Virality Project had several federally funded partners, including the Pentagon-funded Graphika. That company sent Twitter a report warning, “This continual process of seeding doubt and uncertainty in authoritative voices leads to a society that finds it too challenging to identify what’s true or false.”
One problem once the government starts censoring: It is never enough. On April 26, 2022, the Virality Project issued a report proposing a “rumor-control mechanism to address nationally trending narratives” and creating a “Misinformation and Disinformation Center of Excellence.” The following day, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Congress he had already created a “Disinformation Governance Board,” headed by the singing censor, Nina Jankowitz. (The Post took the lead in demolishing that board.)
And that’s why we have federal agencies and federal contractors to tell us what to think.
Taibbi concludes, “America’s information mission went from counterterrorism abroad, to stopping ‘foreign interference’ from reaching domestic audiences, to 80% domestic content, much of it true. The ‘Disinformation Governance Board’ is out; but truth-policing is not.”
The fact that the media has largely ignored the Twitter Files revelations proves either that journalists don’t read so good or that they don’t give a damn about free speech. Or both. Is it “disinformation” to ask if anyone in Washington gives a damn about trampling the Constitution?
James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a Brownstone Institute fellow.