I’ve made repeated references to the resignation letter former New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss submitted in July 2020, a media critique deserving of a Pulitzer Prize. My past references focused on the antisemitism Weiss alleged she experienced, the bullying that resulted from “writing about the Jews again.” Weiss in 2019 published “How to Fight Anti-Semitism,” a book I promote every opportunity I can.
For all the Times’ lofty promotion of “inclusion” and “equity,” Weiss’ letter made clear the Times wasn’t all that welcoming to someone concerned that Jews are the most targeted religious group for hate crimes. But there’s another portion of Weiss’s resignation letter that’s taken on increased importance given the Times’s leadership role promoting cancel culture intolerance and the narrative that America is a fundamentally racist country dating back to its founding.
Consider the following paragraphs on how Weiss characterized the Times’ approach to journalism:
Lessons that ought to have followed the (2016) election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.
Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.
Sadly, the evidence is overwhelming that the Times’ promotion of its preferred narratives has worsened since Weiss’ departure, and reporters openly flaunt their biases. One example is this tweet by science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli charging those who believed the Covid virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China were racist.
ProPublica and Vanity Fair in late October posted this story citing evidence that the virus did indeed escape from the Wuhan lab, which reportedly was quite troubled.
Orwell warned, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
The Times aims to do Orwell proud.
In 2020, the Times published its “1619 Project,” which originally argued that America’s true founding was the year slaves were first brought to the country. The project was overseen by amateur historian Nikole Hannah-Jones and was discredited by academics who specialize in the discipline. Although Hannah-Jones was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her commentary, 21 members of the National Association of Scholars called on the Pulitzer Board to revoke the prize because the premise of the article when first published was false. The Times sneakily inserted a qualifier to salvage its credibility after it was published.
Orwell’s Oceania had its “Ministry of Truth,” whose functionaries were responsible for promoting the correct narratives. The New York Times has Tiffany Hsu, a tech reporter assigned to cover “misinformation and disinformation.” Determining what constitutes “misinformation and disinformation” makes Hsu a one-person judge and jury as to what constitutes truth.
Hsu’s year-end story about the rise of Covid misinformation is a textbook example of how the Times deceives its readers with its preferred narratives.
Let’s start with this sentence:
Now, in addition to all the (false pandemic) claims still being bandied about, there are conspiracy theories about the long-term effects of the treatments, researchers say.
In fact, there are very credible scientists who have expressed concerns about covid vaccines, which Wall Street Journal opinion writer Allysia Finley recently wrote about. I’ve previously warned about Finley’s scientific analysis and many WSJ readers took issue with her column, so if you read it make sure to also view the reader comments.
The critical point I’m making is that Hsu essentially gave her readers 100 percent assurances that vaccines were unquestionably safe, when some studies possibly suggest otherwise.
In Hsu’s mind, there is no debate.
To support her storyline, Hsu quotes Megan Marrelli, who said, “It’s easy to forget that health misinformation, including about covid, can still contribute to people not getting vaccinated or creating stigmas. We know for a fact that health misinformation contributes to the spread of real-world disease.”
Marrelli is the editorial director of Meedan, which Hsu described as “a nonprofit focused on digital literacy and information access.” When reporters include an organization’s tax-free status in a description it is because they believe it is staffed by altruistic people doing God’s work, when often that’s not the case. Most U.S. hospitals are nonprofits, and I’d rank many of them as the most evil corporations in America.
Meedan’s stated mission is “a more equitable internet.” I appreciate that the pursuit of “equitable” signals great virtue, and if you can understand what Meedan actually does you are a lot smarter than me.
Here’s a partial explanation:
We address crises of information trust and harmful content through better workflows and tools that help teams contextualize and verify content, with quick turnarounds and broad reach.
Meedan’s funders include Pierre Omidyar, who also funded the Intercept, a publication that spiked a story by co-founder Glenn Greenwald questioning the media’s dismissal of a damning New York Post story published about Joe Biden’s son Hunter weeks before the election that even the Times has acknowledged was true. The Intercept has yet to publicly apologize for its censorship and one of the editors responsible now oversees the U.S. operations of The Guardian, another Meedan supporter.
Marrelli’s Linkedin bio says she has a journalism degree from Columbia, as does Hsu, but I can find nothing in her background that would make her even remotely qualified to evaluate the credibility of vaccine scientific research, nor for that matter anyone else featured on Meedan’s website.
Hsu said Twitter is of “particular concern” for misinformation researchers because “the company recently gutted the teams responsible for keeping dangerous or inaccurate material in check on the platform, stopped enforcing its Covid misinformation policy and began basing some content moderation decisions on public polls posted by its new owner and chief executive, the billionaire Elon Musk.”
Hsu didn’t share with readers recent disclosures that Twitter’s censors were taking direction from government officials about what content to censor, nor did she mention that prominent scientists like Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya, who co-founded a global organization of scientists, physicians, and other experts who challenged the wisdom of government lockdowns, were effectively censored by Twitter’s “misinformation content” enforcers.
Hsu warned that Dr. Robert Malone, who she described as a “vaccine skeptic” and previously banned from Twitter has been allowed back on. I’m not an authority on Malone, but my understanding is that he isn’t a vaccine skeptic, but rather he doesn’t consider Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid mRNA vaccines actual vaccines. Malone played an instrumental research role that led to the development of the mRNA technology, and he warned from the get-go that mRNA vaccines wouldn’t perform as billed and ultimately cause more harm than good. Malone claims he’s been harmed by the Moderna vaccine.
One thing is certain: Malone, who is an MD and has degrees in biochemistry and biology, is a lot more qualified to comment about vaccine “misinformation” than Megan Marrelli.
Then there’s Heidi J. Larson, the director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who Hsu quoted saying, “The Covid rumors are not going to go away . . . We can’t delete this. No one company can fix this.”
Larson is seemingly oblivious to the censoring of impressive PhD graduates from the prestigious institution that employs her like Katrin Kuhn, an epidemiologist who Linkedin censored last year after she posted a link to a Norwegian Institute of Public Health announcement downgrading Covid to other respiratory infections. Kuhn speaks six languages, so she can interpret data from a lot more publications than most people. You can find my profile of Kuhn here.
Hsu featured Dr. Anish Agarwal, an emergency physician in Philadelphia, who said he gets patients who believe “crazy” claims on social media that Covid vaccines will insert robots into their arms.
There’s no hope for people who believe such claims, but here’s some misinformation other ER physicians are experiencing: When I recently tested positive for Covid, the urgent care doc who treated me said that when Covid patients come to see him, they immediately demand a prescription for Paxlovid, including some in their thirties. The emergency use drug is only recommended in the U.S. for patients 65 and over and only within five days of being tested positive.
That brings us to the biggest flaw in Hsu’s story. Nowhere does she quote FDA or CDC officials saying what they are doing to combat Covid misinformation. That’s likely because as best I can tell these agencies have no communications strategies, except advocating the censuring of anyone who disagrees with their policies. Their few known PR efforts have been appallingly deceptive and amateurish.
I’m referring to the FDA’s characterization of Ivermectin as a veterinary drug, a message the mainstream media promoted. While the FDA says studies show Ivermectin isn’t an effective drug to treat Covid, it is a “multifaceted drug deployed against some of the world’s most devastating tropical diseases” for which the drug’s developers were awarded a Nobel Prize.
Know where I got this information? On the NIH’s Library of Medicine website. Yet had I published it on Linkedin or other social media at the height of the pandemic, it likely would have been taken down. It still might, as four of my previous vaccine-related were removed.
While I’m certain Hsu regards herself as a guardian of truth, in fact she deceived readers in believing that Covid vaccines absolutely, positively have no risks, and anyone who suggests otherwise is an ignoramus guilty of spreading “misinformation.”
Hsu’s readers embraced Hsu’s narrative because it fit their own. Here’s the fifth most recommended comment attached to Hsu’s story:
The problem stems from the fact that Trump and the GOP have been sowing seeds of doubt about the efficacy, the competence and the goodwill of government programs and, under their leadership, have confirmed those doubts.
In fact, the Covid vaccine was developed under Trump’s rule and initial doubts about the product’s safety were fueled by Democrats like Kamala Harris. And while Trump’s administration dealt the FDA and CDC damaging blows, it was the Biden administration that finished the job, and was responsible for the resignations of the FDA’s top vaccine experts at the height of the pandemic.
Let the Times’ readers wallow in their ignorance, but if the publication was honest with its audience it would change its slogan from “All the News That’s Fit to Print” to “Ignorance is Strength.”