This disinformation business sure has gotten complicated lately.
In the past few days, a key federal agency concluded that COVID was likely the result of a Chinese lab leak. A prestigious medical journal reported that natural immunity is better than vaccines against COVID. Another that mask mandates were worthless. And President Joe Biden’s advanced age is now, according to Biden, a legitimate issue.
All of these claims had been labeled as “disinformation” by the mainstream press, by “independent” fact-checkers, by social media platforms. Anyone who espoused them was attacked as a crazy anti-vaxxer, QAnon racist, Russian stooge who deserved to be de-platformed, demonetized, and discredited.
Take the lab-leak story. The Energy Department, “citing new intelligence,” changed its view on the origins of COVID-19 and now thinks it did, in fact, escape from a lab in Wuhan, China.
It wasn’t long ago that such a claim opened you up to ridicule or worse.
A-list journalist Anne Applebaum once compared Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to a Soviet propagandist for suggesting that COVID came from a lab. A New York Times reporter said the lab-leak theory had “racist roots.” The editor in chief of Scientific American called it a “conspiracy theory.” CNN said it was “like something out of a comic book.”
Politifact, one of the supposed independent guardians against disinformation, said that any such claim was “inaccurate and ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire!” Facebook banned posts mentioning the lab-leak theory.
How about COVID vaccines? We were told that vaccines were far superior to natural immunity in fighting the virus. In October 2021, Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky said that “we now have additional evidence that reaffirms the importance of COVID-19 vaccines.” The CDC insisted that even those who already had COVID should still get vaccinated. Anyone who disagreed was an anti-science troglodyte.
Then last week, the highly prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, looked at all the existing research and concluded that natural immunity is just as effective as the vaccine at preventing both re-infection and serious illness from COVID.
Critics of mask mandates – who’d been derided as the moral equivalent of mass murderers – also turned out to be right. (We were among those early critics. See: Still More Evidence That Biden Is Wrong About Mask Mandates.)
As we noted in this space last week, Cochrane – an international collaborative effort funded by the Nation Institutes of Health that is regarded as employing “the highest standard in evidence-based health care” – looked at all the data and concluded that there is no evidence that masks made any difference.
The latest disinformation wrinkle comes right out of Biden’s own mouth.
When we reported on our own I&I/TIPP poll about the public’s concerns regarding Biden’s mental health – Americans Very Worried About Biden’s Mental Health: I&I/TIPP Poll – Google labeled it “dangerous and derogatory” – a category which includes content that “incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age …” As punishment, Google’s advertising network wouldn’t show ads on that page.
But, in an interview with ABC News that aired over the weekend, Biden said “it’s legitimate for people to raise issues about my age. It’s totally legitimate to do that. And the only thing I can say is, watch me.”
Presumably, Biden wasn’t encouraging viewers to watch him stumble while climbing the stairs to Air Force One, or clips of him reaching out to shake hands with thin air, or appearing to lose his bearings on the White House lawn, or the garbled gibberish he often utters, or the countless other examples of his physical and mental decline.
But if Biden now admits concern about his age is a legitimate issue, why are articles bringing it up being attacked as dangerous disinformation?
Meanwhile, actual media disinformation goes unpunished.
A recent batch of Twitter files, for example, showed that the Alliance Defending Democracy’s widely cited Hamilton 68 dashboard of Twitter accounts “linked to Russian influence” was bogus – which meant that every mainstream press outlet that relied on Hamilton 68 was involved in a massive disinformation campaign organized by a left-wing group.
But no matter how many times the leftist press is shown to have peddled misinformation, it continues to get gold stars for reliability from “independent” groups.
A Washington Examiner investigation found one such well-funded group, the Global Disinformation Index, gives sites such as the far-left Huffington Post top-level reliability scores while labeling the RealClearPolitics site – which links to both liberal and conservative news and commentary (including I&I editorials) – as one of the 10 “riskiest” in the nation. “All of the websites that GDI ranks as the ‘least risky’ lean left in their news coverage,” the Examiner found.
Worse, the GDI is offering its top-secret “dynamic exclusion list” as a way for “advertisers, suppliers, platforms and search engines to defund and downrank domains and apps with the highest disinformation risk.”
Worse still, the Examiner found that the State Department has bankrolled two organizations that donated substantial amounts of grant money to the GDI, raising legitimate concerns about government censorship.
We have first-hand knowledge of how this works.
When we launched this site in 2019, we initially relied on Google’s AdSense network to place ads in several spots on each page. (We’ve since cut its presence on our site to one ad at the very bottom of the page.)
What we found was that Google – which gets top ratings by the GDI for its efforts to defund “disinformation” – starting flagging much of our content as “dangerous,” “misleading,” “unreliable,” and “harmful,” and blocked ads from appearing on those pages.
One of the articles that Google is right now targeting is our Feb. 23 editorial applauding Congress for investigating COVID vaccines (Congress To Probe COVID Vaccines — And It’s About Time).
Apparently, merely calling for a congressional investigation “promotes harmful health claims or relates to a current, major health crisis and contradicts authoritative scientific consensus,” according to Google’s thought police.
So, let’s review.
The stuff labeled as dangerous disinformation keeps turning out to be true. The supposed guardians of credible information turn out to be some of the biggest peddlers of actual disinformation. And groups that are supposedly targeting disinformation are really just out to defund conservatives.
In all this confusion, one thing is perfectly clear. If you want to know what will be labeled as disinformation tomorrow, just look at whatever is on the left’s agenda today.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board