The Year of Living Crazily

The Control and Censorship of COVID-19 news by Big Tech and Major Media

If the powers that govern the world felt they had to resort to such extreme measures and apparatuses as biosecurity and sanitary terror, which they established everywhere and without reservation, but which now threaten to get out of hand, this is because they feared according to all of the evidence of having no other choice to survive. And if people have accepted the despotic measures and unprecedented constraints they have been subjected to without any guarantee, it is not only because of the fear of the pandemic, but presumably because, more or less unconsciously, they knew that the world in which they had lived until then could not continue, for it was too unfair and inhuman. It goes without saying that governments are preparing an even more inhuman, even more unjust world; but in any case, on both sides, it was somehow presaged that the former world – as it is now beginning to be called – could not continue. There is certainly in this, as in every dark presentiment, a religious element. Health has replaced salvation, biological life has taken the place of eternal life and the Church, which has long been accustomed to compromising itself with worldly needs, has more or less explicitly consented to this replacement.

Giorgio Agamben

How many of you thought you were going to lose your mind on at least one occasion this year? I beat you to it—my hand went up first.

This year is by far the shittiest year of my life for me, save one. I lost my seven-week-old son in 2007, a year I call the “Best-Worse Year of My Life.” Perhaps surviving my child’s death made me more resilient? Who knows in a year where I have barely had time to eat one meal a day, so stressed living has become between riddled finances and witnessing my small children who have perfectly learned to fear others as potential sources of contagion. And all this was perfectly orchestrated by governments unable to take mitigation measures that would not do more harm than good to our societies. Most people in democratic countries bought the sales pitch, falsely believing that locking up entire populations is a scientific and reasoned measure against this virus. 

I have been able to look at this theatre of the state of emergency being rolled out while reading more and more about this virus to analyse the various political-media theatres. One thing I know is that my freak-out in early March is very much reflective of the media hysteria that was created around a virus that necessitated a certain policy. During the early summer as restrictions were lifted, people within certain EU countries even encouraged to vacation to include vacation bonuses (eg. Italy), I had to wonder why there was still no temporary closure of international travel except for repatriation, an act which would have weakened the airline industry temporarily while allowing other forms of liberty that most of you reading these words have already sacrificed this year. 

Since, February, we have been inundated with mixed messages from both governments and media ranging from “We need to protect our elderly” through “Escape from Alcatraz.” We must all ask why we were forced into the latter “solution” and why speaking or thinking critically about these measures now accepted as commonplace results in punitive actions from employers, social media and even governments. The remedies to failing social structures that needed work could have been repaired this year to take advantage of newer systems in IT that could help with the care of the elderly and the sick/disabled. Why were these systems not strengthened instead of putting us on the Rock?

Perhaps the uber-rich are the very owners of airline travel and security systems so they needed to have their wealth protected the most since we know that they have the means to raise a stink about “their vacations” being ruined? Since 9/11 alone we have seen the security of travel and the entering and exiting of buildings become a way of life down to the neurosis encircling questions like, “Is stick deodorant a liquid or a solid?” We have similarly witnessed the use of drone warfare since Obama now being implemented in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict which has completely escaped the criticism of most major media because what could be wrong with flying robots killing people as long as those people are not us? All these technologies fit into a greater genre that reaches from Big Tech to AI to drone warfare which is now advancing in time such that President-elect Biden has been choosing his cabinet in large part based on these individuals’ relationship to Big Tech. After all, who needs nuclear war when you can have a cheaper means to wipe out political opposition (or opponents of your trading partners) with barely a mention as to why this might be illegal?

Just ask Edward Snowden and Julian Assange who have had their liberty truncated simply because they published documents about illegal US operations ranging from domestic spying to illegal, murderous military operations. It is no coincidence that Assange’s extradition hearing barely made it to the page of The Guardian until recently. It is also not an irony that one of the most important news stories affecting how we get information through newspapers like The Guardian ghosted their very source. After all, the Guardian made a windfall in profits and journalist awards thanks Snowden, an NSA whistleblower who leaked files to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill along with documentary maker Laura Poitras. Snowden’s whistleblowing proved profitable from both an economic and reputational perspective. We must ask why papers like The Guardian avoided taking up these journalists’ plights in addition to covering the many voices speaking up against lockdown as an effective method for virus mitigation?

Instead of covering the many sides to COVID mitigation, The Guardian and The New York Times have recycled the same narratives of Dr Fauci and the Cuomo brothers with little to no critical pieces querying other valid voices from within the scientific community. The few pieces that do address the concerns of scientists who have written and spoken out against lockdowns, such as the voices of the 50,000 medical and public health scientists in addition to medical practitioners who have signed the Great Barrington Declaration, have been vastly unfairly covered by major media. The Great Barrington Declaration advocates for allowing “those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally” allowing people “to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.” 

Focussed protection is hardly dangerous as a theory or practice, but were you to have read the New York Times’ coverage of the Great Barrington Declaration, you would have thought that the creators of this declaration were not experts in their fields (they are) or that any kind of criticism of the status quo necessarily equates being a mass murderer or moron, take your pick. The Times op-ed goes on to list the many scientists enraged by the Great Barrington Declaration citing articles like this which claim that the Great Barrington Declaration is a “fringe component of epidemiology.” Yet, many of the articles that John M. Barry’s op-ed cites in his invective against the criticisms made by the Great Barrington Declaration. Medscape’s Marcia Frellick is a journalist, not a scientist; yet her op-ed is bizarrely used to sustain the arguments of a New York Times op-ed writer. Just reading through the comments to Frellick’s article it is apparent that she is most definitely not preaching to the choir as the readership is clued in even better than Frellick with one person stating: “ As of July, only 67% of excess deaths were COVID related, meaning the COVID effort is killing/causing a third (at this time) of excess deaths...Is that okay? Who is dying? The aged are the bulk of COVID deaths.” Indeed, if we are swapping out what types of deaths the young and elderly ought to have, little is it important if we have no idea why we are playing whack-a-mole with our lives. At least The Guardian engaged two scientists for its opinion piece on the Great Barrington Declaration even if these authors mischaracterise the political leanings of the declaration calling it a “rightwing stealth campaign.” Seeing the vast array of signatories from across the political spectrum, such a statement constitutes part of a larger hatchet job done on all who raise questions about the use of lockdown or the paucity of services that have been rolled out for any type of focussed protection.

Let’s step back to how we are getting our news on COVID-19. In Italy, the president lays out new rules every few weeks in what are called DPCMs (presidential decrees), some of which are Tolstoyesque in length. From there, major media steps in each interpreting the new decree in entirely different ways—you can outside only if you have a dog, was stated in the Spring by one paper. Another stated that you can go outside without a dog with the specification that you must not be walking—running only. Recall the CNN field producer who was threatened with a fine this year for riding with her husband seated next to her in the car. For clarity—her husband with whom she lives. The list of misinterpretations of these decrees throughout the year ranges from the ridiculous to the mind-bending and has now resulted in Italians suffering from “decree fatigue.” 

In other countries, the media is the primary tool for discussing the virus and its mitigation with the WHO and Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, being pushed into the limelight with what seem to be the only permissible opinions allowed on major media and now social media. How is it that Fauci and the WHO became the “gold standard” for deciding which political discourse and commentary can be allowed on the pages of The Guardian and The New York Times, much less YouTube, Facebook and Twitter? Since when do governments and Big Tech get to decide what is “misinformation”? Mind you, the very same Big Tech companies that were removing anti-mask posts for making the very same critiques that Fauci had, just a few months earlier stated, have offered no coherent reason why criticising masks in March was fine but not in July. To wit, The Verge, when investigating one such FB group earlier this summer, inadvertently got that group booted off Facebook after making an enquiry with Facebook’s press office. But then what is anyone doing reading The Verge on the subject of science given this publication’s propensity to publish anti-science dogma regularly. From its piece on how AI can predict that men are men no matter how they identify to its support for the male mixed martial arts fighter, Fallon Fox. I mean if you are going to claim to be on the right side of science, I would highly recommend staying away from any publication that negates human sexual dimorphism. I mean if men are women, then can’t viruses be magical unicorns, right?

So, back to how the public trust in science and the media has eroded all the while—in the US specifically—partisan politics have been especially useful in pitting the “freedom-loving right” with the “solidarity-minded left”. If only things were that simple since this is the window dressing employed. 

The reality on the ground is that CNN, The New York TimesThe Guardian and other left-leaning media have willfully chosen to represent those questioning virus mitigation as G5-conspiracy theorists, Trump-voting racists and granny killers. Meanwhile, skip to the many representations this summer of Black Lives Matter protests and barely a word about masks or social distancing was emitted from these same media outlets. Trump rallies, however, became the epicentre for these same media bodies to scrutinise ad nauseum the distance between participants. To any martian witnessing this theatre, it would seem that science is merely a matter of which media outlet you prefer. While the New York Times vituperates a group giving out “mask exemption” cards, this publication has also played into the mask orthodoxy without dedicating any serious balance in its coverage, to include the Danmask study last month which offers detailed information on mask-wearing for both the wearer and those nearby. 

The coverage of masks within The New York Times just over the past month reveals why it is vital that we be allowed debate virus mitigation given how this entire subject lends itself to a social critique as much as it does a scientific one. One article, “I’ve Been Wearing Masks for Months and I Still Have Questions,” ponders if one should store masks with underwear or socks (and if you go commando?) while another article asks “If shaming people for flouting Covid-19 safety guidance doesn’t work, what are we supposed to do with all of our frustration?” Yes, it’s Dear Abbey for a post-millennial bourgeoisie. I can’t help but be reminded of Catherine Tate’s “posh mummy” skits which begs the question as to why most virus coverage is aimed at the elite. I mean why address the aspects of human rights and class equality when the Times can trawl the planet for relevant stories like the one about ski patrollers who have been asked to shave their beards to accommodate proper mask-wearing? A week earlier, however, the Times ran an article about a nurse from Oregon who mocked the state’s pandemic protocols in a video that circulated on TikTok. The article ends with an almost infomercial overtone: “And at Salem Health we are very serious about our approach to Covid.” Whew! That was a close call. Imagine what might have happened had I seen the nurse’s video! 

The income gap between those who can afford to go to ski resorts as opposed to nurses who are put on leave for democratic expression speaks volumes as to what is going on behind the scenes. Meanwhile, we can applaud not only the nurses and doctors on the front line but let’s add into the mix the brave men shaving off their facial hair. 

I’m not nearly done with TheNew York Times, so please bear with me. On 8 December, the Times ran a piece entitled “Here’s Why Vaccinated People Still Need to Wear a Mask” while a week later running yet another article asking how effective any of these masks are “How Effective Is the Mask You’re Wearing? You May Know Soon”. To recap: The TheNew York Times tells us that even with the vaccine everyone would still need to wear masks but a week later “who knows if they even work?” Then on 20 December, it runs this piece, “Health Care Workers Still Face Daunting Shortages of Masks and Other P.P.E.” stating that “Many of the shortages are the result of skyrocketing global demand.” It's almost as if the mask shortage might be related to the media mask hysteria. Clearly, the mask issue is far from over and media is playing a role in silencing this debate while churning out false narratives of sacrifice and redemption. A ski patrol shaving his beard is a minor inconvenience while the many scientists underscoring the proven links between lockdowns and the most affected by these lockdowns, the poor, barely registers for most major media. 

Just search TheNew York Times from the past month for COVID-19’s relationship to class and poverty—the results are eye-opening: There are many feel-good pieces about celebrities “giving back” and even one about the recent law passed banning evictions for another two months. Little space is devoted to looking at the lives of these renters. Instead, The New York Times conflates the renters with the landlord class. What a great way to railroad discussion about class where one can edge out the leftover competition with the “smaller landlords who are themselves struggling to pay bills.” The bottom line here is that renters have been magically declassified as a “less wealthy class” than homeowners and—keep your eye on the walnut—homeowners with an extra home or three to rent are now considered the struggling class despite the vast legislation put into place in myriad countries to assist these homeowners who are still paying their mortgage

It’s no wonder that the public trust in leadership in many democratic western nations is at an all-time low. With Big Tech companies acting as information overlords, it's a no-brainer that the numbers of people sceptical about virus mitigation and the vaccines now being approved are increasing. Why has Big Tech been given the gavel to decide whose voice can and cannot be heard?

Long story short, Big Tech monopolies were handed a mandate after Clinton’s 2016 election loss. The narrative went something like this: Facebook’s advertising platform was used to seed fake news stories even though the Columbia Journalism Review has analysed the numbers and shown that the numbers of fake ads used in this way had little to no impact on the election. This news story was clenched by the Democrat party and became the lie: The story of how Democrats were robbed of their fair election because of Big Tech companies allowing fake news. A year after the 2016 election, the Columbia Journalism Review writes: “One could just as easily argue that the difficulties facing tech companies in trading off between complicity in spreading intentional misinformation on the one hand, and censorship, on the other hand, are every bit as formidable as those facing journalists trying to cover Trump. For journalists to excoriate the tech companies for their missteps while barely acknowledging their own reveals an important blind spot in the journalistic profession’s conception of itself.” This is the Möbius strip of media honesty these years where the overlords of Big Tech have been handed the ban button by the very leftist political party hoping to rewrite history. Only it wasn’t the exact history they were hoping for. 

Today social media has become a veritable politburo of who will get banned and why. There there are no rules and the only rationale behind what is and is not allowed hooks back into the fact that most Big Tech industries are owned and run by party Democrats. So, of course, Republicans will necessarily connect the dots as to why their tweets and Facebook accounts have been pulled or altogether banned. 

Earlier this month, the New York Times tells us that “it’s time to scare people” about COVID despite the fact that most people are scared—they’re just not frightened as much about the virus as they are worried about the fallout from COVID’s mitigation, to include concerns about how they are going to pay rent and eat. Major media is quite literally a class act in how it panders to the concerns of its readership while social media is chipping away at what it should or should not allow on their platforms in the followup to another presidential election mired in its curation of the Hunter Biden stories. Between major media which is taking its cues on COVID-19 from a select few government agencies while regularly reporting on Big Tech and Big Tech which is its own feature news story as well as a virtual billboard for news stories, we now find ourselves caught within a vast hall of mirrors. Where the news of this virus is being hyper-mediated and censored by Big Tech companies and major media is running the official story, journalism is failing in its duty to ask tough questions of our leaders and governments. 

By sure, maybe it is actually time that we scare people to death?