AN information war is raging. Many people regard the state, institutional science and BBC as dependable sources of information. A sizeable minority, though, distrust government and approved experts, instead turning to critics. During the purported pandemic of Covid-19, parallel realities emerged. This two-part article was inspired by a special edition of Scientific American, titled ‘Truth vs Lies’, containing more than 100 pages of intellectual rationale for tighter information control. You can read yesterday’s first part here.
MISINFORMATION nearly started World War Three. In November last year, Associated Press reported that the Russians had escalated the war in Ukraine by firing a missile at Poland, killing two farmers. The news agency failed to check photographic images of the debris showing a stray trajectory from Ukraine. Headlines in the next day’s newspapers, such as the Daily Telegraph, uncritically repeated the claim of a deliberate strike on a NATO country.
These same newspapers support laws against misinformation. This is partly because their sales are plummeting, while alternative media are flourishing despite Big Tech censorship. The truth on the missile in Poland was told by independent online news sources a day before legacy media changed their story. On other important topics, such as vaccine injuries or election rigging, broadcasters and the press present a wall of silence. By omission or commission, the worst offenders for misinformation are the very people calling for its prevention and punishment.
The mistaken missile story was made possible by an unwritten rule. Critical reports on any bête noire of the establishment (eg Russians and ‘anti-vaxxers’) are fully licensed, needing little verification. Factual accuracy is secondary to promoting the favoured narrative. The carrot is government advertising revenue; the stick is Ofcom regulation. Although awareness of this Pravda-style propaganda is growing, the majority continue to think that unless something is reported on the ‘news’, it didn’t happen.
Who pulls the strings is a moot question, but clearly journalists and politicians are willing accomplices to the broad agenda behind climate change, Covid-19 and transgenderism. The old political divide gives an appearance of vigorous debate while the most authentic representatives of either socialism or conservatism are portrayed as extremists. Covid-19 showed that governing and opposition parties are singing from the same hymn sheet, as if a centrist uniparty is really running the show.
After decades of indoctrination in schools and universities, the social discourse is dominated by progressive ideology. ‘Conspiracy theorists’, ‘ant-vaxxers’ and ‘climate change deniers’ are further stigmatised as right-wing extremists, as society has been taught to fear a revival of 1930s fascism. Covid sceptics of leftist background were surprised to find themselves so labelled. Everything is politicised by the establishment and dichotomised as good versus bad. A recent Rasmussen poll on Covid-19 in the USA suggested a political vaccine for a political virus, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to regard the shots as safe, effective and necessary. The latter, according to the likes of the New York Times, are regressive religious bigots occupying the ‘flyover states’.
This political divide is a prominent theme of the Scientific American special edition ‘Truth vs Lies’. While acknowledging the human trait of gravitating towards views that confirm rather than challenge our own, authors assert that conservatives are more susceptible to fake news and conspiracy theory. They fail to consider that one side doubts the official narrative because it is written by the other side.
According to ‘The black box of social media’ by Renée DiResta and colleagues, ‘internal studies at Twitter show that Twitter’s algorithms amplify right-leaning politicians and political news sources more than left-leaning accounts in six of seven countries studied’. Presumably these countries did not include the UK or US. When Elon Musk took over Twitter, he found that progressives were free to post whatever they wanted, while conservatives and libertarians were purged. Undoubtedly Twitter was a politically controlled milieu. Donald Trump was banned during his presidency, despite breaking no rules.
Conspiring by governments and Big Tech has been confirmed by Musk’s exposé of systematic election interference by the Democratic Party, whose requests for suppression of rival messages were handled by a ‘special partner portal’ at Twitter. With diabolical double standards, the Scientific American perpetuates the 2016 Russian interference hoax, while ignoring the overt foreign influence of George Soros, the Democrats’ biggest donor for the 2022 midterm elections.
When Musk announced an amnesty for banned accounts (following a poll of users), European Union internal market commissioner Thierry Breton warned that Twitter must adhere to the Digital Services Act, which can impose extortionate fines of up to 6 per cent of global turnover on errant companies. This law applies worldwide, thus contravening the First Amendment of the US constitution. But the current administration in Washington is no defender of constitutional rights. The US Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin in February 2022 stating: ‘The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fuelled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors. These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence.’
Meanwhile United Nations human rights commissioner Volker Türk wrote an open letter to Musk expressing ‘concern and apprehension’ about his policy of reviving free speech on Twitter, particularly after dismissal of the entire human rights team (an unusual department for a social media company).
A global censorship state is being created, with full support of the Scientific American writers. In ‘Fake news sharers: highly impulsive people who lean conservative are most likely to pass along fake news stories’, Asher Lawson and Hemant Kakkar urge social media companies to go beyond warning signs on falsehoods by actively removing ‘fake news that has the potential to hurt others, such as misinformation related to vaccines and elections’.
Claire Wardle, a professor at Brown University, remarked: ‘In a healthy information commons, people would still be free to express what they want – but information that is designed to mislead, incite hatred, reinforce polarization or cause physical harm would not be amplified by algorithms.’
Health is the main front in the infowar. In December 2022, US government medical adviser Anthony Fauci was called to answer charges brought by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana of violating constitutional rights to freedom of expression during the pandemic. To bypass the First Amendment, Joe Biden’s administration officials identified individuals, organisations, doctors, scientists and scholars who criticised Covid-19 policies as ‘dangerous’. The administration then coordinated with social media companies to censor those critics. As the attorneys general argue, the state cannot ask private sector actors to breach constitutional rights and then claim immunity from the law.
A recent British Medical Journal paper ‘Understanding and neutralising Covid-19 misinformation and disinformation’ demands action against dissidents, however well qualified they may be. Lead author Professor Martin McKee is a zealot of the preposterous Independent Sage group, which wants eternal masking and lauds China’s brutal pandemic regime. In response, lockdown critic Jay Bhattacharya tweeted: ‘The censorship regime this BMJ article proposes in the name of pandemic response violates key civil rights and is inconsistent with long standing free speech norms in democratic countries. Why is the BMJ promoting dangerous authoritarian nonsense in its opinion pages?’
Disagreeing with your government is dangerous. In a revealing moment in the public inquiry into the Canadian government’s use of the Emergency Act to stop the truckers’ protest in Ottawa, prime minister Justin Trudeau said that protest is a right – unless it is against ‘public policy’. At the WEF conference in Davos in May 2022, Australian e-safety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said: ‘We have increasing polarisation everywhere and everything feels binary when it doesn’t need to be. So we’re going to have to think about a recalibration of a whole range of human rights that are playing out online. You know, from freedom of speech to be free from online violence.’
An industry of information control has emerged to protect the establishment. Governments fund universities to produce scientific rationale for censorial laws. Fact-checkers operate as a de facto Ministry of Truth. Instead of governments overtly applying George Orwell’s totalitarian manual from Nineteen Eighty-Four, there are three degrees of separation. Full Fact is funded by the news agency Reuters, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Big Pharma, and governments fund the pharmaceutical industry by spending enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money on vaccines.
Yet truth evades power. Conspiracy theories are proving considerably better than the mainstream media, politicians or scientific experts in predicting events and developments. The establishment does not want ordinary people to know the truth, partly because it could cause civil unrest (as Klaus Schwab has warned). The new world order, having made great strides under the banner of the ‘Great Reset’, is not conspiracy theory now because the conspirators are brazenly telling us their plans. In May 2022 at Davos, Schwab declared: ‘The future is not just happening. The future is built by us, by a powerful community, as you here in this room. We have the means to improve the state of the world.’
Nonetheless, type ‘Great Reset’ in Google, and you’ll get links to fact-checkers denying its existence. The WEF is cast as merely a think tank that organises conferences. It has no power, they say. Yet the majority of Western leaders feature on the WEF website as partners, and Schwab, in his characteristic style of the James Bond villain, boasts that ‘we penetrate the cabinets’ of governments. The asleep get the information they deserve: unknown to them, all truth leads to technocracy.