MRC Defends Coronavirus Misinformation
The Media Research Center gets ridiculously upset every time some conspiratorial video or right-wing website pushing potentially dangerous falsehoods about coronavirus gets "censored" on social media.
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center has apparently decided it will throw a fit over every single instance of coronavirus misinformation getting taken down by social media and then brand it "censorship." The MRC also really hates it when its favorite right-wing websites get caught pushing fake news and conspiracy theories.
Alexander Hall complained in a Feb. 18 post:
The origin of the coronavirus is still being debated, but Twitter has responded to one skeptic outlet by censoring it.
Note that Hall didn't portray ZeroHedge as pushing bogus conspiracy theories -- it's just a "skeptic outlet."
Perhaps that's because Hall really wants to believe ZeroHedge's conspiracy theory. After acknowledging that credible outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times point out that ZeroHedge's conspiracy theory is "debunked" and "fringe," Hall went all in:
Durden purportedly showed a “help wanted” notice from the lab itself, which, translated from Chinese using Google translate, called for new hires who will use “bats to research the molecular mechanism that allows Ebola and SARS-associated coronaviruses to lie dormant for a long time without causing diseases."
In fact, the research paper being cited has not been peer reviewed and offers no evidence of a direct connection between the laboratory and coronavirus, beyond a map noting the distance between the laboratory and the Wuhan seafood market linked to the spread of cornonaviarus, nor does it offer any proof that the coronavirus originated at the laboratory.
Meanwhile, Hall himself is censoring certain inconvenient facts -- namely, the dubious track record of both websites he cites. ZeroHedge is a pro-Trump blog that has long pushed fake news and conspiracy theories, and Hall remains weirdly unbothered by the pseudonymous "Tyler Durden" despite the fact that his employer has long (and hypocritically) railed against anonymous sources in the media. The Daily Mail, meanwhile, is so unreliable that even Microsoft and Wikipedia warn against trusting it.
This isn't the first time the MRC has defended ZeroHedge after it got caught pushing fake news. In November, Corinne Weaver complained that Twitter "censored" an account that had repeated a false story from ZeroHedge claiming that Ukrainian officials had drawn up an indictment against Hunter Biden. She complained that an NBC report "suggested the blog that ZeroHedge “first disseminated” on the allegation was 'misconstrued,' it did not cast doubt on the original Interfax-Ukrainian piece." In fact, as the NBC report pointed out, the Interfax-Ukraine report did not mention an indictment.
Obscuring the danger
In a March 26 MRC post, Weaver attacked Twitter for "censor[ing]" right-wing opinion site the Federalist for a coronavirus-related article it published that violated Twitter's rules against promoting potentially harmful misinformation, shutting down its account until a tweet promoting the article was deleted.
Weaver first played whataboutism: "That's not how Twitter treated state-sponsored disinformation from China. The platform also ignored tweets that potentially violated its rules, if they came from liberal outlets." Then it was on to obscuring the facts about why the Federalist article was so dangerous:
The piece from The Federalist was introduced on Twitter with the caption “time to think outside the box.” It did not disagree with the current method of avoiding the virus but offered a third potential strategy: “controlled voluntary infection” (CVI).
Weaver described Perednia as a "dermatologist," which is deceitful in two ways: the Federalist actually described him as a physician in Portland, Oregon"; while he has worked as a dermatologist, he is not currently licensed to practice in Oregon.
Strangely (or not), Weaver refused to tell her readers exactly why Perednia's advice is considered dangerous: because coronavirus kills people, it's impossible to know how it can affect people, and it's not even known at this point whether catching coronavirus confers immunity, which would make the whole "coronavirus party" thing moot. (One such party did not go well.)
Weaver also failed to tell her readers the reason Perednia advocated his approach: to get the economy going and "save the day for millions of Americans, jobs, and future generations who will bear much of the cost of this disease."
Weaver clearly does not disagree with this approach. The MRC has previously given tacit support to the idea of letting people die of coronavirus in order to save the economy (and, thus, boosting President Trump's re-election chances).
Because the MRC has chosen to defend every utterance by President Trump, no matter how nonsensical or factually questionable, a lot of these social media laments involve hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus. Weaver complained in a March 30 post:
Twitter was reportedly very eager to take down any tweets about hydroxychloroquine and coronavirus. But now that the FDA has approved the drug for the treatment of coronavirus, will Twitter restore some of the tweets it censored?
Weaver misled about the nature of the FDA's approval of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. It was approved under an Emergency Use Authorization, which is used during public health emergencies to approve treatments without the rigorous testing normally required in the regular FDA approval process. Indeed, in the Politico article to which Weaver linked to tout the approval, HHS chief Alex Azar describes the medication as only "potential therapeutics," and it's noted that there is no serious evidence that hydroxychloroquine works against coronavirus.
Weaver made no effort to look into what Giuliani and Kirk were referring when their astroturf posts claimed that hydroxychloroquine had a "100% effective rate treating COVID-19." That's obviously false, and Weaver should have admitted it. Instead, she played whataboutism, bizarrely complaining that "New York Times contributor and University of North Carolina professor Zeynep Tufekci said that the CDC and the World Health Organization misinformed the public."
The next day, Heather Moon joined the complaint parade:
Fox News host Laura Ingraham ran afoul of Twitter’s new Coronavirus rules, and was punished for it.
In the very next paragraph, though, Moon conceded that Twitter might have a case for removing Ingraham's tweet, noting that "A Fox News story about the Ingraham segment that this tweet referred to does carry a correction that the guest does not work for Lenox Hill and that his views are his own." Moon didn't mention that Ingraham was the one who falsely represented the "guest" as being employed by Lenox Hill Hospital.
Moon followed in Weaver's footsteps by declaring that "It is also the case that the FDA approved the treatment on March 29, the day before Twitter demanded that the 10-day-old tweet be removed." Of course, Moon didn't explain that the approval was for emergency use and was not an endorsement of its efficacy; instead, she huffed: "There are critics who do not believe that the FDA should have issued the emergency approval for the treatment without more rigorous testing. Could it be that Twitter is siding with critics over the FDA instead of allowing for a discussion from both sides of the argument?"
There isn't an "argument" here about which we need to hear "both sides" -- either the medication works, or it doesn't. Unsubstantiated anecdotal claims are not the same as serious medical research. But then, facts aren't the point here;as with everything else the MRC does, adhering to Trump talking points is the only thing that matters.
Weaver remained unhappy about the blocking of coronavirus misinformation on social media in an April 29 post:
A popular video featuring California emergency doctors Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi was taken down by YouTube for “violating YouTube’s terms of service.”
After noting that major medical organizations have denounced the video, Weaver added in defense: "However, Erickson and Massihi seemed to only question the reasoning behind the quarantines and the shutdowns."
In fact, Erickson and Massihi were claiming that, based on the patient population they claimed to have studied, coronavirus is no serious than the flu. But as an actual news outlet reported, experts point out that the doctors' patient sample was not representative of the general population, with one likening it to "estimating the average height of Americans from the players on an NBA court." Another doctor, who is also a state legislator, stated that the doctors "basically hyped a bunch of data and weren’t transparent about their methods."
Erickson and Massihi also suggested that local hospital administrators had pressured doctors to report COVID-19 as patients’ causes of death in order to "make it look a little bit worse than it is," but they offered no proof or possible justification for doing so other than to conspiratorially hint that "there is something else going on."
Weaver went on to tout that "major figures such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the doctors 'make good points.'" Musk also predicted that human language could be obsolete in five years and gave his baby an unpronounceable name, so maybe he's not the best person to quote authoritatively.
But the company's own website states that the device "has not been reviewed by the FDA" and that it -- or even the concept of it -- "is currently not indicated for use in the treatment of COVID-19." Some experts have also noted that the type of ultraviolet light the device uses is not effective in killing viruses.
Weaver complained in a May 8 post:
The first half of the conspiracy documentary, Plandemic, was removed several times from YouTube, according to The Washington Post. Twitter and Facebook also made statements to other media outlets confirming that both platforms were suppressing hashtags and content related to the documentary.
Weaver played down the misinformation Mikovits peddles in her video -- the headline describes the video is merely "controversial" -- and the only one she acknowledges is Mikovits' claim that wearing masks is harmful. In fact, according to the Post article to which she links, Mikovits made the bizarre claim that "billionaires aided in the spread of the coronavirus to further the spread of vaccines" and attacked federal infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci by using "out-of-context footage." Another Post article, meanwhile, delved further into the Mikovits research paper that was retracted, which apparently launched her into her conspiracy theory that Fauci is conspiring against her.
Weaver could have told her readers this. Instead, she just reports minimal information, since to tell the full truth about Mikovits and "Plandemic" would (further) undermine the MRC's failing narrative that social media is purportedly "censoring" conservatives.
When you're on the side of the likes of WorldNetDaily in defending the likes of Mikovits, that's never a good look.
Crying "censorship" over content that misinforms and could even be dangerous is not a good look for the MRC.