The MRC Loves COVID Misinformation
The Media Research Center doesn't understand how bad it looks to defend lying or misinforming about coronavirus and its vaccines because it's somehow "free speech."
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center has a bad habit of defending false or extreme claims by right-wingers in order to advance its bogus narrative that social media sites are exclusively "censoring" the views of conservatives out of purported "liberal bias." And during the coronavirus pandemic, the MRC has decided to defend the alleged right to spread misinformation about COVID and the vaccines to fight it.
Kayla Sargent did this in a Feb. 22 post:
YouTube has, once again, cracked down on testimony that it decided was “misinformation” about COVID-19.
Sargent disproved the premise of her post -- that YouTube had arbitrarily "decided" what was misinformation in Renz's testimony -- by acknowledging that Renz made an indisputably false claim that wasn't going to be fixed by his offering to testify "under oath." But that wasn't all; the Ohio Capital Journal article Sargent cited noted a host of other dubious claims Renz made:
While it’s unclear which specific COVID-19 misinformation from Renz sparked YouTube’s decision, there’s a lot to choose from.
While Sargent described him as an attorney, the Capital Journal also noted Renz's dubious background. "His 'about me' page for his website lists no prior legal experience besides serving as a clerk on the Indian Supreme Court. However, in a prior interview, he said he did not remember when he served on the court and said he did not speak Hindi."
This sketchy guy full of false and misleading claims perhaps shouldn't be the kind of person the MRC goes to the mat for if it wants to be taken seriously.
Defending right-wing website's misinformation
The Media Research Center's Kayla Sargent quickly went Godwin in a Feb. 10 post:
The YouTube censorship Gestapo has struck again.
Sargent went on to play dumb by claiming that "The specific reason that YouTube suspended LifeSiteNews is unclear, as YouTube did not respond to a request for comment at the time this piece was published." In fact, it probably wasn't that hard to figure out; the next day, Vice got the scoop from YouTube (which likely correctly surmised that the MRC is hostile media and wouldn't treat it fairly):
YouTube has banned LifeSiteNews, an anti-abortion outlet that bills itself as the “#1 pro-life news website,” for repeatedly sharing videos that spread misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines against it.LifeSiteNews has spread numerous other coronavirus conspiracies as well. LifeSite presumably knew about YouTube issuing strikes against its content, which it could have told Sargent about. Instead, it knew that Sargent would be a sympathetic writer who would help LifeSite forward the bogus right-wing narrative that "conservative speech" is being "censored" on social media.
(A Feb. 12 article at the MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com, did admit that YouTube banned LifeSite for coronavirus misinformation, but published it under the deceptive headline "YouTube Bans Pro-Life LifeSiteNews, Shuts Out 300,000 Followers." Sargent, by contrast, never bothered to update her article to tell readers the real reason LifeSite was banned.)
But LifeSite knows where to go so its claims of victimization will not face much scrutiny. Thus, Alexander Hall was the willing stenographer for it again in a Feb. 23 post:
LifeSiteNews said they have been financially kneecapped by Google.
Given that LifeSiteNews deliberately hid from Sargent the real reason it got kicked off YouTube, it's entirely likely that it's obfuscating about why it Google blacklisted it. Certainly it knows that its COVID conspiracy-mongering is problematic, but it's obvious that it will never admit to spreading lies.
Hall would know that as well if he could be bothered to do anything beyond stenography. Instead, he uncritically repeated Sargent's claim that "YouTube has reportedly entirely banned the pro-life group LifeSiteNews from the platform in its latest attempt to censor speech online," without bothering to explain that YouTube was not "censoring speech" but shutting down lies.
Neither Hall nor Sargent explained why LifeSite should be allowed to spread lies without consequence. This is yet another example of the MRC embracing peddlers of fiction masquerading as fact in an attempt to own the libs.
Banned for good
When Facebook banned LifeSiteNews for good, a May 7 post by Sargent hyped the bogus "censorship" narrative, though she did finally give notable placement to the misinformation stuff:
Facebook quietly unpublished a pro-life page as the tech world focused on former President Donald Trump. The platform’s Oversight Board had an upcoming decision on the former president’s Facebook suspension when LifeSiteNews lost its page.
Sargent is hiding the nature of the misinformation that LifeSiteNews published. The article in question was republished from an apparently anti-vaccine website called The Dark Side of Vaccines and dishonestly used the government's Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System to falsely link adverse effects reported to it as solid evidence that the vaccine is killing people. In fact, many of the adverse effects reported to VAERS are incidental, there is no actual evidence linking the vaccine to deaths, and anti-vaxxers are misusing VAERS to fearmonger about the COVID vaccine.
Still, she devoted a paragraph to letting LifeSIteNews defend its misinformation:
LifeSiteNews also claimed that its content was based on evidence. Roberts continued: “Our LifeSiteNews Facebook page has been removed simply because we have shared reports of doctors, nurses, expert researchers, and even the former Pfizer VP speaking out against the COVID shots. We’ve also been tagged for the numerous articles we have shared making the connection between the COVID shots, and really all vaccines, and aborted baby cell lines.”
Sargent later updated her post to quote Ilyse Hogue of "the pro-baby killing National Abortion Rights Action League Pro-Choice America" cheering the ban because LifeSiteNews "are primary purveyors of some of the most toxic disinformation out there." strangely, she ignored a more formal statement by NARAL, Media Matters, GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign noting that the groups had compiled "more than 100 posts that proved LifeSiteNews’ repeated violation of Facebook’s related policies" -- which means she would have to admit that violation of Facebook's terms of service, and not purported targeting of conservatives, is why LifeSiteNews got banned.
This isn't the only source of vaccine misinformation Sargent has defended. Under a "Fight for Free Speech" headline, Sargent wrote on May 6:
An alleged “vaccine safety” organization has fought to have its case against Facebook censorship heard in court.
Sargent repeated CHD's claims that "Facebook’s fact-checking does not accurately describe the website’s content" -- then admitted it has made false claims, while also trying to tag the group as liberal=leaning because of its "leftist" founder:
CHD was established by its leftist president, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. The organization falsely claimed on its website that “vaccines can and do cause injuries including autism and many other adverse health outcomes.” It also claimed that 5G technology “poses health risks, encourages debris-generating satellite collisions, causes depletion of the ozone layer by the huge number of launches planned and is a major factor in the weaponization of space.”
But no mainstream liberals endorse Kennedy and CHD -- even Kennedy's own relatives have renounced his anti-vaxxer activism. So it's wrong for Sargent to suggest he's a mainstream "leftist"when he has no constituency there.
Why has Sargent embraced a group even she admits spreads falsehoods?Because she can exploit it for the MRC's narrative. She went on to laughably declare: "Facebook has the power to choose who can participate in debate in the public square." If Facebook were the only way to participate in the public square, she might have a point -- but there are myriad ways to participate in the public square without Facebook. And she's also forwarding the argument that Facebook, as a private company, has no right to have terms of service for its users, let alone be able to enforce them.
Sadly for Sargent, CHD's lawsuit failed. She lamented in a June 30 post:
In a second major legal win for Facebook this week, a federal judge dismissed another lawsuit that would have held Facebook accountable for censoring content it disagreed with.
She copied-and-pasted the paragraph from her previous article about Kennedy being "leftist" and CHD making false claims, which would seem to also undermine the lawsuit.
Apparently, Sargent believes that "free speech" means never having to be held accountable for falsehoods and misinformation -- a theory that can't be found anywhere in the First Amendment. But she's advanced her employer's narrative, even if she had to effectively endorse another extremist to do it.
Meanwhile, CHD got even more narrative-advancing love in a July 23 post by Gabriela Pariseau:
YouTube applied its so-called “medical misinformation” policy more broadly than ever when the platform removed and then later restored content criticizing laws allowing 11-year-olds to be vaccinated without parental consent.
Again: CHD is not a "liberal" group. Its anti-vaxxer agenda happened to cross over with right-wing narratives claiming parents have total control over their children and that they must not be allowed to do anything without parental consent, even when those parents are potentially harming the child by denying them vaccines.
Pariseau omitted the fact that Perkins and Holland falsely fearmongered over COVID vaccines, with Holland falsely claiming they have caused 9,000 deaths and ranting that "your child could die" from the vaccine, neither of which Perkins pushed back against -- which would seem to be the actual reason the video may have been removed.
Holland also ranted against HPV vaccines and the alleged need for religious objections to getting one. If you'll recall, the MRC went anti-vaxxer on HPV vaccines because they would purportedly turn children promiscuous.
So there is a latent anti-vaxxer streak at the MRC, and that -- on top of the need to push it bogus "censorship" victimhood narrative -- seems to be what's driving its tacit approval of anti-vaxxer claims from LifeSiteNews and CHD.
Defending anti-vaxxer dating app
The MRC is apparently so determined to defend vaccine misinformation that it complained an anti-vaxxer dating app was removed from the Apple store. Autumn Johnson wrote in an Aug. 2 post:
Apple has removed a dating app from its App Store for violating its COVID policies.
But because she want to paint the app's makers as victims, Johnson doesn't point out the obvious regarding Thomson's defense: If your app is so irresponsible that "one report gets you deleted off every platform instantly," you are not "doing something right" -- your wrongness and irresponsibility is simply that obvious.
The inability of Johnson and the MRC to see that an anti-vaxxer dating app is such an objectively bad idea that it shouldn't be defended shows just how far down the victimization rabbit hole they have descended.