The MRC's 'Secondhand Censorship' Scam
The Media Research Center invented a metric designed solely to generate wildly inflated "censorship" numbers to further the right-wing Big Tech victimhood narrative.
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center's campaign to frame private companies enforcing their terms of service on its users as a diabolical campaign to "censor" right-wingers -- who, apparently, should be allowed to spread lies and misinformation unfettered -- has always been dishonest, but it has found a way to expand on that dishonesty, announced in a July 20 post by Brian Bradley and Gabriela Pariseau:
America is increasingly outraged by the manner in which radical Big Tech leftists are censoring conservative and Christian leaders and organizations on nearly every major social media platform.
This, of course, is a bogus and meaningless metric. It simply takes an instance of purported "censorship" and multiplies that by the number of followers that person or organization has:
The MRC looked at seven platforms Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Spotify to calculate secondhand censorship’s impact.
Bradley and Pariseau muddied things further by dishonestly classifying things that were not actually censored as "censorship," insisting that content filters that one must click through to access content is "censorship" even though the content itself is not "censored." There's other dishonesty too, as described in this section:
YouTube placed two content filters on a Fox News video of former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Fox News host Laura Ingraham about the Ukraine War, as noted in a March 9 CensorTrack entry.
But Bradley and Pariseau offer no evidence that Gabbard's claim about alleged "compromise" was the reason YouTube put a content filter over the video (which merely requires a single click to access, no sane person's definition of "censorship"). It might have more to do with Gabbard -- a supporter of Russia and Vladimir Putin -- baselessly blaming the "military-industrial complex" and Hillary Clinton for the Russia-Ukraine war (even though Russia is the one that invaded Ukraine) and even more baselessly accusing U.S. leaders of lying to the American people about the situation there. Ingraham did not allow anyone to rebut Gabbard's views, and Ingraham heartily endorsed them.
Bradley and Pariseau were upset that Joe Rogan couldn't be as racist as he wanted to be, going to Bette Midler whataboutism route to do so:
Most race-related secondhand censorship during the first quarter came when Spotify removed approximately 70 episodes of Rogan’s podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” in February. When the streaming platform removed those episodes, the effects of secondhand censorship cascaded across Rogan’s reported 11 million per-episode Spotify listeners.
If you're defending offensive racism, you're losing. And if you're invoking Bette Midler -- who is not racist -- to further defend that racism, you're losing even more. Further, the duo are falsely blaming Spotify for the removal of the Rogan episodes using the N-word; actually, Rogan himself requested that they be removed, so Bradley should really be blaming Rogan for "censoring" himself.
Bradley and Pariseau also defended COVID vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories:
Big Tech censorship of alternate viewpoints on COVID-19 and vaccinations raged ahead during the first quarter of 2022, even as cases declined and local governments loosened masking and vaccination mandates.
Those readers should be grateful the story was "censored" because it was full of misinformation. As an actual news operation found:
The study tested whether the vaccine’s mRNA could be converted to DNA, and found that this was the case in certain lab-altered liver cell lines under experimental conditions. It did not assess whether the vaccine alters the human genome, or what the effects of that would be, according to experts and the study authors. Experts say additional research is needed because the findings in the lab setting cannot be used to make inferences about what might happen in a human body.
The news operation went on to quote the study's authors as saying that “The results have in many cases been misinterpreted” and “there is no reason for anyone to change their decision to take the vaccine based on this study.”Bradley and Pariseau didn't mention that, meaning they're effectively endorsing falsehoods and misinformation -- also not a good look for so-called "media researchers."
The duo even tried to reframe clear anti-LGBT hate as "faith-based criticism":
Twitter censored Crisis Magazine Editor-in-Chief Eric Sammons’s faith-based criticism of secular norms in March, according to a March 29 CensorTrack entry.
Because this bogus "secondhand censorship" metric generates such an wildly and artificially huge number, the MRC can use it for propaganda purposes. And, indeed, MRC chief Brent Bozell ran to Fox News to tout them and hyperbolically declare that this has "never happened in human history," adding, "when was the last time you heard a liberal complain about being censored? It just doesn’t happen." He didn't mention that the MRC makes no effort to count them and simply runs up conservative numbers so has talking points he can spout on Fox News.
Bradley then went on the July 22 podcast of his boss, Tim Graham, to promote and rehash this bogus study. Even Graham admitted that Bradley was "coining a term" with "secondhand censorship," though he went on to do his own rehashing the Hunter Biden laptop saga as a prime example of "censorship," even though, as ConWebWatch documented, there was good reason not to trust the story when it came out because it was not independently verified and those pushing it were obvious pro-Trump partisans who could not be trusted. Graham agreed with Bradley's baseless assertion that the Ingraham-Gabbard video was "censored" (it wasn't) because she talked about trying to end the war in Ukraine.
Bradley actually defended Rogan's use of the N-word: "You might not like his use of the N-word, his referential use of the N-word -- I don't think he used it in a mean way at all -- but they couldn't consider the ideas he was putting forward in these podcasts because Big Tech just had to put the political clampdown because of political pressure from the left." Bradley didn't cite any examples of the "ideas" Rogan spent time on that didn't involve his use of the N-word or somehow negated his use of it. Graham responded that "the use of the N-word is allowed by rappers and other things on Spotify, so it breaks down to the usual line that you can't say it -- he can say it, you can't say it."
(The MRC played similar whataboutism with Rogan's embrace of the N-word when the story first broke in the middle of its defense of him.)
Graham worked up a little mock outrage that Rand Paul, "who's not just a senator but who's an actual medical doctor," was "censored" over COVID-related remarks. Bradley then laughably called Solomon "a longtime journalist, reliable journalist" (um, no, he's not) and insisted that the study was "an academic study" by "some medical professionals in some European country" -- but he hid the fact that Solomon's reporting on the study was misleading. Bradley then went on to portray Sammons' anti-LGBT hate as merely speaking "simple, embedded Christian concepts," and that "censoring" him "is really an assault on the country itself," to which Graham responded by arguing that a Twitter account purporting to be God but actually written by an atheist should be banned for alleged blasphemy.
Tierin-Rose Mandelburg also promoted the bogus numbers in her July 27 CensorTrack podcast.
Bradley and Pariseau peddled that dishonest narrative -- and those ridiculous numbers -- again in an Aug. 16 post:
Big Tech sent a stark message to conservatives during the second quarter of this year that it will continue to fiercely protect President Joe Biden and censor viewpoints that differ from the left’s narrative on major political issues.
All this definition does is take an example of so-called "censorship" and multiply it by the number of followers that account has, generating those ridiculous and meaningless number. And what does the MRC think is disturbing "censortship"? Pointing out that a discredited film has been discredited:
The platform spiked an election-related post by Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro in May, with the help of its fact-checking partner PolitiFact, according to a May 10 CensorTrack entry. The “fact-checker” flagged a Daily Wire article that cited political commentator Dinesh D’Souza ’s documentary “2000 Mules” calling the article “partly false,” as “the same information was checked in another post by independent fact-checkers.” The movie examined voter fraud in the 2020 election by using cell phones’ geolocation data. The secondhand censorship effect of the fact-check meant that Shapiro’s 8.5 million Facebook followers couldn’t see information linking potential voter fraud to the 2020 election.
Note that Bradley and Pariseau put "transgenderism" in scare quotes. They continued to do so in complaining that transphobic hate was being called out:
MRC counted 25 individual cases of censorship of content critical of so-called “transgenderism” in the second quarter. Secondhand censorship affected the followers of these accounts 8,111,001 times during the quarter.
Peterson is a "renowned psychiatrist"? That's news to us -- most people see him as a guy trying to justify right-wing anti-"woke" rage. Bradley and Pariseau didn't explain why it's OK to maliciously deadname a transgender person or falsely smear the doctor who operated on him as "criminal" -- and they certainly didn't explain their aggressive use of scare quotes.
Bradley and Pariseau concluded by ranting that "MRC continues to call on the American public to push tech companies to end their authoritarian suppression of opposing viewpoints." They didn't explain why hate and lies should be treated as legitimate "opposing viewpoints" or why exposing them while limiting their spread is "censorship."
For the third try at peddling this meaningless narrative, the authors hid behind anonymity -- no MRC employee would apparently put his or her name on it, so it's credited only to "NB Staff" -- for its latest attempt to peddle these bogus statistics in a Nov. 18 post:
As the 2022 midterm elections approached, social media platforms aggressively championed political ideas benefiting left-wing candidates while silencing dissenting opinions that don’t fit the liberal worldview in the third quarter.
As before, the complaints were about right-wing hate and misinformation being "censored." Among examples provided were right-wing podcaster (and militia enthusiast) Tim Pool, whose account was suspended after he posted "a picture of adults showing sexual content to children 'grooming,'" huffing that "That pro-debauchery muzzling meant that Pool’s 1,371,592 estimated Twitter followers could not see his post championing the protection of children’s innocence." There was also this:
The largest case of COVID-19 censorship by far came in September when YouTube removed a video by actor and social media influencer Russell Brand who said that he mistakenly stated the FDA had approved Ivermectin to treat COVID-19.
The anonymous writer didn't explain why YouTube had no right to remove false health information. Instead, the anonymous writer pompously concluded:
Secondhand censorship is an extensive, enduring phenomenon around the world.
Why is there no onus on right-wingers to not spread hate and lies? That's never explained.
The MRC pushed that bogus narrative again in an anonymously written Jan. 25 post:
Big Tech is playing games with speech. Its primary concern is with neutralizing conservative influence online. It does this by preventing users from hearing or seeing a message that the left disagrees with.
The MRC then went on to hide inconvenient facts about the so-called victims of that "secondhand censorship." For example:
Big Tech’s suppressive information practices have worked in tandem with harmful public policy measures that contributed to real-world harm.
But the anonymous MRC writer censored the fact that the Great Barrington Declaration also called for dangerous herd immunity at a time when thousands of people were dying of COVID daily and no vaccines were yet available.
The MRC also bizarrely complained that election falsehoods were blocked:
Facebook, in particular, was very busy censoring election-related content in the month of May, well in advance of the November 2022 midterm elections.
The anonymous MRC writer didn't explain why Shapiro should have been allowed to spread lies from a discredited film. To the contrary, Shapiro should be glad that actual fact-checkers did what he wouldn't and stopped him for spreading those lies. Meanwhile, the MRC went on to privilege more lies:
Another substantial censorship act came when both Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram de-platformed or unpublished the pages of the liberal Robert F. Kennedy-led group Children’s Health Defense in August at the same time, and without warning.
The MRC writer censored the fact that Children's Health Defense is a bunch of anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists with a record of spreading misinformation, and nobody considers Robert F. Kennedy Jr. a real "liberal," as the writer wants us to believe. And, no, the writers makes no argument that lies should be allowed to spread unchecked on social media. Instead, the MRC pompously concluded:
Without being able to read opinions from both sides of an issue, we do not enjoy a free society.
So spreading lies and misinformation is a "fundamental, God-given right" now? Since when? Meanwhile, the MRC clearly believes that there is no freedom of speech for those who call out lies and misinformation spread by right-wingers.