The Most Embarrassing “Facebook Files” Revelation? The Press, Exposed as Censors
MEDIA, 31 Jul 2023
The “Facebook Files” show the press is part of the censorship establishment, but that’s not the worst part.
In one damning email, an unnamed Facebook executive wrote to Mark Zuckerberg and Cheryl Sandberg:
We are facing continued pressure from external stakeholders, including the White House and the press, to remove more Covid-19 vaccine discouraging content.
We see repeatedly in internal communications not only in the email above, but in the Twitter Files, in the exhibits of the Missouri v Biden lawsuit, and even in the Freedom of Information request results beginning to trickle in here at Racket, that the news media has for some time been working in concert with civil society organizations, government, and tech platforms, as part of the censorship apparatus.
In the summer of 2021, the White House and Joe Biden were in the middle of a major factual faceplant. They were not only telling people the Covid-19 vaccine was a sure bet — “You’re not going to get Covid if you have these vaccinations” is how Biden put it — but that those who questioned its efficacy were “killing people.” But the shot didn’t work as advertised. It didn’t prevent contraction or transmission, something Biden himself continued to be wrong about as late as December of that year.
If you go back and give a careful read to corporate media content from that time describing the administration’s war against “disinformation,” you’ll see outlets were themselves not confident the vaccine worked. Take the New York Times effort from July 16th, 2021, “They’re Killing People: Biden Denounces Social Media for Virus Disinformation.” You can see the Times tiptoeing around what they meant, when they used the word “disinformation.” In this and other pieces they used phrases like, “the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation,” “how to track misinformation,” “the prevalence of misinformation,” even “Biden’s forceful statement capped weeks of anger in the White House over the dissemination of vaccine disinformation,” but they repeatedly hesitated to say what the misinformation was.
Any editor will tell you this language is a giveaway. Journalists wrote expansively about “disinformation,” but rarely got into specifics. They knew that they couldn’t state with certainty that the vaccine worked, that there weren’t side effects, etc., yet still denounced people who asked those questions. This is because they agreed with the concept of “malinformation,” i.e. there are things that may be true factually, but which may produce political results considered adverse. “Hestiancy” was one such bugbear. Note the language from the unnamed Facebook executive above, which describes the press lashing out “Covid-19 vaccine discouraging content,” not “disinformation.”
This is total corruption of the news. We’re supposed to be in the business of questioning officials, even if the questions are unpopular. That’s our entire role! If we don’t do that, we serve no purpose, maybe even a negative purpose. Moreover, think of the implications. News outlets wail about “disinformation” when they’re aware the public has tuned them out. When people don’t listen to reporters, it’s usually because they suck. You can do the math, as to why the current crop embraces censorship. A more embarrassing outcome for our business would be hard to imagine.
Matthew C. Taibbi is a U.S. author, journalist, and podcaster. He has reported on finance, media, politics, and sports. He is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, author of several books, a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary, co-host of Useful Idiots, and publisher of a newsletter on Substack.
Tags: Censorship, Facebook Files, Freedom of the press, Journalistic Ethics, Media, Social media
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