I don’t know how to put this gently to my fellow members of the blue-collar media class, so I’ll say it bluntly. You resemble nothing so much as the information apparatus of some failed ideological state – late Soviet apparatchiks, only without the knowledge required of regime intellectuals in Moscow back in the day. Your behavior seems designed to encourage the very conspiracy you claim to despise in public. It’s like you will to turn sane Americans into muttering paranoiacs.
And no, apologizing about every two years for “wrongs were done” in the past doesn’t make it any better.
The last reference is to the latest media whopsie daisy about the origins of Covid. A newly published US Senate report confirms what some public figures suspected in the early days of the pandemic: that the new coronavirus likely escaped from a laboratory. Most of the blue-collar media vilified these few numbers. They were called dangerous conspiracy theorists and blocked from the digital square by Big Media’s Big Tech allies.
These included Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas as well as author Steven Mosher, who published an article in the New York Post in February 2020 speculated that the new coronavirus may have originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Mosher did not definitively declare that Covid came from a lab, mind you. He said only that there are good reasons to doubt Beijing’s claims of zoonotic origin, which the World Health Organization strongly supported at the time.
Facebook banned Mosher’s play. In doing so, the tech giant relied on “fact checkers” that included Danielle Anderson, a virologist with a clear conflict of interest. As my then-Post opinion colleagues noted in April 2020, “she has regularly worked with Wuhan scientists and even conducted her own experiments there.” More than that, she had conducted “the risky research into boosting function that many analysts now believe may have led to the first covid outbreak.”
Has the blue-checked media encountered this terrifying connection between Chinese state misdeeds, “expert” self-interest, and Big Tech censorship? Did they show any genuine curiosity about the origins of Covid? The answer, for most outlets and reporters, is no.
In February 2020, Washington Post published a news story with the headline: “Tom Cotton continues to repeat a conspiracy theory about the Coronavirus that scientists have dismissed.” More than a year later, as a WaPo story by reported Paul Farhi and Jeremy Barr noted, the paper “has rewritten the article’s headline, softening ‘conspiracy theory’ to ‘fringe theory’ and noting that scholars have ‘disputed’ it rather than ‘rejected’ it.” How generous. How carefully.
On Voxauthor Eliza Barclay published a story in March 2020 characterizing the laboratory leak hypothesis as a “dangerous conspiracy theory” and sought to debunk it, Vox-style (“Simply put, if you wanted to release a bioweapon to kill a lot of people, there are far deadlier pathogens you could use” – thanks, young adult reporter Barclay!). Afterwards, Vox the editors began surreptitiously redacting the story, not acknowledging that Barclay’s language softened, before finally adding not one but two correction notes.
Then there was NPR, which as late as December 2020 published a story that ridiculed “40 percent of respondents” to a survey who said they believe “in a baseless conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was created in a lab in China. There is zero evidence for this. Scientists say the virus was transmitted to humans from a other species.” At least that one Washington Post and Vox ran (erroneous) corrections and blamed the “evolving” scientific consensus for their lousy journalism. The taxpayer-funded NPR story still occurs in its original, uncorrected form– in October 2022.
If the lab leak theory was a rare case of blue-check media abdicating basic journalistic responsibilities in favor of elite stories, one could forgive and forget, because Atlantic require now. But such declines are quite common – systemic, one might say. Remember when Big Tech and Big Media and Big Intelligence came together to frame New York PostHunter Biden reported in October 2020 as “disinformation” – only to admit, once the election was over, that it was actually completely accurate? Remember the absolute unanimity with which the blue-check media defended the efficacy of Covid vaccines in stopping transmission – before reluctantly admitting that, erm, indeed, do they really not work as advertised? Remember when the blue-check media was absolutely certain that Jussie Smollett was the victim of a racist attack? And on and on and on.
Once the falsity of the old narrative is definitively established, most blue-checks shamelessly move on to the next elite narrative in need of media amplification—no apology, no introspection. The few who are willing to admit their errors, meanwhile, insist that they were merely following the consensus of the “experts” at the time.
This is risky. The reporter’s job is not to parrot what the experts say at any given moment: it is to question what someone in power claims. “If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” used to be the journalistic motto. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Pfizer, the WHO, and 50 former intelligence officials deserve far more demanding scrutiny than mom.
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Furthermore, it is one thing to report what the powerful say, and quite another to uncritically use the talking points of the powerful to silence the weak. PoliticoNatasha Bertrand could have thoughtfully and accurately reported the story of the 50 former intelligence officials who mischaracterized Post‘s Hunter Files reports as Russian disinfo. But that’s not what she did. She echoed the bogus former officials that “protecting the Bidens” topped the list of her duties.
Also Washington Post, Vox, NPR and others could have reported on the “expert” consensus against the lab leak theory while examining both sets of claims and tossing counterpoint notes around. But that’s not what they did. During the pandemic, they acted as stenographers and amanuenses for some of the most powerful people on earth.
Regime media is exactly how such stores deserve to be described.