As detailed in “Spy Agencies Threaten to ‘Take Out’ Mercola,” this website has been labeled a national security threat by British and American intelligence agencies that are collaborating to eliminate “anti-vaccine propaganda” from public discussion using sophisticated cyberwarfare tools.1,2,3
In a December 22, 2020, article,4 The Hill claims the “anti-vaccination movement sees COVID-19 as an opportunity” to strengthen its position, stating that “As public health officials seek to reassure Americans on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, anti-vaccine efforts could prevent the country from reaching herd immunity.”
According to a November 9, 2020, report in The Times,5 the British “government regards tackling false information about COVID-19 vaccination as a rising priority,” ostensibly for the same reason. But does concern for implementation of public health policy really justify the use of cyberwarfare against those who raise questions about vaccine safety?
Wouldn’t vaccine safety be part and parcel of a successful public health campaign? Doesn’t public trust play a significant part as well? The fact that they’re trying to shut down any and all conversations about vaccines — using warfare tactics no less — suggests that the planned mass vaccination campaign has very little to do with keeping the public healthy and safe. It’s about controlling the public, for some undisclosed purpose.
‘Anti-Hate’ Group Defames Vaccine Safety Advocates
In July 2020, Imran Ahmed, a member of the Steering Committee on Countering Extremism Pilot Task Force under the British government’s Commission for Countering Extremism and the chief executive of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), told The Independent6 he considers anti-vaxxers “an extremist group that pose a national security risk,” because “once someone has been exposed to one type of conspiracy it’s easy to lead them down a path where they embrace more radical world views that can lead to violent extremism.”
In other words, Ahmed implies that people who question the safety and necessity of a COVID-19 vaccine might be prone to violent extremism — a defamatory statement that has no basis in reality.
In its report, “The Anti-Vaxx Playbook,”7 CCDH identifies six leading online “anti-vaxxers” — Barbara Loe Fisher, Joseph Mercola, Del Bigtree, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sherri Tenpenny and Andrew Wakefield — and outlined an alleged anti-vaxxer “plan to attack a forthcoming COVID vaccine” based on remarks made by speakers during the Fifth International Public Conference on Vaccination, sponsored by the non-profit, Nacional Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) and held online October 16 through 18, 2020.
According to The Washington Post,8 the report quotes “leaked audio” from the conference. Similarly, in a December 22, 2020, Twitter post,9 the CCDH states that “Anti-vaxxers have been meeting secretly to plan how to stop the COVID vaccine. We were there. Today we’re exposing their playbook.”
It’s rather laughable. Just who is the conspiracy theorist here? There was no audio to be “leaked” since it was a PUBLIC conference, open to absolutely anyone and everyone, just like the previous four conferences on vaccination that NVIC has held beginning in 1997. It was openly promoted by NVIC, this website, as well as many other groups and was about as far from a “secret meeting” as you could possibly get.
Since the CCDH admitted “being there,” they must have paid the nominal registration attendance fee of $80, as did more than 3,000 other registered attendees from the U.S, Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa. The NVIC conference, which was originally scheduled to be held in a hotel, was produced online for the first time after COVID-19 social distancing and travel restrictions were instituted in March, 2020.
Vaccine Concerns Are Growing Rapidly
The CCDH report also lists several private Facebook groups dedicated to vaccine information, including “Vaccination Re-Education Discussion Forum,” “Stop Mandatory Vaccination,” “Vaccine Choices” and “Restore Liability for the Vaccine Makers.”
CCDH admits tracking and spying on 425 vaccine-related Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter accounts. In all, these accounts have 59.2 million followers, “nearly 877,000 more than they had in June,” CCDH notes, adding that:10
“This means that anti-vaxxers grew fast enough to outpace the removal of accounts belonging to influential figures such as Del Bigtree, Larry Cook and David Icke in that period. Those removals led to a loss of 3.2 million followers from the total, while other anti-vaxxers in our sample gained over 4.1 million …
Analysis of this year-long growth also shows the substantial contributions that alternative health entrepreneurs and conspiracy theorists make to the reach of the anti-vaccine movement.
Entrepreneurs now have 22.6 million followers, supplying two-fifths of the anti-vaccine movement’s online following. Anti-vaccine conspiracy accounts grew by nearly 50 percent over the year, starting at 15.5 million followers in 2019 and rising to 23.1 million by December 2020.”
According to the CCDH, “Anti-vaxxers have developed a sophisticated playbook for spreading uncertainty about a COVID vaccine.”11 To counter this information, medical and scientific professionals need to “take action,” by which the CCDH means they must push for COVID-19 vaccination.
“To do so, they must convince the public that COVID is dangerous and give them confidence that a vaccine is safe and effective,” the CCDH writes,12 adding that anti-vaxxers “win the debate by default if a skeptical public fail to take action and use the vaccine.”
Just what is the “anti-vaxx playbook”? According to the CCDH, the “playbook for spreading uncertainty” about the vaccine involves five key steps:13
- Establishing “a ‘master narrative’ comprising three key messages: COVID is not dangerous, the vaccine is dangerous and vaccine advocates cannot be trusted”
- Adapting that master narrative for “online subcultures” such as “Alternative health entrepreneurs, conspiracy theorists, and accounts directed at parents or ethnic communities”
- Offering “online answering spaces where people with doubts about COVID or the vaccine can direct their questions”
- Converting vaccine-hesitant individuals into anti-vaxxers and then training them to become “more effective activists”
- Mitigating attacks on their online infrastructure by migrating followers to “alt-tech” platforms such as Telegram and Parler and developing “techniques for undermining fact-checking”
In the report, the CCDH details many of the specific messages shared by me and others, such as deaths being falsely attributed to COVID-19, thereby artificially inflating mortality statistics, the fact that COVID-19 has a 99+% survival rate unless you’re very old and have underlying comorbidities, and the fact that there are now several effective therapeutics for COVID-19, making a vaccine less relevant.
“Anti-vaxxers take advantage of existing media and political narratives around the speed of vaccine development to claim trials have been rushed, and that it is too soon to know if COVID vaccines are safe,” the CCDH states. “Variations of this narrative highlight perceived shortcomings in clinical trials, and draw on past examples of vaccines with adverse effects.”
Zero Solid Counterarguments Made
Reading through the CCDH’s report, I’m struck by the irony that none of the so-called “anti-vaxx arguments” are actually met by solid pro-vaccine counterarguments or data.
CCDH does not negate or even debate the accuracy of any of them. It just brushes them aside as misinformation and lies without providing any proof whatsoever. In fact, the report summarizes our concerns so well that I’d encourage everyone to read it.
At the end of the report, they do list a number of strategies that pro-vaccine advocates should use to counter anti-vaccine messages, but again, nowhere do they recommend leaning on published science.
Instead, it’s all about shaming people who question vaccines as “conspiracy theorists,” promoting harrowing stories of people who got sick with COVID-19 and “shouting about getting vaccinated.”
“Recipients of the vaccine should post about getting it — such a campaign could create authentic social proof and work against the anti-vaxxers’ aim of creating doubt around the safety of vaccines. ‘I’ve had the vaccine’ Twibbons and Instagram filters could also help achieve this,” CCDH writes.14
CCDH Promotes Draconian Censorship
Other recommendations issued by the CCDH include deplatforming anyone who questions vaccines. “Deplatforming works,” they say, adding that:15
“The problem lies with a very small number of accounts. The 59 million followers of anti-vaxxer social media accounts identified in this report are following just 425 accounts, pages, groups and channels across Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.
The 10 anti-vaxxers we track with the largest cross-platform followings make up the majority of the total audience for anti-vaxxers online. These are the ‘superspreaders’ of anti-vaxx misinformation.
As this report has demonstrated, anti-vaxxers are concerned by the prospect of losing their privileged position on social media platforms … the evidence is clear that the best way of preventing someone falling for a conspiracy theory is to prevent them from seeing it in the first place.”
The CCDH also urges legislators to “hold platforms accountable” through fines and criminal sanctions, legal liability for forum administrators and/or “transparency for the online advertising world” — in other words, warn advertisers that the platform they’re supporting with their advertising dollars is promoting “medical misinformation” and “anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.”
I am surprised by their recommendation because to the best I can discern, ALL the major media platforms have already censored every major site that questions vaccines many months ago. They cannot censor them any more than they already are. Most of the YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts have been heavily censored or deplatformed.
Greenwald on Big Tech Censoring
In the video at the top of this article, UnHerd interviews Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who is one of my favorite articulate journalists. At the end of October 2020, Greenwald resigned from The Intercept — a publication he co-founded in 2014 — after the publication refused to publish an article in which he raised a critique against presidential candidate Joe Biden.16
According to Greenwald, the refusal to publish the piece violated his “contractual right of editorial freedom.” In the interview, he stresses the dangers inherent with online censorship by big tech and social media platforms. Who should be in control of “the truth”? Can anyone really be designated as the ultimate source of truth, be it about vaccines or anything else?
As noted by Greenwald, social media platforms claim the right to be the arbiters of truth by hiring so-called fact-checkers and relying on experts at the World Health Organization.
However, we have repeatedly seen the WHO issue statements that have turned out to be inaccurate or false — sometimes by their own admission — so just how reliable are they? By strictly sticking with the WHO’s guidance and censoring everything else, the censors have in many instances promoted misinformation exclusively.
Greenwald gives the example of masks. In February and March 2020, the WHO did not recommend wearing face masks and actually warned they might be counterproductive. Now all of a sudden, masks are a must, even though the science hasn’t changed one bit.
In fact, the evidence that masks don’t protect against viral transmission has only grown stronger. Early on the WHO also questioned whether human-to-human transmission was even possible and cast doubt on the true danger of the virus.
“That’s the nature of human fallibility,” Greenwald says. “What looks like a proven orthodoxy one month becomes a gross error the next, and that’s exactly why these things have to be debated rather than suppressed.”
Risks of Censorship Are Too Grave To Be Justifiable
When asked whether he believes nothing should ever be censored on health grounds, he wisely replies that not only do people need to rely on their own common sense when encountering information, but institutions also need to work to build credibility and public trust.
Indeed, refusing to hold a discussion about the scientific evidence does not build trust. Forcibly shutting down anyone who raises sensible questions does not build trust. Destroying the reputations and livelihoods of people who report on questions raised does not build trust.
In short, the medical industry, and the vaccine industry in particular, have severe trust and credibility deficits that they themselves created and continue to grow with the help of big tech and national intelligence agencies who are going to extreme lengths to prevent counter narratives from getting out.
Greenwald also points out that the U.S. has never before allowed government to intervene in the public discourse in this way. It should be undisputable that censorship is anathema to a democratically run, free and open society. While there may not be a benefit to allowing misinformation to be disseminated, the risks of censoring are simply too grave to be justifiable.
Big tech censorship is even more insidious than government censorship, because it’s far more opaque. At least if the government says it’s going to censor certain kinds of expression, there’s some level of transparency in how that’s being done.
Private tech companies, on the other hand, move the goal post at will, and they’re never entirely clear about who will be censored, for what, exactly, or how. What’s more, there’s no real process for appeal. Greenwald points out that social media companies never really wanted to be in the position of being censors but were pressured into it by politicians, in some cases, and mainstream media journalists in others.
Journalists initially wanted to maintain control over the public discourse by restricting the competition’s reach, and once social media companies relented and started censoring, the whole thing just snowballed and grew.
The problem we face now is that censorship fortifies power and is very difficult to end once it has taken hold. This in turn does not bode well for individual freedom or democracy as a whole. Censorship is a direct threat to both.
It also has a tendency to spread ever more widely, covering more and more topics as we go along. For example, there was active suppression and censorship of certain political issues leading up to the 2020 presidential election, and now there’s censoring of evidence showing election interference. What will be next?
Technocratic Totalitarianism Is at Our Doorstep
The fact, then, that U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies are getting involved in censoring should tell us something. It tells us it’s not really about protecting public health. It’s about strengthening government control over the population. The fact that intelligence agencies view vaccine safety advocates as a national security threat also tells us that government is now in the business of protecting private companies, essentially blurring the line between the two.
If you criticize one you criticize the other. In short, if you impede or endanger the profitability of private companies, you are now viewed as a national security threat, and this falls squarely within the parameters of technocracy, in which government is dissolved and replaced with the unelected leaders of private enterprise.
The right and freedom to critique one’s government is a hallmark of democracy, so this state-sponsored war against truthful information is clear evidence of a radical turn toward technocratic totalitarianism. While the situation may appear hopeless, it’s not yet too late to turn things around. For some encouragement, listen to Kennedy Jr.’s speech below.