Nothing exemplifies the corporate collusion to control thought better than an article in the New York Times’ opinion section.
Charlie Warzel, one of the Times’ opinion writers, argues that conventional critical-thinking skills become useless when confronting the massive amount of information available online. Instead, Warzel advocates simplifying the process by limiting internet browsing to one or two trusted sources — such as Google or Wikipedia — to evaluate quickly whether a subject warrants further research.
But FrontPage Magazine reported in “What if the ‘Conspiracy’ is Real?” that Google and Wikipedia manipulate information that contradicts their political agendas. Both did that to Mike Lindell, the founder of MyPillow who produced a documentary showing in detail how President Donald Trump’s opponents stole last year’s election on Joe Biden’s behalf.
Warzel describes an idea devised by Michael Caulfield, a professor whom Warzel interviewed. Caulfield distilled the findings of two other professors, Stanford’s Sam Wineburg and the University of Maryland’s Sarah McGrew, into a process he calls SIFT: Stop, Investigate (the source), Find (better coverage) and Trace (claims to their original context).
“The four steps are based on the premise that you often make a better decision with less information than you do with more,” Warzel wrote. “Also, spending 15 minutes to determine a single fact in order to decipher a tweet or a piece of news coming from a source you’ve never seen before will often leave you more confused than you were before.”
While Warzel discourages professional researchers from using SIFT, he believes it provides an essential advantage for the average information consumer, who can be overwhelmed when evaluating online claims from various parties.
“What is potentially revolutionary about SIFT is that it focuses on making quick judgments,” Warzel wrote. “A SIFT fact check can and should take just 30, 60, 90 seconds to evaluate a piece of content.”
Critical thinking is outdated because it involves “focusing on something and contemplating it deeply — to follow the information’s logic and inconsistencies,” Warzel wrote.
Caulfield demonstrated how to use SIFT by doing research on Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an activist for children’s health whose father served as attorney general and Senator from New York before running for President in 1968. Kennedy’s Instagram page was “falsely alleging a link between the human papillomavirus vaccine and cancer,” Warzel wrote.
“If this is not a claim where I have a depth of understanding, then I want to stop for a second and, before going further, just investigate the source,” Caulfield told Warzel before copying Kennedy’s name into Google’s search engine.
” ‘Look how fast this is,’ (Caulfield) told me as he counted the seconds out loud,” Warzel wrote. “In 15 seconds, he navigated to Wikipedia and scrolled through the introductory section of the page, highlighting with his cursor the last sentence, which reads that Mr. Kennedy is an anti-vaccine activist and a conspiracy theorist.
” ‘Is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. the best, unbiased source on information about a vaccine? I’d argue no. And that’s good enough to know we should probably just move on,’ he said.”
Caulfield then copied Kennedy’s claim into Google’s search engine. The first two results were websites run by Agence France-Presse’s fact checkers and the National Institutes of Health.
“His quick searches showed a pattern: Mr. Kennedy’s claims were outside the consensus — a sign they were motivated by something other than science,” Warzel wrote.
Yet further research eviscerates Caulfield’s and Warzel’s own claims.
In December 2017, the World Health Organization’s database on medical safety recorded that the human papillomavirus vaccine generated 305,014 adverse reactions in 81,263 medical reports. Those adverse reactions included 1,052 cancers, 168 of them cervical — the kind of cancer that the vaccine is designed to prevent.
“We are told that these reports do not prove causation but they have been reported as spontaneous reports where the vaccine is believed to have been the cause,” Steve Hinks, a retired health professional, wrote to The British Medical Journal.
In 2019, a French study showed that when injections of Merck’s vaccine Gardasil replaced pap smears, cervical cancer actually increased in five countries, including the United States. Kennedy is involved with seven ongoing suits against Merck on behalf of young clients who experienced infertility, seizures, autoimmune disorders and fibromyalgia, among other reactions.
Kennedy succeeded in another suit in 2018, when he and the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) sued the Department of Health and Human Services for information about vaccine safety. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 mandates HHS to regulate vaccine safety and effectiveness, and to submit reports to Congress every two years. Kennedy and ICAN filed a request through the Freedom of Information Act for those reports but HHS refused to provide them, prompting the lawsuit.
In response, HHS stated that such reports could not be found after “a thorough search of its document tracking systems” and “a comprehensive review of all relevant indexes.”
HHS “had to finally and shockingly admit that it never, not even once, submitted a single biennial report to Congress detailing the improvements in vaccine safety,” stated an ICAN press release. “This speaks volumes to the seriousness by which vaccine safety is treated at HHS and heightens the concern that HHS doesn’t have a clue as to the actual safety profile of the now 29 doses, and growing, of vaccines given by one year of age.”
If all this information is readily available online, why do Warzel and Caulfield discourage anyone from pursuing it?
Regardless of intent, Warzel and Caulfield reflect the collusion between corporate entities — Big Tech, Big Media and Big Academia, in this case — to manipulate opinion. That manipulation, called “astroturf,” includes defaming those who hold contrary views.
“Hallmarks of astroturf include use of inflammatory language, such as ‘crank,’ ‘quack,’ ‘nutty,’ ‘lies,’ ‘paranoid,’ ‘pseudo’ and ‘conspiracy,’ ” said Sharyl Attkisson, who won five Emmy Awards with CBS News. “Use of the charged language tests well. People hear something’s a myth, maybe they find it on Snopes and they instantly declare themselves too smart to fall for it.”
Warzel demonstrated another form of rhetorical melodrama. He wrote, “at this very moment, more people are fighting for the opportunity to lie to you than at perhaps any other point in human history,” especially “YouTube conspiracy theorists or many QAnon or anti-vaccine influencers,” thereby exposing his own political bias.
However, discovering and evaluating new information stimulates the brain to produce new and more complex neural pathways, especially in its left hemisphere, which governs reason and discernment. As those pathways become more advanced, they enhance the capacity for critical thinking.
But by insisting on consensus, Warzel and Caulfield do little more than promote conventional wisdom or prevailing narratives. Neither does anything to encourage creativity, let alone critical thinking. Moreover, as artificial intelligence becomes more prominent — and as people become more dependent on technology — bad corporate actors can program AI to minimize or eliminate unapproved information.
As a result, any fact or history that contradicts dishonest narratives would fade from collective memory. Creativity and independent action would be discouraged, if not repressed. Orthodoxy would be rigorously enforced. Human initiative would wither. Cancel culture, with Big Tech as the ultimate watchdog, would achieve its greatest victory.
The article’s headline, “Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole,” would be more accurate if it read, “Let Big Tech Do the Thinking for You.”