The COVID Censorship Consensus

A monopoly on disinformation.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.

“In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made," Facebook conceded, after the theory of a Chinese lab leak gained fresh currency.

It was not the first time that an idea suppressed by the Silicon Curtain had been revived despite the best efforts of the Big Tech monopoly to suppress it.

But Facebook warned that it will go on censoring to “keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic and regularly update our policies as new facts and trends emerge,"

Wherever these new facts and trends emerge from, it won't be from its platforms.

The social media monopoly isn’t admitting that it was wrong. What it’s actually saying is that it’s up to high level authorities to decide what is true and what people can be allowed to say.

The Big Tech giant’s warning contains a series of admissions about how it sees the role of its platforms and the people who use them. Facebook, Instagram, and its younger cousins are not places where a new consensus can emerge by discussing serious issues. It’s where the proles are expected to listen to whatever they are told what to think and to do by their betters.

Facebook isn’t the place where influential people discuss ideas. Like network television or the New York Times, it’s meant as a top-down medium that tells a passive public what to think.

It’s hard to think of any greater expression of contempt by a company for its user base.

At the heart of Facebook’s COVID-19 censorship regime is the conviction that ideas are dangerous and during a pandemic people should not be allowed to make up their own minds.

And they certainly shouldn’t be allowed to propose things that have not been approved.

Facebook's COVID censorship section runs 14 pages and 4,000 words and censors everything.

You can't suggest that the vaccine has anything to do with 5G or that it's the "mark of the beast", but neither are you allowed to say that "COVID-19 vaccines contain, or were developed, produced or designed from/with human tissue from aborted fetuses / aborted fetal tissue."

As a matter of undisputed fact, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does use fetal cell lines derived from abortions and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines carried out tests using fetal cell lines.

Facebook appears to be distinguishing between fetal cell lines and fetal tissue, but it doesn't specify that distinction, and just as with its ban on describing the vaccines as lacking FDA approval, as opposed to lacking full FDA approval, this nitpicking is designed to cast the widest possible censorship net. And Facebook isn't shy about explaining why it's doing this.

This particular censorship section is categorized as "Discouraging good health practices" that "public health experts have advised us could lead to COVID-19 vaccine rejection".

The issue here isn't medical, it's societal.

Facebook, along with most of Silicon Valley, has decided to suppress speech that it believes would discourage vaccine use. Yet paradoxically there's no better way to discourage vaccine use than by ruthlessly suppressing even the most legitimate kinds of discussion about it.

People should be able to decide what their personal moral and medical boundaries are.

Instead of the boundaries of public health ending at the borders of science with the public deciding what to do with the new medical tools, public health becomes an imperative for controlling social behavior, suppressing speech, and managing information networks.

The best medicine then becomes censorship. But it’s also the worst poison.

Censorship feeds distrust. Once a censorship regime begins, it quickly becomes an absurd mess of paradoxes. Take this Facebook guideline which bans "claims that people died as a result of the COVID-19 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine during clinical trials" but allows "claims that people died during the COVID-19 Pfizer/BioNTech clinical trials."

Regulating people’s speech this painstakingly closely is an abusive exercise in futility.

Some two centuries ago the Founding Fathers decided that the model for this country would be a public marketplace of ideas that anyone, rightly or wrongly, could participate in.

During WW2, Norman Rockwell completed a painting titled Freedom of Speech. The painting of a man speaking his mind at a New England town meeting has taken on a symbolic ubiquitousness. But what most people don’t know is that Rockwell wasn’t in agreement with the heroic figure who appears to be modeled on everyone from Gary Cooper to Abraham Lincoln.

Rockwell was painting an actual scene at a town meeting. The speaker was a poor farmer protesting higher taxes that would be used to pay for a new school. The most enthusiastic backers of the plan were wealthy writers and artists who had flocked to the Vermont community.

Freedom of Speech depicts a man the painter disagreed with as heroic for speaking his mind.

It shows an audience, who goes on to almost universally vote against him, listening respectfully as he speaks. A scene that once embodied Americanism has become incomprehensible today.

The whole point of freedom of speech is that it applies to unpopular views. No one needs the freedom to say things that everyone or that the political elites are already on board with.

People can legitimately or illegitimately disagree about the coronavirus, masks, vaccines, or just about anything else. Anything important enough is important enough to debate.

Or it ought to be.

Just about any big subject has a spectrum of debate from the legitimate to the crazy, from the decent to the horrible, and everyone’s mileage may vary, but that’s how free countries do things.

The American model was that it was better for people to debate an issue, whether their views are right or wrong, than for the elites who think they know better to impose their opinion on them. This wasn’t just law, as the defenders of Big Tech censorship insist, but philosophy.

America was built as a bottom-up society and it’s the leftists clamoring they want to help those at the bottom who are making it into a top-down system controlled by their philosopher kings. The traditional leftist paradox of making a bottom-up society is that it requires total control from the top. Social liberation requires social control climaxing in Orwell’s Slavery is Freedom.

Leftist political systems operate as a series of crises requiring greater government authority ‘for the duration of the emergency’ until people realize that the government is the emergency.

Facebook’s latest censorship announcement models a system with a narrow sphere of authoritative opinion to be respected and a wide sphere of public opinion to be censored. It is possible for someone in the sphere of authoritative opinion to be ejected and for someone from the wide sphere of public opinion to be elevated, but otherwise they remain separate.

Anything that truly matters is too important to be left to the public to decide or to discuss.

America is being run by a phantom consensus that emerges from the narrow sphere of authoritative opinion. The experts sign off, the communications machine cranks up, and then the consensus turns out to have been wrong all along because it was formed in an echo chamber.

A real consensus comes out of vigorous public debate. A fake consensus eliminates the debate and the public. The internet, once a medium for public debate, is becoming a machine for segregating the public from the elites, and of dispensing elite opinion to the wider public.

The information trust crisis isn’t a crisis of disinformation, but of information control.

The controllers claim that they want to fight disinformation, but what they really want is a monopoly on disinformation.

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