After releasing my three-part series earlier this year showing how multiple media outlets refused to platform dissent on the Covid vaccine, I was asked on multiple podcasts why this was the case. Ideological groupthink, fear of exacerbating institutional distrust and financial motives were on my list of potential explanations, but I did not have concrete evidence.
As I highlighted in my first piece, the responses I got from editors claiming their publication’s “pro-vaccine” allegiance was quite jarring. More than anything else, a publication should be “pro-truth” – whether that means highlighting the astounding benefits of a therapeutic or exposing its serious side effects. The idea that a whole media corporation would take a firm stance on a novel, experimental product is antithetical to the core purpose of journalism.
As it turns out, mainstream media’s nearly monolithic coverage of mRNA vaccines and other Covid measures can be at least partially explained by a clear financial interest. Recently, independent journalist Breanna Morello – who left Fox News because of draconian vaccine mandates in New York City – alerted me to a FOIA request filed by the conservative media company Blaze, which found a number of major media outlets were paid to promote the Covid vaccine. Such venues included the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, NBC, CNN, Fox News and several others. Blaze’s report received little coverage – even in conservative media (perhaps because some of those outlets were also paid by HHS) ideologically predisposed to criticise government-fuelled narratives on the pandemic. As Blaze reports:
Hundreds of news organisations were paid by the federal Government to advertise for the vaccines as part of a “comprehensive media campaign,” according to documents the Blaze obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services. The Biden administration purchased ads on TV, radio, in print and on social media to build vaccine confidence, timing this effort with the increasing availability of the vaccines.
During the vaccine roll-out, the Biden administration made a number of efforts to bolster vaccination rates. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s COVID-19 Public Education Campaign states they employed “both paid advertising and media interviews, presentations, radio/TV tours and other public events to educate people about the importance of vaccination”.
The HHS website contains public access to all vaccine campaign advertisements for media outlets and beyond. One past advertisement promotes Covid vaccination in children, featuring a montage of selected medical doctors stating in unison:
We can all agree on this: You can trust the Covid vaccine for yourself, or your kids or your grandkids… I mean it from the heart.
In another ad directed to parents, HHS’s selection of doctors state:
We want you to know, Covid vaccines are ‘safe and effective’. My grandkids are vaccinated… what’s not safe is getting Covid.
Is it ethical for the Government to dubiously claim Covid vaccines are uniformly beneficial for kids, and contracting Covid is far less “safe” than getting your child double-vaccinated? No such randomised clinical evidence exists suggesting the benefits of the Covid vaccine outweigh the harms in young cohorts with a nearly zero risk of serious outcomes. The concentrated risk of myocarditis in boys and menstrual irregularities in girls suggest the Covid vaccine may be harmful on net. Moreover, is it ethical (for either party) for the federal Government to advertise such medical misinformation on platforms allegedly committed to investigating the truth and holding the powerful accountable?
HHS advertisement on the updated Covid booster
A new Government ad on the HHS website now promotes the updated Covid vaccine. It falsely claims the new booster shot prevents long Covid and hospitalisation when the only available evidence from Pfizer and Moderna are rat studies and a 50-person trial (with an unexplained 2% rate of serious adverse events).
Rather than critically covering such propagandistic attempts to promote a longitudinally ineffective therapeutic with a one in 800 serious adverse event rate, major media outlets allowed the federal Government to freely spread its misinformation on their platform. The New York Times’s reporting on vaccine-induced myocarditis, for example, downplayed the side effect at every sight and compared it to misleadingly higher rates of Covid-induced myocarditis:
For over two years, the media and Government officials have been peddling dangerous misinformation – the very sin they accuse of the conspiracy web of committing – about COVID-19 posing a higher risk to young people than the vaccine. Instead of examining age, gender and health-stratified risk-benefit ratios, they elementarily look at aggregate data and cherry-pick seemingly beneficial outcomes to justify their “everyone should get vaccinated!” campaign. A few of umpteen examples:
As an admittedly biased Zoomer, one of the most discrediting media assault campaigns grew in opposition to Joe Rogan’s claim in a June 2021 podcast that healthy 21 year-olds didn’t need the vaccine. Over two years later, Rogan’s judgment has been vindicated – as it was at the time – given the 0.003% mortality risk among 20 year-olds and unusually high rates of myocardial and menstrual-related vaccine adverse events. However, the mainstream media ecosystem conducted a fierce reputational decapitation in response to Rogan’s impermissible dissent from the CDC and Pfizer’s edicts:
The United States wasn’t alone in spending large sums of taxpayer dollars to promote its agenda. The Trudeau Government invested over $600,000 in hiring social media influencers to advance federal directives, including the push for Canadians to get vaccinated and boosted.
As CTV reports, Health Canada spent the most on hiring influencers to promote Government information; $130,600 was spent towards an “influencer campaign in support of the COVID-19 vaccination marketing and advertising campaign”.
None of this is to mention Pfizer’s vaccine campaigns paying celebrities to rhapsodise about marvellously ‘safe and effective’ mRNA inoculation. Travis Kelce – a professional football player watched and revered by many young American men in particular – promoted getting the updated booster shot and flu vaccine in the same visit.
The journalists I grew up admiring – such as Megyn Kelly, Glenn Greenwald, Alex Berenson (Unreported Truths) and Matt Taibbi (Racket News) – were known for challenging consensus and providing novel perspectives on complex sociopolitical topics. I relied on select journalistic outlets and individual commentators for an honest, independent evaluation of the facts.
The heavily biased coverage of race relations and criminal justice issues in 2020 following the tragic death of George Floyd was self-discrediting but hardly surprising given the dominance of identity politics in elite liberal discourse.
The deterioration of journalistic standards during the vaccine roll-out beginning in 2021, however, was particularly disorienting. The Washington Post, NBC, and the New York Times should have held the Biden administration’s feet to the fire for promoting experimental vaccines in all Americans irrespective of risk and continued revelations regarding concerning side effects.
They miserably failed to do so.
The last standing bulwark against government propaganda and censorship is crumbling before our eyes, losing relevance by the month. Perhaps a solution for media institutions to earn back credibility is to critically cover federal agencies misinforming the public rather than take funds to promote their agendas.
Just a thought.