Petoskey News-Review Censors Science to Push Flu Shot Policy

by Sep 3, 2020Health & Vaccines16 comments

Influenza vaccines (Department of Defense)

The Petoskey News-Review, a local newspaper here in Michigan, censors science to advocate state officials’ flu shot policy.

Last week, on August 26, a local newspaper here in my home state of Michigan posted a quote on Facebook from the head of the lockdown regime, Gretchen Whitmer, urging state residents to get a flu shot. When I commented on the post to share links to studies in the peer-reviewed medical literature calling that recommendation into question, my comments were deleted and I was banned from the page.

This is an instructive example of how local as well as the major media are willing to censor science to serve the function of manufacturing consent for public vaccine policy. This local newspaper, like the New York Times and practically every other mainstream media source, is more interested in doing public policy advocacy than properly educating the public by doing journalism.

Banned for Sharing Flu Shot Studies That Don’t Align with the Policy Goal

The post from the Petoskey News-Review read: “‘When we all get our flu vaccine, we can help keep thousands of patients out of the hospital and prevent overcrowding,’ Whitmer said.”

The post linked to an article in the News-Review reporting on how Whitmer was calling on everyone to get the influenza vaccine. It quoted Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, claiming that the vaccine is 40 percent to 60 percent effective every year. The article included “young children” among those who are “at high risk of serious complications” from influenza. The safety of the vaccine was not considered in the article, thus conveying the impression that no safety concerns exist.

In the comments on the Facebook post, some people said that they do get flu shots, but many others expressed their opposition to doing so. I joined the discussion by sharing links to several studies with findings relevant for making the choice whether or not to get the vaccine.

My first comment consisted of a pertinent quote from a 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: “Injected influenza vaccines probably have a small protective effect against influenza and ILI (moderate-certainty evidence), as 71 people would need to be vaccinated to avoid one influenza case, and 29 would need to be vaccinated to avoid one case of ILI. Vaccination may have little or no appreciable effect on hospitalisations (low-certainty evidence) or number of working days lost.” (Emphasis added.)

comment on Petoskey News-Review Facebook post

Then I shared the link to a 2014 study in Clinical Infectious Diseases with the comment, “A CDC study found that the more individuals get the flu shot year after year, the less effective it is over time.”

comment on Petoskey News-Review Facebook post

Next, I pointed out that a randomized placebo-controlled trial in children published in Clinical Infectious Diseases in 2012 found that influenza vaccination offered no significant protection against influenza while being associated with an increased risk of illness with non-influenza respiratory viruses, including common human coronaviruses (although the result was not statistically significant for coronaviruses).

comment on Petoskey News-Review Facebook post

I also commented that a study published in January of this year in the journal Vaccine “found influenza vaccination to be associated with an increased risk for infection with common human coronaviruses. The hypothesis that flu shots might do the same for SARS-CoV-2 is biologically plausible.”

comment on Petoskey News-Review Facebook post

One of the commenters expressing their acquiescence to public health officials’ flu shot recommendation said, “Every year, per my doctors orders!” In reply to that comment, a person named Dixon wrote, “Exactly! Sadly, there are some here who would listen to Rush Limbaugh-like conspiracy theories. … Instead of their own doctor and health department. But, if and when they need heart surgery, I am sure they’ll pick a UM Med School Grad over their car mechanic? 🙁”

I replied to Dixon by rejoining, “sadly, there are some here who would listen to the CDC and doctors who are confined in their practice by the system and don’t do their own research but blindly follow CDC recommendations despite systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the scientific literature pointing out that the fundamental assumptions underlying the CDC’s flu shot recommendation are unsupported by scientific evidence.

“Cochrane reviews also observe that the evidence that does exist for influenza vaccine effectiveness must be interpreted in light of the low quality of studies and the fact that many studies are industry funded, with industry funding being unsurprisingly associated with bias in favor of the product under study.

“A 2010 systematic review and meta-analysis by the Cochrane Collaboration also criticized the CDC for deliberately misrepresenting the science in order to support its policy.”

In my comment, I shared the link to that Cochrane review.

comment on Petoskey News-Review Facebook post

Finally, I commented, “To those of you saying you intend to get the flu shot, please be aware that multi-dose vials contain the preservative Thimerosol, which by weight is about half ethylmercury, which the Institute of Medicine in 2004 recognized as a ‘known neurotoxin’ that ‘accumulates in the brain’ and ‘can injure the nervous system’. Single-dose vials do not contain Thimerosol.”

Once again, I shared the link to the source from the medical literature.

comment on Petoskey News-Review Facebook post

Upon returning to the post on August 29, I found that all of my comments had been deleted and that I had been banned from commenting.

Public Vaccine Policy Advocacy vs. Journalism

The Petoskey News-Review’s decision to censor the science and ban me from sharing important information about flu shots directly from the medical literature is a useful illustration of how the media prefer to do public policy advocacy instead of journalism.

The News-Review article’s claim that the vaccine is 40 percent to 60 percent effective every year might already sound like pretty poor effectiveness, but it also happens to be false. For example, the vaccine for the 2018 – 2019 flu season was estimated to be just 29 percent effective overall. For adults over the age of 65, the vaccines was estimated to be just 12 percent effective.

Moreover, the vaccine offered no significant protection against the influenza A(H3N2) strain that emerged later in the season. In fact, for adults aged 18 to 64 years, the flu shot had negative effectiveness, indicating “higher odds of influenza among vaccinated compared with unvaccinated” patients.

Some of the commenters’ trust in public health officials and the medical establishment, like the trust of the News-Review staff, is also misguided. I have previously exposed, for example, how McLaren Health Plan members in Michigan are routinely subjected to deceitful flu shot propaganda in the provider’s newsletters.

While the Petoskey News-Review uncritically parrots government officials’ recommendation for everyone aged six months and up, including pregnant women, to get an annual flu shot, there is a great deal of information from scientific studies that call this policy into question.

A 2012 Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis, for example, expressed alarm at the lack of influenza vaccine safety studies in children under age two. “If immunization in children is to be recommended as a public health policy,” the review stated, “large-scale studies assessing important outcomes, and directly comparing vaccine types are urgently required.” (Emphasis added.)

The most recent Cochrane review on influenza vaccination in children, published in 2018, again expressed alarm at having found “only one safety study of inactivated vaccine in children under 2 years, carried out nearly 30 years ago”.

With respect to effectiveness, that review found that for every five children who receive the vaccine, four receive no benefit. For children under age six, the vaccine “does not provide significant protection against influenza”. For children aged two or younger, “there is very limited evidence to determine their effects compared with placebo.” And for children under age two, “there is no evidence of effect”.

Furthermore, researchers found “no convincing evidence that vaccines can reduce mortality, hospital admissions, serious complications, or community transmission of influenza.”

Another concern was the lack of studies examining the effects not just of one season’s vaccination but of repeated annual vaccination. Additionally, most studies were not well designed or conducted, and the methodological quality was judged generally to be “poor”.

One would think that such findings from the peer-reviewed scientific literature are relevant for people to know in order to be able to make a decision about whether or not to get a flu shot. But that’s just the problem: the media, from local newspapers like the Petoskey News-Review to major newspapers like the New York Times, are more concerned with advocating government vaccine policies than with empowering people with the knowledge they need to be able to make an informed choice.

I emailed the Petoskey News-Review on September 30 via the contact address found on their Facebook page to inform the team there that I was writing an article about how they censored science to promote the flu shot, summarizing the points I had made in my comments that were deleted and once again providing the links to the studies.

The News-Review did not respond.

Update, September 4, 2020: After publishing this article, I provided the link to and again requested a comment from the Petoskey News-Review. I have received no reply. This morning, the News-Review added the following comment to their post:

From the editor: Comments promoting vaccine conspiracy theories or links to outside conspiracy websites will be removed. Repeat violators will be banned from posting. Thank you.


Posts giving false information about vaccines or conspiracy theories about vaccines or links to websites that promote vaccine conspiracy theories will be removed.

I, of course, had not violated their stated commenting policy. There was nothing even remotely conspiratorial about the information I presented. All of my links were directly to the scientific literature, and all the information contained in my comments was directly from those studies.

I’ve been informed by one of my readers in the comments below that the link to this article was shared, but it, too, was evidently deleted. Of course, the News-Review had repeat opportunities to identify anything I wrote that isn’t factually accurate but declined to even attempt to do so in favor of outright censorship of the science.

This just goes to show the intellectual cowardice and dishonesty of the responsible members of the staff at the Petoskey News-Review. I encourage other readers to visit the post, share the link to this article, and challenge the staff there to identify any factual or logical errors in any of the now-deleted comments I had left on the post or in this article rather than engaging in thoughtless and cowardly censorship.

Update, September 4, 2020, 7:50 pm ET: After encouraging my readers to confront the News-Review staff about their cowardly and dishonest censorship, I was informed by several that they had left comments along with the link to this post, but when I went to the post to view them, I found that none existed. Evidently, the News-Review deleted those comments, too. The Executive Editor, Jeremy McBain, added the following comment to the public post:

If anyone has an issue with why we will not allow you to post links to vaccine conspiracy theory websites, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] or (231) 881-2792.

Consequently, I emailed McBain to once again request a comment for this article as well as an explanation for the deletion of my comments and the ban. In my email, I noted that I had not violated their stated commenting policy. I also noted that neither this article nor any other I’ve written about vaccines propagated any kind of “conspiracy theory”, but that each is well-researched and fully referenced with credible sources including a heavy reliance on studies in the medical literature. I challenged him to identify any factually incorrect statements in either my comments that they deleted or this article — or any other article on the topic that I’ve ever written.

After sending that email, I returned again to the post to check for any of my readers’ comments including the link to this article only to discover that the News-Review had removed their post entirely from their Facebook page:

Petoskey News-Review Facebook page censorship

Evidently, they found it easier to simply delete their own post and all the public comments along with it rather than to facilitate an open, honest, and reasoned discussion about this important subject.

I will continue to update this article with any further developments.

Update, September 4, 2020, 8:25 pm ET: Here is the full text of the email I sent to Petoskey News-Review Executive Editor Jeremy McBain:

Dear Jeremy McBain,

I had participated in the discussion on this Facebook post of the News-Review’s that uncritically relayed government officials’ flu shot recommendation by sharing the findings of studies that contradict government policy. My comments consisted of informing other readers about key scientific findings about the influenza vaccine along with direct links to the peer-reviewed studies in the medical literature. Your newspaper responded by deleting all of my comments and banning me from further commenting on your Facebook page.

The post has since been updated with the following statements about your commenting policy: “Comments promoting vaccine conspiracy theories or links to outside conspiracy websites will be removed. Repeat violators will be banned from posting.” “Posts giving false information about vaccines or conspiracy theories about vaccines or links to websites that promote vaccine conspiracy theories will be removed.”

I had not violated that policy. Far from promoting any kind of “conspiracy theories”, I had simply shared scientific findings, and far from linking to websites promoting such theories, I had provided only direct links to the studies.

Since I did not violate your stated policy, can you please explain to me why my comments were deleted and why I was banned?

I have previously emailed the address provided on your Facebook page to seek your newspaper’s comment for an article I had intended to write about your censorship of science. I received no response. After publishing the article, I emailed the link and again requested a comment. Again, I have received no response. Here is my article, in which I show what information I had included in my comments that your staff deleted and banned me for and criticize your newspaper for censoring science and doing policy advocacy instead of journalism.

Would you care to comment?

It has also come to my attention that the News-Review is deleting comments in which my readers have shared the link to my article. On what grounds has this been done? If you contend that this or any other articles of mine about vaccines contain “misinformation”, kindly identify it for me. Also please be aware that I do not and have never promoted any “vaccine conspiracy theories” on my website. If you view my content on this subject, you will see that my writings are well-researched and fully referenced with credible sources, including a heavy reliance on studies in the medical literature.

I would respectfully request that your newspaper cease this unacceptable censorship and allow an open, honest, and reasoned discussion about this important subject.


Jeremy R. Hammond

Minutes ago, I received the following response from Mr. McBain:

We do not allow links to a conspiracy website, such as yours, on our page. You promote false, and frankly dangerous, information and we will not allow such nonfactual information, commonly called “conspiracy theories,” on our website or social media pages. We will delete all such continued references to your website on our page and those who do so, as it is clear you are trying to troll our page with your false information.

Consequently, I replied:


1) You have not explained why my comments were deleted and why I was banned despite the fact that I did not violate your stated commenting policy. Once again, I provided no misinformation or links to conspiracy theory websites but only scientific findings and direct links to the studies in the peer-reviewed medical literature.

2) Your characterization of my writings on the subject of vaccines is substanceless and false. I note that you did not even attempt to substantiate your accusations, which is unsurprising since you are incapable of doing so.

Consequently, you have made it clear that you and the News-Review have no interest in facilitating an open, honest, and reasoned discussion about this important subject.

I will update my article with your comment accordingly.


Jeremy R. Hammond

I encourage my readers to also contact Mr. McBain to press him on the matter of his newspaper’s cowardly and dishonest censorship of science and to let him and the rest of the staff there know that this behavior along with the insistence on doing vaccine policy advocacy rather than journalism is totally unacceptable. Here again is the contact information he provided in a public comment on the post prior to its complete removal:

If anyone has an issue with why we will not allow you to post links to vaccine conspiracy theory websites, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] or (231) 881-2792.

Did you find value in this content? If so and you have the means, please consider supporting my independent journalism.

About Jeremy R. Hammond

About Jeremy R. Hammond

I am an independent journalist, political analyst, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, book author, and writing coach.

My writings empower readers with the knowledge they need to see through state propaganda intended to manufacture their consent for criminal government policies.

By recognizing when we are being lied to and why, we can fight effectively for liberty, peace, and justice, in order to create a better world for ourselves, our children, and future generations of humanity.

Please join my growing community of readers!


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  1. Doug Scheer

    This is fantastic. Excellent work. Ironically, the people who get every vaccine and ride their bikes while wearing masks are the same ones who always cry, “Science Matters”

    • Jeremy R. Hammond

      Indeed! They tell us to look at the science, but then when we do and show them what the science really says, they try to shut us up.

  2. Amy Alkon

    This is a huge problem that harms public health in ways few people understand. Thank you. Terrific piece.

  3. Judy Lavendar

    Are you saying that Granholme, a violent anti-Trumper, said to read this and it would make you feel secure in vaccines’ effectiveness so we Michiganders will all be healthier when we get them? And then did she actually read this article? I always wondered why everyone in Michigan drove the speed limit. Now I am beginning to understand. (PS I was born there)

  4. John

    Suppression of others views especially in medicine indicates massive interference by those involved in Big Pharma. If the truth comes out the industry will be punished by the normal clear thinking citizen.

    It is clear throughout our lives there are always those out therewith a vested interest terrified that the truth will expose their lies. So their option is to censor and oppress the opinions of others. They do not want people to think and explore and discern for themselves.

    Thank goodness for people like you.

    • Jeremy R. Hammond

      Indeed, trying to prevent the public from being made aware of other perspectives and opposing facts is all they’ve got because if it came down to an open and honest debate of the facts, they know who would win.

  5. Dr. Jenny Sarver

    I put this article on the post for the newspaper you are talking about. I love you Jeremy Hammond! I wish I had $1000000 to send to you. Thank you for all the work you do!

    • Jeremy R. Hammond

      Thank you! That’s awesome. Although having another look at the post, it appears they’ve censored again.

      • Dr. Jenny Sarver

        They took it down after the first time I posted it. I reposted, and didn’t think anything more of it till I got your email today. Apparently they didn’t like me reposting it either!

        They really truly do not want anyone to think for themselves anymore. It’s too disruptive and might upset their agenda. I am so stinking tired of all of this.

        All I know is that I will continue to educate those will listen. Your material helps me do that. Thank you!


      • Jeremy R. Hammond

        Well, they have now gone so far to prevent their audience from learning the truth that they have deleted their own post, and since it was pure propaganda, I count that as a success. Thanks for taking action!

  6. Richie

    Sadly, most North Americans, including Canada where I live, have been brainwashed by that same media, TV and print, to believe that they report the truth and news when in fact they now “create” the news and push what their billionaire masters tell them to report.
    Censorship is so common that it is viewed as acceptable to “protect” the public from what they are told may be harmful to the public, but it is only harmful to corporate profits.
    Corporate greed has no conscience.

  7. Frank Papp

    Keep up the great work, Jeremy. I may have put this quote from JFK here before but I will add it again.

    “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” – On the issue of censorship, President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech.

  8. John Sutton

    I would hInstead of arguing defensively that you had not violated their comment policy, I believe it would be more effective to play offense, raise the mirror, and show McBain whow he is.

    Ask McBain to explain, in the spirit of understanding, how articles you referenced in The Cochrane Library, Oxford Academic’s Clinical Infectious Diseases Articles, Science DIrect, The National Center for Biotechnology Information, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicince, and other established scientific journals are “theoretically conspiratorial.”

    McBain’s integrity is compromised. He cannot, and will not get into a discussion with you because he knows he has no rational defense. We are in an age of epic disinformation and assaults on educated discourse. The shift we are seeing has nothing to do with rationality though and McBain is just one tiny, insignificant cog in a very large wheel.ave gone on the offense with McBain and asked why


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