On September 11, USA Today published an article with a headline declaring, “Fact check: Fauci, Gates, Epstein and Soros have no ties to drug company Moderna”.
But that headline was false.
Both Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and member of the White House coronavirus task force, and Bill Gates do have ties to Moderna, a pharmaceutical company developing a COVID-19 vaccine using mRNA technology.
The article does rightly identify misinformation presented in a video widely shared on social media.
With respect to Fauci, USA Today notes that the video’s claim that Fauci was the first CEO of Moderna is false. Nevertheless, Fauci does have ties to Moderna.
Similarly, the article notes that the video’s claim that Fauci and Gates were college roommates is false. But Gates, too, nevertheless does have direct ties to Moderna.
In fact, USA Today contradicts its own headline by acknowledging that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “is listed as one of Moderna’s collaborators” on the company’s page at the investor website Flagship Pioneering.
The closest connection USA Today acknowledges with Fauci is his having been “a co-reviewer of a vaccine platform Moderna is working to improve”, as indicated by a 2019 Shareholder Letter. This refers to a review of vaccine technologies Fauci coauthored that was published last year in the journal Nature Reviews Immunology.
Although USA Today doesn’t mention it, the same letter, under the subheading “Partnerships”, mentions having $187 million in funding from grants, with a footnote reference. The footnote specifies that the grants are from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
That both Fauci and Gates have close ties to Moderna is no secret. Having encountered the headline in a news feed, I knew it was false and so did a quick Google search to document its falsity. It took about ten seconds to fact check USA Today’s “Fact Check”.
My search immediately turned up a page published in March on the website of the NIAID, which operates under the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announcing the beginning of a phase one clinical trial for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. The webpage notes that Fauci’s NIAID is “funding the trial.”
Furthermore, Moderna’s candidate vaccine “was developed by NIAID scientists and their collaborators” at Moderna.
The page quotes Fauci saying that the trial was “an important step” toward developing “a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2”.
Similarly, I was able to immediately pull up a page from Moderna’s website listing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a “strategic collaborator”, with the foundation having “entered a global health project framework agreement” in January 2016 “to advance mRNA-based development projects for various infectious disases.”
I emailed the author and the corrections editor on September 13 to request that they correct their false headline and acknowledge the NIAID’s partnership with Moderna, in accordance with USA Today’s code of ethics.
I also pointed out that, even if they were unaware of that partnership, since the collaboration between the Gates Foundation and Moderna is acknowledged in the article, they knew that their headline was false. I also noted the hypocrisy of fact checking others while willfully misinforming the public themselves.
Two days later, I received a reply from the author, Chelsey Cox, thanking me for my comments but sticking to the headline with the reasoning that “The headline reflects the analysis of the claim subject to fact-checking.”
I replied, “It does not follow that since the claims about Fauci and Gates subject to fact-checking are false that therefore they have ‘no ties’ to Moderna. That is a non sequitur fallacy. Indeed, you point out yourself in the article that Gates does have ties to Moderna, his foundation being partnered with the company. The headline is false and should, by USA Today’s own ethical guidelines, be corrected.”
She responded later that day to let me know that she’d gotten an editor’s approval to change the headline, which now reads, “Fact check: Moderna post makes false claims about Fauci, Gates, Soros, Epstein”. (That’s also not a great title since it makes it sounds as though Moderna itself was spreading the misinformation, but at least the false claim about Fauci and Gates having “no ties” to Moderna was removed.)
USA Today did not publish an acknowledgement of the error and did not update the article to acknowledge that Fauci, like Gates, is partnered with Moderna in the development of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Who Will Fact-Check the Mainstream Media?
The spread of misinformation is a serious problem in our society today. But the mainstream narrative is that it’s coming from individuals on social media or alternative media websites. The reality is that the greatest purveyors of misinformation are the government and mainstream media.
Notice that the mainstream media’s self-proclaimed “fact checkers” don’t fact check each other despite endless opportunities to do so. Instead, they focus on “debunking” information from alternative sources.
The use of the term “fake news” is illustrative. The corporate media accuse alternative sources of propagating “fake news” to maintain their own dominance as purveyors of misinformation, such as the unevidenced conspiracy theory propagated by the New York Times that the Russian government hacked the US election infrastructure in 2016.
To illustrate, a New York Times editorial published in November 2019 pointed out that oppressive regimes had been using the term to dismiss criticisms over human rights violations, then blamed this phenomenon on Donald Trump for having repeatedly referred to mainstream media sources as propagating “fake news”. It was Trump, they alleged, who gave rise to “the epithet of ‘fake news’ as a weapon”.
But that was a blatant lie. In fact, it was the New York Times and other mainstream media who had weaponized the term “fake news” by attacking online independent journalism that threatens both the business model of the major corporate media and the political agendas those corporations tend to align themselves with.
In this case, mainstream media’s political agenda was to manufacture consent for the censorship of information from alternative media sources on social media.
When Donald Trump started using the term “fake news”, he was mockingly throwing their own label back at them to emphasize their hypocrisy.
That episode was in keeping with the function of the media outlined by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their seminal treatise Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.
So-called “fact check” articles frequently fulfil this function by misinforming the public.
For example, a Lead Stories “fact check” cited by Facebook to flag a post about the infection fatality rate of SARS-CoV-2 as false was itself guilty of lying, falsely claiming that it was a frightening 1.3 percent when that figure was not even an estimate of the infection fatality rate.
For another example, the website FactCheck.org has falsely claimed that the mercury used in flu shots, and formerly in numerous other vaccines on the CDC’s routine childhood schedule, is harmless and that science has proven that vaccines don’t cause autism. The website’s source for these assertions was the CDC’s website and a 2004 review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The CDC in turn also cites several observational studies and the IOM review. Yet the IOM in fact acknowledged that the mercury-based preservative thimerosol is a “known neurotoxin” that “accumulates in the brain” and “can injure the nervous system”.
The IOM also acknowledged that the hypothesis that vaccines can contribute to the development of autism in susceptible children cannot be excluded by observational studies and, moreover, that none of the studies included in their review were actually designed to test that hypothesis.
Censorship of truthful information is a growing problem.
In February 2019, Congressman Adam B. Schiff sent letters to the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Amazon, essentially calling on these companies to help the government censor any information about vaccines that wasn’t in line with the goals of public vaccine policy.
Ostensibly, the purpose was to combat “misinformation” about vaccines, but his criteria applied only to what he termed “anti-vaccine” information and were inclusive of any information, no matter truthful and well-grounded in science, that might lead parents to “decline to follow the recommended vaccination schedule.”
Schiff himself blatantly lied about vaccine safety in the letter by asserting that there is “no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases”.
In keeping with that perceived duty, Facebook has, for example, flagged a post saying that vaccines can cause encephalopathy as “False”, citing a “fact check” article by Health Feedback. (Encephalopathy encompasses any type of brain damage, disorder or disease, including encephalitis, or brain inflammation.)
Yet the vaccine manufacturer Merck in its bestselling medical textbook the Merck Manual states explicitly that “Encephalitis can occur as a secondary immunologic complication of certain viral infections or vaccinations.”
And the US government, under its Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which along with legal immunity for vaccine manufacturers serves to shift the financial burden for injuries away from the pharmaceutical companies and onto the taxpaying consumers, lists encephalopathy and encephalitis as compensable vaccine injuries.
In a famous case, a girl named Hannah Poling developmentally regressed into diagnosed autism after receiving nine vaccine doses at once at 19 months of age. The government acknowledged the vaccinations “significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder.”
Another Facebook “Fact Check” cites an AFP article and a Lead Stories article to flag a video as false for reporting that the World Health Organization’s chief scientist had been caught lying to the public about vaccine safety. Both “Fact Check” articles denied that the WHO chief scientist had lied.
Yet neither of those articles bothered to explain how the report was untrue when the scientist had in fact claimed in a WHO video published on YouTube that “robust vaccine safety systems” exist in countries around the globe that enable scientists working closely with the WHO to ensure that vaccines are administered “without risks” only to admit a few days later to her colleagues in a WHO meeting that “we cannot overemphasize the fact that we really don’t have very good safety monitoring systems in many countries” and that the risk of serious adverse events being discovered only after a vaccine is on the market is “always there”.
The push for censorship of inconvenient truths has gotten so bad that a study in the journal Vaccine has equated even messages that simply emphasize that we have a right to informed consent with vaccine “misinformation”.
That study was widely cited by the media as having shown that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s organization Children’s Health Defense was the top spreader of vaccine “misinformation” via Facebook ads even though it didn’t produce even a single example of such an ad.
Ironically, the study did produce an example of a “pro-vaccine” ad that the authors had no problem with even though it falsely communicated that science had proven that the HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer when, in truth, as noted in January in a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, none of the clinical trials used by the manufacturers to obtain licensure were designed to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness against cervical cancer, and whether the vaccine prevents cancer remains unknown.
It’s Up to Us to Hold the Media Accountable
The problem of censorship and mainstream misinformation is a serious one with frightening implications. Just as mainstream misinformation manufactured consent for the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, so is it being used today to manufacture consent for extreme and harmful “lockdown” measures in response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and for vaccine mandates.
Together, these political agendas pushed by the mainstream media raise the threat that any COVID-19 vaccine that goes through the FDA’s vaccine approval process to get to market will me mandated.
We must fight against that authoritarian agenda.
There are a number of things you can do to help fight this threat.
First, don’t spread misinformation on social media. Think critically, question your own assumptions, and check your confirmation bias. Take the time to try to verify information to make sure it checks out. We do not want to be legitimizing accusations of spreading misinformation because it plays right into the hands of those who wish to censor our voices.
Second, do keep spreading truthful information that the establishment wants to keep from the public. Social media is a very useful tool for circumventing the gatekeepers and challenging mainstream propaganda narratives. That’s precisely why people like Congressman Adam Schiff want social media platforms like Facebook to censor information on behalf of the government. When you read quality articles containing important and verifiable information that mainstream media consumers just aren’t otherwise getting, be sure to share it.
Third, when you encounter media content that is misinforming the public, make an effort to hold them accountable. Write to the authors and editors to respectfully request corrections to false information, providing them with any documentation necessary to prove that their claims are untrue. (I thank my own readers for identifying errors in my own writings on occasion, which I correct with published acknowledgments.)
Fourth, when you encounter mainstream misinformation, hold it up as an example to educate others about how they are being deceived and how the media tend to serve the function of manufacturing consent for harmful government policies. Share the information and explain to your friends, family, and followers on social media why the claim or narrative is false and what the truth is.
You don’t have to be an independent journalist to take a stand and take action against the threats posed by mainstream misinformation and propaganda narratives. We all have an important role to play in seeking truth and spreading it for the betterment of humanity.
You may find yourself personally attacked for speaking out. But with knowledge comes the confidence to face the bullies who will call you names and attack your character rather than substantively addressing your legitimate argument.
You may also find yourself censored. Facebook has penalized my page, for example, for sharing a few pieces of content it falsely flagged as misinformative while itself spreading misinformation through its supposed “fact check” articles.
For another example, on a local newspaper’s post quoting Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, encouraging people to get a flu shot, I commented by stating findings from studies that didn’t align with that policy goal and sharing links to those studies in the medical literature; and the newspaper responded by deleting my comments and banning me from their page. So, I fought back by encouraging my readers to confront them for censoring science to push flu shots, and they ultimately resorted to censoring themselves and deleting their post to prevent their audience from learning the truth about both the science and their cowardly and intellectually dishonest censorship.
There is an information war on. We must all do our part to educate ourselves and share empowering knowledge with others. We must also hold media institutions accountable to a higher standard. Our future depends on it.