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“Censorship!”: The common bogus complaint of science deniers

Once more, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. cries “Censorship!” over efforts to counter COVID-19 and antivaccine disinformation. Hilarity ensues.

One of the interesting (and, to some extent, satisfying) things about having followed the antivaccine movement and other science denialist movements for so long is that, when COVID-19 came along, to some extent I knew what to expect. I knew that the conspiracy theories would come flying fast and furious about the virus, and so they did, with my taking note of them as early as January in the form of a conspiracy theory that the influenza vaccine was responsible for the initial outbreak of the then-novel coronavirus that has since been named SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan, China. There were many other such conspiracy theories, of course, such as that the rollout of 5G was somehow causing COVID-19 (or at least facilitating its spread) to blaming glyphosate (because, you know, GMOs somehow have to be involved) to calling the pandemic a “plandemic,” that was planned and due to the release of a bioengineered coronavirus from a lab near Wuhan, all while launching a pre-emptive disinformation war against any COVID-19 vaccine. Predictably, the “plandemic” narrative took on bizarre forms, such as when über-quack Mike Adams updated his previous “vaccine holocaust” conspiracy theory to become the “oblivion agenda,” in the world’s “elite” (e.g., Bill Gates and others) were conspiring with aliens—yes, aliens!—to introduce a binary bioweapon, of which SARS-CoV-2 was the first stage and a putative coronavirus vaccine will be the second stage, all to depopulate the earth by 94% (he was very precise about this) so that the aliens and the elite could enslave the survivors and exploit the earth’s resources. Of course, at the time, he was, as all cranks do, crying “censorship!” or that he was being somehow “censored” for revealing “The Truth.” I will, admit, however, that even I was surprised at how fast antivaxxers teamed up with QAnon, along with the COVID-19 cranks.

Which brings me back, alas, to antivaccine crank and leader Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. When last we met RFK Jr., he was being interviewed by Alec Baldwin and letting his antivaccine freak flag fly high along his newly hoisted COVID-19 denial and antimask freak flag. This time around, all-purpose quack tycoon and antivaxxer Joseph Mercola is featuring RFK Jr. in yet another video that allows me to point out how seamlessly the COVID-19 conspiracy theorists have not only allied themselves with antivaxxers but have also adopted one of the favorite tropes of antivaxxers, namely that of “censorship,” of how they are being “censored” for their beliefs. This “analysis” by Mercola is entitled Hope Despite Censorship and features this video by RFK Jr. as its jumping off point:

I can’t help but note what I noted last time, namely how RFK Jr. is sitting in what appears to be a library or his office, with lots and lots, and lots of books, very likely included to give the impression to Baldwin and his viewers that he is a Very Serious Person and Not At All A Crank. I mean, look at all the books in his office! When he was doing his interview with Alec Baldwin, I noted how that impression of Seriousness and Purpose was unintentionally subverted through the placement of RFK Jr.’s camera, which wasn’t straight and had the whole room tilted a bit askew. He’s fixed that issue this time, and the bookshelves behind him now line up almost perfectly horizontally, thus helping to reinforce an impression of orderly scholarliness. Obviously, RFK Jr. being RFK Jr., nothing could be further from the truth, as the entire thesis of his talk is how antivaxxers and COVID-19 cranks are “fighting back” against the “censorship” (and, apparently, the COVID-19 lockdown-facilitated incipient fascism he sees) with, of course, The truth.

In a trope that longtime observers of the antivaccine movement will immediately recognize, given how frequently Nazi-ism, fascism, and oppression of all varieties have been invoked by self-proclaimed “health freedom fighters” going back to when I first started taking an interest in quackery and the antivaccine movement, Mercola quotes RFK Jr. invoking the specter of Nazi-ism to warn of impending authoritarianism and totalitarianism using the pretext of the pandemic to seize power and stifle and censor Brave Maverick Truthtellers like himself.

First, Joe Mercola’s introduction:

The speech was a kickoff of sorts to an international day of protest against the coup d’état by big tech, big oil and chemical companies, and “the global public health cartel” led by Bill Gates and the World Health Organization that seeks to magnify its wealth and power over our lives, remove our liberties, subvert democracy and “destroy our sovereignty and our control over our lives and our children’s health.”

Then RFK Jr., invoking Franklin Delano Roosevelt, claims that it is fear of COVID-19 that the “global elites” are wielding to impose their will on the sheeple:

We grow up hearing that but people don’t really understand what it means. It was a very, very profound warning by Roosevelt, because he saw what the Great Depression was doing in eastern Europe, Italy, Germany and Spain. That crisis was turning people towards fascism in the eastern countries.

The same crisis was turning citizens and governments towards communism and also causing the collapse of governments all over the world. In the United States … almost a third of the people were completely disillusioned with capitalism and wanted to turn to communism. Another third wanted to turn to fascism.

Franklin Roosevelt wanted to preserve our country for democracy, for free market capitalism, for civil rights and to preserve our constitution. He recognized that the weapon of authoritarian control was going to be fear.

I’m only surprised that he resisted quoting FDR in full:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Now, before I go on, let me just say that, as is the case with a lot of conspiracy theory propaganda, be it antivaccine, COVID-19 denying, or whatever, RFK Jr. starts with a germ of a reasonable point here about “censorship” and “control” in that, yes, fear is a tool wielded by dictators and authoritarians of all stripes, not just Nazis, to control the populace. It’s just that, like all cranks, RFK Jr. can’t resist taking that germ of a semi-reasonable point and running straight off the cliff with it and onto the rocks of bad Nazi analogies:

When I spoke a few weeks ago in Berlin, I reminded the people of Germany of a famous story that happened during the Nuremberg trials after World War II when Hitler’s closest Lieutenant, the head of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Goering, was asked by one of the prosecutors:

‘How did you get the German people, the most educated people in the world, some of the most tolerant people in the world — the Weimar republic was one of the strongest democracies in the world — how did you take these people who were so well educated, so awakened and so tolerant, and turn them into obedient slaves who committed some of the worst atrocities in human history?’

Goering said, ‘Oh, that’s a simple thing … and it works not just in a fascist government but it works in a democracy, in a monarchy, in a communist government, in any government … The job of the government is to put the people in fear, and if you can keep them in fear, you can get them to do anything that you want them to do. They will turn into sheep.

Nazis. It had to be Nazis. Because antivaxxers love to invoke the Nazi regime when discussing any sort of public health intervention. Before the pandemic, it was any attempt to tighten up school vaccine mandates by eliminating nonmedical exemptions, such as religious and “personal belief” exemptions that would send antivaxxers into paroxysms of Godwin. Since the pandemic has started, the triggers that pushes antivaxxers and their new allies, the COVID-19 denialist cranks, into paroxysms of Godwin have expanded to include pretty much any public health intervention that would require any sacrifice whatsoever by the public, even a sacrifice as minor as wearing a mask in public places to slow the spread of COVID-19. Any pushback against their disinformation is viewed as “censorship,” a prelude to violent authoritarian suppression of their speech, to be followed (of course!) by fascistic imposition of these public health interventions as a pretext to take away the rest of their freedoms.

Unsurprisingly, Mercola references a concept called the “shock doctrine,” which comes from Naomi Klein’s book of the same name and describes how authoritarians have capitalized on disasters in order to exert and augment their control over the populace. Now, certainly it is true that dictators and tyrants do take advantage of disaster to increase their power. Just think how Adolf Hitler, less than a month after having been sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, used the Reichstag fire to consolidate his power and turbocharge his progress towards imposing a dictatorship on Germany by getting President Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended most civil liberties in Germany, including those of habeas corpus, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right of free association and public assembly, and the secrecy of the post and telephone. There are numerous other examples throughout history, some even in our own country, such as the Patriot Act after 9/11, which, although not totalitarian, did expand the government’s surveillance power markedly.

You can see where this is going, as Mercola quotes RFK Jr. thusly:

In order to transform the government so that it will reward the rich with even more wealth, the people who want to do that, in the large corporations … have to get rid of civil rights. And the first civil right they begin with is freedom of speech

And then continues:

The reason why totalitarian takeovers always begin with the censorship of speech is because all other rights depend on the ability to express your views and concerns freely. That’s why freedom of speech is the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Remove the First Amendment, and all the others are automatically nullified.

For example, without free speech, you cannot exercise your freedom of assembly. Indeed, today, people are being arrested for being in groups larger than six, or 10, or whatever arbitrary number has been dictated by the local or state leadership to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Yes, they went there, as they were always going to. Mercola quotes RFK Jr. in order to emphasize that this is where antivaxxers and COVID-19 cranks were always going:

The coup d’état that we are all fighting today is a coup d’état that starts with a conspiracy between the government agencies and the big technology companies, the Silicon Valley billionaires.

People like Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, the people who run Google, Facebook and Pinterest and all of these other Silicon Valley corporations are now in this conspiracy to make sure that we cannot talk about our grievances,” Kennedy says. “We cannot say bad things about pharmaceutical products, we cannot question government policies that make no sense to us.

Again, there is a difference between reasonable (and, more importantly, temporary) public health measures to control a viral pandemic that is infecting millions and killing hundreds of thousands in the US and whose growth is currently exponential in many locales and intentional restrictions of public gatherings for purposes of suppressing dissent. Moreover, in 2020, there are many virtual platforms by which people can gather without spreading coronavirus. Indeed, it is some of those very platforms that greatly facilitate the spread of conspiracy theories, misinformation, pseudoscience, and disinformation about COVID-19. Ironically, Mercola is using those methods in the form of his website and social media accounts, and RFK Jr. is using YouTube to spread his message. (Speaking of which, WTF, Google? Why is RFK Jr. still on YouTube? You said you were going to crack down on antivaccine disinformation!) One final observation, too: In the US, at least, it is the federal government that is most resistant to simple public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, be they masking, social distancing, or, when things get really bad, various degrees of “lockdown.”

As for RFK Jr., his claim that there is a conspiracy among Silicon Valley corporations to make sure that “we cannot say bad things about pharmaceutical products” is risible on its face. After all, antivaxxers aren’t just “saying bad things about pharmaceutical products.” They’re spreading active, demonstrably untrue misinformation about vaccines and other pharmaceutical products, with the intent to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about them. In fact, I suspect that many of the worse “superspreaders” of COVID-19 disinformation know that they’re peddling bullshit, making them superspreaders of disinformation.

RFK Jr. is then quoted as going on to some of his “COVID-19 nonsense greatest hits,” such as his “just asking questions” (i.e., JAQing off) about the “origin” of SARS-CoV-2, even though in March the sequencing of the genetic code of the virus showed quite conclusively that it was not the product of laboratory manipulation and almost certainly did arise naturally. None of this stops RFK Jr. and Mercola from pointing to Luc Montagnier, who suffers from perhaps the worst case of Nobel Disease of any Nobel Laureate given his proclivities towards antivaccine pseudoscience, quack autism cures, and homeopathy, and his embrace of the conspiracy theory that SARS-CoV-2 was created in a laboratory.

Then, of course, RFK Jr. (and Mercola, naturally) are antimask too and tout unproven treatments for COVID-19; so Mercola quotes RFK Jr. again about “censorship”:

I’m very willing to accept it if the masks work … But the studies I’ve seen indicate that they do not work against viral transmission, for the most part. There are some that say they may work under limited circumstances. What I don’t want to be told is: ‘They work, you’re going to wear them and you better not ask questions about it.”

Most Americans, and most of the people on this planet, want leadership. We don’t want bullying. And we know the difference between bullying and leadership. We want to know the truth about hydroxychloroquine. We want to know, why are we spending $18 billion on vaccines and only $1.4 billion on therapeutic drugs? What is the sense of that?

There are many, many other questions that we, in a democracy, have a right to have answered without being called conspiracy theorists. Without being vilified as being ‘inconsiderate’ or being ‘bad citizens.’

No, masks work to slow the spread of COVID-19, and evidence that this is true has been becoming stronger, not weaker, as the pandemic has worn on. A large and growing body of observational evidence that suggests that masks decrease the likelihood of disease transmission at least several-fold, misinformation and disinformation about masks and COVID-19notwithstanding. (Nor do masks make you sick, as some COVID-19 cranks claim.)

Meanwhile, hydroxychloroquine is, as I have called it, the Black Knight of COVID-19 treatments. No matter how many randomized, controlled, double-blinded clinical trials show that it doesn’t work to improve survival in seriously ill COVID-19 patients, to prevent hospitalization or progression in less severe cases of COVID-19, or to prevent COVID-19 in those exposed to the virus, cranks like RFK Jr. point to earlier, less rigorous observational studies to keep claiming that the drug works, while outright astroturfers continue to promote the narrative that evidence that hydroxychloroquine is a highly effective treatment for coronavirus is being “suppressed.”

RFK Jr. also asks a really dumb question:

Most Americans, and most of the people on this planet, want leadership. We don’t want bullying. And we know the difference between bullying and leadership. We want to know the truth about hydroxychloroquine. We want to know, why are we spending $18 billion on vaccines and only $1.4 billion on therapeutic drugs? What is the sense of that?

There’s a very good reason for that. Viruses are notoriously difficult to treat with drugs. That’s why there are so few effective antiviral medications compared to the number of antibiotics, which target pathogenic bacteria. The biggest bang for the buck and the most powerful tool against COVID-19 will be a vaccine, particularly given that, unlike the case for antiviral medications, there are lots of safe and effective vaccines against viral illnesses. The best hope to end the pandemic is prevention of viral transmission, not treatment of those already symptomatic from COVID-19 infection. I’m sure that pointing that out to RFK Jr. will be labeled as “censorship.”

And, of course, course, RFK Jr. cries “Censorship!” Referring to Mark Zuckerberg, RFK Jr. rants:

He censors my Instagram. He censors my Facebook. My Twitter page is also censored. And all of these people are the people who are making billions of dollars on the quarantine. And what I want to know is a simple question: Is the quarantine actually effective?

I can’t help but note that Zuckerberg doesn’t own Twitter, but whatever. It doesn’t stop RFK Jr. from JAQing off about quarantines and making dubious comparisons:

We have 1.6 million people die every year from tuberculosis,” he says. “We’re not wearing masks. We’re not on lockdown. What’s the difference between tuberculosis and coronavirus?

Tuberculosis has a vaccine and the vaccine costs about $3. That’s why we’re not on lockdown. Because nobody is making $39 a vaccine or $300 a vaccine, the way Moderna and AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are making from this catastrophe. That is the only reason that I can think of. I’m happy if somebody tells me there’s another reason. But let’s hear it. Don’t just shut me up. Don’t just tell me that I can’t debate.

OK, I’ll tell RFK Jr. another reason (other reasons, actually), not that, even if he sees this, he’ll pay attention: We’re not on lockdown due to tuberculosis because (1) there is no massive widespread community transmission of tuberculosis resulting in exponential growth of cases and (2) there are effective antibiotic treatments for tuberculosis. (I’m sure others can think of more reasons.) If RFK Jr. actually reads this (unlikely), no doubt he’ll say I’m defending “censorship.”

Of course, all “superspreaders” of disinformation label any attempt to counter their disinformation as “censorship.” That’s how disinformation works. It’s a feature, not a bug, to demonize those trying to combat the untruth and distorted information in disinformation campaigns as “censorship” by oppressors. This is a longstanding trope of the antivaccine movement (witness, for instance, Barbara Loe Fisher’s labeling such efforts as “McCarthyism” prepandemic).

That makes it particularly ironic to see RFK Jr. saying this about “censorship,” and I’m going to quote extensively because of its disingenuousness:

We are going to weaponize information for you. We’re going to tell you what the newest science is. We’re going to take all the information that is censored everywhere else and we’re going to reprint it in our publication, and you can get that every day.

So, if you see something that is censored, we want to hear about it. We are going to be the enemies of censorship. We are going to be the refuge. And we’re going to allow debate. We’re going to encourage people to be non-partisan, but we’re going to allow people to have different opinions than us.

We are not scared of debate the way pharmaceutical companies, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeffrey Bezos and Tony Fauci are terrified of debate.

We welcome debate … and I want to see your science. I want the public to hear us talking about it, debating about it, because the free-flow of information, the cauldron of debate, is the only thing that allows governments to develop rational policies in which self-governance will actually work and triumph.

You are on the front lines of the most important battle in history — the battle to save democracy, freedom, human liberty and human dignity from this totalitarian cartel that is trying to rob us, simultaneously, in every nation in the world, of the rights that every human being is born with.

So, thank you for your courage, thank you for your commitment, and thank you for your brotherhood. And I pledge to you: I will go down dying with my boots on, fighting side-by-side with all of you to make sure that we return these rights and preserve them for our children.

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!

I’m also amused at someone as privileged and pampered as RFK Jr. asserting how he’ll “die with his boots on” over “censorship” and attempts to combat his disinformation. (Yes, I’m laughing at him, just as I laughed at Del Bigtree when he was in Michigan four years ago ranting about how “we will die for freedom today” in the context of fighting our state’s school vaccine mandate and against “censorship.” (Histrionic, much, Del and RFK?)

Unfortunately, RFK Jr.’s promise that he is going to “weaponize information for you” is no joking matter. You’ll almost never hear someone defending science and science-based medicine refer to “weaponizing” information (at least I can’t recall ever having heard someone on “my side” say something like that), because that’s not the way we think. However, those who deny science do view information as a weapon, and when they refer to “weaponizing information,” in reality what they are referring to is weaponizing disinformation in order to attack the science they know that they can’t refute using the actual methods of science. (After all, if they could refute accepted science with the methods and tools of science, they would do that, but they can’t. So they don’t.) That is why they view pushback against their disinformation as “censorship.”

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

55 replies on ““Censorship!”: The common bogus complaint of science deniers”

It’s ironic that Covid-19 deniers/antivaxers spend so much time whining about censorship in a seemingly endless series of books, videos and interviews widely available on the Internet.

When searching for the alleged Goering quote about fear from the Nuremberg trials, I can only find a couple of references to RFK Jr. citing it (one such reference is on the website of the Organic Consumers Association, an anti-GMO and antivaccine organization). Maybe Goering did say that to someone sometime, but it’d be nice to see confirmation that it wasn’t made up.

The irony of course is that RFK Jr. and other antivaxers depend heavily on fear mongering to sell their message. Pot, meet kettle.

We do know that Goring said something about ( paraphrase) telling a big enough lie and repeating it often enough so that people begin to believe it.

Which sounds about right for anti-vaxxers.

@ Juilan:

You’re correct: I mixed up my Nazis
HOWEVER stack exchange/ history says that Adolf said it first then Gobbels

I believe the exchange was between Goering and Gustave Gilbert, in Gilbert’s “Nuremberg Diary”. Can’t find an on-line version.

The Goering quote is real, but not from the trial. He was in conversation with Gustav Gilbert, a US Army psychologist who was interviewing the defendants. It’s not at all relevant to RFK Jr’s disinformation.

Hermann Goering interviewed by Gustav Gilbert

Nuremberg Diary, 1947, pp. 278-279

“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

“Oh, that is all well and good, but voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

I’d thought the Goering quote might have been from the Gilbert interview, but the part you cited is different from what RFK Jr. alleges Goering said (about manipulating people through fear and turning them into sheep).

Speaking of hydroxychloroquine, one of its biggest boosters, Didier Raoult is going to face a French physician disciplinary panel over his claims. From The Guardian:

“A group representing 500 specialists of France’s Infectious Diseases Society (SPILF) filed a complaint with the national order of doctors of the Bouche-du-Rhône department, which includes Marseille, in July. They accused Raoult of breaking nine rules of the doctors’ code of ethics. Other doctors and patients have also lodged complaints.”

The cries of “censorship!” will intensify. Maybe Simone Gold will write another book on medical “cancel culture”.

RFK, you want to see governments trying to use the pandemics to introduce authoritarian regime? Welcome to Poland. Our government has been trying to tighten anti-abortion laws (which are already very tight), because it’s the pandemics and no one’s going to protest in the streets, right? Well, people got angry and started protesting, which is of course dangerous from the epidemic point of view but most protesters at least wear masks. So the government is trying to blame the increasing number of cases on the protests, even though it is their own gross negligence and incompetence that is the reason.
And Hungarian government is going even further, from what I’ve read, and are on a verge of becoming a dictatorship. So cry me a river, RFK.

So the government is trying to blame the increasing number of cases on the protests, even though it is their own gross negligence and incompetence that is the reason.

Reminds me of the leader of another country that has the dubious distinction of having both the highest number of cases and the highest number of deaths in the world.

Obviously there are no ghosts, or else RFK would be haunting his son–and sorting him out hopefully.

Fringe religions do the same thing–their literature is full of the “censorship” equivalent–Persecution! It’s not always just the fringies either.

“Franklin Roosevelt wanted to preserve our country for democracy, for free market capitalism”

It’s my understanding that serious free market capitalists hate FDR. His practically considered a socialist by some. But, I can see why a Kennedy might not get that.

The New Deal was anything but free market capitalism. FDRs economic policies were much more middle of the road. He was a Democrat after all.

I am increasingly getting the impression the RFK, Jr is not all that intelligent. Or perhaps just profoundly ignorant.

In his Berlin speech, RFK jr doubted that there were Nazis in the audience!

I wonder how he juggles ideologies:
he brags about his lineage JFK, RFK- 1960s liberals(?) and Democrats in his family- he worked with environmentalists ( river projects) and hangs out with Hollywood types ( Larry David- Larry David!– introduced him to his current wife, Cheryl Hines) he moved from east coast to west and lives in Beverly Hills-
and then, his anti-vax activities take him closer to Trump and Co.
THEN, he’s a lawyer courting potential clients from glyphosate and vaccines.

Then, it seems to me that many anti-vaxxers and woosters have drifted right in the past few years- is it their true belief ( less taxes! less regulation!) or a way to attract an increasingly vocal segment of the population? Not one of the people I survey expressed relief that Trump was voted out of office. Not one. Quite the contrary.

“Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach.” — Somebody Somewhen

It doesn’t feel right that all the competing various ideologies fracture into their own little bubbles but, dammit, right now I’d not like to see a group that instead of doing ‘the wave’ does a mass sneezing and shouts “AEROSOLS” in Rupp Arena. And I suppose that some argument could be made that such large platforms have, in a sense, become our collective vocal cords.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s got his nipples in a twist over speech, algorithms, and platforms but I think he’s reading section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act wrongly: 230 is what allowed moderation in the first place. Whereas, before, doing so would separate a ‘platform’ from a ‘publisher’ which could then be held liable for what users spew on his pages.

Some butt-hurt ‘censured’ conservatives have sought out a safe space on Voat and it is not going well for them. They set up their sub and then some member “freedom words” and “Woah, dude! Not out loud; I’m banning you.” Oopsie, no ban mechanism. No ‘save space’.

“All the exciting insanity present on Voat – it’s like Reddit, but more worser.” r/VOATinAction is not for the, umm, culturaly sensitive.

That is what happened then without 230. What will happen now is that comment sections will become few and far between. Just another ‘conservative’ stealth self-own.

But that assumes, falsely, there there is a solution that is just “hire more moderators.” This is a riff on the standard “nerd harder” idea, but it’s equally nonsensical. We’re right back to the Masnick Impossibility Theorem. He’s assuming there’s some optimal level of content moderation that can be reached by just throwing more resources at it. There is not. He might as well be suggesting that the answer to all the bigots in the world is for Hollywood to hire more Sacha Baron Cohens until they expose them all. It’s a silly suggestion that makes no sense.

Furthermore, it doesn’t take into account a much larger issue that has been the subject of many discussions among content moderation experts: the human cost of content moderation. It takes a huge toll on people’s lives to sit them in front of computers and make it their job to look at the worst stuff being posted. And Sacha Baron Cohen wants to force more people to do that job? Really?

“We want to know the truth about hydroxychloroquine.”

“Okay, here’s the truth about hydroxychloroquine…”

“Not THAT truth!”

When I spoke a few weeks ago in Berlin

RFK Jnr is referring to a COVID-denial event in Berlin where he shared the podium with literal, non-hyperbolic, unabashed Nazis. RFK Jnr climbed into bed with Nazis. He’s a quisling.

SO I am happy to defer to his recollections of what Goering said.

My views and family traditions on Nazi collaborators date back to the old country, and would probably fall foul of Orac’s moderation policies.

Just mildly off-topic:

Heard a great episode of what I think was “I Almost Got Away With It’ on the drive home today, which nearly qualified as an especially spicy addition to the Holistic Murders List.

It involved a falling-out between partners in an aromatherapy business, one of whom repeatedly shot up the victim’s house, once shattering the mirror over a crib and cutting the infant occupant. The guilty party (an ex-sheriff’s deputy in the detention unit) was caught on a security camera and arrested on multiple charges. She fled the jurisdiction (Florida, not unsurprisingly), went to Mexico, got plastic surgery and later returned to the U.S. under a false identity but was captured after being featured on “America’s Most Wanted”. In an interview she was…less than contrite, blaming the victim and also claiming that mercury fumes (from dental fillings??) had wafted up to her brain and given her “Mad Hatter’s Syndrome”, so she wasn’t really responsible for her actions.

She’s currently doing a 20-year-sentence but could be out on parole in 8 years or so.

Surprisingly she has not yet been featured as a martyr on Health Nut News.

Young people these days! /sarcasm

Nothing makes you feel your age when icons of our youth are forgotten. And, of course, I get confused by popular stuff now. A couple of years ago when moving youngest to yet another college town, there was a request to see the Pokemon movie. Apparently twenty-somethings have not grown out of that. When the movie was over all I could ask the kid was: What did you make me just watch?

It was similar to the reaction all three of my kids gave me when I had them watch “The Raven” with Vincent Price (I thought they would enjoy the magic duel, which is what the duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars reminded me of).

Young people these days! /sarcasm

Nothing makes you feel your age when icons of our youth are forgotten.

Which is why I included a YouTube video of the very scene in Animal House where Bluto utters that immortal line! Kids these days can’t even click on a YouTube video when it’s spoonfed to them. At least, that kid couldn’t. Most kids are not that lazy.?

I know. That is during this time that the good news is that we are retired. And the bad news is that we are living off of our savings (by the way, only an idiot relies on the stock market… it is just a gauge on wishes).

Remember, there is only one other alternative to growing old. Coming from a family with a stroke issue, I prevent that by taking my blood pressure meds, watching my diet and exercising.

Oddly enough, I used to roll my eyes at my kids watching South Park twenty years ago. They did outgrow that after turning twenty years old or so.

Ohh. That just cuts deep. One does not ‘grow out’ of South Park, one grows into it. And you are a bad, bad hippy parent for letting your kids watch it before the age of 14. Probably never even let them have a real cat.

20, huu? That would be about the age where ‘cartoons’ are no longer entertainment (except for weirdly drawn, big busted, weird profile, lascivious animae persons) but instead the “I don’t have time for current events” stage of maturing moth chrysalis. Fukkin’ normies.

Aw… you poor tortured snowflake. By the way, I am too young to have been a hippy. Baby boomers encompassed a long period… those of us that are younger saw the damage caused by high mortgage interests rates (our first house was 14%), and Reaganomics (buy a company, and then fire everyone!… stop supporting college tuition… I paid $250 three times a year, students three years later it was closer to $2000 three times a year!, and they were still considered “Boomers”).

@ Tim:

Unlike many of my cohort though I have grown to actively dislike a great deal of the music of earlier periods** and I try hard to find newer stuff on satellite radio/ television.
I am a fan of South Park although they may contain lots of stupid crap ( and actual crap) they usually make a point that’s quite meaningful. At random, I just watched the episode of Butters in Hawaii- it’s ridiculous BUT also
— a salient critique of white people appropriating native culture, yuppie resort developments and cruise ship culture
— Kenny is portrayed writing about his discovery of the islands like a 19th Century explored compleat with a burning candle and a cultivated, comprehensible voice

I’ve often noted that before I visited Colorado I though that SP was just a cartoon when it can actually be astute social criticism.- re “red neck/ hippie towns”

At any rate, music and art can originate in any time period and still be relevant; we don’t need to restrict ourselves to pop culture only.
-btw- YOU know lots of stuff as shown by your links-some ridiculous, some sublime.

** probably because I’ve heard it so many times I can anticipate each note.

LoL. Sank the cruise ship with a golf ball.


Wouldn’t it be nice if institutions of higher learning could fund studenting by, say, selling cookies or, idk, the billions of dollars flowing through their athletics programs.

Real humans are injured for entertainment and only rarely get paid (through scholarship).

I so apologize about that media monarchy link, Denise. It is like someone is shitting in my ears and not at all what it was just a couple years ago.

@ Chris:

Weren’t the 1980s just super?
Reagan, Trickle Down, Thatcher, bad fashion, worship of money, etc etc etc Don’t get me started. The beginnings of what we’re seeing now politically, economically, culturally.

Off-topic, but never mind. I hope everyone shares my delight in the news that the retracted “Wake up Sheeple!” paper has found a new home. Republished under the editorial aegis of Christopher Exley, as part of a Special Issue of ‘Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry’ devoted to the 13th ‘Keele Meetings on Aluminium’ that he organises.

@ Smut Clyde – what a surprise!


It’s as bad as the Zevlenko “study” published in a special issue of an Elsevier rag with one Didier Raoult as the editor. Various busy little people touting it in social media as proof positive that HCQ works.

Where’s the vomit emoji when you need it?

I expect the Keele Aluminium Meetings stopped being objective years ago, but you know they have sunk to a new low when Del Bigtree gets a spot on the program.

They also invited Claire Dwoskin to chair a session – or perhaps she paid for the privilege.

Looking through the rest of the program, the “Sheeple” study gets three platform sessions and a film! Other speakers on the “Scientific Programme” include Gayle DeLong, Kim Mack Rosenberg, Esq., and one Dan Steinberg, blogger.

The Trump administration is more like the Nazi than anything else in American history. Fear of (legal) immigrants, fear of Black Lives Matter, fear of Antifa, fear of voter fraud, fear of the Chinese conspiracy to infect us with a harmless “flu,” fear that masks will somehow make us communist robots. We’ve even got the blood libel back.

In order to transform the government so that it will reward the rich with even more wealth

Wait, what?

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