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Brownstone Institute

President von der Leyen’s WEF Speech is Sheer Manipulation

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8 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute

BY David ThunderDAVID THUNDER

If there is one thing the past few years have taught us, it is that the people applying “misinformation” rules (e.g. the “fact-checkers”) are often the ones lying to or deceiving the public

In a recent address to the World Economic Forum, EU President Ursula von der Leyen, citing the WEF’s annual “global risk report,” pointed to “misinformation and disinformation” as the greatest risks facing the global business community at this time. These risks are “serious,” in her view, “because they limit our ability to tackle the big global challenges we are facing” – climate, demographics and technological changes, and “spiraling regional conflicts and intensified geopolitical competition.”

The answer to the risks of “misinformation” and “disinformation,” in President von der Leyen’s estimation, is for “businesses and governments” to “work together” to get a grip on the problem. Though von der Leyen does not use the word “censorship” in her address, the example she offers of businesses and governments “working together” is the European Digital Services Act, which imposes a legal requirement upon large online platforms like X/Twitter and Meta/Facebook to censor misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech.

Few would question the claim that artificial intelligence, bots, and various malicious actors can leverage social media and other digital “information highways” to confuse, disorient, and manipulate citizens. However, the President of the European Commission, like any smart politician, knows how to milk a crisis to expand her own power, and her January 16th speech at Davos was a tour de force in crisis manipulation.

She could have used her unique position of leadership to underline the true nature of the threat of disinformation, which is a threat coming from all directions – not just from malicious private actors, but from governments that run “information” campaigns designed to harness people’s primal instincts, most notably fear and solidarity, in support of their preferred policies. Ms von der Leyen could have used her platform to caution her audience about the dangers of handing the keys to the internet to a handful of poweful actors with an evident interest in silencing their critics.

But instead, acting in true political form, President von der Leyen presented an utterly self-serving, one-sided, and dishonest picture of the risks of “disinformation” and “misinformation,” reminiscent of the musings of a dictator. The general narrative she conveyed was that the purveyors of “misinformation” are throwing a spanner in the works of global cooperation, but that if businesses and governments just pull together, they can nip this avalanche of disinformation and misinformation in the bud. This narrative is wrong in so many ways:

  1. This naïve view of “us the world’s heroic business and political elite” and “them the nasty disinformation-producers” distracts attention away from the rather inconvenient fact that disinformation and misinformation show up on all sides of the political spectrum. There is no “global team” that can safely be entrusted with the task of quashing “misinformation.” If there is one thing the past few years have taught us, it is that the people applying “misinformation” rules (e.g. the “fact-checkers”) are often the ones lying to or deceiving the public, whether on the origins of the coronavirus, the safety and efficacy of mRNA vaccines, or some other issue of public importance.
  2. Given the fact that “misinformation” and “disinformation” is spread all over the political spectrum and not concentrated in the hands of a few easily fingered malicious actors, in practice the very perception of what counts as “misinformation” and “disinformation” often depends on one’s political interests and biases, and is not a morally or politically neutral category.
  3. Dictators and tyrants are quick to accuse their critics of “misinformation” and “disinformation” and to blur the dividing line between reasonable dissent and malicious “disinformation”- clearly, they recognize that the term has value as a vehicle of propaganda. Repeatedly seeking to silence one’s critics under the pretext that they are threatening democracy with “disinformation” is proper to dictators, not governors bound by principles of democratic accountability. A democratic ruler accepts that their policies may be publicly challenged, even if this slows down their implementation. A tyrannical ruler, on the other hand, is impatient with criticism and would prefer to just shut up their critics.
  4. Finally, the appeal to solidarity and cooperation in the fight against disinformation is rather disingenuous, to say the least, given that the example of public-private cooperation given by von der Leyen conspicuously involves coercive intrusion by EU bureaucrats in the moderation policies of online platforms. Nobody would suggest that online platforms are run by angels, or that their moderation policies are immune to criticism, but the whole narrative of “Let’s work together for the common good” falls to pieces when the main tool of “cooperation” is a piece of legislation (Digital Services Act) that enthrones a political elite and their employees as the coercive arbiters of truth and falsehood on the internet. This is a naked power grab by the European Commission and EU member-State governments, not “working together” with businesses to combat disinformation.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

  • David Thunder

    David Thunder is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Navarra’s Institute for Culture and Society in Pamplona, Spain, and a recipient of the prestigious Ramón y Cajal research grant (2017-2021, extended through 2023), awarded by the Spanish government to support outstanding research activities. Prior to his appointment to the University of Navarra, he held several research and teaching positions in the United States, including visiting assistant professor at Bucknell and Villanova, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Princeton University’s James Madison Program. Dr Thunder earned his BA and MA in philosophy at University College Dublin, and his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Notre Dame.

Brownstone Institute

Deborah Birx Gets Her Close-Up

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Bill RiceBILL RICE 

According to Birx, she intentionally buried the more draconian elements of the lockdowns in text at the end of long documents, theorizing (correctly apparently) that most reporters or readers would just “skim” the document and would not focus on how extreme and unprecedented these mandates actually were.

Most Americans will remember Dr. Deborah Birx as the “scarf lady” who served on the White House’s Covid Response Team beginning in February 2020.

According to a recently-released (but little-seen) 24-minute mini-documentary, it was Birx – even more so than Anthony Fauci – who was responsible for government “guidelines,” almost all of which proved to be unnecessary and disastrous for the country.

According to the documentary, the guidelines ran counter to President Trump’s initial comments on Covid, but ultimately “toppled the White House (and Trump) without a shot being fired.”

The mini-documentary (“It Wasn’t Fauci: How the Deep State Really Played Trump”) was produced by Good Kid Productions. Not surprisingly, the scathing 24-minute video has received relatively few views on YouTube (only 46,500 since it was published 40 days ago on Feb. 26).

I learned of the documentary from a colleague at Brownstone Institute, who added his opinion that “Birx (is) far more culpable than Fauci in the Covid disaster…Well worth the time to see the damage an utter non-scientist, CIA-connected, bureaucrat can do to make sure things are maximally bad.”

I agree; the significant role played by Birx in the catastrophic national response to Covid has not received nearly enough attention.

Brought in from out of Nowhere…

From the video presentation, viewers learn that Birx was added to the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force as its coordinator in latter February 2020.

Birx worked closely with Task Force chairman Vice President Mike Pence, a man one suspects will not be treated well by future historians.

According to the documentary, “career bureaucrats” like Birx somehow seized control of the executive branch of government and were able to issue orders to mayors and governors which effectively “shut down the country.”

These bureaucrats were often incompetent in their prior jobs as was Birx, who’d previously served as a scientist (ha!) in the Army before leading the government’s effort to “fight AIDS in Africa” (via the PEPFAR Program).

When Birx was installed as coordinator of Covid Response she simply rehashed her own playbook for fighting AIDS in Africa, say the filmmakers.

The three tenets of this response were:

  1. “Treat every case of this virus as a killer.”
  2. “Focus on children,” who, the public was told, were being infected and hospitalized in large numbers and were a main conduit for spreading the virus.
  3. “Get to zero cases as soon as possible.” (The “Zero Covid” goal).

The documentary primarily uses quotes from Scott Atlas, the White House Task Force’s one skeptic, to show that all three tenets were false.

Argued Atlas: Covid was not a killer – or a genuine mortality risk – to “99.95 percent” of the population. Children had virtually zero risk of death or hospitalization from Covid. And there was no way to get to “zero cases.”

Atlas Didn’t Shrug, but was Ignored…

Furthermore, the documentary convincingly illustrates how the views of Atlas were ignored and how, at some point, his ability to speak to the press was curtailed or eliminated.

For example, when Atlas organized a meeting for President Trump with Covid-response skeptics (including the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration) this meeting was schedule to last only five minutes.

The documentary also presents a report from the inspector general of the Department of State that was highly critical of Birx’s management style with the African “AIDS relief” program she headed.

Among other claims, the report said she was “dictatorial” in her dealings with subordinates and often “issued threats” to those who disagreed with her approach.

Shockingly, this highly-critical report was published just a month before she was appointed medical coordinator of the Coronavirus Task Force.

A particularly distressing sound bite from Birx lets viewers hear her opinion on how controversial “guidance” might be implemented with little pushback.

According to Birx, she intentionally buried the more draconian elements of the lockdowns in text at the end of long documents, theorizing (correctly apparently) that most reporters or readers would just “skim” the document and would not focus on how extreme and unprecedented these mandates actually were.

The documentary points out that Birx’s prescriptions and those of President Trump were often in complete conflict.

Birx, according to the documentary, once pointed this out to Vice President Pence, who told her to keep doing what she believed.

Indeed, the Vice President gave Birx full use of Air Force 2 so she could more easily travel across the country, spreading her lockdown message to governors, mayors, and other influencers.

Several Covid skeptic writers, including Jeffrey Tucker of Brownstone Institute, have noted that President Trump himself went from an opponent of draconian lockdowns to an avid supporter of these responses in a period of just one or two days (the pivotal change happened on or around March 10th, 2020, according to Tucker).

Whoever or whatever caused this change in position, it does not seem to be a coincidence that this about-face happened shortly after Birx – a former military officer – was named to an important position on the Task Force.

(Personally, I don’t give Anthony Fauci a pass as I’ve always figured he’s a “dark master” at manipulating members of the science/medical/government complex to achieve his own desired results.)

This documentary highlights the crucial role played by Deborah Birx and, more generally, how unknown bureaucrats can make decisions that turn the world upside-down.

That is, most Americans probably think presidents are in charge, but, often, they’re really not. These real rulers of society, one suspects, would include members of the so-called Deep State, who have no doubt installed sycophants like Fauci and Birx in positions of power.

I definitely recommend this 24-minute video.

A Sample of Reader Comments…

I also enjoyed the Reader Comments that followed this video. The first comment is from my Brownstone colleague who brought this documentary to my attention:

“… As I said, things can change over the period of 20 years but in the case of Birx/Fauci, I do not believe so. I have never seen people entrenched in the bureaucracy change.”

Other comments from the people who have viewed the mini-documentary on YouTube:

“Pence needs to be held accountable.”

“What does Debbie’s bank account look like?”

“(The) final assessment of President Trump at the 23:30 mark is, while painful, accurate. He got rolled.”

“This is very hard to find on YouTube. You can literally search the title and it doesn’t come up.”

“Excellent summary, hope this goes viral. Lots of lessons to learn for future generations.”

“Eye opening. Great reporting.”

Post from One Month Ago…

“37 likes after 3 years of the most controversial and divisive action in recent history. How can this be?”

“Oh never mind. YouTube hid it from the public for years.”

“Probably hasn’t been taken down yet for that reason, relatively low views.”

“Thanks for this! Sounds like everyone below President Trump was on a power trip and I didn’t think it was possible to despise Pence more than I already do.”

“…the backing of CDC, legacy media, WHO and government schools, business folding in fear are ALL responsible. Accountability for every person and agency is paramount!”

“Should be noted that her work on AIDS in Africa was just as useless and damaging.”

“First, any mature, adult woman who speaks with that much vocal fry should be immediately suspect. And the glee with which she recounts her role at undermining POTUS is remarkable and repulsive. This woman should NEVER be allowed to operate the levers of power again.”

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

  • Bill Rice

    Bill Rice, Jr. is a freelance journalist in Troy, Alabama.

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Brownstone Institute

Justices’ Grave Error in Murthy v. Missouri

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Aaron KheriatyAARON KHERIATY 

Along with my co-plaintiffs, I was at the Supreme Court last week for oral arguments in our Murthy v. Missouri case, in which we are challenging the federal government’s alleged censorship on social media. The Supreme Court will likely rule in June whether to uphold, modify, or strike down the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ injunction against five federal agencies, in what, the district court judge wrote, “arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history.”

At the hearing, Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that emails between the White House and Facebook “showed constant pestering of Facebook.” He went on to comment, “I cannot imagine federal officials taking this approach to the print media…It’s treating these platforms like subordinates.” He then asked the government’s attorney, “Would you treat the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal this way? Do you think the print media considers themselves ‘partners’ with government? I can’t imagine the federal government doing that to them.”

The government’s attorney had to admit, “The anger is unusual” — referring to White House official Rob Flaherty literally cursing at a Facebook executive and berating him for not taking action quickly enough to comply with the government’s censorship demands.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh followed up, asking, “On the anger point, do you think federal government officials regularly call up journalists and berate them?” It’s worth recalling that Kavanaugh worked as a White House attorney before he was appointed to the court, as did Justices John Roberts and Elena Kagan. No doubt there were times they dialed a journalist or editor to try to convince them to change a story, clarify a factual assertion, or even hold or quash the publication of a piece. Kavanaugh admitted, “It’s not unusual for the government to claim national security or wartime necessity to suppress a story.”

Perhaps colorful language is sometimes used in these conversations, as Kavanaugh himself hinted. Kagan concurred: “Like Justice Kavanaugh, I have had some experience encouraging the press to suppress its own speech…This happens literally thousands of times a day in the federal government.” With a wink to the other former executive branch attorneys on the bench, Roberts quipped, “I have no experience coercing anyone,” which generated a rare chuckle from the bench and audience.

This analogy to government interactions with print media, however, does not hold in the case of the government’s relationship with social mediaThere are several crucial differences that profoundly change the power dynamic of those interactions in ways directly relevant to our case. These differences facilitate, in Alito’s words, the government treating the platforms like subordinates in ways that would be impossible with print media.

Behind the Scenes

First, when a government official contacts a newspaper, he is talking directly to the journalist or editor — the person whose speech he is trying to alter or curtail. The writer or editor has the freedom to say, “I see your point, so I’ll hold my story for one week to allow the CIA time to get their spies out of Afghanistan.” But the speaker also has the freedom to say, “Nice try, but I’m not persuaded I got the facts wrong on this, so I’m running the story.” The publisher here has the power, and there is little the government can do to threaten that power.

By contrast, with requests or demands for social media censorship, the government was never talking with the person whose speech was censored, but with a third party operating entirely behind the scenes. As my co-plaintiff, the eminent epidemiologist Dr. Martin Kulldorff, quipped, “I would have been happy to get a call from a government official and hear about why I should take down a post or change my views on the scientific evidence.”

Power Dynamic

Additionally, there is little the government can do to destroy the business model and cripple the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and the journalists and editors know this. If the government pushes too hard, it will also be front page news the next day: “Government Trying to Bully The Post to Censor Our Breaking Story,” with the lede, “Naturally, we told them to go pound sand.”

But the power dynamic is entirely different with Facebook, Google, and X (formerly Twitter): The government does have a sword of Damocles to hang over the head of noncompliant social media companies if they refuse to censor — in fact, several swords, including the threat to remove Section 230 liability protections, which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has accurately called an “existential threat” to their business, or threats to break up their monopolies. As the record in our lawsuit shows, the government explicitly made just such threats, even publicly on several occasions, in direct connection to their censorship demands.

Furthermore, unlike the major tech companies, newspapers or magazines do not have massive government contracts that might disappear if they refuse to comply. When the FBI or Department of Homeland Security calls Facebook or X with censorship demands, the corporate executives know that a weaponized agency has the power to launch frivolous but onerous investigations at any time. It thus becomes virtually impossible for social media companies to tell the government to take a hike — indeed, they may have a fiduciary duty to shareholders not to incur serious risks by resisting government pressure.

The text of the First Amendment doesn’t say the government shall not “prevent” or “forbid” free speech; it says the government shall not “abridge” free speech — i.e., shall not do anything to lesson a citizen’s ability to speak or diminish one’s potential reach. A sensible and clear injunction would simply state, “Government shall not request that social media companies remove or suppress legal speech.”

But if the justices want to distinguish between persuasion and coercion in the injunction, they need to appreciate that social media companies operate in a very different relationship with government than traditional print media. These asymmetrical power dynamics create a relationship ripe for unconstitutional government coercion.

Republished from The Federalist

Author

  • Aaron Kheriaty

    Aaron Kheriaty, Senior Brownstone Institute Counselor, is a Scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, DC. He is a former Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine, where he was the director of Medical Ethics.

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