Why does anyone rely on reporters to interpret scientific articles?
Why does anyone rely on reporters to interpret scientific articles? They lack the necessary training, experience and competence to interpret scientific publications and data, a skill which typically requires decades to master.
With few exceptions, corporatized media are not able to comprehend the complexities and ambiguities inherent in scientific discussions, and so repeatedly fall back on the interpretations provided by those who are marketed as fair and accurate arbiters of truth – the US Government, the World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum, and various non-governmental organizations who have an interest in promoting vaccines (Gates’ Foundation, GAVI, CEPI etc.) or other scientific agendas. But these organizations have political and financial objectives of their own, and in the case of the CDC, have clearly become politicized as previously discussed. When combined with the increasing prevalence of “advocacy journalism” (which has been actively promoted and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), the result has been that the corporate media have become willing vehicles for distribution of biased interpretations promoted by authority figures presented to the public as credible sources, but who actually practice the pseudo-priesthood of Scientism masquerading as science. As a consequence, corporate legacy media have largely become distributors and enforcers of government-approved (and composed) narratives and articles rather than objective and impartial investigators and arbiters of truth. This is particularly true of the perverse branch of scientific journalism which has ascended to prominence during the COVIDcrisis, the factchecker organizations (some of which are sponsored by Thompson-Reuters). But how does this propaganda ecosystem work, and what can be done about it?
To a large extent science and scientists are granted an exalted position in western society due to an implied social contract. Western societies provide them support and elevated social status in exchange for valuable services. These services include performing their trade (doing “science”) and teaching others both their craft and findings. Government subsidized (non-corporate) science and scientists are trained and funded by citizens (through their taxes) to practice their craft objectively in a variety of technical domains including medicine and public health on behalf of the citizenry. This arrangement stands in contrast to corporate-funded scientists, who work to advance the interests of their employers, but who have often also been trained at taxpayers expense.
The social contract between scientists and general citizenry assumes that those scientists employed via government funding act in a manner which is free of both political partisanship and external influence from corporations and non-governmental advocacy organizations. This social contract is woven throughout federal government hiring policies concerning the civilian science corps. These policies explicitly forbid these employees from engaging in partisan political activities while serving in an official capacity, and forbid conflicts of interest stemming from influence of non-governmental entities, whether for- or not-for-profit. When these terms and conditions are not upheld, the public justifiably objects to the breach of contract. This is why employees of the civilian scientific corps are protected from employment termination for political purposes by the executive branch, even though the Office of the President is tasked with managing the scientific enterprise. Failure of the civilian scientific corps to maintain personal and scientific integrity and/or political objectivity appears to have become a chronic condition, as evidenced by the politicization of the CDC. When politicization of scientific data and interpretation results in multiple policy decisions which fail to protect the interests of the general public, the public loses faith in both the scientists and the discipline which they purport to practice. This is particularly true when the breach of social contract is seen as advancing corporate or partisan interests.
There is an organizational paradox which enables the immense power amassed by those who have risen to the top of the civilian scientific corps. These bureaucrats have almost unprecedented access to the public purse, are technically employed by the executive, but are also almost completely protected from accountability by the executive branch of government that is tasked with managing them- and therefore these bureaucrats are unaccountable to those who actually pay the bills for their activities (taxpayers). To the extent these administrators are able to be held to task, this accountability flows indirectly from congress. Their organizational budgets can be either enhanced or cut during following fiscal years, but otherwise they are largely protected from corrective action including termination of employment absent some major moral transgression. In a Machiavellian sense, these senior administrators function as The Prince, each federal health institute functions as a semi-autonomous city-state, and the administrators and their respective courtiers act accordingly. To complete this analogy, congress is analogous to the Vatican during the 16th century, with each Prince vying for funding and power by currying favor with influential archbishops. As validation we have the theater observed on C-SPAN each time a minority congressperson or senator queries an indignant scientific administrator, such as has been repeatedly observed with Anthony Fauci’s exchanges during congressional testimony.
Into this dysfunctional and unaccountable organizational structure comes the corporate media, which has become distorted and weaponized into a propaganda machine by multiple factors. The most overt factor has been that the Biden administration, through the CDC, made direct payments to nearly all major corporate media outlets while deploying a $1 billion taxpayer-funded outreach campaign designed to push only positive coverage about COVID-19 vaccines and to censor any negative coverage. With this action, the corporate media behemoth has functionally become a fusion of corporate and state-sponsored media – a public-private partnership meeting the definition of corporatist fascism. According to the Associated Press, despite the 2013 legislation that changed the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (also known as the Smith-Mundt Act) to allow some materials created by the U.S. Agency for Global Media to be disseminated in the U.S., under the new law it is still unlawful for government-funded media to create programming and market their content to U.S. audiences. Nevertheless, this is precisely what was done in the case of the COVID-19 vaccine campaign.
Secondly, there has long been involvement of the intelligence community in domestic US media. Operation Mockingbird is among the most well-known of the incursions of the CIA into US media, but the extensive and longstanding influence of the spy agency in crafting domestic propaganda has been well documented by journalist Carl Bernstein in his article “The CIA and the Media”. Among the corporate media outlets identified by Bernstein include the New York Times, which is intriguing in light of the precise knowledge of (former) CIA officer Michael Callahan’s CIA employment history inadvertently revealed by NYT reporter Davey Alba while interviewing me. While speaking to me by cell phone early in 2020, Callahan specifically denied that there was any indication that the original SARS-CoV-2 virus sequence showed any evidence of intentional genetic modification, stating “my guys have gone over that sequence and there is no chance that it was genetically modified”. In retrospect, it is now clear that was propaganda- or speaking more plainly, an intentional lie. Disinformation. Many insiders now believe that the five eyes spy alliance has been exploited during the COVIDcrisis to enable reciprocal domestic propaganda activities by participant states against other member states which otherwise forbid their own intelligence agencies from domestic propaganda activities. Consistent with this is the aggressive editing of my own Wikipedia page (discussed by sardonic humorist “whatsherface”) by an unusually prolific editor/pseudonym (Philip Cross) who apparently works for British intelligence services. Based on the totality of evidence, it is reasonable to infer that the US intelligence community has remained actively engaged in crafting and defending the COVIDcrisis narrative, either through direct influence with corporate media and specific reporters, and/or indirectly via reciprocal five eyes relationships.
There are the specific examples of Dr. Anthony Fauci and colleagues acting to use corporate media to advance their agendas. Weaponization of the relationship between Dr. Fauci and the media during the time when AIDS was a major narrative well documented in the book “The Real Anthony Fauci”. During the COVIDcrisis, email exchanges using government servers and addresses (obtained by independent investigator Phillip Magness under Freedom of Information Request) concerning the Great Barrington Declaration demonstrate that Dr. Fauci continues to exert considerable influence over both lay and scientific press. How does this work? How is Dr. Fauci able to influence corporate media and its’ reporters to compose and print articles about scientific issues which comport with his interests and perspectives as well as those of the Institute (NIAID) which he directs? The most straightforward of the ways that he influences corporate media and its reporters is through his proven ability to act to have reporters fired who write or broadcast stories which he does not like. In “The Real Anthony Fauci”, Robert F Kennedy Jr. documents how Dr. Fauci had journalists that he disapproved of fired. More recently, Forbes fired journalist Adam Andrzejewski for revealing previously undisclosed information regarding Anthony Fauci’s personal finances. Fauci also repeatedly attacked Fox journalist Laura Logan for likening him to Joseph Mengele, which she had correctly identified as a characterization widely shared throughout the world. Then there are the subtler reciprocal relationships that Dr. Fauci and his NIAID Office of Communications and Government Relations (OCGR) cultivate. The NIAID OGCR is organized into five different offices; the Director’s Office, the Legislative Affairs and Correspondence Management Branch, the New Media and Web Policy Branch, the News and Science Writing Branch, and the Communications Services Branch. A search of the HHS employee directory reveals that OGCR employs 59 full time employees, eight of whom staff the News and Science Writing Branch, and 32 of whom work for the New Media and Web Policy Branch. In contrast, only eight employees staff the Legislative Affairs and Correspondence Management Branch.
There is a quid-pro-quo relationship between reporters and influential organizations or individuals. This relationship was nicely illustrated in the movie, “The Big Short” that documented the corruption which lead to the “Great Recession” of 2007-2009. The movie included scenes involving investors and hedge fund managers confronting financial industry journalists and bond ratings agency employees. In both cases, individuals whose structural role is typically seen as serving as a barrier to corruption and malfeasance were coopted by the need to maintain good relationships with the industry and players which they were tasked with overseeing. The same hold true in the case of the federal bureaucracy. Basically, if a journalist wishes to be granted timely access to press releases, OGCR-drafted content favorable to Dr. Fauci and the NIAID, or other insider information, he or she must not write critical or unflattering stories. The NIAID OGCR operation is much larger than most corporate media newsrooms, who have struggled to maintain staffing in the face of declining reader and viewership, and so maintaining good relations while avoiding retaliation is critical for any reporter that works a health and science beat.
A recent example involving the immunology, structural biology and virology associated with evolution of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron escape mutants is useful for illustrating the problem of reporters interpreting complex scientific information. A group of Chinese scientists have recently had a tour-de-force study accepted for publication by the high status scientific journal “Nature”. On 17 June, 2022 an unedited pre-print of a peer-reviewed article with the rather dry title “BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 escape antibodies elicited by Omicron infection” was posted by Nature. As an experienced reviewer with a reasonable level of understanding of the subject matter, I found this one of the more challenging papers to read that I have encountered during the COVIDcrisis. Rich granular detail concerning the recent evolution of Omicron spike protein sequence and receptor binding domain (focused on BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/BA.5) is provided, and the Chinese team uses an array of the latest technologies to generate a mountain of data which are presented to the reader as a stream of condensed information with minimal supporting text (in part due to the word length restrictions inherent in publication in Nature). This is a tough read, even for me, but clearly represents an amazing advance in understanding of the molecular evolution which is happening as Omicron continues to circulate in human populations who have received vaccines which fail to prevent infection, replication and spread of the virus. There are even data which may support some of the hypotheses of Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche concerning the probability of shifts in glycosylation patterns as part of the antibody evasion evolution of the virus continues, shifts which he predicts may lead to markedly enhanced disease.
This highly technical article was reviewed and presented to the world by Thomson-Reuters journalist Nancy Lapid, who writes a column “Future of Health”. Her body of work, largely focused on the CORONAcrisis, now includes 153 columns. She is a journalist, not a scientist. By way of full transparency, Thomson-Reuters has a variety of organizational leadership ties with Pfizer, a fact never disclosed in any of these articles. Just to illustrate the point:
President and Chief Executive Officer, Thompson-Reuters
“Jim began his career as a journalist and rose through the ranks at Thomson Newspapers to become responsible for operations in North America. He then led a number of professional publishing businesses serving the legal, regulatory and academic markets. He served as global head of Human Resources before becoming Chief Operating Officer of The Thomson Corporation. Following the acquisition of Reuters in 2008, Jim ran the Professional division of the combined company. He was named Chief Executive Officer in January 2012.
Jim is a director of Pfizer, Inc. He also serves on the board of the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative and is a member of the Forum’s International Business Council, as well as on the International Advisory Boards of British American Business and the Atlantic Council.”
Nancy Lapids’ article covering this technically challenging Nature article is titled “Early Omicron infection unlikely to protect against current variants”, which is a gross misrepresentation of the findings of the paper, which provides no analysis of either clinical protection or of clinical samples obtained from a control set of patients who have been infected but not vaccinated. The Reuters coverage goes on to say:
“People infected with the earliest version of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, first identified in South Africa in November, may be vulnerable to reinfection with later versions of Omicron even if they have been vaccinated and boosted, new findings suggest.”
This is a misrepresentation of the actual findings of this team. To take the current vernacular, it is either “misinformation” (meaning an unintentional false representation of scientific data and interpretation), or “disinformation” (meaning an intentional false representation designed to influence thought or policy in some way). To complete the triad, “malinformation” is defined by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as information which may be either true or false, but which undermines public faith in the US government. Propagation of any of these three types of information have been termed grounds for accusations of domestic terrorism by DHS. As I try to avoid drawing conclusions about people’s intentions (due to my inability to read their thoughts), I cannot distinguish between these different labels in the case of the (clearly false) interpretation which Thompson-Reuters has published with Nancy Lapid’s story.
What the actual manuscript describes is detailed characterization of the evolution (including precise structural mapping of specific domain clusters of antibody-Spike protein interactions) of the new Omicron variants in relationship to both marketed and newly developed monoclonal antibodies as well as “neutralizing” naturally occurring antibodies obtained from patients who have either been vaccinated with the Chinese inactivated viral vaccine called “Coronavac” or “ZF2001” (an adjuvanted protein subunit vaccine), or were previously infected with an earlier variant of SARS-CoV-2 and then vaccinated with “Coronavac” or “ZF2001” or both (Coronavac x2 first, then ZF2001 boost). The authors describe this clearly and precisely. This research does not involve any of the vaccines available in the United States, a key fact which Nancy Lapid fails to disclose. Whole inactivated or adjuvanted subunit vaccines are very different from mRNA or rAdV vectored genetic vaccines.
Important things to understand in reading the paper is that the preponderance of information demonstrates that optimal acquired protection from infection by SARS-CoV-2 (via natural infection and/or vaccination) is not only provided by antibodies, but also requires a cellular (T-cell) response. This paper is only looking at one limited aspect of the rich and complex interactions between the innate and adaptive immune system in human beings and the virus SARS-CoV-2 (and also addresses previously SARS-infected individuals who have been boosted with “Coronavax”). Even in the abstract, the authors are quite precise in their summary of this fact that they are not assessing “protection”, clearly demonstrating the inherent bias of the Nancy Lapid/Thompson-Reuters story. They are assessing and drawing conclusions regarding neutralization evasion of the currently circulating escape mutants regarding antibodies from patients as well as various monoclonal antibody preparations.
“Here, coupled with Spike structural comparisons, we show that BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/BA.5 exhibit comparable ACE2-binding affinities to BA.2. Importantly, BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/BA.5 display stronger neutralization evasion than BA.2 against the plasma from 3-dose vaccination and, most strikingly, from post-vaccination BA.1 infections.”
This brief example illustrates the problem with allowing untutored and unqualified reporters who reflect the biases of corporate media to serve as interpreters and arbiters of scientific truth. With few exceptions, they are just not qualified to perform this task. But both the general reader as well as government policy makers rely on corporate media to perform this task accurately and fairly.
Accurate presentation of scientific findings is necessary if the public as well as their elected representatives are to make both policy and medically informed personal choice decisions that are grounded in accurate and balanced quantifiable information obtained by best scientific practices. If the public and policy makers wish to continue to rely on corporate legacy press to help them to understand complicated scientific and technical issues, “advocacy journalism” reporters need to get back in their lane and leave scientific and medical interpretation to experienced professionals. There are plenty of qualified scientists capable of reading and accurately communicating key findings from even such highly technical manuscripts as this recent Nature article. The corporate press has the resources necessary to engage such specialists, and to be able to integrate and present multiple points of view which may include the perspective of the NIAID OGCR. But as is required for all peer reviewed academic manuscripts in the modern era, the sources (and underlying data) should be disclosed in a transparent way, and potential conflicts of those sources should also be disclosed.
In the interim, corporate media and their reporters should stop trying to spin that which they do not even comprehend.