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Ben Collins, Brandy Zadrozny, and the disinformation industry that keeps growing.
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The disinformation craze about content-based malignancies that supposedly contaminate the layfolk shows no signs of abating.
Just the other day, at the World Economic Forum where elites gather to discuss how best to go about controlling the world and subjugating the masses, Former CNN host Brian Stelter1 led a panel of self-appointed mandarins titled “Clear & Present Danger of Disinformation.” One of the panelists was New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, who described disinformation as the “most existential” problem facing the world.
Sulzberger insisted that disinformation is the reason why there’s a loss of “trust” today, ignoring the fact that American institutions — most notably the mainstream media and public health — have purged credibility through their own flagrantly biased decisions and straight up lies. Sulzberger also seems to have forgotten the countless lies and false stories that the Times has spread in recent years.
The Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder, which is supposed to “deliver recommendations for how the country can respond to this modern-day crisis of faith in key institutions,”2 recently released a report that blamed disinformation — “information disorder” — for a range of social problems:
Information disorder is a crisis that exacerbates all other crises… Information disorder makes any health crisis more deadly. It slows down our response time on climate change. It undermines democracy. It creates a culture in which racist, ethnic, and gender attacks are seen as solutions, not problems. Today, mis- and disinformation have become a force multiplier for exacerbating our worst problems as a society. Hundreds of millions of people pay the price, every single day, for a world disordered by lies.
Yet the Aspen Institute’s Commission just so happens to include several individuals who themselves have actively engaged in spreading disinformation. One of the advisers is none other than Yoel Roth, possible world-class authority on Grindr usage and the Twitter executive who blocked the platform’s users from sharing the New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop just before the 2020 election. Another advisor is Renee DiResta, who worked with American Engagement Technologies, which, the Washington Free Beacon reports, is a “tech company that created fake online personas to stifle the Republican vote in the 2017 special Senate election in Alabama.”
And then there’s the Commission’s co-chair, one Katie Couric, who admitted in her recently published memoir that she removed and edited statements from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg about athletes kneeling for the playing of the National Anthem. She did so because she feared upsetting the delicate sensibilities of her fellow liberals.
What rankles me most is how little self-reflection our sanctimonious truth arbiters have practiced. Harvard’s Shorenstein Center used the New York Post’s story on Hunter Biden’s laptop as the basis for one of its case studies during its recent disinformation sessions. The lesson they drew? That the Hunter Biden story offered “an instructive case study on the power of social media and news organizations to mitigate media manipulation campaigns.”
Never mind that the suppression of the Hunter Biden story equated to a suppression of the truth, and that its censoring was justified on the baseless premise that it was “Russian disinformation” and the materials were “hacked.” According to the experts, this sordid stain on American journalism is the sort of thing that objective brokers of information should aspire to. And they wonder why people have lost faith in the media.
Big Disinfo, as Harper’s Joseph Bernstein calls it, is essentially a new field of knowledge production that emerged during the Trump years at the juncture of progressive media, academia, and policy research, and it’s getting ridiculous. As Commentary’s Christine Rosen notes, the Washington Post has created a new position exclusively reporting on “health disinformation,” which includes “the forces promoting scientific and medical disinformation on subjects such as vaccines, drugs, nutritional supplements and health-care treatments.” NPR has an entire “Disinformation Team” whose mission is broad: “From the lies about the 2020 election to the growing influence of anti-vaccine activists, to the enduring influence of climate-change denialism, lies and conspiracy theories have seeped into nearly all aspects of modern-day life, both in the US and around the globe.”
And then there’s NBC’s notorious disinformation beat, which is led by the cretinous Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny. It is the dearest ambition of many to give these two a good slap to the face. NBC News executive editor Sally Shin said the pair’s reporting “has served as a wakeup call to the dangers stemming from the dark corners of the Internet.” (Alright Sally, settle down.)
Collins and Zadrozny often work in tandem, trawling the internet for something odious — always having to do with fringe right-wing views — whereupon they present their findings as mainstream and make a big fuss.
As Rosen points out, that’s the template they used to downplay and dismiss the Hunter Biden laptop story. They basically tied it to conspiracy theories involving child trafficking making the rounds on message boards like 4chan at the time. Collins and Zadrozny concluded that the laptop revelations and the conspiracy theories were all “part of a wider effort to smear Hunter Biden and weaken Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, which moved from the fringes of the Internet to more mainstream conservative news outlets.”
Collins pulled the same thing in a piece titled “QAnon’s new ‘plan’? Run for school board.” He knowingly maligned several parents by associating them with the QAnon movement, even though they told him on the record that they didn’t believe the theories and were running for school-board elections over concerns about what was happening in public schools. But obviously that didn’t fit the narrative Collins was pushing.3
This was also the framing used when he appeared on MSNBC to discuss Kanye West’s anti-Semitic statements. Collins stated, without evidence, that unnamed “Republican podcast circles” were to blame for Kanye’s remarks:
Collins and Zadrozny consult the same “experts” all the time, like Alejandra Caraballo and the aforementioned Renee DiResta — both of whom are known purveyors of disinformation — because they share political views and have no problem ignoring the harms of disinformation so long as it benefits the Left.
DiResta’s background is particularly illustrative of this. She took part in a disinformation campaign to help Democrat Doug Jones defeat Republican Roy Moore in the 2017 Senate special election in Alabama. Per the New York Times, she and her team orchestrated “an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.” They literally “imitated Russian tactics”—this, despite DiResta and her team working with Democrats in the U.S. Senate to pen a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. If Russia interferes with an election, it’s Extremely Dangerous to Our Democracy™; but when Democratic disinformation experts do it to defeat Republicans, it’s totally cool.
Collins and Zadrozny are themselves purveyors of disinformation. Consider one recent example: Collins spent a week flinging blood libel at conservatives over the shooting at a gay night club in Colorado. He was in front of a camera before the blood had even dried accusing Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, and the popular Twitter account LibsOfTiktok of culpability over their opposition to “family-friendly drag shows” and the satanic practice of castrating minors, even though there was zero evidence in the public domain that could substantiate this and no motive for the shooting was known.4 Collins then went on Meet the Press and repeated his claim that “the months-long campaign of targeting trans and gay-rights events and supporters…has been a persistent narrative by the anti-LGBTQ right in the last, you know, six months to the last year” and that “these narratives have taken such hold that they are, in fact, endorsing violence at this point.”
Endorsing violence. Of course, Collins’ narrative fell apart when the shooter turned out to be non-binary and wanted to be referred to as “Mx.”
Zadrozny, like Collins, immediately sought to exploit the shooting to elicit as much anti-conservative backlash as possible. During a segment on MSNBC, she also directly linked conservative commentators and social media accounts to the attack. Then, inexplicably, she claimed that she did not say exactly what she said in the video, and called for the Free Beacon to delete a tweet showing she said exactly what she said in the video.
These disinformation spazzes see their primary obligation not as the pursuit of truth, but as upholding vague notions of public safety, which they get to define. They share a raging savior complex and believe the only way to protect people from themselves and the gullibility from which they suffer is to prevent them from seeing and hearing things that don’t comport with the Left’s idiotic utopian ideal of the internet.
When Glenn Greenwald challenged the credibility of these specimens, Ben Collins wrote a truly cringe-worthy, self-indulgent Twitter thread in which he said of himself: “Should I not have talked to all of those doctors back in April and May who told me disinformation was killing their patients and ravaging their ERs? Should I not have discovered the link between the viral anti-mask freakouts and QAnon’s invasion into wellness and religious groups? Should I not have worked the phones for months, then slaughtered my mental health writing these stories?”5
Slaughtered my mental health. Dude. If any of your writing has seriously “slaughtered” your mental health, maybe put down the pen and pick up some self-help books or something because you have a terribly fragile psyche. Relax. You are a dweeby hall monitor and Democratic functionary, not the second coming of Christ. You’ve been baptized with totally fake expertise to launder a highly politicized censorship agenda as scientific, data-based, and neutral, and the nature of your reporting incentivizes treating every crazy thing said online as Extremely Dangerous to Our Democracy™ or a threat to minorities in some tangential way.
There will always be lies and falsehoods and crazy talk online, but the presumption that consuming bad information causes changes in belief or behavior that are “bad” is misguided. As if all that’s necessary to ensure people helplessly move as a group in the direction the elites desire is to ensure illicit inputs are kept out of the process. It suggests that they see language as the preeminent tool for programming society in a manner which they find amenable. But it’s ridiculous to think that it’s in the interest of a free society in the 21st century to allow a small cadre of self-anointed information custodians to dictate who can and cannot be heard, and what can and cannot be seen. Especially when those individuals are employed by the mainstream media, where the most frequent and far reaching disinformation originates.
Of all the people to host the panel, they pick someone who was a chief propagator of Russiagate.
Gee, here’s an idea: Maybe stop peddling bullshit and lying to the public.
You’ll be shocked to learn that much of the reporting from Collins and Zadrozny is of a veracity somewhat less than unimpeachable.
“If you don’t support every element of our radical social agenda, the overarching goal of which is the fundamental transformation of society, you are responsible for murder.”
No, actually, you probably shouldn’t have written these stories. They’re rife with hyperbole and present a very narrow-viewed, one-sided take on the problems plaguing our infosphere.