OWN VOICE. ~ InPerspective by Gregg Dieguez —
The pro-vaccine article I wrote this week was attacked with disinformation propaganda before it was even published! I posted a draft of that article last Sunday so my peer collaborators could review and help improve it. It did not include the normal menu access, and there was no publication announcement. Nevertheless, on Tuesday the Blog received the email copied in below. It’s a mix of valid medical terms, but misused and misdirected, turning into nonsense logic, with a bunch of lies, links and attachments to Anti-Vax sites and wrapping up with a bunch of Biblical passages, which presumably appeal to their target audience segment.
What this means is that someone is spending the time and money to surveil the entire Web Universe, find Blog sites with pro-Vaccine articles, and post propaganda to counter the facts on vaccines. This manipulation of reality was reported as far back as 2019, with the Russians leading the way in attacking the U.S. with anti-vax propaganda. They started with measles, on Twitter, and have continued with COVID-19 – but now it goes beyond FaceBook and Twitter to hunting down ANY source of information people might read.
A recent study from David Broniatowski, a professor at George Washington University, and his co-authors found that thousands of Russian accounts used to spread disinformation had seized on anti-vaccine messaging.
Of course this has happened before. Anti-vaccination sentiment has been around since the Smallpox epidemic. And those efforts have clearly damaged public health, as shown by the return of measles and other diseases. I noticed the propaganda in the early 2000’s on science blogs about Climate Change, where “people” were posting intelligently worded arguments trying to cast doubt on Climate Change, but containing key flaws in their data and logic – which other posters went to great lengths to correct – but which had the effect of muddying the water for a casual reader. You’d think there’s a “debate” when there was zero disagreement between informed researchers. Turned out, it was the Fossil Fuel industry actively trying to propagandize the truth away – for decades.
There is even a well-researched book: Merchants of Doubt, which detailed the efforts of the cigarette industry to hide the deadly truth about tobacco use and cancer. Subsequently, corporations used similar disinformation tactics on other topics where resistance could cost them profits: acid rain (again, the Fossil Fuel industry), the ozone layer, pesticides, and finally the Climate Crisis. One motivation for this lying is Profits. Another is undermining a rival’s national security, or promoting yours. China clearly suppresses the truth about its crimes and problems, from Tiananmen Square forward to the genocide of Uighurs. Israel routinely manipulates coverage of its treatment of Palestine. And then we have Russian efforts to manipulate U.S. elections, which are ongoing. Of course, we in the U.S. have our own problems with lying….
Since our government seems inept at stopping any serious hacking attempt, even on its own data, the two best things I can suggest are: 1) Vigilance and
2) Curation. For vigilance, there are several methods described in How To Tell The Truth. For curation, read people and sources you trust, and require confirmation of source facts for anything else.
I suppose I should be flattered at being attacked. However, this is a deadly matter. Yes, millions – if not billions – will die because of denial of the Climate Crisis, but that’s slow motion Genocide. Lying about the good that vaccines can do – in the middle of a Pandemic – is immediate mass murder. It is time to Wake Up America!
Copy of the Propaganda Comment Post:
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Mr. Dieguez is a native San Franciscan, longtime San Mateo County resident, and semi-retired entrepreneur who causes occasional controversy on the Coastside. He is a member of the MCC, but his opinions here are his own, and not those of the Council. In 2003 he co-founded MIT’s Clean Tech Program here in NorCal, which became MIT’s largest alumni speaker program. He lives in Montara. He loves a productive dialog in search of shared understanding.