Saturday, February 18, 2023

Last Call For The Vaxx Of Life, Con't

 With the new House GOP circus of the Damned playing regularly in the Capitol and state legislatures under Republican control needed new enemies of the state to pursue, more and more anti-vax nutjobs are vowing to put doctors, public health officials, pharmaceutical executives and government scientists in prison for the crime of...well, I'm sure they'll come up with fantasies that will justify more violence and fundraising for GOP candidates heading into 2024.

As COVID cases continue to gradually decline, and with the U.S. government declaring it will end the formal public health emergency on May 11, the pandemic is, in the view of many people, receding into the rearview mirror. (This despite the fact that the disease continues to kill many people every day, especially endangering the elderly and becoming a leading cause of death for children.)

And major anti-vaccine figures are now seizing their chance to enact what they see as justice—and do a little fundraising and image-burnishing in the process. Besides Bigtree’s nonspecific legal threats, we have Children’s Health Defense, the most moneyed and influential anti-vaccine organization in the U.S., led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. CHD is often involved in strange and frequently doomed litigation, but recently, and with much fanfare, it launched a new one: an antitrust lawsuit against major news organizations and social media outlets, which they accused of conspiring to “collectively censor online news” about COVID. The defendants included frequent anti-vax targets like the Washington Post and the BBC, and the plaintiffs are a veritable who’s who of people making bogus health claims, including CHD itself; Ty and Charlene Bollinger, who run websites and sell products devoted to making bogus claims about cancer and vaccines; Jim Hoft, who founded right-wing news site Gateway Pundit, and Joseph Mercola, a longtime figure in the natural health world who’s also been a major funder of the anti-vax movement. The lawsuit made quite a bit of noise in conservative media and the anti-vaccine world—and it allowed CHD to continue asking for donations for its general litigation fund.

(As Vox recently reported, CHD got a possible advantage in the Texas judge assigned to the case: Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee who’s also in position to single-handedly outlaw medication abortion in a separate upcoming case.)

Besides the anti-trust lawsuit, Children’s Health Defense is also pledging to lobby the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of what it calls “vaccine-injured” service members. The organization is calling on its audience to help it lobby the VA to get disability benefits for service members who claim they were injured by COVID vaccines. Again, the action serves several separate purposes: to help CHD raise its public profile, to align it with the cause of veterans’ rights, and to give it the appearance of demanding some sort of corrective action from an arm of the U.S. government.

. The anti-vaccine world has also been paying a great deal of attention to a self-described former Swiss investment banker named Pascal Najadi, who claimed recently that he filed criminal charges against the current Swiss President Alain Berset, who is also the country’s former minister of health, for promoting COVID vaccines and claiming, incorrectly, that they meant you could not spread the disease. This is, more or less, like saying you’ve sued the sky for creating rain clouds, but anti-vaccine figures have been enthralled; one of them, a woman named Dr. Jane Ruby, exulted on Telegram that Najadi “may have started a worldwide c19 bioweapon investigation!” (COVID vaccines are not “bioweapons.”)

In fact, Berset does face a scandal at home. But what’s going on in Switzerland is more complicated, and not clearly connected to Najadi at all. The Swiss Parliament announced in late January that it would launch a probe into whether Berset’s former spokesperson, Peter Lauener, leaked information to Blick, a Swiss tabloid, about the country’s planned COVID measures during the height of the pandemic. Bloomberg reported that the probe will investigate, among other things, whether Berset “was trying to influence news coverage of the government’s handling of Covid-19.” (Blick has denied this took place, saying they gathered information in an independent and journalist way, adding that they “resolutely deny the accusation that we allowed ourselves to be influenced by the interior department.”) But several conspiratorial news sources, most notably Gateway Pundit, have produced a mangled version of the story, incorrectly reporting that the probe was opened due to Najadi’s complaint.

Anti-vaxxers worldwide have also falsely claimed that Pfizer vaccines have been banned in Thailand after Princess Bajrakitiyabha of the Thai royal family “fell into a coma” after a booster shot, as many social media posts have claimed. Thailand’s Department of Disease control called this “fake news” in a Facebook post, and asked citizens not to share it. (The princess collapsed in December due to what the palace said was a bacterial infection, not a booster shot; updates on her current condition haven’t been made public, but the palace said in a previous statement she’d also had a brain aneurysm.) Anti-vaccine figures on places like Telegram have nonetheless claimed that Thailand is “convening war crimes tribunals” against Pfizer, which is not how anything works.

In all, this rash of grandiose legal threats, doomed lawsuits and excitable rumors of foreign prosecutions has a lot in common with the basic shape of QAnon beliefs. It promises that justice will be served, evildoers will be dragged into the light and prosecuted, and those who doubted “the COVID narrative” will be vindicated. (Elsewhere, the former light of QAnon’s hopes and dreams, Donald Trump, has declared he will bring back public executions if he’s elected president again.)

More than anything, the people making money in the anti-vaccine world need to keep their audience’s hope, and their attention, as long as they possibly can. The false promises are yet another way to keep them in their seats.

It's all tremendously dangerous stuff that's going to get people hurt and killed.

Faren-Hate 451

The fascism in Florida under GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is getting almost comically dark, as state lawmakers want to jail publishers and strip all school funding over any book deemed "sexually explicit" in Florida classrooms.
Publishers could face jail time and multi-thousand-dollar fines under a new GOP-led bill that seeks to crack down on the distribution of “sexually explicit materials” to schools and educational agencies.

A bill introduced this month by Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) would amend the federal criminal code to prohibit a publishing house from knowingly furnishing “sexually explicit material” — a term that the legislation does not clearly define — to an elementary school or high school.

Publishing houses that violate the proposed law would be subject to a maximum $500,000 fine, while individuals in the company’s higher management would face similar monetary penalties, as well as up to five years imprisonment.

Mills’s bill, a copy of which was shared with The Hill, would also withhold federal funds from elementary or secondary schools that obtain or distribute published materials that contain a “sexually explicit visual depiction of any kind,” including photographs or drawings until those materials are “relinquished or destroyed” by the school.

State and local educational agencies, including school boards or boards of education, would also be barred from providing schools with books, magazines, newspapers or e-books that contain content deemed sexually explicit.

Restrictions do not apply to materials with “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” according to the bill.

Mills said in a statement earlier this month that his bill is a response to what he described as a coordinated effort by Democrats to “sexualize children in schools across the U.S.”

“The battlefield for the future of our society is being fought within the classrooms of American schools,” Mills said.

“From school board meetings to new representation in local, state, and federal levels, Americans are waking up to the grim reality of woke indoctrination guised as a normal education,” he said. “No more.”
If this passes, I expect school libraries will be quickly emptied out as "sexually explicit" will mean whatever the fascists want it to mean, and we get into Fahrenheit 451 territory real fast here. Which is what these assholes want, for publishers to stop publishing books and for school libraries to stop having books for fear that they'll be in violation and face prison and half-mil fines.

It's ludicrous that this is even a thing, but here we are, deep in the middle of the fascist backlash against an America that dared to elect a Black president and Black VP.

Insurrection Investigation, FOX News Edition

As you read through Dominion’s motion for summary judgment against Fox News — and trust me, you should read it! — keep in mind not just how it proves Fox to be nothing but a propaganda platform aiming to help the Republican Party, but also the evidence it makes available to Jack Smith as he considers charges against those who used false claims about voting fraud to gin up a coup attempt.

Just as one example, Sean Hannity has played a role in every Trump legal scandal — serving as a back channel to Trump for Paul Manafort, participating in Rudy Giuliani’s attempts to gin up dirt on Hunter Biden as the first impeachment unfolded, and helping White House officials stave off the resignations of Trump’s White House Counsels in advance of January 6. But in each case, investigators only got his communications via other subjects of the investigation, as when DOJ found Manafort’s WhatsApp texts to Hannity saved in Manafort’s iCloud account or when the January 6 Committee got Signal texts Hannity exchanged with Mark Meadows from the former Chief of Staff’s production. Republicans chose not to call Hannity as a pro-Trump witness in the Ukraine impeachment.

With its filing, Dominion has given a snapshot of the ways and whys in which Fox News helped magnify false voter fraud claims, especially (though not exclusively) those of Sidney Powell.

It all takes place against the backdrop of a huge backlash against Fox after it called AZ for Joe Biden. When Fox presented the truth about the election, viewers started fleeing to Newsmax, with Trump’s encouragement. The filing describes the panic that ensued.
Fox News had to continually play up Trump's false voting machine fraud claims in Arizona, or the network was done.  They knew they had to lie to stay in business.

For over two years, the right wing has squealed about a media outlet prohibiting the dissemination of dodgy claims from a Murdoch outlet. It turns out that Murdoch was, in that same time period, “censoring” true facts about Trump’s dodgy claims.

I wait with bated breath for James Comer to scheduled a hearing on the “censorship.”

Tucker Carlson, especially, recognized Trump’s role in this. He warned that Trump “could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.
“What [Trump]’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”
After January 6, Tucker called Trump,”a demonic force, a destroyer.”

Fox appears to have perceived that they had to play along with Trump’s false claims or risk permanent damage to their brand
They lied and deliberately cast Dominion as fraudsters, criminals, and as dangers to democracy in a massive conspiracy to "steal" the election.  They lied for months about it, and it helped lead to the January 6th terrorist insurrection.

Jack Smith now has reams of texts and communications between Fox News talking heads like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson and the Trump legal team, and it's only going to help his case.

We’ve long known that Fox was better understood as a wing of the Republican party than as a news organization (indeed, the filing describes Rupert Murdoch looking for ways to “help[] any way we can” in Georgia).

But this filing makes it clear that in a bid to cater to viewers who were fed false claims by Trump, Fox played right along with the false claims that would lead to insurrection. Jack Smith is already examining multiple parts of this effort. This filing makes evidence that would otherwise be unavailable accessible to prosecutors.

Fox News knew their platforming of Trump’s false claims was doing damage to the country. And they did it anyway
Sure sounds like elements of a deliberate criminal conspiracy to overthrow the US government. That's sedition, kids. And Dominion just dropped a metric ton of evidence to help prove it.

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