To Tell the Truth: Washington Post Unable to Discern Difference Between “Conspiracy” and Healthy Skepticism

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  • 03/02/2023

To Tell the Truth is Human Events News’ press analysis series. These stories will focus on “news” being reported by either The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC News, NBC News, or CBS News. Despite 24-hour cable broadcasts, and an untold number of internet sources, these established, mainstream platforms continue to influence the majority of American citizens and their political opinions.

The “news” generated by these press outlets is better regarded as “opinion” crafted in a way designed to discourage skepticism and critical thought on the part of the audience. To Tell the Truth will be Human Events News’ periodic effort to help address this bias and restore the skepticism necessary on the part of all Americans to maintain a free society.

The American news media’s newest boogeyman is the “conspiracy theory.” But apart from its boogeymen of the past, this one is uniquely useful to our country’s propagandists.

Last month, The Washington Post published a cute interactive quiz, complete with bunny illustrations, for readers to evaluate their susceptibility to potentially “fall into the conspiracy theory rabbit hole.”

Published in the outlet’s Opinion section, the tool helps the reader discover if he is a silly “conspiracy theorist” who believes in things like the dangers of genetically modified foods, “anti-vaccine narratives,” the possibility that Jeffery Epstein was killed rather than committed suicide, or the validity of the practice of auditing the 2020 election. (The word “audit” is presented in scare quotes, a practice that that been picked up by mainstream media outlets, so as to imply that using the word as defined would concede the results of the practice.)

WaPo’s quiz and the accompanying information position this type of questioning of authority as being similar toHolocaust denial, going on to assert that Holocaust denial and the following of QAnon fall into the same category of those theories with the “biggest consequences.”

“Holocaust deniers and believers in ‘false flag’ theories often support political violence and exhibit sociopathic personality traits,” the piece explains. “Many of the rioters involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol showed some allegiance to QAnon — a belief system built on conspiracy theories about Satanists.”

“Eventually, you’ll run into a conspiracy theory that appeals to you politically or psychologically. So be careful and double-check your sources — or you could fall down the rabbit hole, too,” WaPo warns.

It is not clear which supposedly unbiased sources about vaccine mandates WaPo is suggesting the reader references — certainly WaPo itself shouldn’t, given that it’s Editorial Board recently published a piece titled “Vaccine mandates are working. Let’s make them the norm..”

Perhaps WaPo would instead encourage its readers to consult medical doctors about COVID-19 and its vaccines.

Well, given another recent piece titled “Meet the doctors’ group spreading covid conspiracy theories in plain sight on Facebook” it would appear that only the opinions of certain medical professionals will escape WaPo's “conspiracy theory" label.

In the piece, WaPo warns that there exists a dangerous online community of doctors who are guilty of communicating about topics such as “vaccine skepticism,” and laments that these health-care professionals have “reached millions of users.”

The piece is based on “research” from a London-based group called the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. ISD, incidentally, is a think tank dedicated to eradicating what it believes to be online expressions of “extremism” and “covert disinformation.”

ISD boasts of having been the catalyst of the removal of “Twitter accounts, Telegram channels and Facebook pages, groups and accounts,” as well as its ability to “to turn research and analysis into evidence-based policy and action” in its effort to “push back the forces” that threatenglobal “cohesion.”

WaPo does not mention the agenda of ISD, but rather cites the group as if it had conducted objective research surrounding the doctors’ online community.

The piece quotes an ISD analyst’s assertion that the “credentials” afforded to the dissenting doctors in question “have given this veneer of credibility and kind of allow them to manipulate people’s trust.”

WaPo explains that ISD’s “research” involved evaluating a group of posts from the group of healthcare professionals and concluded that “a vast majority” included either “false, misleading or conspiratorial information” or expressions that “contradicted guidance from top public health authorities.”

“Not all of the members’ posts are misleading or conspiratorial — some are as harmless as selfies. But the most popular posts tied to the members often touted unproven covid cures, claimed masking is dangerous, called the virus a scam or likened it to the flu,” WaPowarned, affirming that it considers only doctors who subscribe to a certain set of viewpoints to be valid medical experts

The Washington Post is from the first mainstream media outlet to attempt to scare readers out of the dangerous practice of critical thinking this year. The New York Timesraised eyebrows back in February when it published a piece warning readers against just that.

“Critical thinking, as we’re taught to do it, isn’t helping in the fight against misinformation,” argued a NYT opinion piece titled “Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole.”

Charlie Warzel, who was at the time an Opinion writer for The Times, consulted a “digital literacy expert” from Washington State University Vancouver named Michael Caulfield, who warned against the danger of the desire to “deeply engage” with information.

Consider the following excerpts from Warzel’s piece:

“We’re taught that, in order to protect ourselves from bad information, we need to deeply engage with the stuff that washes up in front of us,” Mr. Caulfield told me recently. He suggested that the dominant mode of media literacy (if kids get taught any at all) is that “you’ll get imperfect information and then use reasoning to fix that somehow. But in reality, thatstrategy can completely backfire.”

For instance, imagine you were to visit Stormfront, a white supremacist message board, to try to understand racist claims in order to debunk them. “Even if you see through the horrible rhetoric, at the end of the day you gave that place however many minutes of your time,” Mr. Caulfield said. “Even with good intentions, you run the risk of misunderstanding something, because Stormfront users are way better at propaganda than you. You won’t get less racist reading Stormfront critically, but you might be overloaded by information and overwhelmed.”

The media’s demonization of narrative-questioning is having the intended impact on its audience. In October, New York Times Magazine’s column The Ethicistresponded to a reader who wrote in, distraught about the moral dilemma of helping his post-stroke father access the internet, because of the potential content he may interact with.

He’s getting bored and wants help navigating to the various websites (which he can’t read anyway) and YouTube channels that push all this ridiculous, hatefulnonsense. Anti-masker “plandemic”? “Globalist” world takeover? Stop the steal? 9/11 an inside job? Sandy Hook massacre was faked? Yes, and then some. He can’t find any of this without my help, and I just can’t bring myself to help him here.

Can I refuse to help him access information he desires but which I find morally objectionable? Or is he just a frail but crazy old man who doesn’t have long to live, so let’s humor him because it’s harmless and it will make him happy?

​​—  Should I Help My Aging, Ailing Dad Access His Toxic Web Feed?

The provided answer from the magazine is—to paraphrase—a cold “Go for it, because your dad is already an invalid anyway.”

The media’s assertion of the power to classify lines of inquiry as either valid or invalid yields a remarkably convenient reality for the propaganda machine.

Just days after Politico confirmed elements of the Hunter Biden Laptop scandal (nearly a year after the New York Post broke the story), The Washington Post cleared up any confusion for its readers as to why it had not granted any validity to the story in the first place.

WaPo addressed the issue in a piece ever so artfully titled “5 conspiracy theories that remain unproven, despite what you might have heard .”

The outlet’s justification for including the laptop story on such a list despite Politico’s confirmation was as follows:

That some of the emails were legitimate doesn’t actually prove that initial response to have been unwarranted, nor does it prove that the genesis of the information wasn’t dubious.

To Tell the Truth: The demonization of “conspiracy theories” is the perfect tool for silencing the masses. If the media can successfully get the public to accept —as much of it already has— the narrative that falling down a “rabbit hole” of un-approved information, is dangerous and wrong, it will have eliminated all of its own burden of proof. Why think critically about anything printed in The New York Times when The New York Times has already done all your critical thinking for you? Heck, The Washington Post even kindly publishes lists of ideas and questions you can readily dismiss. And how convenient it is that they all agree!

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