We all know the story about Andrew Wakefield. He’s the British doctor who, we’ve been endlessly told, falsely linked the MMR vaccine to the development of autism in children over 20 years ago.
That’s the message out there universally regarding the safety of the ever-expanding childhood vaccination schedule.
Wakefield was made the fall guy. Discredit him and the controversy is put to rest. We can all relax.
The massive worldwide push for taking the COVID19 vaccine has met with all kinds of resistance. Once again there needs to be someone to blame for the skepticism, someone whose claims can be debunked.
That person seems to be Robert Kennedy, Jr.
The prominent Kennedy name gets notice, so he can’t just be ignored. The media has to attack him for spreading “vaccine misinformation” in order to quiet growing fears over vaccine mandates.
Just like with Wakefield, experts and officials are lined up to show how wrong Kennedy is. In Kennedy’s case, even family members publicly discredit his views on vaccines.
I was amazed at how much coverage Kennedy’s been getting. I can easily predict that these same sources WILL NOT be talking about his upcoming book, The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health.
Attacking the messenger:
July 22, 2021, NBC Today: How vaccine misinformation spreads on social media
The surgeon general recently warned that vaccine misinformation has become an epidemic. NBC News investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen spoke with an expert who advises Facebook and reveals how much more he thinks social media companies can do.
2:05 …When we start on the page of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a prominent vaccine critic, Twitter shows us we might like other profiles with people who are critical of vaccines.
Fox News: Brit Hume: Kamala Harris Bible reference is a 'little bit of a stretch'
Brit Hume: (@ 35 seconds) … I think the messaging from the White House and other authorities throughout this pandemic, which has turned out to be either wrong or later contradicted and so on throughout this whole season of the pandemic has left people wondering what they can truly believe.
And I think that is responsible in large measure for the fact that a lot of people are still reluctant to get the shot.
You have people who don’t like shots anyway, and then you have people like Robert F. Kennedy, who are anti-vaxxers out there who are promoting this information. …
Instagram has banned Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and a controversial anti-vaccine activist, from their platform for repeatedly sharing false claims about COVID-19 and vaccines.
"We removed this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines," Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in a statement….
In December, Kennedy's niece, Dr. Kennedy Meltzer, published an op-ed in the Times calling out her uncle for the "dubious" claims against the COVID-19 vaccines that he posts on social media.
"I love my uncle. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong," Meltzer, an internal medicine resident physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, wrote. "His concern — that the COVID vaccine is potentially unsafe, and hasn't been properly tested — is widespread, and dangerously wrong."
"As a doctor, and as a member of the Kennedy family, I feel I must use whatever small platform I have to state a few things unequivocally," she continued. "I love my uncle Bobby. I admire him for many reasons, chief among them his decades-long fight for a cleaner environment. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong."
Today, not so much. State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, is calling for Kennedy Jr. to be banned from social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. He has already been banned from Instagram for spreading misinformation.
“Pan told supporters of his Ready to Vaccinate campaign in a Wednesday email that Kennedy should be stripped of his accounts for using them to ‘spread lies about COVID-19 vaccines and trying to drive fear in communities of color,’” wrote Hannah Wiley of The Sacramento Bee.
“Sadly, COVID-19 isn’t the only disease we’re fighting,” Pan wrote in the email inviting subscribers to sign a petition for Kennedy’s social media removal. “We’re also up against the disease of misinformation, perpetuated by high-profile anti-vaxxers like Robert F. Kennedy Jr.”
Globe and Mail (Canada): How a Kennedy became a ‘superspreader’ of hoaxes on COVID-19, vaccines, 5G and more
“The anti-vaccine movement has started connecting with groups and individuals protesting against government interference and social distancing,” Paul Offit, a professor of pediatrics and vaccine expert who has repeatedly clashed with Mr. Kennedy Jr., wrote recently. “This is an extension of the anti-vaccine movement’s earlier pivot to the political far right based on choice or health freedom.” …
Mr. Kennedy Jr.’s famous name and legitimate background makes his messaging particularly effective, experts said. “The anti-vaccine movement pride themselves on bucking authority, but are also desperate for legitimacy,” said Dorit Reiss, a professor at the University of California. “Robert Kennedy gives them both.”
Mr. Kennedy Jr.’s siblings Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and former congressman Joseph Kennedy, as well as niece Maeve Kennedy McKean, published an excoriating article in Politico claiming that “he has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines."
“We love Bobby,” they said, and praised his record on environmental issues. “However, on vaccines he is wrong.”
Charleston (SC) Gazette-Mail: Joseph Wyatt: Some WV deaths likely from pandemic deceptions (Opinion)
When President Joe Biden referred to 12 individuals who are said to originate the majority of falsehoods about vaccine efficacy on social media, my thoughts turned to my fellow West Virginians and whether some have died as a result of the corrosive words of the dirty dozen.
Anti-Vax Watch, along with the Center for Countering Digital Hate, monitored Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for six weeks as anti-vaccination content was exploding in February and March. Across all three platforms, 65% of such postings was traced back to the twelve whom Biden had referenced. On Facebook alone, 73% of anti-vaccine posts were attributable to the toxic stew of pseudoscience that has appeared in their postings, as representative samples demonstrate…
Kevin Jenkins believes that vaccines are racists’ way of convincing Blacks it is “ok to kill yourselves.” He has appeared with long-time anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose organization posts anti-vaccine articles including one with no basis in reality claiming that the death former MLB slugger Hank Aaron was “part of a wave of suspicious deaths.”
“Every day that goes by that some misinformation is allowed to spread — whether it’s intentional lies or just people who haven’t bothered to get the facts — every day that goes on more people die,” U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said at a news conference Wednesday. …
He said it’s time to begin calling out disinformation mills, including some of his congressional colleagues.
Van Hollen called this “naming and shaming.” …
According to a report released by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, 12 people are behind 65% of anti-vaccine content seen on Twitter and Facebook. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was ranked the second most influential online anti-vaxxer.
Scott Jensen spread COVID conspiracy theories, and has appeared with top anti-vaccine activists many times…
Jensen was also a presenter at a notorious event called the "Truth Over Fear Summit on Covid and the 'Great Reset,'" which the Anti-Defamation League described as promoting the conspiracy theory that "global elites" are using the pandemic to "advance their interests and push forward a globalist plot to destroy American sovereignty and prosperity." The event also featured Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a leading anti-vaccine activist…
UK Guardian (US edition): ‘A systemic failure’: vaccine misinformation remains rampant on Facebook, experts say
Facebook is under fire once again over the proliferation of vaccine misinformation on its platform, after Joe Biden said tech giants such as Facebook are “killing people” for failing to tackle the problem….
The White House has also zeroed in on the “disinformation dozen”: accounts that have been shown to be responsible for the bulk of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.
And while Facebook has defended itself, saying it has removed more than 18m pieces of Covid misinformation, experts who study online misinformation say it has still largely failed to address the issue and that falsehoods about the vaccine are still reaching millions of people. …
Misinformation experts have condemned platforms for taking down some of the most egregious accounts, but not others. For instance, the anti-vaccine figurehead Robert F Kennedy Jr still has an account on Facebook, despite being banned from Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
NY Daily News: Viral lies: Anti-vaccine propaganda is deadly indeed
President Biden hit a nerve Friday when he said social media platforms are “killing people” by helping spread anti-COVID-vaccine propaganda. Monday, the president elaborated, citing a nonprofit study documenting that two-thirds of anti-vax misinformation on Facebook or Twitter tracks back to just a dozen user accounts. …
One of the 12 top poisoners of public health the president referred to is New York’s own Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a crusader against child vaccination for measles and other scourges (even though he had his own children vaccinated). RFK Jr.’s nonprofit, Children’s Health Defense, produced and is distributing a devious documentary called “Medical Racism” that retells America’s dark history of medical experimentation on vulnerable groups and cynically connects it to the push to get as many people as possible protected from COVID-19.
Approximately 65% of misinformation about the vaccine that’s spread on social media can be traced back to 12 people, says the Center for Countering Digital Hate in a recent report.
The nonprofit organization refers to those 12 people as the "disinformation dozen."
"Our sample of anti-vaccine content was shared or posted on Facebook or Twitter a total of 812,000 times between February 1 and March 16 2021, with 65 percent of that sample attributable to the Disinformation Dozen," the center’s report reads.
Included in that "disinformation dozen" is Robert F Kennedy Jr., as are the husband-and-wife duo Ty and Charlene Bollinger, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) says….
Last week, President Joe Biden criticized the spread of misinformation on social media platforms such as Facebook.
"They're killing people," Biden said. …
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, meanwhile, spoke out against the spread of false information Sunday during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union.
Wall Street Journal: Biden’s Facebook Attack Followed Months of Frustration Inside White House
President Biden’s attack on Facebook Inc. on Friday followed months of mounting private frustration inside his administration over the social-media giant’s handling of vaccine misinformation, according to U.S. officials, bringing into public view tensions that could complicate efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19. …
On Friday, Mr. Biden accused social-media companies such as Facebook of killing people by not doing more to remove false statements about the vaccine. “They’re killing people,” he said in response to a question about companies like Facebook. “The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people.”…
Though the administration doesn’t regularly flag specific content to Facebook, according to aides, officials occasionally raised examples they said seemed to violate the spirit of the company’s anti-misinformation efforts. One example cited by an administration official: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. , who has questioned the efficacy and safety of vaccines, has been banned from Instagram, but not Facebook. Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion.
Mr. Kennedy said Sunday that any conversation between the administration and Facebook about his social media posts would amount to unconstitutional government censorship.
“Misinformation. The term has nothing to do with falsehood. It’s just any statement that departs from official statements and proclamations,” he said, adding: “There is no pandemic exception to the Bill of Rights.”
Washington Post: Opinion: How the GOP crusade against vaccines could get even more dangerous
Until recently, whenever someone wanted to assert that susceptibility to anti-science conspiracy theories was not solely the province of the right, an example they could cite was the sort-of left-leaning embrace of the anti-vaccine crusade.
With Robert F. Kennedy Jr. the most prominent opponent of vaccination, the picture many people had of a vaccine opponent was a liberal parent from Santa Monica fighting with their school district over whether to get their kids immunized.
That was a distortion — liberals were no more likely to be anti-vaxxers than conservatives — and it certainly didn’t rise up the political ladder to the point where Democratic politicians were waging fights against immunizations. (Never mind that the highest-profile purveyor of the lie that vaccines cause autism was Donald Trump.)
"There's about 12 people who are producing 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.
That statistic is from the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) which identified in a report published in March about a dozen people it said were super-spreaders of anti-vaccine misinformation.
The CCDH had at the time called on Facebook and Twitter to shut down all pages run by those people.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent figure in the anti-vaccine movement, is among the people whom the CCDH said should be kicked off social media.
Kennedy's page on Facebook-owned Instagram was shut down earlier this year for sharing Covid-19 misinformation, Facebook said. However, Kennedy is still allowed on Facebook (FB) itself, and he has more than 300,000 followers on the platform.
Explaining why Kennedy was kicked off one of its platforms but not the other, a Facebook spokesperson told CNN Thursday, "We don't automatically disable accounts across our apps, because the accounts may post about different things on our different services.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.