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Internal chats reveal UK print media's role in promoting disinformation
#HARTleaks, when journalists become activists
In the US we see disinformation groups like America’s Frontline Doctors being embraced by Republican politicians, while some disinformation doctors are even running for office like Scott Jensen ( Pandata and World Doctors Alliance). This isn’t surprising considering a leaked conference call shows the shadowy Council for National Policy (CNP) was responsible for creating America’s Frontline Doctors as they saw economic growth as essential for returning Trump to the White House in the 2020 election. When it was realised that a Trump victory was unlikely the conspiracy theories of militant covid disinformation groups were primed to embrace Stop the Steal.
In the UK Rishi Sunak took advice from the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) authors, the CRG group of Conservative MPs collaborates with HART, and Collateral Global have bought themselves an All Party Parliamentary Party. Liz Truss, who has spoken at the CNP linked Heritage Foundation appears to have embraced the GBD narrative claiming she consistently opposed measures to control the virus.
David Gorski, well known for having spent years of combating anti-vaxxers and medical disinformation was recently asked if he ever thought the anti-vax movement could become as mainstream as it has during the pandemic. He said he always feared the movement would grow, but never thought it could grow as influential as it is today.
What caused this? The anti-vax movement has been boosted by the same lobbying networks responsible for climate change denial and culture wars. Covid was deliberately turned into another tribal culture wars issue where emotion and bias can overcome critical thinking. We have witnessed a proliferation of astroturf groups and digital disinformation campaigns, yet these groups wouldn’t have gained the influence, followers and revenue they now claim if it wasn't for the active support of a fairly large section of the UK media.
This section of the media tried to sell a herd immunity strategy of mass infection in March 2020, some arguing that the best course of action would be to just accept the deaths of many of thousands of vulnerable people to preserve the “healthy” population and the economy. This impacts the debate in other countries.
The first day of lockdown the UK media provided a huge amount of publicity to Sunetra Gupta’s claims herd immunity had already almost been reached. It didn’t matter that she refused to provide the data she’d used for the non-peer reviewed pre-print paper, her name and work still went global because the press had gone all in on promoting her.
This is the second of John Bye’s threads on the #HARTleaks, the first covered collaboration between Conservative MPs and the disinformation groups. This thread covers collaboration between print media and disinformation groups, demonstrating how news stories are produced to provide a platform for disinformation and to undermine public health and trust in institutions.
John Bye on #HARTleaks & the Print Media
Covid contrarians often complain about being censored, but in reality groups like HART are platformed and even actively supported by print, radio and TV journalists.
This continued even after #hartleaks showed them to be a bunch of cranks and conspiracy theorists.
When HART launched, their media coordinator Jemma Moran already had a list of "trusted journos" to target. She calls @AllisonPearson their "most supportive contact", and offers her and the @Telegraph first sight of their press release and an article by HART member Ellen Townsend.
Pearson promptly writes an article accusing the media of "remorseless scaremongering" and calling HART's launch "cheering". She charitably describes them as a "group of eminent doctors, scientists, economists and psychologists", and a "thoughtful bunch". Which is far from true!
A few days later Telegraph associate editor @CamillaTominey publishes an article quoting HART's Ellen Townsend, including a misleading, probably false claim that there hadn't been "a single death of a previously healthy child from Covid-19".
Townsend repeats this in the Express.
The Telegraph published an even more blatantly false claim a couple of weeks later, when HART's John Lee told @AllisonPearson and @LiamHalligan's Planet Normal podcast that covid has "very little effect" on people under 60 unless they're "ill with other conditions".
Then in May @AllisonPearson had senior HART and UsForThem member Ros Jones on Planet Normal, saying "politicians are jumping the gun when it comes to children and vaccines".
We now know Jones was coordinating an anti-vax campaign to stop children getting vaccinated at the time!
The @Telegraph's education editor @camillahmturner went even further, claiming there was a "backlash" against vaccinating children.
This was based solely on a HART letter that made false claims about vaccine safety, the risk of covid to children, and the UK having herd immunity.
We also now know articles by the @Telegraph's @camillahmturner about headteacher David Perks refusing to enforce mask mandates were setup by @usforthemuk, who spent the whole pandemic arguing against any kind of safety measures in schools. Ros says Turner was "brilliant for UfT".
Meanwhile @Telegraph cartoonist Bob Moran joined HART and even created content for them. No surprise when his sister-in-law is .. HART media coordinator Jemma Moran.
@bobscartoons became increasingly extreme, and was eventually fired after saying a doctor deserved to be abused!
Other @Telegraph writers aren't as popular with HART. Liz Evans initially says "@sarahknapton is out on a limb and the only one worth approaching".
Later she hoped @gordonrayner could "turn the narrative around", suggesting the paper's output was bought with government ad money.
HART's real ire is aimed at @PaulNuki though. Members claim he has a "clear agenda" and is paid for by Bill Gates, describing his work as "risible", "appalling propaganda".
These are the people @AllisonPearson, @gordonrayner, @camillahmturner and others have been platforming.
Another early HART supporter was @thelucyjohnston of the Sunday Express. She even setup a meeting between MPs and HART members Ellen Townsend and Anthony Brookes, plus HART friends Sunetra Gupta, Carl Heneghan and Robert Dingwall. Using recycled HART material as "bulletpoints".
HART members frequently talk about @thelucyjohnston being an ally who's "tearing her hair out at censorship and control of the narrative", and fighting her editor to get stories about HART and their dubious views published.
Perhaps because of her "wary" editor, @thelucyjohnston wanted a story from HART to justify covering the group's launch. But she was already in contact with several members, including purveyor of dodgy graphs Joel Smalley and anti-vax homeopath Anna Rayner.
Then in March, Ros Jones says @thelucyjohnston is "as horrified as we are" about vaccinating children. In a very dodgy move, she wants them to organise a letter "signed by a dozen or more doctors", purely so she can use it as an excuse to get an anti-vax article past her editor!
HART promptly set about trying to find enough members who fit the bill to sign the letter.
Conspiracy theorist Liz Evans asks if her own group, the even more outlandish UKMFA, can join in, but unsurprisingly @thelucyjohnston's editor "rolls his eyes" at the mere mention of them.
It's not clear if this scam actually resulted in an article @thelucyjohnston could get past her editor. But she repeatedly quoted HART members and allies making wild claims in contrarian articles throughout the year, and even got UKMFA quotes past her eye rolling editor.
Apparently @thelucyjohnston was also actively promoting HART to her contacts.
Jemma Moran talks about her sending HART content to everyone from Robert Dingwall (still on the JCVI at the time!) to Lord Sumption (who promptly wrote about the group .. in rival paper The Telegraph).
More recently @thelucyjohnston has published a series of wildly misleading stories, distastefully using tragic deaths amongst child abuse victims and care home residents to push her anti-lockdown narrative.
Meanwhile the @DailyMailUK's @DavidRoseUK was apparently "very interested in hydroxychloroquin", and wild tales about a trial supposedly using fatal doses to discredit the drug.
In a bizarre game of pass the parcel, HART seem to have referred him to the UKMFA via BIRD. 🙄
The @DailyMailUK also published several articles by members John Lee and Ellen Townsend in early 2021.
These made false claims about false positives, and (ironically, given HART's later anti-vax stance) called for lockdown to be ended early because "the vaccines are working". 🤔
More worryingly, @bmj_latest senior editor Peter Doshi was in contact with HART, asking for information on "harmful bioactive roles played by the spike protein" used in covid vaccines.
A few weeks later he used the BMJ to call on the FDA to delay vaccine approvals on this basis!
All of which makes you wonder why HART are so paranoid that there's a "concerted campaign against sceptics" paid for by Bill Gates.
He's clearly not getting his money's worth!
End of thread.
Other Examples and Consequences
Camilla Turner published a dumpster dive VAERS study by Hoeg, Stevenson etc exaggerating myocarditis from vaccination in children. The paper wasn’t peer reviewed, received lots of publicity before being withdrawn, yet it is still being quoted in sections of the media. This wrongly caused untold damage to trust in child vaccination in the UK and abroad.
The Spectator had the infamous herd immunity article by Robert Peston on 12 March, and has consistently been the voice of the GBD. The recent interview with Rishi Sunak is just another attempt by the publication to rewrite science and now history
Us For Them
The pro mass infection of children campaign
Sceptic legal challenges doomed to failure are used by the media to promote disinformation groups