Vaccine Hysteria Is Getting So Bad, And Fighting It Feels So Futile
If even rumors that are very easy to debunk spread far and wide, what hope do we have?
I cover misinformation in this newsletter in a very particular way. I don’t, for the most part, spend that much energy on truly gonzo forms of right-wing misinformation, simply because I don’t think there’s any shortage of journalists and pundits engaged with this subject already. I do think there is, relatively speaking, a dearth of journalists and pundits exploring everyday forms of progressive misinformation. I think I can do more good writing about the latter, and I find it more interesting. Hence, my interest in unpacking the ways progressive outlets are wrong about — or actively distort — the evidence for youth gender medicine and crime and so on.
Look, I’ve parachuted into the right-wing fever swamps before. I did so with some regularity when I worked at New York Magazine. I wrote about a woman who was targeted by Breitbart for making an insensitive joke online, and what happened to her as a result (it wasn’t fun). I wrote about Mike Cernovich’s bizarre obsession with pedophilia and his bad-faith campaign to get Vic Berger tarred as one. I also wrote about the pernicious influence of gonzo “citizen journalist” types like Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones, and I looked into a viral, evidence-free rumor about a Hillary Clinton quote that would supposedly get her arrested, and which appeared to cause even The New York (freaking) Times to spread some fake news (the Times never got back to me on that, and the highly suspect quote in question that they printed is still in the live version of their story — I promise you it is too long to explain in detail in this post, so click the link to my piece if you want to find out more).
So all I’m saying is that I don’t find the right-wing fever swamps uninteresting or unimportant. I’ve just moved on, a bit. And there’s a burgeoning cottage industry of journalists and academics studying right-wing misinformation anyway, so this stuff gets plenty of attention.
Because of the fact that I stay away from the swamps, perhaps I’m not as inured to their sheer craziness as I used to be. I found this out the hard way the other day when I saw that #VaccineDeath was one of the trending topics Twitter was offering me (thanks, Twitter!). Against my better judgment I clicked it, and the top result was this tweet, which as of Wednesday morning had about 1.5 million views:
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