World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appears to be expanding the scope of his global effort from the pandemic to what he calls the “infodemic.” Tedros weighed into the conflict between musician Neil Young and podcaster Joe Rogan and streaming giant Spotify. Tedros supported Young’s demand that Rogan be censored by the company for his views on the virus and treatments. It was a particularly glaring position for Tedros after he and WHO have been repeatedly accused of supporting China in early efforts to scuttle investigations into the lab theory on the origin of this virus.
Joe Rogan — who hosts “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast — and has been criticized for questioning whether young healthy people should get the vaccine due to its low fatality rate for younger people. He was also criticized for praising ivermectin, a medicine used to kill parasites in animals and humans despite objections that it is ineffective against the virus.
As will come as no surprise to people on this blog, I have long opposed efforts to cancel Rogan or others for their dissenting views on the virus or its treatment. In the last few years, we have seen an increasing call for private censorship from Democratic politicians and liberal commentators. Faculty and editors are now actively supporting modern versions of book-burning with blacklists and bans for those with opposing political views. Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll has denounced the “weaponization” of free speech, which appears to be the use of free speech by those on the right. So the dean of one of the premier journalism schools now supports censorship. Free speech advocates are facing a generational shift that is now being reflected in our law schools, where free speech principles were once a touchstone of the rule of law. As millions of students are taught that free speech is a threat and that “China is right” about censorship, these figures are shaping a new society in their own intolerant images.
What is most distressing is to see health officials calling for censorship. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has been sued by animal rights groups over actual government censorship.
In this case, Tedros backed Young and thanked him for “standing up against misinformation and inaccuracies” around Covid vaccinations before stressing “we all have a role to play to end this pandemic and infodemic.”
He added “@NeilYoungNYA, thanks for standing up against misinformation and inaccuracies around #COVID19 vaccination… Public and private sector, in particular #socialmedia platforms, media, individuals — we all have a role to play to end this pandemic and infodemic.”
The “role” being described by Tedros is corporate censorship.
We have seen various journalistic and scientific figures banned for expressing skepticism over pandemic claims from the origins of the virus to the efficacy of certain treatments. For example, when many people raised the possibility that the virus may have been released from the nearby Chinese virology lab (rather than the “wet market” theory), they were denounced as virtually a lunatic fringe. Even objections to the bias of authors of a report dismissing the lab theory were ridiculed. The New York Times reporter covering the area called it “racist” and implausible. Now, even W.H.O. admits that the lab theory is possible and Biden officials are admitting that it is indeed plausible.
The same is true with the debate over the efficacy of masks. For over a year, some argued that the commonly used masks are ineffective to protect against the virus. Now, the CDC is warning that the masks do not appear to block these variants and even CNN’s experts are calling the cloth masks “little more than facial decorations.”