Former Premier Peckford vs Pandemic Narrative: Big Tech / Media to Blame (Part 3 of 3)

Commentary, COVID-19, Lee Harding

Brian Peckford, Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier from 1979 to 1989, believes a false consensus on coronavirus has been manufactured by selective coverage and censorship courtesy of Big Tech and mainstream media.

“Big Tech are Facebook and Twitter who have had the power to shut people down because they don’t agree with their point of view. That’s very undemocratic,” Peckford said in an interview.

Peckford cites attacks on the October 2020 Great Barrington Declaration as one example. Here, three well-qualified medical experts called for “focused protection” of the vulnerable and an end to lockdowns for everyone else, only to have their view dismissed as fringe. 

The Wall Street Journal editorial “How Fauci and Collins Shut Down Covid Debate” says the media played a pivotal role. Dr. Collins told the Washington Post the declaration represented “a fringe component of epidemiology” and “not mainstream science. It’s dangerous.” But this was hardly the case, as the December 2021 editorial pointed out.

Big Tech was little help. On February 4, 2021, Facebook removed the page of the Great Barrington Declaration, for unspecified violations of “community standards” only to restore it again a week later. In an article for Sp!ked online, two of the declaration’s authors, Martin Kulldorff and Jay Bhattacharya, called it another example of “ostensibly progressive technocrats enthusiastically censoring scientific discussion and debate.” 

The pioneer of mRNA vaccines, Dr. Robert Malone, has become a strong critic of the mRNA vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna for COVID-19. Despite his credentials Dr. Malone was permanently banned from Twitter in December 2021 and lost 500,000 followers on the platform.

Peckford says the censorship is an organized effort. “Someone in the western world is not getting all the information that they should be getting because it’s being suppressed by this Trusted News Initiative,” he said.

The TNI launched in 2019. That July the Global Conference for Media Freedom held in London, England as a joint effort of the UK and Canadian governments. There, then BBC Director-General Tony Hall announced, “Last month I convened, behind closed doors, a Trusted News Summit at the BBC, which brought together global tech platforms and publishers. The goal was to arrive at a practical set of actions we can take together, right now, to tackle the rise of misinformation and bias.”

On September 9, 2019, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced its participation in the global “Trusted News Charter.” By then Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, AFP, Reuters, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and the European Broadcasting Union were also on board.

 On March 27, 2020, the CBC announced, “Starting today, partners in the Trusted News Initiative will alert each other to disinformation about coronavirus, including ‘imposter content’ purporting to come from trusted sources. Such content will be reviewed promptly to ensure that disinformation is not republished.”

The “trusted sources” were usually heads of governmental medical bodies or the World Health Organization. Contrary views were stifled. Besides this, an examination by MintPress of 30,000 grants by the Gates Foundation showed $319 million had been given to media outlets. 

Peckford believes sponsorship skews coverage, and that Canada’s federal tax credit for approved media from 2019 through 2024 is one more example.

“And the other thing with the media is in Canada, they got $600 million worth of money from the federal government. When you get money from the government, you’re not going to be as objective as you would be without having that money,” Peckford said.

Another federal media grant program was launched in 2018 through Canadian Heritage. More than 160 reporting positions across Canada are sponsored through the Local Journalism Initiative, which will receive a total of $50 million over five years. 

Peter Jackson, whose work for The Telegram is sponsored by the LJI took a shot at Peckford in article reposted in the Toronto Star. In “The anti-vaxxer is a person in your neighbourhood,” Jackson wrote, “Former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford runs a blog from his home in British Columbia that’s awash in anti-scientific conspiracies and medical misinformation. 

“The theme throughout is one of truth being oppressed by a cabal of government and corporations.” 

Peckford declined to speak to Jackson except to say he believed the validity of ivermectin was not just propaganda. But he told this author the “conspiracy theory” label didn’t surprise him.

“That’s the normal corner that they go in when somebody is not agreeing with their point of view. They’ll attack you. They don’t want to deal with the evidence that I presented on my blog over and over again for the last year and a half, data from reputable scientists all over the world,” the former premier said of his WordPress blog Peckford42.

“So, it’s not a conspiracy theory. But they like them too because those two words really trigger negativity in the minds of people and the Toronto Star knows that.”

As for “truth being oppressed,” Peckford believes it’s happening.

“Government is actually getting so big and so in bed with Big Pharma and [Big] Tech that it’s not even funny.”

Lee Harding is a Research Associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.