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The Not-Very-Hidden Agenda of the Fact Checkers

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On 24 February 2022, I was browsing the Internet over my morning coffee. I was of course drawn to an article on the BBC about Ravenser Odd, an East Yorkshire coastal town which was lost to the sea in January 1362 during The Second Great Drowning. As I pondered the great mystery of how a coastal town with two members of Parliament and a Royal Charter from 1299 was lost to rising seas well before The Great Human Carbon Emissions Scandals, I noticed a bunch of articles on the sidebar. 

This one leapt out at me:

Involuntarily, my hackles shot straight up. Could there be a more weenyish response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which had kicked off in earnest the day before? This mafia don masquerading as a head of state had just ordered the killing of possibly thousands of people and the aggressive takeover of a sovereign nation in Europe. 

The astonishing fact that anyone’s reaction to this invasion was to parse his insane ranting statement about “why” he’d decided to pretend it was 1941 or 1968 all over again was bad enough, but then clearly another person called an “editor,” who in an earlier age would have boxed the ears of the twit who suggested this pointless exercise, gave it the green light. 

What lies behind the impulse or – Heaven forfend – the carefully deliberated idea that leads people in the face of massive suffering and misery to think anything will be accomplished by pointing out in real time the lies told by Putin? 

This bizarre disease was prevalent in the sad spectacle of the Trump-Clinton contest in 2016. Americans had to endure seas of electronic and physical ink spilled by earnest losers who got all hopped up on righteous indignation by “fact-checking” the utterances of Hillary or The Donald. 

Earlier generations understood how to decide if a politician were lying. One just had to see if their lips were moving. But the Newly Earnest Nerd Class turned that simple binary test into a never-ending tit-for-tat of taking each sentence and then libsplaining smugly why it was “a lie.” Aside from the rank puerility of an exercise by and for the same chorus, ignored by opponents and rational people of all stripes, when I bothered to look at any of these so-called “fact checks,” it turned out that roughly 95% of the “facts” so checked were not “facts” at all. They were opinions.

I am perhaps a bit more sensitive to this creeping disease of stifling debate because I am living through the damaging absurdity of just those impulses. The delivery mechanism of this social disease is an appalling abuse of customer service by none other than the professional networking site LinkedIn. One might reasonably wonder how I connect some ridiculous “fact-checking” exercise on the BBC to being treated horrendously by an American tech platform owned by Microsoft. 

A bit of background is in order.

In 2005, I was finishing up an MBA program in Sydney, Australia, at the Australian Graduate School of Management, a joint program offered by the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales – the finest MBA program in all the world. Classmates and colleagues told me about a smart new networking site called LinkedIn. I hopped on it, as a useful tool to stay in touch with colleagues around the world. I’ve never been on the metastasizing cancer of the privacy-stealing thing created at Harvard, for the dual reasons of being happily married with no reason to stalk my exes and lacking any interest in cat videos. But LinkedIn made sense.

For most of the intervening 16+ years, it has been an occasionally useful tool. In a world awash in information and distractions, it has provided useful nudges about colleagues’ work anniversaries or job changes. It has led to some new connections and business relationships – relationships which probably would have happened anyway, as I am an “old school” LinkedIn user and only connect to people I know in the real world. I used it as a repository of contacts and occasionally as a messaging service to coordinate with business colleagues or clients. 

Until multiple supposedly representative governments decided to destroy society with pointless totalitarian dictates having nothing to do with controlling the spread of the Wuhan Virus, that was all I used LinkedIn for. Happily for me, I live in the Last Free State in America, Florida, so I was spared in daily life the absurdities and outright abuses that billions of people across the world had to deal with. But most of my career has been international and until March 2020, I traveled constantly. 

Once grounded, I kept busy virtually with my projects around the world, but needed to replace the energy and engagement I’ve always derived from working face-to-face with people around the world. So I created a podcast called Messy Times, shameless plug it may be, but germane to the point I am making. On the show, I’ve hosted numerous guests and co-hosts for discussions ranging across finance, cryptocurrencies, politics, books, science and art. 

One of the debate-format episodes I did with an old friend and colleague from the financial markets, who lives in New York and largely bought into the lockdown and masking policies of Governors Cuomo and Hochul. We spent an hour having – imagine this! – a civil debate about the relative efficacy of masks, the tradeoffs that occur when deciding to lock down parts of the economy, school closures, et alia. It is still available on Spotify and the other podcasting platforms.

I also posted it to YouTube, where it racked up 40 views in 6 or 7 hours. I woke up the following day to an Orwellian email from YouTube, telling me the episode – titled “Masks! OMG! Masks!” – had been removed because I was “spreading misinformation.” When I probed the logic of that, I got back more boilerplate stupidity from the drones at YouTube, my favorite response being someone who took the time to tell me my content was removed because YouTube has a policy to not publish anything which “goes against the policy recommendations of the World Health Organization and [my] local health officials.” 

That is fascinating, I replied, because Florida’s State Health Officials fully agreed with my suggested policies about how to deal or not to deal with a virus. The Chinese Communist-controlled WHO did not agree with the Florida government, so what YouTube meant was “You’re not adhering to nonsense propaganda pushed by Communists in China who spend their time locking up Muslim Uyghurs for torture, rape, ‘reprogramming’ and genocide when the first three don’t work, while you commit the unpardonable sin of agreeing with the sound, rational, data-driven recommendations of your State health department beholden to voters.”

That would be weird for an American company to put in writing, so they simply declined to answer, while telling me ominously that my account now had a “warning” on it, like a 2nd grade teacher telling me that shooting spitballs at the kid in front of me was going on my permanent record. One more spitball and you’re going to the principal’s office!

All this insanity puts to one side that the entire episode was a debate between two – hopefully – reasonably intelligent, totally overeducated, ego-driven Wall Streeters, and was not in any way presented as medical advice. Had the Maoist Woke Censorship Cadres actually listened to our discussion, they maybe would have realized that. Maybe not because tolerance for ideas and patience in debate are not traditional tools in the Left’s kit.  

During the 90 or so episodes we produced beginning in March 2020, we touched on the inescapable Wuhan Panic. First and foremost, being a strict originalist trained in Logic and the tremendous power of linguistic symbolism at the University of Chicago, the first appellation given to the Coronavirus discovered in Wuhan, China was – as Ebola, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, MERS, Hong Kong flu et alia – named conveniently after its site of origin. Therefore it is the Wuhan Virus.

Almost instantly, largely in order to distract the world from the disaster they had unleashed on us all, the propaganda machine of the Communists in China objected to naming something accurately. (I leave aside for now the broader theme of the Communist campaign to divorce regular words from their accepted meanings.) Their Useful Idiots and Fellow Travelers in the West immediately jumped on the Commie bandwagon, using their catch-all epithet “racist” to describe what had theretofore been the generally accepted method for naming an emergent disease. 

I care not a whit what Donald Trump or anyone else has to say about the name “Wuhan Virus.” That is my reason for continuing to use its original name. It will be a cold day in Hell before I bow to anything dictated by Communists. Resistance to Commie propaganda used to be a normal position in the United States of America, and I will not be the one to surrender linguistic and logical territory to people who want to strip me of that freedom of choice. 

The Wuhan Virus is a virus. It has a 99.98% all-population survival rate. It was clear in February 2020 from the data out of Italy that it mostly killed people over 80 who were already seriously ill. That used to be known as “life.” 

I wrote a paper in March 2020 decrying the insanity of formerly free societies running roughshod over personal freedoms, all in an unprecedented, fruitless bid to “stop” this new virus from spreading, side effects and negative consequences be damned. The Wuhan Panic is an entirely manufactured construct, whose creation and duration will doubtless be fodder for thousands of PhD dissertations in the centuries to come, spanning history, anthropology, epidemiology, political science, psychology, data science, behavioral economics and who knows what other disciplines. 

In the United States, the push for insane lockdowns seems clearly to have been the Democrats’ last hope of ousting Orange Man Bad from office. Once he was out of office, petty tyrants discovered their addiction to arbitrary power and they were supported in some States by a population of sheeple who’d grown addicted to submissiveness and the frisson of excitement that accompanies Wuhan Porn for a certain type of person. Why other nations went down this draconian totalitarian route is a complete mystery to me. 

During the course of 2020 while I was arguing with my local school board and pestering everyone in government from Tallahassee to The Swamp about restoring rationality to American life, I was delighted to come across a refreshing piece of clear thinking called the Great Barrington Declaration. The best definition I have yet heard of an intelligent person is someone who agrees with your own ideas. By that standard, the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration are human distillates of pure genius. I instantly signed it and sent the link to everyone I knew. 

Back to LinkedIn. 

On Monday, Day 722 of “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” more commonly known as 21 February 2022, I was busy swapping schedule messages with a number of colleagues around the world via the LinkedIn Message function. I had other things to do and when I returned to the LinkedIn webpage, I had been locked out. I put my password in again and got a screen with this message:

At first I thought that I had been hacked and this was LinkedIn protecting me from malicious threats. So I began the process of “verifying my identity,” which I rapidly stopped because the website was asking me to scan a government-issued personal identity document. That was odd, because LinkedIn does not require one to share such a sensitive document which would make a person more vulnerable to identity theft, so I sent a message via the website:

The LinkedIn team responded with this message:

They provided some examples of this supposedly “misleading or inaccurate information,” two of which I share here. All of the comments I made on LinkedIn about the Wuhan Virus were a result of my perennial inability to tolerate foolishness and illogical statements. In hindsight, I should have ignored the idiotic statements which prompted these responses, but I lack self-control and quite frankly enjoy a good debate, especially about a topic which has had huge impacts on global business. 

The guy I responded to on 7 Jan 2022, for example, had been making sweeping absurd statements – you’ve heard lots like it for the last two years – like “If you’re not wearing 6 masks and staying 50 feet away from everyone, you’re killing them!” LinkedIn staffers liked that idiocy and did not cancel his account, oh no, because Wuhan Hysteria Porn is the Left’s religion. 

Okay, so now I knew with some relief I had not been hacked. I was just being subject to more Woke Big Tech Censorship goofiness. LinkedIn’s Maoist Censor Squadron had not yet revealed its true colors; quite the contrary, they offered a simple remedy for me to get access to my data and the business relationships which were suffering by many people thinking I was suddenly ignoring them.

A person with the delightful title of “LinkedIn Member Safety and Recovery Consultant” assured me that I just had to perform the ritual bowing and scraping so dearly loved by petty, unaccountable bureaucrats everywhere.

So I dutifully replied with this simple message, which they told me contained the magic words which would put an end to this inane and reputationally damaging inconvenience:

Nothing happened.

The next morning, I followed up:

Clearly the anonymous, unaccountable petty cubicle drones at LinkedIn decided they were for the only time in their lives able to exercise some control over a senior professional that in a rational business would be called a “customer” and treated with respect. In response to my request to access my data, I got this back:

That was 22 February. At this point, all I want is my data back from LinkedIn. This has been an excellent wake-up call. The obnoxious, presumptive arrogance of Camille (and the whole LinkedIn Censorship Team) is emblematic of the problems this nation faces. After all this absurd wasting of my time and damage to my reputation, these clowns think I will ever use this platform ever again?

I wrote back saying basically that if LinkedIn were so worried about the risks to the “safety” of other professionals that I apparently pose by stating objective statistics and opining on public policy positions which multiple and increasing numbers of States and Nations are enacting as law, then please send me my data and close my account.

I got back this obnoxious note:

To summarize: I responded to some complete knuckleheads posting provocative stupidity about the Wuhan Virus and governmental responses to it. Some anonymous drone at LinkedIn took it upon his or herself (there are no other options) to waste the time and hurt the reputation of a customer. When that customer got fed up by such horrendous abuse from a company that was supposed to provide a service, that same anonymous, unaccountable petty person or collection of people told that customer to go spend money on lawyers to sue LinkedIn for access to the data that customer (erroneously) believes he owns.

There’s a fun warning for you all: if you think the data you put in LinkedIn is yours, now you know better. It belongs to them and they will steal it from you if you are not possessed of Correct Bay Area Thoughts. 

I cited CDC statistics and a policy preference in an online forum.

Woke Lefty bureaucrats didn’t like it.

Those bureaucrats said, “If you agree to X, we’ll unlock your account.”

I agreed to X and they failed to honor their simple agreement.

LinkedIn stole my data and has hurt me and my business reputationally.

I don’t want to hear people screaming about how the First Amendment only applies to direct governmental restrictions of free speech. Like it or not, massive tech platforms have become public forums. They thrive handsomely under Section 230 provisions which allow them to act as editors and publishers (who can be sued for libel and defamation), but to bear no responsibility for editorial decisions as if they were just “common carriers” like a telephone company.

Here, LinkedIn is acting punitively as an editor, censoring my speech – based on statistics from the CDC and other government sources – while allowing those who, say, spew hateful bile without any substantive factual background about Joe Rogan or Donald Trump all the freedom of speech they like. 

Technicalities aside, it is an appalling shame that an American company, thriving on American freedoms not available to them in many other places around the world, has decided to descend into silly, petty partisanship.

So there you have it – the direct fundamental connection between the sad pathetic nature and dangerousness of “fact checkers” and other ideological buffoons. Just because someone is a complete idiot does not mean they cannot do you substantive harm. Especially when they work at a place like LinkedIn and can hide behind a keyboard.

In closing, I aver with complete conviction and originality that bad artists borrow while good artists steal, so I can do no better than this which has been stolen multiple times since 1888: I promise LinkedIn that if they stop telling lies about me, I’ll stop telling the truth about them. 

Author

  • Christopher Messina is an investor and entrepreneur with deep experience in the global capital markets, cybersecurity, commodities and financial technology. He is on multiple advisory and corporate boards in advanced data science, natural resources mining and asset trading (traditional, Shari’ah compliant and digital) and does significant nonprofit work in US national security and on behalf of American veterans. Mr. Messina is a graduate of The College at the University of Chicago, and holds an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management. He is Co-Founder and Host of the Messy Times podcast.


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