I think this is less a case of Biden flack Kate Bedingfield being an idiot than Mika Brzezinski being an idiot and Bedingfield having to humor her in the moment.
But don’t hold me to that. Remember, this is the same White House comms team that proposed recently that anyone who posts misinformation on one social media platform should be barred from the entirety of social media. They’re not free-speech sticklers.
Mika starts here by reminding Bedingfield that as a candidate Biden promised to review Section 230, which has become a bipartisan cause among populists. Righties want to get rid of Section 230 to punish Big Tech for bias in moderating right-wing content too aggressively. Lefties want to use the prospect of getting rid of Section 230 as leverage to get Big Tech to crack down on misinformation, however the left happens to define that term. Brzezinski picks up on that by asking Bedingfield whether 230 should be amended to make platforms like Facebook legally liable for vaccine misinformation published by their users.
Which is incoherent, since vaccine misinformation is protected speech under the First Amendment. Virtually all falsehoods are. The only major exception is false statements of fact about a person that injures him or her financially, i.e. defamation. You can lie your balls off about anything else all day long with legal impunity — the moon landing was faked, 9/11 was an inside job, the CIA assassinated Kennedy, the vaccines don’t work. It’s all good for 1A purposes.
So we’re left to wonder what sort of legal liability Mika thinks might conceivably attach here. The closest I can get to making sense of her point is that she thinks a platform should lose its Section 230 protection if it publishes vaccine misinformation, which would then make it liable potentially for any personal defamation posted by its users. But that’s a proverbial slippery slope, as it would turn Section 230 into a point of leverage by the federal government to pressure social media into suppressing all sorts of disfavored speech. Why not have Democrats in Congress threaten to revoke Section 230 for any company that allows its users to post misinformation about Joe Biden? Or even *accurate* unflattering information about Joe Biden?
I’m skeptical that conditioning Section 230 immunity on a platform’s willingness to follow the government’s preferences on objectionable content would survive a First Amendment challenge but I’ll defer to people who know better on that. Watch a few minutes of the Q&A with Bedingfield, then read on.
Bedingfield says they’re “reviewing” Section 230 and that social media companies should indeed be held “accountable.” If she means accountable via Biden grumbling about them at press briefings, okay. If she means accountable via trying to hold them legally liable somehow for the non-defamatory content they publish, she’s a dummy with thuggish instincts.
She also notes that certain conservative outlets are being “irresponsible” by sharing vaccine misinformation, which is unfortunately true. The White House has reportedly been in touch with the most prominent of those outlets, which may explain why the tone on the air has changed (a little) in the past 24 hours:
There have been regular, high-level conversations between the White House and Fox News regarding their coverage of the pandemic and vaccines, a source familiar with the talks tells CNN…
The person who confirmed the conversations cautioned there has been no singular conversation that has played a role in Fox’s coverage of Covid-19. Throughout the pandemic, officials have regularly reached out to Fox News about their Covid-19 coverage. While White House officials often reach out to television networks and other news outlets about their coronavirus coverage, but this outreach is notable given Fox News’ past coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on Tuesday that White House officials are in regular contact with Fox News.
That might be why Foxies from Steve Doocy to Marc Siegel to Sean Hannity were nudging viewers to get vaccinated yesterday. But Doocy, Siegel, and Hannity have always been pro-vaccine. It’s Tucker and Laura Ingraham who are driving the vaccine-skeptical coverage, with Carlson at it again last night:
Here’s Tucker Carlson lying about the vaccine
— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) July 20, 2021
The mere fact that he won’t go further than to say he remains “open-minded” about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, as if the jury is still out six months and 160 million vaccinations later, shows what his game is. Hopefully it goes without saying that Walensky was right that this is now largely a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Not entirely; some vaccinated people are getting infected, hospitalized, and even dying. But 97 percent of new hospitalizations are unvaccinated people. According to a recent AP analysis, 98.9 percent of infections and 99.2 percent of deaths in May came from the unvaccinated. Same story in the UK, which this graph illustrates dramatically:
This picture paints about 3000 words. pic.twitter.com/IJ6AJA1YEr
— Alison Buttenheim (@abuttenheim) July 20, 2021
Or maybe you prefer this one, showing how cases and deaths have diverged sharply in the post-vax era:
That’s because those things were tied together throughout the pandemic. More cases also meant a proportional increase in hospitalizations/deaths, but no longer the case among highly vaccinated populations. They are decoupled. https://t.co/iGPFLPX7XT pic.twitter.com/1tKyvkaKoK
— AG (@AGHamilton29) July 20, 2021
Carlson’s priority is making sure his unvaccinated fans aren’t blamed for keeping the pandemic going even though that is in fact what willingly unvaccinated people are doing. Sorry if it bothers him and them to be reminded of it occasionally. He’s the one engaged in political talking points by insisting this isn’t a pandemic of the unvaccinated, not Walensky.