On Saint Patrick’s Day, Matt Taibbi managed to ruffle more feathers in the leftist community of which he was once a part. Whether he still is, only he can answer now – he and his colleague Mike Shellenberger. This much we can say: the leaders of that community have lied to him, and he’s calling them out. The current case in point is Stanford University’s Virality Project, which he has made the subject of Twitter Files 19.
The real founders of the Virality Project
Greed, for lack of a better term, is good. Greed works. Actor Michael Douglas, as Gordon Gekko, in Wall Street (1987)
That movie Wall Street (Oliver Stone, director and lead writer) illustrates the real roots of the Virality Project.Freeman Spogli and Company is a private-equity firm that does leveraged buyouts and recapitalizations of American consumer-goods and distribution companies. Students of the Roaring Eighties actually remember it as Riordan, Freeman and Spogli. (The Riordan is Richard Riordan, who later became Mayor of Los Angeles.) They are, in point of fact, the Gordon Gekkos in that investment sector. What Drexel Burnham was to high-yield low-quality commercial paper, Riordan, Freeman and Spogli were to middle-market mergers and acquisitions. This firm helped Malone and Hyde buy out Piggly Wiggly Stores, to cite one example.
In 1987, Messrs. Freeman and Spogli gave Stanford University $50 million to found the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. (Mr. Spogli went on to become U.S. Ambassador to Italy.) That institute, with Stanford Law School, founded the Stanford Cyber Policy Institute. They in turn founded the Stanford Internet Observatory, which has borne mention before in the Twitter files. And from the Stanford Internet Observatory came the Virality Project. We can now describe the Virality Project: rooted in greed, vanity, and monumental arrogance.
What is the Virality Project?
The Virality Project has only a little to do with “Internet memes going viral.” Rather, it has to do with COVID-19 and the acceptance of vaccination against same. Source links from Stanford University, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Project itself say what they are about. From the Stanford link comes this list of the collaborators with the Virality Project:
In January 2020, the Stanford Internet Observatory expanded this project in collaboration with colleagues at New York University, the University of Washington, the National Council on Citizenship, and Graphika.
The Rockefeller Foundation provided moral support by hosting a webinar and inviting Virality Project directors to speak. On February 24, 2022, the Virality Project issued its Final Report:
Memes, Magnets and Microchips: Narrative dynamics around COVID-19 vaccines.
Tellingly, that report carries the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative 4.0 International License. Therefore CNAV will not host it directly. Obviously Project administration, the Stanford Internet Observatory, and the Freeman Spogli Institute are very sensitive about the use of this report by any possible critics.
With their associations, one can readily appreciate the source of the arrogance that pervades their self-description. The Executive Summary of their report reeks with belittling comments about all who disagree with them. It also lists some other usual Twitter Files suspects, like the Digital Forensic Research Laboratory, and an unusual suspect: the National Council on Citizenship. Apart from the usual WTF-style question, only their cowardice – hiding behind a non-commercial, non-derivative license – matches that arrogance.
An unfazed Matt Taibbi released this thread showing the relationship of the Virality Project to Twitter. As ever, here are the odd numbers:
In addition, these links, which CNAV has teased from the thread, are relevant. Among other things, Mr. Taibbi refers to his testimony before the House Judiciary Weaponization Subcommittee. He also refers to this YouTube video:
Mr. Taibbi also mentioned certain concepts CNAV has reported on before, like the Disinformation Governance Board.
Reaction, as usual with the Twitter Files, is either “What did I tell you?” or “Why don’t you shut up?” Herewith a small sample:
This last is important because the Delta and Omicron variants were successively more transmissible but less virulent. Which is exactly how viruses change under micro-evolutionary pressure. Viruses that kill everyone who catches them, die with their victims. Viruses that cause an annoyance but let their victims live, survive. Simple as. And with Delta and Omicron, that’s what we all saw.
This user made the most important criticism:
Even the Texas Nationalist Movement couldn’t resist!
Oddly enough, one “Shut Up” reply actually repeated the Virality Project’s central premise: that true stories can constitute misinformation. Matt Taibbi corrected him on that point:
and the user then deleted his tweet.
The Virality Project Executive Summary in fact accuses “domestic actors” of dusting off what it considered the same-old, same-old arguments. Which amount to this: artificial active acquired immunity is not and never has been either:
- As effective as natural immunity, or
- Without side effect.
The medical school curriculum, at least when your editor attended, included warnings that side effects did occur. But these, the professors said, were rare and did not bear mentioning to a scared public. However, lawyers for the firm of Fulbright and Jaworski (yes, THAT Jaworski!) took exception to the withholding of information in their Texas Medical Jurisprudence Course.
All that to illustrate that the debate on the utility of immunization is far from settled. True, the public reveres Saints Edward (Jenner), Jonas (Salk), and Albert (Sabin), and Sir Gunnar Kasson, Knight Commander of the Most Noble Order of Iditarod. But the debate continued – until the present crisis, when a think tank presumed to tell the government to stop it. What’s infinitely worse, and absolutely inexcusable, is that the government took that think tank’s suggestion to heart.
Those four men arguably saved more lives than they took. One cannot say the same for Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., or the un-worthies at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. And one certainly cannot say that of The Virality Project.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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