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CBC Must Halt Conflict Of Interest Between Govt & Advertorials

By @MsAmyMacPherson

December 11, 2020

 

 

This is an open letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault, the Prime Minster of Canada Justin Trudeau, the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Chrystia Freeland, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) regarding the dangerous decision to pursue ‘branded content’, also known as ‘paid content’, ‘sponsored content’, and/or ‘advertorials’.

 

 

I’m a former CBC reporter who covered federal and provincial politics at CBC News and CBC.ca, as well as elections and economic segments for the Connect with Mark Kelley show. I will be forever indebted to them for providing my first shot at investigative journalism, before budgets were drastically cut to unsustainable levels that brought my craft to its knees. Over the years I’ve watched several intrepid reporters trying to come to terms with the effect of those cuts, as we found ourselves and the facts replaced by a stronger emphasis on editorial opinions. It’s true that fact-checking costs money and requires a strong cadre of producers with dynamic experience to support original content, but this death by a thousand cuts has finally hit rock bottom to the point that it will destroy the CBC.

 

 

I won’t waste everyone’s time banging the identical drum as www.stoppaidcontentoncbc.ca, though I do support every last word they’ve said. I believe I have a unique and legal angle to contribute that the Canadian government must thoughtfully consider. I believe it so deeply that I’m writing this despite recovering from eye surgery, because I became legally blind during the pandemic unexpectedly. I’m attempting to work through complete double vision as an artificial transplant begins to settle and this is my first experience with dictation software. The white computer screen is still overpowering and I won’t be healed until February, so please forgive any typos or grammatical errors. But let that sink in that I would accept these consequences to share my counsel with you before I’m truly able to be back on the scene.

 

 

The open letter signed by a growing number of past and present CBC staff soundly explains the problem with CBC Tandem from a journalist’s perspective regarding trust and reputation issues. It makes reference to fake news, leveraging the CBC’s reputation to benefit advertisers, and confusing the public by letting ads masquerade as articles that mimic the news. (1. original / archive)

 

 

Plenty has been written about the damage caused by advertorials, but in the era of digital revolution and disruptive innovation, most mainstream media executives care very little when tasked with finding a magic wand to resolve the logistics of collapsing revenue streams. The situation is so dire that it gives new meaning to the slur presstitute. Fear has chipped away at integrity enough that we can sell our souls to put food on the table, or deal with toxic workplaces for taking a stand in the name of truth and transparency. We were once paid for our integrity but now it’s becoming somewhat of a liability in the battle against fake news and profit margins. For context, it’s considered scandalous that so many CBC journos would speak out publicly against the Tandem project that it’s a news story in itself. (2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive, 5. original / archive, 6. original / archive)

 

 

In any event, I made similar complaints in a Twitter thread that focused on selling the CBC’s reputation. I further condemned advertorials as blatant fake news because their entire purpose is meant to trick readers by hiding the fact that it is an ad behind the veneer of a news article. If advertorials weren’t meant to mislead anyone, then why do they to pretend to be something they’re not?

 

 

Letter continues below…

 

 

I didn’t have much space to elaborate on my concerns about the conflict of interest element that was introduced by CBC Tandem and I will do so now, because it’s dangerous to the Government of Canada in countless ways that even threaten our democracy. CBC is a Crown corporation and despite arms-length firewalls, it is funded by the government and public tax dollars. For better or for worse it’s a representative of the government and when anything goes wrong, blame is directed toward the prime minister. The board that oversees the CBC is appointed by the Governor in Council as well. (7. original / archive)

 

 

That sets up a formal legal relationship between CBC and the Government of Canada, with appointees swearing an oath to the Crown. Despite everything we’ve done in our democratic landscape to insulate the CBC to achieve press freedom, the rest of the world still views it as a state broadcaster. In that vein we’ve also done everything possible to distance ourselves from other state broadcasters such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea that are captured by political masters.

 

 

Our love was never for sale, at least until the CBC Tandem division was created. Now anyone can purchase the CBC’s integrity and by extension, that of its journalists. But that still isn’t the biggest problem confronting the government as a result of this development. The dark corner I’m trying to illuminate is much more ‘insidious’ than anyone’s reputation.

 

 

As an investigative reporter I spend ninety percent of my time researching and only ten percent of it actually publishing. In the bulk of my work I’ve discovered severe issues that are threatening western democracies, disorienting the public, and skewing the development of public policy. It would be impossible for me to recount the number of times I’ve come across opinion editorials (OpEds) insufficiently referenced in government studies on any given issue. So long as someone can get their viewpoint printed in the news, it’s assumed to be factual as a footnote that nobody verifies from a mountain of consultative submissions the government merely itemizes in transcripts and final reports.

 

 

There is no label to distinguish OpEds from bona fide news in our research systems and much of the public can’t tell you the difference between a columnist and a reporter. Even if a politician understands, the public isn’t taught to be skeptical about these footnotes because telling voters to be wary of government decisions based on that very material would weaken faith in our democracy and the process by which we evaluate issues. With no intention of being partisan, I came to understand this during the Harper administration. What I’m about to say next is motivated only by experience and the time frame any cobwebs of naïveté were being swept away from my vision.

 

 

In all my investigations during Conservative rule, I kept stumbling on right-wing organizations that held campaigns and competitions to flood Canadian media with OpEds in support of their various causes. Some of them even paid activists if they could manage to get published, so a politician could cite the opinion and present it to a House of Commons or Senate committee with the same effect as something factual. This happened on multiple issues, including but not limited to Indigenous rights, pro-choice rights, gay rights, gun rights, and climate change. This tactic of inorganic manipulation was successful and responsible for repealing human rights that used to protect Canadians against hate speech. (8. original / archive)

 

 

Since I discovered that deficiency in 2014, I watched the practice become adopted by left-wing organizations that sought to fight fire with fire. It’s quickly becoming a standard practice for various groups to pre-write letters of complaint and OpEds that supporters only have to sign and click to send through an agency’s automated system. Fake news was already automated in Canada before the term was coined or widely understood. It also taints nearly every government report on ideological wedge issues.

 

 

In addition to grassroots being harnessed to deceive legislators on an industrial scale, we also have partisan think-tanks that have grown more audacious. They too are spreading false information through Canadian media that becomes cited as fact, to form the basis of public policy on matters so integral to government as income tax. (9. original / archive, 10. original / archive)

 

 

Advertorials must be outlawed by the CRTC as a matter of false advertising. We already have tools to deal with it because it’s an unabashed and purposely misleading product. Even if the message is true the medium is not, inverse of ‘the medium is the message’. Something that isn’t fact-checked news should not be made to appear as if it is.

 

 

No democracy can afford the steep cost of advertorials becoming the basis of public policy. We don’t even have the manipulation of OpEds under control and this practice of influence deception will explode if given another avenue. Corporate retailers aren’t the only advertising clients and to ignore the rest would be worse than foolish, regardless of which side you might find yourself on pertaining to any issue. This will remove the science from poli-sci and turn back time to govern by folklore. If you have trouble believing, then enquire with climate scientists who spent the last decade contending with this exactly. Instead of making progress on carbon emissions we ended up with a new generation of flat-earthers and Creationism being taught in public schools again.

 

 

On that basis then consider that foreign governments are advertisers too. The Digital Cold War is upon us and most developed countries have entire units that pursue influence campaigns throughout the military-intelligence complex. Years ago I might have hesitated to make that statement and contemplated a more moderate description, but Canada was compelled to set up a task force to monitor that threat during the last federal election and it played a role in undermining Brexit in the United Kingdom, as well as a past election in the United States. None of us has devised a perfect solution yet and advertorials are set to open the floodgates.

 

 

If that wasn’t enough to give you pause for thought, then weigh the CBC’s relationship with domestic political parties and triangulate it with the government. From experience I can tell you how hard it is to avoid accusations of political bias at a Crown corporation. An inordinate amount of social media vitriol is hurled at CBC journos by partisans of every stripe, because tax payers sense their ownership of Crown reporters and they’re emotionally driven to have their own views reflected by them. As the line between advertising and journalism blurs, it further complicates this sticky wicket by lowering the bar for professionalism and respect. Most of us have received the odd death threat, a few of us have actually been assaulted, and female reporters have heard everything that would turn your hair blue about their sexuality and sometimes their children. Allowing political parties and/or fronts for political parties to purchase CBC advertorials will exacerbate these symptoms and increase the fever pitch.

 

 

Letter continues below…

Source: Michael DeAdder, Twitter

 

 

Advertorials present a tantalizing opportunity for dark money in politics, but even on the surface it creates a curious conflict of interest with registered partisan entities. Whether it’s the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Greens, or Bloc, they could theoretically skirt advertising limits by using operatives to place advertorials on their behalf. Elections Canada doesn’t have the resources to police clandestine party spending and it would technically be subsidized by the Government of Canada because it’s the government that funds the CBC. I will leave that part for legal scholars to hash out, but I know enough to be sure that it doesn’t pass a sniff test. At the very least no sitting government would wish to subsidize an opposition party’s partisan propaganda. I’m not sure the public would be fine with paying taxes so the CBC could publish counterfeit news articles on behalf of anti-vaxxers either.

 

 

In the best case scenario, CBC Tandem is inviting public controversy every time it has to make a decision to run an advertorial related to any issue. They’ll be hauled in front of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal if they decline pandemic hoax pieces, anti-abortion pieces, anti-Indigenous pieces, anti-Muslim pieces, anti-immigration pieces, anti-climate pieces, anti-science pieces, or any of the opponents on the pro side. One way or another, one of these clients would be in a position to at least claim discrimination, often related to a religious belief. A Charter challenge could also result regarding the freedom of expression and Canada lacks a full skeleton of precedents to clearly define what press freedom is. What we do have though is a handful of constitutional activist organizations that prowl for opportunities to file cases like these, in the longstanding effort to shape our legal rights in the direction of libertarian ideology. The way journalism dealt with this problem is ‘both-sidesing’ everything, but that option isn’t available in the purchased marketing scheme.

 

 

Advertorials have no business defining Canadian law and the Canadian identity, but that’s exactly what they’re poised to do irrespective of the media agency that initiates open season on our Constitution. It doesn’t seem wise for CBC to become that brand new battleground that is muddled between journalism and advertising, or to waste its lean budget on successive legal challenges. It already can’t afford to perform regular, substantive, investigative journalism anymore, because the type of work that I do is cost prohibitive when it requires a small team of lawyers to vet it. I’ve been sitting on a major data breach investigation because everyone is constrained by budgets and adopting advertorials is not the path to pay for it. On the contrary and due to being in everyone’s political crosshairs, it could be a way to eventually bankrupt the CBC. I’m curious if there was a risk analysis performed for the Tandem project and if these perils were appraised holistically.

 

 

It would do no good to implement an advertorial policy that blanket-banned issues advertising in favour of retail products only. That’s because products are related to lifestyles and lifestyles are related to social issues. Take for example the gun. The morning after pill. Religious books and courses. Bicycles. Oil stocks. Green energy products. Indigenous cigarettes. Kotex. Natural medicines. The list goes on. So is CBC prepared to be the site of protests when those items are politically weaponized? And do executives believe it will boost the credibility or safety of its journalists?

 

 

It remains to be seen what the ramifications of advertorials might be from another perspective still. Based solely on retail products, who bears the legal onus when a consumer is harmed by a dangerous item that was misrepresented by what appeared to be a CBC article to a 65-year-old audience member? If the CBC was to indemnify itself in advertorial contracts, would it also not be jeopardizing the collective reputation of all reporters? After all,

 

 

CBC Tandem promises corporate clients they can “leverage” the CBC’s reputation by aligning their message with the “trust Canadians have in our brand”. (11. original / archive)

 

 

It’s also CBC staff that would write or collaborate on the counterfeit article, with final approval that lacked legal fact-checking to verify the claims made by a Crown corporation on behalf of its private ad clients. In essence that further implies government confidence in the client, even if tacit to a layperson. It creates stark inequality between company divisions as well, despite products that appear to be identical as articles except for a miniature sticker that says ‘branded content’ in a diminished corner. For that matter the term ‘branded content’ is deceptive and it’s meant to soothe the reader’s skepticism by avoiding words like ‘paid’ and ‘advertisement’.

 

 

This is a concept that hasn’t been legally tested and I was all for CBC setting journalistic standards, until this development posed a risky gamble to everyone who is still working there. If something looks too good to be true it usually is, and trying to take this easy way out of a funding shortfall is a catastrophe waiting to happen. There are no easy answers to the ripple effects of COVID-19, just as there are no simple steps to combat disruptive innovation in a digital revolution. These are both once-in-a-lifetime challenges that no echo chamber in a boardroom can solve by putting lipstick on a pig. I applaud CBC for its general open-mindedness but respectfully and with great concern, this Tandem advertorial venture needs to be put on ice.

 

 

I stress this is not a problem unique to the CBC and while they must cancel this project to maintain their own house, the government and/or CRTC must also act swiftly to prohibit the use of advertorials by any media organization in Canada. It must be a level playing field and one that is based on principles of the Fourth Estate, instead of a product that by its definition is masquerading as something it’s not. To put it plainly, advertorials are promoted and sold as counterfeit news articles, when the real news is in the fight of its life to save its own reputation and viability. Talk about inviting a ‘FOX’ into a henhouse.

 

 

May my letter greet you well and please don’t take it personally. This is just so important that it needed to be addressed frankly, as the implications of ignoring these impacts could cause irreparable harm on a grand scale. The startling and vast majority of Facebook users already can’t tell the difference between journalism and fake news. Neither can students. At the end of the day we need everyone to comprehend the facts to develop sound public policy, more than anyone needs a shot at quick money to make the business of journalism an easier ride. If we value our democracy we will have to commit to defending it with tax dollars to fund the CBC away from temptation and the advertorial mirage. (12. original / archive, 13. original / archive, 14. original / archive, 15. original / archive)

 

 

In closing, I kindly leave you with a sample of public sentiments to assist with your deliberations.

 

 

 

Yours very truly,

Amy MacPherson

COVID-19 Origin Mystery Solved?

May 7, 2020

By: @MsAmyMacPherson

 

Part of the challenge in finding a cure for the COVID-19 pandemic is determining the original source of infection. The majority of scientists are convinced it came from bats, but they don’t yet know how it transmitted to humans. Others suggest it was caused by accidental release from a research lab, while war hawks propose theories that relate to a bioweapon. But the best answer to complex mysteries is often simple and Free The Press Canada has determined the likely culprit.

 

The solution for this missing link is so unassuming that it was under everyone’s nose all along. The records have existed since the 1700’s and this bat-to-human conduit is cited as the legal basis for the American Empire. It’s the original cause of blackbirding (kidnapping) and Chinese slavery, Indigenous slavery, as well as Black slavery, in case anyone didn’t grasp the meaning of that famous Beatles song. It solidified Peru’s existence and reshaped entire countries in South America. It poured the foundation for British and European wealth. It won and lost wars as a prime ingredient to make gunpowder. Its Indigenous name appears in an early American law and it traces all the way back to 5,000 years ago, as a resource worshipped by the Incas. (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive, 5. original / archive, 6. original / archive, 7. original / archive, 8. original / archive, 9. original / archive, 10. original / archive, 11. original / archive, 12. original / archive, 13. original – PDF)

 

Today this product is exported by Africa and Asia and it can fetch as much as $350USD per ton, or $2,400USD every three hours with a very small crew of labourers. The organic food revolution, hydroponic agriculture, and the legalization of marijuana have made it so popular again that western grandmothers are trying to produce their own. The colloquial phrase ‘bat-sh*t-crazy’ may even be derived from this common carrier of several coronavirus types. So what could be in everyone’s garden shed that has the potential to elevate or wipe out the human race, depending on the quality of each batch? (14. original / archive, 15. original / archive, 16. original / archive)

 

Bat Guano – The Garden Saviour

 

Bat guano is the feces of this hideous looking creature that makes a cameo appearance each year at Halloween. It’s long been known as the best crop fertilizer on earth, at half the cost of chemical competitors and usually with no negative side effects. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that comes with organic certification and it gained special prominence with cannabis producers, as well as moms and dads with tabletop hydroponic kits. (17. original / archive, 18. original / archive, 19. original / archive)

 

The high concentrations of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and potassium are so effective that bat guano can rehabilitate soil and reduce the need for crop rotation in large agricultural operations. It is Mother Nature’s wonder drug and can be used in the pharmaceutical setting to grow the ingredients used in medicines that are increasingly sourced in China. That’s not to suggest guano residues could appear in medications, but the workers who handle raw materials at the beginning of the supply chain may certainly come in contact with it. (20. original / archive, 21. original / archive)

 

The versatility of guano is far greater than industrial grow-ops and it can be found just as easily at community gardens and retirement villas. Across the world in Portland, Oregon a seniors residence is getting into the guano business to support the retiree neighbourhood, in addition to a farmers market and popular local restaurant. Plants as delicate as lettuce are treated with the natural fertilizer and it’s reported to sweeten the taste of produce as an added benefit. (22. original / archive, 23. original / archive, 24. original / archive)

 

Bat guano is also easy to purchase, if you’re not down with keeping them as pets to generate a self-sustaining and free supply. It can be found through Walmart, Amazon, Alibaba, or any hydroponic store. It comes in dry and wet ‘tea’ slurries that are pre-mixed to make using it rather simple. This wonder-dust is so spectacular that it can allegedly grow pumpkins the size of Smart cars. It’s possible there may be off-label uses in the beauty market as well. (25. original / archive, 26. original / archive, 27. original / archive, 28. original / archive, 29. original / archive, 30. original / archive)

 

Story continues below…

Source: Amazon Canada (original / archive)

 

Needless to say there’s an obvious means of transmission between bats and humans that strikes at the heart of the global food chain and every nation’s ports of entry. It’s further been discovered that coronavirus and COVID-19 can be spread to humans through fecal matter. (31. original / archive)

 

Bat Guano – The Agent Of Death

 

Unbeknownst to the vast majority of home gardeners and organic farms, bat guano was confirmed by the Canadian government to be contaminated with the Ebola virus in years prior. (32. original / archive)

 

Story continues below…

Source: Government of Canada (original / archive)

 

Bats are also an established carrier of several coronavirus types, according to the Wuhan lab researcher who is central to the current pandemic. A single cave can produce numerous samples of various strains, meaning they’re a plausible breeding ground for mutations as bats interact with each other and the natural environment. (33. original / archive)

 

Through the guano specifically, bats can infect humans with histoplasmosis and it has much in common with the symptoms of COVID-19. Although the former is bacterial and the latter is viral, complications can result in death for young children, seniors, and immuno-compromised patients in both examples. (34. original / archive, 35. original – PDF)

 

Research on the coronavirus family appears to be limited to the bats directly, or humans directly, but little is known about the bridge between them. At least that’s what the mainstream media and governments generally report. But bat guano serves as that very connection and Canada highlighted its ability to vector an even deadlier virus, many years before the appearance of COVID-19.

 

Despite the sparse availability of public data, relevant studies have been conducted involving bat guano since 2006. The World Health Organization (WHO) participated in that early sequencing more than a decade ago. It was determined that bat guano carries the family of coronaviruses in a study arising from the guano caves (mines) in Thailand. Deeper investigation of that yearlong data appears to indicate that positive samples follow a cyclical pattern that coincides with spring and fall flu seasons as well. The guano seems to test negative during the summer and winter months and this phenomenon may need to be considered in future research endeavours to achieve an unbiased interpretation. (36. original / archive)

 

Another study was conducted by scientists in Myanmar from May 2016 to August 2018. Testing was done by the University of California – Davis that produced results consistent with Thailand. They confirmed coronavirus pathogens in bat guano including new strains that hadn’t been discovered prior, as well as seasonal fluctuations. They also identified that guano samples produce a much higher rate of infection than oral and rectal swabs taken from bats. (37. original / archive)

 

Islands in the Western Indian Ocean were studied from 2014 to 2015, but the researchers failed to sample guano and only tested the bats. Even lacking that crucial context, several types of coronavirus were detected that share a relationship to COV strains in Africa. Unfortunately the authors pursued their study with a mistaken hypothesis that an intermediary host is required to affect humans, so they were left with questions about transmission pathways. Due to that regrettable bias, they overlooked the role of bat guano in the spread between different regions. (38. original / archive)

 

The Smoking Gun

 

Free The Press Canada did its own research to assess the prevalence of bat guano testing on Google Scholar. It was there that a noteworthy result appeared, amounting to a smoking gun. (39. original / archive)

 

In October 2018, genomic researchers completed the sequence for a bat guano miner who tested positive for a coronavirus in Thailand. Coincidentally, he worked in the same region referenced earlier in a separate study assisted by the World Health Organization, from 2006/2007. (40. original / archive, 41. original / archive, 42. original – PDF)

 

Story continues below…

Source: American Society For Microbiology (original / archive)

 

The results indicate that a bat guano miner in Thailand carried the same strain of coronavirus (99 percent match) as samples that were tested from Hong Kong in 2006. It came from the same group of pathogens (with a common ancestor) as samples arising from China and the United States in 2016 as well.

 

It’s unlikely that either superpower is responsible for infecting a bat cave in Thailand, where several coronavirus types are naturally occurring. The alternative is American and Chinese growers may have purchased guano fertilizer that originated from a Thai source. In any event what this demonstrates is an intercontinental transmission pathway that was indirectly established over a period of twelve years, specifically related to a guano mine.

 

Free The Press Canada stresses that this data via Thailand doesn’t pinpoint the exact origin of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It doesn’t make any individual country responsible for the spread of coronaviruses. Guano mining occurs on every continent except Antarctica and every country may contribute to infection rates by failing to regulate this product as a hazardous substance. Every country that has bats also has a wide array of coronaviruses lurking within them. Therefore comprehensive study of bat guano in its wet and dry forms is immediately required and it may assist scientists to address COVID-19 from this perspective. (43. original / archive)

 

Origin of the Spanish Flu remains a mystery akin to the way COVID-19 developed. Researchers may wish to revisit those theories with the guano aspect in mind, because during that era it was the primary ingredient in gunpowder and explosives. It may explain the peculiar onset of cases geographically. (44. original / archive, 45. original / archive)

 

Lax Regulation

 

Successive years of ‘cutting red tape’ to appease the stock market and business class has led us to this place. Regulations might require commitment to one’s product, but they were not designed to be the enemy. Instead they’ve been developed to safeguard human health and avert the insurmountable cost of failing to do so.

 

The freedom gained by corporations to ignore those responsibilities has resulted in the entire world’s lockdown and loss of the most basic collective freedoms required to beat the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no reason why a Q4 profit margin should result in the loss of visiting family, ability to celebrate birthdays and weddings, or permission to walk out the front door. Imprisoning the working class is not sustainable to generate dividends and every taxpayer is on the hook to pay for this debacle over the next entire decade. That behaviour represents an untenable proposition for business to outsource its overhead to every citizen on the planet.

 

In the case of bat guano, the few rules that do exist are woefully insufficient and incongruent from one region to another. For example, Canada dragged its feet with respect to classifying guano as a fertilizer so it didn’t fall within any regulatory category whatsoever. The United States has a conflict between which agency oversees the product and each state compounds the problem with different rules or lack thereof, depending on various governors. Certainly no country around the globe is testing guano for coronavirus as a condition of import, export, and public sale. (46. original / archive, 47. original / archive, 48. original / archive)

 

Bat guano remains a superior fertilizer that is also appropriate for organically certified agriculture. It’s safe in the vast majority of cases, but it only takes one bad batch, one bad season, or one susceptible cave to result in a pandemic. Strict testing and parameters must be implemented to protect this valuable resource, guano mining labourers, and the public. Strict guidelines need to be established for home gardeners who plan to experiment with backyard production and strict enforcement surrounding guano must be genuinely contemplated.

 

Furthermore, the effects of climate change are now severe enough to impact human health. A warming planet is predicted to affect the emergence of viruses, mutations, and intensity of contagious outbreaks. Bat caves are environmentally sensitive and given the detrimental consequences to the global economy under quarantine, it doesn’t seem wise to ignore the guano they produce when it’s a common additive to the food supply. (49. original / archive)

 

How Was Guano Overlooked?

 

International media is in a state of disrepair since the disruption of digital technology. In Canada the regular ‘beats’ were axed in a process of austerity and downsizing. Remaining reporters are now expected to cover any topic that arises while lacking the expertise to tackle complex subjects, especially related to science. The industry is fighting for its life as artificial intelligence (AI) is introduced to automate articles based on business data and algorithms. It’s removing humans from the equation who were able to evaluate context, history, demeanour, insincerity, conflicts of interest, and most importantly, fact-checking. (50. original / archive)

 

(Full disclosure: I was forced out of mainstream media because investigative journalism is quite expensive and it was the first ilk to be cut. That’s why I started Free The Press Canada, because you can take the reporter out of the newsroom but you can’t take the inquiring mind out of any journo worth their salt.)

 

The Fourth Estate is what informs governments in any democracy, while holding lawmakers to account. That this bat guano information was always available is proof that something went awry in the absence of subject matter experts to edit, assign, and report.

 

In North America there’s an extreme problem with media ownership too. No matter what anyone says, the free press has been muzzled by the billionaire class and this guano issue punctuates that unfortunate reality.

 

Pertaining to the Thai cave that tested positive for coronaviruses at various intervals from 2006 to 2018, there was one report from China and another from a multinational agency that is headquartered in Canada.

 

The South China Morning Post explained that despite the abundance of bat viruses, if they could make the leap to humans then we would already be extinct. The article emphasized the importance of bat meat to certain cultures and the value of guano to agriculture. It downplayed the rate of COVID-19 infections in Thailand and completely omitted that one of the cave’s miners contracted the coronavirus. It even disinformed readers by suggesting the guano is safe and that humans can only be infected through contact with bat saliva or urine. The erroneous article was then syndicated by Bloomberg in the United States. (51. original / archive)

 

In Canada, Reuters followed suit with an article about the same Thai cave a few weeks later. It produced a false title that claimed there was only a possible link between bat guano and human infection. Through that statement the editor denied evidence of the miner who contracted the coronavirus that was thoroughly studied. Reuters effectively denied the entire genomic sequence that was conducted on that person. (52. original / archive)

 

The body of the article goes on to describe the importance of bat guano to the agriculture industry. It implies that keeping the cave ‘clean’ protects miners from catching the coronavirus, at the same time discouraging belief that the guano could carry these pathogens. It further proposes the debunked hypothesis that coronaviruses require an intermediary to jump from bats to another host before the ability to infect humans. An interview with a miner (who’s in an absolute conflict of interest) reinforces this disinformation by claiming no one from the Thai caves has ever become ill from these bat-borne diseases. They assert the coronavirus didn’t originate there, despite undeniable proof in scientific journals that records several strains in that bat cave over a number of years.

 

No competing press agencies reported on the topic and neither of these entries was ever challenged in the headlines.

 

To understand how this could happen, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland used to work for Reuters as a managing director. Free The Press Canada is not in any way alleging collusion, but the Canadian government chose a sympathetic stance that is disinclined to point fingers. Reuters is also more than a media empire. It owns Thomson Financial, Thomson Legal & Regulatory, Thomson Reference, Scientific & Healthcare, as well as Thomson Learning. Under any of these banners, billionaire David Thomson could be looking to governments for various contracts and is therefore in a conflict of interest between serving the public and his personal wealth accumulation. (53. original / archive, 54. original / archive)

 

The bulk of competing newspapers in Canada are managed by Postmedia. This company is owned by American hedge funds, with a controlling interest that is deeply connected to David Pecker. Mr. Pecker is the same person who shielded President Trump in the Stormy Daniels scandal at the National Enquirer and his immunity deal with the Department of Justice may be in jeopardy over what Jeff Bezos claims is extortion. This is due to Pecker’s company acquiring his private text messages and an alleged threat for Bezos to stop investigating Trump or face the embarrassment of his intimate photos being published. Two prominent journalists also claimed to receive blackmail threats in a campaign to end their reporting about Trump, Pecker, Daniels, and the National Enquirer. (55. original / archive, 56. original / archive)

 

Concentrated and foreign media ownership is not supposed to be permitted in Canada, but for unknown reasons the Competition Bureau has refused to intervene throughout the tenure of both Conservative and Liberal governments. (57. original / archive)

 

On the stateside, fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos is owner of The Washington Post. He’s also the owner of Amazon, that has entered the media business to compete with Netflix while providing a marketplace for sellers to peddle their bat guano. If all of this wasn’t confusing enough, Bezos is friends with Michael Bloomberg, who is the owner of Bloomberg News. Bezos is the person who encouraged Bloomberg to run for president as a Democrat, in the effort to dethrone the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump. (58. original / archive)

 

Meanwhile in Asia, billionaire Jack Ma owns the South China Morning Post. He’s also the owner of Alibaba, that provides a marketplace for sellers to peddle their bat guano, in the identical manner as Jeff Bezos. Both men receive a cut for every bag of the natural fertilizer that passes through their platforms and could potentially carry the coronavirus around the entire world. Don’t forget that Ma further syndicates his articles through Bloomberg. (59. original / archive)

 

Canadian and American media are hopelessly compromised by partisan warfare, whether Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican. Chinese media is directly controlled by the Communist government. Each of these factions has a financial interest in the success of bat guano and matters of food security. But none of the billionaires appear to have an interest in the survival of average citizens in relation to a pandemic. Instead the press keeps bantering about herd immunity that would cleave the weakest demographics from the global population.