Navigate to The Scroll section

What Happened: September 30, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: Misinformation; Propaganda; Vaccines

The Scroll
September 30, 2021


The Big Story

YouTube announced sweeping new COVID-19 misinformation rules Wednesday that build on the company’s already-extensive censorship protocols. The Google-owned video-sharing platform says it has already removed 130,000 videos since last year for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policy. But in an official statement published on the company’s blog yesterday, YouTube vowed to remove all “harmful vaccine content,” an initiative that overlaps with new requirements by the White House and state governments mandating vaccinations, suggesting possible behind-the-scenes coordination between the tech platform and the White House, with which it has deep connections. The new policy applies to information about all approved vaccines and will target videos that claim they are dangerous, ineffective at slowing the rate of transmission, or linked to severe side effects. “As with our COVID-19 guidelines, we consulted with local and international health organizations and experts in developing these policies,” the company said in its official statement. But in the past, that policy meant that videos promoting mask use or claiming that COVID-19 is highly infectious were deemed misinformation, because while those positions now represent the consensus among medical professionals, for months in 2020 they went against guidelines from the CDC and WHO, before those organizations updated their policies.

Read it here: 

Today’s Back Pages: The Basketball Player, the Governor, and the Crisis of Leadership

The Rest

Russian leader Vladimir Putin met with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan for nearly three hours Wednesday in Sochi. It was the two Eurasian leaders’ first face-to-face meeting since March 2020 and comes as the conflict in Syria reignites, putting them at odds. Russia has been a key ally of the Assad regime, while Turkey was a major backer of various rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army. Approximately 3,000 Turkish soldiers are currently stationed in Idlib in northwestern Syria, one of the last rebel holdouts. Russia recently expanded air strikes in what many observers believe is preparation for the Syrian army to launch a final offensive to recapture the city.
Read more here:

Seeing the pandemic as an opportunity, the Canadian military implemented a propaganda plan in April 2020 to test the effectiveness of its information operations on the country’s civilian population, according to a new report by the Canadian Armed Forces. The plan “devised by the Canadian Joint Operations Command, also known as CJOC, relied on propaganda techniques similar to those employed during the Afghanistan war … CJOC claimed the information operations scheme was needed to head off civil disobedience by Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic and to bolster government messages about the pandemic,” the Ottawa Citizen reports.

Chinese officials have acknowledged the first official downturn in the country’s manufacturing activity since the start of the pandemic. Indicated by a drop on the manufacturing purchasing managers’ index, the slowdown is being driven by significant energy shortages that have led to widespread power outages and exacerbated other logistics problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bitter dispute between business tycoons that started, as many blood feuds have before, over the management of a tennis court at a Florida condo ended this week when a judge threw out the nearly eight-year-long case against Israeli-born billionaire Isaac Perlmutter. A Toronto businessmen, Harold Peerenboom, had accused Perlmutter and his wife of sending out mailings to Peerenboom’s family members, neighbors, and colleagues accusing him of being a murderer, Nazi, and child molester. The judge in the case determined the letters had been sent by a disgruntled former employee working together with a former business associate of Peerenboom’s.
Read more here:

The only member of the U.S. military to be formally punished over the two-decade-long failure in Afghanistan was Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, a mid-level Marine Corps officer who was relieved of command for bravely criticizing the craven evasiveness of the military’s senior leaders. Now Scheller is locked up in the brig, where he has been awaiting a hearing originally scheduled for today. “They had a gag order on him and asked him not to speak,” his father told Task and Purpose. “He did, and they incarcerated him. They don’t know what to do with him.”
Read more here:

There may be thousands of healthcare workers and public school employees in New York State out of work this week—the exact numbers aren’t clear yet—for refusing to get mandatory vaccines. The state deadline for nurses and other staff in hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities to get vaccinated was this past Monday. It does seem to have driven up vaccination rates. According to numbers released by the governor’s office, as of Monday evening 92% of nursing-home staff had received at least one vaccine dose, up from 82% on Sept. 20. A number of plaintiffs currently suing to block the mandates cite the natural immunity gained from prior COVID-19 infection as grounds for an exemption, while others say it conflicts with their religious beliefs.GET THE SCROLL DELIVERED DAILY Corey Lewandowski, one of the few people to remain a fixture in the orbit of Donald Trump, has been booted from Trump world after being accused of groping and sexually harassing a donor to the former president. The accusations made by Trashelle Odom center around a charity dinner on Sept. 26. In a statement to Politico, Odom said Lewandowski “repeatedly touched me inappropriately, said vile and disgusting things to me, stalked me, and made me feel violated and fearful.” Four witnesses corroborated Odom’s claims to Politico.

Alana Haim, guitarist for the trio of Jewish sisters known for their sweet California rock tunes, is taking a turn at acting with a starring role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, Licorice Pizza.
See the trailer here:

I’m no expert on antisemitic propaganda, but there may be something unsavory about this flier distributed by Virginia Republican Howard Pyon depicting his opponent for the House of Delegates, Jewish Democrat Dan Helmer, greedily rubbing his hands in front of a pile of gold coins.

The Back Pages

The Basketball Player, the Governor, and the Crisis of Leadership

It’s no exaggeration to say that Orlando Magic power forward Jonathan Isaac, in his understated manner, has offered one of the most persuasive and authoritative statements on vaccines to come from any public figure in the United States. It may reflect poorly on the state of America’s institutional leadership that the distinction goes to a 23-year-old professional baseball player rather than, say, an elected official or director at the CDC, but that’s a different issue.

Responding to a recent hit piece in Rolling Stone that attempted to portray him as a dangerous, science-defying anti-vaxxer, Isaac addressed reporters this week. “I’m not anti-vax. I’m not anti-medicine. I’m not anti-science,” Isaac said in calm measured tones. He continued:

My mom has worked in healthcare for a really long time. I thank God, I’m grateful that I live in a society where vaccines are possible and we can protect ourselves and have the means to protect ourselves for the first, in the first place. But with that being said, it is my belief that the vaccine status of every person should be their own choice.

In Isaac’s case, his choice not to get vaccinated is informed by the fact that he has already been infected with COVID-19 and acquired natural immunity. There is nothing remotely “anti-vax” in what he’s saying, and the efforts to make it appear that way reflect the dangerous tendency to use the pandemic as a means to identify and punish political enemies.

I think of my own situation. I’ve been taking various vaccines since childhood without complaint, was forced to receive so many additional vaccines while in the Army that I’ve already forgotten most of their names, and took the first opportunity to get double vaccinated against COVID-19. Can I also suddenly be declared an anti-vax enemy of the state because, for the first time in 40 years, I’d like to dwell on some confusing irregularities in our current vaccination policy?

Compare what Isaac said (you can watch it for yourself at the link below) to the statements made by Governor of New York Kathy Hochul addressing parishioners at a Brooklyn church. 

“Yes, I know you’re vaccinated. You’re the smart ones,” Hochul said. “But you know, there are people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants. You know this. You know who they are.” Then the governor made her appeal: “I need you to be my apostles.” She wrapped up: “This is how we can fight this pandemic, come back to normal, and then start talking about the real issues we have: fighting systemic racial injustice.”

The difference between Isaac’s statement and Hochul’s speaks for itself. Isaac is using the kind of deliberate, nuanced argument that shows he believes that the people listening to him, even if they disagree, are fellow adults capable of independent reasoning. Hochul is pandering and making no effort to hide it. That may be an approach that has worked in the past for politicians, but it’s no way to lead a divided country through a pandemic.

Watch it here:

Send your tips, comments, questions, and suggestions to

Tablet’s afternoon newsletter edited by Jacob Siegel.

Thank you for reading Tablet.

The Jewish world needs a place like Tablet where varying—even conflicting—viewpoints can exist side by side. Our times demand an engagement with big ideas and not a retreat from them. Help us do what we do.