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This is the age of the fact checker

Politico on Twitter said,

Clarence Thomas claimed in a dissenting opinion that Covid vaccines are derived from the cells of “aborted children.”

No Covid vaccines in the U.S. contain the cells of aborted fetuses.

2,061 Retweets. 1,537 Quote Tweets. 5,676 Likes. Dozens of sneering replies.

And two egregious falsehoods in one tweet.

As Egon Alter (@AlterEgon75) put it in their reply,

This is a gross mischaracterization of Thomas’ words.

HE is not making the claim, the plaintiffs in the case are.

And he said they object because aborted fetus cells were used in the development of the vaccine, which your reporting verifies, not that the vaccine contains them.


You can see a screenshot of Justice Thomas’s exact words in this tweet from AGHamilton29. Thomas said,

They object on religious grounds to all available COVID-19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children.

Firstly, note that he is paraphrasing the opinion of the petitioners, not giving his own opinion. Secondly, note that the petitioners themselves did not claim that the vaccines were made from aborted foetuses, they claim that foetal cells were used in the development process, which they were. As one would expect from a judge, Thomas has noted this crucial distinction.

Again via the estimable AGHamilton29, I see that it was not just Politico spreading this false story.

Axios: Clarence Thomas suggests COVID vaccines are made with “aborted children”

NBC News: Justice Thomas cites debunked claim that Covid vaccines are made with cells from ‘aborted children’

Of course, once the fake news seed is sown, it sprouts up everywhere.

The Daily Mail: Clarence Thomas cites debunked claim that Covid vaccines are created with cells of ‘aborted children’ in dissent on SCOTUS decision upholding New York state’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers

The Independent: Clarence Thomas wrongly suggests ‘aborted children’ cells are used in Covid vaccines

SECOND UPDATE: The Politico tweet has now been disappeared, and the story to which it linked corrected. It is now mostly accurate and completely pointless, a breathless account of a Supreme Court judge doing a normal part of his job.

15 comments to This is the age of the fact checker

  • bobby b

    Politico lies! Film at 11:00!

    (Plus, he’s black, you know. They cannot STAND him being off-reservation.)

  • Ferox

    The lie is simply too good to ignore; the truth is prosaic and useless. Also, as bobby b notes, Thomas is not only an enemy, but a traitor to The Cause.

  • Mary Contrary

    Of course, the fact-checkers at Snopes and BBC Reality Check will be all over this, right? Right?

  • Steve

    The cathedral seeks to avenge it’s injuries.

  • craig

    “Now, if using these cell lines is too much for you, OK, but if the facts of what Clarence Thomas said are important surely the difference between a cell and a cell line is important as well?”

    Cell versus cell line is a difference in degree, not a difference in kind. Vaccine developers in the past deliberately made use of unwilling humans (aborted foetuses) in order to develop cell lines. You may disagree with the judgment that these acts were morally equivalent to Mengele’s or Unit 731’s experiments during WWII, but whether or not the petitioners’ judgment is correct it is not irrational for them to hold that opinion. Atrocities can be carried out equally well in clean rooms with eyedropper and petri dish.

    The fact that other vaccine developers over the years made use of the same cell lines makes them remote participants in the same utilitarian calculus. (But with arguably less culpability since they benefit from the original acts without adding new offenses. It could be compared to the difference between driving Indian tribes out onto the Trail of Tears, versus merely inheriting the lands long-ago seized from Indian tribes. Note that the Woke currently assert moral equivalence there.)

    The point is, the petitioners are expressing a strongly held religious objection to the utilitarianism, which they consider malum in se, inherent in the vaccines’ development. Their imperative is to bear witness to truth (“martyrdom” in its literal sense) by refusing to partake in evil. They have not, AFAIK, petitioned to have the vaccines denied to others on these grounds. The vaccines neither confer immunity to the coronavirus nor to spreading it, so the sole harm by their refusal is that of lese-majeste against the state. Western elites see the religious as a group that needs to be brought to heel, and to hell with “the free exercise thereof”.

  • William H. Stoddard

    Such careless readings seem to be common.

    A number of years ago, during the Sad Puppies controversy (a conflict over the Hugo Awards for science fiction), the science fiction writer Theodore Beale (more widely known by the pseudonym Vox Day), was denounced as an advocate of throwing acid in girls’ faces. Preferring to see things for myself, I tracked down the relevant opinion piece, and found that what he had actually said was that if you adhered to utilitarian ethics, you could use arguments about the greatest good of the greatest number to justify preserving social stability by throwing acid in the faces of Afghan girls who wanted to be educated; it was clear that he was not arguing for utilitarian ethics but was offering this as a reductio ad absurdem for it, in an argument that ethics required a different foundation. Some people had taken that statement out of context, either dishonestly or because they didn’t know how to read a logical argument, and many others had repeated the out of context quotation, eager to denounce him.

  • There are many reasons to put the boot into Vox Day, so it is galling when people invent bogus ones. I often said the same about Trump & found myself defending someone I was far from keen on.

  • SECOND UPDATE: The Politico tweet has now been disappeared, and the story to which it linked corrected. It is now mostly accurate and completely pointless, a breathless account of a Supreme Court judge doing a normal part of his job.

    Looks like our modern day Winston Smith would consider that a job well done. Publish a sly initial piece full of one-sided reporting, half-truths and omissions that would have gotten a 1980’s journalist fired in double-quick time, then “correct” it once the initial piece has been read, blogged and echoed around the interwebs and before anyone could start legal proceedings.

    if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect

    Jonathan Swift, The Examiner (1710)

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Indeed, John Galt. If one looks at recent tweets including the key words “Clarence Thomas” and “vaccine”, one can see that the lie continues to propagate itself with vigour. A related effect is that Politico‘s corrected story still retains a vague air of outrage from the original version. It is clear that those who only glance at the headline and the first paragraph are still getting the impression that Clarence Thomas believes that the Covid vaccine has material from aborted foetuses as one of its ingredients. This impression is reinforced by the simple existence of the story. After all, why would anyone bother to write a whole news report about a Supreme Court Judge mentioning the beliefs of a party to a case in his judicial opinion about that case? If it’s there on the Politico website, it must mean that there is something politically newsworthy to say about Clarence Thomas and vaccines, right?

  • Yes Natalie. You’re absolutely right.

    I think the tainted interpretation you suggest is specifically crafted that way to turn facts on their arse and make propaganda out of reporting.

    It’s all so tiresome.

    I wish I knew who was funding this drivel. I can’t imagine it’s advertisers, subscribers or anything close to real world economics, otherwise they’d have gone belly up already. The billionaires and their river of dirty money funding this excrescence have a lot to answer for.

    Then again, maybe they hope that by sending the general public running around after half imagined phantoms they can delay the moment the mob comes to their door, pitchforks, burning torches and rope in hand.

  • There are many reasons to put the boot into Vox Day, so it is galling when people invent bogus ones. I often said the same about Trump & found myself defending someone I was far from keen on.

    It’s the reason I still use the “Left vs Right” language. As a description of philosophies or ideologies, it’s vacuous. As a description of the coalitions that naturally form as people with different philosophies interact, compromise, and prioritize, it’s… well, still not that great, but any potential improvement would take too much data to be useful for communication.

  • Snorri Godhi

    There are many reasons to put the boot into Vox Day, so it is galling when people invent bogus ones. I often said the same about Trump & found myself defending someone I was far from keen on.

    I suspect that Trump (and possibly Vox Day) understands that people will come up with bogus ‘reasons’ to claim that he is a nazi, so he took the initiative with tweets (when he was on Twitter) that gave exactly that impression to the historically illiterate, while maintaining plausible deniability with the rest of us.

    Keeping your enemies in a state of perpetual outrage is better than having them resort to the tactics they use against people like Clarence Thomas (who, due to his job, cannot keep people in perpetual outrage on Twitter; although probably it does not fit his temperament, anyway).

  • TomJ

    This is possibly the epitome of the phenomenon described.

  • Paul Marks

    The media and other left Corporations lie constantly – and the “Fact Checkers” are some of the worst liars.

    They have a special hatred for Justice Thomas – because he is black but does not “know his place”, i.e. does not behave as black people “should” behave, and believe the things that black people “ought” to believe.

    We live in an age where the Marxist (Frankfurt School Marxist) left are in alliance with the “Capitalist” Big Business Corporations – it will not end well.

  • William H. Stoddard

    Perry: On one hand, I hardly ever agree with Beale’s positions; his starting point is in many ways diametrically opposed to mine. But on the other, I find it possible to disagree with him without misrepresenting him, quoting him out of context, or refusing to look at what he actually says.