After Biden’s spokeswoman boasted that the administration was ordering Facebook to censor some people’s speech, Fauci joined the campaign by appearing on CNN to warn about the dangers of letting anyone say whatever they think. “We probably would still have polio in this country if we had the kind of false information that’s being spread now,” he falsely claimed.
Fauci, as usual, is wrong about everything.
The polio vaccine was the subject of numerous controversies which played out in public.
There were anti-vaccine campaigns long before Facebook. The most bracing of these took on the polio vaccine with the headline, “Little White Coffins” declaring, “Only God above will know how many thousands of little white coffins will be used to bury the victims of Salk’s heinous, fraudulent vaccine.” Walter Winchell, who at his peak reached over 50 million people, warned that one particular version of the vaccine, which contained a live virus, was a “killer”.
Contrary to Fauci’s fantasies (aided and abetted by a media eager to find a pretext for censoring any open marketplace of ideas), the fifties were not a totalitarian dystopia in which free speech did not exist. Many of the same controversies as today, from socialism to science, played out to large audiences across a bewildering array of national and local newspapers, radio stations, mailings, books and magazines in a country where the media had not yet been consolidated.
Today, much of the newspaper, radio, and television markets, not to mention publishing, are controlled in one way or another by a handful of giant companies. While the fifties had their massive chains and networks, they were far more intellectually diverse, and had plenty of different owners and perspectives in the mix. The American cultural environment today would strike people from that era as Communist because it resembles the tight centralized control of the Soviet Union. America has never had as little free and open debate as it does now because never have the means of debate been clutched in as few hands as is now the case.
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