Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City) has been compiling intelligence reports about misinformation, misunderstandings, and conspiracy theories about the Coronavirus pandemic and the vaccines. NYC Mayor's Office (YouTube/Fair Use)

de Blasio City Hall compiled intelligence reports from online and social media posts about the pandemic and vaccines : report

Cultural divisions exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic are now potentially the source of intelligence reports collected by a unit inside New York City Hall.

By Progress New York Staff

The same City Hall that reviews open records requests that reflect directly on Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City) has been revealed to be compiling intelligence reports about skeptics of the Government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic, according to an editorial column published by the New York Times. The editorial column, by Mara Gay, described the intelligence reports as “misinformation bulletins” about “misunderstandings” and “conspiracy theories” surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccines.

Ms. Gay justified the gathering of the intelligence reports as “only necessary,” since she equated skeptics with those, who were rooting for the pandemic to win. The Vaccine Command Center, a high-level group within City Hall reportedly commissioned “regular reports” on alleged misinformation, Ms. Gay noted.

For this report, Ms. Gay did not answer an interview request. Early in 2021, Ms. Gay was frantic to receive the then newly-available COVID-19 vaccine, so much so that she booked an appointment over five hours away despite criticism of her privilege. In her editorial column, she downplayed privacy concerns caused by the intelligence reports, even though New York City Government has a well-known pattern of monitoring its citizens’ legally-protected political activities.

The City Hall effort to cast skeptics of the Government as conspiracy theorists come as the scientific community has struggled to provide rigorous, independent advice to the Government on its pandemic response. In the U.K., where the independent scientific community are organised into an advisory panel, their recommendations have been ignored by the Government, recently leading to a high-profile resignation from the panel.

For months, Progress New York published reports that questioned the integrity of the de Blasio administration’s pandemic data, including making a showing that the sample size that New York health ministers were using for sequencing COVID-19 samples was not large enough to meet a statistical model. Indeed, the first time that the City health ministry admitted that the dangerous Delta variant was circulating in New York City was in a retroactive release of data that had been delayed. Eventually, questions about the accuracy of the de Blasio administration’s pandemic data were collected in a report published by the Times.

Democrats face blame for confusion about the Government’s pandemic response, and the confusion is leading to electoral loss.

As Mayor de Blasio reportedly begins machinations to run for governor of New York next year, he appears to have planned ahead by recasting questions about his pandemic management as the gripes of conspiracy theorists, except that the New Yorker estimated that politics delayed an urgent response at the outset of the pandemic, leading to preventable deaths, and some of the biggest municipal labour unions have recoiled from Mayor de Blasio’s vaccine mandates.

Last week, election results were analysed to show that voter anxiety about the pandemic has not relaxed, even as prominent Democrats have relaxed the Government’s pandemic response for political reasons. As noted in an editorial by Maureen Dowd, the Democrats are ignoring voters’ stress over the pandemic and meager economic prospects. In the face of political instability and public anxiety, mayor-elect Eric Adams announced on Sunday without any basis in science a desire to end indoor mask mandates for school children, even as sub-lineages of the Delta variant continue to threaten high-vaccinated areas, like Northern Ireland. One sub-lineage of the Delta variant has already been detected in multiple U.S. States.

Ms. Gay didn’t report contacting any individuals or groups identified in the intelligence reports, even as she admitted that some reports documented false claims that appeared to be aimed at religious communities. That the de Blasio administration was compiling intelligence reports on religious activity went unfaulted, even as religious leaders are taking to the same Times editorial page to express dissatisfaction with the cultural divisions being enflamed by the Government’s pandemic response. By lumping skeptics into the category of conspiracy theorists, Mayor de Blasio risks offending people of faith, even as Democrats face electoral disadvantage from political division on religious issues.

For this report, the press office supporting New York City Hall did not answer an interview request. In the report about the situation in Northern Ireland, the BBC noted that Dr. Brid Farrell, of the Public Health Agency, believed that new variants underpinned “the need for continued vigilance.” But the science-based sensibility doesn’t inform decisions by New York City Government. Instead, when the public raise questions about the Government’s response, that skepticism gets collected into intelligence reports.

Progress New York has filed an open records request, seeking copies of the intelligence reports.