Are we alone in feeling as if the media are enthusiastic cheerleaders of the coronavirus pandemic? We can’t be the only ones who sense the glee with which the news about the body count, the Democrats’ wailing over the president’s handling of the crisis, and the “new normal” are delivered across our screens. Nor is it possible that no one else is noticing that the states that believe reopening is necessary to survival are being portrayed as communities of rubes who deserve to suffer the sting of mass death.
The coronavirus coverage goes beyond the “if it bleeds it leads” tenet of sensationalized media coverage. It’s a handy means for them to extend the cultural and political divides that have made the 50 states less united than they have been in any of our lifetimes. To paraphrase Col. Nathan R. Jessup, they want COVID-19 death, they need COVID-19 death.
The media elitists are culture warriors of the worst sort . After Georgia revealed in late April its plans to reopen, Dana Milbank’s Washington Post column was headlined “Georgia leads the race to become America’s No. 1 Death Destination.” A few days later, The Atlantic said the state was beginning an experiment in “human sacrifice.” The message is that the red states are lousy with hicks who don’t care about human lives, even their own.
Like all good crusaders, the media aren’t straying from the campaign. Shortly after some restrictions were lifted, The Hill reported: “More than 1,000 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed the day Gov. (Brian) Kemp reopened Georgia.” Other outlets took an Associated Press report and wrote similar headlines.
Of course not a single one of those cases was in any way related to the reopening. None of the 1,005 who were confirmed to have the virus suddenly became infected on that day. Unless they contracted the virus, were tested, and had their results confirmed all on that day — unlikely — they were infected before the reopening.
But whoever wrote that headline was trying to lead readers to the conclusion that reopening the state caused cases to spike, when in fact there were 126 fewer new cases than there were the day before some business were allowed to open, a fact that could be learned only by reading deeper into the story.
We haven’t seen the last of breathless reporting about case numbers, and we won’t for a while. Expect to see context-free headlines and stories written to make it look as if infections are sharply increasing every day. Left out will be a crucial fact: Confirmed infections will rise as testing expands.
It’s a basic error that “has been so widespread,” says Five Thirty-Eight’s Nate Silver, “that it’s revealing about the media’s goals. It’s more interested in telling plausibly true stories (‘narratives’) that sound smart to its audience than in accuracy/truth per se.”
By the way, a little more than two weeks into the initial phase of Georgia’s reopening, Kemp tweeted the state had recorded the “lowest number of COVID-19 positive patients currently hospitalized statewide (1,203) since hospitals began reporting this data on April 8” while ventilator use had also fallen to its lowest level.
What of good news, stories that inspire and give us hope that we’ll beat the crisis? Don’t go cross-eyed looking for optimistic articles and reports that aren’t there. Remember, the press, already out to get President Donald Trump, has been eagerly using the pandemic to intensify its campaign against him. Early on, the media could hardly disguise its delight when the U.S death toll, which at that time was likely quite accurate, exceeded that of China, whose numbers, cooked by a communist regime, cannot be trusted. To what end? To make the White House look bad.
While that angle has mostly passed, the media are still accusing Trump, without supporting facts, of bumbling his response to the point that several outlets and talking heads have charged him with having “blood on his hands.”
(Shouldn’t we expect more from our media than to use a worn-out cliche? Is there no one writing or spouting off for the legacy press who can come up with a fresh way to get across this idea? It’s as if the press was a collection of high school sophomores trying out hackneyed words and phrases they just discovered, certain that their language choices make them look intelligent.)
At the same time, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s overseen such a mess that if not for the disaster of New York City, the U.S. would be relatively unharmed by the pandemic, gets not a pass but regular praise from the media.
“If you doubt the power of the press, recognize that Gov. Ron DeSantis handled COVID-19 in Florida in excellent fashion, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo handled it nearly as badly as humanly possible, yet DeSantis has dropped in polls and Cuomo is at the height of popularity,” talk radio show host Ben Shapiro tweeted last week.
Joe Concha, media reporter for The Hill (yes, the same outlet that posted the misleading headline on cases in Georgia), has noted, says Fox News, an enormous contrast between “coverage of the Trump-led White House coronavirus task force briefings compared to those anchored by Cuomo in Albany.” Cuomo, says Concha, has been the recipient of “universal praise” in the press.
There’s another entire editorial we could write about the media’s coverage of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the press’ Salem witch trial regarding the made-up charges that Trump colluded with Russia in the 2016 election, and its collusive relationship with Democrats and the Deep State’s effort to overthrow an election. Choose any issue, and there’s a media bias editorial waiting to be written. The legacy press is simply the Democratic Party’s Department of Propaganda
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board