90 Miles From Tyranny : No institution has failed the public worse than the news media during the COVID-19 pandemic

Saturday, April 4, 2020

No institution has failed the public worse than the news media during the COVID-19 pandemic






No institution has failed the public worse during the COVID-19 pandemic than the news media.

It seems impossible that this should be the case, especially considering the federal government’s sluggish, incoherent, and unfocused handling of this crisis. But even the federal government has managed to get some things right. The same cannot be said for our self-important Fourth Estate.

From the very beginning, corporate media got the story wrong, publishing article after article assuring readers that the virus was not as dangerous or serious as it sounded.

“Is this going to be a deadly pandemic?” Vox asked on social media on Jan. 31. “No.”

Later, after it became clear the pandemic that began in China was indeed a fatal, fast-moving global disaster and the bodies started to stack up, major newsgroups in the United States changed tacks, abandoning earlier efforts to downplay the seriousness of the disease to champion the Beijing-approved talking point that says it is “racist” and “xenophobic” to refer to the virus by its city or country of origin.

“Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s coronavirus tweet echoes anti-Chinese racism. He must apologize,” the Sacramento Bee’s editorial board demanded on March 10 after the House GOP leader used the term “Chinese coronavirus” in a tweet. Prior to its editorial, the Sacramento Bee published no fewer than five news headlines featuring the exact term “Chinese coronavirus."

As corporate media rushed to condemn the terms it coined, its individual members embraced a number of demagogic talking points and outright falsehoods, perpetuating junk argumentsand total lies in a none-too-subtle effort to score political points.

It gets worse.

Since the pandemic came to U.S. shores, members of the White House press corps have attended coronavirus briefings for the explicit purpose of peppering the president and his response team with insipid questions about whether it is racist to use terms such as “Wuhan virus” and “Kung flu.” Members of the press have belittled and talked down to the healthcare experts charged with leading the White House’s response efforts. Reporters and pundits ridiculed a business owner who overhauled his facilities so that they are now focused mostly on producing cotton face masks. NBC News has even suggested that the president is responsible for an Arizona couple who drank fish tank cleaner thinking it would protect them from the virus.

Worst of all, U.S. newsgroups have taken to praising despotic regimes that are hostile to the U.S., including Russia and China, going so far as to parrot their propaganda. CNN, for example, published a report on March 21 comparing the U.S. unfavorably to Russia, which CNN claims has its coronavirus cases mostly under control thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The figures touted in the CNN report come directly from...

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