Posted by Curt on 10 August, 2020 at 6:56 pm. 2 comments already!



Has there been in recent history a more tendentious, hysterical, data-denying and frankly disreputable exercise in misdirection than the way in which much of America’s media has covered the Covid-19 epidemic?

Perhaps we can forgive them the endless repetition of pandemic porn; the selectively culled stories of tragedy about otherwise completely healthy young people succumbing to the virus. While we know that the chances of someone under 30 being killed by Covid are very slim, we know too that news judgments have always favored the exceptional and horrific over the routine and unremarkable.

Perhaps we can even forgive them the rapidly shifting headlines—each one shouting with absolute certitude—about the basic facts of the virus and its context: its lethality and transmissibility, the merits of mask-wearing, or the effectiveness of this or that therapy. The science is evolving, and so too is the reporting.

But there are larger representations of this massive and complex story that we should mark as simply unforgivable.

First, the notion, implicit or at times explicit, in so much of the reporting, that the U.S. handling of the pandemic has been a globally unique failure. This is quickly ascribed to the ignorance and malevolence of the Clorox-injecting, quack-cure-peddling bozo in the White House.

The death toll in the U.S. stands at around 500 per million people. That is significantly higher than in Germany or Japan, for example, but still some way below the U.K., Italy, Spain and several other European countries. Among the Group of Seven nations, America is right in the middle.

That’s nothing to celebrate, and there’s plenty of legitimate criticism to be made of the Trump administration’s performance. And the number is still rising, it’s true. But a fair assessment would note the broad similarity in death rates among most large economies and a divergence from the numbers in some of the others, rather than suggesting this is a uniquely American phenomenon.

Even less forgivable is the naked, politically motivated selective use and manipulation of data to damage Republicans and favor Democrats. Typical of this is the steady stream of stories telling us what a great job New York and other (Democrat-controlled) Northeastern states have been doing in managing the spread of the virus, in contrast with the performance of other (Republican-led) states.

This is, literally, the opposite of the reality. You probably don’t need reminding that New York continues to enjoy the dubious record of one of the highest death rates of any region in the entire world.

Far from “flattening the curve,” New York, again, did precisely the opposite. It suffered a barely fathomable surge in deaths that overwhelmed much of the state’s medical capacity.

A related fiction is the suggestion that New York’s economy is now bouncing back as its cases and deaths, mercifully, continue to dwindle toward zero. Yet by the unemployment rate and other measures, the economic recovery in New York is lagging states such as Florida and Texas, with commuters and tourists still staying away.

We should not fall into the media’s trap of tendentiously asserting a tight link between politics and the virus. But insofar as policy has some effect, it is worth noting that of the 10 states (and the District of Columbia) with the highest death rates, eight have Democratic governments.

That points to an even less forgivable dishonesty in all of this—the apparently willful refusal to attempt a balanced assessment of the way governments have handled this unprecedented challenge.

The task all along with Covid wasn’t to extinguish the virus completely. Perhaps that could be achieved by shutting down the entire economy. The real task was to balance the health and economic risks, knowing that the long-term health costs of economic ruin are likely to be at least as costly as those of the virus itself.

As we stand, the states that have come closest to achieving this balance are the ones that continue to be denounced in the media: Florida and Texas. Their death rates are below those of similarly populous coastal states, and while deaths continue to rise, it seems that the virus has peaked for now. Florida and Texas have also been among the most successful in keeping their economies from collapsing.

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