In many respects, the legacy media remains a greater driving force behind the COVID-19 pandemic than the actual virus itself. Their incessant fear-mongering at the outset of the pandemic has morphed into endless goal shifting as the crisis drags on in search of the current narrative.
Worse, constant gaslighting has left countless Americans confused and exhausted. Now we are being overwhelmed with headlines about an even more contagious strain of COVID-19 looming on the horizon, just as vaccines have become available.
That the pandemic served as political fodder for the Left only exacerbates the level of deception. It’s increasingly difficult to gauge what exactly is going on or has transpired given the inordinate amount of half-truths and outright misinformation being doled out by the media.
Here are five times the media changed the pandemic narrative to suit various agendas outside of the truth.
“Flatten The Curve”
It seems like a lifetime ago that so many experts insisted that life could return to some semblance of normality once we “flattened the curve” by imposing temporary lockdowns in March of 2020.
At the time, the argument was that restrictive measures would slow the spread of the virus and limit the chances that hospitals and health workers throughout the nation would be overwhelmed with sick patients.
We came together as a nation, and it worked. We flattened the curve, according to University of Michigan Health:
“Cities and states hit hard by the new coronavirus ‘flattened the curve’ of a rising tide of cases by cutting back on the kinds of interactions that can spread the virus from person to person. More than 100 years after the 1918-1919 flu pandemic, the same steps that worked against that deadly virus also slowed the new one.”
The narrative began to shift, in large part, because many on the Left sought to gain political capital from the ongoing pandemic. Media pundits on the Left began to argue that conservatives continued to somehow bear the sole burden of the spread of the virus. And, of course, no policy decision made by the Trump administration could be cast in a positive light.
That Ezra Klein of Vox could argue that Trump chose “to politicize basic public health measures” without a hint of irony would almost be comical if it was not such a brazen and outlandish hoodwink.
In July of 2020, David Harsanyi of the National Review wrote that “liberals are busy concocting a narrative that holds that the failures of the American response to coronavirus have been the fault of Trumpian nihilists in the Red States” even though “New York’s death rate has been ten times larger than Florida’s” at the time.
“Let’s remember that initial national lockdown efforts were intended to flatten the curve so that hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed with COVID cases,” Harsanyi continued, “not to shutter the economy in perpetuity (or until a Democrat wins the White House) to ensure that no one gets sick anymore. Other than the New York area, which is led by a governor who made perhaps the single most deadly policy mistake in the entire crisis, this goal has largely been achieved.”
“Follow the science”
One of the most dogmatic refrains from the media and the Left during the pandemic has been “follow the science.” The phrase has been conveniently employed to allow the pandemic narrative to shift as needed.
It’s also acted as both an attempt to censor, silence, and rebut innumerable reasoned arguments advocating for better, more nuanced policies rather than wholesale restrictions.
Dr. Vinay Prasad, an oncologist and health policy researcher, argues in his piece for Medpage Today that drawing policies from science — even good science — is a limited endeavor because “[s]cience cannot make value judgments.”
“Science does not determine policy,” Prasad continues. “Policy is a human endeavor that combines science with values and priorities. In other words, science can help quantify the increased risk (or lack thereof) of school reopening on SARS-Cov-2 spread, and help quantify the educational losses from continued closure, but science cannot tell you whether to open or close schools. Making the decision requires values, principles, a vision of the type of society we want to be. How much do we care about the kids that rely on public school? Is it enough to offset a theoretical (but unsubstantiated) risk of viral spread? On this topic, I agree with others that we have chosen poorly.”
Prasad also breaks down the exceedingly partisan role science has come to play in the pandemic. His list includes confirmation biases in the form of “credentialism,” yielding to science in a rote, dogmatic manner devoid of critical evaluation, and, most importantly, the censoring of sound arguments just because they may go against the prevailing narrative.
Prasad contends that “[s]cience is the idea that we must confront, discuss, debate, and refute ideas. Using brute force, the power of the platform, to proclaim the truth is antithetical to our creed.”
The effectiveness of masks
Early on in the pandemic, the media inundated us with reports that masks were considered ineffectual and even a potential detriment to limiting the spread of COVID-19 by health officials.
In March of 2020, Market Watch reported that “people shouldn’t wear face masks to prevent the spread of the infectious illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. surgeon general.”
In an April 2020 interview with Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine and health policy at Vanderbilt University, Time reported that masks would “not likely to be effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19.” Schaffner added, “[T]he CDC would have recommended it years ago…It doesn’t, because it makes science-based recommendations,” emphasizing that no study or data to date indicated masks would prevent the spread of the novel virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — who remains at the helm of tackling the pandemic — insisted early on that masks “do not provide the level of protection people think they do. Wearing a mask may also have unintended consequences: People who wear masks tend to touch their face more often to adjust them, which can spread germs from their hands,” according to CBS News.
ABC News reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) also offered some judicious advice at the time, adding, “If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19.”
While countless redactions now exist by the WHO, the CDC, and health officials concerning masks, the arguments made against wearing them were not without merit at the time. Improper use, poor hygiene, and the overall ineffectiveness of cloth masks, in particular, were the reasons being presented by health officials.
While “masks are still likely to prevent infected people from transmitting the virus,” according to a recent piece in Reason, currently, there still exists no hard data or substantive study to provide definitive proof that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19. At best, strong correlative information has emerged that indicates properly worn masks might be an effective prophylactic in preventing transmission.
That’s not an argument against the idea of masks either. Rather, it demonstrates that the volatile and polarizing subject of masks does not exist on some binary of “hard facts versus empty hubris,” though the legacy media would have us think otherwise.
BLM rioters and protesters were given a free pass to gather by the thousands
Many on the Left and in the media who railed against anti-lockdown protests grew hopelessly silent as thousands of protestors and rioters assailed cities across our nation during the various BLM protests.
Worse, many politicians may have conspired to disallow contact tracing at such super spreader events. In June of 2020, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio explicitly told health officials that no one who tested positive for COVID-19 be asked if they attended a BLM protest, according to The City.
“The hundreds of contact tracing workers hired by the city under de Blasio’s new ‘test and trace’ campaign have been instructed not to ask anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 whether they recently attended a demonstration, City Hall confirmed to THE CITY.”
Worse, even epidemiologists tracking the virus could not square their own political biases with their responsibilities.
When asked about the BLM protests and riots, Catherine Troisi, “an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center,” told The New York Times that she “certainly condemned the anti-lockdown protests at the time” but was “not condemning the [BLM] protests now.” Troisi reflected on her own cognitive dissonance, stating, “I struggle with that…I have a hard time articulating why that is OK.”
Unlike Troisi, over a thousand other health officials openly declared their biases and consequent hypocrisy in an open letter. Published by CNN, these officials were “advocating for an anti-racist public health response to demonstrations against systemic injustice occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In other words, these health officials were only willing to support mass gatherings that aligned with their own political views. They even dared to suggest that the thousands who attended BLM protests and riots were not at risk of spreading the highly contagious virus but anti-lockdown protestors somehow were because they were “rooted in white nationalism.”
“However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States…This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders. Those actions not only oppose public health interventions, but are also rooted in white nationalism and run contrary to respect for Black lives.”
The generous portrayal of Dr. Anthony Fauci in the media
If his glamorous cover story for InStyle magazine in the middle of the pandemic is any indication, Dr. Anthony Fauci remains a darling of the legacy media. He is now poised to continue his role as chief medical advisor for the incoming Biden administration.
Though he boldly declared in his InStyle interview that he believes “everybody thinks I’m doing more than an outstanding job,” Fauci has backtracked on so many of his pronouncements during the pandemic that it’s hard to keep track.
Emma Colton of the Washington Examiner provides a telling assessment of Fauci and argues that he “has flip-flopped or been proven wrong on a host of different coronavirus measures and recommendations since the virus first hit the United States last winter.”
Colton’s cogent summary exposes many of Fauci’s reversals and contradictions, including his initially referring to lockdowns in March of 2020 as “draconian,” insisting that masks were unnecessary, and minimizing the role of asymptomatic transmissions at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Fauci, the leading White House coronavirus task force member,” Colton continues, “has changed positions or faced scientific data proving his stances are flawed on issues ranging from mask wearing to the severity of the virus and from asymptomatic spread to effective treatments for patients, among other issues, since January.”
Much of the narrative surrounding the pandemic has shifted from a public health crisis to a craven opportunity for the media and the Left to exploit to their advantage given their tremendous influence. This has lead to angst, confusion, and further divisions in our already deeply polarized nation as well as untold suffering and hardship.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.