by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Maybe something about this pattern of facts infuriates you, as it does me. Maybe, like me, you’ve been alarmed by the social-media snippets coming out of China. Especially when they contrast with everything the major bodies governing public health and the media have told you. Maybe you, like me, read lots of reports saying that fears of coronavirus as a health crisis or economic one were being overblown. But then you also noticed that facemasks were sold out everywhere, that they’ve been sold out for weeks. Something wasn’t adding up. And now, maybe like me, you’re furious at much of the media and the World Health Organization.
The media’s response to coronavirus was also almost a form of malpractice. While readers may have been searching out samizdat videos from China to try to make sense of the phenomenon, American reporters were treating their audiences to many, many, many articles about anti-Chinese or anti-Asian sentiments. Entire “epidemics” of racism were diagnosed from simple hashtag searches. Worse than the disease itself, it was often implied. Just look at these bad tweets on Twitter.com! Second, because most reporters are terrible at vetting information when it requires numeracy, they want to file many, many, many articles about how the seasonal flu was a greater threat than the coronavirus. Meanwhile, trade shows and global production lines began to shut down, when the flu never causes them to shut down.
Readers searching for articles about the coronavirus, trying to answer their own questions about whether they should take any precautions and what might those be, were simply misled.