The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Dark Mood

At first, I was convinced that the media's response to news of the COVID-19 virus was designed with the classic Fear-Uncertainty-and Doubt (FUD) model in mind. The idea, it seemed, was to frighten the public by assiduously avoiding context and facts that might calm their concern over what was a serious, but not catastrophic or unprecedented, virus outbreak. Media driven hysteria began to build almost immediately as the virus spread globally. All forms of media [both professional (I use that term very loosely) and social] fed it with still more FUD. Viewership, clicks, and likes rose proportionally, and an unstable feedback loop was created.

That was then.

After watching the evolving nature of the media response to COVID-19, along with the growing politicization of this outbreak, I'm now convinced that in addition to the media's original FUD response, there's a strong undercurrent of partisan politics driving the coverage.

The Democrats understandably, see COVID-19 as a black swan event that might give them a potent weapon against a sitting president whose administration has created a robust economy and not had any major missteps internationally. So they claim that the administration was unprepared (how exactly?), that it doesn't have a plan (what is theirs, exactly?), that the president himself doesn't care (what more could he say or do, exactly?), and so on. No surprise with any of that. It's the vicious hyper-partisan politics of the past 3 years, nothing more.

But the Democrats' trained hamsters in the media, at first somewhat reticent to use a health crisis as a political weapon, have now begun the drum beat. Walter Russell Mead comments:
... the media multitudes who loathe Mr. Trump will do everything they can to turn the epidemic into a Hurricane Katrina event. That would be easy to do even if the government’s response is near-flawless; epidemics are messy. There will almost certainly be heartbreaking tragedies that can plausibly be blamed on administration policies. There will be shortages of medical supplies. Some hospitals will be stretched past the breaking point. The bureaucracy and its leadership will inevitably fall short in many ways. In an election year when health care is a major political issue, every failure and problem in the coronavirus response will be politicized and publicized, putting the administration on the defensive as the economy falters and the virus spreads.

The administration’s response, one may confidently assume, won’t be flawless. This isn’t only because the epidemic is a challenge that would test any president. Mr. Trump’s improvisational and chaotic approach to governance, rooted in his reliance on intuition and impulse as well as his use of conflict as a management method, will combine with the deep lack of trust between political and career officials across the government to produce highly public missteps and policy errors. Critics will have an abundance of ammunition.
All of that is true. But the "ammunition" will also serve to increase the level of national hysteria and unease. And that will ultimately do as much or more damage than the virus itself—people will lose jobs, businesses will go belly up, children will be terrorized, neighbors will view one another with suspicion, a dark mood will grow until dissatisfaction dominates.

But then again, that's the whole idea, isn't it?


In a comprehensive report published in 2019, an international group comprised of medical professionals from many countries rated the United States as the Number 1 country with regard to overall preparedness for a health emergency like COVID-19. The intent of the study was to create the "first comprehensive assessment and benchmarking of health security and related capabilities across the 195 countries."

Hmmm. Sort of belies the claim of a "lack of planning and preparedness." But, whatever.