In a three-tweet thread on Friday, Nate Silver of 538 explained (without quite realizing it) exactly how left wing media has been lying about the spread of the coronavirus and President Trump. His conclusion is that members of the news media use facts and figures out of context in misleading ways because they wish to appear smart. He is tantalizingly close to the truth but can’t quite get there.
That doesn't mean it's just making stuff up or engaging in fake news. On the contrary, the facts it relays are generally accurate in isolation. But the problems are in how facts are strung together and emphasized. Often there are sins of omission (e.g. no context on testing).
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) May 7, 2020
BTW, Trump has figured this out! By focusing on case counts, the media creates disincentives to do more testing because it makes the numbers look superficially worse. One reason (not the only one) why we're not pushing for testing as much as we should.https://t.co/lDxP8CMueL
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) May 7, 2020
So Silver says, as any honest person would have to that reporting breathlessly on increases in coronavirus cases without reporting the corresponding increase in total testing is misleading. He further stipulates that this bad practice is quite commonplace in the news media. So far so good.
But when he comes to the goal, or the intention of the media in their misleading, his answer is curious. He claims that these journalists want to craft a narrative that makes them “sound smart.” But why would intentionally misleading the public regarding the coronavirus sound smart?
This is a very important question. The answer is that for months now, the media “narrative” Silver refers to has been that smart people know Trump bungled the response and to reopen the economy before the medical experts say it’s OK is tantamount to murder. The dumb people say that the Trump administration responded well in unprecedented circumstances and it’s time to start thinking about opening up.
So when Silver says these journalists want to “sound smart” what it really means is that they want to promote a progressive anti-Trump agenda. Now, lets be honest that isn’t some deeply-guarded industry secret, but it’s telling that Silver won’t just come out and say it.
This brings us to his defense of this misleading practice in which he asserts that it is not “fake news.” He justifies this spurious assessment on the basis that in isolation the facts are true. This is a bizarre way to think about truth in the news. Actively choosing to omit very basic and relevant facts because they don’t fit your narrative is deceptive and absolutely qualifies as fake news. The fact that, as Silver admits, this is being done across the liberal journalism ecosystem makes the practice even worse.
If the first tweet had a grain of truth and the second was a rationalization of bad practices, the third is a revealing and bizarre, baseless accusation against President Trump. Because, you know, there always is one. Silver alleges that Trump is dragging his feet on testing because more testing will mean more confirmed cases and he’s worried that would make him look bad. This based entirely on an off the cuff statement of fact by Trump.
In reality, the Trump administration has been working on testing since before China announced its first death in January. It has been significantly ramped up owing to public private partnerships and the FDA just Thursday approved at home test kits. But even if one does believe that we are in some kind of testing crisis how would it behoove the president politically to produce fewer tests? To combat criticism that he isn’t making enough tests available he makes fewer tests available? Doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Throughout Trump’s presidency the news media, often more so even than Democrats has been his principle and primary adversary. It is very much a two-way street. In these tweets Silver lays open the progressive media playbook for all to see. First, decide on and coordinate the bad stuff smart people think about Trump; then selectively choose only the facts that support that “narrative.” After that congratulate yourself for the accuracy of your selectively chosen facts, and then invent a completely unsubstantiated allegation against the president.
This playbook was used for Russian collusion, it was used for impeachment and it is in use right now during the pandemic.