Over the weekend, the magazine Rolling Stone published an article with a shocking claim: a hospital in Oklahoma was so overwhelmed with patients injured from self-treating cases of COVID-19 with the “horse dewormer” ivermectin that gunshot victims were having to wait for emergency treatment. A photo paired with the article showed a line of people waiting, presumably, for entrance to the overrun hospital.
The article quickly made the rounds among the corporate press and lefty pundits. Rachel Maddow’s official Twitter account, with 10.5 million followers, blasted out an interview with Dr. Jason McElyea discussing the issue, which was the basis for Rolling Stone’s coverage.
The problem? As with so much of the hysteria media spin these days, the story, the headline, and the photo were all, frankly, BS. The entire story was based around the claim of a single source: Dr. Jason McElyea, who, it turned out, hadn’t worked at the hospital for two months.
The magazine issued a correction, which, in a sane world, would have been a full retraction. The “update” included a statement from Northeastern Hospital System Sequoyah, a regional healthcare provider in Oklahoma:
UPDATE: Northeastern Hospital System Sequoyah issued a statement: Although Dr. Jason McElyea is not an employee of NHS Sequoyah, he is affiliated with a medical staffing group that provides coverage for our emergency room. With that said, Dr. McElyea has not worked at our Sallisaw location in over 2 months. NHS Sequoyah has not treated any patients due to complications related to taking ivermectin. This includes not treating any patients for ivermectin overdose. All patients who have visited our emergency room have received medical attention as appropriate. Our hospital has not had to turn away any patients seeking emergency care. We want to reassure our community that our staff is working hard to provide quality healthcare to all patients. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify this issue and as always, we value our community’s support.
So, in summary: the whole story was fake, the community was needlessly terrified, a good portion of the country was led to believe that “stupid people” (e.g.: Republicans) were ingesting “horse dewormer” (e.g.: a widely prescribed antiparasitic; the doctors who pioneered its use to treat parasitic infections in humans were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2015), and the hospital had to waste resources responding to a manufactured PR storm.
Meanwhile, crisis actors in the corporate press contributed to the hysteria, uncritically sharing a story with a claim so facially outrageous and thinly sourced that it should never have made it to print.
If only this situation was a rare occurrence. But this type of mistake-riddled, advocacy pushing error is a feature of the corporate press: they insisted for years that Trump was compromised by Russia, that COVID-19 can be spread in schools and grocery stores but not in massive protests, that last summer’s riots that resulted in as much as $2 billion worth of damage and up to 25 deaths were “mostly peaceful.”
Just last week, USA Today’s “fact-checkers,” whose work product is used by Facebook and other social media companies as the basis for banning users for spreading “misinformation,” fell all over themselves to say Joe Biden wasn’t checking his watch during the transfer ceremony for the bodies of 13 US service members killed in the recent terrorist attack in Kabul. But the reality mugging was even too much for USA Today to spin. The paper was forced to issue a throat-clearing retraction.
“Journalists and fact-checkers are human,” wrote the post’s author, Daniel Funke. “We make mistakes. When we do, we correct them and try to make it right.”
Perhaps, but this is hardly a consistent standard, and even then, one rarely applied. And the same press that demands grace for itself never, ever bestows it on the rest of us. Rest In Peace all of the social media accounts who have run afoul of corporate fact checks, only to later have their “misinformation” be proven correct.
We live in a world where the corporate press doesn’t care about running down facts, presenting a well-sourced story, or even one with any context. These ivy-league journalism school grads care about one thing: using their platform as an advocacy tool for their ideological goals. And it’s become abundantly clear that they don’t care how stupid they look putting forward stories controlled by confirmation bias, and are completely unashamed when their hypocrisy is pointed out to them. Because they know that no professional or financial consequence is coming — just more backslapping, promotions, and awards from the country’s sneering smart set.