What’s great about Steve Krakauer’s new book dissecting the media is that it comes with a lot of thoughtful commentary from prominent journalists. What’s bad about it is that, like Anne Frank, the author still somehow believes the worst people are truly good at heart. If not for that, the book might be perfect!
In “Uncovered: How the Media Got Cozy with Power, Abandoned Its Principles, and Lost the People,” Krakauer maintains that the corruption of the national press is mostly a matter of groupthink, geographic location (Washington and New York), and ego.
I don’t think so. Nothing exposed the media — The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and on and on — for the deceitful, manipulative group of people it is than the pandemic. A grave and urgent emergency that should have been the most pressing time since 9/11 for national unity was instead exploited by the media for the purpose of winning an election. The cost: Half the country was trained to accuse the other of willfully spreading death.
Kraukauer goes over much of our Covid nightmare in a section that recounts the corporate press’s dishonesty when covering some prominent commentators who proposed using the prolific drug ivermectin as a potential treatment for the virus, rather than risk using any of the new vaccines. Although it’s been around forever and is generously prescribed to humans in every first-world nation, all it took was for popular podcaster Joe Rogan to suggest ivermectin as an alternative to the sacred vaccines for cable news hosts to denounce it as a dangerous toxin solely used by veterinarians. It was suddenly a hazardous “livestock drug,” as endlessly repeated on CNN.
The network’s “chief medical correspondent” Sanjay Gupta memorably appeared on Rogan’s podcast shortly thereafter and made a complete ass out of himself by refusing to admit that he and his colleagues had lied to their audiences not only about ivermectin but also the risk that Covid represented, especially in young people.
“When faced with the counter-consensus,” writes Krakauer, “Gupta initially had a thoughtful and respectful exchange of ideas. But back home in the corporate media consensus, he displayed the same lack of introspection so many in the press have these days—unwilling to engage in good faith, and unwilling to budge when it comes to having an ounce of humility.”
Krakauer is heavy on charity.
I told him in an email exchange it’s not a “lack of introspection” or “humility” that led Gupta and his peers to behave in the grotesque way they did throughout 2020. It was their common cause in denying Donald Trump a second term and, by extension, showing his voters who hold the real power in this country. They do. How cute the voters should think otherwise.
He disagreed, saying that instead Gupta et al. actually believed the garbage they spewed about masks, vaccines, and “The Science.”
“From Hunter Biden to COVID, I do think an element at play was simply stopping Trump from being re-elected,” Krakauer told me. “But I think COVID in particular is unique also, and was actually more insidious than just Trump related. They believed that there was one true COVID truth – The Science – and they galvanized behind this consensus. They avoided any nuance to their coverage, for fear that the complicated reality may be somehow interpreted the wrong way by the public.”
He said the media “had no trust in the public to comply with their preferred method of dealing with this unique pandemic, and thus, in the service of the narrative, they had to oppose all possible pathways to rational COVID coverage.” In that view, the media had the public’s best interest at heart and, much like Anthony Fauci, were simply trying to save our lives by lying.
I can’t stop laughing. There is no convincing me that any single Covid-related death or infection resulted in legitimate sorrow at CNN, MSNBC or The New York Times. The hysteria wasn’t genuine. It was a manufactured campaign that pounded a simple message: Every death and every infection was the direct result of Trump and his supporters.
If a Republican got sick, it’s because he wasn’t following The Science. If a Democrat got sick, well, it’s because Republicans weren’t following The Science.
Remember those Texas Democrats who flew maskless across the country in 2021 to protest their state’s legislation on voting laws? They were framed in the media as defiant heroes, champions of the oppressed. Then they ended up testing positive for Covid.
Now remember how the media covered the death of Republican Herman Cain.
“Herman Cain, ex-presidential candidate who refused to wear mask, dies after COVID-19 diagnosis.”— Reuters
“Cain, who co-chaired Black Voices for Trump, was photographed maskless and not socially distancing at the event.”— The Washington Post
“He was photographed there inside the arena without a mask sitting with a group of other Trump campaign surrogates.”— ABC News
“A photo taken at the rally showed Cain, without a mask, sitting closely to other people who also were not wearing any face coverings.”— Associated Press
And then there was my all-time favorite moment of 2020 pandemic coverage, which incidentally also featured Gupta. In October of that year, Trump tweeted after being discharged from the hospital, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” CNN’s Jake Tapper called the comment “disrespectful” and told his audience “It’s OK to be afraid of Covid, and it’s OK that it’s dominating your life.”
Gupta replied, “Jake, this is so disrespectful. I’m not even sure I can think about this in some sort of cogent way … It’s incredibly disrespectful.” He went on to say it’s “not true” that people shouldn’t live in fear, adding, “What does that mean, ‘Don’t be afraid of it’? I mean, first of all, it’s a contagious disease that kills people, so what are you going to be afraid of if you’re not afraid of something like that? … It’s gross, it really is.”
When you take a harmless, even hopeful, message like “do not be afraid” and call it “gross” and tell people “it’s okay to be afraid” when we are in the throes of a health scare, we are beyond typical partisanship and elitism. It’s hateful and manipulative.
Krakauer doesn’t agree with that either.
“I don’t think Sanjay Gupta opposed Trump’s comment about not letting COVID control your life because he hated Trump,” he said. “I think he did so because he was distrustful of those who support Trump, those who listen to him. He believed the COVID extremist point of view, and Trump’s rationality made him panic because he thought others would buy into philosophy too, thus putting us all at risk.”
I wish I could give the media that much credit.