No one could have failed to notice that the mainstream media’s reporting on the coronavirus and on the pandemic has been misleading. So consistently misleading that it was almost as if there was a deliberate effort to make covid-19 seem more dangerous to the average person than it actually was. Indeed, a recent Gallup poll in the U.S. revealed about 60% of Americans overestimated the risk of someone being hospitalised by covid by about ten times. That’s not just misinformed, that’s wildly misinformed. Some may argue there’s no harm in being overly cautious. But the staggering collateral damage of lockdowns says otherwise. Fanatical and reckless public health policy centred around the precautionary principle has done a great deal of harm.
Some people think the only explanation for the media’s behaviour is some kind of global conspiracy, but conspiracies are always extremely unlikely for two reasons. One, most people are always trying to do what they think is right, not intentionally trying to do bad things. That includes journalists and big wigs in the media. And two, it’s virtually impossible to get a very large number of people to agree to act towards some single nefarious end. It’s hard enough to get a few people to agree on what they want on a pizza let alone hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.
But here’s the thing. A large number of people independently arriving at the same false belief, combined with each individual’s desire to do the right thing, can have the same effect as an intentional conspiracy. And thus, to the world, can very much look like one. This is what I think we’ve seen over the past year.
The false premise that prompted the mainstream media to try to persuade people to change their behaviour rather than simply report facts to them was the widespread belief that lockdowns were saving many lives. Once convinced of this, it’s not hard to see why journalists/editors would feel justified in omitting crucial facts and context in their reporting on covid and the pandemic. To them, it seemed as if the end of saving lives would more than justify the means of temporarily abandoning the principles of good, honest journalism.
On the one hand, maybe we can’t blame the media for acting so zealously under this belief in lockdowns. After all, that going out to meet your mates would lead to a pile of dead strangers’ bodies is what the government and our public health authorities were telling the world with grave certainty. And we’re supposed to be able to trust these agencies.
But on the other hand, where was the media’s basic level of scepticism? Even children learn not to believe everything authority figures say. And where was any actual journalism? It’s reasonable to believe what some experts say, but it’s wise to verify it with other experts. Why didn’t journalists seek out experts who had different views on the merits of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as lockdowns? It’s not as if there weren’t any. There were. Even early on there were a few experts brave enough to argue against lockdowns. Ones who only got a voice through alternative media on the likes of YouTube (when they weren’t censored).
And later on, The Great Barrington Declaration emerged, authored by some of the most prominent experts in the UK. It didn’t even seem to occur to those in the mainstream media that seeking out experts with different opinions and giving them a platform would be good journalism and would do a service to the public. It just didn’t happen.
Routinely misleading the public for a year also reveals how little trust the average journalist and editor has in the individual. In their minds, British citizens couldn’t be trusted to act responsibly during a public health crisis so, so it was the media’s duty to exaggerate the danger of covid to scare people into doing so. Not long after the scaring came the shaming. When the first lockdown was lifted in the UK and people flocked to beaches and gathered in open areas they were publicly denounced by the media and, quite despicably, blamed for subsequent covid deaths.
All in all, the mainstream media’s behaviour over the last year has been almost entirely shameful. But thank goodness for independent alternative media, such as UK Column, that gave a public platform to alternative expert opinions and simply reported the facts – even if that was just official public health data but in context and not cherry-picked. It was six or so months before any mainstream channels or newspapers started to seriously question the merits of lockdowns. During that time, alternative media was the only refuge for anything like a sensible debate. Despite the censoring engaged in by YouTube and Facebook, they did enable an alternative media to emerge and reach a large audience. Without these platforms, it wouldn’t have happened. So it’s a good thing they exist, even though the people who run them seem to have little faith in free speech.
During a public health emergency, it’s crucial that people are accurately informed so they can make rational decisions and act accordingly. That the public was and still is so deeply misinformed about covid-19 speaks volumes about the standard of journalism today’s mainstream media has produced over the last year. At a time when sound journalism and balanced reporting were needed more than ever, the press did little else but fearmonger and amplify government propaganda.