Be afraid. Be very afraid.
That is how the media approached Covid. Be afraid of everything, from ice cream to semen. Be afraid of being tall. Be afraid of being bald. Be afraid of going to the shops and accepting home deliveries. And if you’re a man, it’s not just semen you should worry about, but also your testicles, your erectile function and your fertility. Even your toes are in danger.
The anxious, frightened climate this has helped to create has been suffocating. Death tolls were constantly brandished without the context of how many people die every day in the UK, and hospital admissions were reported while recoveries were not. As a result, Covid often appeared as a death sentence, an illness you did not recover from – even though it was known from the outset that Covid was a mild illness for the majority of people.
Even though the vaccine rollout is proving a success, the media are still fearmongering about Covid. The language in headlines and articles continues to play up the risks and threats on the horizon. As Bloomberg had it recently, ‘We must start planning for a permanent pandemic – with coronavirus mutations pitted against vaccinations in a global arms race, we may never go back to normal’.
And those who do not conform to the safety-first orthodoxy continue to be demonised. It feels as if dangerous times are ahead.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, who is also a health economist and therefore familiar with the concept of trade-offs in decision-making (unlike infectious disease experts), notes that studies repeatedly show that children who wear masks completely undermine the very limited benefit masks provide by touching them and repeatedly taking them on and off. Moreover, there are serious repercussions to child social development when children are masked that go beyond “simple” physical irritation and difficulty breathing. Bhattacharya emphasizes that the development needs of young children require them to see other people’s faces. For example, learning to speak requires seeing a person’s lips move. Older children also need to see the face to learn body language and how to appropriately interact socially.
Given that rulers are working hard to ensure that as few people as possible come into contact with the coronavirus, why, oh why, are so many people depressed? Shouldn’t they be calm, grateful, and even happy?
In almost every profession—law, medicine, engineering, science, architecture—countering bias is central to the discipline. Yet notice that representatives of these professions, when talking to the press, often seem to adapt themselves to a media culture geared to the production of bias. Scientists who found their way into stories dismissing the lab leak theory were the ones most willing to model the media’s preferred standard: If Mr. Trump supports it, I’m against it.
Phil Magness is justified in calling out, on Facebook, those who until recently denied this happy reality.