When Media Manipulation is Used for Media Manipulation…
I saw this one today. At first it looks really damning. Poor Trump being beaten up by the media for something that doesn’t even being to compare to the ineptitude of Obama. Right?
Well, no. Let’s break this down quickly…
The US case numbers are accurate. But the diseases are very different, so those numbers are essentially meaningless.
Here’s the CDC overview of the H1N1 pandemic
From the article: “From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3–89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086–402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868–18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus.”
Here’s the latest from the CDC on COVID-19
As of August 5, 2020 at about 9:30am EST the COVID death total is 155,204. Some quick math says that over about 6 months COVID-19 has killed about 12.5 times as many people in the US as H1N1 did in one year. That’s with things shut down and social distancing. And COVID deaths are still going up. That 12.5 times will be higher.
COVID has been compared to the flu, but it’s not. H1N1 was a flu virus. As the H1N1 overview above points out, many older people already had antibodies for it. And overall, it was easier to manage because it was a flu virus, so it acted in mostly predictable ways. We’re learning about COVID on the fly. But here are a few differences.
While we are still learning about COVID, one key difference appears to be the window in which people are contagious. It appears that people can spread it for a longer period of time and that includes asymptomatic people (people who haven’t begun showing symptoms, people who never show symptoms and people who had it but recovered quickly). Hence, masks.
So, Back to the image
Panic level. It wasn’t really zero during H1N1. But it also wasn’t as necessary. As this timeline shows, it was being addressed and a comprehensive national response was in place.
Some will argue that Trump was doing things to respond from the beginning, which is somewhat fair. However, he was also sowing seeds of division and divisiveness by undermining the CDC, calling it a Democratic hoax, downplaying the problem and insisting that it would just go away.
So is there mass hysteria today? The only real hysteria I see is coming from people who think that asking them to wear a mask is some kind of affront to their liberty. As far as the pandemic response, I see reasonable concern by citizens and tough decisions by elected officials to do the best they can in light of a very limited national response.
Does this show media manipulation? Yes. I think it does. It shows the ability to manipulate people through social media by creating images full of half-truths and outright lies, laced with inflammatory rhetoric and dog-whistles and to make that content go viral to push a nonsensical discussion.
When you see these images, look for sources. Look up the information. Not just the pure data. If something seems odd, look up more information to get a fuller picture and a better understanding.
The first statistic in this image is absolutely accurate, but it doesn’t even begin to tell the story. The other two points are subjective at best and add nothing to the actual story, just to the everybody-hates-Trump narrative. Which is really just fake news.