Few Conservatives See Covid-19 as a Serious Threat as Right-Wing Media Undermines Fauci & Science
A Pew Research Center Survey this week found that just 46% of Republicans see the Covid-19 pandemic as a major health threat, compared to 85% of Democrats. The reasons for the difference in attitudes about the crisis are fairly obvious.
1. The Trump Effect: Conservatives are much more likely to believe President Trump's statements regarding the pandemic and he has too often minimized the danger posed by the virus.
2. You Are What You Eat: Republicans tend to consume news and opinions from Fox News, right-wing talk radio and conservative web sites like Breitbart. These sources have generally followed Trump's lead to undermine the advice of scientists and physicians while promoting conspiracy theories and glorifying anti-mask and anti-shutdown protests.
And, in the case of a public health emergency, such misinformation is dangerous to us all, as MIT media expert, Professor Heather Hendershot points out, "such sources have spread a tremendous amount of inaccurate information about the pandemic, and it is disturbing to see how many people believe those sources, ignoring so much accurate information from scientists and health experts."
Opinions regarding a national health emergency shouldn't be this politically polarized, but it demonstrates just how divided America is right now, even about science and medicine. And the right-wing media bubble that many conservatives live in is exacerbating the problem. Conservatives' favorite radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh told his sizable audience back in February that the "coronavirus is the common cold," and he has manufactured more conspiracy theories about the virus than anyone can keep track of.
Media Matters.org: "On the same day that Limbaugh referred to the virus as the “common cold,” he also claimed, “The coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump.” This conspiracy theory — that Democrats and media outlets are acting in concert to exaggerate the threat of virus and damage Trump’s reelection chances — has been one of the most consistent themes on Limbaugh’s show since the pandemic began."
Media Matters has a partial listing of Rush's bizarre and often hilarious virus rants here. And that's just Rush. The Fox News trio of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham have continually minimized the threat we face, and the even more right-wing One America Network has trafficked in conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus with stories of Chinese technicians and a lab in North Carolina, and more recently promoted claims that hospitals are inflating the number of virus deaths to make money.
And, according to polling data, when you see someone without a mask in a public place it's likely that they are making a political statement, emulating their hapless President.
Axios: "Nationally, the percentage of Democrats who reported wearing a mask all the time when leaving home rose from 49% between April 10 and May 4 to 65% between May 8 and June 22."
"During the same time period, the percentage of Republicans who reported constant mask-wearing rose from 29% to just 35%."
And, just when you thought things couldn't get any more ludicrous, right-wing media giant, Sinclair Broadcasting came very close to airing a special this weekend that contained a segment alleging that Dr. Anthony Fauci created Covid-19.
New York Magazine: "Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Trump-aligned media corporation which operates hundreds of local television stations in the U.S., has abandoned its plan to widely air a segment sharing a baseless conspiracy theory blaming Dr. Anthony Fauci for the coronavirus. The move followed widespread blowback over Sinclair’s decision to broadcast the segment, in which medical researcher Dr. Judy Mikovits claims that Fauci made the virus and sent it to China. Mikovits had previously made that and other discredited claims in the viral video Plandemic (which was banned by Facebook and YouTube earlier this year)."
When the pandemic has passed, there should be an accounting for those that have trafficked in lies. Free speech is a wonderful thing, but with freedom comes responsibility. We will never know how many needless deaths are directly attributable to right-wing misinformation and conspiracy theories, but it's increasingly clear that they have made it much more difficult to unite America around sound scientific approaches to defeating the virus.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content