This is how the media spins a “spike.”
With protests against the heavy-handed handling of the coronavirus crisis by state governments spreading across the country, media liberals decided to weigh in this week with the news that Kentucky’s governor had reported a sharp increase in coronavirus cases in the Bluegrass State.
And added a reminder that the rise followed a demonstration in the state capital by residents unhappy with lockdown orders.
The Hill headline said it all:
— The Hill (@thehill) April 21, 2020
For added emphasis, the words over The Hill’s story on Monday are written in foreboding black-on-white lettering: “Kentucky sees highest spike in coronavirus cases after protests against lockdown.”
Naturally, the liberals at Newsweek got in on the act, too.
Kentucky reports highest coronavirus infection increase after a week of protests to reopen state https://t.co/rXC7hFkofZ
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) April 20, 2020
The implication, of course, is that the knuckle-dragging yokels in Kentucky, fired up about their rights and distrusting their superiors in state government, were spreading the potentially fatal coronavirus by exercising their First Amendment rights.
The state has made enough news lately, what with Christians insisting on going to church on Easter and all.
Obviously, the barbarians were at the gate.
Usually in a totalitarian state they first shut down dissent, then they shut down religion. Gov. Beshear did it backwards, but still the same result.
Kentuckians plan COVID-19 restrictions protest at the Capitol https://t.co/juAF3DvlLn
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) April 17, 2020
But the implication was misleading — to be charitable.
First of all, the protests in Frankfurt, Kentucky, took place on Wednesday and Friday, according to Fox News, and involved possibly 100 demonstrators.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, reported the rise in COVID-19 cases, the disease caused by the virus, at a news conference on Sunday.
Considering the incubation period for the coronavirus to go from infection to symptoms is generally understood to be 14 days, it’s unlikely that a protest on Wednesday involving a reported 100 demonstrators could account for the spike Beshear reported less than a week later. And that doesn’t even count the days it would take for test results to come back.
Second, the makeup of the patients involved in the “spike” wasn’t described, so there’s literally no way of knowing whether there was any connection — even coincidental — between the new cases and anyone who attended last week’s protest.
But details like that don’t make it into headlines. And almost anyone seeing headlines that cover two events — a rise in coronavirus cases and a demonstration against coronavirus prevention efforts — would naturally draw the conclusion that the two are intertwined.
It’s impossible to believe the editors behind the headlines wouldn’t know that.
As the responses to The Hill tweet showed, a dismaying number of readers were happy to draw the conclusion that the headline conveyed. Fortunately for the future of the Republic, though, many Americans are capable of applying a little more critical thinking to the information they’re being fed.
And in a social media world, as the conservative Twitter-watchdog website Twitchy.com pointed out Wednesday, they’re not shy about pointing out the real conclusions:
Correlation is not causation, you morons.
— Michael Walsh (@dkahanerules) April 21, 2020
The protests were last week. The incubation period is 10-14 days. You stretch the limits of credibility by attempting to contend a correlation.
— InkyD (@inkyd62) April 21, 2020
An infection spike would follow a 14-21 day curve this isn’t even a good lie.
— Nikkidarkangel (@YAlabaster) April 21, 2020
“Not even a good lie” is an excellent way of describing the mainstream media’s coverage of the coronavirus crisis – as an extension of its coverage of President Donald Trump’s entire time in office.
No intellectually honest consumer of modern news can believe that the mainstream media is presenting the facts fairly.
Whether it was the breathless, “walls-are-closing-in” coverage given to every meaningless twist in the Russia “collusion” investigation or the “history-is-being-made” false reverence that accompanied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment sham, the news media has shamelessly betrayed the principles of the journalistic profession in service to a political goal.
And as the bear-baiting nature of Trump’s daily news briefings has made clear, the figures in the American media that are as honestly interested in informing the American public as they are preening for publicity by attacking the president are too few, and too far between.
There’s no way to be certain yet whether the anti-lockdown protests are going to spread coronavirus infections. It’s worth noting, though, not even the liberal USA Today has found any upsurge in coronavirus cases in Wisconsin linked to the April 7 primary election there.
(Seven cases have been reported among those who’ve acknowledged participating in the election as either a voter or a poll worker, according to The Associated Press. But the AP also reported that there’s no way of knowing if those infections were related to the primary, and seven cases out of about 19,000 voters wouldn’t be a “spike” by anyone’s definition.)
What is dismally certain, though, is that American journalism has compiled a pathetically poor record in recent years, and its handling of the coronavirus crisis isn’t helping.
The latest lesson in how to spin a “spike” is just another stake in journalism’s heart.
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