I realize that by this point in human history, there’s little to be done about the scourge of 24/7 cable news. It’s a chronic disease that we’ll have to live with, at least for the time being. But 2020 has been unique in supplying enough events to justify round-the-clock live coverage; to quote an infamous tweet from years ago, “everything happens so much.” What’s more, the crises at hand — like the coronavirus pandemic — have been exacerbated by misinformation.
As such, CNN and their ilk would do well to broadcast the best available data and guidance for Americans trying to survive an invisible threat the government has failed to effectively address. Or, wait, here’s a much dumber idea: Talk to some of the geniuses who caught COVID-19 while partying at a crowded bar in Florida where nobody was wearing a face mask. Super helpful.
There’s a sobering irony about inviting one of these women, Erika Crisp, onto Cuomo Prime Time to warn viewers that we shouldn’t resume life as normal yet: She’s a health-care worker. She ought to have been imparting this advice before she went to a boozy social gathering in a confined space, and she should have been following it herself. But don’t worry, Cuomo (who had the coronavirus himself!) doesn’t want to shame her and her friends for acting like the disease magically went away — he wants them to be retroactive experts on how they spread it. If they’d stayed home, they wouldn’t be sick, and thus, of no interest to CNN segment producers.
I guess this is the precedent for reporting on the “second wave” here in the U.S.: If you get COVID-19 by disregarding all common sense, you get a little press tour. Your job is to tell other blasé dopes to follow the simple recommendations that you couldn’t manage, or, in the case of Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff Mark Lamb — who in May said he wouldn’t enforce a stay-at-home order and this week tested positive — continuing to downplay the importance of basic precautions. Here he is in one of several TV appearances he’s made since, telling a local news anchor that although he likely picked up the coronavirus from a campaign event where he hugged and shook hands with supporters, “I don’t know that a mask would’ve stopped it or not.”
Why let Lamb continue to play the disingenuous skeptic in softball Q&As when, by his own admission, he is now wearing a mask and social distancing as anyone with an ounce of brainpower does? He’s a national headline because he loudly undermined the effort at containment, then personally contributed to Arizona’s climbing infection rate by treating it like a culture war issue. He’s the last person we need to hear from, even if it’s quite newsworthy that elected law enforcement officials are this committed to betraying the public safety. You aren’t a relevant source on this complex, ongoing story if your only contribution is to look stupid.
The reasonable expectation is that a massive indoor Trump rally this weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will give rise to a new cluster of COVID-19 cases. When it does, you can bet your ass that a couple of MAGA hats will do Zoom calls with sympathetic journalists and say, “Wow, we had no idea it was this easy to catch, and folks should be careful, but there’s no telling whether we could have prevented this, and we definitely don’t blame the president!”
All this does is confirm that for certain Americans, nothing is real until it happens to them, and even then, it was through no fault of their own. But for TV, they are instant authorities on the thing they refused to understand, just for being enthusiastic victims of it. Not the best way to create “awareness.”
Here’s a pitch: Keep hitting stories where large groups contract the virus by way of ignorance, stubbornness and trutherism, but don’t give them airtime to voice their anecdotal take on a deadly global catastrophe. At best, they’ll only repeat what doctors have said for months; at worst, they can double down on the attitude that put them squarely in harm’s way.
Forget it, we don’t have the bandwidth for that that shit, even with a wall-to-wall news media apparatus. Move on to input from actual authorities. We’ve heard all that we need to from the people in denial.