We Weren’t Afraid to Question Convenient COVID Narratives
The pandemic coincided with a mainstream-media embrace of anti-journalism — coverage seemingly intended to obscure the truth. NR never bought into it.
We’ve learned a lot of hard lessons during this pandemic. I hope that one of the things you have learned is that you can rely on National Review to give it to you straight, with clarity, common sense, and the right perspective.
And I hope this coverage is one of the reasons you’ll consider contributing to our fall 2021 webathon, as it soon draws to a close.
The COVID-19 pandemic is arguably the biggest, most far-reaching, and most consequential news story of our lives. Almost two years ago, suddenly everyone in the world found themselves potentially at risk of exposure to a new virus that their bodies might or might not be able to fight off. If there was ever a time for everyone in the news business to put aside the reflexive partisan spin or ideological preferences and just tell the public the facts, clearly and directly, this was it.
Alas, that didn’t happen; from the word go, what you were told about the pandemic was often shaded, spun, and squeezed to fit a preexisting narrative. Back in the first few months of 2020, it was not hard to find mainstream-media “analysis” and “explainers” that deemed people who wanted to wear masks as being paranoid, that said it was completely safe to travel to China, that argued “our brains make coronavirus seem scarier than it is,” that said “we should be wary of an aggressive government response to coronavirus” because it could “scapegoat already marginalized populations,” and that cautioned that the “actual danger of coronavirus” was “racism and xenophobia.” Go figure, it turned out that the actual danger of the coronavirus was that the virus could kill you.
At the risk of bragging, I’m pretty damn proud of the work my colleagues have done during this pandemic — and yes, my own work, such as a piece on April 3, 2020, about “the trail leading back to the Wuhan labs,” looks prescient from the perspective of today.
It turns out that a lot of what you were told by most mainstream media during this pandemic turned out to be a load of bull. Development of a vaccine was not going to take years. New York governor Andrew Cuomo was not the wise, benevolent, and careful public servant that the media insisted he was. Reopening schools did not lead to mass deaths of teachers and students.
And as our Charlie Cooke revealed, Rebekah Jones was not a noble whistleblower exposing a dastardly conspiracy within the Florida state government.
In May Kevin Williamson articulated how wearing masks in public places and outdoor spaces was becoming less and less of a public-health tool or medical question and more and more “an outward sign of inward things.” Michael Brendan Dougherty took to the cover of our June 14 issue, detailing “the fall of Saint Anthony Fauci” — a necessary corrective to the gushing, reverential coverage Fauci enjoyed for most of 2020, and well into 2021.
“At some point, the pandemic — the provisional and practical judgments in favor of caution that can justify restrictive behaviors — became an unshakeable moral purpose,” Michael observed in a trenchant piece, “COVID-19 Rewired Our Brains.” “Actual weighing of risks went out the window: There’s a deadly disease out there; my actions can contribute to the end of the disease or to its spreading in perpetuity.”
During the summer peak of the Delta variant, Charlie pointed out how New York and Mississippi had the same per-capita death rate and that Florida, allegedly a backwards hellscape of mismanagement under Governor Ron DeSantis, actually ranked behind Illinois, Nevada, Michigan, and Pennsylvania by that measurement. “The stats defy the spin: This pandemic does not hinge on whether the governor is a Democrat or Republican, whether restrictions are tight or loose. It does not care,” Charlie concluded.
Earlier this month, Dominic Pino laid out how college football games such as the ones at Virginia Tech had not become super-spreader events, as some public-health experts predicted and decried.
And most recently, Caroline Downey reported how a leaked grant proposal confirmed that Chinese and U.S. scientists planned to create a novel coronavirus, and how the U.S. National Institutes of Health admitted to funding gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and how EcoHealth Alliance had violated the reporting requirements of their grant.
Far too often during this pandemic, other, bigger, better-funded news institutions missed the story sitting right in front of them because it didn’t fit their preexisting narrative. Apoorva Mandavilli, a reporter covering COVID-19 for the New York Times, contended the lab-leak origin theory had “racist roots” and thus was unworthy of public discussion. How are you, a news consumer, supposed to know what is going on in the world when so many reporters believe their job is to NOT tell you what’s going on in the world out of a fear you could end up coming to conclusions or viewpoints they oppose? That’s not journalism, that’s anti-journalism; that’s setting out to ensure that your audience never learns anything that might make them think.