Anyone who has observed how Donald Trump and Fox News have portrayed the emergence and spread of the coronavirus for the past few months cannot help but notice their trivialization of the pandemic threat. They have contradicted the health experts who have been issuing dire warnings all along. They have insisted, falsely, that it is less deadly than the common flu. They have accused Democrats of creating it as a hoax to bring down the President.
More recently, the Fox/Trump cartel has been peddling the asinine exploits of astroturf protesters who seek to prematurely end the “stay-at-home” policies imposed by most state governors. These are measures that have been responsible for helping to mitigate the most tragic consequences of the pandemic. They seem to be operating a doomsday cult with a death wish for the nation in order to allow wealthy corporations to return to padding their bank accounts. And they’re too stupid to realize that the only way back to economic prosperity is to protect the health of all Americans by defeating the virus.
Not surprisingly, the field marshal for the COVID-19 militia is Sean Hannity of Fox News. And now his contributions to the success of the contagion have been affirmed by a study conducted by a trio of economists with the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago. The study compiled data related to the virus and matched it to television ratings for both Hannity, who routinely downplayed the virus, and Tucker Carlson, who, at least initially, reported on its potential for great harm. The key conclusions from their research reveal a distinct relationship between higher infection and death rates from the coronavirus and viewing of Hannity’s program:
“Using both a poll of Fox News viewers over age 55 and publicly available data on television-watching patterns, they calculate that Fox viewers who watched Hannity rather than Carlson were less likely to adhere to social distancing rules, and that areas where more people watched Hannity relative to Carlson had higher local rates of infection and death.”
While there are caveats to accepting these conclusions without some healthy skepticism (it is just one study and not yet peer reviewed), it satisfies a certain level of common sense. After all, any “trusted” source of information (as Fox News viewers consider Hannity) is likely to exert influence on the consumer of that information. So if Hannity tells his audience that there is nothing to worry about, they will behave in a dangerously cavalier manner that makes them more susceptible to virus transmission and acquisition. And that’s precisely the behavior that would produce the results seen in this study.
The study did not explore more broad associations involving Fox News as compared to other news networks. But it isn’t hard to imagine that the same factors would play out with similar results. In other words, if Fox News tells you it’s okay to go to work and ignore social distancing recommendations, you are probably going to be more at risk than viewers of CNN or MSNBC who are taking prudent precautions.
These conclusions are also aligned with rational logic. News Corpse speculated two months ago that Trump’s cult rallies were potential breeding grounds for the coronavirus due to their willingness to ignore the warnings. What’s more, a recent Gallup survey found that Fox News viewers and Republicans are more likely to buy Trump’s COVID-19 lies. Consequently, they too would have increased vulnerability. Which makes it impossible not to presume that it is far more dangerous to be in the company of reckless Republicans, Hannity viewers, and Trump supporters, than cautious Democrats. Proceed at your own risk.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.