Yellow journalism in the nuclear age


Since we are onto another mass-catastrophe issue in The Ukraine, we don’t want to leave Covid behind without remembering what an incoherent public policy disaster it has been. And here to assist is an excellent column by Adam Creighton in The Oz: Covid fears left behind in the wake of Ukraine. I will merely excerpt from his column in today’s paper with a couple of my own comments at the end.

First, fear fuelled by the media, not science, drove much of the response…. Without the media to sustain fear, the pressure to reinstate measures will fade rapidly….

In a further tribute to the power of the media, 47 per cent of those who identify as very liberal (very left-wing) said Covid-19 was still a great risk to their personal health, compared with 12 per cent for self-identified conservatives.

Unlike the Spanish flu pandemic 100 years ago, when practically everyone knew someone who had died from the virus, few people would be aware of the Covid pandemic without media reminders. This is happening around the world….

The need for humility should be the second lesson. The health establishment was spectacularly wrong on almost every aspect of the pandemic, even demonising those willing to stand up to it.

Masks, lockdowns of businesses and schools, rampant testing, mandatory social distancing – none of it stopped the virus from spreading in a systematic way, as the evidence clearly suggests.

Asymptomatic spread – a justification for locking down the healthy for months – even turned out to be grossly exaggerated. Vaccines didn’t stop transmission and they started to lose much of their effectiveness within months.

Overall, the response will go down as one of the greatest public health fiascos once a fair reckoning of the costs and benefits of measures emerge….

Not surprisingly, experts are delicately walking back their support, one measure at a time. It’s now fashionable to say closing schools was a mistake, doing particularly great harm to children from poorer families….It’s also OK to say cloth masks didn’t work, as the evidence against them becomes overwhelming even for the numerically challenged….

“The prospect of eliminating the virus in the UK had gone, certainly by the second half of February 2020…. It was already becoming very obvious (by mid-2020), not just in the UK but also across the whole world, just how extraordinarily damaging the lockdown was going to be.”…

The New York Times, a champion of tough measures, published a high-profile article this month suggesting restrictions “haven’t made a big difference”….

Calls for formal inquiries and royal commissions into our handling of Covid-19 are nevertheless premature. Only when the current generation of leaders and health experts has moved on would such a venture reach a fair conclusion.

Meanwhile, the front page at The Oz at this very moment is Russian diplomat warns of nuclear retaliation.

One of Russia’s top diplomats has warned NATO that Russia is a nuclear power, and will consider use of such weapons if they see a credible threat.

“If they see a credible threat” Russia “will consider” the use of nuclear weapons. This is yellow journalism at its absolute worst.  As for a definition of “yellow journalism”:

The use of lurid features and sensationalized news in newspaper publishing to attract readers and increase circulation. The phrase was coined in the 1890s.

Occasionally you get an Adam Creighton. As for the rest, it is a return to the 1890s when the risk was no more than the onset of the Spanish-American War

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